The increasing middle class of the Filipino society comprise those privileged with access to technology, connections to the affluent, gross income taxed by 30% or so, small to medium scale entrepreneurs, and have one more dollar-earning family member from abroad. They are active in the society being members of several clubs, associations and other organizations, as members and leaders.
In the history of class struggle, Marx and Engels argue that it is the proletariat – the working class who should strive to win the revolution against the existing economic system that rules the social and political spheres of nations. They pertain to those in the lower strata of the economic and social system, the underprivileged and marginalized. However, the role of the peti-bourgeoisie is also critical.
The middle class is assumed to be educated, well informed, economically able and influential in the community. Historically, the illustrado’s in the Philippines propelled the 1896 Philippine revolution. In modern times, EDSA revolutions were led by the prominent middle-class men and women. Such events are material evidences of the role of the middle class to lead their own and those in the lower strata of the society towards a political cause. All driven in the context of upholding democracy.
The poor and the underprivileged proletariat of the Philippines comprise the masses, a huge number in terms of population distribution. They include the farmers, the fisherfolks, the skilled labor, the contractuals and those taking mean jobs. They are huge in number and yet their political maturity doesn’t hold as a power to reckon with the ruling class. Their struggle is on a daily basis, food and the basic necessities of life.
Their knowledge of the larger economic and political system is also limited. Their access to information is scarcely by oral tradition. Their disposition about politics is distant to having participation in the democratic processes. They are trapped in the culture of patronage. They elect those who they feel popular and winnable or those who have given them the crumbs of what politicians have scoundrelled from the taxpayers’ money.
The Filipino proletariat are the same people used and abused by politicians and so by the capitalists. They work on minimum daily wage while the capitalist earn the bulk from their labor. They seek politicians who could give them a penny when they are in need. They rely more on others than in their own capacity. They are passive players in the political drama because they are apathetic to politics.
The Filipino proletariat are hardly politicized to draft their course in the history of revolution. The heroes in the annals of Philippine history are mostly members of the middle class. They lead the proletariat in the successful revolts, against colonizers and against authoritative and dysfunctional governments. True, they have their participation when the Filipino took arms against Spain, or against dictators like Marcos, but those were reactionary to the leading of the middle class.
The middle class is an in-betweener group of the Filipino society. Their political role is pivotal to steer the proletariat into action, and they can shake the ruling class to reconsider decisions. If they could think for the greater good, they can lobby the cause of the poor people in this country. They can draft the course of development of this nation. They can reshape the form of democracy the Philippines has. Yet, their success will only depend on the support they could get from the masses.
The Marxist dictum on the people’s revolution, is that the proletariat should takeover the modes of production from the capitalist, from the ruling class. Unions operate with this dictum in mind. Such has never succeeded in the realms of Philippine history. One could only suspect that the European formula is not culturally sensitive to the Filipino’s political dynamics. The solidarity that is expected from the proletariat do not come out naturally as a manifestation of political consciousness but an upheaval to vent emotion – a reaction to a direct threat to their existence.
Today, the Philippines celebrates National Heroes day, at the same time, a march against the pork barrel system is held. Numbers are huge to count, but accounting for which social class do the participants came from is another thing. What does the ordinary Juan De La Cruz say of the pork barrel? What can be thought now about the role of the peti-buorgeoisie in the Filipino democracy? What should the politicized mass do amid political turmoils?