ninoy’s politics: “A Christian Democratic Vision”

As I delved deeper into the underlying reasons behind our chronic insurgency problem, I came to a realization: The accepted notions of our capitalist system must be thoroughly reviewed, some very basic capitalist doctrines must be totally discarded.

I also concluded: The answer does not lie in the extreme solution of communism.

In fine, I came to accept: Capitalism must be reformed by an ideology that will restore the original balance between economic and political freedom.

Capitalism must be corrected by vigorous anti-monopoly legislation, supplemented more positively by social welfare and security measures than now exist. Basic economic decisions must be made by the community — the government — and not by the private owners of the means of production. More efficient national economic planning must be adopted to husband our meager resources and bring the greatest good to the greatest number.

Individual economic independence must be restored under conditions set by the people themselves.

It was this realization that prompted me to call for the nationalization of our basic and strategic industries during the late sixties. I proposed then that all public utilities — for a start — should come under government ownership. In the area of mass transit, for example, I advocated a measure of subsidy to alleviate the difficulties of the working poor. In the Senate I joined the sponsors of land reform and urban housing development for the masses.

One of the reasons I joined the Liberal Party in 1963 was because I was convinced by President Macapagal’s welfare state program. I saw it as a step, humble though it was, towards the removal of the great social and economic imbalances in our country — the main causes of our continuing unrest.

If I must be labeled, I think I will fit the label of Christian Socialist best. My ideology flows from the mainstream of Christian Democratic Socialism as practiced in Austria, West Germany and the Scandinavian countries.

I believe that in a democracy, political power is a sacred trust that must be held for the benefit of the people.

I believe that freedom of the individual is all-important and ranks above everything else. Every citizen must be given the equal opportunity to self-fulfillment, to better himself. While it is true indeed that not all men are equally endowed, I believe that every man should be given the equal opportunity for advancement through free, universal and quality education.

Confidence between the majority and the minority, between the government and the governed, is indispensable to the vitality of a democracy. There can be no confidence where established rights are destroyed by fiat.

The supreme value of democracy is freedom, not property. The democratic world will meet the communist challenge if it upholds and unites on the issue of freedom as the fundamental element of human survival.

I believe that once the life of freedom is guaranteed, the question of economic institutions, of private and public enterprise, will take care of itself.

A free media is indispensable if a democracy is to function efficiently, if it is to be real. The people, who are sovereign, must be adequately informed all the time. A reasonable case, reasonably presented, will eventually win the hearts of the people. But the people must know the facts if one expects them to decide correctly.

I believe democracy is not just majority rule, but informed majority rule, and with due respect for the rights of the minorities. It means that while the preference of the majority must prevail, there should be full opportunity for all points of view to find expression. It means toleration for opposition opinions. Where you find suppression of minority opinion, there is no real democracy.

The basic flaw of capitalism is its primary concern for political liberty; it cares comparatively less about social and economic equality. Communism, on the other hand, aims at social and economic equality but ruthlessly opposes and destroys political liberty.

I believe in a Christian Democratic Socialist ideology that will harmonize political freedom with social and economic equality, taking and merging the best of the primary conflicting systems — communism and capitalism.

I have said, and say it here again: I am not a communist, never was, and never will be! These are my reasons:

1. Communism calls for violence in the overthrow of existing institutions regardless of the cost in human lives. The individual’s interest is subordinate to that of the state. It aims to establish a dictatorship under a one-party system. It tolerates no truth other than itself!

As Engels bluntly put it, in a letter to Bebel: ‘As the State is only a transitional institution which we are obliged to use in the revolutionary struggle, in order to crush our enemies by force, it is pure nonsense to speak of a free people’s State. During the period that the proletariat needs the State, it needs it, not in the interests of freedom, but in the interest of crushing its antagonists; and when it becomes possible really to speak of freedom, the State as such will cease to exist.’ (Quoted in Lenin’s State and Revolution, pp 170-171, Vanguard Press, 1926)

And as Lenin himself wrote: ‘Dictatorship is an authority relying directly upon force, and not bound by any laws. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is an authority maintained by means of force over and against the bourgeoisie, and not bound by any law.’
(Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution, p.15)

I believe in evolutionary reform and I regard all human life as equally priceless, regardless of circumstances. I hold individual freedom most sacred, because it is God’s gift. I cannot accept any form of dictatorship, whether of the left, the right or the center.

2. Revolutionary communism visualizes the transition from capitalist enterprise to public ownership as a sudden, violent and complete act. There is no payment or compensation for expropriated property, because it considers capitalist property, morally and socially, as little better than theft. It is committed dogmatically to the principle of public ownership of all forms of property, excepting only personal consumer goods.

3. I am not committed to any a priori dogma of the inherent supremacy of public ownership over private. I believe in the Christian Socialist ideology that seeks to establish a set of rational, pragmatic, empirically verifiable criteria that qualify an industry for nationalization. I agree that monopolies in private hands must never be allowed. I also believe that basic and strategic industries must be nationalized, because it is too dangerous to leave the determination of national needs and priorities in the hands of a few. My primary concern is national interest and the general welfare, not nationalization.

I am for the payment of just compensation for the expropriation of property, but I hold that the state should regulate the re-investment of these compensatory funds. For example, funds paid landowners in the expropriation sale of their ricelands should not be allowed to be invested in overseas or foreign ventures, or even in any of the nation’s other regions. The government should set up industries where the expropriated lands are located, then exchange stocks in these industries for the land bonds paid the landowners.

In this way, two things are accomplished: There is no capital flight from the region and additional job opportunities for non-farm workers are created. If capital flight is allowed, landowners will reinvest their funds in, say, Manila; during the amortization period, there will be a steady capital drain from the original region.

I adhere to an evolutionary program. This must always stand the test of national approval as expressed through periodic elections, plebiscites, referenda, which will ensure that the program is implemented — and will continue to be implemented — only with the consent of the majority freely expressed.

4. In communism, the opposition is liquidated. I believe the opposition must be won over.

Lenin held that workers under capitalism are mentally enslaved to the capitalist ideology and incapable of peaceful conversion to socialism without changing first the economic structure of society. Violence, he said, is the sole vehicle for change because the capitalist will yield only to force. To use a much-abused cliche, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Lenin based his justification of Communist Party rule on the assumption that the masses are incapable of understanding and acting “correctly.” They must be led, Lenin held, by “a dedicated band of selfless revolutionary professionals” who possess the “correct knowledge of the laws of history and society.” He advocated not a dictatorship of but over the proletariat! In this, his apologia for authoritarianism did not differ from any other apology for tyranny.

Finally, Lenin argued that because communists are engaged in a ceaseless struggle, a class war which is always a ruthless conflict, the communist has no room for sentimentality, for romanticism, but must use all possible tactical and strategic means, whether legal or illegal, to reach his objectives. This is, shorn of Leninist jargon: the revolutionary seizure of power. It is, said Lenin, the only way.

I am a humanist, a democrat and a romantic. And this is where I part company with the communists.

In 1969, I visited the Soviet Union on the invitationof the USSR Friendship Society. I was allowed to bring a television crew to film my tour and interviews. I saw the great progress made by that mighty communist regime. In less than sixty years, Russia had emerged from backwardness to the status of a super-power!

Thepeople looked well-fed. Everyone seemed to be employed. The universities were full of eager students. Cost of living was kept at a stable minimum. From all appearances indeed, communist Russia was the dreamed-of Utopia where unemployment, hunger and want had been banished.

But I left Russia with a distinct feeling — that there was something lacking in the Soviet paradise. On reflection, I realized what was lacking: there was a lack of color and variety; miles and miles of high-rise apartments which all looked the same; the people rarely smiled.

In the exhibition parks where the Sputniks and the latest Soviet farm equipment were displayed, there were thousands of ogling Russians but very few talked to a foreigner. I got the impression from my interviews with people that they weighed every word they spoke. They were uneasy speaking to a foreigner.

Yes, the Russian people had their bread. But they had lost their freedom!

According to Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russians still crave for freedom, but they have lost the will to fight for it:

x x x we are waiting for freedom to fall on our lap like some unexpected miracle, without any effort on our part, while we ourselves do nothing to win it. Never mind the old traditions of supporting people in political trouble, feeding the fugitive, sheltering the passless and the homeless (we might lose our state-controlled jobs). We labor day by day, conscientiously and sometimes even with talent, to strengthen our common prison.

Solzhenitsyn said that if the Russian people had only willed to live on a crust of bread and be honest, they would be free and invincible.

On the eve of his exile, he gave this parting judgment of his people which may well be a universal diagnosis:

“We have got what we deserved!”