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Successful socialism conference held in the Philippines

A successful ‘socialism conference’ was held in Manila from November 27 to 28. The conference was organized by the socialist Partido Lakas ng Masa or Party of the Labouring Masses (PLM) and the socialist-feminist regional network Transform Asia. The conference was attended by 100 delegates, leaders of the PLM from Metro Manila, and other leading socialists of the Philippine left, as well as 13 international guests.
The international organisations represented came from the Malaysian Socialist Party (PSM); People’s Democratic Party (PRD-Indonesia); Working People’s Association (PRP-Indonesia); Political Committee of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD-Indonesia); Socialist Alliance (Australia); The Left Party (Sweden); the General Confederation of Nepalese Trade Unions (Gefont); the Vietnamese Union of Friendship Organisations; and the Centre for Environment and Community Asset Development (Vietnam). Keynote speakers at the conference included the newly appointed Cuban Ambassador to the Philippines Juan Corrales. Greetings were also given by the representative of the Venezuelan embassy, Charge d’affaires Manuel Iturbe.

The aim of the conference was explained by the opening speaker Reihana Mohideen, Chairperson of Transform Asia. “We need to go beyond anti-capitalism. We have no shortage of those criticizing the horrors of capitalism today, including the capitalists themselves, such as George Soros and even former leaders of international finance institutions, such as Joseph Stiglitz… to NGOs, who are also critics of the system. [But] anti-capitalism is not enough today. We need to put forward alternatives to the capitalist system and we need to name these alternatives,as socialism. This is what this conference aims to do,” she explained.

Conference highlights included panels and discussions on socialist strategy, the capitalist economic crisis and socialist alternatives to the environmental crisis. Sonny Melencio Chairperson of PLM argued that “there’s no strategy for all seasons” and that strategy is “not something constant, fixed, once and for all.” “Strategy becomes a key question during historic turning points, when there is intensification in the class struggle and during political crises…. [Otherwise] we face periods of protracted organising and the preparation of the forces of the working class.”

Melencio gave some examples of such historic turning points: “While Lenin did not use the term strategy, the question of strategy was posed in the 1905 and the 1917 Russian revolutions, when the capture of political power by the working class was resolved through insurrection … The second world war gave rise to national liberation movements and the strategy of Mao’s peoples war or protracted peoples war [emerged] in China… Gramsci put forward the idea of ‘war of positions and war of maneuvers’ which was in the context of the structure of the state in western countries.”

Melencio outlined the strategy pursued by PLM as a “combination of uprising or people's power action and electoral intervention”, also drawing from the lessons of the revolutions in Venezuela and Bolivia that involved insurrectionary uprisings and electoral victories.

Bui Ba Binh, from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, described the situation in Vietnam today under the ‘socialist oriented market economy’. He explained that the key features of this orientation was “to consider the market as a means to achieve social development objectives…to rationally use the market space… and to harmoniously link the market space with public, non-market, space in other fields.” According to Binh, the ‘socialist-oriented market economy’ has brought about real positive changes in Vietnam.

The final plenary session included a discussion on socialist internationalism and the call made by the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela for the formation of a Fifth International. Speaking on the proposal Arul Arutchelvan, from the Socialist Party of Malaysia, explained the importance of the proposal. “Hugo Chavez and Venezuela have the moral authority to call for the Fifth International because of their commitment to building socialism in the 21st century.

It’s also a non-sectarian position taken by Chavez. This is not a rigid [structure] it calls upon all left parties and anti-imperialist groupings to come together.”

The conference concluded with a performance by the PLM cultural group Teatro Pabrika and the singing of the Internationale.

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