Sunday, November 22, 2009

15 Nov- Asean left united on Neo-Liberalism

The second day Sosialism 2009 forum was on the Impact of Neo-liberal policies and building resistance against neo-liberal offensive. There was good number of foreign and local popular panellists such as Dr. Farish Noor, Charles Santiago, Francisco Dodong from Philippines & many others.

Dominggo, the first panellist from Indonesia is very distressed with the fact that more informal sectors (about 70%) causing weakening of unionization among workers. More workers in the industrial site getting laid off and in the labour market, the supply is more than the demand. So, wages goes down, quality of live goes down, education and health goes down but inflation growing and so does consumption. Meaning people can’t save and they are embedded with debt. He said that 115 million people in Indonesian surviving with less that USD2 a day. Why? Neo-liberalism

The second panellist odong spoke more about his government’s involvement in implementing Neo-liberal policy and it seems Philippine is the fist country to embrace neo-liberalism in the region. Obviously, since they have ‘special relationship’ with the Americans. He is furious with the national bourgeoisie who were given tons of money by the government but took a shortcut by becoming sub-contractors to many industries established overseas and they failed to build technology in their own country.

Our third speaker, comrade Charles Speaker expanded the discussion to international level e.g. the Free Trade Agreement bilateral and unilateral dialogues that is currently going on in the region. He also reminded the audience of how much privatisation in Malaysia e.g. water, rice, electricity, health and so on is burdening the grassroots. While on the other hand, government is absorbing loss of the corporate sectors who lacks expertise in the industries they invested and making huge loss. And yet the government reduce the tax of the corporate sectors from 40% (1988) to 26% (2009) while planning to implement Goods and Service Tax that was suspended 2 years back. Meaning the public, 25 million Malaysians will pay tax for every single thing purchased. It’s not a problem at all for the 6% richest in the country, it is certainly too much for the 70% poor and the middle class!

Third speaker, Comrade Farish took us to the global arena. His point of view is that War on Terror is strongly linked to Neo-Liberalism. How? Terrorism is basically a form of resistance. The impact of free market since the 1970’s and the intervention of the FDI – foreign direct investment as well as Structural Adjustment Policies introduced by IMF and World Bank led to social upheaval to many countries in SEA. In order for capitalism to grow, the unions and the leftist who were against the free market were squashed. He says, the resistance also came in the form of ethno nationalist and religio-communalist! The suffering from the neo-liberal policies are immeasurable thus the resistance is growing and how do you counter it? Anti-terrorist campaign of US and it’s cronies get full support from the ASIA countries as well.

After hearing about the evil of neo-liberal economics, Another group of panels, Comrade Mahendra from Indonesia, Vipar from Thailand, Teodorico from Phillipines and Sivarajan from Malaysia. They spoke about “Building Resistance against Neo-liberal Offensive”.

Number of propositions prompt from this discussion – building workers force, working class party, factory occupations and workers self management, joint campaign by SEA left groups, creating the hegemony through various party e.g. Islamic groups, green movement and the socialist. There was strong commendation that we should be upfront in countering capitalist hegemony and called for class consciousness in the region to fight these emerging trends of capitalism.

Time to time and each speaker almost stressing on the same issue – build the third force driven by the masses by radicalising them and that would able them to make informed decision in determining who hold the power in the government – Islamists, capitalists, liberalists or socialists.