One of the urgent and important reasons for which the peace talks must resume and the more strategic peace negotiations should bear fruit, especially for the working poor of Philippine society— the semi-proletariat, farm workers, landless peasants, local and overseas contractual workers— is for us to own the freedom to demand people’s rights and realize some in various sites and spheres, unhampered.
Rights defenders and activists with a transformative vision for society are casually and systematically red tagged, bashed and demonized in sites like mainstream and new media, indigenous and peasant communities, schools/academe, and in the workplace whenever workers start to unionize. It is difficult to approach the overt and covert measures of anti-communists as they appear to be the action of pyschologically compromised persons.
Red tagging that comes with red bashing is a pernicious practice that certainly erodes democracy before we could even build its participatory form collectively.
With peace talks, on-the-ground campaigns for reforms and participatory actions may take place without being hampered by institutionalized anti-communist suspicions and mechanisms.
The war propaganda against the communists is by no means a sole product of an individual’s rational calculation of means and ends, or an outcome of a reflection on a two-week field work in a farmland, or a parachuting expedition in some Third World space that is supposed to be “communist-infested.” The anti-communist propaganda is actually a war propaganda against the people. It casts the net wider by calling the communist armed group a network made up of “front organizations” and civilian supporters. It has a long history and is systematically perpetrated by US-directed imperialist agencies. The war propaganda against communism is an institution of war and a war industry. To be gripped by it is certainly not an outcome of independent calculation or ideological choice as agentic claims go.
An example of war propaganda, which is not strictly anti-communist, is the ongoing dirty war on Syria. In what follows, Knightly describes about Syria what is also a familiar tack among the military establishment and “nouveau and veteran anti-communist experts” on the Philippine Left. They are typically from mainstream media, academe and the NGO circuit. Recall how certain groups and individuals typically demonize Jose Maria Sison and well known left figures like Satur Ocampo, accusing them of mass murder as if it is part of standard professional practice. The mechanism of demonization is also inflicted upon organizations like the League of Filipino Students, Anakbayan, Gabriela, Karapatan, Bayan Muna, etc.
“Although every war makes ample use of lies and deception, the dirty war on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. The British-Australian journalist Philip Knightley pointed out that war propaganda typically involves ‘a depressingly predictable pattern’ of demonising the enemy leader, then demonising the enemy people through atrocity stories, real or imagined (Knightley 2001 in Anderson 2015).”
Mass disinformation in the form of demonization of targeted personalities—often leaders and organizations— is the followed by severe threats and even outright violation of rights. Clearly, the immediate goal is to justify these violations, presenting them as precautionary measures for the safety of the general public. Red taggers and red bashers have the end goal of crushing organized dissent.
But with organized dissent talking to government, bringing in comprehensive social and economic reforms on the table as demands coming from the ground, we may see clearly how organizing from below can shake the smugness of an oligarchic state. Eventually, government may choose to broker pro-people concessions. But first, both parties are expected to uphold previous agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other guidelines that will make for an unhampered peace talks.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) is a sticky phase. And all because peace talks potentially brings genuine social and economic reforms. It can get sticky because poverty and wealth are not mutually exclusive. Reforming inequality, which is the root cause of poverty, will bring partial relief to the dispossessed at the expense of the accumulation of wealth by the rich. A timely reform and intervention for a system that has been perennially rigged, constantly facilitating the accumulation of wealth by dispossession. The peace talks will not change that system overnight. But it can be an advance toward the transformative course of society.
This reformative-redistributive possibility is here not because the government wishes to rest from its avowed function as an oligarchic machine. Peace talks comes primarily because in the country’s hinterlands, a people’s army, guided by a communist party, is building organs of democratic political power. And in various sites, the communist bid for land redistribution, national industrialization, and a participatory planned economy through socialism is paralleled by organized, institutionalized and legitimate endeavors pursuing the same vision. This is enough for a government that is provisionally hijacked by compradors and imperialists to talk peace and reforms.
In this context, the red scare that mainly comes from the rightists who are guided by the US State Department and whose ideology is cultivated by their daily dose of news constructions and analyses from corporate media like Fox News, CNN, BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine,etc. can only be an act of war against dissenters.
The right has a diverse echo chamber made up of some people (not all)from the liberal, centrist, social democratic quarters and the anti-communist “left.” All together, they seem to make the right redundant. But in reality, the global bourgeoisie needs to make it appear as though their faux diversity and pseudo pluralism is superior to the proletarian struggle for self-determination, workers control, and the abolition of the concrete bases of all forms of inequality. Their hijack of and appeal to pluralism and diversity is a tool of war that aims to thwart the organized resistance for revolutionary redistributive justice.
Anderson, T. 2016. The Dirty War on Syria. Canada: Global Research
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.