Duterte Regime: The lure of the strong man and the weakness of the working class

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Last August 2015, in our article ‘Boycott the election: the marxist standpoint in the era of decadent capitalism’[1] we wrote:

The failure of the Aquino Regime is not just because of BS Aquino and the Liberal Party. Long before the current ruling faction, the capitalist system in the Philippines was already a failure .

Together with the rottenness of the present administration, the opposition led by its strongest contender for the Presidency, Vice-President Jojimar Binay, stinks with corruption and self-enrichment. Proof that both the administration and opposition are rotten and corrupt.

Each of them exposes the scandals of their political rivals. In decadent capitalism there is no need for the radicals and progressives inside parliament to expose the decay of capitalism.

One negative effect of decadent capitalism in its decomposing stage is the rise of desperation and hopelessness among the poverty-stricken masses. One indication is the lumpenisation of parts of the toiling masses, increasing number of suicides, rotten culture among the young and gangsterism. All of these are manifestations of the increasing discontentment of the masses in the current system but they don’t know what to do and what to replace it with. In other words, increasing discontent but no perspective for the future. That’s why the mentality of ’everyone for himself’ and ’each against all’ strongly influences a significant portion of the working class.

But the worst effect of having no perspective due to demoralisation is hoping that one person can save the majority from poverty; hoping for a strongman and a “benevolent” dictator. This is no different from hoping for a all-powerful god to descend to earth to save those who have faith in him and punish those who do not. The class which mainly generates this mentality is the petty-bourgeoisie.

Generally we were not mistaken of our analysis.

Different bourgeois ‘political analysts’ admitted that the votes for Rodrigo Duterte are votes against the failures of the BS Aquino administration. What they did not say and don’t want to say is that the hatred and discontent of the people is against  the whole system of bourgeois democracy that they believed replaced the dictatorship of Marcos Sr. in 1986. For the past 30 years the failures and corruption of the democratic institutions has been exposed, and seen as no different from the Marcos Sr. dictatorship. They feel that the current situation is worse than during the time of the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

Duterte regime: a government of the left of capital?

Duterte declared that he is a “socialist” and a “leftist”. He boasted that he will be the first leftist Philippine President. Almost all the left factions in the Philippines agree with Duterte and offer their support for his regime. And the front runner in this support is the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines and its legal organisations.[2]

Whatever the “socialism” of Duterte, it is certainly not scientific socialism or marxism. For sure it is another brand of bourgeois “socialism” to deceive the masses and revive the lies of the bourgeoisie against socialism/communism. The “socialism” of Duterte is state capitalism.[3]

Based on Duterte’s statements before and during campaign, it is clear that the essence of his platform of government is for the interests of the capitalist class not of the working masses. In relation to this, he has threatened militant workers not to launch strikes under his term or else he will kill them.

Worse, Duterte uses language (as well as the deeds) of a street gangster and a bully This is an expression of the fact that he sees the government as a big mafia where he is the ‘Godfather’. His vague policy of “federalism”, which seems to be based on the boast that the income of the local governments is bigger than that of the national government, is in reality closer to the concept of the autonomy of local mafias in their own territories.

For the communist organisation and revolutionary workers, the Duterte regime is a rabid defender of national capitalism[4] but is still totally dependent on foreign capital.

Duterte regime: government of and by the capitalist class

The “bold” promise of Duterte to stop corruption, criminality and drugs within the first 3-6 months of his presidency has a very strong appeal to the voters. This has a stronger appeal among the capitalists and the ‘middle class’ who are the constant targets of crime. Capitalists want a peaceful and smooth-sailing business in order to accumulate more profits. That’s why, for the capitalists, workers’ strikes are just as much expressions of ‘chaos’ as the plague of crime.

The new government cannot solve the problems of massive unemployment, low wages and widespread casualisation. In the midst of a worsening crisis of over-production, the main problem for the capitalists is to have a competitive edge against their rivals in a saturated world market. Reducing the cost of labour power through lay-offs and precarious contracts is the only way to make their products cheaper than their rivals.[5]

Essentially the solution of the regime is to strengthen state control over the life of society and to oblige the population to strictly follow the laws and policies of the state through propaganda and repression.

Under the new regime factional struggles within the ruling class will intensify as the crisis of the system worsens. On the surface, most of the elected politicians from the other parties, especially from the ruling Liberal Party of Duterte’s predecessor, the Aquino regime, are now declaring their allegiance to the new government. But in reality every faction has its  own agenda which they want to assert under the new administration. Furthermore, within the Duterte camp there are several factions competing for favour and positions: the pro-Duterte Maoist faction, anti-CPP/NPA faction, warlords from Mindanao/Visayas, warlords from Luzon particularly the group around Cayetano, the Vice-Presidential candidate of Duterte.

Effects of capitalist decomposition on the consciousness of the Filipino masses

We also wrote in our article ‘Boycott the election….’

If Duterte runs for president in 2016 and the ruling class in the Philippines decides that the country needs a dictator like in the era of Marcos to try to save  dying capitalism in the Philippines and drown the poverty-stricken mass in  fear and submission to the government, surely he will win. Ultimately, the capitalist class (local and foreign) is not concerned with what kind of management of the state the Philippines has. What is more important for them is to accumulate profit.”

There are certainly indications that Duterte is a psychologically disturbed individual who hankers after being a dictator. But whether he  rules as a dictator or as a bourgeois liberal depends on the general decision of the ruling class (both local and international) and the solid support from the AFP/PNP and even from the Maoist faction that supported him.

For us, what is important is to analyse and understand as communists why significant numbers of the population are ready to accept Duterte as dictator and ‘Godfather’. Analysis is crucial because in other countries, especially in Europe and the USA, ultra-rightist personalities who engage in tough-talking and bullying (the likes of Donald Trump ) are gaining popularity. Significant numbers among the youth are also attracted to the violence and fanaticism of ISIS.

In analysing the phenomenal popularity of Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, it is necessary to have a world-wide view

Globally, for more than 30 years capitalist decomposition has been infecting the consciousness of the population. The infection encompasses many areas: economy, politics, and culture/ideology. The popularity of Duterte and Marcos Jr. is an indication of helplessness, hopelessness and a loss of perspective; of a loss of confidence in class unity and the struggles of the toiling masses. Hence, the current seeking for a “saviour” instead of for class identity. The background to this is the unsolvable crisis of capitalism, expressing itself in worsening poverty, growing chaos, spreading wars, devastation of the environment, scandals and corruption in governments.

But a major contributing factor is also the near absence of a strong working class movement for more than 20 years in the Philippines. The militant struggles at the time of the Marcos Sr. dictatorship were diverted and sabotaged by leftism towards guerrillaism and electoralism. Because of the strong influence of nationalism the Philippine workers’ movement is isolated from the international struggles of the working class.

Criminality

For almost 50 years the Filipino toiling masses witnessed the bankruptcy of both the guerrilla war of the Maoists and the promises of reforms from every faction of the ruling class sitting in Malacañang Palace. In addition, the militarisation in the countryside of both the armed rebels and the state resulted in massive dislocation that creates a widening and increasing population of poor and unemployed people living in saturated slum areas in the cities. This situation is exploited by the crime syndicates. Hence, criminality from drugs, robbery and kidnapping and car-napping increases year by year. Gang killings and gang riots, rape and other forms of violence are daily events in the cities. And increasingly, both the perpetrators and the victims are the young, even children.

Since a number of police and military officials are protectors of these syndicates, the state itself has become totally unable to control crimes and violence.

Although the first to be affected by the rise of criminality, particularly robbery and kidnapping, are the rich, the poor people also carry the burden of these crimes since most of the “soldiers” or the cannon-fodder of these syndicates come from the hungry and unemployed population.

Helplessness

There is a widespread feeling of helplessness among the population. Being atomised and isolated, they’re asking who can protect them. Behind this thinking is their expectation that the state must protect them. But the state is abandoning them. Helplessness and atomisation breed a longing for a saviour, a person or group of persons that can save them from their misery, that is stronger than the sum of the atomised population. And this saviour must control the government since only the government can protect them.

This helplessness is a fertile ground for scapegoating and personalisation. Blaming somebody for their misery: the corrupt government officials and criminals.  The loss of perspectives and growing feelings of helplessness catapult the popularity of Duterte and Marcos Jr. The popularity of these figures is an effect of the rotting system, not of the rising political awareness of the masses. This rottenness was also the reason for the popularity of Hitler and Mussolini before World War II.

As this tendency towards scapegoating and personalisation grows, the number of people who support physical elimination, by whatever means, of corrupt officials and criminals is increasing. They clap their hands whenever they hear Duterte declaring “kill them all!”

Internationalism

It is more difficult for us to combat the effects of a decomposing society in the current political situation. Nevertheless, we are not fighting alone or in isolation. We are part of the international proletarian resistance that exploded since 1968. The international working class, despite its difficulties to find its own class identity and solidarity as an independent class, is still fighting against the attacks of decadent capitalism.

We can only see a bright future by rejecting all forms of nationalism. We cannot see the proletarian class struggle if we just look at the ‘national situation’. We should not forget that since 2006 our class brothers in Europe, some parts of the Middle East and USA have been fighting against decomposition through movements of solidarity (anti-CPE movement in France, Indignados in Spain, class struggle in Greece, Occupy movement in the USA). We should also remember that hundreds of thousands of our class brothers in China have launched widespread strikes.

We must persevere with theoretical clarification, organisational strengthening and militant interventions to prepare for the future struggles at the international level. We are not nationalists as the different leftist factions are. We are proletarian internationalists.

Let us be reminded by the last paragraph of the Communist Manifesto: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” 

Internasyonalismo (ICC section in the Philippines) June 2016



[1]. http://fil.internationalism.org/internasyonalismo/201509/8638/boykot-eleksyon1-marxistang-paninindigan-sa-panahon-ng-dekadenteng-kap

 

[2]. Despite the initial “protest” of the Maoists against the neo-liberal 8-point Economic Programme of the regime, they’re all united in support of the ‘butcher’ Duterte. Proof of this is they have Maoist representatives inside the Duterte cabinet.

 

[3]. Regimes like the ones in China, Vietnam, Cuba, which claim to be “socialist” countries, are also a version of state capitalism. Even the barbaric capitalist regimes of Hitler (Nazism), Saddam Hussein and Assad shamelessly declared that their governments were “socialist”. Even now a majority of the population in the Philippines still believe that the “Communist” Party of the Philippines is a communist organisation.  

 

[4]. Not essentially different from the programme of the Maoist CPP-NPA.

 

[5]. In the 8-point economic agenda of the Duterte regime it is clear that its objective is to strengthen national capitalism through increasing direct foreign investment. And this means more attacks on the living conditions of the toiling masses. Basically its economic programme is neoliberalism. (http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/132850-duterte-8-point-economic-agenda)