Friday, July 24, 2015

Lessons of the fall of Marcos (1986)

Editorial from the April 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have always argued that it is possible to establish socialism by peaceful, democratic means, through the working class organising into a mass political movement and using existing elective institutions, imperfect as they are from the standpoint of pure democracy.

Our attitude has often been criticised by people who argue that "no ruling class has ever given up power peacefully" and that "the capitalist class will never let the workers use elections to dislodge them but would refuse to accept a socialist electoral victory".

To these criticisms we have replied that once the vast majority of wage and salary workers want socialism the game is up for the capitalist class and that, even if they refused to accept a socialist victory at the polls, this would not save them. Once a majority want socialism, nothing can stop them getting it since capitalism just could not continue in the face of a population which refused to accept the right of a minority to own and control the means of production and to exploit the rest of society. In other words, what is decisive is not so much the socialist electoral victory as the understanding and the determination to achieve socialism which this would reflect.

The recent event in the Philippines which led to the downfall of President Marcos have confirmed this analysis of what is likely to happen when a government enjoying only a minority support tries to defy a majority movement. Here was a dictator who falsified the election results and tried to use his apparent control of the machinery of the government and the armed forces to stay in power. But in the end, however, he had to surrender power because the ideas of the mass opposition movement had penetrated the armed forces and so rendered them unusable as an instrument of oppression.

Of course the issue at stake in the Philippines was not socialism or capitalism, but what happened there was nevertheless still an example of a confrontation involving a government trying to hang on to power in the face of a hostile population. In fact, a capitalist government faced with a mass majority socialist movement will be in an even weaker position than Marcos was, for not only will the tiny handful of capitalists enjoy less support but the socialist movement will be even more organised and determined than was the Philippines opposition.

In these circumstances the capitalist class would be compelled to surrender straightaway. If they were so foolish as to try to resist the clearly expressed will of the vast majority of the population they would find that their armed forces, composed of workers and inevitably penetrated by socialist ideas and so sympathetic to the movement for socialism, a broken reed in their hands. They would simply be swept aside.

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