Philippines: 'Socialism gives us a fighting chance'

On September 24, one day after the United Nations climate summit in New York once more failed to come up with any form of serious action to confront the climate crisis, Filipino socialist group Party of the Labouring Masses released the statement below.

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Philippines President Benigno Aquino concluded his United Nations speech in New York on September 23 by posing the question: What more can we do?

The question is rhetorical, even hypocritical, as the president well knows what needs to be done: to address the demands of the mass movements, which he has heard, but not heeded.

We have been campaigning for an end to coal-based power generation, for example. How has the president responded? By dramatically increasing coal-power generation. His actions are completely contrary to his statements.

We are confounded not by the inaction of the president but by his sheer hypocrisy. Time after time his government has shown utter disregard for the mass movement's demands and demonstrated where its real interests lie.

This is not with the people and the environment, but with sustaining corporate profits, such as that of the mining companies, and sustaining capitalist interests, whatever the social cost.

We need to develop the energy sector based on moving to 100% renewable sources. This has to be consistent with our social and economic program, which is based on community ownership and control.

Large centralised systems are prone to corruption and serve the interests of the big corporations. The smaller, decentralised systems are more conducive to community ownership and control. They are also far more effective in responding to climate change impacts.

During Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines last November, solar-powered lanterns were the most practical and quickest way to provide lighting and protection at night in the affected communities, especially for women and children. It also became apparent that if the generation and distribution systems were decentralised mini-grids, they could have been operational in a matter of days.

These systems are not high-tech. The technology exists, such as solar photovoltaic technology. The costs keep declining. They require very little routine operation and maintenance. Such systems are “smart” because they can benefit the people, not corporate and corrupt political interests.

What does not exist is the political will to move in this direction, in a determined and comprehensive way.

It is capitalism, a global system based on prioritising profits over people, that has brought us to the brink of a climate-induced catastrophe that can destroy humanity.

There is no “sustainable capitalism”. There is “disaster capitalism”, which epitomises capitalist greed for profit, at any cost. And this is happening before our very eyes.

In the Philippines, we go through one climate crisis after another, with the loss of thousands of lives. And the class issues don’t recede, but come to the fore. It is the poor who are the most vulnerable, while the rich flee in their helicopters, as we witnessed during Typhoon Yolanda.

Now they are coming back, like vultures, to make profits out of the disaster and human misery. The regime is completely wedded to preserving and serving these neoliberal capitalist interests. It is the architect of “disaster capitalism"” in post-Yolanda Visayas [in the central Philippines].

We understand that this is a global challenge and the industrialised countries bear a historic responsibility. But while we demand that they are made accountable for their climate debt, we also believe that a national government that is not wedded to capitalist and elite interests can play a crucial role in responding to the climate crisis and in saving and protecting lives.

This is demonstrated by the actions of the socialist government of Evo Morales in Bolivia. The Morales government is trying to move Bolivia in a post-capitalist direction, not dependent on extracting fossil fuels, by helping foster the communitarian sector.

It shows what is possible in a small country, when a government is prepared to break with the capitalist neoliberal agenda and follow a socialist path.

An alternative path to the neoliberal-capitalist development model is needed: a 21st century socialist alternative.

This is no time to tinker at the edges, pleading for minor changes. The capitalist system must be dismantled and a socialist system must be built, one that is based on social and economic solidarity and the power of the masa (people).

There is no capitalist sustainability. A 21st century socialist alternative gives us more than a fighting chance to address the climate crisis.

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