The Left Is Out To Lunch

left01The Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary provides us with the following definitions:

  • Left. (noun) That branch of politics that thinks government ought to take care of the people broadly as a top priority.
  • Right. (noun) That branch of politics that thinks the people benefit broadly if government allows capitalism to work with little restraint.

Note that these definitions are not opposites. This suggests that they may not be incompatible. It may indeed be possible to generate harmonious solutions that both advance the well-being of the masses and energize wealth-building through competition.

To be honest, I wish the Philippines had a respectable Left. To me, the Right dominates social structures, even if the main force in Congress is called “liberal”. The Right is all powerful. Profits exist. Wealth creation happens. But benefits don’t get distributed very well.

Who, really, represents the Left? Who are the leaders who ought to be defending laborers and the disadvantaged?

  • We have commie whackos who try to advance an “ideology” through extortion, destruction, murder and infantile slogans straight out  of the 1950’s.
  • We have a political party named Bayan Muno and its sister parties that are so reactionary as to believe that sovereignty means having no alliances. The most sovereign of nations have many deep alliances. The Bayan view reflects a lack of confidence in Filipinos and not much else.
  • We have fringe politicians like Hontiveros and Casino who can’t find an idea that will sell broadly. So they keep the Left in some detached Never Never Land of impractical proposals.

These leaders seem too often to me to be whackos. Out to lunch.

And that’s a problem.

An intelligent, articulate Left has important work to do. The laborers of the Philippines have no voice and slog unbearable hours for a pittance. The poor remain deeply poor, with few avenues out. Few OPPORTUNITIES exist for them to progress to decent wealth and healthy lifestyles. The voices that defend the disenfranchised often seem to work AGAINST the best interests of the people. If we followed the dictates of the Philippine Left, we would use no equipment because equipment puts people out of work. We would operate communes and family farms and be of the earth. We would blow up buses and electrical towers to make a point. And we would kill those who get in the way.

Well, for sure, too many people in the Philippines are of the earth. They arrive home from work sweaty and dirty and find home to be a bamboo hut with an earthen floor and bugs in the pantry and seven snotty kids screaming for satisfaction.

You can’t get no satisfaction.

The Left can’t provide it.

The Philippines needs a Left that recognizes wealth must BUILD from what we have. You can’t create wealth by tearing down established institutions and going in a wildly different direction. The Philippines needs a Left that recognizes the nation only needs to refine its institutions and processes to do a better job of taking care of the masses. And you don’t do that with a commune. Or thousands of them.

Indeed, cooperatives, which are just a shade north of communes as a socialist enterprise, are the main structure for farm productivity in the Philippines. And they are failing. I wrote about that in an agribusiness series a while back. Here’s a link to the concluding article.

What is the value of reciting trite socialist principles if the principles don’t work? Self-satisfaction? Pretending knowledge and a higher plane of thought? The old power game, “I’m better than you” because I can point out some failings of the way you do it?

What is interesting is that “global” socialists themselves find the Philippine Left to be poor representatives of the working masses. Read these remarkable statements from the “World Socialist Web Site“:

  • The ties between the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] and its front organizations are the worst kept secret in Philippine history. Bayan Muna, BAYAN, Gabriela, Migrante, Anakbayan, KMU, KMP and a host of other groups hold to the exact political line. They all mouth the same Maoist phrases about a National Democratic revolution against the enemies of the people: “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.” And it is openly understood that they cycle activists through the ranks of the legal organizations into the so-called UG, or underground movement. 
  • The claim that these front organizations are ideological and organizationally separate from the CPP has a long history. It was created and perpetuated because it gave bourgeois politicians the ability to maneuver and ally with these parties, despite the CPP’s illegal status. The lie also enables the CPP’s front organizations to engage in open alliances, dalliances and wheeling and dealing with the ruling elite. The perpetuation of this lie lurks behind the outcry over “red-baiting.”
  • Neither Akbayan nor Anakbayan serve the interests of the working class and poor. They function as the left flank of the bourgeoisie. In the 2010 election, the CPP front organizations approached Aquino, asking to be part of his Liberal Party ticket. The only difference between Akbayan and the CPP groups is that Akbayan made it onto the ticket of the winning candidate. 
  • Like all forms of opportunism, Akbayan and the CPP groups are rooted in nationalism, which is displayed in their various names: Makabayan, Bayan, Bayan Muna, Akbayan, Anakbayan. Bayan means nation. The CPP was founded upon the reactionary perspective of the two-stage theory of revolution, which subordinated the working class to the so-called progressive wing of the bourgeoisie in the name of carrying out national democratic tasks. Socialism was always consigned to the indefinite future.

The upshot is this: to gain political clout, the parties of the Left deny any association with the Communist Party so that mainstream political leaders (such as President Aquino) can openly support candidates offered up by the various parties of the Left. Unfortunately, in going mainstream, these parties become incapable of representing the Philippine worker.

One of the most fascinating reads for me in researching for this blog was an article in “Solidary that detailed the historical in-fighting amongst leftist groups. How can these groups propose solutions for the Philippines if they can’t find solutions among themselves? The article ended with a clear “call to action” that recognizes the need to get away from the bickering and empty words:

  • Given the weight of the party-led national democratic forces, the party debate has weakened, in the short-term, the Philippine left as a whole. In the medium-term, however, this crisis could be an opportunity for exciting new innovations in alliance-building and popular organizing, as groups move away from sterile rhetoric and paralyzing dogmatic debates.

So Solidarity is in solidarity with JoeAm. To take care of the Philippine working class, it is important for the Left to do more than strut and cite trite 1950’s dogmatism.

Let me bullet-point some ideas here to suggest a foundation for a broadly integrated “New Left”:

  1. Avoid jingoism, especially words like bourgeoisie and proletariat and imperialist and exploitation and ideology and even working class. And stop hoisting up America as some kind of great Satan as if American wrongfulness were a striking truth or means anything at all to an independent Philippines. It isn’t. And doesn’t.  Deal straight and true as to need and solution, in the Philippines.
  2. Subordinate New Left ambitions to national interest. Do not subordinate national interest to New Left ambitions. The national interest embraces groups and ideas much broader than those of the New Left. They ought to be respected, not denied.
  3. In a similar vein, respect and even cherish the diversity that is the Philippines. It is the intricate weave of the social fabric that makes the Philippines such a magnificent place. Stop making differences a reason for fighting. Make it a reason for respecting, or even loving.
  4. Establish a clear and simple goal: improve the wealth of: (a) workers and (b) the poor. Benchmark achievements against specific targets for: (a) average annual income for workers and (b) percentage of families below the poverty line.
  5. Adopt the principle that technology (and machines) ought to be embraced, but share it with the principle that technology (and machines) ought to be manufactured in the Philippines. Jobs will be lost on the farm but gained at the manufacturing plant and more robust production stream. Overall wealth will improve. Benchmark aggregate manufacturing output (pesos) and the ratio of exports to imports (targeting higher exports).
  6. Advocate a new Anti-Trust Law that has as the specific aim of releasing the profit that is now acquired and held by the largest Philippine firms because they have a lock on markets and prices paid to producers. Let that profit flow fairly to all participants in the production stream. Farmers ought not starve whilst a handful of conglomerates and their rich owners stake bigger and bigger claims to Philippine profits.
  7. Recognize the finite limits of wealth. Acknowledge that it can be grown steadily, but must be distributed in some way.  Wealth can’t suddenly be “found” as if it were Yamashita’s treasure. It has to be built. Growing and distributing wealth can be done either broadly (socialistically) or at the points of profit (capitalistically) or some blending of the two. The target is to find a blending of the two that generates the most money whilst pushing it out broadly.
  8. Develop a list of action steps that focus both on generation of wealth and distribution of wealth. Don’t focus solely on distribution.

Simplifying our formula for establishing a meaningful New Left, it is as follows:

  • Respect diversity and Philippine national interests.
  • Establish simple high-line benchmarks and manage to them.
  • Develop an anti-trust law that ensures profits flow fairly through the entire production stream.
  • Embrace modern equipment linked to an initiative to manufacture that equipment in the Philippines.
  • Work at wealth generation as well as wealth distribution.

You want it simpler?

  1. Cherish diversity of people and ideas.
  2. Use benchmarks.
  3. Todo: wealth generation initiatives, anti-trust law, equipment manufacturing drive, wealth distribution initiatives

And please, please, please, no more of this kind of “solution”:

  • So long as it resolutely, militantly and thoroughly carries out its ideological, political and organizational building, the Communist Party of the Philippines is certain to lead the broad masses of the Filipino people of various nationalities and ethno-linguistic communities to total victory in the national democratic revolution against US imperialism and the local reactionaries; and bring about the start of the socialist revolution. [Armando Liwanag, Chairman, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines]
19 Responses to “The Left Is Out To Lunch”
  1. edgar lores says:

    1. Not so long ago, I was reading this account by a brother about his younger brother who could not return home. The young one was an idealistic student who was seduced by the communistic ideology of social equality. He joined the NPA in the hills and underwent training. However, because of the infighting and the internal purges, he became disillusioned and came down from the hills. But he could not go home, could not see his family. Apparently, the communists do not tolerate apostasy. They will hunt you down remorselessly for the traitor that you are.

    2. This is a revolution eating its own children. And it’s not even a revolution.
    2.1. Communism is like the old religions that do not permit any truth but its own. It is the god that failed, but many still believe, as many still follow the old religions.
    2.2. It’s astonishing that many people still have not heard nor accepted the news of the death of these gods.

    3. It is correct to point out that the country needs a new Left that would be mindful of the interests of the underprivileged and at the same time accepting of plurality and diversity. The pendulum of politics is not in balance and is tilted to the Right. A simple pro-poor law like the RH Law takes many years to pass and, when passed, is subject to constitutional challenge. And the irony of it is the Church, which professes to be pro-poor, is the challenger.

    4. The world needs a new Zeitgeist that we all can live for and nobody has to die for. A unifying ism like Joseph’s M-theory or a common ism.

    • Joe America says:

      Ah, Edgar wielding the heavy hammer of condemnation. It hits the gong with a sound pure and clear. The fuel for extreme leftists is poverty and disenfranchisement. I hope one of the benefits that emerges during the next generation or two is the recognition that there are no easy paths, and certainly words are not a path at all. The only true path is high values, good thinking and honest work. Thanks, Edgar. You said sharply what I beat through the underbrush trying to whack.

  2. manuel buencamino says:

    I’ve finally come to the conclusion that asking the CPP to change is like asking the Catholic church to change its views on artificial contraceptives, divorce, and same sex marriage. Note that we are not asking the church to change its dogma, all we’re asking is for the church not to oppose a secular law that will allow those who do not think like them to live differently. It will never happen.

    The CPP is like the Catholic Church. It stands on certain dogmas – The US is satan, Marx Lenin and Mao are the Holy Trinity. It is organized like the Catholic Church – The Pope is the party chairman. He is infallible. The standing committe of the politburo is the Magisterium. The bishops and priests are the apparatchiks. The faithful are the party members. There is no room for diverse opinion/beliefs within a closed system. An open society is anathema to both the church and the commies.

    Also the commies are not luddites. They have nothing against modern equipment or industrialization as long as it is they who control it, as long as it follows some sort of 5 or 10 year national economic great leap forward industrialization plan.

    There is a difference between Akbayan and the other “bayan” parties. Akbayan is not communist. It is leftist. It functions as the left flank or, as I would prefer to see them, as the conscience of the bourgoisie, the brakes on the unfettered exploitation of the have nots. The other bayan parties hate Akbayan. Because a group like Akbayan acts as a safety valve for the system, it helps to release steam so that the system does not explode.

    Cooperatives are not like communes. They are more like poor people’s corporations. They have failed because they were not managed/financed correctly. But there have also been success stories. Cooperatives are the only way for small farmers to get together so they can farm or fish in a big way, to get loans, bargain with suppliers, and traders. Without cooperatives, or corporate clout, they will be picked off by big players.

    Commies are like a chronic allergy. We will never get rid of itcompletely. All we can do is manage it and make sure it does not progress into a serious ailment. Thus it is our health and not their health that we should focus on. But we need groups like Akbayan, non commies who wll prevent us from becoming true disciples of Ayn Rand, the anti-Marx whose vision is just as dystopic.

    Anyway, fuck those commies. Why teach them survival skills? Let ’em do what they are doing. They are killing themselves.

    • Joe America says:

      Ahhhhhh. Another clarion call. I agree there will always be whackos who can’t fit within normal society, and the CPP will, hopefully, dissolve into that kind of movement. Loonies running through the bushes babbling. While the rest of us get on with building and creating opportunity. I think if the Philippines develops a larger, wiser, more modern middle class, the antiquated political Church will also find its enrollment on the downslope. When the Church embraces knowledge as well as Word, it may become relevant. No sign of that happening right now . . .

    • 4th paragraph summarizes the distinction between the commies and socialist nicely; Akbayan is similar to the center-left parties in Europe, which tolerate private property but want massive gov’t intervention and spending. Still, Akbayan is also anti-American in terms of national security just like the commies. I think they remain like that to ensure their relevance in the political arena.

      Here’s their 3rd way approach to addressing China’s aggression:

      “We don’t have to choose between the two bullies. We are not in a situation where we are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. There is a third and more prudent approach to the regional dispute, and that is the fostering of stronger ties with our regional neighbors, especially those who have similar grievances against China’s aggression,” Bello explained.

      • Joe America says:

        I think President Aquino is doing exactly what Bello suggests, building alliances with South Korea and Australia and Japan. Viet Nam is dicey because the Philippines has competing claims with VN on the Spratleys, too; probably they can be worked out. Malaysia does not bring much to the military table. The main difference is that President Aquino is confident enough of his own ability to deal with the U.S. as just another peer, one that speaks English and has really big guns. But the Philippines is for sure not between two Goliaths. It is siding with the democratic, reasonable states. It’s too bad Bello chooses a bankrupt ideology over democracy, and his nation’s commitment to it.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        Bello is theoretically correct. However the reality is China is not only claiming territories that we believe are ours but actually occupying them. So we have no choice but to find allies against China. If it were the US doing what China is doing then I would say let’s ally with China by all means. The choice is not between ideologies. The choice is between keeping our territory or losing it.

        • Joe America says:

          I can’t imagine that scenario, of having to ally with China.It presumes the U.S. would behave in ways that simply are beyond my comprehension. Well, so is nuclear physics, but there you go.

          Which makes me wonder, what nations have aligned with China, for defense purposes? I know of none, and I think there is a reason.

          Is “trust” an ideology or a pragmatism?

          • The Mouse says:

            Pakistan and Sri Lanka, I have heard. I have read reports that China has been giving military aid to Pakistan and Sri Lanka…of course, “secretly” (or people don’t just wanna “study” it) But given the long border dispute with India, it makes PERFECT sense for China to aid Pakistan, militarily. For weird reason, I don’t know why Pakistan is listen as major non-US ally. :/ Egypt, I understand (despite my lack of trust on Egypt — but hey who wants Suez Canal to be compromised?) but Pakistan?

          • Joe America says:

            Yes, and I remembered North Korea, too, after I wrote this comment. So the whacko left would have Philippine allies be North Korea, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but not the U.S.

            ahahahahahahaha, my God but that is funny.

  3. Based on what I understand, Filipino leftist parties should behave like their Euro counterparts which respect laws and institutions; those parties partake in elections, file bills to attain working class benchmarks, champion wealth distribution policies for all workers and demand higher corporate taxes. In European states, leftist parties embrace the middle class and articulate expansive safety nets (i.e., food stamps, temporary unemployment benefits, better public healthcare and insurance). Here in the country, Leftists brand the middle class as the petite-bourgeoisie, conspirators with the rich, or whatever connotes ownership of the production of wealth and exploitation of blue-collars. They see the middle class as “oppressors on the basis that they eat at Sbarros, Bon Chons, and buy Havaianas and Starbucks. That’ so pathetic considering the middle class stands on shaky grounds today because of jobless growth.

    Worse, Leftists incite labor unions to paralyze businesses instead of negotiating with the company’s shareholders properly. In Germany, labor unions lobby by sector; there’s only one recognized union per industry sector which lobbies for the respective sector’s minimum wage. Also, union officials are given seats on the Board of Trustees of the company. In short, Filipino capitalists should also respect the lawful bargaining rights of workers and employees, and not see employees as slaves; malfeasance of employees’ SSS contributions by business owners is a notorious and widespread practice in the country.

    Lastly, these leftists a think soooooooooo old-fashioned. At UP, they still stick to the terms by Marx and Engels as if the Manifesto is some sort of a bible, which needs to be interpreted literally. They can’t even adapt their arguments to the success of nationalized, oil corporations in Brazil (Petrobras) and Malaysia (Petronas). Even their definition of nationalization is perverse; they interpret nationalization as abolition of private property. In the case of Brazil, nationalization means pouring more gov’t control and money into a corporation.

    Wealth creation and distribution= nationalized companies and administer those to be efficient and export-oriented. If needed, make nationalized companies partners with private ones like in Petrobras and Brazil’s’ case. Use the profits to expand social services (health, public education and security)

    Wealth destruction and national security suicide= what our immature, old-fashioned leftists are doing from their inception up to the present.

    • Joe America says:

      It’s good to know that we are seeing similar things. Such empty-headed rhetoric masking as pragmatic solution. Lunacy.

      Thanks for the link. Interesting article. The Philippines seems a bit like Mexico with constitutional restrictions on foreign investment. This notion that countries with skills or power threaten sovereignty just stuns me. As if being backward and is a better form of sovereignty than being wealthy and standing up for one’s own interests in an alliance or partnership.

  4. andrew lim says:

    Back in college, although I was firmly anti-dictatorship, I I riled up the local branch of these “nat-dems” by saying that Marxism is just another religion, and it is not scientific. You have to take it on faith that their interpretation of history was correct, and that there is “inevitability” in their triumph.

    The growth of their strength is directly proportional to the amount of oppression and corruption of the right-wingers. So as long we do not return to a Marcos style government, and the economy progresses, these extremists will always be marginalized.

    When you embrace Marxism due to lack of food, you end up giving up your freedom as well.

  5. The Mouse says:

    Welcome to the Philippines, where the Left is more whacko than the Right. Haha

    On a serious note: I don’t think the Philippines has a REAL Left. Only people pretending to be left. A good number of people who identify as left has their wealth concentrated on them, too. A lot of Philippine “Left” are from well to do families who do not distribute their wealth either! And most of the time they get away with their extra judiciary killings — even of civilian casualties yet they complain “human rights” and “extra judicial” killings when one of their comrades are killed in a battle or is arrested.

    I’d rather deal with the current national government than have the CPP-NPA as the government, at least we can complain and still try to fix the current one by election. CPP-NPA? You’re dead once you show opposition — no legal proceeding, no nothing

  6. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    “To care for U.S. kids, Filipinas leave their own behind” – United States National Public Radio Weekend Edition of August 17, 2013

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      I cannot believe it. I went to Google News Tab. I typed “Philippines”. You know what I found? Nothing on Cebu Ferry Crash. Instead “Torrential Rain in Manila”. I wonder who that oligarch ordered to burry the news.

    • Joe America says:

      Interesting article. The woman said “I had no choice” and that is the shame. Not her going abroad. But that she had no choice because the Philippines is so empty of opportunity.

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