Thousands of workers belonging to the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and its allied labor organizations marched in the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cotabato, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro to commemorate the 145th birthday of Gat Andres Bonifacio. The workers renewed their commitments to the struggle for social change as they vowed to fight Charter Change and to push for a comprehensive set of policy reforms that would ensure full employment.
We are facing what many people expect to be the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression in the 1920s. And yet rather than unify the country behind a comprehensive plan that can help us cope with the coming economic tsunami, the Arroyo regime once again opted to launch another bid for Charter Change.
“This is a useless and divisive exercise that serves no other purpose but to extend the term of a moribund government,” Daniel L. Edralin, APL Chairperson, said.
Change the Economic Regime
“What we need is a radical change in the country’s economic regime,” Edralin said. The global financial crisis is the final evidence that the neoliberal project – the restructuring of the economy through privatization, liberalization and deregulation – has miserably failed. While it created incredible riches for a very few, it has condemned many millions into joblessness and poverty.
“Neoliberalism is dead,” Edralin declared. “It is time for alternative economics – a Worker’s Alternative,” he added.
The labor leader explained that the APL is pushing for a comprehensive set of policy reforms aimed at: providing relief for workers; protecting workers’ jobs; and, more importantly, generating decent jobs for all by reviving the domestic economy. It also calls for the completion of the agrarian reform and the development of a clear industrial policy.
“Government should bailout all workers who would be displaced by the financial crisis by providing them with financial support,” Edralin said. Some members of APL affiliates are already suffering from shorter workweek as factories have started cutting back on its production.
To protect workers’ jobs, the “Workers’ Alternative“ calls on government to rescind its Rationalization Plan (EO 366) that threatens to lay-off 30% of workers in the public sector. It also demands that government should study how to keep factories going even if its owners have decided to fold up.
To promote full employment, it is necessary for the country to revitalize its domestic economy through massive public spending for: infrastructure development that will help the rural economy (irrigation systems, farm to market roads, etc.); socialized public housing especially in the urban areas; and provision of basic social services such as education and health.
“We can finance all these by declaring a moratorium on debt servicing and by repudiating illegitimate debts,” Edralin said.
Change the Political Regime
All these would require an effective and activist government that enjoys the full support of the people. And there lies the rub as the Arroyo regime is completely incapable of playing this role. “The Arroyo regime is too corrupt, too power hungry and too unpopular to be able to play this role,” Edralin said.
Worst, the Arroyo regime continues to wage a deadly war of extermination against all its political “enemies”. At the top of its hit list are leaders of mass organizations.
“We need to defeat the Arroyo regime’s efforts to extend its term through Charter Change, but more importantly, we need to end its term as soon as possible,” Edralin declared.
A Better World is Possible
The labor movement’s struggle for a better world is a continuation of the revolution started by Andres Bonifacio. After all, their revolution was a struggle against all forms of oppression. To end oppression in the country would need nothing less than a systemic change.
“As global capitalism totters, more and more people see that socialism is the viable alternative,” Edralin finally said.