Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

Published by Bulatlat

Joma Sison said he became a Marxist after reading anti-communist books in schools. I wonder how many activists became more radicalized after reading analysts and columnists who specialize in denigrating the national democratic struggle. I remember a scholar who wrote that NatDem activists are supposedly only good at name-calling before accusing his campus critics of being ‘baby Stalinists’. I don’t think he noticed the irony in his argument. I would often encounter writers like him not just in the academe but also in mainstream media publications, most notably opinion columns. Reading them is no fun but helpful in improving our praxis. We become more effective organizers if we know how to counter the anti-Left narrative being peddled in opinion-making institutions.

Writers who do not deny their anti-Left bias and Rightist political orientation are easier to dismiss. I can point out the twisting of facts and malicious interpretation of events as fanatic defense of their politician backers and irrational hatred of radical politics. But there are also writers who claim to be analyzing and explaining the political situation without the baggage of the anti-Left lens, even if they wielded state power by being cozy with the ruling bourgeois party. There are even those who equate their unabashedly anti-Left scholarship with the progressive objective of making politics more democratic.

These writings often get a boost through direct and indirect patronage from state-sponsored agencies. The anti-Left analysis is amplified until it becomes the standard reference and frame in news reports and academic papers. Worse, it is weaponized too by Right-wing trolls in justifying the demonization and even violence targeting Leftist activists.

Of course, the Left is given the opportunity to issue a rejoinder and assert its politics in the civic space. However, it rests on the assumption that the Left can push back without triggering a brutal backlash from well-entrenched reactionary forces. Or that in the so-called free market of ideas, the State plays the role of a disinterested spectator when anti-Left perspectives are circulated. Unless there is an upsurge in revolutionary movements, the ruling class is able to restrict what kind of information may proliferate in society to preserve the status quo. We thrive from exchanging Leftist viewpoints but it is always drowned out by massive anti-Left propaganda.

As an ascendant political movement, the Left has to be accountable for its actions. It should welcome criticism and engage those who question its politics. So far, no one has been prevented from doing this. There is no dearth of materials criticizing and even condemning the history and politics of the NatDem Left. These are used to extend the expired validity of Red scare tactics and ridicule the long-running communist movement in the country.

Deliberate or not, the glaring error of some partisan critics of the Left is to polemicize with a distorted sense of history and improper reading of the local political landscape. In their attempt to be seen as impartial observers, they criticize the Left and the Right as if both are equally liable for what has happened to our country. There is no mention of the important fact that the Left, despite its superior moral clout, has no control of the bureaucracy and national treasury. When they highlight the excesses and failures of the Left, they uncritically compare it with the crimes of the Right. It is the Right that has had an uninterrupted dominance in government but some critics have been depicting the Left’s struggle for justice and democracy as the principal cause of the tragic state of our nation.

Even the Left’s participation in elections is subjected to constant derision. The main flaw in the seemingly fair evaluation of the Left’s performance in the polls is the naïve thinking that the electoral playing field is equitable. The Left’s electoral numbers are dissected and flaunted without being placed in the context of a fraud-prone voting system manipulated by money, patronage, and foreign meddling. How should we interpret the votes garnered by Leftist candidates? That they are too low to qualify for a Senate seat? Or enough to maintain a growing electoral base while deflecting the nonstop violent attacks of state-backed forces? Other political parties can focus on vote-getting activities but Makabayan and its candidates are forced to contend with and defeat the insidious black propaganda operations of groups linked to government machinery. That Makabayan parties continue to be reelected despite facing numerous obstacles is proof of their enduring appeal and influence in the grassroots.

But I want to probe too if Makabayan’s modest success in the parliamentary arena is also misconstrued as an indication of the Left attaining a significant presence in mainstream politics. Because even if the Left has representation in Congress (for now) and some local government units, it remains to be a minority voice and marginalized political force. Its electoral work is just part of a broader struggle for social transformation. Hence, its tactics and strategies are seen to be out of place in traditional politics. This will naturally elicit various reactions from all sides of the political spectrum including reactionary pundits who are inevitably hostile and paranoid to Leftist campaigning. The same experts who nitpick on every move of the Left but refuse to use the same standards in writing about corrupt politicians and elite parties. Some are well-meaning even if they only manage to embarrass themselves for spreading misanalysis.

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