There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ leftists. ‘Good’ leftists must belong to a partylist group. They demand the inclusion of civil society groups in government transactions. They participate in tripartite meetings, they attend UN conferences, they hate Joma Sison, and they endorse the candidacies of Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas.
The ‘bad left’ is always wrong. It is dogmatic if it refuses to participate in the elections but it is opportunistic if it joins the elections. It is arrogant if it shuns coalition politics but it betrays the revolution if it builds an alliance with mainstream parties. The left is ridiculed if it fails to gather a big crowd during rallies; but it is also criticized (by armchair activists) if it succeeds in mobilizing its members and supporters in the streets.
A ‘bad leftist’ is a dead leftist. Bad leftists are harassed, abducted, tortured and killed in this part of the world. They are demonized as destabilizers and terrorists. They are not recognized as legitimate political players who can use valid political practices in the electoral arena. Hence, they are mocked if they build coalitions or endorse the candidacies of mainstream politicians.
If the left can do no right and if it cannot be allowed to succeed in parliamentary politics, its only option (and the only correct decision it can accomplish) is to surrender its political goals. Be irrelevant. Disappear. Build an NGO. This is the fantasy not just of the fascist state; but also the wet dream of liberal “fundamentalist freaks.”
Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza are often described in the media as leftist politicians. This is not wrong. But the practice of naming people and animals for who or what they really are is not applied to centrists and rightists. May kilala ba kayong pulitikong nagpakilala o ipinakilala bilang maka-kanan? Villar is a businessman-politician. Noynoy is the politician son of Cory and the brother of Kris. Gibo is the politician nephew of Danding who studied in Harvard. It is easy to add the leftist tag to Ocampo and Maza but writers often omit to mention the proper political background of Villar, Noynoy and Gibo. Imagine the impact of this seemingly objective writing on how the public perceives progressive leaders like Ocampo and bourgeois politicians like Noynoy. Ocampo’s politics is immediately placed under debate because he is already identified as a leftist while Noynoy’s political leaning is overlooked because his family ties are given more attention. Ocampo’s motive as a public servant is already suspect because of his ideology while Noynoy is introduced as a sincere (and reluctant) politician who is not motivated by any ideology. Rejecting ideology, denying ideology are ideological acts.
Gibo speaks in behalf of Arroyo; Noynoy speaks in behalf of his family; Villar speaks in behalf of his party. We do not see each one of them as representing the whole political right and center. Meanwhile, the left is treated as a monolithic political bloc. The actions of one section of the left are attributed to all leftists in the country. Ocampo and Maza are leaders of popular partylist groups Bayan Muna and Gabriela. But academics and commentators want Ocampo and Maza to speak in behalf of ALL leftists – whether they are striking workers, arrested rallyists, student protesters, evicted farmers, exiled communists, and armed rebels.
A leftist is guilty of being a leftist. A leftist is held responsible for the sins committed by dead and living leftists. The weakness of one leftist is blamed on all leftists.
Meanwhile, we do not hear mainstream commentators and academics asking mainstream politicians to pay for the sins of the ruling class. There are no class dictatorships; only evil dictators, selfish leaders, and warlord dynasties. The sins of Quezon are blamed on Quezon alone. The sins of Marcos are the burden of the Marcoses alone. Arroyo’s transgressions are hers alone. We do not speak of the political center and right when discussing these abominations. The forces of domestic reaction have not yet apologized for plunging the country into darkness in the past century.
The liberal right-wingers are always reminding the public about the alleged excesses and blunders of the left. They are obviously suffering from pathological narcissism. They refuse to remember and recognize the bloody record of their reactionary ancestors and conservative gurus.
FYI: Yes, the extreme left has already apologized for its past mistakes.
Many writers have commented about the historic significance of the militant left’s endorsement for Villar. Let’s view it the other way around. A mainstream politician like Villar is willing to be openly endorsed by the left. A major candidate is not afraid to be identified with individuals who are accused by the military of supporting the rebel movement. A bourgeois party has two militant and anti-imperialist leftists in its senatorial ticket as adopted candidates.
According to a veteran activist, the left was ready to endorse Salonga in 1992 but the grand old man of Philippine politics requested the left not to publicize its endorsement. Was Salonga afraid that an endorsement from the left would alienate his voters? Maybe he was not impressed with the organized strength of the left.
Fast forward to 2009. Villar and other presidentiables have many good reasons to seek the support of the left. The electoral victories of the left in 2001, 2004 and 2007 signified many things: The left has a loyal following among the electorate; its progressive agenda is appreciated and supported by a core constituency; the red-baiting tactic of the state has lost its efficacy. An astute politician cannot afford to ignore the solid base of the left.
Villar’s brave decision to openly embrace a platform-based unity with the left has smashed the taboo in Philippine politics. From now on, the participation of the left will be expected in future electoral contests for top political posts.
But why Villar? Why not Noynoy?
The analysis of the left about the character of the Philippine political party system has not changed. The left continues to assert that politics in the country is dominated by the traditional elite. Villar and Noynoy are both members of the ruling class. If the left will endorse one of them, it should be based on the willingness of the candidate to promote a reform agenda. It was Villar who took the time to draft a document in response to the challenge of leftist groups to advance a people’s agenda in 2010. It was Villar who invited Ocampo and Maza to join his senatorial lineup as adopted candidates. Noynoy was never interested in seeking the support of the left. Maybe he wanted the left to endorse him quietly, a la Salonga in 1992. Noynoy and the mafia in the Liberal Party do not recognize and respect the political strength of the left.
Ambitious apostates (John Pilger’s term for ex-activists) are protesting the decision of Ocampo and Maza to endorse the Villar-Legarda tandem. They criticized this act as a betrayal of revolutionary principles. They did not notice the irony in their remarks. The people who turned their backs on the movement and those who had tirelessly attacked the left are now concerned about the revolution.
Let us assume they are sincere in upholding the purity of the leftist movement. What revolutionary principles were violated by Ocampo and Maza? What revolutionary goal was abandoned?
The anti-left gang is mad not because the left endorsed a presidential candidate. They are mad because the left has refused to endorse Noynoy Aquino.
The left is ridiculed for behaving like a religious cult. It’s not a new accusation. It’s often raised by writers and academics every time they want to attack the politics of the left. The intention is to mock the ‘fanatical attitude’ of leftists. But this reasoning has lost the power to insult. Here is a relevant quote from Slavoj Zizek: “Instead of adopting such a defensive stance, allowing the enemy to define the terrain of the struggle, what one should do is to reverse the strategy by fully endorsing what one is accused of: yes, there is a direct lineage from Christianity to Marxism; yes, Christianity and Marxism should fight on the same side of the barricade against the onslaught of new spritualisms – the authentic Christian legacy is much too precious to be left to the fundamentalist freaks.”
According to French philosopher Alain Badiou, many liberal thinkers have this attitude towards the left: “As a public spectacle the Revolution is admirable, while its militants are contemptible.” There are many writers and intellectuals in the Philippines who are sympathetic to leftist causes but unkind and unfair to leftist militants. There are academics who are masters of subtlety and sarcasm when attacking trapos but blunt, brutal, and rude to leftist leaders. To borrow some words from the great economist Joseph Schumpeter, these anti-leftists “lack any organ for the perception of absurdity.”