http://pinoypunk.com Ang Anarchist Initiative for Direct democracy o AID Kolektibo ay isang malayang samahan ng mga kabataan-estudyante, mga artista't manunulat, at mga punkistang musikero na nagsimulang mamayagpag noong taong 2006. Mababasa sa ibaba ang dalawang mahahalagang papel na isinulat ni kabisyong Bas Umali--isa sa wikang Filipino at isa sa Ingles--na siyang nagsilbing manipesto sa publiko ng anarkistang grupo.
Kompederasyon ng malalayang istruktura at pormasyon
(Pebrero 7, 2006: Ito ay mungkahing dokumento hinggil sa alternatibong kaayusang pampulitika na labas sa iminumungkahi ng mga maka-Kaliwang kilusan. Samakatuwid, ito ay "non-state" na alternatibo batay sa kasalukuyang konteksto ng Pilipinas.)
Ang mga nakaraang EDSA ay mga pampublikong ehersisyo na iniluwal ng mga perenyal na krisis ng mga kaayusan kung saan sentralisado ang kapangyarihan na lumilikha ng mga pribilehiyo sa iilan habang nagsasaisantabi ng pinakamaraming bilang ng mamamayan sa pagdedesisyon at bahaginan ng benepisyo at yaman ng lipunan.
Kailanman ay hindi naging neutral ang estado. Sa maraming pagkakataon, instrumento ito ng iilan para protektahan ang kanilang interes. Ang rehimen ni Marcos sampu ng kanyang mga cronies ay walang dudang kinatawan ng elite na nais panatilihin ang sarili sa kapangyarihan sa lantad na puwersahang paraan na ang isa sa mga layon ay makontrol ang pinakamalaking bahagi ng yaman ng lipunan.
Ang administrasyon ni Erap ay isang paksyon ng elite na may malaking impluwensya sa mga mamamayan dahil sa pantasyang nalikha niya sa tulong ng pelikula at media. Ang pantasya niya ay lumikha ng batayang pagkakaisa kung bakit dumagsa sa EDSA pa-Malakanyang ang daang libong lehitimong mahihirap at inaapi sa lipunan at mayoryang mamamayan.
Ang mga nagdaang EDSA ay dinamismo ng agawan sa kapangyarihan ng mga elite. Ngunit isa sa hindi maitatangging aral na makukuha sa mga ito ay ang kapangyarihan ng mga mamamayan na lumikha ng pagbabago sa pamamagitan ng direktang partisipasyon.
Ang pampulitikang krisis at lumalalang kalagayan ng ekonomya sa kasalukuyan ay hindi naiiba sa pangkalahatang usapin ng nabanggit na krisis subalit hindi sinasabing isang panibagong EDSA ang kailangan upang magkaroon ng substansyal na pagbabago.
Sa mahabang panahon ang mga mamamayan ay lumalahok sa pampulitikang ehersisyo dahil sa impluwensya ng mga karismatikong lider, mga sentralisadong institusyon at mga pampulitikang istruktura na may herarkikal na oryentasyon.
Ito ay tipo ng pulitika na hindi nakatuon sa pagpapataas ng kamulatan ng mamamayan. Sa halip, ginagawa nitong pasibo ang mga tao, pinapakilos ang mamamayan dahil sa agenda at interes ng partido, indibidwal, at mga elite na grupo.
Ang partisipasyon ng ordinaryong mamamayan ay nalilimita lang sa mga nakagawiang eleksyon. Ang pagiging inaktibo at kawalan ng paglahok sa mga pampulitikang gawain ay lalo namang nagpapalawak ng burukrasya at nagpapaigting ng sentralisasyon upang umano'y mas maging episyente. Ang mga pulitiko ay naging propesyunal sa halip na isaalang-alang ang prinsipyo at interes ng publiko. Kadalasan, ang kanilang motibasyon ay nakabatay sa pansariling interes at pagsekyur ng propesyon o career.
Ang direct democracy
Ito ay isang alternatibong tipo ng pulitika na maaaring mamaksimisa sa pagsusulong ng panlipunang pagbabago. Ito ay nakabatay sa mga ekstraparlamentaryo't mga independyenteng organisasyon sa mga komunidad; mga organisasyong hindi nakaugnay sa anumang partido at estado.
Ang mga mamamamayan (kabataan, kababaihan, senior citizen, manggagawa, magsasaka, mangingisda, at iba pang marhinalisadong sektor sa serbisyo) ay magkikita at maghaharap-harap sa publiko upang pag-usapan ang mga kinakaharap na isyu. Magaganap ito sa pamamagitan ng mga popular at lokal na malalayang pormasyon kagaya ng mga pulong baranggay, assembliya, asosasyon, organisasyon, kooperatiba, religious group, counterculture na mga grupo, mga advocates at iba pa. Ang kalikasan ng mga pormasyong ito ay hindi upang magpakilos ng tao para igiit ang mga interes at agenda ng anumang eksternal na pormasyon. Nakabatay ito sa pulitika ng mga pamayanan na ang proseso ay edukasyon ayon sa mga aktwal na pangangailangan at kundisyon. Ang layon nito ay hindi upang makuha ang pampulitikang kapangyarihan, sa halip ay pagsasakapangyarihan sa mga marhinalisadong mamamayan.
Ito'y naglalayong makalikha ng pampulitikang pormasyon at makabuluhang maimpluwensyahan ang pampublikong opinyon para sa bisyon ng prosperidad na ang benepisyo ay pinakikinabangan ng lipunan. Samakatuwid, walang sinuman ang magugutom. Ang lahat ay may akses sa mga panlipunang serbisyo gaya ng kalusugan, pabahay, edukasyon, tubig, kuryente, at transportasyon. Ang likas-yaman ay angkop ang utilisasyon at nakabatay sa likas-kayang prinsipyo. Ang bawat mamamayan ay direkta at makabuluhang nakakalahok sa pagsasagawa ng mga polisiyang nakaayon sa pangangailangan ng mga komunidad, pabrika, industriya, agrikultura, at iba pang istruktura ng lipunan.
Ang pulitikang ito ay itatatag hindi sa impluwensya ng pulitika ng partido at estado; ito ay pulitika na malayang malalahukan at maiintindihan ng mamamayan at sila ay boluntaryong aako ng mga responsibilidad.
Kailangan ba talagang i-sentralisa ang kapangyarihan?
Hanggang sa kasalukuyan ay napakapopular ng malawakang paggo-gobyerno sa porma ng napakasentralisadong organisasyon na pinatatakbo sa pamamagitan ng mga istrikto at sekular na mga burukrasya na kadalasang pinapatupad ng mga kinatawan at ng mga nanalo sa eleksyon.
Hindi maikakaila sa kasaysayan ang karahasan, panggigipit at panunupil ng mga pamahalaan sa mga mamamayan magmula ng maitatag ang sentrong pamahalaan sa pananakop ng Kastila. At nag-uumapaw ang datos hinggil sa pag-iral ng hindi pantay na distribusyon ng yaman na pinatutupad at pinatatatag ng estado. Mas maigi pa bago dumating ang mga Kastila ayon kay Pigaffeta, tagatala ni Magellan. Ang inabutan nilang mga pamayanan ng katutubo ay malulusog, walang may kapansanan at nagugutom. Maaaring hindi perpekto ang kalagayan, subalit mas mainam ang panahong yaon kumpara sa ngayon na halos higit sa 50 porsyento ang bilang ng mga mamamayan na dumaranas ng kahirapan sa iba't-ibang dimensyon nito.
Huwag gamiting argumento ang paglobo ng populasyon para patatagin ang kahirapan. Ang estatistika ay makakatulong para matukoy kung gaano kalabis ang pag-aari at yaman ng iilang pamilya at kung gaano katalamak ang kahirapan ng maraming mamamayan. Ang produksyon ng cereal ay tumaas ng 12 porsyento noong 1975, sapat upang magbawas ng importasyon ang Bangladesh ng signipikanteng porsyento. Ang kanlurang Asya naman sa kabilang banda ay binaha ng mais mula sa Tsina. Maging ang disyerto sa Saudi Arabia ay nagkapagbebenta ng wheat; ngunit dahil sa labis na produksyon sa Finland, ang wheat ay ginagawang glue. Ang produksyon ng India ng grain ay na-triple sa pagitan ng 1950 at 1984; ang suliranin nila ay hindi paglobo ng populasyon kundi transportasyon upang maibiyahe ang mga produkto mula sa mga lugar na labis ang produksyon patungo sa mga kapos--ito ang pangunahing naging dahilan ng kagutuman sa naturang bansa.
Mahalagang banggitin na ang isyu sa World Trade Organisation ng pagtatambak ng produkto ay manipestasyon ng labis na produksyon at hindi populasyon. Ang suliranin ay kung paano ibabahagi ang yaman ng mga mauunlad na lipunan sa malaking bahagi ng populasyong naghihirap sa daigdig.
Matagal na panahon na ring namaliit ang kakayahan ng mga mamamayan na patakbuhin ang kanilang mga sariling ugnayan. Maraming karanasan ang magpapatunay na kayang organisahin ng mga produktibong uri at sektor ang kanilang mga gawain at ugnayan upang makalikha ng pangangailangan ng lipunan.
Ang boluntaryo at malalayang asosasyon ng mga pamayanan, syudad, at citizen assembly na naka-kompedera mula sa lokal, rehiyonal at hanggang sa kontinental ay may mga modelo at isinapraktika sa Espanya ng mga communeros noong ika-16 na siglo. Ang kilusan ng "American town meeting" na umabot sa New England hanggang sa Charleston noong 1770's. Gayundin ang "Parisian sectional assembly" noong unang bahagi ng 1790's na naulit sa Paris Commune noong 1871 at hanggang sa Madrid Citizens' Movement noong 1960's at unang bahagi ng 1970's.
Maging bago maging "Pilipinas" ang arkipelago ay may tradisyon na ito ng desentralisasyon. Ang bawat barangay ay independyente sa ibang barangay subalit may mutwal na mga kasunduan sa mga pag-angkin ng teritoryo. Partikular sa agrikultural na bahagi katulad ng kaingin, ang pag-angkin ay hindi nangangahulugan ng pribadong pag-aari. Ang pag-angkin ay nakabatay sa paggamit; matapos anihin, ang iba pa ay malayang makagagamit.
Naging miserable at dumanas ng kahirapan at pang-aapi ang mga komunidad dahil sa pagse-sentralisa ng kapangyarihan sa iilang mananakop. Walang kaginsa-ginsa, ang mga likas-yaman ay pag-aari na ng mga dayuhan sa pamamagitan ng mga sentralisadong pamahalaan at simbahan. Bakit biglang nagkaroon ng autoridad ang mga sentrong gobyerno na maningil ng buwis sa porma ng lakas paggawa o produkto sa mga pamayanan sa ngalan ng pamamahala ng mga umano'y "sibilisadong Kristiyano", samantalang napapamahalaan naman ng mga pamaayanan ang sarili nilang mga ugnayang pang-ekonomya at pampulitika na may maayos na pakikipag-ugnayan sa iba pang mga komunidad?
Totoong napakahirap isiping ganap na idesentralisa ang pampulitikang kapangyarihan lalo't sa kalagayang ang mga tradisyunal na pulitiko ang tiyak na mananamantala. Sabagay, kahit na anong pampulitikang kaayusan ang gawin ay tiyak na magsasamantala ang mga trapo sapagkat ito ay kaangkinan nila. Ganap lang na malulusaw ang trapo kung wala nang tumatangkilik sa kanya. Samakatuwid, ito ay nakabatay pa rin sa kamulatan ng mga tao.
May ilang mga iskolar ang nagbabanggit na nakaigpaw na raw sa patronage politics ang mamamayan; nalampasan na rin halos ang fantasy politics na maiuugnay umano sa pagbaba ng popularidad ng mga personalidad sa showbiz at media. Kung totoong ganito ang kalagayan, higit na pagkakataon ito upang isulong ang direct democracy para mapabilis ang pagbabago ng mga istruktura sa lipunan.
Ang tagumpay ng desentralisasyon ay nakabatay sa antas ng kakayahan ng mga mamamayan. Hindi ito kagyat na magaganap katulad kung paano inilulugar ang Transitional Revolutionary Government (TRG) ng Laban ng Masa.
Ang pulitika para sa pagsasapraktika ng direktang demokrasya ay proseso ng pag-eeduka sa mamamayan. Sa paglawak ng kapasidad ng mamamayan ay siya namang pagbawas sa hegemonya ng mga institusyong nagsesentralisa ng kapangyarihan. Ito ang magsasakapangyarihan ng mga malalaya at boluntaryong pormasyon sa mga pamayanan at batayang komunidad na magko-kompedera mula sa lokal patungong rehiyonal na nakabatay sa balangkas ng mutwal na kooperasyon at ganap na pagkakaisa.
Ano ang pagkakaiba ng delegado sa representasyon ng kasalukuyang mga herarkikal na organisasyon?
Ideyal na maisangkot ang lahat ng mga kasapi sa mga usaping pang-organisasyon na may kinalaman sa paglikha ng mga pampublikong polisiya. Subalit dahil sa mga praktikal na usapin, may pangangailangan na magtalaga ng mga delegado na magiging kinatawan ng organisasyon sa mas malalawak na antas ng pagdedesisyon para sa pagseseguro ng mutwal na kooperasyon sa antas ng baranggay, munisipyo, probinsya, at rehiyon.
Ang popular assemblies ay isa sa mga klasikal na kaisipang anarkista para sa pag-uugnay-ugnay ng mga gawain sa pamamagitan ng mga recallable na delegado. Wala silang espesyal na pribelehiyo ngunit may mandato na maging kinatawan ng kanilang kinabibilangang organisasyon. Ang pangunahing responsibilidad ay makisangkot sa mas malawak na antas batay sa mga pinagkasunduan ng mga kasapi. Ang pagsasagawa ng desisyon ay nanatili sa mga assembliya.
Kumpara sa kasalukuyang konsepto ng representative na may kakayahang gumawa ng pagpapasya at may autoridad sa ibang tao o sa kanyang mga botante, ang sistema ng kompederasyon ay pag-o-organisa ng mga kinakailangang bagay mula sa lokal o ibaba pataas. Sa halip na mula sa itaas pababa, desentralisado ang kompederasyon at ang mga network subalit mahigpit na pinag-uugnay para sa kanilang mga mutwal na interes na ang bisyon ay para humubog ng lipunang malaya, pantay-pantay, sagana, at likas-kaya.
(April 26, 2006: This article will attempt to present an alternative political structure advancing genuine citizens' politics through free assemblies and independent structures from the barangay and communities in current political crisis in the Philippines.)
Many of us will agree that in our context, democracy seems elusive. Until now, a vast number of people are in extreme poverty, deprived of basic needs, and are politically marginalized. We know that poverty is caused by the uneven distribution of power where only a few can decide over critical things such as the use of natural resources and distribution of its benefits. Who among us was ever asked or consulted by the government in its program of environmental destruction which has only profited big corporations which are then controlled by a few families and foreign corporations? Did the government bother to ask peasants, farmers, fisher folk, workers, women, youth, gays, consumers, and other sectors with regard to the Philippine government's accession to the WTO and its conclusion of various bilateral agreements? Who wants E-VAT and debt payment?
The list is overwhelmingly long, proving that the democracy we have today is a farce.
The heart of the struggle of all the revolutionary efforts in our history is about making people participate in power. Part of the movement's usual rhetoric is people's participation in decision-making because without people's participation in the political exercises that directly influence every dimension of their lives, democracy will not be realized.
This document will attempt to discuss an alternative anarchist political structure that will promote people's direct participation in power and, in broad strokes, discuss the flow of political power from the bottom to the top. It is a concept that is heavily derived from the idea of Confederation advanced by libertarian author Murray Bookchin. His ideas of course are not detached from traditional anarchist movements and contemporary anarchist activists; we believe it is significantly relevant to our current political crisis.
Confederation offers an alternative political structure based on a libertarian framework--i.e., non-hierarchical and non-statist, which is doable and applicable. It is doable compared to the 35-year old struggle of the CPP-NPA-NDF which, after taking tens of thousands of lives, delivered no concrete economic and political output to the Filipino people. More so, the alternatives being offered by mainstream leftist groups outside NDF offer no substantial difference, for they all adhere to the state and of capturing political power--an objective that cannot be realized in the near future.
In the light that anarchism is exaggeratedly misunderstood, let us first discuss some fundamental principles of stateless socialism: libertarianism and anarchism.
"Purely utopian!" That's one of the common reactions of those who do not understand the word "anarchy" and its alternatives. Another misconception is its affinity to "chaos".
These nuisances and misinterpretations are not surprising at all. Historically, anarchism has long opposed oppressive systems and fought monarchy, oligarchy, and the totalitarianism of the state socialists and authoritarian communists alike. It continues to carry out the struggle to fight new forms of colonialism, capitalism, and other exploitative systems that hamper the development of humanity. Every ruling regime has its share in imputing fear and terror on the anarchist movement in order to discredit it.
It is improper to escape the fact that violence is part of the anarchist movement. Along with the nationalists and republicans, anarchists carried out terroristic methods to advance social revolution. The "Propaganda by the Deed" was meant to encourage people to act against the state and the old order by launching violent activities such as the killing of French president Sadi Carnot by Sante Jeronimo Caserio (an Italian anarchist) in 1894. Italian anarchist Michele Angiolillo also shot Canovas of Spain in 1987. Luigi Luccheni (another anarchist from Italy) stabbed Empress Elisabeth of Austria to death in 1898, while Polish anarchist Leon Czogolsz killed US president McKinley in 1901. There were also two attempts on the life of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first by Max Hodel on 11 May 1878, then followed by Karl Nobiling on the June 2 of the same year.
And the list is long.
These of course were used by the dominant regimes to their own advantage. In order to demonize anarchism, they shrewdly tailored it to violence and chaos. And this was even reinforced by the state socialists and authoritarian communists when the anarchist movement in Ukraine challenged the Bolshevik regime, the White Army and other foreign invaders.
Nuisances and misinterpretations are bound to occur in situations wherein power is asymmetrically distributed. The political structure that is controlled by the economic and political elite would not allow anarchism to flourish. Moreover, the country's revolutionary tradition is highly influenced by Red bureaucracy which is historically hostile to anarchism.
Contrary to common misconceptions, anarchism is a theory that firmly upholds the idea of an organized world that is free for all. As Noam Chomsky once stated in an interview, "anarchy is a society that is highly organized wherein many different structures are integrated such as the workplace, the community and other myriad forms of free and voluntary associations, with participants directly managing their own affairs".
Unlike the existing order where people are motivated by power, profit, private property, and individualism; anarchy on the other hand is a society that fosters mutual cooperation, solidarity, freedom from exploitation and oppression, and where decisions are made by those who are directly concerned. Any form of political structure that centralizes power is totally unacceptable.
The word "archipelago" on the other hand recognizes the geographical characteristics of the Philippines and the very essential role of its rich natural resources that strongly influence the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Myriad historical accounts indicate that the bodies of water surrounding the different islands actually connected rather than separated them from each other, and that the economic, social and political activities of the inhabitants were developed due to the interconnectedness of their immediate environment.
It is also important to note that the rich natural endowments of our archipelago allow diverse cultures to flourish and develop into a heterogeneous way of life that are interlinked through mutual cooperation.
The famous victory of Lapu-lapu against Magellan is one of the earliest symbols of Filipino resistance. A considerable number of his men defeated the well-armed and battle-hardened Spanish conquistadores in a low-tide battle on the shores of Mactan. One can espouse the idea of an on-going rivalry between Lapu-lapu and Rajah Humabon which Magellan used--winning the trust of the latter as he attacked the former and met his death. But one can also elaborate the idea that Lapu-lapu's group was set to defend the autonomy of their community.
Prior to the nationalist struggle, "Moro wars" took place from 1565 to 1898 which prevented the Spaniards from subjugating the inhabitants of the southern part of the country. Colonizers mobilized Christianized locals to fight Muslims, thus laying the foundation for the "perpetual" Christian-Muslim conflict in Mindanao.
The Philippines was one of the first Asian countries to stage a revolution against the colonialism of the West. The early phase of the Filipino struggle was initially carried out by local privileged bourgeois intellectuals in the likes of Jose Rizal and Marcelo Del Pilar. The revolution was nationalistic in character, which is understandable because at that time, nationalism was in the height of propagation in many parts of the world--specifically in Europe. This profoundly influenced Rizal's works and inspired the oppressed masses, culminating in armed resistance organized by the proletariat Andres Bonifacio in 1896.
With the growing influence of the US combined with the simultaneous armed resistance in Cuba, the Filipino nationalist resistance was able to substantially reduce the influence of the Catholic order, and finally drove out the Spanish colonizers. But American expansionist policy immediately took effect as expressed through the Treaty of Paris of 1898.
Shortly after the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic in January 1899 the Filipino-American War broke out which claimed 600,000 Filipino lives, mostly due to starvation and diseases.
The revolutionary tradition in the country was further enriched upon the arrival of Isabelo De Los Reyes in Manila in 1901 from his exile in Barcelona, Spain where he brought a
collection of books, including those written by Malatesta, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Marx, Darwin, Aquinas, and Voltaire. This was followed by a successful wave of protests and strikes within and around Manila that paved the way for the establishment of the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD). This marked the shift of the revolutionary struggle from a mere nationalist to an anti-imperialist one.
UOD disintegrated in 1903 and from its remains, the party upholding communism and socialism was established in 1938 which later led the Hukbalahap guerilla movement. They were the foremost opponents of the Japanese forces prior to the reinforcement provided by the Americans. This was also the period when the revolutionary movement began to feel the Bolshevik/Russian influence.
The tradition of struggle later proceeded to the establishment of the Maoist/Chinese-influenced Communist Party in the late 1960's which adopted a nationalist strategy and protracted people's war in the countryside. It gained enormous support from the masses, but it failed to grab power until its fragmentation into smaller party formations due to the Rejectionist-Reaffirmist split in 1992.
Hard facts in the current context
Indeed, the country's historical development has continuously enriched its revolutionary tradition, not to mention the resistance efforts outside of the national democratic/communist movement, such as sectoral and community-based resistance, and the Moro struggle among others.
However, such richness failed to translate immediately to the interest of the people. In the 1970's, the poverty rate was as high as 40% as compared to the current rate which is 34 to 36 percent according to the National Statistical Coordination Board. This indicates marginal improvement in terms of the state's poverty reduction effort.
Unemployment, on the other hand, is pegged at 11 million while underemployment is up to 7 million. This is aggravated by the massive destruction of our natural resources due to our export-oriented economy and the government's incapacity to manage and utilize them properly in a sustainable way.
Furthermore, liberalization, coupled with chronic rent-seeking practices in government offices and the absence of a logical economic development plan, inflicted serious injuries to the domestic economy which further exacerbated our deteriorating social condition.
Another equally important issue is the marginalization of a huge number of citizens in making decisions that directly and indirectly affect their political, social and economic lives. The existing political structure makes citizens passive, inactive and apathetic. Their political participation is reduced to routinary electoral exercises where they will occasionally choose politicians who will represent them in making and implementing policies.
We can hardly identify a historical period wherein Filipinos lived in prosperity, abundance and relative peace, except during pre-Spanish times. As described by Magellan's historian, Pigaffeta, the inhabitants of the archipelago were in perfect health and had no physical defects. He got the impression that food scarcity was not prevalent. While William Henry Scott and a host of other writers validated the presence of slavery in the archipelago during the pre-Spanish period, they never mentioned any sign of poverty among local villages.
These findings make us think that the phenomena of poverty in the Philippines occurred with the advent of Spanish colonization and coercive formation of a centralized government. Unfortunately, several studies have the tendency to conveniently pin down population explosion as the cause of poverty, thus undermining the fact that this is brought by systemic oppression. For instance, in Southern Asia, around 30 million households own no land or very little, and they represent 40% of nearly all rural households in the subcontinent. Both the African and Latin American continents, on the other hand, have similar data. Moreover, land distribution in the nations of the South favors large-scale commercial agriculture controlled by a few landowners. Ergo, poverty can be rooted socially.
The Philippines is not an exemption. In 2000, the country ranked 77 out of more than 150 countries with a poverty incidence of 34% and where the human development index (HDI) figure was 0.656. In the fisheries sector alone, 80% of fisher folk households live below the poverty line. Four primary factors are widely accepted by most of the players in the fishery sectors: (1) low productivity of land-based resources or lack of access to land; (2) low productivity of aquatic resources due mainly to habitat destruction and stock depletion; (3) resource-use conflict, particularly in coastal waters; and (4) lack of adequate basic services delivery (i.e., health, education, shelter, infrastructure, etc.).
Though the Fishery Sector Program Report of the ADB (1993) also cited high population density in most near shore areas, this must not lead us to the conclusion that we are reaching the limit. We know for a fact that the increase of population in coastal communities is due to migration patterns. As noted by ASEAN-SEAFDEC in their technical report in 2001, households displaced in agricultural lands seek economic opportunity in coastal areas that are de facto open to anybody who wants to use fishery resources. Poverty therefore is not rooted in the natural-limit crisis; this is clearly brought about by structural problems, such as the distribution of wealth and the control of natural resources.
It should be clarified that the idea of "carrying capacity" is well recognized. This concept sets the limit for a number of organisms and non-living matter in a specific ecosystem, based on the availability of food, space, and other vital materials necessary for their existence. Also, part of this is the capacity of a specific ecosystem to absorb pressure brought by extraction. But to set the record straight, the destruction of natural resources (which resulted in the death of many citizens and the loss of billions of pesos in livelihood) is not directly attributable to population. In fact, it is public knowledge that big corporations benefited from large-scale logging operations. And together with large commercial mining, this eventually led to the denudation of our forests. It should also be noted that mineral extraction is one of the notorious polluters in the coastal zone that significantly reduces fish stocks.
There is no sufficient evidence to prove that the country's population of 86 million is close to the limit imposed by the carrying capacity of our ecosystem. Clearly, food production is no longer a problem. In fact, developed and even developing nations like China, India, and Brazil, are extra-aggressive in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements in order to have full-market access to the economies of poor and other nations where they can dump their huge surplus. In our case, the best available data on poverty is highly attributable to low agricultural and fishery productivity, and poor economic performance. All of these can be directly traced to the government's negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and non-accountability. Poverty is caused by unemployment, lack of land to till, degradation of natural resources, lack of economic opportunities, lack of social services, corruption, and the absence of a logical economic development agenda.
The huge profits being produced through massive extraction of natural resources do not deliver anything concrete to the people. We have enough sources of food to feed the entire population due to the highly abundant natural resources of the archipelago. But our finite resources are being limited only to fuel our export-oriented economic growth and sustain the greed for profit of the elite.
With this conviction, we should be reminded that in order to establish a society that is free, equitable and rational, capitalism must be abolished and oppressive hierarchical political systems be replaced by a system where citizens are highly involved in all political exercises, specifically in decision-making.
The logic of centralizing power
By the 16th century, the state was described as a "large-scale governmental organization effectively centralized by means of strictly secular bureaucracy, often implemented by some kind of representative body". Since economic activities profoundly influence the operations of centralized governments, the state's definition continuously evolved, but its original nature did not and will not change--i.e., to concentrate power and its desire to increase inexorable sovereignty. Theoretically, political power resides only in the state, but complete concentration of power is impossible. That is why it is reasonable to say that the existence of the state depends on its fairly concentrated power. Another very important consideration is that the state is the only institution that can use "legitimate" violence to those who do not recognize its hegemony.
The hierarchical nature of the state inevitably creates a bureaucracy that concentrates governance and decision-making in a few representatives (Congress and Senate), akin to the institutional arrangement of the Red bureaucracy, corporate business structures as well as the church's religious hierarchy. A handful of representatives will not constitute a democracy; on the contrary, it is nothing but the rule of the few over the many. Democracy will only be realized through meaningful and substantial participation of the people/masses in politics to which they can relate, understand, appreciate, contribute, perform, benefit, and share duties and responsibilities.
The question is, how are we going to involve ordinary people in political exercises if they do not have any interest in engaging in politics?
Such disinterest can be possibly rooted to the notion that the current political status quo cannot offer anything to the people. All are reduced to promises and texts. For the common people, politics require complicated technical skills and knowledge that can only be earned in local prestigious and expensive universities (UP-La Salle-Ateneo), if not abroad. Such an undertaking requires technical jargon and an expensive outfit which gives the impression that politics is an enterprise solely for the educated and rich families. The term "polis", as we trace it back to the tradition of the Greeks, refers to the management of the community by the citizens. This has apparently lost its meaning due to statism that turned politics into a career and lucrative profession that marginalized ordinary people.
Our effort in imagining alternatives beyond the politics of the state will be facilitated by regaining the lost meaning of "politics" and calibrating it in our own context.
Anarchist alternatives which were precisely reflected in Russia during the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution were characterized by spontaneity and the self-organized revolt of the masses. Powerful united fronts of various forces developed and crushed the oppressive Tsarist monarchist regime within three days. The massive unrest of the people and other heterogeneous elements led to the abolition of the old regime without any particular alternatives and without any instructions from any group. The majority of the masses did not directly articulate the ideas espoused by the anarcho-syndicalists, but what the people had done was exactly what the anarcho-syndicalists had in mind. Upon the abolition of Tsarist state, the people spontaneously organized themselves. In Kronstadt, houses were socialized through the house committees which extended to the entire streets that resulted in the creation of street and block committees. The same thing happened in Petrograd. The factory committees that appeared almost out of nowhere were geared toward establishing "Producer Consumer Communes".
During the Spanish Civil War, the eastern part of Spain was under the influence of the anarchist movement. Workers' direct management took place in industrial and commercial establishments through the 2,000 collectives in Catalonia. In February 1937, 275 peasants and farm workers' collectives with a total of 80,000 members were formed in Aragon near the front line, which occupied vast lands that were abandoned by their landlords. In three months time, these collectives increased to 450, with a total number of 180,000 members.
There are a lot of experiences worth citing in Latin America, Asia and Africa, but these are poorly articulated and are seldom mentioned in our history books. The anarchist movement is barely mentioned despite its profound influence in the early stages of Philippine nationalist resistance and the early part of the anti-imperialist struggle in the country.
Direct democracy is not a new idea. This was and still is being practiced in many parts of the world. But this concept is poorly explored due to the power-hungry behavior of the political and economic elite, not to mention some Leftists who actually advocate and practice authoritarianism.
To refresh our minds, the original Greek meaning of politics came from the word "polis", which entails that the people directly formulate public policies through face-to-face processes called "assemblies" which are based on the ethics of complementarity and solidarity. Of course, the idea was not perfect because the citizens who had the privilege to participate in community management were those who owned slaves and had the luxury of time. But the tradition of direct democracy was evidently workable.
Confederal structures have appeared in history time and again, like those of the 16th century Spanish communeros and the American town meetings which even reached New England and Charleston in the 1770's. This also includes the Parisian sectional assembly during the 1790's, and which occurred again in 1871 in the Paris Commune, and so on.
Instead of organizing a Party, why do we not go back to the communities and localities? Political parties can easily claim that they have an organized network and mass base on the local level, which we will not try to refute. Our concern will focus on the kind of politics that they are employing. Their organizational set-up is inherently top-down due to the representation system wherein a few individuals from the party would represent the interests of the entire nation. This breeds "bossism" wherein a few people are in the apex of the hierarchy. Moreover, they have authority vis-à-vis their members which will eventually end in a leader-and-led relationship. Hence, people become simpletons. Instead of having active, creative, imaginative and dynamic citizens, we have passive and mechanized constituents whose duty is reduced to attending mobilizations and the routinary selection of party leaders that merely reinforces the culture of obedience.
Democracy is not about making obedient followers. It is not about imposing uniform rules to a complex and diverse population in terms of their interests, views, way of life, prejudices, economic activities, social and natural environment, culture, and spiritual life. Rather, democracy is about creating a political atmosphere which is participatory and inclusive of this highly diverse population, which is then based on the actual needs and interests of these communities.
We do not intend to undermine the initiative of political parties when it comes to advancing the interests of the community. But perhaps it is plausible to think that since Leftist parties are only among the minority, they should strive more to gain political value and leverage so that they can mobilize the ordinary people. Their interests therefore are not necessarily identical with those of the communities or localities since the latter are characterized by their diversity. Traditionally, Leftist parties are class-based and have a great tendency to overlook other sectors and groups which are also exploited and are significant in number. This approach often fosters elitism upon the glorified party class.
In a broad sense, direct democracy will be applied by organizing free assemblies at the local level. People's organizations that are based on their nature such as peasants, fisher folk, women, youth, indigenous people, vendors, tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers, the homeless, gays and lesbians, neighborhood associations, religious groups, and other formations at the localities should be encouraged to organize among themselves.
Based on experience, people will surely participate in political processes if the topic to be discussed is directly related to their interests; to their daily activities and to the immediate and strategic needs of their communities. People will conduct face-to-face meetings at the barangay level to tackle their immediate concerns; they will share ideas, duties, and responsibilities to address their issues in relation to other barangays. They will be encouraged to engage in discussions and debates on public facilities using their own language and the existing local mechanisms to facilitate local political mechanisms.
Obviously, an ideal political structure should not mobilize people for the purposes of elevating the political value of certain parties for elections or for the goal of taking political power which, in a sense, would merely reinforce the inactivity of their constituents. This kind of political structure will bring the political arena to the very doorstep of the people. This will create a political atmosphere that encourages the citizens' active, creative, imaginative and dynamic participation.
The ultimate direction of this process is to empower the vast number of marginalized citizens from below. This politics is educative since it will enhance the people's capacity to democratically discuss, decide, formulate, and implement plans with regard to their common resources and own affairs.
In general, the pre-Hispanic barangays were interdependent but loosely federated. Among their bases of interaction were trade, commerce, and war (raids for slaves and wives, and of course, revenge). "Highly" federated barangays were usually found in river mouths or wherever the ports were strategically located for commerce and where economic activities were high. This is not to romanticize the idea of the barangay system, but rather to trace our traditional practice of decentralism which actually proved to be far more humane than the statist model that was imposed on us by Western colonialists, and that is still in place today.
Our idea of decentralization here should not be mistaken as "parochialism" which might lead to the isolation of the locality from the rest of world. Confederalism as defined by Murray Bookchin is above all "a network of administrative councils whose members or delegates are elected from popular, face-to-face democratic assemblies". In our context, structures will be independently organized at the barangay or community level. Every barangay or community assembly will elect delegate/s whose function is purely administrative, such as transmitting information and other practical functions. Policy-making will take place strictly at the popular assemblies in the barangay and community levels. Delegates have no power to decide and they are totally recallable and accountable to the assemblies that mandated them. More importantly, delegates posses no privilege and authority over the citizens.
Confederal councils comprised of substantial delegates will be organized at the municipal and city level; then municipalities and cities will be confederated at the provincial level. The regional level will then comprise the "Archipelagic Confederation". A confederation that connects and interlinks politically and economically every community of the archipelago, and where the functions are administrative and coordinative only. The ultimate idea of the confederation is to integrate all social structures, not in a hierarchical or top-down orientation, but rather from the bottom up. Public policies will be formulated at the grassroots, which will then be expressed at the municipal, city, provincial, and regional levels.
The basis of integration is not competition but rather mutual cooperation, complementation, and solidarity. Every sector, group, and other formations in a municipality will find their place in production processes to ensure the needs of the communities.
We cannot blame groups inclined to the party system and statist model if they immediately express a low appreciation of the proposed alternative political system. Indeed, taking political power is a shortcut to institute desired changes, but such quick changes are not necessarily meaningful for those who did not participate in the seizure of political power. In many instances, the great bulk of the masses are reduced into mere spectators to the political exercise initiated by the few who grabbed power, again making passive, inactive and obedient constituents--the proverbial same dog, different collar.
True, this process is strategic because it also involves changing the behavior of people who are highly influenced by the dominant institutions that promote and reinforce an order based on competition, individualism, and imposed uniformity. As part of processes that resist the current order and the behavior that reinforces it, direct democracy can be employed. In the heist of the brutal effect of grow-or-die market capitalism and a corrupt centralized state, communities should persistently defend their own physical and social space by defining their specific interests in connection with larger communities. We should encourage locals to self-organize and maximize their traditional networks to protect and advance the interests of their localities in relation to the interests and needs of other communities.
Anderson, Benedict. "Under Three Flags: Anarchism and Anti-Colonial Imagination" (2006).
ASEAN-SEAFDEC. Conference on Sustainable Fisheries for Food Security in the New Millennium. "Fish for the People" (2001).
Bookchin, Murray. "Libertarian Municipalism". Article published in Green Perspectives (October 1991).
Bookchin, Murray. "The Meaning of Confederalism". Article published in Green Perspectives (November 1990).
Bookchin, Murray. "Municipalisation: Community Ownership of the Economy". Accessed online from Anarchy Archive.
Bookchin, Murray. "The Population Myth". Accessed online from Anarchy Archive.
Bookchin, Murray. "What is Communalism? The Democratic Dimension of Anarchism". Accessed online from Anarchy Archive.
Chomsky, Noam. Interview by Red and Black Revolution (May 1995).
Friedrich, C.J. and Brzezinski, Z.K. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy (1972).
Maximoff, G.P. Syndicalists in the Russian Revolution.
National Statistics Office. "Socio-economic Characteristics of Households in the Philippines" paper.
Quimpo, Nathan Gilbert. The Philippines: The People Power Revolution of 1986.
Scott, Henry William. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society (1997).