So why do you wear jeans, use a laptop and a camera?

So, you believe in socialism, why do you use Facebook, your phone and laptop, why do you wear branded jeans or shoes or eat at fastfood chains, all “products of capitalism”?

This is a typical rhetoric, and a stupid one at that, I get many times from those who are just eager to try and discredit activists and leftists but refuse to engage in ideological tussle.

The first answer is, most often, necessity. So, what do you expect us to wear, loincloths? Second, just so they realize, “capitalism” did not manufacture those products. Industries and the labor of many workers in socialized production did in assembly lines across the globe. We do not owe our shoes, clothes, computers and cars to “capitalism.” Capital did not manufacture them, labor did. In fact, capitalists barely have any participation in production, it is simply by virtue of control and ownership that they appropriate the wealth created by production, and leave the rest scrounging for trickled down salaries and wages.

In a very basic sense, socialism is merely the rightful correction in the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation of the wealth. Instead of the creation of the “wealth of the few through the labor of the many”, it should be the “wealth of all through the labor of all”. Since products are produced in socialized production, why shouldn’t the appropriation of the wealth be likewise? The struggle for socialism, in the economic sense, is the struggle for the people’s rightful share in the wealth they create.

Third, to demand that leftists reject all products of commercial enterprises when all consumer goods today are produced in private enterprises is nothing but a ploy corner leftists to capitulate their struggle. Which is preposterous, because the entire point of being a leftist and an activist is to continue engaging the status quo, exploit available technologies and everything they need, and change society, not recluse from it. In other words, you cannot demand leftists to live by socialism when it has not yet been won.

On China and Filipino leftists

Those who maliciously link present Chinese government to Filipino leftists are being dishonest. They should know very well that China abandoned its socialist project after the Cultural Revolution in the late 70’s and how the Chinese government has disowned and condemned local communists and persecuted leftists and activists in their own backyard.

If they’re looking for counterparts of Chinese leaders now, they only need to look among the revisionists and roaders and right-wingers among their colleagues. Chinese “communists” even claimed maintaining good relations with the trapo mainstream parties in the Philippines such as the Liberal Party of the Aquino administration.

These people should likewise make up their minds. In same breath they challenge us to follow China’s capitalist reforms and yet accuse us of being on the payroll of the Chinese “communists.” Nothing but malicious bullshit from those out to malign the persistent relevance of the Philippine Left.

* BAYAN: Assert Philippine sovereignty against China’s incursions and US intervention!
* ‘ZERO’ TIES WITH CPP: Chinese communist party says it has disowned local rebels
* Philippine Left condemns China incursions in Scarborough Shoal, says China capitalist country
* Ang China, US, Scarborough at Balikatan

On internet activism and protests

You’re a famous blogger, and you frequently write about your advocacies in your blog and in social networking sites. Some people, particularly “moderates,” look at the Internet as their preferred mode of activism (sometimes only mode), and shun out street protests. Why do you continue to take to the streets despite already having other venues for protest?

The Internet is a potent and alternative tool for campaigns and advocacies, no doubt, especially among the youth.

We have to remember, however, that majority of Filipinos still do not have access to the world wide web. Ordinary minimum-wage earners, farmers, out-of-school youth, even many among the middle class are not Internet users. We cannot win any nationwide campaign or struggle without them.

Long-lasting social change is not possible without the fundamental and primary participation of the masses. The Internet is not the medium to engage them in, and whenever we try to achieve fundamental changes in government and society, we cannot rely on the Internet alone. It’s naivete to believe that changes can be won on the electronic front.

Street protests are among the most accommodating and reliable forms of protests. It does not exclude anyone from participating. It accommodates anyone regardless of computer literacy, economic or social stature.

History has also proven its potency in advancing the struggle of citizens for changes and reforms around the world. There’s nothing wrong when ordinary university students use the Internet as a venue of protest, and I personally don’t take that against anyone. But, we have to be conscious that it is not the only mode of expressing support for an advocacy or expressing dissent against government policies and actions. There are times, like today, when more is demanded from us, and we cannot afford to be complacent with the kinds of actions we are willing to take.

Tayo ang pagbabago

Someone from Ateneo de Manila’s Matanglawin (student publication) interviewed me this afternoon after my class. It was about my opinion on Ako Mismo. I simply reiterated what I had expressed in my blog entry about the campaign. I’m not, at all, against individual efforts for personal growth and development. I’m not, at all, against individuals obeying traffic rules, being proud to be Filipino, paying taxes or participating in the electoral process by registering and voting, or volunteering for non-government organizations. In fact, I do them too. But let us not foster the illusion that these convenient actions are enough to change Philippine society, suffering from a tragic status quo caused by a ruling order.

What I’m against is the mentality of blaming individuals alone, and just ourselves for the country’s social ills, totally absolving the government that causes such conditions–and worse, branding such acts of holding politicians and administrators accountable as mere pagrereklamo and mindless blaming and finger-pointing. As long as the government is robbing us blind and is tragically failing to deliver social services to the vast majority of Filipinos who need education, health care and economic support, among others, no amount of charity work and volunteerism will be enough to sustain a long-term solution for our people. Besides, you pay for these services with your taxes. We all do. We have the right and the duty to demand what is due us. You do not turn a blind eye when you pay for a donut and you get a munchkin–or worse, nothing at all, and worse, dinukutan ka pa.

Yes, true enough, nasa sarili nga ang pagbabago. I’m not taking that against anyone. Pero may mas malaking sistema tayong kailangang baguhin. Let me post an excerpt from Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino‘s speech at the national convention of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.

Tayo ang pagbabago

May iba’t ibang inisyatiba upang pukawin ang makabayang damdamin ng kabataan. Positibo ito. Napapansin ko lang na ang binibigyang diin ay may kinalaman sa mga indibidwal na pagkilos ng mga kabataan.

Hindi na ito bago. Noon pa man marami na ang nanawagan ng pagbabago batay sa inisyatiba ng bawat isa. Kahit ang Malakanyang, nananawagan na ang pagbabago ay dapat magsimula sa sarili. Ang mga nasa kapangyarihan ay nananawagan rin ng pagbabago — pagbabago sa gawi, sa puso’t isipan.

Lumang ideolohiya na ito. Sinisisi ko ang dominanteng ideolohiya kung bakit popular ang ganitong mensahe. Di ba ito ang turo sa atin — na basta’t maging mabuting tao ka o mamamayan ay sapat na upang guminhawa ang lipunan. Huwag nang makialam sa pulitika; asikasuhin na lamang ang sarili at pamilya. Huwag nang magrali; huwag nang labanan ang dambuhalang sistema. Magsimula sa sarili. Ako mismo. Magpayaman, mamigay ng limos, magvolunteer, magpintura ng mga bahay. Sapat na ang mga ito.

Samantala, sila mismo — silang mga buwaya na nasa gobyerno — ay patuloy na nangangmkam ng yaman ng lipunan. Habang abala tayo sa ating mga sarili, sila mismo ay patuloy na nagkakalat ng lagim dun mismo sa ating mga komunidad.

Kaya ang sagot ay hindi ako mismo kundi tayo mismo ang magpapalayas sa mga masasamang elemento ng lipunan. Tayo mismo, sa ating sama-samang pagkilos ang lilikha ng pagbabago sa bansa.

Hindi simple ang manawagan ng pagbabago. Hindi ito nadadaan sa pag-iimbento ng mga makukulay na palamuti sa katawan. May sakripisyong kailangang ibigay ang bawat isa kung nais natin ng tunay na pagbabago. May interes tayong babanggain kung seryoso tayong kikilos para sa pagbabago. Makapangyarihan ang interes na ito. Mabagsik silang kaaway. Mapanganib na laban. Kaya hindi uubra kung nag-iisa lang tayong sisigaw ng pagbabgo. Ikaw mismo ay mabibigo. Dapat kolektibo, dapat sama-samang manawagan ng pagbabago. Dapat pagtulungan natin sa ating mga organisasyon kung anong mga mainam na paraan upang isulong ang pulitika ng pag-asa, pagbabago at pakikibaka.

On “Ako Mismo”

Ako Mismo

I signed up for this, with all the buzz it has created this weekend. But I was quite disappointed by the things people have been committing themselves to doing. Sure, by all means, let us pay our taxes, register to vote, obey traffic rules, sweep the floor, pray, smile at others, be nice, be proud to be pinoy! Aba, dapat lang. Isn’t that what one is supposed to do regardless of any campaign for social change? Isn’t that what we are already doing? Let’s not stop doing it, fine. But please, it reeks of great naivete to think that doing things we are already doing will change Philippine society.

I don’t wish to offend anyone. I have friends from many advocacy campaigns of this type. But let me explain my reservations whenever I’m invited into these campaigns. My problem with “Ako Mismo” and the dozens of other “I” campaigns that have been initiated (and have flopped) these past years, is that it fosters an illusion that mundane individual efforts to do good, and nothing more, is enough to change society. These are well meaning campaigns, but I don’t think they actually call for positive action or call for change. These are calls for neutral action–to do things we’re supposed to be doing anyway.

What I think is dangerous about campaigning for this is that it neutralizes a person’s capacity to do more than what one is supposed to do in the first place. It’s like, fine, just pay your taxes, smile at people, sweep your backyard, do things within your comfort zone and that’s enough to change society. It’s not. Let us not justify the laziness or the inability of the middle class to get out of their comfort zone to change society.

These are the types of campaigns, believe it or not, that people in power or in government and big businesses employ to maintain the status quo, simply because doing ‘simple everyday good things’ do just that and nothing more. It effectively cloaks their part in the equation as to why we are where we sadly are. It makes you forget their role in sustaining the rotten order of society. It makes you think of questioning their policies or their authority as simple pagrereklamo. And worse, it demonizes those who do that. “Forget about the corruption and the repression we commit, just do your own little nice things!” And even worse, it blames the individual Filipino for all the problems he is experiencing!

If the campaign was “Tayo Mismo”, I would’ve considered it worthwhile. Pero hindi talaga, this is all about the individual, the me, the I, the ako. Notice how it’s become a trend these days–all these campaigns that begin with “I”. Its always about the individual. It’s never about the collective. It’s never the “We”. Collective action is too dangerous for the status quo. It’s all about pacifying the individual to be content with the things he already does and to buy a dog tag, a t-shirt, or a bracelet to show it off.

Millions of Filipinos are poor not because you don’t smile at others, or you don’t obey traffic rules. Millions of Filipino farmers don’t own the land they till not because you buy imported products. Millions of Filipinos are jobless not because they are lazy or they are not proud to be Pinoy. Millions of Filipinos are uneducated not because you refuse to become a teacher. It’s not about the individual you! Hence, you smiling, obeying traffic rules, buying Filipino, being proud to be Pinoy, though they are nice little actions, will not change the prevailing order maintained by the same people employing these “I am change” campaigns.

Really, there is no net effect if you commit to doing something you’ve already been doing, or you should be doing in the first place regardless of any social problem. It’s a neutral force. We stay where we are. Do something more. Do something out of your comfort zones. Social change is never comfortable. Do something collectively. Do something with other sectors of society. Social change is never about the individual doing things for personal growth and expecting the rest of the process to fall into place. Ang mali-mali lang talaga ng pagsisi sa problema ng bansa sa individual Filipino. We are not just challenging the individualistic problems of hopelessness or apathy. We are challenging a systemic order that maintains the sad state of affairs we all find ourselves in.

Collective action for social change

Those who profess the futility of collective action know nothing of their history. For the tide and ebb of world events are determined precisely by collective action. As one revolutionary put it, “The history of the world is the history of class struggle.”

Throughout the world, regimes and tyrants have been toppled down, and democracies established by the strength of collective action. The wheels of history from feudalism, capitalism to socialism, from monarchies to parliaments to peoples’ governments, were concrete conclusions of class struggle. Examples of which are the anti-colonization movement in Africa and Latin Amercia, the Liberation movement in Southeast Asia and Indo-China, the Religious Tolerance and Womem’s Rights Movement in most parts of the world, the anti-apartheid movement in Africa, and the establishment of the International League of People’s Struggle against Imperialism. And even individual heroes are propelled by the thousands of men and women who clamor, hand in hand, for a common aspiration.

History itself reveals that there is no stronger mark of popular sentiment than mass actions, making collective demonstrations indispensable in the realization of our common goals. In the Philippine setting, the stirrings of collective dissent began in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest. For instance, the Katipunan was borne out of the unity of the peasants and artisans against the colonizers. From the Spanish to the American regime, a common sentiment for national sovereignty fueled radical movements for freedom. Corrupt and authoritarian regimes were crushed when confronted by the ferocity of widespread mass demonstrations. In fact, the mere existence of repression attests to the potency of collective action — why suppress mass demonstrations if it does not instigate fear in the most hardened of dictators?

Thus, our stance remains — collective action is still our most potent weapon for social change. For only by participating in a coordinated action of thousands of people can individuals pursue both their personal and social liberties. As long as there are forces and establishments that conspire against the democratic rights of the people, individuals have to unite to register their shared will.

The sharpest position is to stand for collective action, which is comprised of all arenas of struggle, whether in the parliamentary or in the streets. Indeed, claiming that collective action is passé succeeds only in exposing the crass ignorance of the groups doing the claiming.

The history of UP alone is rich with instances that illustrate the potency of concerted action. During the 1950 witch hunts, when calls for nationalism were vilified as communism, our shared efforts were crucial in the struggle for academic and press freedom. In the 1970s, at the height of political repression during Martial Law, our united dissent contributed to the struggle for democracy, with hundreds of student leaders heeding the call of history, whether in cities or in the countryside. The social ferment generated by the Diliman Commune and the First Quarter Storm pierced the core of national affairs. Student institutions, publications, and formations were reestablished in the 1980s through adamant and tireless collective action. The list goes on, from the closure of US military bases in the country, the ouster of Erap in 2001, the retraction of the largest budget cut in 2000, and the removal of Provision 444 of the University Code, which unduly prohibits religious and provincial organizations.

Despite the machinations of the state and administration, the student movement persists because it has forged an inextricable link with all sectors in the call for social change. After all, the aims of collective action are collective victories — a gain enjoyed by the broadest and the most democratic.

At present, we are facing the blatant implementation of neoliberal policies, which direct the state to fully abandon state universities and colleges. The manifestations of commercialization are increasing, from corporatization to the endless proposals to increase tuition and other fees.

As students reject this overall scheme through protest actions and other peaceful activities, the state and administration have responded with crushing repression, through direct attacks against student formations and institutions. All over the nation, there is a systemic effort to entrench an education that is colonial, commercialized and fascist. Meanwhile, in the political arena, the state continues to commit grave sins against the people — intensified suppression and repression, political killings, the neglect of social services, high unemployment, lack of genuine land reform, increasing hunger, and continuing plunder — while aiming to extend its term through Cha-Cha. Now, more than ever, we need the force of collective action.

The fact of the matter is, those who say that collective action is “illusory” are themselves in delusion — they do not understand history nor do they know their place in history. The challenge for us, iskolars ng bayan, is to participate in the struggle for social change. We must fight for an education that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented. Because we cannot spur change in isolation, we must therefore link arms with the broadest masses in our struggle for a better society, where there is genuine land reform, national industrialization, genuine freedom, and social justice. For the broadest collective is also the strongest. Ultimately, we must recognize that our collective is our people and our nation.


Scrap all proposed fees! Rollback the tuition!
No to commercialization!
Struggle against state abandonment of UP education!
Fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education!
Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!


Dissent without action is consent

November 30 2007 multi-sectoral protest action

“Dissent without action is consent.” I was reminded of this when I came across Arbet Bernardo’s blog. This was one of the things Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim expressed during the recent standoff that happened in Makati a few days ago. As a comment to the entry, Jhay Rocas had this to say, “It has the same meaning with this anecdote: If you see an elephant stepping down on a mouse’s tail, and the mouse cries out to you for help. If you say that you don’t want to get involved and would like to stay neutral, your neutrality doesn’t help the oppressed mouse. It helps the elephant!” to which I offered affirmation with a quote, “Silence and neutrality helps the oppressor, never the oppressed.” As a reply to another comment here in my blog, I said, “Though I don’t condone the method they used to undertake their “˜rebellion’, may I remind you that the President has quelled all legal and “˜peaceful’ venues. Elections? Rigging. Impeachment? Bribes. Investigations? Silence. Executive Orders. Propaganda.

True, there’s a more democratic and peaceful way for the people to express their outrage. The venue’s on the streets. Though the State answers dissent on the streets with barricades, water canons and violent dispersals, it’s the only potent means of challenging the administration that is available to the ordinary Filipino.” Borrowing words from V, from V for Vendetta; if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then fine, follow the government’s propaganda of economic stability and political unity and allow the recent spur of events to pass unmarked. But if you see what Trillanes and company see, if you feel what they feel, then take a stand, and let their expression of outrage be not the last. To end this entry, let me quote a source I unfortunately forget as of the moment. It went like this, “If there’s one thing that history teaches us, it is that bystanders and tyrants are on the same side.”

November 30 2007 multi-sectoral protest action [photos of the Nov. 30, 2007 multi-sectoral mabilization courtesy of Tope Canela]

Reason is with us

November 29, 2007. We have all the reasons to oust this administration. Read the open letter of the renegade soldiers and all the premises for this rebellion are so real and blatant–from election rigging, to the national broadband scam, to brownbag payoffs, I don’t know how any sane person can stand it. Pero, tulad nga ng isang text na natanggap ko. Tao sa lansangan at hindi mga sundalo sa hotel ang mapagpasya sa isang democratic struggle. Trillanes and company had the right reasons, but the wrong methods.

However, I wouldn’t call Senator Trillanes and company, for all their noble intentions, crazy as many of our middle class netizens have said in their blogs and in comments. But you know what, I’d rather call people who refuse to admit that something’s terribly wrong in this administration crazier. I don’t even know what to call people who know how rotten this administration is but would rather go on and live their comfortable lives because they can afford it. What with all other avenues closed, mass action is our only recourse. Ano pa bang vague na ‘other ways’ and sinasabi-sabi ng iba d’yan? No matter how you spin it, they all lead to the tolerance of all this administration’s crimes. Wait till 2010? Give me a break. Tomorrow we commemorate Andres Bonifacio and the revolution he began.

Protect the few good men

The controversy over the millions of pesos Malacanang apparently doled out to hundreds of local executives and congressmen is sickening. How brazen can they get? While our government’s social services sector is is suffering from insufficient budget allocations, here are the powers-that-be doling out millions of pesos as Christmas gifts. And they dare admit it to be a normal course of habit?

For years, I’ve resigned to the idea that the prevailing order is so entrenched and has successfully used our democratic system of government to their advantage that in order for the majority of our people to truly liberate themselves from poverty and oppression, we have to junk the system altogether and start with an alternative. Friends who disagree with me always pin their hopes on our elections. Elections work, they say. As if we all don’t know that our elections is just a game the few powerful and wealthy play. Sure, it does work sometimes. Granted, there are cases like Ed Panlilio who was able to win the governorship in Pampanga, or Grace Padaca in Isabela, or even cases like Antonio Trillanes IV’s senatorial victory. And of course, there are the victories of progressive party list groups in the House of Representatives.

True, cases of Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca are indeed inspiring. Perhaps, indeed one does not need to be wealthy or part of the ruling class or be their pawns to participate and win elections. But let us not be deceived, because Panlilio and Padaca are few and far between. For every Panlilio or Padaca, there are hundreds of trapos who win and will continue to win their game called elections. For every Anakpawis or Bayan Muna, there are tens of other bogus trapo-fronts who dubiously get elected. And as these few disturb the prevailing rotten order, expect the ruling class to buy them, silence them, and if all else fail, eliminate them–the same way they’re eliminating those from the more radical side, in the streets, in picket lines, in peasant communities, and in the countryside.

With the radical administrative changes Governor Ed Panlilio is implementing in Pampanga, to his expose’s of bribes from Malacanang, there are few who are irritated and angry. I’m sure the few good men like Panlilio are eating death threats for breakfast. I pray it doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he figures in another assassination attempt, or in a car or plane “accident.” Or if malicious propaganda and an induced people power oust him. Think of how the United States eliminates world leaders who disobey its whims and wishes. I’m not being overly cynical, but this is what history tells us. People like Governor Ed Panlilio are and will continue to be a rare and endangered species in our democracy. Mong Palatino has written something similar to this entry months ago.

Is the revolution over?

November 30, 2006. Today marks the birth anniversary of one of the Philippines’ greatest national heroes, Andres Bonifacio, the proletariat revolutionary who lead the armed revolution against Spain. Unfortunately for him, ambitious local elites took over the momentary victory and persecuted him. Unfortunately for majority of Filipinos today, lives are still shackled in poverty and pseudo-democracy. The promises of his revolution have not been fulfilled.