Philippines’ “Culture of Killings”: expression of decomposing world capitalism

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The Duterte regime has been in power for more than one year now[1]. Since Duterte’s election more than 13,000 (mostly poor people) have been being killed by the state police in his “war on drugs”.

Despite these widespread killings, there are no massive and widespread condemnation and protests among the poor people, even by the victims’ families and relatives[2]. Instead apathy and fear prevail. A significant portion of the population, even among the poor, felt “relieved” that these “outcasts”, “evils” of society have been eliminated. Even though it is accepted that there are many innocent victims, there is a significant acceptance among the population that this is “justified collateral damage” for the interest of a general cleansing. And the (admittedly manipulated) surveys by bourgeois institutions claim that Duterte enjoys “excellent trust ratings”.

In short, we are seeing a real culture of killings.

Why is this happening in the country that overthrew a dictator 31 years ago through a combination of military coup and a “people’s uprising” led by the bourgeois opposition[3]? Why the acceptance of killings and violence?

Decomposing world capitalism and the culture of violence: impasse of the social system

Duterte’s “war on drugs” is a war against the poor.

According to the analysis of some Filipino leftists, Duterte was catapulted to power through a “revolt” of the masses against the neo-liberal policies of the past administration. Some of them even say that the Duterte phenomenon is the “rebellion of the lumpen proletariat”.

This is clearly false. Not only does Duterte continue the neo-liberal policies of the previous administrations, he has also killed thousands of lumpenised poor people.

To understand clearly and correctly the rise of the likes of Duterte we must understand first the world system we are living in and its evolution. Not only that. To understand the evolution of world capitalism means to comprehend why we are witnessing the dominance of “every man for himself” and this culture of violence.

Despite the whipping up of hatred and the campaign to kill suspected users and pushers of illegal drugs, most of whom are those living in slums, the supply of smuggled drugs mainly from China did not stop. On the contrary. Lately, the state apprehended drugs valued at 6.4 billion Philippine pesos. The smuggled drugs smoothly passed the eyes of the Bureau of Customs whose chief commissioner is a Duterte loyalist. Implicated in this drug smuggling is the son of the president and the current vice-mayor of Davao City[4]. Furthermore, while the poor are summarily executed by the state, the suspected drug lords are giving favor by the democratic due process of the state[5].

Recently Duterte admitted that he could not control the drug problem. This is a 360 degrees turn-around of his campaign promise last election in which he boasted that he could solve the drug menace within 3-6 months[6].

This means that the aggravation of the drug problem is a result of decomposing capitalism not because of this or that policy of the capitalist state:

At the beginning of the 90s we said: ‘Amongst the most important characteristics of the decomposition of capitalist society, it is necessary to underline the bourgeoisie’s growing difficulty in controlling the evolution of the situation at the political level’. The reason for this lies in the difficulty that the ruling class is having in ensuring its political unity. The diverse fractions into which the bourgeoisie is divided are confronting each other, not only at the level of economic competition, but also (and fundamentally) politically. Faced with the drawn out economic crisis, there are some unifying tendencies, which are mediated by the state; but they only take place around short-term economic aims. At the level of political leadership, the worsening of competition caused by the crisis provokes the widespread dispersal of the bourgeoisie’s forces. On the international scale there is a growing tendency towards the struggle of ‘each against all’, a generalised lack of discipline at the political level, which prevents the imposition of the order that the old imperialist blocs were able to maintain during the Cold War. The atmosphere of ‘every man for himself’ which defines the international situation is repeated in the activity of the bourgeoisie in each country. It is only in this framework that we can explain the enormous growth in drug trafficking.”[7]

The massive consumption of drugs and alcohol is more than the mere consequence of addiction; it is the result of an ever increasing despair in the population. When it is no longer sufficient to look for consolation in religion, when it is no longer sufficient to emigrate and sell your labour power in other countries, and no jobs are available at home, the flight into drugs and alcohol is just one of many other consequences of a terrifying situation from which the working class and lumpen elements can see no way out. And the cancer-like growth of the drugs cartels (from producers to big and small dealers) are merely the other face of a system which can only thrive through spreading such poisons and thus push towards the demolition of human lives. The addicts, the suppliers of the drugs and those forces who propagate massive killings are all different faces of one and the same decaying system. And it is characteristic of this system that the Duterte regime, like an increasing number of regimes around the world, is a clear example of a state run like a mafia gang. Inside the Duterte government there are several factions competing against each other to amass wealth. Duterte itself is acting like the “Godfather” of these rival gangs. As the ICC text ‘Drug trafficking and the decomposition of capitalism’ stated:

The weight of decomposition has certainly taken on growing dimensions in the least developed countries, where the bourgeoisie is less able to control its differences. Thus we see in countries such as Colombia, Russia or Mexico that the mafia has merged into the structures of government in such a way that each mafia group is associated with some sector of the bourgeoisie and defends its interests in confrontations with other fractions, using state structures as their battlegrounds. This exacerbates the whole struggle of ‘each against all’ and accelerates the rot in the social atmosphere.” (ibid)

We can thus see that the state itself is not only unable to fight those forces who benefit from the drugs trade, that it is totally unable to eradicate the problem: instead the State becomes the open promoter of barbarism, terrorism – and drug trafficking. But since we are living in a society which offers humanity no future, significant numbers of the poor and the petty bourgeoisie are infected by the culture of nihilism, despair and hatred and are prepared to support Duterte’s phony solution, based on generalising hatred and violence. Parts of the poor and the proletariat are thus mobilised against  another section of the oppressed who are being used by drug and criminal syndicates, agreeing that they are “outcasts” of society that must be killed. And because of the spreading attitude of “every man for himself”, of social atomization, as long as you or your loved ones are not victims of this cycle of killings, there is no feeling of sympathy and solidarity.

At the same time, the chaos, violence and killings perpetrated by the state are also the fertile soil of the ISIS-inspired Islamist terrorism in Mindanao, where we also see the incapacity of the state’s corrupt military to quell even a small number of terrorists occupying a small city in Mindanao[8].

The weakness of proletarian resistance

Filipino workers on their own cannot lead society in the Philippines out of this chaos.  The problem cannot be solved within one country; Filipino workers must unite with their class brothers and sisters in other countries to destroy world capitalism.

However - and this is again an international problem - Filipino workers seem to have lost their class identity. This is aggravated by the fact that the leftist organisations and the unions are controlling their struggles – if they struggle - and as a consequence they are fighting not on their own class terrain but as  atomised individuals under the banner of “citizens of the nation”. In the protests against killings of the poor, workers participated as pawns of the bourgeois liberal opposition and the left, who spew the poison of democracy and “human rights”.

In the history of the workers’ movement in the Philippines there was no period during which the workers struggled as a truly independent class. For more than 100 years of their history, workers’ struggles were generally controlled or influenced by the different bourgeois factions, using the unions and the parties of the right, but above all of the left[9]. In the Philippines, Stalinism, especially in its Maoist form, is the dominant ideology infecting the workers’ movement.

Many observers said that the Duterte regime is worse than the Marcos dictatorship. This is true. But it is also true that under Duterte, the left more openly shows its face as an instrument of the capitalist state. During the election campaign the Maoists openly campaigned for Duterte while the other factions of the left threw in their “critical support”. The Maoists were rewarded by Duterte through appointments of their cadres and close allies to his cabinet.

It is vital that workers learn from history the lessons of the left’s alliance with the state. An independent working class movement means no alliance with any factions of the ruling class. Instead all factions of the class enemy must be exposed and opposed in front of the working masses.

In addition, when different factions of the left and right are trying to mobilise the workers either to support imperialist USA or imperialist China in the contested islands in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, any form of nationalism or defense of the country must be rejected. Instead Filipino workers must hold up the banner of proletarian internationalism: workers have no country to defend.

Internasyonalismo, ICC section in the Philippines,
August 29, 2017



[1]      Duterte was elected as Philippine president in May 2016


[2]      There are protests organised by the bourgeois opposition, church and leftist organisations. But there is no significant spontaneous participation among the population.


[3]      The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, who ruled the Philippines for 16 years after 1965 was overthrown on February 1986 in what was popularly known as the “People Power Revolution”.


[4]      This scandal has already been picked-up by the national and international media.


[5]      There were only a handful of “narco-politicians’ being killed by the state police as a “show case”.


[8]      The ISIS-inspired small local terrorist Maute Group attacked and occupied Marawi City in May 2017. At the time of writing the military, despite its full mobilization, is still not able to completely “liberate” Marawi from the terrorists.




General and theoretical questions: 


Social Decomposition