Philippine Society and the Revolutionary Role of the Filipino Working Class
[Excerpts from replies to questions posed by “PRAVDA” (Truth), the organ of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF).]
The Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP-1930, the Philippine Communist Party) views the Philippines economically as a dependent capitalist society, and overall politically as a neo-colonial country. The continued orientation of the Philippine economy along the overall neo-colonial lines outlined by world imperialism is largely engineered by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, Asian Development Bank and other imperialist financial institutions.
The development strategy of these institutions for our country --- export-led, agri-based and labor-intensive production --- prevents independent industrialization (and therefore prevents widespread employment generation), ties the national economy to the world market, and emphasizes the need to maintain cheap labor and cheap resources to attract foreign investments.
This strategy is being implemented through economic policies such as the privatization of government-owned and -controlled corporations ; dependence on private capitalist initiatives instead of real economic planning ; import liberalization ; deregulation or the removal of constraints on capitalist profiteering practices ; greater government reliance on foreign borrowings ; and even the encouragement of the export of more Filipino workers in order to relieve the pressures of high local unemployment and to boost foreign currency reserves from overseas workers’ remittances.
The role of the Philippine government (including the present regime of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III) is reduced to that of an implementor or executor of the economic policies prescribed by imperialist financial institutions. The changes in the ruling regimes in the Philippines only mean changes in personalities acting as caretakers for foreign monopoly capital. And all these personalities only represent different factions of the same class of the local bourgeoisie which are dependent upon, and profits from, collaboration with imperialism.
It is no wonder why foreign monopoly capital controls the importation, processing and distribution of petroleum products ; and why they and their local partners control banking and finance, the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, the distribution of water supply, transportation and telecommunications, mining, and the food, pharmaceutical and other key industries.
In rural areas, the peasant struggles to break the bondage of feudal relations led to the adoption and implementation of the 1974 Land Reform Law during the Ferdinand Marcos martial law regime. That was the first comprehensive agrarian reform program which hastened the introduction of capitalist relations in Philippine agriculture. Overall, the Philippines remains as a neo-colonial country with a capitalist economic system which is pliant to, and dependent upon, imperialist dictates.
The Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930) shares the view that the deepening systemic crisis of capitalism, and imperialism’s fierce offensive to try to recolonize many parts of the world, only show the historical limits of the world capitalist system. Of course, the only solution to the global crises is the overthrow of capitalism and the advance to socialism. For this, the working class --- which is weak only by its lack of control over the means of production --- has to be fully conscious of its class interests, and take on their powerful role as the “grave-digger” of the capitalist mode of production.
The working class, the leading and most consistent force against all forms of exploitation and national and social oppression, is now also more numerous. In the Philippines, this class consists of the industrial, service and agricultural workers. Industrial workers are concentrated in factories, construction sites, mines, ports and even cottage industries. Service workers are in government, commerce, transport, communication (particularly in “call centers”), tourism and entertainment, health, education, and domestic (household) services.
Agricultural workers are in plantations or corporate farms, fish ponds, logging concessions, salt beds and various agribusiness projects, including individual farms. Many have no fixed source of income and are not fully employed throughout the year. This is especially true in the case of landless migrant and seasonal workers in sugar and coconut plantations, as well as in rice and corn areas. Because of growing agricultural mechanization, many of them are being displaced, and they and their families are forced to live in misery.
Let us now have a closer picture of Filipino workers based on official statistical data. In 1984, the total employed labor force stood at around 20 million persons, distributed among the following three sectors:
Industry - 15% or around 3 million ;
Services - 35% or around 7 million ; and
Agriculture - 50% or 10 million workers.
As of April 2014, the total employed labor force was around 38.67 million persons (out of a total national population of around 100 million), distributed as follows :
Industry - 16% or around 6.35 million ;
Services - 53% or around 20.43 million ; and
Agriculture - 31% or around 11.89 million.
From the above data, we can see the doubling of industrial workers in the past 3 decades, but their percentage of the total only increased by 1% (from 15% to 16%). The number of workers in the services sector almost tripled during the same period, and their percentage of the total increased by 18% (from 35% to 53%). In the case of agricultural workers, their number increased only by around 19%, but their percentage of the total declined by 19% (from 50% to 31%).
The above data will generally show that the country’s economy in the past 3 decades shifted from an agricultural economy to a service-oriented economy. Imperialism and the local bourgeoisie have succeeded in preventing the independent industrial development of the Philippines, therefore keeping employment opportunities limited and maintaining a large reserve army of labor (25% of Filipinos of working age are presently unemployed or underemployed) which allows the continued depression of wages and workers’ benefits.
The official Labor Force Survey as of April 2014 however shows that not all those employed in the services and agricultural sectors may be considered as members of the working class, based on their following categorization:
Wage and Salary Workers - 22.22 Million
Self-Employed (without any employer) - 0.90 Million
Employed in Own Family-operated
Farm or Business - 1.22 Million
Unpaid Family Workers - 4.33 Million
TOTAL (all categories of “employed”
members of the labor force) = 38.67 Million
Considering the above categorization, only the 22.22 million wage- and salary-earning workers (around 57.5% of the total employed) may be generally considered as belonging to the working class. The other categories (self-employed, employed in own family-operated farm or business, and unpaid family workers) are “informal workers” without any employer-employee relationship, and do not have any direct experience with the class struggle.
But even among the wage- and salary-earning workers, class consciousness is generally low, especially among the sub-category of government and corporate executives, managers and supervisors (which, according to the Labor Force Survey as of April 2014, numbers around 6.19 million persons) who have been trained into thinking that being part of “management”, they should defend capital vis-à-vis the workers. As it is, there is only a thin layer of around 16 million “non-managerial” wage- and salary-earning workers who may be considered as members of the working class and who may be receptive to working class consciousness.
The low level of class consciousness among the workers --- a product of suppressive methods against labor militancy, as well as of pervasive propaganda about capitalist philanthropy and class or even religious harmony --- is reflected in the low level of labor organizing. It is painful to note that only 1.855 million wage- and salary-earning workers are union members. They belong to around 16,638 private sector unions and 1,758 public sector unions (with public sector unions having no right to strike and having no right to bargain collectively for salaries which are arbitrarily standardized by government).
Local unions are organized by different individuals or groups with different interests and motives. There are “company unions” organized upon the direction of the capitalists themselves, and led by “yellow” leaders who collaborate with the capitalists. On the other hand, there are unions organized by progressive or left parties. The different local unions in the Philippines are usually affiliated to one of the 145 labor federations and labor centers in existence, which are not organized strictly along industrial lines.
Most unions and federations or labor centers are engaged only in raising workplace economic demands, and are therefore not working to raise the class consciousness of their members. Most of these labor federations and labor centers are run by “labor aristocrats” who collaborate with the capitalists and make a business out of trade union administration. The existence of a large number of labor federations and labor centers in the Philippines is only a reflection of the state of fragmentation of Philippine labor along political, regionalistic and even personality-oriented lines.
The Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930) believes that the industrial, service and agricultural workers --- particularly the “non-managerial” wage- and salary-earning workers in these 3 sectors --- have great potential for revolutionary struggle. They are grossly underpaid and denied of rights and privileges, even while they are the key producers of the country’s wealth. They have a major stake in the anti-imperialist national liberation struggle, as well as in subsequent socialist transformation. This historic revolutionary role of the working class has, as its precondition, that it should be made conscious of its own class interest, and organized as a class for itself.
The Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930) believes that the main contradiction in the dependent capitalist system of the Philippines is that between imperialism as against the Filipino people. As such, the party’s main task is to unite the broad patriotic sectors of our people to struggle for national democracy --- for national freedom from imperialist control and exploitation, and for a democratic system where there will be a strong public sector which could ensure that the working people’s rights are safeguarded, and their basic needs are met.
Prepared by :
SALVACION M. CORPUZ
Secretary for Education, PKP-1930