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

Start by insinuating that it’s evil to be associated with the Left, for example ‘Beware of Left-leaning groups’. There’s no need to elaborate; simply insert the term ‘Left’ in a sentence to warn innocent minds about the threat posed by Leftist individuals, groups, institutions, and ideologies. To make it more convincing, tag the Left with loaded descriptions such as godless, anti-Filipino, anti-democracy, pro-China, and terrorists. Even the seemingly objective word ‘militant’ suggests aggressiveness that furthers the stereotype of the Left as passionate but irrational creatures.

After the initial demonization technique, accuse the Left of trying to sow violence and chaos. Again, there’s no need to back up the charge with evidence. What is effective is to isolate the Left by depicting it as a monstrosity in mainstream society. Spread fear in the hearts of the people about the trouble that the Left will allegedly bring if it is allowed to operate in the community.

If a Leftist has a sensible proposal, reject it and persuade or even force others to do the same. Why? Because the Left always has a hidden agenda; it is always concocting a conspiracy that will create mayhem in society. If other political forces and traditional politicians are quiet about their political aims, it is called political strategy. But the Left – it cannot be allowed to practice the fine art and science of politics because its goal is disequilibrium, its methods are dictatorial, and its advocates are uncouth. The new order imagined by the Left will be administered by perverted ideologues who have no sense of humor. Watch out, the Left will hijack and subvert our democratic way of life.

In the academe, describe the Left as dogmatists. Ask why it is stubbornly clinging to a single creed and contrast this to your so-called postmodern approach of mixing theories. Proceed by calling them enemies of pluralism and democratic discourse. Label them Stalinists who are intolerant of opposing views. Or present yourself as a scholar who respects multiple perspectives (except the viewpoint of the Left, of course). Or proclaim that all shades of democracy are welcome (but not national democracy).

Debunk the claim of Leftists that their worldview is scientific. Remind them that they don’t have a monopoly of truth and that grand narratives in the social sciences are no longer fashionable. Replace the tired jargons of the Left with post-political, post-ideological categories such as multiculturalism, civil society, and tripartism. It’s already suffocating and boring if we continue to talk about Leftist themes such as alienation, surplus value, and collectivization. Too Western, male-centric, logo-centric, passe. Time to move on by tackling marginal topics such as sexuality, gender roles, and exotic cultures.

The big themes should be replaced by micro politics; and language games rather than social commitment should be the priority of a true scholar.

During debates, it is useful to raise the specter of dead communist leaders like Stalin and Mao. Repeat the standard depiction of these leaders in the bourgeois press as superbads and villains of modern history. Even if the debate is about education reform or labor rights, always try to redirect the discussion towards the crimes against humanity purportedly committed by Stalin, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge. If the Leftist counters by reciting the horrific sins of capitalist regimes, denounce him for deliberately obfuscating the issue.

Remind the Leftist that Marx is a thinker whose ideas are applicable only in the mid-1850s. Ridicule his decision to read a philosopher who wrote the Communist Manifesto in the 19th century. Ignore the Leftist who will argue that if Marx is already irrelevant in the 21st century, then what do you call the teachings of Adam Smith who died in 1790? Should we then stop reading the Greek classics and stick to modern fiction like Twilight? Ignore all these and insist that Marx, and only Marx, has nothing insightful to offer to our students today other than discredited concepts like class struggle.

Hit hard and proudly assert that socialism clearly didn’t work as proven by the demise of Soviet Russia. Instead of socialism, why not embrace the infinite possibilities offered by capitalism? Indeed, why turn our backs on a system that gave us world wars, mass hunger in the age of plenty, wage slavery amid the creepy accumulation of fictitious capital, and totalitarian regimes disguised as liberal democracies?

Question the sincerity of Leftist personalities. Why is Joma enjoying a luxurious life in Europe? (Forget his refugee status). Why are activists patronizing American-made products if they are genuine nationalists? (Adopt a distorted interpretation of their anti-imperialist demand). Why is the Left silent over the bullying behavior of China? (Try googling ‘Bayan Muna against China’). Why did activist legislators use pork barrel funds in the past; they must be corrupt (That’s why they remained poor after three terms in Congress).

After doubting their motives, attack their tactics. Rallies only cause inconvenience, their participation in elections is a case of opportunism, labor unions hurt the economy, the punitive and resistance actions of the New People’s Army are criminal and terroristic. Blame rallies for causing destabilization or scaring away investors. If there’s a broad political event that threatens the ruling order, disrupt it by presenting it as an unholy alliance between the Left and other sinister forces of the elite.

Use the tyranny of numbers to confuse the public about the relevance of the Left. How can the Left legitimately give voice to the poor if its candidates habitually lose in senatorial and local elections? The masses who join rallies only represent a noisy minority manipulated and brainwashed by the Left.

Discredit rallies since these are the visible and most familiar political representations of the Left. Dismiss rallyists as paid protesters (pambili daw ng bigas), deplore protest actions as impotent interventions that only amplify negativity in society, and deny the effectivity of slogans to inspire the public or even clarify a complex social issue. In other words, depict rallies as ordinary and even inferior political actions. Be careful not to leave a hint that joining rallies is an outstanding example of practicing direct democracy. Never ever mention it and instead exaggerate the disastrous impact of rallies on the city’s traffic and garbage problems.

As an indirect stab to the strategies of the Left, give extra attention to other initiatives that seemingly offer durable solutions to national problems by bloating their reach. (Self-help, civic volunteerism, social commerce). Encourage people to look inwardly or to be active in non-political associations instead of supporting the lost causes of the fighting Left.

And since we really believe that the case against the Left is solid, urge the state to be ruthless against it and its sympathizers. Throw the books at them, including the Red Book. Arrest the usual suspects, with or without a valid court order. Good communists are dead communists, or at least make them disappear. And if debating is useless, choose the lazy but tried and tested red baiting option. Activists, dissenters, and other critics might be correct some of the time but unfortunately they are Leftists. The iron fist of the state and its repressive apparatuses should be applied on them if they will not renounce their beliefs. Challenge them to denounce the NPA as a terrorist group, and if they refuse, then they must be one of them. This is how we preserve peace and promote democracy in our freedom-loving society.

***********************

Some really believe that they have witty rants against the Left but many of their arguments are actually unoriginal and formulaic. Some uncritically repeat Cold War rhetoric that never bothered to recognize the dynamism of Leftist movements in the 21st century. Some are too naïve that it’s unnecessary to make a rejoinder. Perhaps they unconsciously absorbed the petty remarks against the Left from schools, mass media, government agencies, and other conservative opinion-making institutions. We were heavily bombarded with anti-Left propaganda, disguised as neutral information, that when we encounter Leftists in our happy community, our impulse is to violently disagree with their views and reject their proposals.

We think the Left is too negative but have we ever wondered why we are too negative when it comes to the Left? Or why do we recoil when we detect a Leftist viewpoint while we are capable of tolerating other philosophies?

The Left is often disparaged for its simplistic analysis of what is happening in our world. Academics mockingly ask, can the Left improve its style and brand? Their student leaders echo the appeal by poking fun at some of the Left’s slogans like ‘Imperyalismo Ibagsak!’

But what if the real necessity today is not the rebranding of the Left but the unlearning of our misconceptions about it? That the greater tragedy is not the stubborn adherence of the Left to its principles and style of work but our refusal to acknowledge that it offers the most cogent and comprehensive political program which can immediately and ultimately empower the weak and downtrodden in the country. If unimpressed by the vocabulary of the Left, can you at least take time to study its substantial agenda for change? Give the Left a chance to turn this society upside down.

We worry too much about the faults and inadequacies of the Left as if we are really concerned about them. As a political movement, the Left should continually assess and review its impact on society, and this includes listening to the valid criticisms raised by supporters and the general public. The Philippine Left cannot survive this long if it’s indifferent to criticisms or if it has failed to update its methods. Let the debates continue, let a hundred mini-rectification movements prosper.

As for the unofficial style guide of ranting against the Left, perhaps the Left’s ideological adversaries already know by now that the revolution cannot be defeated by merely spreading fallacies, innuendos, and malicious intrigues against it.

Leave a Reply