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The Philippines after Estrada
THE REMOVAL of the corrupt Philippines president Joseph Estrada, came in the wake of months' long mass street demonstrations and protests. It has been dubbed 'people's power II', named after the mass movement which ended the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies in 1986.
Replacing Estrada with Gloria Arroyo has allowed the capitalist class to breath a sigh of relief, as the prolonged political crisis meant economic instability. When the Manila stock exchange opened on Monday 22 January, share prices shot up.
The peso had sunk to a record low of 55 to the US dollar, the budget deficit spiralled to $2.5 billion as taxes were not collected and foreign investment slumped. Unemployment went back up to 14%, a level not experienced since the days of president Marcos's dictatorship. Growth in the economy slowed to around 2%.
The capitalist elite's choice for president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is not popular among the country's poor, many of whom still harbour illusions in the former film star Estrada.
Daughter of a previous president, and wife of a wealthy businessman and land-owner, Arroyo is an US-educated economist and firm advocate of the implementation of International Monetary Fund dictats. These include opening up the economy to foreign exploitation.
But the hopes of the capitalist class for a rosy future are marred by the prospect of a downturn in the world economy. The developing recession in the US will hit the Philippines hard.
THE PHILIPPINES working class - who have a proud tradition of fighting against political and economic exploitation - must resist giving support to Arroyo who is a political representative of the bosses.
During the 1998 election in which Estrada and Arroyo were elected along with the senators and congressmen, the working class had no chance to vote for workers' candidates arguing a socialist case.
Only people and parties with big money can stand and the left-wing Sanlakas organisation, for example, while it had candidates from the factory committees in Manila, gave strict instructions that no socialism should be talked about in the election campaign.
Since then, one or two new parties have emerged, which include the word socialist in their name. Such parties should be campaigning for new elections, to a new kind of assembly.
Such an assembly, in which workers' and poor people's elected representatives formed a majority, would begin to address the massive problems facing the Philippines' masses. They could mobilise for the taking into public ownership of the top 30 companies, the land and the banks and the operation of a plan of production and distribution under the democratic control of workers and poor people.
FOR NOW, the movement of the working class has been limited but this is only a temporary phenomenon.
To be victorious, workers and young people must put no trust in representatives of other classes. They must plan and execute independent class action that will bring results. They must forge a conscious leadership - a party - which can foresee what is going to happen and draw up a strategy, programme and tactics for winning the battle for socialism world-wide.
The example of 'People Power ll', in spite of all the limitations, will act as a spur and an inspiration in the rest of Asia to all those struggling to replace crony capitalism with genuine democratic socialist societies.
A full statement on events in the Philippines is available from the CWI Website www.socialistworld.net
In The Socialist 2 February 2001: