Why the Abad caper is not enough to advance the revolution

Patricio N. Abinales
Why the Abad caper is not enough to advance the revolution
What happened at UP looked and sounded more like the actions of a sect that has failed to educate and convince its constituents of the rightness of its cause. It does not have 'the people' behind them

If we just go by the tone of the criticisms from the Arroyo Right and the Joma Sison Left, what stands out prominently is the bile with which both sides have waged their attacks on the regime in power.

The adjectives range from the intensely insulting (“Abnoy” or dim-witted) to the vitriolic (killer, corrupt-like-Marcos, servile puppet of the imperial). Communist propaganda assaults on Aquino officials have become personal, the latest of which was the sect’s hooliganism at the University of the Philippines. From the other side, Aquino is blamed for everything – from not doing anything to solve his father’s murder (and hence complicit in perpetrating its non-resolution), to using the same arguments its radical opponents used to tag Aquino as the worst president since Marcos. 

It is actually bizarre to read the publicists of the Arroyo Right and the Sisonite Left sharing the same argument in answer to the public furor over the assault on Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. They all say the violence heaped on Abad was nothing compared to the systemic violence perpetrated by this regime on the Filipino people, and UP’s not a haven where differing ideas contend with each other, it is “the line of fire” where would-be revolutionaries develop their commitment!

What accounts for this Right-Left bitterness? Moreover, why does one not see the same passion, the same opprobrium directed at the corruption of Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr, and, of late, the Binays?

For the Left, it is the fear of increasing political irrelevance. This is an issue that bedevils local communists these days. The verbose publicities of a people’s war continuing its march to victory cannot hide the fact that as it enters its 50th year as the only existing armed communist movement in the world, there is little to indicate that the CPP has recovered a lot of the ground it lost in the 1980s. 

There have been “victories” in the countryside, but all are puny triumphs. Ambuscades hardly make a dent on the armature of a military that, while still plagued with corruption and mismanagement, has also shown remarkable improvement in counter-insurgency capabilities. A reorientation of its strategy to favor civic action over body count, and a more generous American aid program has turned the Armed Forces around. (On this quiet shift the recent book by author Criselda Yabes, Peace Warriors, is an instructive guide. One can also listen to her explaining the changed strategy here.)

The political struggle has not kept pace with its armed counterpart, and, ironically, the tactic that seems to be working is the one communists detests because it distracts the masses from the wisdom of arms: elections. The scary thing about this form of “parliamentary struggle” is how easily it could force even the most radical to agree to the bourgeois rules of the game and thus be coopted by the system (Note, for example, the increasing reliance by the Communist Party of the Philippines’ front organizations on the Supreme Court – a reactionary institution – to oppose Aquino.)

Post-Marcos politics, therefore, continues to be politically xerophilous for our communists. And, sadly, instead of admitting that conditions have changed (the term semi-colonial, semi-feudal society is old hat given how much the economy has changed and American influence is not the same as the Cold War years), their response to this slog is to whip up the old habits.

Thereby producing caricatures. The UP communists called the Abad paper-throwing caper yet another brave example of student protests in the tradition of similar clashes during the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the Diliman Commune of 1971. What the defenders of the act quietly forgot to mention was that the latter events involved thousands of students who joined the demonstrations for reasons that ranged from demanding reforms to promoting the national democratic revolution, only to end up battling the police. The “student masses” were noticeably absent in the paper-throwing caper. 

(If we assume there were a hundred protestors waiting for Abad to come out that night, and we further assume that all were students, then this would constitute a pathetic 0.45% of the total student population of UP Diliman! So much for describing oneself as leading a “mass movement.”)

What happened at UP thus looked and sounded more like the actions of a sect that has failed to educate and convince its constituents of the rightness of its cause. It does not have “the people” behind them, making September 17 a comedic 2014 edition of the above two historic events. 

Leftwing political education campaigns even in a setting like UP, where, in paper, the clash of ideas is the norm, radical political education remains a letdown. And if the intellect does not work, what are left are the emotions and the passion, which, combined with the illusion of belonging to a moral high ground, is what activism in UP means today.

These may bring out the bravest among the communist. But they are not enough to advance the revolution. Not in UP but, most importantly, not in places beyond the academe. – Rappler.com 

Patricio N. Abinales is professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.


Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.