Are we there yet, kasama?

Not today. But within our lifetime.

Malacañang Palace is still in the hands of corrupt tyrants but organs of political power are being established in guerrilla zones across the country.

Landlords and big business tycoons continue to hoard more wealth and influence but farmers and workers are not giving up the fight.

Our precious resources and heritage are being plundered but the indigenous peoples, our climate warriors, are not only resilient but also resolute in continuing the resistance.

The struggle has persisted for so long and this has demoralized even some of those who braved the frontlines in the past. But the protracted war has also hardened the resolve not only of its combatants but also those who support the liberation of our country.

Some may look back into the past half-century as a period of defeats and blunders but what we saw was the re-emergence of a political movement capable of continuing the unfinished tasks of the Philippine revolution.

The Left has been replenishing its ranks as it continues to re-energize its fighting capacity. Summing-up meetings, rectification campaigns, leadership in various local movements, working with grassroots formations, and the justness of what it represents are what make the Left not only relevant but even unbeatable.

Only defenders of the status quo will dismiss the future of the national democratic struggle. They are joined by those who denigrate the political legacy of the NatDem Left while misrepresenting themselves in the academe and international socialist formations as democratic forces with popular and organic links in various communities.

This is a movement that survived the fascist Marcos dictatorship. It thrived even during the debacle of the Soviet bloc. It fought revisionism at home and abroad. It carried forward the struggle for true democracy even after it was painfully divided in the 1990s. It kept its ground while advancing the cause through its participation in the reactionary elections, negotiating peace with successive governments, and even sending some of its leaders in the Duterte Cabinet.

But it refused to surrender its revolutionary vision; and its decision to uphold, reaffirm, and defend the basic principles of the NatDem struggle has provoked the most brutal attacks from reactionary forces.

Indeed, it is an imperfect movement. But what political force can live up to our high standards of ethical and moral purity? At least the NatDem movement has institutionalized a rectification process to evaluate its political trajectory and make amends for its excesses. It is unfortunate that some of those who accuse the movement of being less democratic have no qualms in offering their selves to the perfectly democratic bourgeois order.

The Left is ridiculed for its failure to grab power and at the same time its assumed obsession to take over the state. It is criticized for its supposed dogmatic methods, obsolete narratives, and violent politics.

Yet, despite these ‘failings’, the NatDem Left remains the most formidable political force offering a real alternative to a system that produced the likes of Marcos, Arroyo, and Duterte.

And some of those who constantly criticize the Left have deliberately refused to acknowledge that other Leftist factions with alleged superior aims and means to win the revolution could only offer uncritical collaboration with the government, token bureaucratic lobbying for reforms, and grant-dependent labor organizing after many years if not decades of disparaging the NatDem struggle. Perhaps for them, this is already the viable model for the political Left. But as long as the NatDem alternative exists, their politics appears less than revolutionary. They could gloss this over by redirecting academic focus and public attention over the supposed ‘failures’ of the NatDem struggle.

While most political forces are already preparing for the 2022 elections, the NatDem Left is leading the all-out resistance against the tyrannical Duterte government. It is taking the hardest blows inflicted by fascist troops even as it is determined to build a united front that will mobilize the broadest number of people against the corrupt and murderous Duterte presidency.

The announcement of the revolutionary Left that it is increasing the number of younger cadres in positions of leadership signals its positive outlook for the future and the long road ahead. It is also an exemplary initiative that other political formations can adopt. It is a reminder of the demographic dynamics in the Left and the counterproductive rejection of an entire movement based solely on the reductionist thinking that the history of the Left ended during the boycott error in 1986.

Duterte chides the Left, ‘do you want to fight for another 50 years?’ He pokes fun at the Left’s failure to occupy barangays and threatens to wipe out all communists and their sympathizers. But he should know better that he has no hegemony in the Philippine archipelago and this is because belligerent forces like the armed Left are exercising political clout in remote parts of the country. The fact that the military has intensified operations in areas where guerrillas have a formidable presence betrays the government propaganda that the armed Left is no longer getting any public support.

If Duterte’s rhetoric is familiar, it is because it is often used by those who mock the decades-long struggle for national democracy. It appeals to the political citizen who wants instant results, immediate reforms, and measurable successes even if these do not lead to genuine social transformation. It panders to the impatient individual who is eager to take an exalted place in history rather than work diligently and even anonymously with the rest of the oppressed.

Duterte clones claim there is already protest fatigue. This is not only self-serving to the party in power, but it is also false because the exploited have nothing to lose if they keep on struggling for a different future. The Left’s primary source of support and inspiration is the fighting masses. Their conditions reflect the failure of the current system to end poverty, hunger, landlessness, and inequality which vindicate the need for a revolutionary struggle.

At a time when global neoliberalism is rousing more people to fight back and reconsider the socialist alternative, the undefeated and resilient Philippine struggle is offered as a pillar of hope. It has a clear understanding of what modern revisionism has done in the Soviet Union and post-Mao China. It can benefit from the experience of other national liberation movements which succeeded in asserting political independence but remained hostage to capitalist interest and corrupt party leadership. It has useful lessons to share with other progressive movements about how it maintained its political relevance, revolutionary credibility, organizational discipline, and fighting will after five decades of waging struggle in an archipelagic terrain.

The pioneers of the NatDem struggle have already passed the torch to their younger comrades. But some of them are still actively pursuing the political dream that fired up their commitment during their younger, hippie years. They have given us a working template on how to continue the struggle, and we are fortunate to inherit this legacy. This is the real triumph of the Philippine revolution: Continuing the unfinished struggle of 1896, reviving the national democratic movement in the 1960s, and making revolution work in the 21st century. Spreading hope and winning the fight from the countryside to the cities, from the barrios to the eskinitas, and even in the digital realm.

Are we there yet, kasama? Maybe not today. But definitely in this lifetime. ()

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email: mongpalatino@gmail.com
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  1. Very well said

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