Victim blaming the people’s resistance

The mere existence of a revolutionary movement provokes non-stop conservative reprisals.

Counterrevolutionaries are dogmatic in rejecting the right to dissent since their ultimate aim is the complete subjugation of the people’s struggle.

They equate the presence of radical activists with criminal destabilization. They see conspiracies, vicious plots, and a Red menace. Hence, the fanatical mobilization of reactionary forces to dispel the communist threat.

Their desperation is betrayed by the absurd contradiction in their propaganda. On one hand, the Left is ridiculed as weak, obsolete, and a nuisance; but it is also deemed powerful enough to influence and infiltrate domestic and global institutions on the other. If it is indeed irrelevant, why wage a brutal and costly crackdown on a supposedly dead and dying movement?

Under a so-called liberal pluralist democracy, there should be nothing unusual with the Left pursuing its political agenda. But in the Philippines, this is condemned as either opportunism or terrorism. If it is espousing a bread and butter issue, it is accused of manipulating the masses. If it succeeds in sending its leaders to public office, it is criticized for exploiting the flawed electoral system. If it negotiates for political and economic reforms, it is denounced for collaborating with the class enemy.

In the eyes of its rival political forces, the Left is incapable of being correct. It is cursed for clinging to the bad side of history, and its presence is described as an aberration in the political landscape.

The anti-Left spreads the narrative that the rise of a radical social movement undermines progress since it is a disruption in the social order. The spin is that mainstream politics is on the path of making great strides in bringing wealth and equality in society but this was hijacked by the destructive emergence of the Left.

Politicians are experts in articulating this unscientific argument. They blame the people’s resistance for causing social ills as if the system were just and equitable before the Left conspired to destroy it. They insinuate that the people’s struggle is instigating terror. It is convenient for them to scapegoat activism instead of acknowledging their criminal liability in perpetuating a state of mass poverty.

If we follow the logical conclusion of this reasoning, poverty can be solved by removing those who are agitating for social transformation. The corrupt bureaucracy will cease to rely on patronage politics if the threat of the Left is eliminated. Participatory democracy will thrive if the militant Left is sidelined.

Over the years, anti-Left discourse has become more sophisticated.

For example, some scholars and analysts would identify the longevity of the communist revolution in the Philippines and compare it with either the complete defeat or legalization of the Communist Parties in some rich Asian nations. They use the fact about the continuing revolutionary struggle to argue that it is a major obstacle to the growth of the Philippine economy and democracy.

This perspective is echoed by anti-Left ideologues who make similar assertions in justifying the government’s bloody all-out-war against the communist movement.

It may sound scholarly but it is based on partisan assumptions, malicious speculation, and selective use of facts.

Is the long-running communist struggle really to blame for the country’s underdevelopment? There are many unique features in Philippine society but why single out the national democratic revolution in probing the flaws of the local political economy? It is erroneous to make a simplistic comparative analysis of countries without providing a proper description of the local context.

If we adopt the same narrow framework, perhaps we should cite the Roman Catholic religion for hindering modernity. After all, the Philippines is the only country in Asia (aside from Timor-Leste) with a Catholic-majority population.

Why should the work of communists get the main credit for the country’s postwar trajectory and not the legacy of the two hundred political dynasties with uninterrupted control of local politics?

Why should the revolutionary agenda of the CPP-NPA-NDF get the blame for enabling the rise of plunderers and fascists and not the real existing anti-people programs, policies, and laws of repressive elected governments?

Why should communities resisting development aggression be subjected to cruel denunciation and not the corrupt mercenaries, the warlords, and their apologists?

Why should those defending rights and building democracy in the grassroots are being ordered to renounce violence and not the perpetrators of state terror?

The system has normalized violence yet what is put into the spotlight for fueling conflict is the collective action of the masses.

Reactionary scholars are horrified by the half-century struggle of the Left but refuse to mention the appalling conditions that engendered armed resistance. What is 50 years of the Left compared to the centuries of colonial domination, a century of imperialist meddling, and the unbroken rule of oligarchs?

Absent a comprehensive critique of the political economy and we will end up pinning the blame for the state of affairs on certain institutions, personalities, and groups without tackling power, justice, accountability, and social change. We will be mimicking the work of anti-Left scholars who are obsessed with nitpicking the history and prospect of the revolution as if the ‘excesses’ they analyzed are equal to what the ruling elite has done in society.

The Left offers an alternative through its holistic grasp of history and dialectics, and its grounded version of reality. It understands the role of individuals, institutions, and forces in the overall functioning of a class-based system whose history is rooted in colonial conquest, imperialist control, and feudal oppression.

This line of thought puts the blame entirely on a violent system of exploitation but it also provides a blueprint of destroying this behemoth and a vision inspiring us to keep on struggling for a new and better future. (

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email:

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