Philippines: Mass movement against Arroyo

Medium-sized rallies are being organised on an almost daily basis in the Philippines with the aim of driving the pro-US President Arroyo from power.

The triggers for the unfolding mass movement is the phone tapes released of Aroyyo telling election officials to keep her election majority at around the one million mark; plus earlier scandals where her husband is accused of receiving kickbacks from the state lottery.

However, underlying the mass opposition is the vicious pro-business policies she has introduced recently – including paying over one third of the national budget on debt repayment!

Other counter-reforms include cutting subsidies for health for the poor, cuts to education, and a proposed increase in VAT (same as GST) from 10% to 12%.

No wonder big sections of big business and the senior officer corps and the Catholic Church are still unsure about replacing her. They are supported by the US and the western media who see Arroyo as a loyal supporter of Bush’s ’war on terror’. In the name of this, she has allowed 1000 US troops into the country under the pretext of being ’trainers’.

Since the Philippines won independence after the war, it has been run by a corrupt elite dominating the wealth along with their US masters. They have been a loyal pro-US voice in East Asia.

In 1986 when President Marcos’ too brazen corruption lead to a mass movement that threatened to go too far, the army tops and church hierarchy stepped in to direct the movement along safe lines. Aquino was put in power and, since her, what followed was a series of fundamentally equal and corrupt comprador leaders.

This was all aided and abeted by the Stalinist Communist Party of the Philippines who have a strict two-stage theory, of supporting ’democratic or progressive capitalism’ over ’corrupt capitalism’ and therefore always fight with all their might against a socialist alternative.

The CWI and SP, influenced by the ideas of Leon Trotsky, believe that there is no progressive capitalism today. The local elite in the Philippines are tied to the US. They fear their own masses more than the occasional disputes with Washington. The only way to introduce land reform, democracy and social improvements for workers is by overthrowing capitalism.

The irony of the CPP-influenced demonstrations today is that they are repeating similar mass movements in the past which led to one corrupt leader being replaced by what turned out to be another corrupt leader. It must seem to many workers that the left organisations influenced by Stalinism only get in the media limelight when they are wheeled out by one section of the ruling class to organise protests to get rid of another section of the ruling class. Then they go back to their daily fight for, at best, reforms from the system.

There is a need for a mass party in the Philippines, organising workers and the rural poor around a programme of social and democratic demands and the call for a socialist transformation of society.

It is unclear at the moment if Arroyo will ride out this storm for now or be replaced by some other bourgeois leader. The mass movement shows the potential power of working class and rural and urban poor – but to ensure the bravery of the masses is not betrayed, an anti-Stalinist, socialist voice must be developed in the Philippines.

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August 2005