Solidarity message delivered on behalf of BAYAN International Desk at the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)- Philippines Anti-Imperialist Solidarity Program on May 27, 2020 as part of the ILPS Anti-Imperialist Week 2020.
At the height of the fascist Nazi terror, an exiled German playright and poet immersed in Marxist radical thought and practice came out with a collection of poetry entitled Svendborg Poems (1939). This collection opens with Bertolt Brecht’s most famous poem, “Motto”
In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing
About the dark times.
Brecht’s career was shaped by Nazism and the Cold War, of which he was a target of surveillance by the FBI as an exile in the U.S. Both Nazism and the Cold War are imperialist wars waged against the working and popular classes. These wars were a result of capitalism’s crisis to which imperialists can only respond with renewed and more atrocious techniques of colonial expansion—the continued bleeding of value from colonies and semi-colonies for imperialist centers; and the repression of dissent whether in “developed” or underdveloped nations.
On May 9, 1945, also known as Victory Day, the German-led fascist axis was defeated. Eighty percent of all German casualties were quashed by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. One of the greatest victories that saved humanity from the fascists was accomplished by the Red Army. No other class in history has demonstrated such monumental sacrifice and courage to fight for a proletarian vision. Yet seventy five years after, the Cold War rages on despite a hasty proclamation of its end on the so-called fall of Socialism in 1991.
Yet from 1991 onwards, what we have wintessed is none other than a hieghtened crisis of neoliberalism. Rolled out in the late 70s to solve another wave of capitalist crisis, neoliberalism is a class offensive by the global ruling elite against all working and popular calsses worldwide. It meant an intensified imperialist plunder for semi-colonies like the Philippines and austerity measures for the working people of the Global North.
Throughout this continuing crisis, imperialism dominated the world.
But what if there it weren’t up to imperialist domination? What if it were up to the organizing powers of the people, which is to say that political and social power were in the hands of the people? If what we have is not just democracy in its formal sense but democracy that speaks to social power of the working class, then we would have responded to Covid-19 in terms of producing what is necessary.
This organized action would prioritize health, which is not limited to containing the virus. Beyond infection control, our democratic organization would include the collective production and just distribution of healthy food by the people and for the people.
The drive for profits has fully merged the medical sectory and food production (1). The mystification of Covid-19 as an “invisible enemy” is one of imperialism’s tools in waging a permanent war against the people in behalf of multinational agribusiness monopolies—from where pathogens and microbes evolve to infectious diseases,—and big pharma that controls epedemiological research and the production of drugs.
This is why mass testing, contact tracing and the production of PPEs for medical staff are measures of which the working poor, especially of the Global South, are scandalously and criminally deprived. These measures will certainly add to the science of pandemic, an outcome that is inimical to the accumulation of profit for which big pharma and multinational agribusiness monopolies operate. Multinational agribusiness monopolies and even lage-scale local agri-business ventures have not only caused irreparable damage to the soil, air, and water systems, they are built on farm lands once nurtured by indigneous peoples and local farmers. Agribusiness ventures have forcibly taken these lands away from the tillers or took advantage of governments’ manufactured poverty of the farming sector. (2)
Apart from infection control, our organized action would also expose and oppose the inaccessibility of the medical industrial complex to ordinary people. Its deepening financialization and monopolization has turned it into a killing machine that controls medical research and drug production. (3)
But those are not considerations for a government that is far from undergoing a process of revolutionary transformation. Government leaders cannot see pass daily urgencies, which now includes this pandemic; and long before this, each possible chance for flinging profits from taxes and unequal foreign business deals at themselves.
Without undergoing a revolutionary process, governments in neo-colonies like the Philippines cannot plan. This government will always have to wait for imperialist dictates through neoliberal structural adjustment of the economy and culture. This government has no sense of nation because to think of nation and national sovereignty is to be up against imperialism, which has been the source of political and economic power by rich and corrupt Filipino politicians.
Organizing and social planning spell the undoing of the current crop of politicians. This is why they will never solve Covid-19, they wouldn’t know how and they will not let go of this opportunity to impose a large-scale militaristic control over the people. So many of us concede that we do have a multitude of problems. None of it can be solved by our individual contributions, much less, by compromising our freedoms. So many of us also recognize that our problems are structural and can only be honestly posed and humbly recognized as a problem only by a government that chooses a revolutionary transformation of society, which is the opposite of what we have made up of rich people who can only find each crisis an opportunity to accumulate wealth.
No other revolutionary leader like Vladimir Lenin—who led the Bolsheviks in clinching victory for the first international proletarian revolution in 1917 and who in turn and in full revolutionary splendor defeated the Nazis in 1945— captures the dialectic of imperialist domination and revolutionary resistance as well as Brecht’s “singing about the dark times:”
“Imperialism is forcing the masses into this struggle by sharpening class antagonisms to an immense degree, by worsening the conditions of the masses both economically—trusts and high cost of living, and politically—growth of militarism, frequent wars, increase of reaction, strengthening and extension of national oppression and colonial plunder. Victorious socialism must achieve complete democracy and, consequently, not only bring about the complete equality of nations, but also give effect to the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political secession.” (4)
(1) Stan Cox provides a solid research on the capitalist drive for economic growth resulting in the forced intertwining of medicine and food production, a profitable merger that produces ecological destruction in his book Sick Planet:Corporate Food and Medicine. Pluto Press: Ann Arbor, MI, 2008.
(2) For a comprehensive analysis of the neoliberal food production and the adverse cosequences of the same on the ecological chain and the emergence of new viruses, read Rob Wallace’s. Big Farms Make Big Flu:Dispatches on Infectious Disease, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016 and Habib Ayeb’s “Relaunching the System: Bees, Covid-19, Tunisia.” Review of African Political Economy, May 12, 2020 http://roape.net/2020/05/12/relaunching-the-system-bees-covid-19-and-tunisia/?fbclid=IwAR06bd-P4RJhLRg5ncs2dpRAEfZVepfPDCHCMf7bt93fhWn0uCenzytLShM
(3)For a robust discussion on the convergene of health care and imperialism, resulting in the privatization of health care and the widening of the gap between bodies in “developed” countries and labor force in the Global South, see Howard Watizkin ed., Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for our Health. New Monthly Review Press: New York, 2018.
(4) In “The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.” Written in Janaury-February 1916. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jan/x01.htm
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.