The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance ), the national alliance of patriotic and democratic mass organizations in the Philippines, is saddened by the passing of Francois Houtart at the age of 92, last June 6, 2017 in Quito, Ecuador where he worked with the Pueblo Indio Foundation.
We pay tribute to this renowned scholar and prolific writer, who tirelessly spoke about building an alternative system to capitalism, from a Marxist perspective.
His was the voice for revolutionary social change through class struggle, with social/political movements playing a central role; for genuine peace: and for participatory democracy by the poor, exploited and oppressed. He was against the US war of terror, and violence of the oppressors such as that perpetrated by Israeli Zionism against the Palestinian people.
Houtart, called the Pope of Anti-Globalization, founded the Center Tricontinental and the World Forum for Alternatives. He was likewise a promoter of the World Social Forum. He helped in the formation of all these network to provide a forum for movements, political parties, groups and acitvists seeking solutions to basic problems wrought by imperialism and all sorts of reactionary forces.
Houtart spent most of his waking hours travelling, spending time among workers, peasants and indigenous peoples in Third World countries, discussing with them and fellow scholars, and reading on various philosophies. Houtart had a Marxist background as a result of his study tour in Sri Lanka. He would say, “If you are a Marxist, you cannot look reality in a dogmatic way.”
His exposure in Latin America would lead him to adopt the perspective of the downtrodden, while his stint in Vietnam exposed him to the role of US imperialism and its wars against the peoples of the world. He would later on join street actions in support of the Vietnamese people’s struggle against US imperialism, specifically, against the US-instigated and backed war against the Vietnamese national liberation forces. In his younger years, he joined the guerilla resistance to German occupation and other anti-war activities.
He attempted to make a second visit to the Philippines during martial law to speak at a study seminar for the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), Houtart would be barred by the Philippine military because of his links with “leftist Catholics”.
The last time Houtart visited the Philippines is when he spoke about US Imperialism and Global Counter-Insurgency in 2011 during the International People’s Festival for Peace and Solidarity (IFPRIS).
Houtart’s outstanding contribution to the anti-imperialist struggles of the peoples of the world and for socialism would be his reflections on how governments, after overcoming the scourge of neo-liberalism, should follow the path towards socialism which he called “post-capitalism”.
He stressed that the task of progressive governments and movements in building socialism should not only to work for a change in the relations of production, but require a change of vision or of perspective.
But in order to achieve that, there needs to be social struggle, class struggle.
In his study of progressive governments that had successfully removed millions out of poverty, created a new middle class, expansion of the education system, regeneration of the role of the state, redistribution of wealth, better access to basic social services such as education, health, water, etc, he explained that they should have had a vision not only totally different from the neo-liberal — meaning capitalist — paradigm.
Houtart warned that the private sector — monopoly capitalism — will continue to dominate the economies of countries even those led by progressive governments and that the dominant classes will fiercely resist fundamental change and be ready to sacrifice even half of humanity to prolong their existence.
Houtart said that under imperialism or what he calls “ international capital” – the sectors of oil/energy, mining, agribusiness, finance, telecommunications, and food, as well as exports including capital investments from China, were not dealt with decisively by these progressive governments. He underscored the strong resistance from “world economies and US military intervention with its military bases found worldwide and arsenal of high technology and nuclear weapons”.
The crisis of US imperialism has made these countries, albeit with progressive governments, to adapt to the world market, instead of seriously considering radically different solutions.
Politically, these progressive governments that had “ regenerated their state for the people” carried these out “ in a vertical manner” without the participation of the “grassroots”. Houtart said that when the state “is the main motor of change, there is the danger of paralyzing bureaucracy” and of “systematic corruption”. He stressed that there should be no monopoly of decision-making by a bureaucratic elite.
Houtart’s legacy is passed on to the peoples of the world, especially the workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, women and youth, who persist in their struggle against imperialism and all forms of reaction until the dawn of victory.
Long Live the Memory of Francois Houtart!
Down with Imperialism!
Onward to Socialism!