Archive for the 'Philippines' Category

Transnational Theory and the State

In her new book on globalization, “labor brokerage”, and Filipina/o migrant workers Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez (you can gain access to her current lectures at UC Davis here) offers a critique of current scholarship on globalization (and hence postcolonial and transnational theory).  Especially in the field of Filipina/o studies where a huge focus has been on ignoring the roles of nation states and class structures under the current flows of global capitalism and American imperialism.

Philippine international migration is emblematic of globalization.  In describing the increasing mobility of labor, it is often Filipina and Filipino migrants that scholars refer to as a primary example of this phenomenon.  To suggest that the Philippine state is crucial to an understanding of Philippine international migration, as I do here, therefore, it to make an important intervention in the scholarship on international migration.  Much of the scholarship on international migration of late has tended to reify capital flows from “above” to undersand global labor flows or, in opposition to this scholarship, has examined globalization, specifically immigrant transnationalism from “below.”  My research shows that the state plays a central role in both these processes, but just as importantly my research shows how the state links and mediates between these two processes through a case study of Philippine migration.  I argue that the state is fundamental to globalization, just as importantly global processes constitute the state (143-4).

Reference

Rodriguez, Robyn Magalit.  2010.  Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World.  Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press

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Neoliberal Globalization and the Bangsamoro Struggle in Mindanao

Soldiers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Dr. Kenneth E. Bauzon writes that while the Moro National Liberation Front created a semi-autonomous region in the Philippines due to peace negotiations they were soon subsumed by the devastating effects of global capital. An effect that they had failed to perceive due to low theoretical grounding in political economy. Much of the programs and investment implemented by the U.S., U.S. affiliated organizations, and the G-7 countries, have been heavily geared toward counter-insurgency operations in order to undercut local autonomy and groups that fight against global capital investments.

Whether the government is determined to fully implement the rules of neoliberalism as in the case of privatization, or is unwilling or unable to enforce existing laws that appear to stand in the way of monopolistic tendencies as in the above-cited laws, the ultimate outcome of either scenario is the emergence of the Philippine state as the final arbiter in behalf of the forces of neoliberal globalization, enacting and enforcing laws that facilitate their penetration into the domestic economy, and easing their control and domination over the country’s valued resources…It is under this set of conditions that makes the Philippine state a distinctly neoliberal state through its active share in the promotion of the market economy on a global scale quite distinct from the prevalent conception of the state over a hundred years ago governed by the principle of laissez fair and seemed quite disinterested in the economic affairs of society or seemed all too happy to get out of the way of business.

Further implications may be discerned concerning the future of the Bangsamoro struggle as represented currently by the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front].  With its history of uttering rhetoric for independence spliced with religious verses, on one hand, and accommodation and negotiations, on the other, it seems that we are bound to experience a similar scenario in which the [Republic of the Philippines], with its greater resources, would simply wear down the MILF both at the negotiating table and the battlefield.  Negotiations have been the government’s way of dangling promises that it knows could not be kept and in pushing the adversary into a corner from which it could not escape.  Thus, the dizzying series of talks, delays, further talks and further delays constitute not much more than a fancy footwork in a dance for pure entertainment but leading to nowhere (Bauzon, 67-69).

Source

Bauzon Kenneth E.  2008.  Ruminations on the Bangsamoro Struggle and Neoliberal Globalization.  In The Moro Reader: History and Contemporary Struggles of the Bangsamoro People, ed. Bobby M Tuazon, 59-71.  Quezon City, Philippines: CenPEG Publications.

Book Review of “Pinoy Capital”

I have Part I of a two part book review of Benito M. Vergara’s book Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City at my blog The Mustard Seed:

BenitoSunny” M. Vergara’s ethnographic study of Filipinos in Daly City is a very welcomed and much needed academic work centering on one of the more predominate Filipino communities within the United States, Daly City (which lies on the southern border of San Francisco).  When one looks at the back cover one sees a quote by Martin Manalansan who states that “Pinoy Capital is a colorful and nuanced ethnographic foray into the social institutions and quotidian lives of Filipino Americans living in Daly City.”

Mulitple Colonialism in Moroland

Mindanao

Julkipli Wadi, in the book The Moro Reader, writes:

It can be said thus that there are, at least, four major strings of control that operate in the Moroland; namely: (1) U.S. colonialism (historical, unclosed); (2) Philippine colonialism (direct; relative to Moros); (3) multilateral colonialism (geopolitical, strategic and economic interests; corporate globalization); and (4) current U.S. colonialism (war on international terrorism; “second coming”)…What can be generally stated this time is that when the Philippine Republic took over in 1946, the status of Moros became “neocolonial” with respect to the Philippines but “doubly colonial” in relation to the Philippines and the United States.  It is because when the United States absolved Moros’ sovereignty and transferred it arbitrarily to Filipinos in 1946 and even earlier, the Philippine Independence did not necessarily close American colonialism in Mindanao and Sulu.  What happened is that the mode of U.S. control was simply transfered to Filipinos and thence became indirect and continued to operate by proxy. (Wadi, 22)

Source

Wadi, Julkipli, “Multiple Colonialism in Moroland” in The Moro Reader: History and Contemporary Struggles of the Bangsamoro People.  Edited by Tuazon Bobby M and Oscar Evangelista.  Philippines: CenPEG Books, 2008.

The Mode of Production Debate in the Philippines

A Hacienda Luisita peasant plants rice in a freshly tilled field (Photo by Jack Stephens).

A peasant plants rice in a freshly tilled field in Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac, Philippines (Photo by Jack Stephens).

In her book on the Communist Party of the Philippines (MLMZT) author Kathleen Weekley briefly goes over a debate about whether the Philippines was really “semi-feudal” or more “capitalist” in nature:

The first substantial critique of this formulation from inside the national democratic movement came in the late 1970s from Rigoberto Tiglao, who presented a dependency theory perspective on the economy, concluding that concentration on the peasantry as the social base for the revolution was ill-conceived. The gist of his argument is that the Philippines is a “peripheral capitalist social formation” in the global capitalist order and was so even during the years of American colonialism. “It was precisely the capitalist means of production which made possible the transformation of Philippine agriculture into an export-producing sector.” Citing the extent of mechanization in key crop industries and the relationship of tenant farmers to the system of market forces, he concludes that “the ‘landlord class’ in the Philippines [is] more of an agrarian bourgeoisie” the biggest of whom ‘together with transnational corporations [control] the industrial component of the export industries…as well as the comprador enterprise.” the political aspects of peripheral capitalism have important implications for revolutionary strategy, Tiglao argued. “Limited sources of capital accumulation” he says, “result in explosive intra-elite struggles.” Martial law was imposed in order to manage these struggles, but it is not “semi-feudalism” that is the “social base of this fascism” as the CPP puts it. Rather, “the Philippine industrial bourgeoisie is the social basis of such political authority [and] rural and urban working class movements rapidly erode whatever level of stability such a centralized authority has achieved.” In other words, the CPP ought to concentrate its efforts on organizing and mobilizing working class resistance to the Marcos dictatorship, rather than organizing the “peasantry” into an army to fight a protracted war in the countryside, ignoring the real source of capitalist power.

In 1987, a Negros news magazine, Viewpoints, published an anonymous article criticizing the CPP analysis of Philippine society as “semi-colonial, semi-feudal.”…

The Viewpoints article countered that while a feudal superstructure remains on the island [of Negros], the economic base is largely capitalist. The crisis in the sugar industry, brought on by various factors including reduced demand from the U.S., plummeting world sugar prices, escalating production costs and shrinking domestic consumption, reached catastrophic proportions in the mid-1980s. That crisis, the Viewpoints author argued, has “shown that the sugar planters must bear the costs of production and are subject to the financial risks inherent in the industry. It follows, then, that the plantation workers cannot properly be regarded as “peasants.” While they labor on the land, the workers’ interests and aspirations are different from those of the peasnt.

“Given the choice between tilling his own land and working in a factory at satisfactory wages, it is highly probable that the farmworker would choose the factory job. (Weekley, 57-58)

When Jose Maria Sison, one of the founders of the CPP and its first chair, and latter a consultant for the National Democratic Front, got out of prison he delivered a series of lectures at the Center for Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines in order to answer these criticisms:

Agricultural land totaling 12 million hectares in 1980 is the principle means of production. It produces the food staples for domestic consumption, the overwhelming bulk of surplus products for export and some amount of raw materials for local processing.

There is negligible use of modern farm technology beyond peasant brawn, hand tools, plows and work animals on lands devoted to rice, corn and coconut, all of which comprise 90.4 percent ot total agricultural land. The promotion of costly imported farm inputs and equipment during the 1970s affected only a few hundred thousands of hectares. Estimates range from 500,000 to 800,000 hectares.

…No more than 4 percent of total agricultural land is worked by tractors and other farm machinery.

Every piece of modern equipment in the agricultural, Industrial and service sectors of the economy is imported. It is paid for with foreign exchange earned on raw material exports, mostly agricultural…

Even hand tools are imported to the extent of 85 percent. And of course, the remaining 15 percent are fabricated locally from imported metals. There are no well-established industries which produce from the available local raw material basic metals, basic chemicals, capital goods and the like.

According to NEDA figures, there were nine million peasants and farm workers, accounting for 52 percent of employment; 2.5 million industrial workers, 14 percent; and six million service sector workers, 34 percent, in 1979, which was a year of economic growth still bloated by excessive foreign borrowing.

These figures indicate, therefore, that peasants and farm workers comprise 78 percent of direct producers of goods and industrial workers 22 percent. There are four peasants for every industrial worker.

Only 74 percent of industrial workers are in manufacturing; and in turn 70 percent of workers in manufacturing are employed in small fabricating and repair shops, each employing less than ten workers and therefore hardly qualifying as truly manufacturing enterprises.

The figure for employment in the service sector is bloated by decreases of employment in the agricultural and industrial sectors during the 1970s. Agricultural employment went down from 59 percent in 1970 to 52 percent in 1979; and industrial employment from 17.6 percent in 1970 to 14 percent in 1979. The employment rate of the real producers of goods has decreased from year to year since 1979. (Sison, 81-83)

And while still in prison, earlier in 1982, Sison and de Lima (released around that time), wrote:

It is said that farm workers are now 55 percent of the farm population and are bigger in number than the peasants with definite plots to till…It is difficult to make a national survey distinguishing the farm workers who depend mainly or wholly on their wages and the poor and middle peasants who augment their income as farm workers. But assuming the figure is correct, it does not mean any significant advance into capitalism away from semifeudalism…it means that the semifeudal economy is bursting at the seams with surplus labor it cannot employ…

Land concentration mainly by landlords and semifeudal rich peasants continues. Foreign and local farm capitalists still have to deal with local owners of land. However, the new-type of landlords take the initiative of employing capitalist processes such as getting crop loans, using imported agricultural inputs, hiring farm workers, etc. (ibid., 49-50)

Sources

Anon. “The Negros Enigma.” Viewpoints 2, no. 15 (1987), reprinted in Diliman Review 36, no 4, quoted in Weekely.

Sison, Jose Ma. and Julieta de Lima. Philippine Economy and Politics. Philippines: Aklat ng Bayan, 1998.

Tiglao, Rigoberto. “Non-Progress in the Periphery.” The Diliman Review (1979), quoted in Weekley.

Weekley, Kathleen. The Communist Party of the Philippines 1968-1993: A Story of its Theory and Practice. Quezon City, Philippines: University of Philippines Press, 2001.

After the Fall of Marcos

Philippine Economy and Politics

Jose Maria Sison wrote that some of his political opponents, after the fall of Marcos and the rise of Aquino:

misconstrued democracy as merely the “democratic space” for them within the ruling system in terms of civil and political liberties, claimed that there was no more ground for people’s ware and deliberately obfuscated the fact that the joint class dictatorship of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class and the open rule terror was persistent, despite the temporary liberal facade of the Aquino regime. In fact, the Aquino regime retained or made worse the antiworker and antipeasant decrees of Marcos and General Ramos intensified the military campaigns of suppression against the revolutionary forces. (Sison, 13)

Source

Sison, Jose Ma. and Julieta De Lima.  Philippine Economy and Politics.  Philippines, Aklat ng Bayan, 2002.

Repression Under President Aquino

During the uprising against Marcos, taken form the book "People Power: An Eyewitness History"

During the uprising against Marcos, taken form the book "People Power: An Eyewitness History"

In an interview then chairperson of KMU Crispin Beltran on the “progress” made under President Corazon Aquino after the fall of martial law and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Beltran states:

…from 1980-when KMU was organized-up to the overthrow of Marcos, a period of five and a half years, we recorded only 501 violations of  human rights workers.  For the whole year of 1987 along, we have recorded 735 human rights violations suffered by workers…(Scripes, 61-2)

Source

Scripes, Kim.  KMU; Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994.  Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1996.


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