by Jose Ma. Sison
(Delivered at the National City United Church,Quezon City,on April 9,1986)
I would like to show first the historical sequence of feudalism in the Philippines. Then I shall focus on the level of development of the productive forces and the dominant class in economic relations under semifeudalism.
In the 15th century, capitalism at the manufacturing stage had become a dominant force in Spain. Subsequently this would become the driving force behind Spanish mercantilism and colonialism.
At the beginning of Spanish colonial rule, most of the people in the Philippines lived in riverine and maritime societies which were in the main chareacterized by elements of both slavery of the patriarchal type and prefeudal serfdom.
The irrigated riceland and metal implements were privately owned by the slave owners and freemen. Not only was there wet rice agriculture but the people also engaged in handicrafts. There were no megalithic structures but boat-building was developed to the point that trade and war ships of the caracoa type were commonplace. Each of these could accomodate as many
as fifty to one hundred passengers.
In more than 300 years of colonial rule, starting with the imposition of such a feudal-military device as the encomienda system, Spain was able to push the development of a feudal economic system in the Philippines.
Upon the waning of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade and the rise of industrial capitalism in Europe from the latter part of the 18th century onwards. Spain pushed agricultural production for export in its Philippine colony. This had the effect of encouraging the rapid expansion of landed
estates owned by the friars and the natives and mestizos.
The growth of feudalism peaked in the 19th century under the stimulus of foreign trade with the industrial capitalist countries. Just as feudalism matured, and commodity system grew markedly and the natural economy of self-sufficiency began to erode.
For several centuries, Spain had been a major contributor to the primitive accumulation of capital in Europe through colonialism but failed to advance from the manufacturing stage to the industrial stage of capitalism.
Because of the stagnance of Spain, the colonialists tended to intensify economic plunder, that is, extracting wealth without so much investment in the colony. Ever increasing colonial taxation, the rapid expansion of landed estates and arbitrary hiking of land rent by the friars
resulted in social unrest and finally in the Philippine Revolution of 1896, which end old-style colonialism in 1898.
But the intervention of the United States and its conquest of the Philippines meant the retention of feudalism. The US did not carry out land reform against the Filipino landlords although it expropriated most of the friar estates. These were meant to be redistributed to the peasant but
would eventually fail into the hands of Filipino landlords.
Worse, the Filipino people came directly under the sway of US monopoly capitalism. They thus fell under two extremely exploitative systems-foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism has resulted in what may be called semifeudalism. The Philippine economy in the 20th century is now more tightly in the orbit of the world capitalist system but remains basically an agrarian, preindustrial and semifeudal appendage of the capitalist countries, especially the US.
The commodity system has prevailed in the Philippines. But the kind of commodities produced by the economic system is merely raw material for the industries of capitalist countries. This includes agricultural and extractive commodities.
Departing from the old colonial style of outright plunder, the US has drawn from its surplus capital and brought investments into the Philippines to promote as never before a pattern of trade based on unequal exchange of Philippine raw materials and foreign finished products. When deficits occur in the unequal exchange, the Philippines incurs more foreign loans to cover
The foreign monopolies get superprofits on their direct investments and high interest rates on their indirect investments or loans.
Under the weight of US imperialism, the Philippines is extremely dependent on agriculture and lacks the fundamentals of a modern industrial economy such as productive enterprices in basic metals, basic chemicals, capital goods and the like. Definitely, ours is not an industrial capitalist economy.
What is referred to as the industrial sector of the Philippine economy consists of some light manufacturing, construction, public utility and mining enterprices which are dependent on imported equipment and raw materials paid for by the foreign exchange earnings of raw-material export plus foreign loans.
The health of the semifeudal economy is made or unmade by the state of production and export of raw-material products, mainly industrial. The prolonged depression of such exports as sugar and coconut is wreaking havoc on the Philippine economy.
It is not true that so-called industries, whether called import-substitution or export-oriented, have drawn the Philippines away from the well-entrenched basic pattern of exchanging raw materials for manufactured inports. These floating industries involve fringe precessing and are usually put up to circumvent tariff walls and create the illusion
of economic progress.
Under the present circumstances, when the crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic semifeudal system is extreme, the rreality of the latter is completely exposed.
In a feudal society, thelandlord class is the dominant class. In a semifeudal society, the comprador big bourgeoisie is the dominant class and the landlord class runs second. However, the big compradors are often big landlords. Thus we often speak of the big comprador-landlord class as the dominant class in the Philippines.
The comprador big bourgeoisie is the chief intermediary between US imperialism and domestic feudalism. It is the domestic force dominant in the service sector of the economy. It is the chief trading and financial agent of US imperialism.
Under US imperialism in the 20th century, the Filipino comprador big bourgeoisie has grown to become the dominant class in Philippine society. The growth of an industrial national bourgeoisie has been restricted by US imperialism and such local exploiting classes as the comprador big
bourgeoisie and the landlord class.
In a semidfeudal society such as that of the Philippines, the comprador big bourgeoisie perpetuates on behalf of US imperialism the unequal exchange of raw-material exports and manufactured imports.
In combination with US monopoly capitalism, the comprador big bourgeoisie prevents national industrialization, retains the agrarian character of the economy, owns plantations for export crops and allows the continuance of feudalism.
The most important feature of the semifeudal economy to cite is the dominance of the comprador big bourgeoisie over all other economic classes. It is the class with the most concentrated capital that determines the pattern of economic production and distribution in the country.
I hope that with my explanation you can see more clearly that semifeudalism is a reality and not a myth. Ang I consider the term semifeudalism more accurate that any other in referring to the Philippine economy because it is closest to the fact that the Philippine productive basically agrarian and that Philippine agriculture is dominated by landlords.