The sharpest line

Arnold P. Alamon

Sun Star, Cagayan de Oro

Nov. 19, 2016

ONE of the interesting political developments in the wake of the successful albeit controversial Marcos burial is the supposed bind that the national democratic left is now mired in. With a few personalities in the Duterte cabinet coming from the political bloc, some of whom were actual victims of the dictatorship, some sectors have been demanding for their resignation.

The criticisms have been scathing and valid. What is the left doing in “critical collaboration” with the Duterte administration when in the past five months, the new administration has displayed utter disregard for human rights in its war against drugs and more recently exhibited the worse manifestations of political patronage by paving the way for the Marcoses’ rehabilitation before the nation?

The known stalwart of people’s rights and the sector which fought the dictator with their brawn and blood for decades is now depicted not just as strange bedfellows but as collaborator to the increasingly disconcerting evolution of the Duterte administration.

The question is posed quite succinctly by this same critical set: where does the left draw the line? Between critical collaboration and outright rejection, what is it that would break the supposed alliance between Duterte and the national democratic left? Isn’t the Marcos burial pushed by Duterte himself worthy of being regarded as the proverbial final straw that should cause the movement’s turn around?

These accusing questions seem fair given the duplicitous developments in terms of the direction the Duterte administration seem to be taking. Even among those hopeful that the new administration is going to put an end to elite-led patronage politics, the much bandied about change is turning out to be very underwhelming and disappointing.

There is a tendency to look at the national democratic left’s supposed alliance with Duterte through the lens of the failed experiments of other formations. The criticism come from the sector who have taken a purely parliamentary route to actualize their leftist agenda. Their critical collaboration with the Liberal Party, for instance, has all but gobbled them up to become the mouthpiece and political operators of the much-hated previous regime. Those coming from a smaller section of the Philippine left believe they are towing the sharpest line with their constant call for disengagement with government because that is only what their degree of political influence can demand.

It might be good for these critics to remind themselves that the largest and most organized left formation in the country never had any illusions that substantive change can be achieved through a critical collaboration with any bourgeois government including that of the present Duterte administration.

Based on numerous pronouncements, what some personalities are doing in the current cabinet is merely to push for what is possible within the limits of bourgeois democracy as an extension of their significant but limited foray into parliamentary politics.

The troubling directions that the Duterte administration seem to be making, if anything, are actually confirmations of what the national democratic left has known and proven for the past decades. Patronage politics which they call bureaucrat capitalism and feudalism, and foreign influence also referred to as imperialism, will continue to define the nature of the Philippine State because of the embeddedness of these forces in Filipino society. It would still take an organized movement from the outside to re-order society towards emancipatory ideals.

And this is what these other left formations are lacking, truth be told. They sway with every shift in political fortunes because they do not have a mass base to keep them grounded. The reason why they are very much invested and obsessed about the national democratic left’s engagement with the State is because the State is their primary raison d’être, either for cynical reasons or a theoretical point of reference for their politics without praxis. For the captured Liberal Party left, government is a source of funding and legitimacy. Those who have anarchic tendencies will always rail about the supposed sharpest line without a movement to validate such positions.

So where does the national democratic left draw the line, therefore?

Apparently, for those familiar with the history and evolution of this formation, the line has been drawn a long, long time ago. There is a clear and consistent understanding among the national democratic forces that there are limits to the possibilities for meaningful change within the system allowed by electoral politics.

It is an awakened and organized people who will bring about genuine change. Thus, the fast and quick response is to reject the question as misplaced and unfair, one that reeks of ignorance about the basic difference between the national democratic left and other left formations in the country.

 

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 25, 2016.

Arnold P. Alamon