April 29, 2010

Makabayan, makamasa

A number of friends and sympathizers of the national democratic movement have voiced their disagreement or downright disapproval of the tactical alliance forged between Makabayan, the umbrella organization of progressive party lists prominently led by senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and the Nacionalista Party (NP) whose standard bearer is its presidential candidate Manuel Villar. With less than two weeks before the elections, there is a point to recapping the underpinnings of the seemingly controversial alliance to place matters in proper perspective.

Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza agreed to join the NP slate on the basis of a joint platform which contained nationalist and democratic provisions foremost of which is the recognition that social injustice, not just poverty and corruption, constitutes the nation’s main problem; and that major socio-economic reforms, not just the elimination of corruption, are needed to solve this problem.

The NP-Makabayan platform asserts that thoroughgoing land reform is needed to address the issue of landlessness and is vital to a comprehensive strategy for economic and social development. Job creation and just wages for working people rests on the development of manufacturing and local industries in light of the global economic crisis, unfair foreign competition and blind adherence to the policy of economic liberalization or “globalization”.

Makabayan and the NP agree that economic development must be coupled with reforms ensuring social equity and respect for human rights, people empowerment and good governance. The platform of the alliance vows to uphold foreign policy based on respect for national sovereignty and ensuring mutual benefit.

Clearly, Makabayan, Satur and Liza never for a moment gave up their program for comprehensive political and socio-economic reform upon entering into an alliance with Mr. Villar and the NP. They continue to exercise independence and initiative in fighting for such a program in as many arenas as possible, the electoral arena just being one of them.

The movement has long been engaged in tactical alliances with sections of the ruling elite in order to oppose and isolate the worst faction thereof (invariably, the ruling faction, cf the Oust Gloria Arroyo Movement) without losing sight of the strategic goal of national and social liberation. It has already proven itself capable of engaging in electoral contests and emerging victorious without compromising principle and falling into the trap of cooptation.

Mr. Villar's acceptance of the two progressive legislators as NP guest candidates is based on his recognition of the movement's strength nationwide and its potential contributions to a successful campaign. Call Mr. Villar a shrewd politician if you will but it is to his credit that he can rise above ideological and political prejudices and even risk the likely backlash from the more rabid anti-Left sections of the ruling elite in taking this bold and unprecedented move. He has publicly stated that he thinks the Left deserves to be heard and has earned its rightful place in mainstream politics.

The alliance with the NP during the elections is a conditional one anchored on principle. The national democrats certainly harbor no illusions regarding Mr. Villar's class and “trapo” (traditional politician) character, especially should he win and become President. While no one can guarantee that Mr. Villar will adhere to and uphold the progressive provisions in his campaign platform once in power, the national democrats will certainly spare no effort in mobilizing the people to demand these of his government.

Whatever the outcome in the elections, Makabayan, Satur and Liza will continue to advance the national and democratic interests of the people as articulated in the Makabayan platform and in the more thoroughgoing national democratic program.

After all is said and done, any new administration will have to confront the reality of crisis and ferment as the movement has been describing it, and the relevance and validity of the solutions the movement has been fighting for.

By and large, the presidential contenders have said nothing substantial or anything different about how they will fight the scourge of poverty. Their analysis of its underlying causes is in the first place superficial, myopic and even willfully deceptive.

Should Sen. Noynoy Aquino win, the hollowness of his "korupsyon ang dahilan ng kahirapan" campaign slogan will become more evident, especially with an economic management team recruited from the Arroyo regime and with no fresh ideas on how to lift the economy out of the morass of depression and debt.

While Villar's "ang dahilan ng kahirapan ay kawalan ng trabaho" is an improvement on his "sipag and tyaga" formula for overcoming poverty, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent he will overhaul the economy to create more jobs and livelihood opportunities for the people.

All nine presidentiables except Sen. Jamby Madrigal, stick to the old, worn-out formula -- attract foreign investments (by pressing down wages and other workers' benefits, dismantling protectionist economic measures and despoiling the environment); increase exports (low-value-added commodities and cheap labor); increase government revenues (by raising more taxes and other fees, privatizing public services such as schools and hospitals); and let the expected economic growth trickle down to the poor (meanwhile provide dole-outs and other band-aid programs).

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that without any clear-cut position on genuine land reform, national industrialization and how to break free from the stranglehold of foreign monopoly capital, all talk about alleviating poverty is pure hogwash.

The leading presidential candidates have consistently highlighted their purported positive personality attributes and character traits that prove they are just right for the most powerful government position in the land. Assuming without granting that their claims are true, history has shown time and again that systemic social change cannot be achieved by any individual leader’s virtue, talent and determination alone.

The Left has always believed that genuine social change can only be a mass undertaking. In whatever arena of struggle, the true measure of leadership lies in the ability to unite, rally and lead the people towards their social emancipation and national liberation. #

*Published in Business World
30 April-1 May 2010


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