Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Written for Bulatlat

1. Journeying to the countryside to live with peasant and IP communities. Nature tripping, mountaineering, and political field work plus more. Tourism is fun but an activist explores the rural not just to celebrate and document geography but to study the condition of the masses. He is not there to feitishize the farmer but to participate in agrarian reform. He climbs the mountain to fight corporate loggers, large-scale miners, and warlords. He searches the remote and exotic to expose and end various manifestations of feudal oppression and other political crimes across the vast areas of the archipelago. What could be more fun than communing with nature while creating history?

2. Conducting Social Investigation and Class Analysis in urban poor communities. An urban activist performs many roles: He is a social worker, pollster, and mapper many times better than the DSWD, SWS, and Google Map. He does not simply observe, he integrates with the masses; he does not just ask survey questions, he joins the respondents in the search for solutions; he does not make a map to invade or demolish the poor but to strategize the resistance of the marginalized. There are sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists who survey and insult the poor in behalf of surveillance specialists, real estate developers, and corrupt politicians. And then there are activists who are making a scientific survey of the poverty situation in order to mobilize and empower the poor.

3. Building mass organizations at the grassroots level. Politicians expand their support base by increasing their presence in vote-rich communities. However, they have distorted and corrupted the meaning of grassroots empowerment by using money politics to gain influence and by reducing the political participation of the people. Activist are countering this nefarious practice by establishing multiple mass organizations where ordinary citizens learn to practice and assert their political rights instead of merely requiring them to vote during elections. Genuine democracy requires an active citizenry and we can start by introducing the dynamics of people power at the grassroots level. Activists believe that participatory democracy can be truly liberating by raising the political capability and organized strength of the masses.

4. Organizing collective actions and mass campaigns. Activism is the crowdsourcing of politics. We make things possible by tapping the power of the collective. We succeed by launching campaigns initiated and sustained by people’s organizations. It is creative and pure democratic politics at work. It is reflected in rallies and protest actions and in almost all activities organized by activists. A mass campaign seeks to achieve a particular political goal by relying on the wisdom, unity, and fighting power of the masses. It involves systematic and deliberate planning, implementation, and monitoring of varied actions – which may or may not culminate in a rally – but what is essential is the active participation and leadership of the people. The reward of activism is to see the masses lead their own struggle.

5. Study groups on philosophy, political economy, revolutionary theory, history. Activism is a continuous process of unlearning and learning. We read the classics (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, Stalin), we study all isms (capitalism, socialism, revisionism, postmodernism), we test and update these theories through practice, and we also teach. We study our society so that we can change it. Activism is a mass education movement and the popularization of political literacy. How very enlightening to study Marx’s treatise on “Value, Price, and Profit” and have your classmate, a factory worker, explain in concrete and precise terms the meaning of the text!

6. Remolding of the self through criticism and self-criticism sessions. We change the world by changing ourselves too. We aim to become better persons by renouncing our arrogant, conservative, and reactionary views. The goal is to acquire a progressive worldview. We make a pledge to improve our work habits and also our behavior and attitude in dealing with other people especially the masses. And since change is a long and arduous process, we make it less difficult by conducting a group therapy where we criticize/compliment fellow activists after making a self-criticism or self-assessment. We also invite and ask the masses to join these sessions. It is often a cathartic experience and it improves our relationships.

7. Promoting a nationalist and progressive culture, and preserving our heritage. 20th century socialism has taught us that it is not enough to overthrow the rulers of the old society, it must be followed by a cultural revolution to change the destructive values of the old order. Through art, we can influence the formation of a more progressive set of values. Today, activists are also using art as a weapon of the mass movement. Art inspires the people, art transmits the ideas of the struggle, art offers a glimpse of the bright future. Another task of activists is to defend our heritage (including the development of national language) against the onslaught of crass commercialism and poisonous homogenizing influence of neoliberal globalization.

8. Analyzing the political situation. This is almost a daily habit of activists. We read all major newspapers, we scrutinize government reports, and thanks to the Internet, we also monitor citizen media updates. We even identify the trending memes in popular culture. Many wrongly assume that we simply condemn the actions of government officials. The truth is that simultaneous debates take place first before we issue a political statement. It’s a non-stop process of updating and fine tuning our analysis. It’s a democratic and mass phenomenon where the political situation is comprehensively dissected from the grassroots units to the national political and sectoral centers.

9. Expressing international solidarity. An activist is an internationalist. He embraces the struggles of the oppressed in other countries as his own. He participates in global initiatives. He studies the international situation. At the same time, he articulates some of the local campaigns before the international community. Recently, we heard the local labor center expressing support to Cambodian garment workers who are demanding a monthly minimum wage increase. We are also encouraged by the support given by American activists to our campaign for human rights protection in Mindanao. We live in varying time zones but we disregard the geographical boundaries as we forge class-based unities.

10. Serving the people. If this seems too broad, read items 1-9 again. It is fun to change the world because it is in the service of the majority who are oppressed. Another reason to be happy is that activists have always proven their critics and ideological enemies wrong. The age of militant activism is supposed to be already over but the flags of the mass movement are still flying high. We are surviving because we are persevering despite the difficulties of the struggle. Campaigns may fail but we learn from past failures as we experiment with new and better tools to achieve our political objectives. We are moving forward because we are determined to win the future.

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