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BAYAN’s Reyes says Afghan gov’t collapse is another defeat for US imperialism

The collapse of the foreign-backed government in Afghanistan is another defeat for interventionist military adventures by the United States, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In a statement following reports Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghanil has fled Kabul, Reyes said US military interventionism that pushes imperialistic ends is bound to fail if the local populace see them as invaders.

“However hard the US imposes its version of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, the Afghan people still see them as invaders. US imperialism did not bring them change and development but deeper crisis,” Reyes wrote in Filipino.

The defeat of the US-led military coalition that occupied Afghanistan is another defeat similar to what it suffered in Iraq and Vietnam, he added.

Taliban fighters have started their entry into the capital city after Ghanil has reportedly fled Kabul as the US started evacuating its diplomatic staff with helicopters, reminiscent of the chaos seen when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975.

The Taliban first gained prominence as an anti-Soviet occupation force that implemented what is seen as a hard line form of Sunni Islam when it first led Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The US led an international military coalition that occupied Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks in New York, accusing the Taliban of supporting Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in Abbotville, Pakistan in April 2012.

The coalition reportedly spent about $3 trillion dollars in the two-decade conflict, with the US shouldering about $978 billion from 2001 to 2020.

US President Joe Biden earlier ordered the withdrawal of soldiers and urged peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Reyes said the US occupation of the country has led to the worst reported cases of human rights violations in the world in the last two decades.

He said that civilian deaths has been treated a mere “collateral damage” that has also bred continuing armed resistance against the occupation.

Reyes added that future developments would indicate whether the Taliban would commit human rights violations it was accused of in the past.

Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint as he voiced concern about the future of women and girls under another Taliban regime.

The Taliban are being accused of curtailing women’s rights to education, work, free expression and others.

Pope Francis on the other hand Pope Francis called for an end to the conflict in Afghanistan so its people “can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.”

In his Sunday address in Vatican City, Francis said, “I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BANGAR’S GUERRILLAS: A small town’s valiant yet forgotten history of resistance during the Philippine-American War

by Mac Ramirez

At the northernmost part of the Province of La Union is Bangar, a small and quiet town nestled between the West Philippine Sea to the west, the mighty Amburayan River to the north, and the majestic Cordillera mountain range to the east. Its people are famous for crafting the hand-woven fabric called ‘inabel’ which, because of its durability, were used as sails of galleon ships during the Spanish colonial days.

At present, Bangar’s ‘inabel’ blankets, table runners and hand towels are in high-demand, both locally and overseas. Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray visited Bangar last March 2020 and even sat on a native wooden loom to try her hand at weaving this beautiful fabric.   

Map of La Union province.

But apart from the ‘inabel’, not much is known about the town of Bangar.

Who would have thought that this small and quiet town has a valiant history of resistance and played a significant role during the Philippine-American War?  

When President Emilio Aguinaldo and his Council of War resolved in November of 1899 to shift to guerrilla warfare as the means to fight the American invaders, Ilocano freedom fighters wasted no time in preparing and leading the masses for revolt.

Guerrilla units spread like wildfire in La Union and other Ilocano Provinces. The people of Bangar rose up and heeded the call to defend the country. The Bangar resistance movement was so strong and organized that American forces at that time dared not venture around those parts without sufficient numbers.

“An Insurgent Column on the march.” (Collier’s Weekly; May 10, 1900)

Hotbed of ‘insurrection’

US Army Captain F.O. Johnson of the 3rd Cavalry summarized the situation in Bangar in a report to General Samuel Young dated March 6, 1900. He informed the headquarters in Vigan of the presence of at least five active guerrilla organizations within a radius of merely ten miles of Namacpacan (present day Luna) and Bangar [Ochosa, The Tinio Brigade]:

“The situation is such that it is unsafe to send out bodies of less than 40 or 50 men. The insurrectos have a well-organized system of espionage and all movements are immediately reported by couriers. Secret information leads me to distrust most of the native officials…”

The cohesion of the Bangareños to the guerrilla cause was a major source of dread for the Americans during the war’s height. The place was literally crawling with guerrillas and sympathizers. Even the parish priest of Bangar, Padre Bonifacio Brillantes, was an ardent supporter of the ‘insurrectos.’ He was later convicted by the Americans for having once rung the church bells in a bid to warn the guerrillas on the approach of the enemy.

“The topography is such that it is impossible to bring large forces in contact with these insurrectos,” read part of Johnson’s report. “When they greatly outnumber the Americans; they fight, otherwise they retreat into the mountains.”

That was the situation in Bangar. As to the general situation in the First District of La Union in early to mid-1900, Major General Elwell S. Otis described it, thus: “This today is the worst part of the Philippine Islands.”

The final fall of the Spanish in Bangar

That Bangar is so committed to the cause of independence and freedom at that time was not at all surprising. Just a little over a year prior, in August 1898, the final victory of Filipino revolutionists in La Union against the oppressive Spanish colonial regime was sealed in Bangar.

After almost a week of intense fighting, Spanish soldiers under Lieutenant Don Goicochea, who were then holed up inside the Bangar Convento, surrendered to the Filipino revolutionists in August 7, 1898. Eleven days after, on August 18, General Manuel Tinio accepted the “Acta de Capitulacion” of the Spanish forces in Bangar – one of the only two official acts of surrender signed in La Union soil, the other one being in the cabecerra San Fernando which was signed on July 31. Thus the more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule in the Province of La Union finally fell in Bangar.

Historian Adriel Obar Meimban, in his book “La Union: The Making of a Province 1850-1921,” noted that during the final assault against the Spanish in Bangar, “all rose up to a man.”

Spanish Governor de Lara of Ilocos Sur testified that during the fighting in Bangar, the unremitting vollies of fire from the guns of Filipino revolutionists were heard from even across the Amburayan River in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur. The Spaniard admitted then: “En La Union, no quedaba un hombre que no fuese rebelde” (In La Union, there was no man left who was not a rebel).

My great-grand aunt Paula Ramirez’s husband, Don Daniel Perez, was named Gobernadorcillo of the newly installed Filipino Revolutionary Government in Bangar. Back in September 1896, Don Daniel Perez (Interprete de este Juzgado) was among the twenty prominent Ilocanos who were tagged as leading “conspirators” and “subversives” in the friar-concocted “Supuesta Conspiracion.” The Vicar Forane of San Fernando, Fray Rafael Redondo, accused them of plotting to massacre Spanish officials in La Union.

Along with Daniel Perez who were exiled and banished to Palawan’s Balabac Island in 1896 were the leaders of the supposed ‘conspiracy’: Don Lucino Almeida of San Fernando, who would later on become La Union’s Presidente Provincial or Governor, and Don Ireneo Javier, who would later on become Ilocos Norte’s Governor and first representative of the province to the Philippine Assembly of 1907. Javier would also marry Perez’ daughter, Trinidad Ramirez-Perez.

The memory of victory against their former colonial oppressors is still fresh in the hearts and minds of the people of Bangar. Thus with a new set of invaders and colonizers at hand, they are ever prepared and willing to defend their hard-fought freedom.

Summing up the sentiment of the La Union umili (townsfolk), Governor Almeida telegraphed President Aguinaldo in Malolos on January 6, 1899. He said that La Union is prepared to go to war for independence as it did so valiantly against Spain, this time against the Norte Americanos:

“The dissemination of the news that the war against the Americans is impending as they greedily prey upon this Philippines, a continuous stream of news from all the towns have been received by me to show to the authorities and to the people that they resent, and they do request to offer themselves, including their possessions and lives, and they are grateful for your acceptance of their offer.”

[English translation from original Ilocano, by Meimban]

Thus, the people of La Union prepared for war. And when the Americans set foot in La Union soil in November 20, 1899, Filipino guerrillas are ready for action.

Bangar’s guerrillas      

MAP OF GUERRILLA OPERATIONS IN LA UNION. Photo from the book “Tinio Brigade”

The guerrillas of Bangar were part of Guerrilla Unit No. 1, led by Captain Anacleto Mendoza who was tagged by the Americans as the ‘prime disturber’ in that part of La Union. This outfit was responsible for the successive strikes in the first days of the year 1900 that completely infuriated the Americans.   

Attack on Bangar

On the night of January 10, 1900, some fifty armed guerrillas led by Lieutenant Francisco Peralta stormed Bangar, ransacked the Presidencia and executed the Presidente Municipal “who had earlier been marked for liquidation for his collaboration activities.” [Ochosa, The Tinio Brigade] Two other municipal officials, the Delegado de Justicia and the Delegado de Industria, were also executed by the guerrillas that night for supporting the enemy.

In response, the Americans sent a cavalry patrol to hunt down the daring raiders but they were ambushed in Sudipen (then a part of Bangar) by waiting Filipino forces under Lieutenant Simplicio Geronilla. The clash left two Americans killed and three others wounded.

A few days before the January 10 Bangar night-raid, Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Gutierrez, commander of all the guerrilla forces in La Union and Southern Ilocos Sur, ordered all guerrilla units to collect “acts of adhesion” from prominent citizens for purposes of propaganda abroad.

The Civil Governor of La Union, Don Lucino Almeida, likewise, convened all the Presidentes of the Province at his residence in San Fernando and ordered them to “furnish food, provisions and supplies from time to time to the forces in insurrection against the United States.”

Pocket guerrilla operations will continue to pester the Americans in the succeeding months. But the twin attacks in Bangar that greeted the New Year of 1900 – the night-raid of January 10 and the ambush thereafter – stood out for its cunning and audacity. Orlino Ochosa, in his book “The Tinio Brigade,” wrote that the said attacks were deemed by the Americans then as “war crimes” that were “unpardonable.”

Apart from the presence of armed guerrilla bands, the American occupation forces in Bangar also had to contend with the existence of the Sandatahanes – a phantom army of bolomen – that by March of 1900, a new garrison was set up by the US Army in Bangar.

The presence of another American garrison, however, did not dampen the fighting spirit of the Bangareños. By the middle of April 1900, Major Pascual Pacis and Lieutenant Juan Mendoza, of the guerrilla army’s Milicianos Territoriales, were at Barrio Paratong in Bangar recruiting men by the hundreds to join the resistance.  

Said recruits were initiated similar to that of the Katipunan rites, in that they were made to sign their oaths with their own blood and they were subjected to branding on their right breasts using the mouth of a heated bottle.

Maj. Pacis and Lt. Mendoza, who were later convicted by the Americans for their guerrilla activities, must have been recruiting members for the recently revived Katipunan in Bangar, considering that on May 5, 1900, a cache of Katipunan blood-oaths were discovered by the Americans in nearby Tagudin in Ilocos Sur.

Bangar will yet again witness another bold guerrilla attack on the night of May 5, 1900. Lt. Peralta and his men managed to sneak past American lines and again entered Bangar and assassinated five locals who served as Americans scouts. One of them, a former soldier of the guerrilla army who, exactly a month before, deserted to the Americans and turned-over to the enemy his company’s complete muster-roll [Scott, Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901].

Back then, the locals derided their town mates who were being too friendly with the American forces. On the part of the guerrilla army, this is considered a mortal sin that is punishable by death.

By December 22, 1900, the US Army’s 48th Infantry listed a total of nine persons killed and thirty persons or more assaulted in Bangar for “sympathy and assistance rendered the American cause.” Three of those killed and two of those assaulted were municipal officers.

In all areas covered by the US Army’s First District, Department of Northern Luzon, a total of 100 persons were assassinated for supporting the Americans, 26 of them were municipal officials.

The Americans, on the other hand, also vented their ire on town officials whom they suspected of supporting the “insurrectos”. On Christmas Day of 1900, American authorities ordered the arrest of all of Bangar’s municipal officials led by its then Presidente Municipal for “conspiracy.” [Scott, Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901]

In early 1900, the legendary General Manuel Tinio, commander of all Filipino forces in the entire Northern Luzon, issued an order to punish, by penalty of death, all those who will surrender, support or give assistance to the enemy.

“Although I would regret to have to shed the blood of my compatriots, I am disposed to take all the steps necessary to punish rigorously the traitors to the country.”

Guerrilla chiefs were also instructed by Aguinaldo’s Chief of the General Staff in 1900, to “kindly order all their subordinates, down to the lowest level, to learn the verb ‘Dukutar’ so as to put it immediately in practice.” In so doing, he said, it is “most salutary for our country.” [JRM Taylor papers] 

“Dukutar,” from the root word “dukot” or “ca-ut” in Ilocaco, meant the abduction and assassination of enemy forces, collaborators and spies.

It is worthy to note that the liquidation of spies and traitors to the cause were part and parcel of guerrilla warfare. In the face of a superior adversary, Filipino freedom fighters then had no choice but to resort to these kind of tactics, which also include, among others, the cutting of telegraph wires and the constant harassment and raids on enemy patrols, posts and detachments.

Even the commander of the American Forces, General Arthur Mac Arthur, admitted the prevalence of assassination of traitors on the part of the guerrillas.  In 1901 he reported: “The cohesion of Filipino society in behalf of insurgent interests is most emphatically illustrated by the fact that assassination, which was extensively employed, was generally accepted as a legitimate expression of insurgent governmental authority.”  

My great-grand father Isidoro Ramirez, the son of Don Hipolito Ramirez and a distinguished citizen of Bangar, was implicated as one of the conspirators in the January 10 Bangar guerrilla attack. He along with his town mate and cousin Manuel Bautista and Maximo Roldan, a native of nearby Namacpacan, were arrested and jointly tried by a US Military Commission convened June 3, 1900 in San Fernando, La Union.

Though they pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges, they were sentenced “to be hanged by the neck until they are dead.”

Public hangings in Bangar

Ramirez, Bautista and Roldan were publicly executed at the Plaza of Bangar on November 23, 1900. They were the first Filipino patriots to be hanged in La Union (perhaps in the entire Ilocandia) and, as such, the US Army meticulously planned and prepared for their public execution.

Adriel Obar Meimban, in his book “La Union: The Making of a Province 1850-1921,” wrote that Colonel William Penn Duvall, the American Commander based in San Fernando, received specific instructions to conduct their execution in a manner that is “quiet, orderly, dignified and soldierly.”

He was told to “select the particular place in Bangar, providing suitable material and the necessary labor for erecting the scaffold and procuring the rope, cord, etc required.” Thus an imposing wooden scaffold was ordered constructed in Bangar’s town plaza beginning October 1900.

Because two of the sentenced men – Ramirez and Bautista – were Bangar’s native sons, the Americans were extra-careful in keeping them in custody from their detention cell to the gallows, “lest they tempt guerrilla attack or attract ‘special attention’ from the people.”

On the day of the execution, Col. Duvall was instructed to undertake precautionary measures “to control the throng,” as thousands of Bangar-folk and citizens from surrounding areas were expected to gather at the town plaza for the hanging. The taking of photographs of the hanging was banned and newspapermen were not allowed on site.  

“The Provost Martial executed the martyrs upon the order of the Commanding Officer. Then the C.O. reported personally to Vigan for further instructions,” Meimban narrated.

Thus, “with no mawkishness of sentiment nor with the least abatement of the intended grimness and terror,” Ramirez, Bautista and Roldan were hanged in front of a horrified people, on top of a newly-built scaffold that would soon hang several other high-ranking guerrilla officers of the Tinio Brigade.

A public hanging in Bangar. Photo from Philippine-American War, 1899-1902 by Arnaldo Dumindin

The public execution of sentenced “insurgents” was a major part of the US Army’s anti-guerrilla strategy – and they chose Bangar as their stage.

Perhaps to strike fear among the populace and to punish the town for its strong support to the guerrilla resistance, the people of Bangar were, on every occasion, herded to the town plaza to witness these “macabre public hangings.’

On September 13, 1901, the town hosted yet another triple-hanging of top leaders of Guerrilla Unit No. 5. They were 1st Lieutenant Natalio Valencia, 2nd Lieutenant Hilario Quesada and 2nd Lieutenant Patricio Zaidin.

Zaidin, a native of Alilem, was the last guerrilla leader to fall into the enemy’s hands in the La Union and Southern Ilocos Sur theatre of war.

Meanwhile, the proponent of the audacious raids in Bangar in the first half of 1900, Lt. Francisco Peralta, was also hanged in Bangar on October 11, 1901. Before his execution, Peralta uttered these last words: “Goodbye my beloved country. I am going to another world, sparing you further pains and anguish by sacrificing my life. Beloved countrymen, pray for me as I will pray for you in the next life. With love and courage, I am willing to die for your sake. I am not afraid to die.”

“Beyond death, Peralta became a hero,” wrote Meimban.

Also to meet his fate at the gallows of Bangar was Major Aniceto Angeles, one of the original commanders of the Philippine Republican Army’s La Union Battalion and the guerrilla chief of Guerilla Unit No. 2. He was hanged on October 18, 1901 with fellow guerrillas Fermin Directo and Tomas Torres.

More than 2,000 people were made to witness the hangings which, according to Meimban, was a “nauseating spectacle.”  When he was given the chance to speak before the gathered masses, Major Angeles shouted in defiance: “I am satisfied with the sentence and accept death!”

The hanging of Filipino prisoners of war by the Americans was strongly denounced by President Aguinaldo. From his mountain lair on January 17, 1901 he issued an urgent proclamation condemning the hangings as “repulsive and inhuman” and castigated the practice as “unheard of cruelties and shameless violations of the most elementary laws which are being committed by the imperialists.” [JRM Taylor papers]

He then “ordered and commanded” guerrilla chiefs to negotiate prisoner exchange “at the rate of one American for every three of the many Filipinos who have been condemned to death by them, and who are expecting to be executed at any moment.” 

Furthered Aguinaldo: “In case the American commander refuse us the requested exchange, the American prisoners, whatever be their number, will be shot – the punishment for those attempting our national integrity…”

War in the mountains

Despite the bloody triangle of US Army’s anti-guerrilla campaign in the Ilocos Provinces – the prosecution of guerrilla supporters, the garrisoning of towns, and the public execution of ‘insurgents’ – the ‘war in the mountains fit for the small against the big’ (guerra de montaña es la propia del pequeño contra otro mayor) as described by Col. Juan Villamor in his memoirs, continued to rage in Northern Luzon for almost two years.

Ochosa summed up the valiant and impressive resistance of the Ilocanos:

“Manuel Tinio and his brave band of Ilocanos and a few Tagalogs fought the invaders for almost two years. Surely it was a short war, but that beau geste demonstrated once more the sturdiness and indomitable character of the Ilocano “nation,” this time fighting as part of the Filipino nation; and it was a great struggle that proved the worth and mettle of their Tinio Brigade. The history of that brigade is the history of that war.

The last word on the historical and political significance of the Ilocano phase of our national struggle for independence comes from no less than the American Commander himself, General Arthur Mac Arthur, who defined that little war in Ilocos as the “most troublesome and perplexing military problem in all Luzon. In all Luzon.”

Bangar – that small and quiet town at the northernmost part of La Union – truly was a giant when it came to fighting for freedom and independence. Its people courageously fought and booted-out the Spaniards in 1898 and again bravely faced head-on the American occupation forces during the tumultuous Ilocano phase of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1901.

Sadly, Bangar’s valiant contributions remain seemingly forgotten and untold. There is not even a mention of it in its own official town history.

Nevertheless, Bangar has distinguished itself and has proven worthy to be called “ili daguiti kalalakkian” (where men-of-men come from). More than four decades after the Philippine-American War, the sons of Bangar’s guerrillas of 1899 -1901 will step up to the plate and assume the honorific role of their fathers before them and will gallantly face another set of unwelcome occupiers – this time the Japanese Imperial Army and this time, fighting side-by-side with their fathers’ former adversary, the Americans. As was before, the guerrilla movement in Bangar during the Japanese Occupation was so strong and organized, as evidenced by the presence of a big guerrilla camp situated in the fastness of Barrio San Cristobal in Bangar.

Indeed, Bangar’s valiant history of resistance must be remembered and retold. The martyrs of Bangar and the many others who laid their lives in the defense of our Motherland must forever be put in a place of honor and recognition. #

Sources:

  • Charges of cruelty, etc., to the natives of the Philippines. Letter from the Secretary of War relative to the reports and charges in the public press of cruelty and oppression exercised by our soldiers toward natives of the Philippines. February 19, 1902;
  • THE TINIO BRIGADE: Anti-American Resistance in the Ilocos Provinces 1899-1901, Orlino A. Ochosa;
  • Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901, William Henry Scott;
  • La Union: The Making of A Province 1850-1921, Adriel Obar Meimban, Ph.D;
  • The Philippine Insurrection Against the United States: A compilation of documents with notes and introduction by John R.M. Taylor

Photos used in this article had been supplied by the historian.

Mac Ramirez is a long-time national president of the Commission on Elections Employees Association. His previous history article for Kodao may be read here: MYSTERY SOLVED: Spot where missing Fil-Am war memorial once stood finally found

Lessons from the attack on the U.S. Capitol

By Phil Wilayto

What happened last January 6 at the U.S. Capitol was a violent takeover of Congress by a fascist mob, not a “protest by Trump supporters.” And, although five people died and there were more than 50 arrests, it’s obvious to the wide public that these overwhelmingly white lawbreakers were handled much differently than they would have been had they been Black or other people of color.

You can call it an attempted coup d’etat. But it was not a sign of imminent fascism. It was a mob egged on by a deranged egomaniac enraged that he has become the only incumbent president in nearly 30 years to be defeated in an election.

The pro-Trump mob clashes with the police at the steps of the US Capitol building. (Supplied photo)

Why is this important to point out? Because we need to know what we’re up against so we can be prepared to deal with it.

Fascism came to power in the 1930s in Spain, Italy and Germany because significant sections of those countries’ wealthy elites were afraid that militant workers’ movements in their own countries could lead to the overthrow of their capitalist rule. Remember, this was just a few years after the Russian Revolution.

We are not in the same situation today in the United States. In the midst of a dangerous pandemic that has led to an economic crisis for millions, and a spring and summer of sustained protests against police murders and systemic racism, the widespread anger against the system was successfully diverted into an electoral struggle between the two parties of capitalist rule. And because the ruling elite had decided it was time for Trump to go.

The attacking pro-Trump mob scale the walls of the US Capitol building. (Supplied photo)

Donald Trump was allowed to become President and stay in power for four years because he was able to cut taxes for the rich, deregulate business, roll back social gains and oversee a skyrocketing stock market, all of which resulted in the very rich becoming very much richer.

Not all the elite were happy with everything Trump did, but the very wealthy can live with immigrant children left alone in cages, the steady deterioration of the environment, accelerating climate change and worsening racial oppression. They have lived with far worse since the founding of the Virginia colony in 1607.

What they could not tolerate was the steady erosion of the dominance of the United States on a world scale. The growing hostility to China by all sections of the ruling class is because that country, which still has significant state control over important sections of the economy, is making a serious bid for world economic dominance, and Trump has been letting it happen. The U.S. is no longer seen as the leader in technology, finance, even health care. Its only remaining serious claim to “leadership” is as a military power, albeit one that is now abandoning the longest war in its history because it couldn’t defeat a reactionary but determined enemy in Afghanistan, the 16th poorest country in the world.

The Washington DC police are accused of treating the pro-Trump mob that assaulted the US Capitol building different as when people of color are holding protest actions. (Supplied photo)

So the ruling class came up with a safe alternative, an establishment figure who has long proven his commitment to defending and expanding the American Empire – Joe Biden. In the long run, this is more important to the one percent than tax cuts and short-term profits. The transition has been threatened because of the deep divisions in the country, but even Trump has now committed to a “peaceful transition of power” on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.

So how does all this relate to the mob action of Jan. 6. in Washington, D.C.?

What we need to look for is any support for an actual or even symbolic coup by some section of the ruling class, as would be evidenced by involvement of any significant section of law enforcement or the military. If that involvement existed, it wasn’t evident.

Members of the US Congress scramble for safety as the pro-Trump mob threatens to breach the session hall. (Supplied photo)

Yes, the Capitol police proved woefully unprepared for the attack most likely because they didn’t view overt fascists as threatening as they had earlier Black Lives Matter protests. Yes, there were reports of individual police officers taking selfies with members of the mob and opening barriers to allow them into the Capitol. But when the D.C. National Guard was activated and joined by hundreds of state troopers from Virginia, Maryland and even New Jersey to assist Capitol and D.C. police in removing the mob, they responded. Officers fought with mob members, one of whom was fatally shot. Three other people died from what have been described as medical conditions. One police officer died from injuries sustained in the confrontation.

This is important to note because cops and the military take their orders from higher-ups, and evidently there was no high-level support for the attack on Congress.

Members of US Congress cower as the pro-Trump mob threaten to breach session hall. (Supplied photo)

And since these events there have been condemnations of the attack from across the political spectrum. Seven of the 13 senators who earlier had said they would challenge electoral votes from a handful of states withdrew their support for that effort. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), leaders of the senate rebels, both tweeted condemnations of the mob action.

Among business leaders, the National Association of Manufacturers, representing leading Fortune 500 companies like Exxon and Toyota, called for ousting President Trump under the 25th Amendment, which allows for removing a sitting president deemed incapable of executing the duties of the office. No significant section of the ruling class supported the violent invasion of the Capitol.

But none of this means the mob action wasn’t an extremely serious, dangerous and unprecedented development. In Washington, D.C., and at state capitols around the country, thousands of right-wingers came out to oppose what is called the democratic process. In D.C., hundreds showed they were willing to physically confront police officers, openly breaking the law – and windows – and risk arrest and even death to push their agenda.

The pro-Trump mob breaches the hallowed US Capitol building. (Supplied photo)

And it’s important to note that, while seven of the 13 U.S. Senators abandoned their challenge to the electoral votes of some states, six maintained their opposition. This doesn’t only mean they were pandering to a reactionary voter base. It also means they weren’t worried about losing financial support from the corporate interests who largely fund them, which means there are sections of the ruling class who, while not necessarily supporting the mob actions, still continued to support what essentially was the legal version of the mob attempt to overthrow the presidential election.

This time, the police, national guard and military opposed the action. We can’t assume this will always be the case.

US Capitol building guards draw guns against the pro-Trump mob outside the door of the session hall. (Supplied photo)

What should concern us more is that we now know – if we needed any more proof after Charlottesville – that there is a growing fascist movement in this country violently opposed to everything a progressive movement stands for. That fascist movement attempted to congeal at the “Unite the Right” rally of August 2017, but suffered a major setback when anti-racists, primarily youth, came out to oppose it. That counter-mobilization was critical, since the local, county and state police and Virginia National Guard were all under orders to stand down. (Thank you, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe.) And, unlike during the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, it was correct for white youth to take the lead in engaging the fascists. (The Defenders are proud to have been in the thick of those confrontations.)

But that right-wing movement has since recovered, grown, and has broadened beyond the overtly fascist organizations to include thousands of largely unaffiliated individuals euphemistically referred to as “Trump supporters.” These overwhelmingly white men may have some legitimate grievances against the anti-working-class neoliberalism policies of the Democratic Party, but they are moved to violence primarily by their own white-supremacist hostility to the Black community, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and the Left. They are here, they are growing in numbers and the police will not always be willing – or inclined – to stop them from attacking their targets.

US Capitol building staff barricade themselves as the pro-Trump mob breached the inner chambers. (Supplied photo)

In response to yesterday’s events, there have been a lot of comments on social media suggesting that this was a confrontation between reactionary civilians and reactionary cops and of no great concern to the Black community. This is a dangerous conclusion to draw.

The rise of the Nazis to power in Germany is most closely associated with the Holocaust, which took the lives of six million Jews – one-third of European Jewry. But Jews were not the only people targeted by the Nazis, nor were they the first. The first target was the German Communist Party, which at the time was the largest communist party in the world outside of the Soviet Union, a fact which terrified the ruling class.

This fact was driven home to me in very graphic ways a few years ago when my wife, Ana Edwards, and I visited the government-run Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. Even under the reactionary populist rule of the federal Law and Justice Party, the plaques and signage made it clear that communists were the first to be arrested, imprisoned in concentration camps like Auschwitz and tortured, worked to death or simply murdered. Jews who thought the repression would stay merely political would be tragically corrected.

In a similar way, the fascists who gathered in Charlottesville in 2017 claimed they were defending “Southern Heritage” and opposing Antifa (a left-wing anti-fascist and anti-racist political movement). But when their rally was finally shut down by the cops (McAuliffe’s plan evidently was to let things get out of control so the rally could be suppressed without the city or state being sued on First Amendment grounds), they regrouped to march on a nearby Black housing development. Hearing the reports of those plans, anti-racists, including the Defenders, mobilized to block them. That’s what Heather Heyer was doing at that intersection when she was fatally struck by a car driven by one of the fascists. She died defending the Black community, a fact that has never received its proper recognition.

In short, while their stated enemy may be Antifa, anarchists and communists, today’s fascists are fundamentally white supremacists deeply afraid of being “replaced” by the changing demographics that are projected to make the United States a country of majority people of color as soon as 2040.

A participant in the assault of the US Capitol building at the Speaker’s chair. (Supplied photo)

Conclusions

So what conclusions can we draw from all this? What are the practical consequences? Because it’s not enough merely to analyse the situation – we need to decide what to do.

These times are crying out for an independent, multi-issue, anti-imperialist organised Left that can develop and promote a program to unite all working people and communities of color, a program that emphasizes class solidarity while promoting the right to self-determination of all oppressed peoples. And that movement must have the capability of physically defending itself from threats from the fascists. To date, our side has been woefully inadequate on that score.

Our people aren’t lacking in courage, we are lacking in numbers, organization, resources and a unified program. Decades of raising the tactic of nonviolence to the level of a moral principle has effectively disarmed large sections of the progressive movement to the point where some activists believe that defending themselves and their communities means “sinking to the level” of the right wing. Years of promoting the idea that the Democrats could be a bulwark against the Right has weakened the understanding that real defense can only come from an independent movement. And the rise of the non-profit complex, with its dependence on liberal funders tied to the Democrats, has contributed to the demise of the anti-war, anti-imperialist consciousness that was a hallmark of the independent, multi-issue, multi-racial militant movements that led the historic struggles of the 1930s and 1960s.

A pro-Trump assault participant occupies a Congressman’s chair. (Supplied photo)

So as we look over the events of Jan. 6, we shouldn’t draw the conclusion that we are on the edge of a fascist takeover. But neither should we ignore the very real and growing threat of a genuine fascist movement.

Much will depend on the emergence of a charismatic leader who can really unite the right. That could be Trump, if he decides to go that route instead of just going back to being a corrupt, venal businessman. Personally, I think the fear-of-prosecution-fueled speech he gave Jan. 7 condemning his loyal mob for “infiltrating” the Capitol probably ended his chances of becoming the American Fuhrer.

Chaos inside the US Capitol building. (Supplied photo)

At any rate, more will depend on a significant section of the ruling class deciding that an extra-legal paramilitary force is needed to suppress a threatening Black or general working-class rebellion. Some will depend on those sections willing to finance such a movement. This is how fascist organizations emerged in Ukraine before, during and after the right-wing, U.S.-supported coup of 2014 that supposedly supported democracy but resulted in an even more authoritarian government. (https://odessasolidaritycampaign.org)

But whether or not any of that develops, what is clear is that the Left needs to greatly broaden its influence as well as its practical ability to defend itself, its events, its organizations and the community at large from the determined right-wing streetfighters that we now cannot deny exist.

To ignore that threat is to contribute to our own defeat. #

Police officers and guards inside the US Capitol building. (Supplied photo)

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This opinion piece, earlier published by US-based Red Vis Lamp, was submitted for republication by Kodao.

Phil Wilayto is a co-founder of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper and coordinator of the anti-fascist Odessa Solidarity Campaign. He can be reached at virginiadefendernews@gmail.com.

‘Are we supposed to just forget he killed Jennifer?’

“So a murderer (will be) released for good conduct. Are we supposed to just forget that he killed Jennifer Laude because he’s done some good? Another question: you think this murderer (I’m not even gonna say his name) wasn’t treated fairly, but was it fair that Jennifer Laude was murdered out of hate just because of her sexual orientation?” — Liza Soberano, actor

On the question of fascism in relation to the Duterte regime

Interview by Prof. Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong
Department of Philosophy, University of the Philippines-Cebu

Prof. Imbong: Not so many intellectuals in the Philippines develop a strong theoretical argument on Duterte’s fascistic tendencies. Many assume rather than argue that Duterte is a fascist. What conditions should be met for one to be considered a fascist?

Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS): Any individual, group or movement can be fascist or have fascist tendencies in mentality, advocacy and behavior and is usually motivated by rabid anti-communism, a key factor that is ingratiating to the big bourgeoisie, especially the imperialists. But for an entire government or regime like that of Duterte to be described as categorically fascist and not merely having fascistic tendencies entails certain considerations and requirements.

To be fascist, the government or regime must be rabidly anti-communist and rule by open terror in the service of the big bourgeoisie (be it the comprador big bourgeoisie in the Philippines or the industrial monopoly class as in Hitlerite Germany) even as it uses demagogically nationalist, racist or even pseudo-socialist slogans to deceive the people. Most importantly, it has promulgated fascist laws to carry out the violent suppression of any opposition and prevent it from any recourse to the democratic rights guaranteed by a liberal democratic or socialist constitution.

The Duterte regime commits acts of state terrorism on behalf of the worst part of the Philippine big bourgeoisie but it has not yet reached the point of getting rid of the Bill of Rights and other relatively democratic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. However, Duterte is now on the verge of making his regime categorically fascist by enacting the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill which practically gets rid of the Bill of Rights and is worse than the Marcos martial law proclamation in1972. He can also make charter change to formalize and entrench fascist dictatorship as Marcos did in fixing the 1973 Constitution and faking the referendum to ratify it.

Prof. Imbong: In several interventions, Walden Bello argued why Duterte is a fascist. His claim is that Duterte is a fascist original. By this I understand that right from the start Duterte is a fascist and that the (extreme) Left, being an initial ally of Duterte helped in Duterte’s ascension into the heights of fascist power. Classical fascism, however, is essentially an anti-communist movement (as pointed out by Enzo Traverso), a reaction or mobilization of the middle class and nationalist bourgeoisie against the internationalist working class. In this case, Duterte’s early presidency would not count yet as being fascistic. Could you give a comment on this claim of Bello and the role of the Philippine Left, in general, concerning Duterte’s fascism?

JMS: You are correct in saying that Duterte could not have been described as fascist or fascistic within the first six months of his presidency, especially if you evaluate him or his regime according to Enzo Traverso’s definition of classical fascism as being essentially an anti-communist movement that is a reaction or mobilization of the middle class and nationalist bourgeoisie against the internationalist working class. Duterte had to unfold himself first as a fascist or fascistoid in contradiction with his avowals of being “Left” and “socialist”.

You are correct in saying that Walden Bello is wrong for claiming that he knew Duterte as a fascist even before any manifestation of his being a fascist by word or deed. Before becoming president, Duterte never manifested himself as an adherent of fascism and was never the leader or member of a self-proclaimed fascist group or movement. As mayor of Davao City, he never declared himself a fascist. He had become vice mayor at first by being appointed by Cory Aquino. At the same time, he maintained close relations with the Marcos crony Floirendo of Tadeco and used him to become mayor.

In the course of his mayorship, Duterte used Dirty Harry tactics to impress the electorate that he was a law-and-order leader and also used violence to kill or silence his political opponents in the course of conflicts among the various political agents of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. Among the competing reactionary leaders, he sought to ingratiate himself with the revolutionary movement. In response, the revolutionary movement considered him at the most as an unreliable and unstable ally against those reactionary leaders deemed worse than him on a certain scale of of political and tactical reckoning.

Even though Duterte claimed to be a close friend of the late Comrade Parago and helped in public events to honor him after his martyrdom, there have been questions within the revolutionary movement about Duterte’s close relations with top intelligence officers in the AFP and whether the report from inside the ISAFP that it was he who gave the A-1 information about the whereabouts of Comrade Parago to General Ano. The rapid promotions given by Duterte to Ano when he became president have aroused further the suspicion and investigation of his betrayal of Comrade Parago.

Prof. Imbong: Since the Philippine Left initially started as an ally of the Duterte regime, I believe it initially did not recognize the latter to be fascistic. At what particular point did the Philippine Left begin recognizing and labelling Duterte as a fascist? What were the triggers behind the redefinition of a former ally?

JMS: There was never any alliance between the Duterte regime and the revolutionary movement. In fact, the people’s war along the line of the new democratic revolution has proceeded, despite limited ceasefires to promote the peace negotiations. Warring parties can never be construed as allies until they can conclude at least a long-term truce for the purpose of alliance and other purposes beneficial to the people. The rabid anti-communist Walden Bello makes conclusions that are not based on the facts.

At the beginning of his presidency in 2016, Duterte presented himself as the first “Left” or “socialist” president of the Philippines, wishing to have peace negotiations and a just peace with the NDFP and the Filipino people and promising to amnesty and release all political prisoners. But within a few weeks after assuming his presidential office, he was in effect declaring himself a rabid anti-communist, he was reneging on his promise to amnesty and release the political prisoners and was carrying out the massacre of the poor as suspected drug users and peddlers.

Ka Oris as spokesperson of the CPP promptly criticized and condemned the aforesaid massacre of the poor within June 2016 and I also called Duterte a “butangero” on June 29, 2016 to his face when he was talking tough and reneging on his promise to amnesty and release the political prisoners. He wanted to trick the CPP into recommending certain personalities for four cabinet posts but he appointed them anyway on the basis of their individual merits.

He revealed himself categorically as an incorrigible enemy of the revolutionary movement when he included the CPP and NPA as targets of his martial law proclamation for Mindanao in May 2017. So, since early on, the revolutionary movement has considered Duterte as a rabid enemy and a rabid puppet of US imperialism by surrounding himself with generals who are notorious assets of the CIA and DIA of the US, carrying out immediately an all-out war policy under the cover of continuing Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan until he launched his own Oplan Kapayapaan in early 2017.

Eventually, the NDFP came to know that when he met Trump in November 2017 Duterte promised to wipe out the revolutionary movement and give US corporations the right to own to the extent of 100 percent any enterprise owning land, exploiting natural resources and operating public utilities and other businesses. He was proving to Trump that he was a loyal puppet to the US despite his posturing as a close friend of China.

Prof. Imbong: Enzo Traverso claims that some of the current populist and rightist movements the world over are irreducible to the classic definition of fascism. These have developed features that do not anymore fit into the classic definition of fascism. He rather called these movements as postfascism. In Brazil also, Jeffery Webber acknowledges the current Jair Bolsonaro regime as a neofascism. Do the current political and economic manifestations of the Duterte regime still fit into the classic definition of fascism? Or is his regime more of what is called as postfascism or neofascism?

JMS: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1991, US imperialism has increasingly used the term “terrorism” as the bete noire (black beast) for targetting by the most extreme forms of reaction, including fascist movements, official repressive measures, state terrorism, full blown fascist regimes and wars of aggression. The term “terrorism” is so broad as to encompass not only Islamic jihadists that the US intelligence agencies create but also the communists and other anti-imperialist and democratic forces that are supposed to be the target of “classical fascism”.

The imperialists, the ultra-reactionaries and the fascist movements still vilify their enemy as “communist”, “terrorist” or “communist terrorist” wherever the communist parties and working class movements are relatively strong in the legal struggle and/or the armed struggle and are regarded by the big bourgeoisie as imminent threat to the ruling system. Anti-communism is still a major element in the ideological and political line of fascism, fascist regimes and movements, notwithstanding the imperialist propaganda that communism died in the years of 1989 to 1991.
Duterte points to the CPP as the main enemy of his regime and the main target of his state terrorism. In this regard, he is no different from Mussolini and Hitler and the fascist dictators of China, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam after World War II.

In looking at social and political phenomena, I am guided by the laws of contradiction and uneven development. There are generally similar phenomena that at the same time have distinctive dissimilarities or differences. Even at the time of Mussolini the original fascist, Hitler, Franco, Tojo and others, the fascist regimes had generally similar characteristics but also had distinctive dissimilarities.I do not like to play with prefixes like post and neo as some academic pedants do to claim any kind of new and unique discovery.

In my study of fascist movements and fascist regimes that arose before and after World War II, I have observed the following elements in their character and conduct:

1. The fascist groups and movements are ideologically and politically anti-communist and seek and get support from the big bourgeoisie (be it the industrial and financial big bourgeoisie in imperialist countries or the comprador big bourgeoisie in underdeveloped countries).

2. They use xenophobic, chauvinist and racist slogans and target certain racial and ethnolinguistic minorities as the enemy to blame for the suffering and grievances of the people and deflect attention from the exploiting classes.

3. They use the biases of the politically backward section of the masses in order to create the base for their “mass movement”. From this base, they try to influence and win over the middle section of the masses; and try to counter and ferret out communists and other revolutionary forces from the advanced section of the masses.

4. They collaborate with the big bourgeoisie and with the armed apparatuses of the reactionary state in breaking up demonstrations of democratic forces, assaulting workers’ strikes and attacking the persons and properties of people who are communist or progressive in their stand or who belong to any minority deemed as enemy and target of hatred.

5. They ascend to absolute power through elections by taking up the grievances of the people and at the same time enjoying the support of the big bourgeoisie. They can also take power through a military coup against a discredited and weak civilian government. When in power by any degree, they can stage a series of false flag operations to scapegoat the communists and to justify the adoption and implementation of fascist laws.

6. They use the open rule of terror (fascist laws and actions) to suppress any criticism of or opposition to the fascist regime through the adoption and enforcement of laws that comprehensively and profoundly dissolve and violate the basic democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of the people which have been defined and guaranteed by the liberal democratic or socialist constitution.

All the above elements in varying forms and degrees of gravity have characterized the fascist movement and regimes that are employed and supported by the big bourgeoisie upon the failure of conservative and reformist parties, institutions and movement to contain and appease the exploited classes and counter the rise of the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the mass movement that it leads. #

Covid 19, the Neo-liberal Policies and Chinese Imperialism (Part II, Section II)

By Prof. Edberto Malvar Villegas, PhD

(This article is presented in two parts and will be given in three posts. The first part covers “Covid 19 in the Phillippines”, “The Imperialist Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO”, and the “The Neo-Liberal Policies and US Overproduction”. The second part comprises “The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism”, “China’s AIIB”, “China’s Debt Trap”, “The US-China Rivalry and Covid 19” and the “Conclusion”. While the rapid spread of Covid 19 in the Philippines is due to its poor health system because of the policies of the IMF-WB, the virus was directly caused by the easy entry of Chinese nationals into the country due to the too open accommodation of the Duterte’s administration of Chinese imperialism.)

China’s Debt Trap

The Philippines, which is an original founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and is a participant in the Belt and Silk Road initiative, has borrowed from the bank the amount of $217 million for development of infrastructures in the NCR. Duterte has also borrowed from the Chinese government-owned Eximbank, which will finance 19 of his 75 projects under his vaunted Build-Build-Build (BBB) program, which includes a P4.37 billion loan for the Chico River dam and P12.2 billion for the Kaliwa dam projects. It is to be noted that out of the BBB’s 75 projects, only nine are barely starting and it is the last lap of Duterte’s term. Where are all the borrowed monies from China, with their high interest of 2% per annum, 10 times higher than Japanese loans? It may be just lying idle in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or being used elsewhere than its intended purpose.

We fear that the Philippines will just fall into another debt trap with China as it has with loans from the IMF and WB. Zambia, Djibouti, Guyana, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka are already in the deadly grip of such Chinese debt traps with Sri-Lanka having to give up its Hambantota port in its southernmost part to defray unpaid loans from Chlna. The acquisition of Hambantota was accomplished through the help of a $8 million bribe the Chinese extended to Sri-Lanka president Rajapaska to support his presidential campaign. (New York Times, April 20, 2019) Actually, China Construction Company, the parent company of Chlna Harbor which constructed the Hambantota port, using Chinese workers, was banned by the WB from participating in the biddings for the Bank’s projects for 8 years due to corrupt practices in the Philippines. (Forbes, op. cit.)

China has insidiously inserted in its loan contracts with other countries a provision which specifies that in case of a default on its loans, a country must give up its immunity of sovereign rights and forfeit property, which could include land and sea. This is found in the contract for the Philippine loan for the Kaliwa Dam in Article 8.1(Waiver of immunity). Such onerous provision has also been included in China’s loan contracts with other developing countries like Guyana, Zambia and Kyrgystan (Rappler, Made in China, 2019) Workers in Kitwi, Zambia, have protested such odious condition, rioting and battling police and attacking Chinese shops, when they found out that their government-owned timber company, ZAFFICO, will be turned over to China since their political leaders could not pay a loan to Beijing. They were afraid that they will be replaced by Chinese workers as Chinese investors are wont to do in countries where they operate. Beijing, confronted with such violent reactions to its planned acquisition of ZAFFICO, restructured the loan. (Forbes, ibid.)

China’s “debt diplomacy” is a military as well as an economic strategy in its fierce competition with the US to control vital sea and land routes. China has docked its submarines at Hambatota port in Sri-Lanka since it is located in a strategic area near the Suez Canal where thousands of ships, including 4,500 oil tankers, pass by annually. Beijing has also already installed military facilities in the Spratly Group of islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea to Beijing) as its route is traversed by 50% of world trade yearly. The weak Philippine Rodrigo Duterte has accommodated, in fact acceded, to China’s takeover of the Spratly islands, even though these lie within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, whose claim to the area was upheld by the UN arbitral tribunal at the Hague in 2016. Duterte refuses to assert the Philippines’s sovereign rights to Spratlys, claiming China will declare war on his country if he did. What a dereliction of duty! He should resign or be booted out from power if he is such s wimp of a president that he cannot even defend the integrity of the country. China consequently warned US ships from patrolling in the vicinity of the Spratly’s Group of islands, insisting they lie within its territorial jurisdiction.

US and China’s Rivalry and Covid 19

The deadlock struggle of US and China to control global world trade has even led them of accusing each other of creating Covid 19 in the other’s respective laboratory for biological warfare. US military scientists say that Covid 19 is a man-made combination of viruses obtained from bats and pangolins which accidentally leaked out from a lab in Wuhan, China, due to faulty handling. They debunked China’s claim that the virus came from bats in a wet-market in Wuhan as a cover-up since there are no bats for sale in that market. The lab concerned is only several blocks away from the market. Chinese officials fired back that the virus came from a lab in Fort Derrick, US, and was brought to China by American soldiers during a military sports competition in Wuhan in October, 2019. (Read the arguments of both sides which are replete in the internet and decide for yourself.) Be that as it may, whether Covid 19 originated from a Chinese or American lab for biological warfare, its effect on the world has been devastating with hundreds of thousands dying from it. The deadly activities of the imperialist powers to prepare for war against each other by creating dangerous viruses in their labs should be condemned by the UN and an investigation started by this body on which country is guilty behind this world pandemic after we have passed through it.

The quarrel between American and Chinese imperialists is also adversely affecting the job security of US workers caused by the raising of tariffs by the Trump government on goods coming from China, leading to the rising of production costs in American firms and the retrenchment of workers. (In the US, it is to be noted that the top 1/10 of 1% of Americans own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, according to erstwhile candidate for US president, Senator Bernie Sanders, based on the findings of his research team.) We do not know the effects of the US-China trade war in Chinese factories, since Xi Jinping’s government is very secretive regarding the going-on in his society.

Conclusion

We will survive this Covid pandemic, but there is still a heavy responsibility facing all of us. US monopoly capitalism (imperialism) and its rival, China, with its equally rapacious imperialism, are causing the Filipino masses and other peoples of the world to be impoverished, while their leaders subservient to the imperialists wallow in wealth and power. Indeed, imperialism with its predatory activities and its contradictions, primarily its warlike nature using the masses as cannon fodder, is the scourge of humankind. Imperialism must be finally expunged from the face of the earth in order to uphold the well-being of the exploited classes, the wretched of societies, and to prevent the destruction of our planet caused by capitalist greed. A new generation of socially-dedicated and unselfish individuals, coming from a united front led by the enlightened working classes with their allies, both national and international, must arise to finally dismantle the dominance of those whose ,main concern is to plunder for profit no matter the costs. A new world order must be built to advance first and foremost the welfare of the majority classes and zealously guard the rights of all persons. History is calling each of us to be counted in this new generation and contribute what we can to accomplish this great task for the salvation of our species and our mother earth. #

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The author is a retired Social Sciences Professor of the University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University. He is also a novelist and an author of several books on many topics.

Covid 19, the Neo-liberal policies and Chinese Imperialism (Part2)

By Prof. Edberto Malvar Villegas, PhD

(This article is presented in two parts and will be given in three posts. The first part covers “Covid 19 in the Phillippines”, “The Imperialist Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO”, and the “The Neo-Liberal Policies and US Overproduction”. The second part comprises “The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism”, “China’s AIIB”, “China’s Debt Trap”, “The US-China Rivalry and Covid 19” and the “Conclusion”. While the rapid spread of Covid 19 in the Philippines is due to its poor health system because of the policies of the IMF-WB, the virus was directly caused by the easy entry of Chinese nationals into the country due to the too open accommodation of the Duterte’s administration of Chinese imperialism.)

The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism

China entered into the global trade during the period of Deng Xiaoping, after the death in 1976 of Mao Tse-tung, (founding father of the Chinese People’s Republic), the incarceration and eventual deaths of the so-called Gang of Four in 1978 and the purge and executions of around 20,000 Maoists (adherents to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) who were leading cadres of Mao’s cultural revolution. China’s GDP grew by leaps and bounds, reaching 11% in the late 1990’s due to very low workers’ wages in government corporations in partnerships with foreign MNCs, mostly US and Japanese, located in free trade zones. Deng restored capitalism in China and considered the establishments of free trade zones as vital part of his so-called four modernization program. Hundreds of millions Chinese workers in sweat shops in the trade zones were receiving the lowest wages in the world ($2/day) and the number of those living below the poverty line in China was growing at a fast rate. (Pao-yu Ching, 2010) Soon, an emergent Chinese bourgeoisie, based on trading activities and mostly former government bureaucrats were amassing great wealth in tandem with corrupt government officials so that by the first decade of the 21th century, China had the most number of billionaires in the world. (Forbes) The new rich were living in the cities, particularly in Shanghai and Beijing, while the vast Chinese majority (60%) of its population belonging to the lower classes, earning below $2 to $20/day were mostly inhabitants in the provinces. (Pew Research Center, 2015) Thirty-nine percent of the Chinese people are middle class and 1% occupies the upper echelons of society, which include billionaire businessmen and politicians.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for posterity with People’s Republic of China Vice President Wang Qishan who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Center in Guangdong on August 31, 2019. (Palace photo)

Since the Chinese elite political leadership in China has grown to be a totalitarian state after the demise of Mao who called for a rule of the working masses, it began to suppress dissent from workers and students regarding its economic and political policies. In 1989, the Chinese government massacred with tanks and machine guns around 10,000 demonstrators, led by students and workers, in Tianamen Square in Beijing. The demonstrators were criticizing government corruptions and asking for democratic reforms and transparency from their political leaders. (BBC, Dec. 23, 2017) Since then, protests in China have occurred in far-off provinces mostly launched by striking workers and miners, especially in the provinces of Guangdong and Heilonging. (China Labor Bulletin) In 2018, however, millions of protesters led by students erupted in the territory of Hong Kong, demanding democratic reforms. For China to call itself still a Communist country is a misnomer since Marxist communism, to which Mao adheres, advocates the abolition of capitalism, the disappearance of the state and the prioritization of the welfare of the poor classes. The current Chinese regime has called its kind of state (bureaucrat) capitalism as actually socialism with “Chinese characteristics” as envisioned by Mao! Mao may be restlessly turning in his grave.

China accumulated tremendous surplus capital from the surplus value created by underpaid workers in the factories of the comprador and bureaucrat capitalists. China began lending this surplus capital to other nations for it to earn interest. In the late 1990’s, China’s bourgeoisie targeted Africa as the region it can mostly dump its surplus goods and capital, using its strategy of a “debt diplomacy” to aggressively penetrate the continent. Some Chinese critics of their government have accused it of turning Africa into its “second continent” to exploit the latter’s very rich natural resources. Africa supplies a third of Chinese oil and is very abundant, among other natural resources, with manganese and cobalt, the first used as ingredient for steel production and the second for electronics.(Forbes, Aug.4, 2018) Soon 10,000 Chinese companies, bringing Chinese workers with them, were set up in Africa and the continent became the foremost area for Chinese imperialism.

In order to receive favorable concessions, the Sino government, particularly that of the current president Xi Jinping, began unloading their huge surplus capital, derived from the wage slavery of Chinese workers as debts to African countries like Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Djibouti and others. As of 2020, total African debt to China is $200 billion, or 15% of its external debts. Beijing started to bribe corrupt African politicians and were able to impose debt contracts advantageous to China.

African critics have accused China of building infrastructures, highways, buildings, bridges, etc. using poor and overpriced materials. These critics specially mention cutting costs by Chinese contractors for the shoddy infrastructures they build in Africa. (Forbes, ibid.) It is to be noted at this point that bridges and buildings in China, for that matter, have been collapsing due to lack of government biddings and a non-transparent government. As one Chinese furniture maker says, “Who will police the police?” so that he says the Chinese people are so used to sloppy government constructions in their country. (Morning edition, Aug. 2012) For instance, from April 2011 to August 2012 alone,  eight major bridges collapsed in China, the most known of which was the $300 million Yangmingtan bridge in Harbin City which broke only after less than 2 years of operation. It is the same situation with buildings with the latest the Xinjia Express Hotel, being used to house Covid 19 patients in the city of Wenshou, collapsing in March, 2020, with 10 dead. On May, 2019, a Shanghai building collapsed with 25 dead and in October of the same year several buildings housing migrant workers stumbled to the ground in the province of Wenghou with 22 dead. (smartcities. Dive site)


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gives a warm welcome to Communist Party of China (CPC) Chongqing Party Chief Chen Min’er who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañan Palace on September 16, 2019. (Palace photo)

China’s Asian Infrastructure and the AIIB

In 2015, China established the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank) for Chinese capitalists to rival US imperialist dominance in the world economy and as an alternative to the WB and its regional bank in Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Though AIIB’s capital at $100 billion is only about half of WB’s and its membership totals 84 compared to WB’s 189, the goal of this government-controlled bank is to extend China’s trade influence over other countries by funding the so-called Belt and Silk Road through Asia, Africa, Europe and eventually to the Americas. It is envisioned to achieve this ambitious project by spending from $4 to $8 trillion by the year 2049 through the expansions of infrastructures, highway complexes, railroads, ports, airports, etcetera along the Belt and Silk Road. China’s philosophy of development is supposed to be based on building mega infrastructures which it poses against the export-oriented development policy of the IMF-WB-WTO.

The Belt Road, which is actually a maritime route, would cover the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and a wide part of the Indian Ocean. Does one have to wonder why China is aggressively pushing for the control of the South China Sea, including the rich resources under it, at the expense of the Philippines under its slavishly subservient to China, President Rodrigo Duterte? The gains of countries which participate in the Belt and Silk Road project have, however, been one-sided, to say the least, in favor of China. For instance, between 2014 to 2016, the trade volume of China along the Belt and Silk Road exceeded $3 trillion, but only created $1.1 billion revenues and 180,000 new jobs for countries involved. (Wikepedia) Overproduction, the inherent contradiction of capitalism, in Chinese factories have grown since the late 1990’s and this is the reason China relies heavily on the export of goods as well as capital, the latter primarily through the AIIB, to maintain its high growth rate. Overproduction has led to hundreds of thousands of goods worth $64 billion stockpiled in factories, representing one-fifth of China’s total production. (Chicago Tribune, Feb. 4, 1997) #

(Conclusion/Section 2 of Part 2: China’s Debt Trap, US-China’s Rivalry and Covid 19)

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The author is a retired Social Sciences Professor of the University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University. He is also a novelist and an author of several books on many topics.

Why do we keep on begging China for friendship?

By Rosario Guzman

In the face of the Filipino people’s growing anxieties about COVID-19 and life after the lockdown, president Duterte keeps heaping praises on China.

The Duterte government was reluctant at first to restrict travel and tourism from China and the operations of Chinese Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) because such moves to contain the virus would allegedly hurt China’s feelings. In the next presidential speeches, the government seemed to have flip-flopped from its cavalier attitude towards the pandemic, but it has not stopped uttering assurances to China.

That the Philippines remains to be by China’s side as China battles COVID-19. Or that China will help the Philippines overcome the health crisis and that president Duterte can directly send a personal note to Chinese president Xi Jin Ping. A you-and-me-against-the-world expression of devotion that is repeated ad nauseum.

In the most recent display, returning presidential spokesperson Harry Roque even got a little chummy – referring to the Philippines-China relationship as “BFF” (“best friends forever”), and that naturally China will prioritize the Philippines in giving COVID aid and funds.

It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth as the country continues to grapple with economic uncertainties and government’s lack of direction six weeks into the lockdown.

But is it even valid to cling on to China, or to any other country for that matter, for our survival as a nation post-COVID? Even without COVID-19, it is already insane as it is for the Philippine government to obsessively hold on to failed neoliberal policies and to rely on foreign capital for development. It would take some sobriety to tackle the question, but looking at the global economy and the seismic changes that have been happening is the sensible way to begin.

The world is coming down

China indeed remains the world’s leading merchandise trader and second to the United States (US) in trade of goods and services in the overall. But the slowdown in global trade that has been quite evident since 2016 on the back of a protracted global economic recession is weighing down on the world’s economies and leading traders. This has only been aggravated by the US-China trade war escalating at the end of 2018, which is hurting aggregate import demand, as well as the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic emanating from Wuhan, China at the end of 2019 whose impact on world trade is still unfolding.

World merchandise trade volume had a significantly lower growth of 2.9% in 2018 than the 4.6% growth registered in 2017 that raised false hopes of a return to better days. The slowdown in trade was accompanied by weaker output growth – the world gross domestic product (GDP) grew at exactly the same rate as trade (2.9%) compared to a minimally higher growth of 3.0% the year before.

The numbers turned uglier in 2019 – with the combined effects of the trade tensions in the first half clearly felt and the jitters in the second half over the possible lethal spread of COVID-19 across geographic and economic regions. The slowing world merchandise trade finally declined by 0.1% in volume in 2019. Likewise, in dollar values it fell by 3% to US$18.89 trillion, whereas it registered a 10% increase due to higher energy prices just the year before. The global GDP got even weaker with a preliminary growth figure of only 2.6% for 2019.

Projecting the full impact of COVID-19 on trade, the World Trade Organization (WTO) is looking at a further decline in 2020 by 12.9% in an optimistic scenario or by 31.9% in a pessimistic scenario. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects the global GDP growth in 2020 to fall to -3%, which is a major revision over a very short period. This crisis is going to be far worse than the global financial crisis, the IMF has said, and the worst since the Great Depression.

Palace photo.

China is symptomatic

The world is watching China with apprehension. The country has high demand for raw materials and intermediate goods and serves as a final-stage export platform for global production chains. But even before the number of COVID cases started climbing at the start of 2020, China’s GDP growth of 6.1% in 2019 was already slower than the 6.7% rate in 2018. It was in fact the country’s slowest growth in 29 years.

The National Bureau of Statistics of China reported a 6.8% year-on-year decline in the first quarter of 2020. It is the first contraction at least since 1992.

China experienced a deceleration in merchandise trade volume, from 8.0% in 2017 to its moderate growth of 5.2% in 2018. The value of exports slowed sharply at 0.5% growth in 2019 from a 10% rise in 2018, while the value of imports fell by 2.7%, the first decline in three years. In the first two months of 2020, exports plunged by 17.2% year-on-year, while imports shrank by 4%, amid factory shutdowns and travel restrictions to contain the virus.

China’s trade surplus and capital formation are its sources of economic strength to rise as an outward investor. In 2018, China ranked 2nd globally, next to Japan, in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) outflows, and 3rd, next to the US and Netherlands in terms of FDI outward stock. But like global trade and the global economy, global FDI flows were in three consecutive years of decline, falling by another 13% in 2018. China’s FDI outflows slid further by 18%, the second year for China, based on UNCTAD data.

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) reported a lower figure of 9.6% decline in 2018, pointing out that China’s FDI fall was still significantly lower than the world figure of 29% according to MOFCOM. It does not change the general picture, however, no matter how Beijing paints stability. Outward FDI is falling anywhere else in the world, and it is 40% smaller today than its post-global financial crisis peak in 2015.

The China Global Investment Tracker of the American Enterprise Institute, an alternative to MOFCOM data, which tracks Chinese investment and construction around the world with a threshold of US$100 million, is seeing a dramatic fall in China’s outbound FDI of about 40% for 2019 that will be similar to 2011, with Chinese investment returning to a domestic rather than global phenomenon.

The problem is China cannot simply work from home. It has been infected with the unbounded, reckless desire of expansionism – it has to continue going global.

Palace photo.

BFF?

The Philippines is not even among the top 15 trading partners of China. It is also not a significant destination of Chinese investment.

Hong Kong (PRC) receives about 60% (US$86.9 billion) of China’s net FDI, followed by the US (US$7.5 billion), Virgin Islands (US$7.1 billion), Singapore (US$6.4 billion), and Cayman Islands (US$5.5 billion). It is obvious how China uses Hong Kong as an intermediary to take advantage of Hong Kong’s liberalized agreements and competitive currency before investing somewhere else, or of “double dipping” wherein Chinese investors return to the mainland as “foreign investors” and take advantage of additional fiscal incentives.

It also appears that Chinese investors, like many global investors, have sought safe havens such as the Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands as times get rough. Removing these and Hong Kong for the meantime would show that the top 10 recipients of China FDI in 2018 were the US, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, Vietnam, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Thailand. The Philippines does not figure anywhere in the line-up.

On the other hand, some 56 countries along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which the Philippines is part, captured 12.5% of China’s total outward FDI in 2018. BRI investment has been particularly pronounced in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Meanwhile in Southeast Asia where China’s state-owned enterprises have particular interest, Cambodia is the favorite.

Narrowing our map now to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines captured 11% of China’s investment in the ASEAN in 2019, which is practically a fair share if China’s investment would be divided equally among the 10 member-countries.

In short, we may be among China’s friends, but we are not the best, and forever has not even started.

On the other hand, among the Philippines’ trading partners, China ranks 4th in terms of contribution to exports value, next only to US, Japan and Hong Kong (which is a trading port of many other countries apart from the mainland). Indeed, China is the country’s biggest supplier of imported goods, accounting for about one-fourth of Philippine import value, which shows a one-sided trading relationship. Exports to China in the first month of 2020 had a tepid 7% increase, while imports from China continued to increase at double-digit rate (16.4%), a trend that started in 2016.

Singapore, US, Japan and South Korea have remained the country’s top investors, with their combined net FDI of US$963.49 million in 2019. Inflow from China was US$106.16 million. Even if we add US$28.69 million (assuming 60% of what is coming from Hong Kong, since not all Hong Kong FDI is from the mainland), China would still come fifth. Surely there has been a dramatic rise in Chinese investments of 1,751%, from only about US$10.77 million in 2016 to its peak of US$199.38 billion in 2018, but net FDI from China has started to taper off and declined by 47% in 2019.

There has also been a phenomenal increase in Chinese official development assistance (ODA) loans from US$1.5 million in 2016 to US$364.9 million as of 2018. But Chinese ODA still pales in comparison with Japan ODA of US$6.2 billion or even USAID of US886.4 million.

In other words, even in un-reciprocated relationships that our liberalized and subservient economy has become so dependent on, China is not even the best master.

What then is the fixation on China all about?

There can only be one reason for China – it is unstoppable. Since building its internal strength and setting its sights on the endless possibilities in the global economy, China itself has been fixated on itself.

Its expansionist momentum has surged in the last two decades, perfecting its “go global” strategy and embarking on its biggest and most ambitious ever BRI as well as Made in China 2025, moving away from being the world’s factory to producing high-technology products and services. Beijing has been aggressive and at the same time cautious in its policy approach, which gives it confidence that it won’t crash as hard as its economic rivals.

It may be recalled that China held up well during the 2008 global financial crisis, compared to the slow recovery of the European Union and the US. Although today is different – China being the epicenter of the pandemic – China does its best to sustain the image of stability.

International observers have also pointed out that Westerners are finding it much more difficult than Asians to overcome the hardships arising from the health crisis. The observation could just be China’s own messaging echoed through its own propaganda machinery. In any case, China is sustaining the narrative.

This narrative has been copy-pasted in the language of lauding China’s ability to deal with the crisis, official restraint on China bashing and discrimination especially on social media (even setting up laws to penalize “fake news and rumors” about China and COVID-19), and loyalty to China to the point of endangering lives, as The Diplomat has observed across Southeast Asian governments. The Duterte administration has submitted to this propaganda line and has been most explicit about the fear of retaliation from China as expressed by none other than the health secretary.

For the Duterte government, there are two apparent reasons. One could simply be self-serving – that the Duterte administration, the most traveled to China, be able to maintain the business deals and transactions with Chinese firms. No matter how loose and small, these are big enough gains for its entourage of businessmen and cronies.

But the second reason is more on economic survival. The Duterte administration has yet to really jump-start its Build, Build, Build (BBB) infrastructure program and to capture the promise of China’s overflowing construction capital. Of the 100 flagship projects worth Php4.3 trillion, China accounts for only 17% of the number of projects and 16.3% of the cost, while only one of these projects is in the implementation stage. The economic managers are torn between revamping BBB and reallocating its budget for COVID-19 and leaving BBB unscathed. The fact remains, BBB is untenable now more than ever.

On endlessly praising China, the Duterte administration may not have really internalized China’s rhetoric, but it is clearly desperate. The Philippine economy is on its fourth year of slowdown, and the economic managers are still relying on foreign capital for pump-priming instead of building our industrial and agricultural core. The Philippine economy is down with the lingering illness of backwardness that has only been aggravated by neoliberal policies, yet government cannot think of a cure other than to be on its knees. #

Covid 19, the Neo-liberal policies and Chinese Imperialism (Part I)

By Prof. Edberto Malvar Villegas, PhD

(This article is presented in two parts and will be given in three posts. The first part covers “Covid 19 in the Phillippines”, “The Imperialist Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO”, and the “The Neo-Liberal Policies and US Overproduction”. The second part comprises “The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism”, “China’s AIIB”, “China’s Debt Trap”, “The US-China Rivalry and Covid 19” and the “Conclusion”. While the rapid spread of Covid 19 in the Philippines is due to its poor health system because of the policies of the IMF-WB, the virus was directly caused by the easy entry of Chinese nationals into the country due to the too open accommodation of the Duterte’s administration of Chinese imperialism.)

Covid 19 in the Philippines

The Covid 19 pandemic has put into full light the long neglect of the Philippine government of its health system because of its strict adherence to the neo-liberal policies of deregulation and privatization initiated by the Group of 7 capitalist nations, led by the United States, in the developing countries, starting in the latter 1970’s. Private hospitals in the Philippines, which purchase their drugs and other medical supplies from the foreign multinational companies (MNCs) have continuously increased their prices, as the government has abided by the deregulation policy. Hospitalization for an ordinary Filipino worker costs three months or more of his monthly wages. Even government hospitals like the Philippine General Hospital ], because of government low priority for health, have hiked their fees and reduced the number of their free patients to still remain viable. Further, the Duterte government is planning to privatize 33 out of 72 government hospitals like the National Orthopedic Center, the National Center for Mental Health, the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, Dr. Jesus Fabella Maternity Hospital and others. (InquirerNet) These policies of deregulation of prices and eventual privatization of public hospitals have compromised the quality of health services extended to the general public so that when Covid 19 came roaring into our shores, brought by Chinese tourists, there was a dire lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) like face masks and shields, long sleeve gowns, gloves and respirators for health workers. Ventilators and hospital beds for Covid 19 patients were inadequate. Testing for the virus was also very limited so that people may not even be aware that their neighbor is already Covid positive.

The Philippines due to its unprepared health system, coupled with the gross incompetence of Duterte has become No. 1 by April 15, 2020 with Covid positive people in Southeast Asia with 5,222 cases and 335 deaths followed by Malaysia with 4,917 cases and 77 deaths. (Statista) The martial-law like implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), only in the Philippines, has added more sufferings to the inhabitants of Luzon apart from the high costs of hospitalization if they catch the virus.

The low regard of the Philippine government for the health of its people compared to its payment of foreign debts is shown by the constant decrease of its health budget through the years. For example, from 2016 to 2020, the health budget declined by 11% from P113 billion to P101 billion. (Department of Health [DOH] website) The DOH’s measly P101 billion budget in the 2020 General Appropriations Act is far below that of the payment for interest alone for foreign and local debts of P451 billion and the budget for the Armed Forces at P192 billion in the same year.(2020 national budget) In the Philippines there is only one doctor to every 33,000 Filipinos when the required ratio should be 1 to 1000 and it is worse for the number of nurses at 1 to 50,000. Thousands of Filipino nurses and doctors go abroad to work since there is a lack of job opportunities in the country and salaries are very low. This is why six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor. (IBON) Philhealth, which seeks to lower the costs of hospitalization, has been mired in corruption and some have even called for its abolition.

Private hospitals cannot be relied upon to meet the growing health needs of Fillpinos because their expertise are concentrated on the sickness of the rich like cancer and heart diseases and give less priority to contagious diseases like the Covid 19 pandemic which hit the poor the most. Infectious diseases fall under the category of public health concerns which government hospitals are supposed to be more expected to address. Private hospitals exist primarily to profit from the sick after all and not for public service. The inequity of Philippine society has come to the fore because of the Covid pandemic with more poor dying from it than the rich. This is further exacerbated because the costs of medicines in the Philippines are also the highest in Southeast Asia, benefiting the foreign pharmaceutical MNCs like Pfizer, Wyeth, Sanofi Aventis and Abbot that dominate the drug industry in the country.

Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao

The Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO

The reason why the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the implementers of neo-liberal policies in the Philippines, have demanded privatization and deregulation in the country’s health system is that these financial institutions, both dominated by US capital, want the government to prioritize the payments of foreign debts obtained from the Group of 7 nations. The priority for the defrayment of debts has been made legal by PD 1177, an obsolete law passed during the martial law regime of Marcos which should have long been abolished after EDSA I. This law allows the automatic appropriation for debts in the national budget so that if our debts grow so huge, there may be zero budget left for health and other social services like education and social welfare. This is why the government, in order to meet its debt obligations, has also squeezed more taxes like Train 1 and 2 (VATs required by the IMF-WB) from the masses since the rich has preferential treatment for decrease in taxes from the Duterte regime.

Among all nations, the Philippines has been the most obedient client of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with 34 stand-by agreements with this institution (completed in 2002). The debts of the Philippines from the IMF-World Bank (WB)consortium has resulted in the high foreign debts of the country, reaching $83.7 billion at present (2020), which still includes the debts absconded by Marcos and his family and new loans from Chinese banks (to be discussed later). The Duterte government has borrowed the greatest percentage of our foreign debts during only its four years in office. (IBON)

Accompanying the stand-by agreements with the IMF are the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) dictated by the WB as conditions for new loans from it and the Fund and from their bank clubs, called the London club and the Paris club. Capitalist banks need to acquire profits from their surplus capital and those of their big depositors, the industrial and commercial capitalists, and they do this by lending this capital to other nations, particularly in the Third World for it to earn interests instead of just lying idle. Loans of surplus capital, particularly to other sovereign nations, also aid the capitalist countries to offset the falling rate of profit due to overproduction in the firms of the industrial capitalists. (To be discussed below) And the IMF-WB, their protector, make sure that those who borrow this surplus capital from capitalist banks and their investors will pay their debts on time. Thus, the stand-by agreements of the Fund and the SAPs of the Bank. The tie-up between the financial capitalists who own banks and other financial institutions with the industrial capitalists(commercial capitalists sell the goods of the industrial capitalists) is what constitutes the “financial oligarchy” or monopoly capitalism(imperialism).

The WB, various SAPs-covered industry, the energy sector, the financial sector and agriculture

The main thrust of these SAPs is trade liberalization in developing countries, aside from its policies of privatization and deregulation. Trade liberalization of goods was more fervidly pushed after the long-delayed founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. WTO became the third member of the capitalist triad, apart from the Fund and the Bank. The Philippine Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) in 1996 with the WTO has become the most oppressive of all the country’s trade agreements with the capitalist nations, killing local agriculture particularly the planting of staple crops of rice and corn, and pauperizing millions of Filipino peasants and farm workers. The capitalist nations, particularly the US, were dumping their surplus agricultural products on the Philippines to avoid overproduction. The increasing importation of rice by the country demanded by AoA eventually made the Philippines to become the no. 1 importer of this crop in the world by early 2000 in spite of its very fertile soil. There were extensive land conversions accompanying the AoA, favoring the comprador bourgeoisie in the real-estate business, like the Villars and the Ayalas, because agricultural lands were being turned into subdivisions and leisure places for the rich like golf courses and high-class resorts.

Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao

The Neo-liberal Policies and US Overproduction

The neo-liberal policies, particularly trade liberalization, were adopted by the capitalist triad due to the growing crisis of overproduction of goods of US monopoly capitalism or imperialism, which started to manifest itself again in the middle of the 1970’s after a lull of 25 years.(Brenner, 1998) After the war periods which ended in 1976, comprising World War II, the Korean and the Vietnam wars, the rate of profits of US corporations were falling by a worrying 40% caused by overproduction of goods as production for wars has ceased. It is always profitable for the US military industrial complex (MIC) or the American monopoly capitalists to have wars in the world so that they can sell their war materiel to the US government which cost so high. It is to be noted that during the US war with Iraq in 2003, the American economy grew by 4.3%, the highest after the lull and never attained since then. After hot war periods (the US MIC’s profit from the cold war with the USSR was less compared to the hot wars), in order to offset the continuing decline in their rates of profits, more and more US corporations and even other foreign corporations were turning to the financial market, particularly the stock market to sell and buy stocks and other financial papers, for their surplus capital to earn profits through credits. This is the reason why after hot wars, bubble economies grow and burst, victimizing ordinary people who also buy the stocks of the capitalists. The worst of such bursting after the 1929 Great Depression in the US caused by a plunge of stock values in Wall St. was the financial crisis of 2008, which also originated in Wall St., the center of world capitalist activities.

The growing poverty in the developing countries, which includes the Philippines, manifested, among other social factors, by the inaccessibility of the poor to affordable health care is due to the imperialist neo-liberal policies implemented by the IMF-WB. (From Adjustments Effects on Child Welfare, Cornia, 1990) In truth, there has long been a pandemic of poverty among the lower echelons of society in the developing countries as shown by the fact that in the Philippines alone, 85 children on the average die every day due to malnourishment, 31,000 per year, higher than from any contagious disease that has visited the country.(Save the Children. org) This is a foregone conclusion since the SAPs affecting the health systems and other aspects of society and the payments of their foreign debts cause the client state of the Group of 7 to suffer budget deficits and they are made to raise more taxes to continue paying their debts and to balance their budgets. The IMF stand-by agreements are euphemistically called by the IMF-WB as “stabilization programs” to attain supposedly stable economic fundamentals, meaning for governments to balance their budgets with savings to boot, the latter of course adding to the defrayment of foreign debts. #

(Part II: Covid 19, the Neo-liberal policies and Chinese Imperialism)

= = = =

The author is a retired Social Sciences Professor of the University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University. He is also a novelist and an author of several books on many topics.

Fascism and capitalism and the US impending war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

(The following article is the conclusion of a two-part opinion piece, the first discussing Trump’s fascistic tendencies and the ambitions of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to become a tin-pot-dictator. The author wrote “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles.)

If United States of America President Donald J. Trump were acquitted of his impeachment charges by the US Senate and wins in the election this coming November 2020, he will become more brazen in his fascistic tendencies like discriminating and persecuting non-whites, particularly immigrants, and strengthening the US military industrial complex or American monopoly capitalism supporting him.

In truth, fascism is the hidden face of monopoly capitalism, which aims to dominate the global economy, even at the expense of destroying the world because of its threat of war and the denial of climate change by Trump’s financial backers, a significant part of the world capitalist order. It must be noted that Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascist parties were also funded by their respective countries’ monopoly capitalists. Like fascism, monopoly capitalism is driven by unbridled greed and ambition. The competitions of monopoly capitalists worldwide may bring down the whole of humanity into economic chaos and nuclear war.

Because of the principle of the balance of powers of the three branches of government, which is more ingrained in the US political system, Trump is having difficulty in attaining unilateral rule as were easily achieved by Hitler and Mussolini since German and Italian democracies were relatively younger than that of the US. If Trump were acquitted by the US Senate with its majority belonging to his Republican Party, he can become more ambitious in his nationalism like Hitler, who after being appointed Chancellor in 1933, forthwith suspended the civil rights provisions of the democratic Weimar constitution, allowing him to incarcerate and murder his opponents and start his conquest of Europe. Trump may also venture into a nuclear war, not primarily because of his belief in the superiority of the Nordic race, but more so to profit economically in his tie-up with the US military industrial complex. The US government grants contracts to American war manufacturers to produce weapons and other means of mass destruction for US imperialist inroads into other countries, The US military industrial complex also sells planes, ships and other war materiel, for instance, to Saudi Arabia and other US clients. Saudi Arabia is the leading buyer of jet planes and other war paraphernalia in the Middle East and is the arch-rival of Iran for political hegemony in this region.

The Iranian government is currently developing international ballistic missiles (IBM) in retaliation to Trump’s threat “to obliterate” their country. It is to be noted that Trump unilaterally decided to pull out the US from the denuclearization treaty with Iran which his predecessor President Barack Obama signed with other European countries. Trump also has imposed extensive economic sanctions on Iran, aiming to starve its population and agitate them to bring down their government, of course, with the goading of US moles in Iran for the Iranian people to hold mass rallies. The US has tried the same tactics in Venezuela, inciting its people to demonstrate, even importing some thugs from neighboring Chile, but to no avail as Venezuelan Socialist President Nicolas Maduro remains securely in power amidst all these machinations of the Trump government, which has also imposed extensive economic blockades on this country.

Trump has branded the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and directed the US military to assassinate in the airport of Baghdad last Jan. 3 Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani who was known as the Number Two man in the Iranian government and considered a national hero by his people for his role in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. General Soleimani was killed with 10 other Iranian and Iraqi officials who were with him when their two cars were hit by a US airstrike. Trump with the elimination of Soleimani besides profiting with the US military industrial complex from a new war with Iran, wants to divert the American people’s attention from his pending impeachment trail and win popularity again what with his falling rate of approval as shown in latest US survey polls.

Iran’s oil reserves, which is number five in the world, is another tempting target for the US oil corporations, vital members and which fuel the war planes, tanks and ships of the US military industrial complex. Remember how US oil companies together with its partners from the UK, British Petroleum and France, Total took over the rich oilfields of Iraq and Libya after the US military succeeded in ousting President Saddam Hussein in 2004 and Chairman Moamar Khadafy in 2011 from these two countries, respectively.

With his action of ordering the execution of Soleimani, which was not even approved by the US Congress, Trump and his cabal in the US MIC have placed their countrymen in serious danger of an all-out war with Iran, which has vowed to revenge the death of its revered general. Trump even tries to justify the killing of General Soleimani as a pre-emptive strike to prevent an impending attack by Iran’s paramilitary forces in Iraq against US interest in this country. This explanation has been considered by many US public officials as another big lie of Trump as there was no evidence offered by US intelligence of such an imminent attack. It is similar to President Bush Jr.’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which merited the US bombing of Baghdad in 2003 and later the hanging of Saddam Husssein. Bush Jr.’s rationalization for his war in Iraq was later proven to be false by the UN itself. Trump’s assertion that the execution of Soleimani will de-escalate the potential threat from Iran against US presence in the Middle East defies logic, to say the less.

With this mixture of American imperialist ambitions, the political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and US arms sale to the latter in the billions of dollars, the Middle East is a tinder-box for the escalation of the US-Iran conflict into a wider war which may also involve the US allies vis-a-vis Iran’s allies.

Conclusion

Rational Americans (as well as other peoples) should be gravely concerned with the rise to unilateral power of their white bigot of a president if he wins again in the coming election of November this year. Hitler had his “A thousand years rule of the Third Reich”, Mussolini his “the re-emergence of the Roman Empire” and Trump his “Make America Great Again”. Hitler and Mussolini met ignominious ends, the former committing suicide together with his top officials and his mistress in his Berlin bunker, and Mussolini’s dead body was hanged upside down with that of his mistress at Piazzela, Loreto, in Milan to be kicked and spat upon by an enraged and deceived people. Ordinary Americans and other freedom- loving individuals may take comfort in the thought of such inglorious fates of fascistic leaders and their ilk (in the case of the US, Trump and his cabal in the US military industrial complex) in history. #