Why we need Walden Bello to run in 2016

I do so as a participant in one of the current efforts to field a national slate of the Left in the coming 2016 elections. The authors seem to artificially counterpose running local campaigns to national campaigns.

This counterposition is rather perplexing. Can't we do both? Run leaders with a national profile for national positions and those with a local profile for local positions? National and local campaigns can complement each other. Why the (rather simplistic) counterposition of one against the other? By counterposing the two the authors tend to raise running at the local level into a strategy of sorts.

The authors also seem to base their argument on the fear that national Left candidates will inevitably lose. This is a rather short-term perspective of attempting only what's ?doable:" a rather surprising argument if looked at from a Left perspective.

If the Left had based itself on what only seemed doable at any given time, it wouldn't exist today. We have a history of struggling against the odds and this is what makes us Left, dare I say even revolutionary. Of course we want to win, and the Left electoral experience in Latin America shows that winning is “doable,” but that these victories are not won overnight.

Obscure examples

The historical examples given by the authors to support their arguments are also a bit obscure. Why Debs and not Bernie Sanders, or Podemos, Syriza and the rich examples of the electoral victories of the Latin American Left? The PKP and other experiences of our socialist "ancestors," on the other hand, contain rich lessons for us and needs to be thoughtfully studied, with due consideration given to the international and national contexts at the time. (READ: Forget national politics: An open letter to Mujiv Hataman, Risa Hontiveros and Walden Bello)

In trying to bolster their case for “local is good,”  the authors also tend to downplay the obstacles faced in running for and winning local positions. To win at the local level, from congress, mayor and even konsehal, is a pretty daunting challenge, and many strong local Left candidates have failed. Some would argue that trapo politics is in fact more entrenched at the local level: local officials often represent the thousands of pin points of power that the edifice of elite politics is built on.

The situation today demands a certain response, that is putting forward and building a progressive alternative, including and especially in the electoral arena. This is our starting point. 

I think Ed Tadem argues this well in his article, "Why not a presidential candidate from the Left? Ed also puts forward the reasons for why we need to run national campaigns. A national campaign allows us to put forward national solutions to national problems.  

The question is, when do we start? My assessment is that this is the opportune time.

Yes, we are struggling against the odds. We are well aware of this and we thank the authors for alerting us to this fact. So I hope they also support our national election campaign endeavors, despite their disagreements with us. We need all the help and support we can get. 

Finally, lumping the initiative to have Walden Bello run, together with the campaign bids of Risa Hontiveros and Mujiv Hataman, as the authors have done, is to miss the political point entirely. (READ: Walden Bello: Aquino can scratch me off his list of allies)

Genuine alternative

The campaign for Walden will represent a genuine alternative to traditional politics, while Risa and Mujiv running on a Liberal Party-allied ticket of a faction of the ruling elite, presumably in support of Mar Roxas, will merely reinforce the system of traditional elite politics. The two will most certainly cannot and will not run on a Left platform.

That is why running Walden will advance the interests of the masa and should be supported. 

Do we need more "gutter reformists"? We certainly need the "gutters" to build and strengthen Left bases around the country, and we think a strong national election campaign can also help us do this. Of course our ultimate goal is to have the "gutters" take real power, the raison d'être of the Left; if not, the "gutter" can also turn into a rut.

And so reformism won't cut it today. It has demonstrably failed, in the Philippines and around the world. We need to put forward anti-capitalist and socialist alternatives.

That is why we need to run Left national candidates, such as Walden Bello, in the 2016 elections. – Rappler.com


Rei Melencio is Chairperson of Transform Asia, a socialist network. She has a PhD in Engineering from the University of Melbourne and is a ranking member of Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM).