The election of President Duterte marks the end of an era of the post-Marcos ‘Edsa regimes’, spanning a period of more than three decades, from Cory Aquino to her son Noynoy Aquino. The masses, frustrated and desperate in the face of the inability of the ‘Edsa regimes’ to find lasting solutions to the country’s ongoing and chronic socio-economic problems, placed Duterte, a warlord, in power. After more than three decades of ‘Edsa rule’ we still face mass unemployment, low wages, an agrarian crisis, acute shortage of housing and little or non-existent social services. The situation has reached crisis proportions with the unbridled neo-liberal assault on these fronts, through privatization, deregulation and trade liberalization, the restructuring and decimation of big sections of the labor force through contractualization, and the inability of successive governments to deliver meaningful agrarian reform and restructure socio-economic relations on the land to benefit the rural poor. Moreover, the environmental crisis increasingly devastates large sections of the population, and effective disaster response, adaptation and mitigation strategies needed to save lives, are mired in corruption and undermined. The Duterte government is a direct consequence of the political bankruptcy and failure of the Edsa regimes, combined with the socio-economic havoc created by the imposition of neoliberal economic rule.
Despite President Duterte’s seemingly contradictory pronouncements, such as the ‘anti-US’ stance in foreign policy, his railings against the old oligarchs, vows to end labor contractualization and even his declaration that he is a ‘socialist’, the new regime, with its warlord style heavy-handed tactics, has far-right characteristics. The extra-judicial killings in the name of the ‘war on drugs’, misogyny, sexism AND general social backwardness, herald a dangerous and uncertain political period ahead. The far-right character of the regime is further clouded by the left’s participation in government, with those aligned with the CPP-NPA-NDF, heading up important cabinet positions.
The rightist features of the Duterte government are even more significant, given the ascendancy of the far right internationally, especially marked in the West. The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States on an anti-migrant, Islamophobic, anti-women and protectionist platform, Britain’s decision to abandon the European Union, a position promoted by the far-right, the rising popularity of racist and anti-migrant, neo-fascist movements in the West, to the re-instatement of right-wing governments in Latin America through ‘constitutional coups’, most notably against the Workers Party (PT) government in Brazil, are all indications of this political shift to the right worldwide. The Bolivian Marxist (and Vice President) Alvaro Garcia Linera argues that these international political developments signify the end of globalization as an ideology, but that the ‘death’ of globalization has “left the world with neither triumph nor an alternative on the horizon”. These international developments are in general, also reflected in the Philippines, including in the character of the Duterte regime.
The Duterte government is also a result of the failure of the left to put forward and win mass support for a credible, radical, political alternative. Although left leadership is urgently needed, the left is unfortunately too weak, divided and too compromised to meet the challenges of these new and uncertain times. It lacks the clarity to chart its political course and the credibility to provide political leadership. Despite its weakness, however, the political situation today still demands left leadership and a left alternative.
For some time now there has been a need and even a clamor for a paper of the left – a socialist paper. A socialist paper, as a political instrument, to promote the open discussion and debates necessary to clarify political perspectives, advance, test, assess and develop relevant strategies and tactics, to help educate and organize new generations of activists and to support the building of a left alternative.
The paper – Ang Masa, para sa sosyalismo -- stands for a genuine socialist alternative. Only a left and socialist alternative can provide long-term solutions in these crisis-ridden times. The paper’s editorial policy will promote discussion and debates and carry analytical articles in keeping with this view point. Over the coming months some of the main issues addressed in the paper will contribute to framing the rationale for and the character of a socialist alternative, including that of a socialist center or organization. We believe such a paper is needed in the current political conjuncture. It’s with this rationale and stand point that we publish the first issue of Ang Masa, para sa sosyalismo.