The Great Challenge for the “New” Generation of Revolutionaries in the Philippines

The Great Challenge for the “New” Generation of Revolutionaries in the Philippines

By: Andy M. Razil, Spokesperson, KKK

For many young people in the Philippines, especially those born and raised within the time and atmosphere of the post EDSA 1 people power uprising in 1986, activism and militancy seems like vague concepts of a way of life, fitting only during the dark years of the history of the Philippines under martial rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. According to accounts and literatures written by the once-young people who live to tell their stories, the atmosphere decades ago is in revolt with the youth massively participating and actively taking the lead. During those times, you can either be in the struggle, above-ground or underground, or be with the pro-Marcos. Of course that is classifying things in general terms.

With the so-called restoration of democracy in 1986, the spirit of activism and militancy, not just among the youth but also across sectors, slowly mellowed down. The once very organized National Democratic movement under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front  (NDF) backed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed-wing the New People’s Army (NPA) was also weakened and eventually splintered into various factions and Parties. Among others, the epoch of the “people power” contributed to a great degree to this. This historical event for the underground movement was a very traumatic and painful experience to many. Blood have been spilled, relationships broken and many lives lost, even until now, due to this episode. However, these epochal episodes opened windows for reflection, rethinking and new start, not just for the activists and militants both young and young at heart, but also for the masses as a whole.

Many of the underground cadres, activists, militants, members and followers of this movement were overwhelmed by this people power hype. Some of them continued to be activists in the legal movements; some continue to combine the legal-underground framework; some chose to live “peacefully” on their own either because “the struggle is already finish” or they have to give time to “fix their lives”; some now work with the government and became national leaders, many of them shifted camp, now on the side of those targeted by continuing protesters and activists.

In general, while the movement has been splintered and some of the movement’s flocks have shifted camps, everybody is still convinced that there is still something that should be changed and there are more than enough material bases for its possibilities. Moreover, there is now an unfolding situation among the left, including the Maoist oriented CPP-NPA-NDF, that the present situation needs a change in paradigm, approaches, tactics and forms of struggle, although the degree of change and the over-all direction depending on political lines, varies among various groups.

The Left Atmosphere

Most of the present movements and Parties generally agree that a strong emphasis should be exerted on the legal struggle, like participation in the development and electoral struggles, in order to espouse and popularize an alternative perspective and at the same time maximize government resources and programs. This framework is based on the reality that the present political set-up in the Philippines offers democratic spaces which could be used in order to gain victories for the broad masses towards alleviating their situation politically and economically. On the other hand, despite its position in 1992-1994 great debate in the underground movement as reflected in the document called “Re-Affirm our basic Principles and Rectify Errors” written by CPP founder Jose Maria Sison, the organizations aligned with the National Democratic line is now engaged, and in fact has become a major force, in the electoral struggle: one of the forms of struggle being advocated within the movement by those who Rejected the Re-Affirm document and who eventually were being expelled from the Party. The direction though for this block’s massive participation in the electoral struggle can still be said as towards strengthening their primary form of struggle – the armed struggle through the NPA – by agitating the masses and gaining more material and logistical support and human power, since there is no official pronouncement yet from the CPP abandoning armed struggle as the primary form of struggle and the People’s Protracted War (PPW) as its strategy.

Despite the seemingly irreconcilable differences of the different blocks owing to political lines, the atmosphere is now, to some extent, pluralists. Political blocks are beginning to work together on some issues and campaigns, discuss key differences and maximize commonalities. Of course, the Re-Affirmist (RA) block most of the time is isolated by the Rejectionists and some civil society movements that have rapidly emerged, but they are doing good in maximizing some alliances some elite political groups in some issues in order to highlight their position. Towards the RJs, the RA seems to have a very strict policy on united front building and issue-based alliance. I can remember when a youth organization I knew in Mindanao forged an alliance with a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aligned Bangsa Moro youth group and with an RA youth group in one of the prime universities in Mindanao against the RP-US Military exercises in the area. The Bangsa Moro Youth enthusiastically gave their commitment, and in fact taking the lead in recruiting for more members of the alliance, while the RA youth group said that they still have to ask “advice” from their higher organ since some elements from other left block was part of the alliance.

The Inheritor of the Past

A common belief to all movements is that a movement without a good quality and quantity of youth base is heading its doom. This belief is based beyond the qualities of the youth to be active, daring, innovate, creative, among others. This is because the youth in general transcends various sectors of the society. One will find that a great number of the working forces are youth. These youth are the future leaders of their respective sectors, line of works and communities. Thus, having a vast number of youth memberships in one’s movement does not just provide “fresh heads and fresh legs”, but also helps ensure a good position for the movement in the society in the future. Due to this, we can find many youth organizations aligned to various political blocks, including even political blocks from the Right side of the political spectrum, although, still, the extent of their quantity is incomparable to the martial law years.

For these young people who have realized the need and the possibility to change the society and the world as a whole, the situation of being divided is somewhat “normal” – already existing when they were “born” in the struggle. Many of these young people have become activists in the late 90’s and in the 00’s. Although not unaware, but they did not witness the painful split in the movement during the early 90’s.

However, these supposed “new breed” of activists and militants did not go unaffected and uninfluenced by the trauma of the split. Their strong adherence to the political line they belong, which guided their actions and in relating to people and other forces, speaks a lot of how the split influenced their thoughts and their practice. There was an incident once, where a youth group based in Mindanao, formed some three (3) years ago as an anti-war group, was charged by an RA aligned youth group as a traitor and counter revolutionary because it works along with a network of RJ aligned multi-sectoral organization. This is the first time this organization heard about the history of the RA and the RJ.

This incident, along with other various stories of youth organizations brushing elbows against each other owing to political line differences manifests the injustice committed against the young activists of today. This can be attributed to the framework being used by various political blocks in recruiting for memberships. Many political organizations made it a standard to label the other blocks which connotes something negative, some even amounts to black propaganda. There is no wrong to critiquing other blocks’ programs and approaches as it is. But the danger is that there is just a very thin line that divides objective criticisms towards conscious membership and criticisms towards creating a blind following. The later is very dangerous because, rather than making the young activists as catalysts for change, it is making them agents of the vicious cycle of divisiveness.

The Great Challenge

The “new breed” of activists today is supposed to be innocent of what have transpired among the “grown-ups in the movement” more than a decade ago. They should enjoy all the freedom to analyze and revisit, using their own eyes, what have transpired in the past and how relevant it is in the present and freely decide for them selves which political block they believe is right for them. However, this is not a simple one and, like any other rights, it is not just to be given – it is to be claimed.

The greatest challenge now for the young activists is to revisit history and to re-study what has transpired during the debate of the movement. This means that the young activists, first needs to outgrow the various levels and forms of exclusiveness they have due to their political line affiliations. The difficulty of this challenge is compounded by the unavailability of published materials regarding the subject in the mainstream of books and publications. Further, this entails an internal struggle to be spearheaded by the young activists in their respective movements and Parties. But there are those who believe that basing the discussions on the present context – the political, economic and socio cultural aspects of the country and the world in general – could somehow help simplify the difficulty.

Basically, the methods, strategies and tactics and the programs of a struggle should be rooted in these objective realities. The present political and economic conditions in the country which made the left groups, regardless of political lines, to put emphasis on the economic and electoral struggles is a good condition to kick off discussions.

Moreover, this challenge entails a lot and continues debating within and among movements and Parties. This democratic process should be bounded, not of blind centralism, but within the walls of a truly democratic centralism, where a true struggle of ideas is permitted without fear and intimidation. Without such democratic condition, struggle of ideas would not be exhausted – a very dangerous tendency for a movement to take for it paves the way for an organizational dictatorship and an ideological stagnancy.

This challenge is especially a burden for the young activists and transcends political blocks. Definitely, the program of smashing the state and/or building an alternative society cannot be truly realized if political bickering within the left cannot be substantially addressed by a truly democratic discussion of ideas, and not through annihilation. If this would not be taken seriously by the new activists, the elite will continually laugh at the left and this condition will still be a malady of the future youth activists.


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