THERE are two attempts to create a revolution in the country. One started in 1969 and is on its 48th year; the other is going to be launched on Thursday, November 30, timed to coincide with the day we honor Andres Bonifacio, who is considered the father of the Philippine revolution.
And I am afraid to say that both may be missing the point, even as both may be heading towards a collision course.
After almost five decades of fighting the state, the CPP-NPA-NDF remains stuck in a time warp, unable to adjust its ideological grounding, thereby overtaken by structural changes not only in the objective relations in society, but also in the nature of oppression itself. Taking its inspiration from Marx, the Left has effectively reduced all oppressive relations to class, even as the complexity of late capitalism, one that is both globalized and digitized, has bred new domains of objectification which has the effect of going beyond rich-poor, capitalist-worker, landlord-peasant dynamics, and has revealed the marginalization of women, LGBT, indigenous peoples and even of the physically challenged. This shifts the loci of resistance away from class-reductionist analysis, to one that embraces identity as the logic of political contestations. Any student of political theory will tell you that these are concerns that Marx and Lenin and Mao, failed to take into account.
The leftist rebellion in the Philippines, basically a communist-inspired movement that mainly adopted a Maoist strategy of focusing on rural guerrilla warfare, hopes to follow the path of rural peasant movements that have been waged in other countries. While mainly focused on the countryside, the movement has also taken up urban struggle and have established its own planks among the urban poor, the women’s movement, and even the youth and the indigenous peoples. These, however, are not concessions to identity politics, but are in fact strategic moves to expand and deepen its appropriation of certain social categories in what remains as basically a class-based struggle against what it has painted as a semi-feudal, semi-capitalist system.
The problem is that even as there is an attempt to accommodate identity-based politics, the Left, or at least its reaffirmist wing, has remained fixated on a global analysis that never left the US imperialist modality. I can remember from the time I had been a participant in student rallies organized by its youth wing, how the anti-US slogan became the constant optics, with only the name of the president changing. This effectively renders the leftist rebellion unable to fully explain or comprehend the current oppressive relationships festering in society.
One other problem that confronts the Left is the emergence of global terrorism and extremist fundamentalism, which is basically, or at least is presented as, an identity-based resistance. In the age of al-Qaida and IS, with their identity-based ideology, the Left is faced with a competitor. Ironically, however, the armed Left, with its tactics of sabotage, random attacks and kidnappings, among others, which are also the tactics of terrorists, can now just as easily be considered a terrorist group.
In 2002, it was in fact designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. With President Duterte abandoning the peace talks, and his declaration of all-out war, the Left is now vowing an intensified ground campaign. And this time, they are facing a popular President, a military that has received a boost in morale, and a people whose vocal influencers are now looking towards another kind of “revolution,” but whose ideological grounding, while unarticulated, is markedly more right-wing.
The call for the president to declare a revolutionary government, a movement that appears to be gaining steam at least in social media, and has carried the hashtag #RevGov, aims to propel the president as the agent that could bring change. As such, it is both right-wing and radical. It is radical in the sense that it endeavors to dismantle the structures of corruption that has long festered and disenabled our body politics. However, it is also pushing to turn the president into an absolute ruler, at least in the transition phase. While the proponents are not using the term, technically what they want to achieve is for President Duterte to launch a palace coup, effectively throwing away the 1987 Constitution, and perhaps even most if not all constitutional bodies.
There may be a confluence of interests between the armed leftist rebellion, and the proponents and adherents of #RevGov in the area of dismantling the influence of the landed oligarchy and the predatory capitalists on our political life. However, considering what the Left espouses, and what #RevGov proponents have so far articulated, their strategies and tactics would be diametrically opposed, and are irreconcilable.
The CPP-NPA-NDF is ideologically on the left, and is for a ground-up protracted armed struggle. The proponents of #RevGov is ideologically on the right, and proposes a top-down social engineering of political and social institutions using the power of a strong state bereft of constitutional limitations.
The Left is failing because it is now ideologically orphaned, and is unable to adjust to changing times. Its muscle power rests on its ground warfare, and it remains to be seen if such tactics can still be as effective considering the changing geopolitics, and the pivot of the President toward China.
However, the proponents of #RevGov are not in any way better placed. It is still too early to say if their proposal to overthrow the Constitution and turn the President into an absolute ruler has deep support among the larger population. And it is even doubtful if they have fully understood what they really want, and if they have any idea of what uncontrollable forces and horrors can be unleashed should the President heed their call.
The Left’s revolution is failing because they are unable to innovate. Proponents of #RevGov want to innovate without understanding its dire consequences.