Renato Constantino, Revisited: Reflections on the Nationalist Paradigm in the Era of Failed Neoliberalism

The denigration of Constantino today is direct and indirect as local and foreign detractors attack nationalism in the economy as outmoded and not relevant to the period of globalization under the regime of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT). Recent attempts to amend the Philippine Constitution through “Cha-cha” or Charter change are meant to tailor the present Philippine Constitution so that its economic provisions that still defend Philippine economic sovereignty and patrimony are removed if not amended. I do not believe that the economic provisions of the constitution need to be amended to comply with globalization measures under GATT/WTO. I submit that the present constitutional provisions are good for us in these times of global financial crisis to shield us from the external attacks of the neoliberal global order that is now in shambles. Is it wrong for the constitution to require the state to take measures that will guarantee priority for Filipinos and assure , in the words of the constitution, “ an economy effectively controlled by Filipinos?” (Simbulan: 2008)

In these times of external uncertainties, we need to be inward-looking and protectionist if you will, of jobs, local industries and the national patrimony. The more we depend on other countries for jobs, capital investments and loans for our economy, the more we will be a hostage to the uncertainties of the global market. What we need is not constitutional change, what we need is to address poverty and provide basic services to the very poor. We need to strengthen and protect the economy to create local industries and jobs in our country.

The anti-nationalist attacks are often subtle and not so subtle as Constantino and often, together with nationalist historian Teodoro Agoncillo, are blamed for using their writing for the nationalist crusade for economic and political sovereignty.

Like a cultural guerilla, Constantino taught Filipinos the importance of nationalist scholarship in exploding the pro-imperialist cultural obstacles to nationhood. He stressed that scholarship must be clearly partisan to the perspective and interests of the Filipino people. Constantino’s books such as The Nationalist Alternative; The Making of a Filipino: A Story of Philippine Colonial Politics; Dissent and Counter-Consciousness; Identity and Consciousness; Neo-Colonial Identity and Counter-Consciousness; Synthetic Culture and Development; Insight and Foresight; The Filipinos in the Philippines and Other Essays; and Maldevelopment and Globalization clearly reflected this partisan scholarship.

Reactions to Nationalist Scholarship

Glenn May, an American academic who tried to sell the idea that the very person of Andres Bonifacio was an “invention” of the Philippine nationalist movement to advance its cause, tried to attack partisan scholarship through a book, A Past Recovered. This work discredited itself because as soon as Glen May published it, he was exposed as an apologist of U.S. colonial occupation of the Philippines, even trying to belittle Filipino civilian casualties during the Philippine-American War. Other detractors against Constantino’s nationalist paradigm include Floro Quibuyen who lambasts the utilitarian nationalist framework of Constantino. The Filipino expatriate David C. Martinez on the other hand in the book, A Country of Our Own, a title that becomes its own anti-thesis, denigrates nationalist historiography and what Martinez calls the “fabricated state” and fake national political economy envisioned by nationalist scholars. Martinez launches these attacks to suggest the fragmentation and partitioning of the country into five separate nations as the solution to solving the national malaise.

Constantino’s writings emphasized that since colonial mentality and culture were effective instruments of colonization and neo-colonialism, a counter-culture for national liberation was necessary to blast the myths and distortions of history. Constantino was often criticized by orthodox Filipino and foreign scholars and historians because of his multi- or interdisciplinary approach and methodology, but more so because of his clearly nationalist framework. This was because cultural decolonization for him was imperative to counter the continuing dominance of neo-colonial consciousness.

Part of the counter-culture that we must advance today is to take stock both of the emerging global and regional trends, including that of the social movements and pan-national alliances struggling for a more democratic global order. The role of the nation-state in helping crystallize counter-hegemonic forces must be reassessed , to make it an effective counterweight –both nationally and internationally – to the sinking global disorder. The dialogue and networking among social movements all over the world is becoming a counterweight that has emerged as an important development. In some regions of the world, as in the Middle East and Latin America, alternative voices in the mainstream mass media have become powerful voices challenging critically the neoliberal global system and advancing a people’s new world order. And in some regions, governments with bad experiences in dealing with the IMF-World Bank-World Trade Organization, have bonded together to offer a working alternative to the paradigm of captivity.

Some have even proposed an antidote to the unleashing of “unaccountable power” by global corporations, and the Pentagon, through the creation of a “Global People’s Assembly”, a governing body whose grassroots members represent “the worldwide voice of the people in action and decision-making.” (Falk and Strauss, 1999). This antidote of resistance is emerging in such initiatives like the World Social Forum, and its regional counterpart, the Asian Social Forum. The alternative paradigm is emerging in international organizations like Migrante International, a Philippine-based transnational alliance of Filipino migrant workers’ organizations. Migrante played a role in the formation of the International Migrants’ Alliance. This exciting trend is also emerging in such formations as the International League for Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS). These formations have not only tackled issues such as the so-called “War on Terror” and U.S. military bases and intervention, but also issues like labor protection, trafficking of women, migrants’ rights, local industry formation, and environmental protection issues. A democratized People’s Monetary Fund can be created on the basis of mutual respect, transparency and solid economic cooperation, not based on impositions and blackmail. The democratic management of our financial institutions can greatly reduce IMF or ADB intervention in the economic planning activities of the Philippines and other countries.

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