Socialist Strategy

Presentation by Sonny Melencio,

Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)


What is strategy?

Oxford dictionary:

• a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
nthe art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle.

Socialist strategy:

• a plan of action or policy designed to achieve socialism.
Trotsky:  Revolutionary strategy refers to a combination of system or process of actions which by their association, consistency, and growth must lead the working class to the conquest of power. 

Mao: The task of the science of strategy is to study those laws for directing a war that govern a war situation as a whole.

Stalin: Strategy is the determination of the direction of the main blow of the proletariat at a given stage of the revolution, the elaboration of a corresponding plan for the disposition of the revolutionary forces (main and secondary reserves), the fight to carry out this plan throughout the given stage of the revolution.

There’s no strategy for all seasons

• Strategy is not something constant, fixed once and for all. It alters in accordance with the turns in history, or with historic changes. With each separate turn in history a separate strategic plan is drawn up corresponding to that turn, and effective during the whole period from that turn to the next. Strategy defines the direction of the main blow to be delivered by the revolutionary forces and the corresponding disposition of the vast masses on the social front. Naturally, a strategic plan suitable for one period of history, which has its own specific features, cannot be suitable for another period of history, which has entirely different specific features.

Historic Turns

• Development in the class struggle
• Intensification of the class struggle (class war)
• Political crisis
• Development in the balance of class forces (breakdown of “consent”)

Period of Marx and Engels (19th century)

• For a long while during the period of capitalist development, when the capitalist class was still a progressive class, Marx and Engels remarked that the immediate task faced by the revolutionary socialists was to organize the broad masses of workers to fight for reforms.  These are reforms that will be fought under the framework of a developing capitalist society—side by side with the advance of propaganda work and education among the masses on the ultimate objective of socialism.

There is no strategy during this period

• There is no talk of strategy during the time of Marx and Engels, save for the period of the outbreak of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in Europe in 1848-49.
• In Communist Manifesto, they anticipated the eruption of bourgeois revolutions in Europe, particularly in Germany—revolutions which, they said, would occur in countries with more advanced capitalist system as compared to the bourgeois revolution in England during the 17th century and in France during the 18th century.

Historic turn: the 1848-49 revolution that eventually failed

• In the aftermath of the successive defeat of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions in 1848-49, Marx and Engels reviewed their former assessment of the revolutionary epoch: “History has proved us… wrong.  It has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent [of Europe] at the time was not… ripe for the elimination of capitalist production.”

Return to protracted organizing

• Period of extended preparation of the working class.  The revolutionary socialists led the day-to-day struggle of the workers for economic and political rights, alongside conducting socialist propaganda among the working class masses.  The formation of mass-based working class parties.  Codified in the programs of the parties;   the most famous of which was the Erfurt Program of the German Social-Democratic Party formed in 1891.

Historic turn: Lenin’s period

• While Lenin did not use the term strategy, the question of strategy was posed in the 1905 and the 1917 Russian revolution when it was resolved in the capture of political power by the working class.

Historic turn: World Wars

• The world wars constituted historical turns. The second world war gave rise to the national liberation movements.
• Mao: People’s War or Protracted People’s War.

Rise of the National Liberation Movements (1940s-1960s)

• Strategy of national liberation movement (war and guerrilla movement)
• Victory in Cuba (January 1, 1959)
• Culminated in the victory of the Vietnamese revolution (1975)

Strategy according to Gramsci

• Gramsci’s war of positions and war of maneouvers.
• The key struggle for revolutionaries is not a direct assault on state power, but the struggle for ideological dominance, for ‘hegemony’.
• “In Russia the State was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West … when the State trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed. The State was only an outer ditch, behind which there stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.”

War of position & War of maneouver

War of position — a long drawn out struggle in which the two armies are deadlocked in battle, each hardly able to move forward, like the trench warfare of 1914-18.

War of manoeuvre — involves rapid movement by the rival armies, with thrusts forwards and backwards as each tries to outflank the other and its cities (frontal assault on the state, i.e., 1917 revolution in Russia).

Developing counter-hegemony

• The working class can only become ‘counter-hegemonic’ by winning over the main sections of the intellectuals and the classes they represent.
• Generic/Traditional intellectual and the organic intellectual.
• Until the working class has achieved the task of becoming the ‘hegemonic’ class, attempts to seize state power can only end in defeat.

Historical Turn:1980s

• 1980s up to the present, period of Neo-Liberal Globalization
• Political impasse
• Combination of uprising and electoral victory (Venezuela and Bolivia, Latin America today)

PLM Strategy

•Combination of uprising (people’s power action) and electoral intervention (winning political seats).
•Gains in the barangay elections.
•Prospect: Unresolved economic mess, unfolding political crisis.
•Disunity of the Left – former divide between the “democratic left” and the “non-democratic left” remains; but a new division among the left in terms of social democracy (reforms through alliance with the ruling elite) and revolutionary democratic project.

New Forces

• New forces:
• “Military Rebels” (OMRs), radicalizing layer
• Youth and students
• Unemployed labor force

Third Period

• Prospect for advance
• Escalation of class struggle (influence of the European escalation of class struggle; TINA replaced with CIM.  “There is no alternative” replaced with “Capitalism is a mess”.
• Left unity
• Absence of left unity, the emergence of new forces and new leadership in the mass struggle.


Renewing Socialist Feminism

(Feminist Forum, Sweden May 2011)


Need for anti-capitalist alternatives

•The women’s movement, the leadership, needs to put forward a socialist feminist alternative once again.
•Issues of system-change and anti-capitalist alternatives not seriously addressed today.
•The movement subsumed by ‘advocacies.

Why so?

Because of the economic and social conjuncture we face today. Global System of neo-liberal capitalism in deep crisis:
•Renewal of socialism and feminism in Latin America: Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba continues.

Has the system delivered?

•For a minority, yes. For a majority of women, No!
•We have formal equality (anti-discrimination legislation, etc) but not substantive social and economic equality.
•But the gender gap increasing:
–Between women in the industrialised countries and South or Third World
–The class gap amongst women inside the North and South increased and increasing.


•Poor children die at three times the rate of the children of the rich,
•Under-five mortality rates are 66 child deaths to every 1000 live births amongst the poor, compared to 21 child deaths to every 1000 births amongst the rich
– poor children are three times more likely to dies than the children of the rich
•We also have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region
– 94 for every 100,000 live births •RH program opposed by a fundamentalist catholic church

Gender responsive governance

•Philippines has one of the largest % of women in parliament — over 20% — & several women presidents
•And yet this has not translated into concrete gains for a majority of working and poor women
•The system of elite rule that exploits and oppresses working and poor women is still in place.
Issue is not one of women’s participation, but one of genuine representation – in whose political social and economic interests, do these women govern?

How have women fared under neoliberal capitalist globalization?

•7 out of every 10 poor people in the world today are women
•Most countries in Asia will not achieve the less than minimum MDGs
•Asia 100 million women missing»The problem of “missing girls”
― more boys are born than girls, as girl fetuses are aborted, and women die from health and nutrition neglect— is actually growing.
»China and India together account for more than 85 million of the nearly 100 million “missing” women

Neoliberalism intensifies the exploitation of women

•The cutback to services under neoliberalism – through privatization and budget cuts – increases women’s unpaid reproductive work burden in the home.
•Asian economic crisis in 1997-98 mass layoffs and closures of light manufacturing industries – electronics and garment and textiles.
•Workforce in these industries 70% to 80% women


•Unprecedented acceptance and lip service paid to formal gender equality
•Co-existing side-by-side with the extreme impoverishment, exploitation and marginalisation of a majority of the world’s women.

All issues are women’s issues

•No artificial divide between women’s issues and other issues.
–Poverty, economic crisis, job losses, contractualization, health care and reproductive health, education, oil prices, corruption, governance, the illegitimate debt, war, militarism, violence, climate change and the environmental crisis, are all women’s issues.
•Women are the ones who are the hardest hit
–economic crisis, during which a majority of workers laid off in industries such as electronics are women,
–climate-change induced disasters such as flooding, where the casualty rates tend to be higher for women and children.
•How society is organized and in whose interests?
•Who controls the political system? Who runs the economy? These are life and death issues for women.

Renewal of Socialist Feminism

•Puts the question of the alternative to capitalism back on the agenda.
•Renew Socialist feminism as an inclusive project. All socialist feminists would see class as central to women’s lives and women’s oppression.
•Women’s oppression, however, is not simply reduced to economic exploitation, i.e. the extraction of surplus value. This also applies to national/ethnic or racial oppression.
•All these aspects of society are inextricably linked, i.e. class is always gendered and ‘raced’ and impacted upon by imperialism and the national and ethnic questions
•And gender cannot be taken as an isolated category either, independent of class, race, ethnicity, imperialism …
•Our socialist feminism must be based on class to represent the majority of women – working and poor – anti-racist, anti-imperialist, environmentalist, anti-hetero-sexist.

Marx and Engels
What did they actually say?

•There writings do focus on the sphere or production and labor rather than other forms of labor, such as the peasantry or of women’s labor in the family, or reproduction. This is because they were trying to understand capitalism and how it functioned. This was at the heart of their theoretical analysis.
•Marx and Engels believed that if they could understand how capitalism worked and help make workers’ conscious of their oppression (a class in itself to become a class for itself) they could contribute to workers’ self-emancipation which would be the basis for the end of all other forms of oppression, i.e. socialism
•Where class oppression and antagonism would be replaced by “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

Marx and Engels

•They did attempt a historical analysis of the sphere of reproduction given the specific information in the social sciences that they had access to at the time. Engels in his writings in Family Private Property and the State did look at sex and gender systems and relations.
•He argued that the sex and gender system, which introduced oppressive gender inequalities in the sexual division of labor, was the patriarchal family system.
•With the development of labor and labor productivity, the patriarchal family system developed as an institution of class rule. It marked the “world historic defeat of the female sex” and is the cornerstone of women’s oppression.
•In all their analysis, whether capitalism and the class struggle, the state, human alienation, the family and sexuality they based it on a materialist premise, framework.

Reproductive Labor,
Wage Labor & Capital

•Feminisation of labor makes the relationship between paid productive labor and unpaid but necessary reproductive labor more important – more important than understanding the two spheres separately.
•Major restructuring of the workforce since the 1970s with dramatic changes to women’s lives in Asia.
•The newly industrializing economies were built on the ‘nimble fingers’ of women’s labour in garment and textiles and the light manufacturing industries.
•Must situate our analysis on the basis of such developments.

Paid labor and unpaid necessary reproductive labor – the relationship

•Capital, wants the lowest possible necessary labour but , there is one kind of necessary labour that capital would like to expand — unpaid necessary labour. This labour performed in the household and primarily done by women is work that is generally not recognized or valued.
•Yet, without this labour within the household, workers would not be available for capital in the labour market. While capital does not pay for this invisible labour, it benefits from it.
•The more work that is done free in the household, the less the wage has to be.
•The more free time that men have as a result of women‘s work in the household, the more capital can intensify the capitalist workday.

Capitalism gains from the unpaid labor of women

•As the purchaser of labour power, capital is in a position to gain from the unpaid labour of women within the household. And the more intense and lengthy that work in the household, the more capital can gain.
•And, likewise, the more capital drives down wages and intensifies the workday for both male and female wage-laborers, the greater the burden placed on the household to maintain workers.
•In either case women are increasingly exploited as their work burden increases, both in the paid labour force and as primary carers in the home. (GDP data)
•Canada: unpaid work is estimated to be worth up to $319 billion in the money economy or 41% of GDP;
•Australia: Many studies in the past 20 years have shown that even attributing very low wage values (‘replacement wage’) to unpaid work, the unpaid economy of households contributes output worth at least 60 per cent of ‘market’ output measured as GDP. Much of this is accounted for by household’s provision of unpaid child care. It has been shown that the number of unpaid hours of childcare far exceeds the hours worked in any other market or non market industry.
•Globally the numbers skyrocket to $11 trillion US.

Need a radically different framework to labor

•Not from the stand point of capitalist production and profit
•Socially useful and necessary labor as our starting point and framework
•Challenges conventional bourgeois economics and stands it on its head

Make a breach in the system

•Women need to make a breach in the system of capitalist rule.
•We need to link our immediate demands to system change and an end to elite rule.
•We need to have the perspective of mobilizing masses of women, to make a breach in the system.
•Latin America shows us that this can be done.

Case study: Venezuela

•The new Bolivarian Constitution Under Article 88 recognizes reproductive labor as productive labor and guarantees housewives a pension – 80% of the minimum wage.
•The anti-poverty programs have lifted millions of poor, including children, out of poverty. Women’s participation in the revolution: empowerment through the local “commune” structures. 70% of communes headed by women.
•Other institutional structures:
•Women’s ministry set up on March 8, 2009
•Women’s bank: mechanism to transfer of wealth to poor women

Violence against Women campaign

•Special local courts with the authority to temporarily arrest perpetrators of violence against women and prohibit them from leaving the country.
•The first dates for the trial should be set ten to twenty days after the act of violence, with sentencing on the same day with penalty and fines. Appeals processes exist.
•These courts are described as ‘specialised organs on violence against women’ and as ‘weapons in the struggle against violence against women’.
According to Maria Leon, Women’s Minister:
•”Talking is not enough. Laws are not enough. Institutions are not enough. We need a cultural change in our views and outlook.” This required mobilizing women to become “a real force, a deterrent force, an army to combat violence against women and to change the notion of women as battered victims and weak human beings”.
•To mobilise women some 25,000 ‘points of encounter’ for women are being set up where women have easy access to information and services.
These 25,000 ‘points of encounter’ will consist of at least ten women, who will then organize more women to create “an army to combat violence against women … the point is not only to decrease violence against women, but to eradicate it”.


•In Cuba path breaking proposals and measures are being advocated and discussed amongst the entire population to advance gender equality in relation to sexual rights, spearheaded by the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX).
•The National Assembly (Cuba’s parliament) will include in its work agenda an initiative to reform the national Family Code, which has been effective in Cuba since 1975 and contains proposals on gender identity and rights of “sexual minorities.” The initiatives include the legal recognition of the same sex unions, whereby they will enjoy the same rights as consensually united heterosexual couples.
•In June 2008 a resolution of the Ministry of Public Health legalized the performing of sex change operations on transsexual persons. Resolution 126 establishes the creation of a center for integral healthcare for people who are transsexual, which will be the sole institution in the country authorized to carry out total or partial medical sex change treatments.

Global view

•Socialist feminism requires a global perspective.
•Solidarity critical to socialist feminists.



Renew the socialist feminist agenda

•Not enter the ‘masters house’, but pull down the old structures and build a new home for all!
•No socialism without women’s emancipation, no women’s emancipation without socialism!

European Socialist Renewal Tour, May 2011


Discussion with Hans Modrow, Honorary Chairperson of Die Linke Germany and the last premier of the former German Democratic Republic

Why socialism of the last century could not be sustained?

This is also our question, which is linked to the left political project in Germany.

In Europe we faced a divided Europe and a divided Germany. In Germany the situation was the confrontation of two societies: The confrontation of two military blocs. The situation today, however, is that of one left party. The PDS was the renewed left party created by the former SED of East Germany. In 2005, the two main left movement in West Germany, the social justice movement and the electoral initiatives, merged with the PDS, to form Die Linke. The German Communist Party, the DPK, still exists in the West and did not join the merger.

The merger initiative was primarily to create an electoral alternative. This was successful with our first run in the elections in 2005 gaining us 8.5% of the vote and in the 2009 national elections we received 11.7% of the vote. The focus was not on our convictions, but on our electoral success. This has been a problem for the European left, where many questions have not been discussed, until ‘the end’. It was not only the disappearance of the Soviet Union, but also of the strong left parties in Europe. The CPs in France, Italy and Spain are all much weaker now.

Three electoral periods since unification: 1989 onwards there we two major electoral parties – the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats — and one smaller party, the Liberal Party which participated in various coalition governments. The second period, in the 1990s, saw the creation of the Green Party, resulting in four parties in parliament, and coalition governments between the Christian Democrats and the Liberals on one hand, and the Social Democrats and the Greens on the other. We have had both these combinations govern the country. Since 2005, neither the Christian Democrats nor the Social Democrats were able to govern this way, so we had an alliance between these two parties. Meanwhile our vote has increased from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.7% in 2009.

There will be new national elections in 2013 and we could see the Social Democrats in Coalition with the Greens then. The Green Party is willing to be in coalition with all of the other parties, but this is not the position of Die Linke.

What is the role of Die Linke today? This is a big question for us. In the Eastern part of the country the party is still big, based on an understanding of socialism of the last century. These members grew up in the former GDR and were even formerly members of the SED. But we need younger people to join the party today. The average age of members in the Eastern part is 68-70. The ‘direction’ of new members, however, is between 35 to 50 years of age. This is also a problem for other West European parties, where the socialist movement is not supported by the youth. In Western Europe the average age of members is 50.

The Western part of the party is mainly created by unionists and left social democrats. In 2005 we had a membership of 75,000, with only 10% of them from the Western part. Today, we still have a membership of 75,000, but around 35% of them are those recruited from the West. Before unification the population of the GDR was 16.3 million. Today its 14 million, i.e. 2 million have left. Because of de-industrialisation of the former GDR the youth, who had no jobs, simply left.

There was reunification in 1990, but we are still divided in 2011. Workers earn 15% to 20% less in the East than in the West. The pensions are also lower. Also the long history of anti-communism is still strong and alive in the West. In the East the failure brought out people who lived and understood socialism, from their own experience and who now understand it better.

So how do we define common traditions? How do we define common political platforms? This is a debate for socialism of the 21st century. Here we are also looking at Latin America.





Four Provocations

Renato Redentor Constantino

A Contribution to Southeast Asia Socialism Conference 2010, UP-CSWCD, 27 November 2010





•We work on fair climate policy, particularly climate finance.

•We work on sustainable energy solutions.

•We push for integrated climate change adaptation and mitigation approaches.




(1) Bring back ecology to the center of the table


•Rescuing Marx? But it is not Marx that needs rescue.

•“All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility… Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.” (Marx, Capital, vol. 1)

•Imperative of materialism.

•Imperative of Left voice vis new forces.

•The requirement of stewardship.


(2) Centrality of Politics


•Engagement is a means. So is non-engagement. In between, a million measures.

•To advance is to move forward. Sideways. Flanks. Engaged but detached.

•Militancy is one mode. So is subversion. And beyond are a million modalities.

•Against leftwing privilege.

•Protest is one voice. Storytelling represents more.


(3) Narrative


•In defense of history? But history needs no defending.

•Memory: subverting the establishment

•Necessities of populism and conversations with the working class

•The nation as monument



(4) Beyond nationalism, but never without it


•Persistence of vulgar interpretation of text: “Workers have no country.” (Marx, The Communist Manifesto)

•The “proletariat … must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself as the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.” (Marx, The Communist Manifesto)

•July 7 anniversary: opportunity to celebrate the Katipunan’s class articulation of Nation –

–From the Haring Bayan ng Katagalugan of Pres. Bonifacio to Kapuluang Katagalugan of Pres. Macario Sakay

–Kalayaan – instead of mere freedom, responsibility. [Freire, Letters to Cristina)

–Kaguinhawaan – well-being, ecology, stewardship

•The Party’s over: Evolve higher forms of democracy or court irreversible irrelevance.

•Capitalism is NOT in crisis.



redcosmo@gmail.comor visit the Kamuning Republic at















TRANSFORM ASIA is a non-profit, non-stock, non-government organization registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission (with Company Registration CN200406771) in 2003. Transform Asia takes up gender and labor issues and campaigns in the Philippines, where the institute is based, and in other East Asian countries.

General Aims

• To establish a research and training institute focusing on gender and labor issues to assist development agencies and other civil society organizations in Asia with program work, as well as policy development linked to advocacy.

• To enable the linkage of gender and labor networks in the region to share information, exchange experiences and studies in order to inform and strengthen their respective areas of work.

• To link up gender and labor networks with academic institutions and individuals with expertise in these areas.

Specific Objectives

• Conduct research and publish research materials
• Monitor existing research and trends
• Popularize research findings in literacy packet format
• Conduct training based on the above
• Set up a web-based data base for information sharing
• Provide a forum for dialogue of gender and labor networks


The pattern of industrialization that took place in East Asia from the 1970s onwards saw the entry of large numbers of women into the labor force: a trend referred to as “the feminization of labor”. The phenomenon of the feminization of the labor force is having a major sociocultural impact on many countries.

While labor began to organize and strengthen its influence in several countries, in many instances starting with the struggles of women workers for better wages and conditions, the specific needs and concerns of workers as women and the related gender equity issues in all aspects of working life, from the workplace to the family, have been largely ignored or inadequately addressed by trade unions and other civil society organizations working in the labor sector.
Meanwhile, the rise of the international women’s movement through the 1970s and 1980s also saw the development of women’s organizations and networks in Asian countries. This laid the basis for seriously addressing gender equity issues in development through the 1980s onwards.

However, these two “movements” representing labor on one hand and gender equity aims on the other, while having some influence on each other’s thinking and practice, have essentially remained separate with very little dialogue, alliance work and joint activities between them. Nevertheless, there is an increasing “intersectionality” of gender equity issues and labor issues, and a genuine need for these networks to share,
learn and link up.

There are also important variations within the East Asia region which impact differentially on gender equity and labor rights issues. For example, co-existing sideby-side, are the following trends:

• The rapid industrialization of the NICs (newly industrialized countries, such as South Korea, and those in the process of industrializing, such as the Philippines and Indonesia)
• The “transitional economies” such as Vietnam and China, which are starting to become serious economic competitors of some of the NICs
• The impact of the industrialized economies on the region, such as Japan and Australia.
These developments also have major ramifications for the future socio-economic development patterns in the region. There is much debate and discussion within some CSOs on what models of development are the most socially responsible and equitable from a gender equity and labor rights perspective.
Understanding these trends and their impact on peoples lives is key to putting in place effective development strategies and practice in the region.

Transform Asia’s Regional Focus

East Asia (both the “old” and “new” NICs, specifically South Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines where strong labor and gender organizations linked into regional networks already exist); the transitional economies with a specific focus on Vietnam and China; the impact of the industrialized economies, Australia and Japan, on the region.
To research and compare the interrelationships (such as multilateral and bilateral agreements) within and between countries in these “blocs”, their impact on labor and gender equity issues, as well as develop linkages amongst gender and labor groups in these countries.

Asian Network Coordinators:

Sonny Melencio
Executive Director, Transform Asia

Reihana Mohideen
Gender & Social Development Specialist, Transform Asia

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