Keynote Address to the 10th National Congress of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)
April 5, 2016

By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle

We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, convey our most heartfelt greetings of solidarity to the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and to the hundreds of participants in your 10th National Congress. We join the concurrent celebration of the 30th anniversary of COURAGE. We salute and applaud COURAGE for its perseverance and brilliant victories in the struggle for the rights and welfare of government employees. We are proud of COURAGE as a member-organization of the ILPS.

We share with you the joy, resoluteness and optimism expressed by the theme of your congress: “Ipagbunyi ang tatlong dekada ng militante, progresibo at makabayang unyonismo! Ipamandila ang mga aral at tagumpay sa pamumuno sa sektor publiko! Paigtingin ang laban sa neoliberal na atake sa sahod, trabaho at karapatan!” (Celebrate three decades of militant, progressive and patriotic unionism! Propagate the lessons and victories in leading the public sector! Intensify the struggle against the neoliberal attacks on salaries, jobs and rights!)

We are confident that your Congress will be successful in summing up your experience, drawing lessons, formulating plans and electing your national officers that will take the leadin realizing your plans for the next three years. We are certain that you will further strengthen your commitment and unity, that you will win ever greater victories in the sector of government employees and that you will contribute further to the struggle of the Filipino people for national independence and democracy.

You have asked me to discuss the intensifying neoliberal attacks on Filipino workers. Let me put neoliberalism in historical context. It comes on top of the  basic capitalist principle of maximizing private profit by minimizing the amount for wages; and on top of the persisting neocolonial type of domination by foreign monopoly capitalism through economic and financial control and manipulation.

Neoliberalism was conceived of in the 1930s in Europe. It has become the dominant economic policy in the world capitalist system since Reagan and Thatcher adopted it in the early 1980s. It has an anti-worker and anti-people bias. It blames workers and unions for so-called wage inflation and government social spending as the cause of the phenomenon of stagflation in the 1970s. It presupposes that the economy runs and grows well if the so-called free market or in fact the monopoly capitalists decide everything and the state in principle does not intervene in the economy, except to give monopoly capitalists all opportunities to accelerate profit-taking and capital accumulation and to regulate the money supply and interest rates in order to prevent inflation.

The presumption is that the monopoly capitalists are the creators of wealth and jobs and must have complete freedom to take profits and accumulate capital. The bigger the capital they have, the more capable they are supposed to be in expanding the economy and creating jobs. Thus, the neoliberal policy pushes  attacks on wages, job security and trade union rights, cutbacks on government social spending, tax cuts for the bourgeoisie, trade and investment liberalization, privatization of state assets and public services, anti-social and anti-environmental deregulation and denationalization of the underdeveloped economies.. Public sector workers are particularly vulnerable because the neoliberal policy of privatisation entails massive layoffs of government employees and the suppression of wages and rights of those who remain employed in the public sphere. Neoliberalism is a cynical and cruel policy of unbridled greed.

The neoliberal economic policy has generated a series of disasters for the world capitalist system. Marx taught us a long time ago that if the capitalists increase constant capital by decreasing variable capital for wages the crisis of relative overproduction would arise and recur. And if the capitalists resort to expanding money supply and credit, and increasing debt in the process in order to counter the crisis of overproduction and the tendency of the profit rate to fall; as well as to avail of bailouts using public money and to make artificial or speculative profits from the financial markets, the financial overhang would surely come crashing down on the real economy. Thus, the neoliberal policy has induced one big financial bubble after another and caused one economic and financial crisis after another, with each later crisis worse than the previous one.

Now let me come down to the level of the Philippine economy. This has been kept underdeveloped, impoverished, pre-industrial and semifeudal by policies preceding the neoliberal policy. It has become even more so under the neoliberal policy regime, notwithstanding the glossy upscale private construction, shopping malls, the rise of import-dependent and debt-financed consumption, the widespread destructive open pit mining, the wanton export of men and women, the business processing centers and so on. The Philippines has suffered one economic and financial crisis after another but seems to be resilient. But of course you must be aware of the rising public debt and the rise of unemployment, even when there is an extraordinarily big inflow of portfolio investments as in 2011 to 2014 to conjure the illusion of economic growth under the US-Aquino regime.

It is in the ultra-national interest of US imperialism to trample upon the national sovereignty of the Filipino people in order gain politico-military control over the Philippines and to denationalize the economy, grab the national patrimony, and plunder the labor power and natural resources of the Philippines and dominate the most profitable businesses. US imperialism deliberately and systematically keeps down the development of Philippine industry and agriculture in order to take advantage of the cheap labor and natural resources of the country.

Under the neoliberal policy, nationality requirements have been removed or reduced in favor of the US and other foreign corporations in banking, trade, semi-manufacturing, construction, mining, plantations, logging, and so on. The importation of manufactures and even agricultural products has been loosened through elimination or reduction of tariffs and non-tariff measures under the auspices of the WTO and other lopsided trade agreements churned out by so-called trade and investment liberalization.

Successive waves of privatization have transferred ownership and control of billions of dollars worth of public assets, utilities and services to foreign monopoly capitalists and their local partners. These have taken many guises such as outright sale of state assets,  award of concessions to utilities, build-operate-transfer schemes for infrastructure, outsourcing of services, corporatization of public institutions, and now the so-called public-private partnerships in infrastructure and energy projects. Privatization has always resulted in the massacre of jobs. The privatizing companies benefit from this, aside from the giveaway prices of the assets privatized

The US and other foreign monopoly capitalists connive with the big compradors, landlords and corrupt high officials in keeping the Philippines underdeveloped and impoverished and afflicted by a high rate of unemployment. These conditions compel the unemployed to accept low wages or even work abroad, leaving their families behind, and serve to push down the wage level of those previously employed. The neoliberal policy dictates upon the puppet government not to use the state and its resources for the national industrialization of the economy and to use the coercive apparatuses of the state to oppress the working class and prevent them from exercising their rights to unionize and strike and to suppress the patriotic and progressive forces that demand national industrialization.

Even the fundamental democratic demand for land reform of the peasant majority of the people has been reduced to a mere private market transaction under the neoliberal policy. Since the first Aquino regime, the principle of voluntary sale of land by the landlords and the definition of just compensation as fair market value in the 1977 constitution has more than ever before perpetuated the method of preventing land reform by setting an unaffordably high redistribution price as a result of the connivance of the landlords and the agrarian reform bureaucrats. In the meantime, foreign and local corporations are grabbing the land and natural resources at the expense of the peasants and indigenous peoples.

The neoliberal policy discourages the puppet government from using public resources in order to advance industrial development, expand production and employment, and ensure the wellbeing of all. But it pushes the privatization of public assets for foreign corporations. It allows these corporations unlimited access to local credit facilities. It gives to them contracts and subsidies in infrastructure and energy projects under the Public Private Partnership Program. And it does away with the laws and regulations that protect labor, women, children and the environment. As a result of the huge accumulated public debt, austerity measures are being increasingly adopted by the puppet government. They include lowering of wages, salaries and social benefits and mass lay-offs in private companies and government offices.

US imperialism has the most responsibility for the policies, laws and regulations that attack the wage conditions of workers.  These include the contractualization of workers and government employees, regionalization of wage standards and the so-called Wage Rationalization Law and Salary Standardization Law. These have been adopted and enforced in order to push down wages and salaries and increase the superprofits of the foreign monopoly companies and their big comprador collaborators. The privatization of social services (e.g. health and schools) has served to undermine the wage and living conditions of the workers and government employees who have to pay higher fees to private hospitals and schools.

We the ILPS urge COURAGE to carry forward its work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing  the government employees to uphold, defend and advance their rights and welfare within the framework of the national democratic movement. You must inspire people to fight for a new kind of government that truly serves their interests. The success of the mass work of COURAGE benefits not only the government employees but inspires the workers in the private enterprises and shows them the way how to carry out mass work and advance the struggle.

We are certain that as a result of your Congress and celebration of your 30th anniversary you are more determined than ever before to continue undertaking indoor and outdoor meetings to inform and educate your constituency on long-term and burning issues, to organize local unions in key agencies and all other agencies of the government on various territorial scales and to conduct mass mobilizations on national and public sector issues among the government employees and in concert with all workers and the the broad masses of the people.###

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