Friday, January 30, 2009

GMA, kabado sa 2010

Doy Cinco / January 30, 2009

Sa gitna ng kahirapan ng buhay, papalalang sitwasyong pang-ekonomya’t pulitika, daan-daang pabrika ang nagsasara’t libong manggagawang natatanggal sa trabaho araw-araw, ang lumalakas na bantang terorismo ng narco politics, bumubigat na problema sa Mindanao at kaliwa't kanang katiwalian at kurakot, mega exposay ng World Bank sa DPWH, ang sigalot sa Dept of Justice-PDEA at Dept of Energy at SSS, gumugulong at patuloy na umiinit ang pulitikahan at paghahanda sa 2010. Kasabay ng maagang pag- arangkada sa pulitka ng mga presidentiable, lumilinaw sa madla na "muling maililibing ng buhay ang pinaplanong Cha Cha-Con As, extension of term limits at Gloria Forever Constitution."

Sa harap ng unus at nagbabagang kalagayan, kinakabahan ang palasyo at bago lumisan si GMA patungong Davos, Swizerland para umattend ng elite oriented World Economic Forum, kumambiyo, nagPLAN B at ikinasa ang political battle sa 2010 presidential election. Naipasa sa Kongreso ang 2009 P1.4 trilyon budget, P50.0 - 300.0 bilyong economic at electoral stimulus budget sa mga kaalyado, tiniyak ang sariling pork barrel at discretionary funds (GMA), directly o indirectly na pondong makukupit (lumpsum), na sa tantya ng marami'y aaabot hanggang P90.0 Bilyon, gamit pang-mudmud at pagkontrol sa huling bahagi ng kanyang kapangyarihan, deterent sa pagiging lameduck president. Mahalagang masigurado na kaalyado ng palasyo ang palulusutin sa 2010, masiguradong hindi mapapahamak sa patong-patong na kakaharaping kasong pandarambong matapos ang panunungkulan sa Hunyo, 2010.

Sa pamamagitan ng pagbalasa ng kanyang mapagkakatiwalaang mga dating retiradong opisyal sa military sa ilang mga estratehikong posisyon sa gabinte, hindi maipagkakailang "bayad utang" sa seguridad, panalbang pulitikal at kapahamakang ipinakita ng huli, bukud sa maasahan ang mga ito sa napipintong gera sa pulitika sa 2010. Kung nahirapan na mapunan ng mga kaalyado sa pitong mababakanteng mahistradong sa Korte Suprema, hirap ding hawakan sa ilong ni GMA ang Comelec at pasaway na personalidad sa Lakas at KAMPI para sa inaasam-asam nitong sanib partido para sa 2010.

Walang dudang "pinag-aaralan na ng palasyo ang sistema ng pandaraya sa bagong ipatutupad na automated election sa 2010. Kun di man sa pagmamanipula sa listahan ng botante, ang gagamiting papel at mismong mekanismo’t teknikalidad ng makina, ang panunuhol-vote buying at sobrang gagastusin sa mga special operasyon," bago ang kampanya hanggang proklamasyon ng 2010 presidential election.

Tiniyak na hawak nito sa ilong ang bagong talaga at retiradong si Admiral Tirso Danga ng National Printing Office, ang mag-iimprenta ng mga balota at ang bagong kapalit na chief of staff ng Armed Forces of the Philippines, ang hahalili kay Yano.

Ang malaking problema ng palasyo ay sa kung paano matitiyak na kanila, kabalahibo, kaalyado at hindi kalaban sa pulitika ang magiging manok at mananalong presidente sa 2010.   Dahil 2010 na ang nasa isip ng mga pulitiko, mahirap ng asahang maisasabuhay pang muli ang planong cha cha-Con As at ang inaasahang pagkakawatak-watak ng oportunistang partidong (Lakas at Kampi) kanyang ginamit, pinalamon at inalagaan sa buong walong taon ng kanyang kapangyarihan. Kahit pa sabihing maitayo ni Gabby Claudio-Puno ang isang COALITION, ala Team Unity, suntuk sa buwang magme-merger o magsasanib pwersa sa kampanyang eleksyon ang LAKAS at KAMPI. (Photo left; KAMPI Cong Luis Villafuerte)

Mukhang wala ng susunod sa panawagan ng isang unpopular na presidente na "agarang magsanib partido ang KAMPI at LAKAS para sa 2010." Mas malapit sa katotohanang "magkanya-kanyang bitbit sa presidentiable at senatoriable, gera sa ilalim (local election) at political survival sa kabuuan." Bukud sa wala namang tunay na partido sa Pilipinas, "ang mga dambuhala, ang mga personahe, ANGKAN, dinastiya ang nagpapasya, nagdedesisyon at makapangyarihan at hindi ang partido." Likas na TRAPO, oportunista at TUSO ang mga pulitiko, lalona sa hanay ng KAMPI at LAKAS. Ito ang KARMA ng "weak ang democratic institution partikular ang (fake) political party system, talamak na political patronage, buluk na sistemang pulitika at eleksyon na Pilipnas."

Walang malinaw na winnable at popular na presidentiable candidate ang LAKAS at KAMPI. Imposibleng dalhin si Bayani Fernando, Sec Gilbert Teodoro, Sen Loren Legarda at si Mayor Sonny Belmonte. Sa loob ng bogus na partidong Lakas at Kampi, sinasabing dominant political party kuno at may kontrol sa mahigit 180 Tongresman-district rep at 90% ng elected LGUs sa buong kapuluan, inaasahang bitbitin ang mga front runner sa mga survey tulad ni Sen Chiz Escudero, Manny Villar at Vice President Noli de Castro, ang ulila (ndependent) sa lahat at walang malinaw na makinarya’t plataporma de gubyerno.

Kaya lang, dahil sa “kiss of death," tanggapin kaya ito ni Noli de Castro at kaya rin kayang maarok ng mga trapo’t tirador sa KAMPI si Noli de Castro? Pangalawa; si Senator Chiz Escudero, ang malamang sa pinakamalapit na basbasan ni GMA. Si Chiz Escudero raw ang Barack Obama ng Pinas, nasa kampo ni Danding Cojuanco-San Miguel Beer cun Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), ang partidong nakipaglandian sa ruling party ng mahigit isang dekada, ang Lakas at Kampi.

Kung magkaganito, " isang makapangyarihang Alyansang GMA-DANDING ang mabubuo. Kaya lang, bukud sa "kiss of death," masikmura naman kaya ito ni Chiz Escudero? Panghuli; dahil sa hinalang malapit din sa Administrasyong Arroyo at may taglay na suporta ng mga dambuhalang negosyante, maaring ikunsidera si Sen Manny Villar ng Nacioalista Party (NP), "ang masipag, maagang namimigay ng ITIK at pinaka may logistic-atik na pondong pangkanpanya. Ang problema, maagang nainvolved sa C5 controversy."

Ano man ang maging scenario, ang tiyak sa lahat, gagawa’t-gagawa ng lahat ng paraan ang kasalukuyang administrasyon Arroyo na makaungos ang kanyang manok. Kahit pa sabihing modernisado ang halalan, magkakaroon pa rin ng dayaan, kaguluhan, patayan at terorismo sa 2010 presidential election.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

‘Actually Existing Capitalism' Its Crisis and the Left


Joel Rocamora, January 25, 2009
“It’s a classic financial mania. You live in a little world of greed and everybody around you is interested in spinning the story to make the greed sound like a good investment.”
International Herald Tribune
January 13, 1998
“The truth is most of the individual mistakes boil down to just one: a belief that markets are self-adjusting and that the role of government should be minimal. Looking back at that belief during hearings this fall on Capitol Hill, Alan Greenspan said out loud, "I have found a flaw." Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not rig
ht; it was not working." "Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan said.”
Joseph Stiglitz, “Capitalist Fools”, Vanity Fair, December 10, 2008


Neo-liberalism is dead. Its pall bearers, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, are the countries who most avidly pushed it in the last three decades. It has been killed because the avatars of neo-liberalism, greedy, unregulated financial institutions, provoked the 2008 financial meltdown, because cleaning up after them requires the kind of government intervention which was anathema to neo-liberal orthodoxy.

The death of neo-liberalism does not mean the death of international capitalism. Neither does it mean that workers and the poor will now get the fruits of their labor, that economic justice will now reign. What it means is that the ideological hegemony of neo-liberalism is finished, that the main thrust of ongoing discussions, regulating finance capital and government stimulus plans, run counter to neo-liberalism.

To be sure, the corporations, opinion makers and governments who benefited from neo-liberal economic arrangements are, even now, attempting to shape a new economic ideology which will enable them to retain their economic and political power. But they are doing it under less than ideal conditions. To start with, the crisis is not just in the ideological sphere.


By one estimate, as much as US$17 trillion in stock values have been lost internationally. Worst, the main form of accumulating asset value in the past decade, financial speculation, cannot be availed of. As Peter Wahl put it: ”The main problem for the Western elites is the fact, that the neo-liberal system in place is not capable any more to guarantee an orderly and stable accumulation.” (Wahl 2008)

Redesigning Capitalism – The Context
Even those who are losing power understand that there are going to be major rearrangements in the international political economy in the coming years. Because redesigning capitalism is, more than anything else, reallocating economic power, there will be a struggle for control over reforms. The main players are the United States, the European Union, Japan and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries. The main arena for reform struggles is likely to be the G20.

The role of the US is constrained. It’s not just that the international crisis began in the US, the most important problems requiring solutions derive from the dominant international economic position of the US. The United States has only 20 per cent of world GD
P, but its imports have made it the locomotive of world trade, determining not just the volume of trade but what products are produced. It is the combination of American dominance and unrestrained American finance capitalism that makes finding solutions so difficult.

Quite simply, the US has been living way beyond its means. It has been running massive trade deficits averaging s
ix percent of its GDP for years. To pay for these deficits, the US has become the world’s biggest debtor, consuming more than half of the world’s savings. The Bush administration has also been running massive budget deficits. With bailout costs, these deficits are about to reach astronomical levels. Smaller economies in the South with these problems would have been put under a regime of IMF conditionalities. In the US, these problems were allowed to accumulate until they became not just American but international problems.

The cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated at US$3 trillion by Joe Stiglitz, has contributed substantially to these budget deficits. More importantly, the Bush administration’s handling of these wars has depleted the US’ political capital at a time when its profligacy has depleted its economic resources. A lot of people’s hopes fo
r the reversal of Bush administration economic and political policy is pinned on the incoming Obama administration. There will certainly be change, but how much will not be determined until Obama is a few months into his term.

The IMF and the World Bank have been bystanders, their financial resources and powers insufficient to do much about the crisis. Where the IMF has come in, in Eastern Europe and Iceland, it has imposed the same conditionalities as in Asia a decade ago. At the height of the crisis , on October 11, 2008, the G7, the world’s biggest economies, met in Washington. Instead of coming up with a joint plan, all they could come up with were a few broad guidelines on what each nation would do to save its own financial system. It soon became clear that the G7 would have to make way for upcoming economic powers, so the dynamic for reform shifted to the G20 which met in November 2008, and is scheduled to meet again in April 2009.

The G20 declaration was full of platitudes. “We underscore the critical importance of rejecting protectionism… within the next 12 months, we will refrain from raising new barriers to investment or to trade in goods and services… we shall strive to reach agreement this year on modalities that leads to a successful conclusion to the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda with an ambitious and balanced outcome.” (Halimi 2008) The work to shape agreements still needs to be done, nobody expected serious change at a conference hosted by a lame duck president.

The importance given to G20 has a lot to do with the BRICS countries. The importance of BRICS countries derives from the size of the countries, and from the fact that they did not blindly follow neo-liberal dicta, and yet had high growth rates. The most important are China, India, Brazil, and Russia. These countries benefited from the rise in commodities prices. More importantly, they used these resources to industrialize and to build a domestic market. They even developed a number of highly competitive multinational corporations.

China is particularly important because it has become the manufacturing capital of the world, the main source of cheap manufactured imports especially for the US. At the same time, the ruling Communist Party has used its control to impose very high savings, and build up what by now is estimated to be two trillion dollars of reserves. These reserves have been used to b
uy huge amounts of US bonds and securities, making China the main US creditor. This interdependence impose mutual vulnerabilities but it also gives China a major role in the ongoing reform process.

Latin America is important less for its economic clout than for its in-your-face opposition to neo-liberalism. In the past decade, more and more progressive leaders such as Lula of Brazil, Chavez of Venezuela, Ivo Morales of Bolivia, and Kirchner of Argentina have gotten elected. The most important economies in Latin America with the exception of Mexico have seized control over natural resource extraction, then used the resources to intervene massively in the economy, and to promote more social equity. These policies have been particularly disruptive for American ideological hegemony because Latin America has historically been an American sphere of influence.

The Washington G20 declaration was repeated at the APEC meeting that followed in Peru. But the declarations masked serious differences, especially between the EU and the US. At a European conference in early January, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a veiled attack on the US when he said: “In the 21st century, there is no longer a single nation who can say what we should do or what we should think.” Earlier differences within the EU on how to respond to the crisis appear to have been resolved with Germany finally agreeing to finance a large stimulus program. In a bid to influence the next G20 meeting in London, April 2, European leaders will meet in Berlin before the meeting to hammer out a common position.

Return of the Nation State
The spread and speed of contagion from what had been an American financial crisis is an important measure of the extent of globalization. The logic of this is that solutions also have to be in the globalized sphere. The response thus far, in fact, has been the opposite, important policies have been made by and for the requirements of the nation state. The most important reason is that it is the nation state which has borne the burden of bailouts and stimulus programs. The other reason is that despite globalization, national financial systems remain different enough that policy-makers want to suit regulation to the particularities of their financial institutions. It is a lot easier to deregulate than to re-regulate.

If we look at what has been do
ne so far, there has been a lot of talk about international cooperation but very little concrete international action. Hardly anything has been done to contain the spread of asset destruction. Most of the effort has been to contain damage to financial institutions, to get banks to lend by buying their toxic debt, or to extend new equity. Another major area has been to inject capital into the economy, the much vaunted stimulus packages, in an effort to contain the effect on the real economy. Despite attempts at coordination, in the end the size of financial packages was determined by national governments with the needs and particularities of their financial systems and economies as the main determinants.

As analyst George Friedman put it:
“…what is most important is to see the manner in which state power surged in the summer and fall of 2008. The balance of power between business and the state, always dynamic, underwent a profound change, with the power of the state surging and the power of business contracting. Power was not in the hands of Lehman Brothers or Barclays. It was in the hands of Washington and London. At the same time, the power of the nation surged as the importance of multilateral organizations and subnational groups declined. The nation-state roared back to life after it had seemed to be drifting into irrelevance.” (Friedman,2008)

In the end, it is the nature
of the crisis itself and its still evolving aftermath that will determine responses. Funds to contain the damage to financial systems, most importantly in the US and the UK, could be had only from governments because it is only governments, and quasi-governments like the EU, which can print money. Because international trade and the flow of investments across borders will be severely restricted for at least a year and possibly many more, governments have to concentrate on domestic production and the local market.

The capacity of international capitalism to impose neo-liberal policy has been severely weakened. It is now possible for national governments to adopt policies that in the past would have gotten criticized or worst by the IMF, the World Bank or the credit rating agencies. That measures which go outside neo-liberal parameters are being undertaken first by the United States is a crucial fact. If, say Japan, in response to its own property-bubble crash in the 1990s wanted to impose similar measures, it would have been immediately punished.

Workers
What has happened to wor
kers, especially in countries of the North goes a long way towards explaining the sources of the financial crisis. For almost half a century, labor’s share of the domestic product has been steadily declining in favor of profit. With lower real wages, growth in demand of goods and services has been slow, and investment opportunities in the real economy in turn low. At the same time, the share of capital has increased at an accelerating pace, generating pressure for all kinds of “sophisticated” financial instruments for keeping capital circulating. The faster the velocity of speculative circulation of capital, the greater the risk of collapse.

In an attempt to counteract the decrease in demand attendant to lowering of real wages, workers were obliged to borrow more and more. The US’ increasing debt was mirrored in workers’ increasing personal debt. Workers were encouraged to have several credit cards and run up larger and larger debt. “The expansion of "personal finance" transformed the worker into a customer anguished by debts. American workers were imprisoned in a network of compromises with the banks in order to be able to pay their costs of housing, education, health and retirement.” (Katz 2008)) It was the attempt to get workers to take on the largest possible personal debt, buy a house, that led to the collapse of the whole financial system.

American capitalism has been c
alled “casino capitalism”. One measure of neo-liberalism's decline is that it is now being called a “Ponzi scheme”. As Tim Lee, an American financial consultant put it: “The financial system as a whole has had the characteristic of a Ponzi scheme if we look at it fundamentally. ... we should think of the true value of assets as being derived from the future flow of goods and services that the assets can lay claim to or produce. If market prices of financial and real estate assets rise a lot but there is no increase in the ability of the economy to provide goods and services in the future, then the apparent increase in wealth is illusory.” (IHT 2 Jan 2009, p.14)
Globalization, in particular, pressure on governments in the South to deregulate their financial markets brought American vulnerabilities to the rest of the world.

“Part of globalization involves economic and financial de-regulation. This mania of deregulation that began in the U.S. was exported worldwide. Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines all adopted varying degrees of financial liberalization which intensified the compe
tition local banks faced from other financial institutions such as mutual funds, stock markets, bond markets, and foreign banks. Intensified competition and the search for higher profitability pushed banks to enter into new and riskier activities. Even as the financial system became more liberalized, the central banks in these countries did not step up their supervision and monitoring. In short, reckless liberalization without proper regulations and supervision opened the floodgates to financial irresponsibility.” (Mah-Hui 14)

Decline of the economic power of labor was contingent on cutting down the political power of labor. This meant the slow dismantling of benefits to workers won over centuries of struggle, the consequent increase in the power of management to fire workers framed as “flexibilization”, and the reorganization of the labor process to make unionization extremely difficult. The collapse of the economic underpinnings of this political process, the American financial system anchored on heavy personal debt and highly volatile financial speculation, opens up political opportunities for labor. An attempt to recoup labor’s economic losses can be framed as increasing demand in the economy. Short of finding another “bubble”, the only source of stimulus for growth is on the demand side, that is, wages.

One might actually see this process unfolding in the heartland of globalized capitalism, the United States. Barack Obama’s election victory was in some measure due to the extraordinary effort of the AFL-CIO, the American labor center, to secure his victory. In key states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, AFL-CIO money and hundreds of thousands of volunteers, were crucial. Even before his inauguration, Obama was already repaying his politi
cal debts. Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, is close to the AFL-CIO. Solis has pledged to secure passage of a bill which would greatly facilitate union organizing. Obama’s stimulus package redresses the Bush administration’s focus on saving banks to providing jobs and improving government services.

The Left
This crisis is what the Left has been dreaming about for years, one that validates predictions, that is deep enough to shake the very foundations of capitalism, so deep that the very attempt at finding solutions has seriously divided the main centers of capitalism. There is a new openness to alternatives in the general public. There is a lot of activity among progressives to respond to this challenge. But I do not yet see intellectual or political logic to the response of the Left thus far, certainly not in the Philippines, nor in international circuits accessible to me.

The problem is that different levels of discourse are mixed together. There is no clarity about audiences; often progressives sound like they are only talking to each other. Emotive words like “socialism” are bandied about as if everyone knows what it means. It would be useful therefore to differentiate between different intellectual ta
sks, identify end goals, orientational statements, how to mobilize public support for proposals, how to engage the official process. It would also be useful if people understood that these levels of discourse interpenetrate.

Everyone agrees that “…civil society actors’ strategy has to be at the level of the radicalism of the crisis …They must seize the chance to influence the basic direction of the reform process.” But as the AEPF Beijing Declaration says. “To capture people’s attention and support, proposals must be “practical and immediately feasible.”
Commenting on the Declaration, TNI says “There is no “maximalism” here. The Declaration points a path between merely reestablishing the status quo and assuming that actions must be “revolutionary or nothing.” Unfortunately, many progressives do not follow this sensible advice. (www.casinocrash.org)

Within the Left, in the Philippines, within Laban ng Masa, we have to seriously confront the need to organize discourse on “socialism”. We cannot use “socialism” to demarcate differences among us unless we specify what it means. The only theoretically elaborated meaning of “socialism” that I know of, one connected to actual practice, relates to its Marxist-Leni
nist interpretation. There are experiences in places like North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, but they have not succeeded in becoming iconic the way Marxism-Leninism did through a good part of the 20th century. Within our ranks, sometimes I feel that our understanding of “socialism” does not go much beyond, “as long as it is not ‘actually existing capitalism’.”

Focusing discourse on “socialism” and “participatory policy-making” takes us out of contention in mainstream discourse. Its not that I am against these ideas, but unless we introduce more detail, unless we connect these ideas to what has to be done, to getting loans out, to new regulations for the financial system, to getting out of recession, we are only barking at the moon. I am not saying we should concentrate our intellectual energies on these highly technical immediate policy level issues. We should concentrate instead on connecting “socialism” to these issues by developing discursive foci on the political economy of labor, on national economic production, and on the role of government.

I fully agree with Walden Bello that “The challenge is to overcome the limits to the progressive political imagination imposed by the aggressiveness of the neo-liberal challenge in the 1980s combined with the collapse of the bureaucratic socialist regimes in the early 1990s. Progressives should boldly aspire once again to paradigms
of social organization that unabashedly aim for equality and participatory democratic control of both the national economy and the global economy as prerequisites for collective and individual liberation.” I think that much of civil society internationally already “aspire … to paradigms of social organization that unabashedly aim for equality and participatory democratic control of both the national economy and the global economy... ”

The problem is civil society’s uncertain stance towards national and international structures of power. TNI, for example, says “practical and immediately feasible” proposals are “possible because, even under the domination of globalization from above, people have been developing alternatives within the world’s nooks and crannies.” True enough. But we cannot change the world if we only stay in its “nooks and crannies”. We have to aspire to seize our societies’ ‘commanding heights’ the better to democratize command str
uctures, to move those ‘heights’ closer to the plains where people are.

TNI asks “What is the agency
for pursuing constructive alternatives and resisting destructive ones? It starts with the “powerful movements against neo-liberalism” that have been built over past decades. These will grow along with public anger at the abuse of public funds for private subsidy, the crises of food, energy, and the environment, and the deepening recession.” Again, I cannot but agree. But TNI itself has a “New Thinking” project focused on Left political parties that go beyond social movements. Outside of Latin America, TNI knows more than any other NGO about the progressive governments which have resulted from these political projects.

There are questions of tactics. TNI says “These programs may well fail in halting the downward spiral of the global economy. But they open the door to new forms of more social and public economy. This raises a key issue: do we propose steps that will make things worst the better to create openings for more thoroughgoing change? If we say our program has to be “the opposite of the five trillion dollars of bail-outs, rescues, and subsidies provided to business in the past couple of months” does it mean we oppose all of these programs? The UK government’s nationalization of key banks? Certainly the Bush/Paulson “rescue” of banks by buying the toxic debt, but also the Obama program of stimulating economic activity through social services and relief for home owners?


Progressive organizations such as FDC often mix longer term economic goals with specific short term demands. An early January 2009 statement identifies the following, imminently reasonable long term goals:
1.replacing the free trade approach with managed trade, which would promote domestic industry and agric
ulture;
2.moving towards a healthy mixed economy in which private enterprises coexist with cooperatives, private-public partnerships, and state enterprises;
3.undertaking income and asset redistribution to create a dynamic internal market that will fuel demand and provide a long-term stimulus to ecologically sustainable economic growth.
(Freedom from Debt Coalition Statement, 13 January 2009)
More careful reassessment of short term demands have to be made in the new context. Old FDC demands such as “a moratorium on debt servicing, the cancellation of illegitimate debt” have to be reassessed in the context of the greatly changed international financial situation. In the past, these demands were made as “waving the banner” demands with no expectation of the government taking the demands seriously. Repackaged as negotiating positions in the current discombobulated international financial situation, it might actually be possible to get some concessions that would alleviate the Philippines debt situation.

Engaging Walden Bello. In an article published in Washington DC on the day before Christmas 2008, Walden Bello challenged progressives to fight against “Global Social Democracy” (GSD). Progressives, Bello said “…are still fighting the last war, that is, against neoliberalism”. They should instead focus on GSD because it is going to be the “coming capitalist consensus”. Bello gives four reasons for opposing GSD:

“First, GSD shares neoliberalism’s bias for globalization, differentiating itself mainly by promising to promote globalization better than the neoliberals.


Second, GSD shares neoliberalism’s preference for the market as the principal mechanism for production, distribution, and consumption, differentiating itself mainly by advocating state action to address market failures… This is very different from saying that the citizenry and civil society must make the key economic decisions and the market, like the state bureaucracy, is only one mechanism of implementation of democratic decision-making.

Third, GSD is a technocratic project, with experts hatching and pushing reforms on society from above, instead of being a participatory project where initiatives percolate from the ground up.

Fourth, GSD, while critical of neoliberalism, accepts the framework of monopoly capitalism, which rests fundamentally on deriving profit from the exploitative extraction of surplus value from labor, is driven from crisis to crisis by inherent tendencies toward overproduction, and tends to push the environment to its limits in its search for profitability. Like traditional Keynesianism in the national arena, GSD seeks in the global arena a new class compromise that is accompanied by new methods to contain or minimize capitalism’s tendency toward crisis. Just as the old Social Democracy and the New Deal stabilized national capitalism, the historical function of Global Social Democracy is to iron out the contradictions of contemporary global capitalism and
to relegitimize it after the crisis and chaos left by neoliberalism. GSD is, at root, about social management.”

Walden and I have debated politics for almost forty years, always from the vantage point of how best to advan
ce the progressive cause. We don’t have disagreements about fundamentals. At least, I don’t think so. Where we’ve tended to disagree is on approach, on tactics. In this instance, I would not identify social democracy or GSD as he calls it, as the main progressive target. Neo-liberalism has lost its ideological hegemony, finance capital and its ideological defenders are weakened, but still very powerful.

Of the four reasons that Walden mobilizes for fighting GSD, I agree most strongly with his Marxist analysis of monopoly capitalism. My problem is with where he takes his analysis. The logic of Marxist analysis of monopoly capitalism is the fight for socialism. Walden does not use the word anywhere in this or any of his other recent articles. Understandably so given the collapse of “actually (not anymore) existing socialism”. Instead Walden mobilizes what we might call the “world social forum”/anti-globalization movement ethos of participation and democratic decision-making. I completely agree with this. Akbayan, in many ways, is an attempt to give expression to this ethos.

But I would approach social democracy differently. “Third Way” social democracy, like Tony Blair, has gone the way of neo-liberalism. It is now thoroughly discredited. But what Walden calls GSD is post Third Way. I may not
agree with everything Gordon Brown, or George Soros, or Joseph Stiglitz says, but I certainly agree with several of the things Walden says they are pushing. Who among us will disagree with the following?

Growth and equity may come into conflict, in which case one must prioritize equity;
Free trade may not, in fact, be beneficial in the long run and may leave the majority poor, so it is important for trade arrangements to be subject to social and environmental conditions;
Unilateralism must be avoided while fundamental reform of the multilateral institutions and agreements must be undertaken – a process that might involve dumping or neutralizing some of them, like the WTO’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPs);
Global social integration, or reducing inequalities both within and across countries, must accompany global market integration;

The global debt of developing countries must be cancelled or radically reduced, so the resulting savings can be used to stimulate the local economy, thus contributing to global reflation;
Poverty and environmental degradation are so severe that a massive aid program or “Marshall Plan” from the North to the South must be mounted within the framework of the “Millennium Development Goals”;


Framing a Progressive Response
Without letting go of paradigmatic goals such as “socialism” and “participatory democracy”, I want to suggest a number of goals which, under current conditions are within the range of possibility, or at least can serve as bases for broad societal coalitions that the Left can lead or minimally participate in. Because of time constraints and my own limited knowledge of detailed economic analysis, this is only a sketchy outline. These goals can serve as crit
eria for judging more specific policy proposals and at the same time as a rough guide for future discussions on alternatives.

Control finance capitalism
The dominance of finance over real economy has to be broken. I do not know enough about economics to lay out all that needs to be done to achieve this. I do know that there are civil society proposals for this, including re-regulation to the taxation of capital transfers to reduce the hypertrophy and power of the financial sector. Proposals for regulating the financial sector have focused on transparency and accountability. Achieving a reversal of GDP shares will require more than this.

Demand-side economics
Supply side economics and its focus on macroeconomic instruments has biased economics towards the financial sector. We need a “demand side economics” for pushing a change in the balance of power towards the demand side, towards wages and salaries, towards social equity both nationally and in relations between advanced capitalist countries and the South.

Finance capitalism, in particular its Anglo-American variant, exacerbates income distribution. The logic of the crisis is that short of creating another bubble, the only candidate for stimulating growth is the demand side, simply, wages. But who said capitalism is logical. To push this reversal, the power of labor has to be rebuilt. Obama’s political debts to the AFL-CIO should help in the US. In Europe, pressure on labor has been accompanied by pressure on the social security system, so labor can get support from middle classes. In the South, labor has no choice but to work with other social movements to elect progressive governments.


Stable and predictable national and international financial system
We have to work out how to relate to the “official” process, to policy options that are only now within the range of possibility. Current conditions make reducing exchange rate volatility an option. Together with keeping inflation under control, we might be able to build coalitions with segments of business to push for the government to regain control over exchange rates. Given the speed of contagion from the American crisis, capital controls should sound much more reasonable. This part is the most complex because it involves international relations. But it is also an arena where civil society has had a lot of experience. The terrain for civil society intervention today offers many opportunities because ideologically international capital is in retreat.

Progressives will not have a voice in G20 and other official discussions. But there are at least two G20 countries who might carry some of the advocacies of the Left, Brazil and Argentina, possibly South Africa and India. G20 and other “official” discussions, however, can be influenced through public discourse, in the media and academe. This is where it is important to shape advocacies which are not so distant from what will be discussed in official meetings. What I mean here is not that we shape the ‘intent’ of our advocacies close to those of capital, more that the “discursive location” of our advocacies cannot be too distant from what is discussed in official circles.


Seize the state
This is where the “participatory democracy” ethos of international civil society comes in. Participation despite repression may be most satisfactory emotionally, invited participation suspicious, participation as in Sao Paolo remains the most productive. The maximization of opportunities for changing both national and international economies is possible only where there are governments who support change. The “return of the state” necessitated by the current crisis makes this arena of struggle more important than in the “downsize the state” years. But civil society still has to develop capacities for relating to the state in other than “watchdog” roles. (Photo: Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia, Lula da Silva of Brasil, Michele Bachelet of Chile, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_FxCl-zDjIOQ/Ria6ap_sLqI/AAAAAAAABRU/sDhNl10Lkiw/ s400/mercosurpresidentes.jpg)

“The vision of such democratic control, however, is not of either a centralized national or a centralized global economy. It is closer to what Walden Bello elsewhere described as the “co-existence” of a variety of “international organizations, agreements and regional groupings” that would allow “a more fluid, less structured, more pluralistic world with multiple checks and balances” in which nations and communities can “carve out the space to develop based on their values, their rhythms, and the strategies of their choice.” (TNI )

The fact that the main centers of capitalism have had to move from the G8 to G20 is a small step towards Walden Bello’s “more fluid, less structured, more pluralistic world.” There are challenges specific to Asian progressives. In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, Japan proposed a fund that could be accessed by Asian governments facing speculative attack on their currency. This was vetoed by the IMF and by the US Treasury Department. This has since been set up in the Chiangmai Initiative, then recently the fund was significantly increased without comment from its former oppositors.

Regionalism in Asia, in East and Southeast Asia, is complex. For progressives, APEC is a dead end, so big it is unwieldy, and dominated by the US. ASEM at least provides a forum for Asia – Europe discussions that has not tried too hard to suppress its “shadow”, the Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum (AEPF). ASEAN is ineffective politically and economically. But ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) has the potential to become a significant regional economic body. Its not ALBA, but then we don't have a Chavez in our region. If the US ceases to be the repository of Chinese and Japanese surplus, and developing the Chinese domestic economy cannot be rushed, there could be a large influx of capital to Southeast Asia akin to what happened in the second half of the 1980s.

In the Philippines, discourse on the financial crisis has not been joined. The government follows an 'ostrich strategy' not realizing that when you stick your head in the sand, you make yourself vulnerable to being kicked in the ass. Progressive discourse has tended to to take the “gloom and doom” stance. In fact there are perfectly useful positions taken by people such as Ben Diokno. Even if our financial system, if only because of its limited size has not been too badly hit, the international recession is going to affect our already difficult jobs situation. The Left should make itself responsible for responding in a way that maximizes the potential for change in the situation even if only to generate jobs.

Walden’s recent piece for FDC (“The Change We Want”) provides a good beginning for the kind of discussion on policy direction (not just specific policies) that is needed. The situation at this time provides an opening for the kind of reorientation that Walden proposes. Control of financial flows, industrial policy, focusing on the domestic market, these are all policies that everyone is getting into. Even if they wanted to, the enforcers of international capitalism are not in a position to punish new policy initiatives. What is needed is political will. But that’s a whole other discussion.#

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bayan representative stood by during Red tortures—survivor

by Christine Herrera

A SURVIVOR claims a militant lawmaker is one of the brains behind the killing of more than 2,000 cadres by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, in the 1980s.........

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news4_jan20_2009

MST, 20 January 2009

A rejoinder and Reply from: Robert Francis Garcia

Secretary General, Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH) / 21 January 2009

I express my appreciation to the Manila Standard Today for its effort to bring to the fore the issue of the bloody communist purges of the CPP-NPA, which has suffered from neglect for two decades now, despite the fact that thousands have suffered and died from it. (left Photo: Robert Francis 'Bobby' Garcia)

I however issue this rejoinder, in response to your news item, Bayan representative stood by during Red tortures—survivor (Herrera, Christine. MST, 20 January 2009), as most of the statements and allegations were attributed to me. I wish to correct: (1) some misimpressions the article may have unwittingly created; (2) factual inaccuracies and information gaps; and (3) the lack of the big picture.

1. The article comes out as if I’m on a vindictive assault against the top brass of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) by implicating many of their current leaders in the killings. I think the article needs to distinguish between fact and opinion.

At the time I was tortured by the CPP-NPA in Southern Tagalog along with other comrades, I was only a middle-level cadre who was not privy to the policies, decisions, and composition of the leadership. Thus when I was asked by Herrera who were responsible for the mayhem, I said I believe it was the Central Committee. I saw the leaders in the detention camp, and thus mentioned those I recognized: such as (Rep) Satur Ocampo, Bobbie Malay, Armando Teng, Alan Jazmines, et al. I was however not in a position to say that “Ocampo was one of the brains behind” the killing. My firsthand account only goes as far as confirming that he was indeed at the camp, along with his wife Bobbie, and they reviewed my case. Other sources need to be consulted.

As regards the query on whether Jose Ma. Sison was in the know while the purge was underway, I replied that he might have been, as the assumed Party leader, but again, I do not know this as a fact.

The experience of being denied due process has made me a stickler for it – including ensuring legitimacy in investigation, accuracy, and the primacy of the rule of law – with consideration to sensitivities and repercussions. Thus, I believe that establishing these individuals’ culpability for the torture and killings requires a formal probe, which has yet to happen.

It is important to add that the information cited in the article came about in a spirit of kwentuhan at talastasan (banter and brainstorm). It was not as if I suddenly came out with guns ablaze and started pinpointing the “culprits” publicly, because for such a sensitive issue, I believe an official forum is warranted.

The article also mentions Rep. Ocampo as a possible senatorial candidate, which may make it appear that this issue being brought up now is informed by political (electoral) considerations. Our group, the Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice, takes a broad human rights perspective on the issue. We have consistently maintained our independence from any partisan influence and have been doing everything to “depoliticize” our actions.

2. The article names CPP leaders who are still active (also called “Reaffirmists” or RAs) but fails to identify those who left the Party and formed other left groups (also called “Rejectionists” or RJs). It is widely recognized that accountability for the purges rests on the entire Party leadership at the time of the purges, whatever the leaders’ current affiliations now are.

Other factual corrections:

§ “All (victims) were brought to the Cordilleras for torture and execution.” This refers only to the detainees in the Metro Manila purge in 1988-89, called Olympia. Also, not all the Metro Manila purge victims were brought to the Cordillera; some were already killed in Metro Manila. On the whole, based on PATH’s research, the purges happened in practically all regions in the Philippines where the CPP-NPA operated – from Nothern Luzon to Southern Mindanao.

§ Medardo “George” Buncayo (also known as “Kenny”) was not a member of the Central Committee. He however, headed the Task Force for the Oplan Missing Link in Southern Tagalog. A criminal case was filed against him for murder and serious physical injuries in the Laguna Provincial Prosecution Office. (The case was dismissed by Provincial Prosecutor George Dee, stating: “…these complainants voluntarily and willingly submitted themselves to the discipline of the Party…(It) cannot be seriously argued that they were detained against their will...” A motion for reconsideration was filed thereafter, and currently awaiting judicial action.

§ “All the arrests, torture and killings were blamed by the CPP leadership on the military. Families of the victims were made to believe that their loved ones were heroes as they died for the revolution during military encounters and ambuscades,” (Garcia). Just an addendum here: most of the victims’ families were not informed of anything at all – many still believe that their loved ones are still alive and fighting.

§ “The lies they have perpetrated remain to this day. The CPP leadership remains arrogant.” (Garcia). These incendiary words are not exactly the language I would use if I were to convince the CPP to face up to their crime. I still pin my hopes on the justice system (however slowly it grinds) coupled with dialogue and other creative pursuits.

3. We at PATH assert that the issue of the communist purges remains relevant because justice is still denied. The purge issue is valid in and of itself, but we nevertheless situate our advocacy within the broader human rights context where various sectors are involved. We are cognizant of the present human rights crisis of the country. I myself have worked with institutions, including the United Nations, that address the current issue of extrajudicial killings, for which security forces and armed opposition groups are both held to account.

We are hoping for, and working hard to help in, the peaceful resolution of the armed conflict between government and the CPP-NPA. We believe, however, that achieving peace also requires exacting accountability and putting closure to violations that were committed in the past.