By: Francis Isaac
There are two considerations that would have to be dealt with by those who try to
seek profound changes in the status quo: first is the actual "act" of engagement
with the social world which results in the overall transformation of the prevailing
power-structures and the sweeping alterations in our given institutions. Second, is
the contemplation on the intended action, so as to fully comprehend its motivating
factors and anticipate its possible trajectory, future developments and end-result.
Though conceptually distinct, they are nonetheless inseparable. For it is the latter
that directs the former-a conceptual arrow a la Frederic Jameson that allows the
transformative process to become a series of informed decisions, guided by a clear
set of principles and a more-or-less coherent explanatory paradigm. Practice, on the
other hand, transports any discursive activity into the realm of the concrete,
subjecting our preliminary assumptions to empirical testing and verification, and if
need be, falsification.
Every so often, movements emerge claiming to follow this double undertaking,
blending both action and contemplation thus allowing them to arrive at a final
solution to all our societal woes. Repudiating both the ivory-towered academic and
the detached literary connoisseur, they seem to agree with Marx's assertion in his
Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach that "the philosophers have only interpreted the world,
in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
But a proffered claim may not always correspond to actual reality. For most often
than not, political movements tend to glorify its own discourse-to lapse into
"dogmatic slumber" by viewing their theoretical formulations as final and
authoritative explanations of the world-at-large. Rather than comprehend the
dialectical character of the "theory-practice nexus," reality is otherwise
perceived as the unshifting ground by which to impose their preconceived
Weltanschauung, or as an empirical prop in their quest for ideological
Such a habit, however, becomes increasingly untenable in a post-modern age, where we
are confronted by a world of fragmented categories and free-floating
signifiers-where our age-old certainties are slowly being questioned; where the
force of novelty erodes all that is traditional, accepted and conventional; where
"all that is solid melts into air."
A predicament such as this has become even more apparent with the country's present
political crisis-an unfolding event that has defied the social movement's long-held
ideological assumptions, and which might very well leave it unprepared if it so
decides to cling to its comfortable dogmas and old orthodox views. The situation is
further characterized by the fact that the crisis has already reached a marked
degree of severity, but where the final tipping-point has yet to be reached.
This, then, brings us to Proposition 1: that the current crisis of the Arroyo
administration (and of the Philippine state as a whole) has led to a scenario where
no single major protagonist is able to muster the needed strength and wherewithal to
gain a significant and strategic advantage over its opponents. Hence, a protracted
stalemate could ensue, which would then lead to a burdensome war of political
While at first glance, the arrayed forces may be organized into two competing
camps-with all the President's men (and women!) on one hand, and those seeking her
removal on the other-reality is far more complex. Rather, what we actually see is
the operationalization of Patricio Abinales' notion of "coalition politics," where
the "use of coalition arrangements" is utilized, either to "support candidates
running for the presidency" or to dislodge an incumbent in Malacañang. Such
coalitions, he indicated, are largely eclectic for they
bring together groups that were and continue to be ideologically opposed. Either
aware of their limited influence or pragmatic enough to realize the need for
"tactical alliances" with opponents, these forces have temporarily set aside their
differences to work for a common goal. (emphasis added)
In the current context, the party-list group Akbayan was able to identify at least
three coalitions or "poles," characterized by their varying programs and distinct
political agenda. First, is the ruling elite which they have dubbed as the "first
pole," composed of all the forces supportive of the administration. According to
Akbayan, this pole was primarily (if not singularly) responsible for the crisis
which was immediately brought about by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye's disclosure of
"'original' and 'altered' taped conversations that smacked of election rigging at
the highest levels (i.e., the President and the COMELEC)."
Second, is the elite opposition or "second pole" which is "represented by the United
Opposition (UNO)/BAYAN group," along with the "CODE-NGO/Hyatt 10/Cory/Makati
Business Club aggrupation" whose primary agenda is to "take over the Presidency."
And finally is the third pole organized around the Left-oriented Laban ng Masa
coalition (LnM), composed of "109 people's organizations, NGOs and individual social
activists" and which calls for the establishment of a "transition revolutionary
government towards genuine political and economic reforms and an end to elite
But such alliances have not remained static. For by September of this year, the
Bukluran para sa Katotohanan (Solidarity for Truth) was formed as a result of the
second and third poles' attempt to unite on a tactical basis and finally end the
Arroyo administration. Composed of traditional politicians (trapos) identified with
former President Joseph Estrada, elements from the middle forces (middle class),
supporters of losing presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr., and the various
factions of the Philippine Left, Bukluran's establishment indicated that the crisis
has already reached a point of near-polarization, wherein it was now possible to
place all the various anti-Arroyo factions with divergent (and often competing)
agenda in a single formation.
The Arroyo regime, however, remains formidable, due to the sheer influence of those
who have opted to support her, such as former President Fidel Ramos and the United
States which has displayed profound unwillingness to withdraw their support from the
administration. As a consequence, the country has now entered a period of
uncertainty with no single faction gaining a strategic upper hand.
Proposition 2: despite the incumbent's apparent culpability and lapse in political
probity, both the protest movement and the maneuverings of the elite opposition have
failed to elicit the spontaneous actions of the ideologically uncommitted and the
great bulk of the unorganized.
If the street protests are any indication, one can conclude that:
1.. both the Left and the anti-Arroyo politicians are unable mobilize people
beyond their own networks and organized base;
2.. that there is no clear trend that would definitely show that those involved in
the campaign for the President's removal, impeachment or ouster (RIO) is slowly
accumulating strength needed for any final and decisive confrontation; and
3.. that what we rather see is an erratic marshalling of forces that would either
expand or contract, depending on a given situation.
This is corroborated by the fact that in the previous July, the broad opposition was
able to mount three major mobilizations-the first was on July 1 in Ayala, Makati
which was able to gather approximately 10,000 people; then another on July 13 where
an estimated crowd of 40,000 protesters occupied the stretches of Paseo de Roxas and
Ayala Avenue. And the third was during Arroyo's State of the Nation Address (SONA)
on July 25 where about 80,000 militant flocked to Commonwealth Avenue, a kilometer
away from the Batasang Pambansa.
While this shows an exponential increase in their mobilizing capacity within less
than a month's time, the anti-GMA forces were nonetheless unable to undertake a
similar offensive the following August. When they were finally able to regroup and
initiate a fresh a political assault on September 21 in Ayala, a mere 20,000 came to
the protest which quickly fizzled out by the onset of evening.
Such a situation gains greater significance when viewed from the vantage point of
EDSA 1 and 2 which were brought about through the independent initiative of the
urban population, either to support a botched up military coup by Ramos and Enrile
(as in the case of the former) or to express their outrage over the "second
envelope" fiasco during the Senate impeachment hearings in 2001.
The difficulty is even more acute for those in the Left who, despite their notion of
democratic centralism and the pivotal role of the vanguard party, readily recognizes
the role of spontaneity as a necessary ingredient for any successful revolutionary
upsurge. As Marxist scholar Ernest Mandel observed, a spontaneous political act is
often the result of a revolutionary minority's efforts at proselytization, in
educating the masses, in developing their capacity for political combat, by mingling
with the great unwashed, in attending to their needs, and in strengthening their
faith in the inevitable dawn of revolutionary redemption.
In one case, we will be able to detect in "spontaneous" action the fruits of years
of "underground activity" by a trade-union opposition, or a rank-and-file group; in
another case, the result of contracts that, for a rather long period of time, have
patiently-and without apparent success-been nurtured by shop colleagues and in a
neighboring city (or a neighboring factory) where the "left-wingers" are stronger.
In class struggle too there is no such thing as a goose "spontaneously" falling from
heaven already cooked.
Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci, for his part, underscored the dialectical
relationship between spontaneity and organized political action, for "the
'spontaneous' movements of the broader popular strata make possible the coming to
power of the most progressive subaltern class as a result of the objective weakening
of the State."
Even Lenin who, among all Marxists, stressed the overriding import of party
discipline and coordination, recognized the necessity for the masses' independent
initiative for the simple reason that even a revolutionary vanguard does not have
the intrinsic capacity to overthrow the state, let alone supplant the
powers-that-be. As the Bolshevik leader readily claimed:
Victory cannot be won with the vanguard alone. To throw the vanguard alone into the
decisive battle, before the whole class, before the broad masses have taken up a
position either of direct support of the vanguard, or at least of benevolent
neutrality towards it and one in which they cannot possibly support the enemy, would
be not merely folly but a crime. And in order that actually the whole class, that
actually the broad masses of toilers and those oppressed by capital may take up such
a position, propaganda and agitation alone are not enough. For this the masses must
have their own political experience. (underscoring supplied)
Proposition 3: Such inaction may be attributed to the public's total distrust of the
elite politicians who have organized themselves into the United Opposition (UNO)
since they have yet to show any inclination to go beyond their class interest, much
less transcend their most immediate factional agenda-POWER!
In an article written shortly after the President's State of the Nation Address in
July 2005, Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD) senior researcher Patrick Patiño
described UNO as the "frontline coalition of political parties, politicians and
supporters of deposed president Estrada and the late Fernando Poe Jr.," and which
was the "major political organization under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino
(Coalition of United Pilipinos), the campaign machinery of FPJ in the 2004
With this in mind, UNO can then be characterized as the working coalition of the
country's four major opposition parties, namely: the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino
(LDP), the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), PDP-Laban and the Partido ng Masang
Pilipino (PMP). By and large, these were the very same groups which, for the most
part, supported former President Estrada who was subsequently booted out of office
for his alleged involvement in jueteng-the country's premiere illegal numbers game.
Simply put, it is UNO's involvement with the previous administration that has become
its biggest political burden-viewed by the public as the most tainted of all the
anti-Arroyo forces with no other political agenda but to regain its previous
foothold in Malacañang. In fact, public distrust is so widespread that it is often
described as the trapo opposition.
Its dented political image can be explained by the fact that it has come to
represent all the shortcomings of the political system that was created after the
downfall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Dubbed by academics as elite
democracy, this type of political rule can be characterized by:
1. The dispersal of power among rival factions of the elite, with no central
bureaucracy acting as the sole receptacle of prestige and political authority;
2. The formal existence of various institutions of democratic governance such
as a duly approved Constitution, the enjoyment of civil liberties, the presence of
an independent judiciary and the existence of a well-respected legislature, but
where real political power is concentrated in the hands of a small and exploitative
3. The exercise of periodic elections less as a means of enhancing greater
popular participation than as a mechanism for resolving intra-elite competition.
Under such an arrangement, political parties do not function as "inputting
devices" which allow for interest aggregation and articulation, but as
instruments of patronage and elite consolidation. As Joel Rocamora bitingly remarks
in his critique on present-day Philippine political culture:
Our political parties.are not divided on the basis of long-term upper class
interests, much less the interests of the lower classes. They are temporary and
unstable coalitions of upper class fractions pieced together for elections and
post-election battles for patronage. They come together only to put down assertions
of lower class interests. The rest of the time they maneuver in particularistic
horsetrading and the perennial search for "deals."
Hence, the United Opposition can never be a force for genuine societal change.
Rather, it is more of a symptom rather than a medication for the disease that it
purports to address.
Proposition 4: that the failure of the Left to gain enough popular sympathy and
support is due to the Reaffirmists' open tactical alliance with UNO and Laban ng
Masa's equivocal efforts to distance itself from the trapo opposition.
In a statement in the 8 July 2005 special issue of Ang Bayan, the Executive
Committee of the CPP Central Committee called on all its party members and mass
supporters to forge a formal alliance with the United Opposition, arguing that the
Left's most immediate task is the formation of a broad coalition that has the
capability of emasculating President Arroyo and all her lackeys in the
administration. This, the communist leadership claimed, is needed so as to isolate
the regime and pave the way for the formation of a caretaker-type of "democratic
council." As the statement further suggests:
The progressive forces may enter into formal alliance with the political opposition,
where they may work with the pro-Estrada and anti-Arroyo reactionaries, as their
struggle against the ruling regime becomes fiercer and more intense. Cooperation in
the struggle against the common enemy would thereby emerge as the most prominent
feature, and serve as the context in addressing any unsettled issues in connection
with the EDSA 2 struggle. (emphasis added)
Less than a month later, the Party proudly proclaimed the inroads that they have
made in forming such a coalition, stating that they were able to bring together an
eclectic mix of Leftist activists, Estrada loyalists and traditional politicians
during the last SONA demonstration near the Batasan. In a brief article which
appeared in its official organ Ang Bayan, the CPP reported that:
(t)he demonstration led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), the Gloria Step
Down Movement (GSM) and the United Opposition was joined by various democratic
organizations of workers, women, students, professionals, church people and others
in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, representatives of progressive party-list
groups and supporters of the late Fernando Poe, Jr.
This position, however, was severely attacked by Sanlakas' resident theoretician
Arnel Martinez, accusing the CPP of "tailism" and of succumbing to the control of
the elite opposition.
Laban ng Masa (whose member-organizations have criticized the CPP in varying
degrees), on the other hand, has also displayed the same pragmatism as their fellow
Leftist competitor-though in a far less compromising manner. In a document entitled
Strategy and Tactics of LABAN NG MASA: A Proposal, the said formation stressed the
need to work in tandem with the bourgeois opposition-to establish an informal
tactical alliance with their elite opponents while maintaining their distance and
independence and retaining a fair degree of political initiative. As the document
By developing the progressive forces, we will be in a better position to deal and
negotiate with the elite opposition. At this point in time, informal and tactical
alliances with them are better suited to our purposes. The process towards a
formally negotiated alliance with them in the formation of a transition government
will depend on their consistency in taking the extra-constitutional path and
accepting the minimum demands put forward by the Left and progressive coalition.
This has therefore placed LnM in a politically awkward predicament. For while it
"reject(s) the constitutional methods of regime change" since "these methods will
preserve the structural obstacles to social change," they are nonetheless willing
"to work with everyone who has a significant mass following and resources to
contribute in the oust-GMA campaign."
By comparing these two positions, one can arrive at the following:
· that the Communist Party view the current crisis as tactical in character
which can advance the revolution but cannot grant it any opportunity for a decisive
· while Laban ng Masa, on the other hand, assume that the present
conjuncture can gain a strategic importance, depending upon the balance of forces
and contingent actions that the various groups would undertake as they react to the
In retrospect, the CPP position can be fully understood if one would analyze their
overall strategic framework. By adopting Mao Zedong's concept of protracted people's
war, the Party has, in effect, mandated itself to establish guerilla bases in the
countryside so as to develop the movement's military potential and gradually
surround enemy-held urban centers, until such a time when it can advance "wave upon
wave" throughout the entire archipelago.
With such a framework, armed struggle then becomes the preeminent mode of
revolutionary action, wherein final victory will be brought about through a decisive
clash of arms with the reactionary state. This was further elaborated by CPP
founding Chairman Jose Maria Sison who, in an interview with German academic Rainer
Werning, stressed the primary role of armed action in the overall conduct of the
The strategic line of people's war is to encircle the cities from the countryside
and accumulate strength until the people's army is strong enough to defeat the enemy
forces entrenched in the cities. People's war is likely to pass through three
strategic stages: defensive, stalemate, and offensive. But within the strategic
defensive, tactical offensives can be launched and won by the people's army.
The LnM position, on the other hand, indicate a more Leninist approach, relying
instead on the political nature of the crisis to advance the revolutionary agenda by
working in tandem with the bourgeois opposition while maintaining their
organizational independence and initiative. This thinking was first outlined by
Lenin in a pamphlet entitled Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic
Revolution where he reminded his readers that:
Marxism teaches the proletarian not to keep aloft from the bourgeois revolution, not
to refuse to take part in it, not to allow the leadership of the revolution to be
assumed by the bourgeoisie but, on the contrary, to take a most energetic part in
it, to fight resolutely for consistent proletarian democracy, to fight to carry out
the revolution to its completion.
To do so, the movement, "acting on the basis of bourgeois society," is enjoined to
march "side by side with bourgeois democracy;" that is, "to march side by side with
the revolutionary and republican bourgeoisie without merging with it."
No essential contradiction can therefore be perceived in the CPP and LnM's approach.
For there is substantial agreement between the respective positions of the two.
Arguing that the fall of elite rule remains the end-objective of any revolutionary
enterprise, the two major Left formations emphasize the necessity of working with
the trapo opposition so as to weaken the bourgeoisie as a class and overthrow the
present regime. The difference, however, lie on the degree of the alliance with the
elites and the precise mode of how the revolution is to be carried out.
Such a stance indicates a fair sense of realpolitik on the part of the Left, viewing
the crisis as a zero-sum game where the accumulation of strength by one of the
contending forces would necessarily lead to the weakening of the other. Hence,
politics is seen as the movement and interaction of organized formations and
interest groups for the purpose of acquiring power, characterized by the fleeting
loyalties of shifting coalitions and sudden maneuvers of class-based fractions. And
"power," as French philosopher Michel Foucault bluntly suggests, "is war, a war
continued by other means."
However, it precisely this "realistic" approach to politics that has alienated the
Left from the very people whom it is supposed to serve. By marching side by side
with bourgeois democracy, the public had the unfortunate impression (albeit wrongly)
that the revolutionary movement is essentially on the side of the bourgeoisie. In
fact, even the Left's foremost nemesis Imelda Marcos found such political
cohabitation shocking and detestable, and has even expressed her failure to
"understand why her daughter (Imee Marcos) had to be seen with.leaders of the
militant left" during the September 6 anti-Arroyo rally near the Batasang
This embarrassing predicament of the revolutionary movement was brought about by its
failure to understand that it is now operating in a post-modern terrain; where
political reality can no longer be directly perceived by the public, but is rather
mediated through the Fourth Estate. And as a perennial presence and institution,
the media abhors abstractions and elaboration. On the contrary, it seeks to compress
the truth into tiny bits of information-transforming treatises into catchy
sound-bites, spectacles into images, the truth into pure simulacrum. This then
leads to the phenomenon of "bounded reality" where the individual perceiver is
burdened by limited time, information and cognitive capacity to process the data
that he or she has accumulated.
Hence, by marching side-by-side or (Heaven forbid!) linking arms with the
bourgeoisie in an open-air rally, the public will have the impression that either
the Left is as opportunistic as the anti-Arroyo elites whom it is supposed to
repudiate, or that its political agenda is simply identical with that of the United
Opposition. This is so since the information that people receive has already been
filtered through the media, thereby constraining their ability to detect the
minutiae ideological differences and class contradictions among the anti-Arroyo
To address this situation, the Left should have placed greater premium on the
educational aspect of its advocacy. Not only should it address the most pressing
political concerns of the day, but it should also promote values that engender hope
and empower citizens so that they may be able to claim concrete victories in the
immediate and long-term. As Gramsci pointed out, "every relationship of "hegemony"
is necessarily an educational relationship" that occurs, "not only within a nation,"
but also among "the various forces of which the nation is composed."
By either forging a formal alliance or working in tandem with the elite opposition,
the Left has blunted its own revolutionary role; for it has instead become an
unwitting pawn in the perpetuation of political patronage and other reactionary
practices that UNO has come to exemplify.
Proposition 5: that this opportunist trend within the Left could have either been
assuaged or addressed by its youth component. However, the existing youth
organizations have not shown any inclination for ideological discourse, thereby
precluding them from questioning the wisdom of their political elders and the
actions of their organizational superiors.
As the harbinger of new ideas and as the repository of the nation's future, the
youth is supposed to challenge old dogmas and comfortable conventions that have
largely been inherited from the past so as to conjure far novel ideas and expand (as
Jean Paul Sartre suggests) the realm of the possible. By so doing, the dialectical
process is given a helpful nudge, weeding out the moribund theses from the
past-abandoning all that is dying, decrepit and worn-out.
In recent years however, youth and student groups from the broad Left community have
failed to perform this historical task. Constrained by rigid organizational
strictures and by the expectations of their elders, the organized youth have instead
become the promoters of the most rigid orthodoxy-trained to toe the party line and
perform prosyletization and propaganda work among the masses with no single question
This line of thought was first expressed by CPP Chairman Amado Guerrero who, in his
book Philippine Society and Revolution, argued that the youth is simply a "force
(in) assisting the proletariat in the spread of revolutionary propaganda on a
nationwide scale." Lumping them together with other sections of the
intelligentsia and petty bourgeoisie, the Party Chair further noted that the youth
is the most important and decisive in preparing public opinion in favor of the
Philippine Revolution.They are in a good position to undertake this task because
they have a keen political sense, they are the most numerous part of the
intelligentsia, they are the most widespread and yet they are concentrated in
schools in particular points in both urban and rural areas. They can easily relay
revolutionary propaganda and reach the masses throughout the archipelago beyond the
capability of reactionaries to curtail the truth of the people's democratic
It is in this context that Jose Maria Sison's notion of the Second Propaganda
Movement gains greater resonance. Envisioned as a "cultural revolution of a national
democratic orientation," the youth is given a pivotal role in this political
enterprise by speaking out "without end for national democracy in classrooms, in the
streets, over the radio and everywhere else." In other words, the youth is
expected to serve as mere conduits of party propaganda-embracing the prevailing
organizational policy as a new secular gospel, and at the same time dissuaded from
critically examining its content, consequences and conceptual nuances.
With this ingrained practice in the Philippine Left, it is thus no surprise to find
the progressive movement partaking of the very same traits with that of the most
conservative of all Western influences-the Catholic Church. In fact, it was this
2,000-year old institution that first suffused the word "propaganda" with a more
instrumentalist content in the early seventeenth century, at the onset of the Thirty
A Latin word which means "things to be propagated," this rather innocuous term soon
became part of the modern world's political lexicon when in 1622, Pope Gregory XV
created a committee of cardinals dubbed as the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide
(Congregation for Propagating the Faith) to oversee the spread of Christianity in
non-Catholic countries and regulate ecclesiastical affairs in mission territories.
Thus understood, propaganda now refers to the act of propagating a particular faith
or creed-whether religious or secular, Marxist or Christian-and how it ensures its
hegemony over all the rest. And while the youth sector may be in the best position
to perform such a role (given its vigorous character and idealistic predilection),
they can only be effective is there is wide unanimity on the faith or paradigm that
they are supposed to disseminate. But they can have no degree of efficacy whatsoever
if the said body of thought is burdened by numerous anomalies-a paradigmatic
situation defined by Thomas Kuhn as a period of crisis which is characterized by the
growing disjunction between its theoretical explanation and ground reality.
And such is the predicament of the Philippine Left. Weakened by internal purges in
the 1980s and factional splits in the decade thereafter, it is only now that the
revolutionary movement has gained the capacity (and good sense) to initiate
inter-bloc dialogue and recover lost ground. But even if these initiatives are
already being done, it has yet to construct a new theoretical paradigm and
analytical frame that could supplant the old, outmoded prism of national democracy.
But what are we to make of all of these? Can there still be hope for the
revolutionary movement, and the nation as a whole? How are we to go about our work
in the absence of any solid ideological compass to guide our path? Can the Left
possibly weather this dark night of the national soul and gain significance amidst
the crisis that beset us?
Being a "hopeless" optimist, I can only respond with an affirmative note. As an
activist and as an individual, I sincerely believe that the country shall not only
survive but will subsequently thrive, with the Left acting as a positive force for
change. But this can only be done if (and only if) the revolutionary movement would
emphasize less on its rah-rah politics and begin a critical reexamination of itself
and the new social context in which it is immersed. It is with this hope for
reexamination and renewal that I offer my final proposition.
Proposition 6: that a group (or even a grouplet, if you will) is required to act as
a gadfly that would sting the Philippine Left so as to awaken it from its long
In his work the Apology, Plato wrote that when his teacher and long-time friend
Socrates was brought before the Council of Five Hundred, this snub-nosed philosopher
stated that the Athenian state was like a "noble steed" which (owing to its very
size) was "tardy in motion.and requires to be stirred into life." He, on the
other hand, was a mere gadfly which was tasked to sting his beloved polis so it may
rise from its sleep of equanimity and awake-bathed in the truth's undying glow.
Though the Council's response was highly unfavorable (prompting Socrates to end his
life by drinking a cup of hemlock), history has nonetheless granted its kindness
upon this unfortunate Athenian, reminding the huge to heed the voice of the small so
that it may reflect upon its actions, directions and decisions.
Unfortunately, the Philippine Left still has to learn this humbling yet valuable
lesson. For since the 1970s, the movement has repeatedly sought refuge in its
numerical strength and organizational broadness, dismissing all other ideological
challengers as misguided reformers or, worse, as counter-revolutionary pretenders.
While such condescension (if not arrogance) is perfectly justifiable in a situation
where the Left enjoys broad popular support and has already attained a fair degree
of counter-hegemony this thinking cannot possibly hold water at a time when the
movement is deeply divided and has yet to completely recover from the Great Schism
This culture of numerical arrogance is clearly manifested by Jose Maria Sison,
particularly in his repeated use of the word "grouplet" to describe (and dismiss)
all the various forces in the Left who have either bolted out of the Communist Party
or were never part of the CPP-led national democratic movement in the first place.
He even called militant party-list Akbayan as a "small reformist group" at one
point, alleging that it maintains close ties with "certain rightwing NGO
entrepreneurs, Trotskyites and other anti-communist groups." This statement from
the Philippine Ayatollah (as Patricio Abinales fondly calls Sison) betrays an
over-reliance on sheer numbers to prove the Party's organizational strength and the
veracity of its position.
Sison's contention, however, falls on three points:
· first, that numbers alone is a shallow determinant of truth (or at the
very least, sound political sense) for as the truism suggests, "the majority may not
always be right;"
· second, while the CPP may be the biggest faction within the Philippine
Left, they are still nonetheless diminutive when compared to all the other forces
seeking power and prestige in the country; and
· third, numbers and majorities are ephemeral in character, for the
minorities of today can be the dominant fractions of tomorrow.
And as to the non-efficacy of mere "grouplets" and other similar diminutive
formations, history has proven otherwise. In France for instance, prior to the
Student Revolt of May 1968, Charles de Gaulle causally dismissed the then-emerging
campus radical groups as mere "groupuscules," hinting that they will be unable to
make any dent on the French regime's power-structure. The students, however, seized
upon this term of mockery and used it as their own-adopting it as a badge of pride
and identity as they roam the various schools, demanding both relevance and
Then, on the spring of that year, the impossible occurred. As if on cue, various
Left-wing groupuscules operating outside the influence of (and sometimes in
opposition to) the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) seized the buildings of the
Sorbonne and occupied the Latin Quarter. Bearing the brunt of the French police,
these defiant youngsters soon captured the imagination of the public; with survey
group IFOP reporting on May 8 that "four-fifths of the people of Paris were
sympathetic to the rebellious students." By the 13th of that month, around
800,000 workers joined the protesting students, which then led to the formation of
the Sorbonne soviet.
While the revolt ultimately failed in bringing down the regime, it was nonetheless
pivotal in shattering General de Gaulle's personal prestige, forcing him to retire
from politics less than a year later. It also inaugurated a host of reforms which
"gave a semblance of participation to students and workers." And most
importantly, it paved the way for the revival of the Left, culminating in Francois
Mitterrand and the Socialist Party's electoral victory in 1981.
It must however be pointed out that while this paper accentuates the political
importance of small autonomous formations, the author is nonetheless supportive of
the current unity efforts within the democratic Left. Neither does it call for
the formation of new factions within the existing political blocs, knowing full well
that it can only harm the revolutionary movement in the long-term.
I do, however, see the need for a total reexamination of Leftist discourse, and a
thorough reassessment of its Leninist practice. And such a task would have to be
initiated by the younger members of these blocs, for the more senior revolutionaries
seem to abhor such schemes, trained as they were in the approaches of the old. More
so, by being carried out by the movement's more youthful activists, they will be
able to bring a sense of idealism to their actions, which the old Left seemed to
have lost due to its pragmatism and embarrassing compromises with our class enemies.
In addition, this campaign for Left renewal need not have a formal organization. It
could be a spontaneous initiative by a comrade, or even a loose network of fellow
travelers and activists longing for rethinking and ideological Renaissance.
But regardless of how it would be carried out, the process must start now. For only
by abandoning the ideas that we have inherited from the Comintern can the Left
successfully prepare the Arroyo administration's political funeral.
Abinales, Patricio. "Coalition Politics in the Philippines," in Current History.
Ang Bayan. "On Arroyo's SONA: Protests Reverberate Within and Outside the Country."
7 August 2005.
Executive Committee of the Central Committee, Communist Party of the Philippines.
"Oust the Fascist and Puppet Arroyo Regime," in Ang Bayan (Special Issue). 8 July
Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972-1977.
Pantheon Books: New York; 1980.
Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey
Nowell Smith, eds. International Publishers: New York; 1997.
Guerrero, Amado. Philippine Society and Revolution. International Association of
Filipino Patriots (IAFP): Oakland; 1979.
Heywood, Andrew. Politics (Second Edition). Palgrave Foundations: New York; 2002.
Katsiaficas, George. The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968.
South End Press: Boston; 1987.
Kuhn, Thomas. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Second Edition,
Enlarged). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Laban ng Masa. Laban ng Masa Slams GMA-Sponsored Cha Cha, Presses for Transitional
Revolutionary Government. Press Release. 13 July 2005.
Laban ng Masa. A Call for an End to Elite Rule. Press Statement. 8 July 2005.
Laban ng Masa. Strategy and Tactics of Laban ng Masa: A Proposal. July 2005.
Lenin, V.I. "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder: A Popular Essay in Marxist
Strategy and Tactics. International Publishers: New York; 1989.
Lenin, V.I. Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
International Publishers: New York; 1989.
Manila Standard Today. 16 September 2005.
Mandel, Ernest. The Leninist Theory of Organization: Its Relevance for Today.
Reprinted from International Socialist Review by Life is Beautiful Press: Manila;
Martinez, Arnel. "Ang Pagpapailalim ng mga Maoista sa Linya ng Elitistang
Oposisyon," in Obrero. Blg. 23, Hulyo-Agosto 2005.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Washington Square Press:
New York; 1964.
Marx, Karl. "Theses on Feuerbach;" in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Basic Writing
on Politics and Philosophy. Lewis Feuer, ed. Anchor Books: New York; 1959.
National Executive Committee, AKBAYAN (Citizens' Action Party). The Third
Pole-Beyond Elite Options: Putting the Citizens Back In (Akbayan's Agenda in the
Current Political Crisis. 29 July 2005.
Patiño, Patrick. Philippine Political Crisis: Issues, Balance of Forces, Scenarios.
Plato. "Apology," in The Republic and Other Works. Anchor Books: New York; 1973.
Rocamora, Joel. "The Constitutional Amendment Debate: Reforming Political
Institutions, Reshaping Political Culture," in Shift. Glenda Gloria, ed. Ateneo
Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs: Quezon City; 1997.
Rosenau, Pauline Marie. 1992. Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights,
Inroads, and Incursions. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Sison, Jose Maria. "CPP and NDFP Uphold Human Rights," in Philippine Daily Inquirer.
16 January 2005, p.A16.
Sison, Jose Maria (with Rainer Werning). The Philippine Revolution: The Leader's
View. Crane Russak: New York; 1989.
Sison, Jose Maria. Struggle for National Democracy (New Edition). College Editors
Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation: Manila;
 Marx, Karl. "Theses on Feuerbach;" in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Basic
Writing on Politics and Philosophy. Lewis Feuer, ed. Anchor Books: New York; 1959,
 Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. Quintin Hoare and
Geoffrey Nowell Smith, eds. International Publishers: New York; 1997, p.334.
 Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. Washington Square
Press: New York; 1964, p.63.
 Abinales, Patricio. "Coalition Politics in the Philippines," in Current History.
April 2001, p.154.
 Ibid., p.161.
 National Executive Committee, AKBAYAN (Citizens' Action Party). The Third
Pole-Beyond Elite Options: Putting the Citizens Back In (Akbayan's Agenda in the
Current Political Crisis. 29 July 2005, p.2.
 Ibid., p.3.
 Laban ng Masa. Laban ng Masa Slams GMA-Sponsored Cha Cha, Presses for
Transitional Revolutionary Government. Press Release. 13 July 2005.
 Laban ng Masa. A Call for an End to Elite Rule. Press Statement. 8 July 2005.
 This number remains highly contested, with the Philippine National Police
pegging it at 5,000. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, on the other hand, placed it at
7,500 which is a far cry from the total claim of rally organizers.
 Mandel, Ernest. The Leninist Theory of Organization: Its Relevance for Today.
Reprinted from International Socialist Review by Life is Beautiful Press: Manila;
 Gramsci, op.cit., p.200.
 Lenin, V.I. "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder: A Popular Essay in
Marxist Strategy and Tactics. International Publishers: New York; 1989, pp.73-74.
 Patiño, Patrick. Philippine Political Crisis: Issues, Balance of Forces,
 The Tagalog word for "dirty old rag" and a derogatory ellipsis for "traditional
politician," trapo is often used to denote all the shortcoming of Philippine
politics and is often equated with graft and corruption.
 Such a category has been used by Francisco Nemenzo, Jr., Walden Bello, John
Gersman and Olivia Caoili among others.
 Heywood, Andrew. Politics, (Second Edition). Palgrave Foundations: New York;
2002, p. 252.
 Rocamora, Joel. "The Constitutional Amendment Debate: Reforming Political
Institutions, Reshaping Political Culture," in Shift. Glenda Gloria, ed. Ateneo
Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs: Quezon City; 1997, p.106.
 Executive Committee of the Central Committee, Communist Party of the
Philippines. "Oust the Fascist and Puppet Arroyo Regime," in Ang Bayan (Special
Issue). 8 July 2005, p.2.
 Ang Bayan. "On Arroyo's SONA: Protests Reverberate Within and Outside the
Country." 7 August 2005, p.3.
 Martinez, Arnel. "Ang Pagpapailalim ng mga Maoista sa Linya ng Elitistang
Oposisyon," in Obrero. Blg. 23, Hulyo-Agosto 2005.
 Laban ng Masa. Strategy and Tactics of Laban ng Masa: A Proposal. July 2005.
 Sison, Jose Maria (with Rainer Werning). The Philippine Revolution: The
Leader's View. Crane Russak: New York; 1989, p.53.
 Lenin, V.I. Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution.
International Publishers: New York; 1989, p.41.
 Ibid., p.35.
 Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972-1977. Pantheon Books: New York; 1980, p.90.
 Manila Standard Today. 16 September 2005.
 This is the formal nomenclature of the liberal press and mass media.
 Pauline Rosenau defines simulacrum as "a copy of a copy for which there is no
original," wherein "no distinction can remain between the real and the model." For a
further discussion on this topic, see her book Post-Modernism and the Social
Sciences: Insights, Inroads and Intrusions.
 Gramsci, op.cit., p.350.
 Guerrero, Amado. Philippine Society and Revolution. International Association
of Filipino Patriots (IAFP): Oakland; 1979, p.140.
 Ibid., p.139.
 Sison, Jose Maria. Struggle for National Democracy (New Edition). College
Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation:
Manila; 1980, p.26.
 Plato. "Apology," in The Republic and Other Works. Anchor Books: New York;
 Sison, Jose Maria. "CPP and NDFP Uphold Human Rights," in Philippine Daily
Inquirer. 16 January 2005, p.A16.
 Katsiaficas, George. The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of
1968. South End Press: Boston; 1987, p.88.
 Ibid., p.111.
 By democratic Left, we refer to the non-CPP groups which have recently embraced
the call for inter-bloc dialogue and greater unity among the progressive forces.