Friday, March 12, 2010

The electoral debacle of the Philippine left

(A comment piece: the first in a series of commentaries in the lead-up to the May 10, 2010 elections, in the Philippines.)

While Latin America has opened up a new socialist front for the 21st century and we have the most recent victory of the united left coalition in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio (FA – Broad Front), led by a former leader of the Tupamaros Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, winning the Presidency in November 2009, the Philippines left, by contrast, is a tragic and even horrible spectacle going into the May 2010 elections.

While the left is undeniably present in the electoral arena, the main tactic pursued is to vie for positions in the senate tickets of pro-capitalist trapo (traditional politicians) presidential candidates who are the frontrunners in the polls, i.e. the tickets of Noynoy Aquino the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party (which is carrying an Akbayan senate candidate), Manny Villar, the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party (which is carrying two senators for the Bayan bloc) and the previously ousted former president Joseph Estrada of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (which is running a Sanlakas senate candidate). The left candidates on these tickets have unequivocally thrown their support behind these presidential candidates. And the platforms of these presidential candidates have little or no resemblance to the progressive agenda that the mass movements in the Philippines have campaigned for in the last few decades – whether it be the demands of the labor movement, the urban poor, the peasant movement, the women’s movement or any of the anti-neoliberal demands raised by the mass movements throughout the decades of 1990s and 2000. At the local level the situation is even more disgusting with all the left parties without exception involved in unprincipled dealings with capitalist politicians bartering for votes and money – sometimes also known as ‘take the money and run’ tactics.

The left is badly divided and unable to form an electoral front, to put forward an independent left position in the coming elections, during a period of deep crisis in the elite political establishment and social system. The main reason is the deep sectarianism and mistrust that divides the left. The left would rather deal with capitalist politicians – many of whom are thugs and gangsters – than deal with one another. This deep and long-running sectarian politics prevents the left from forming even a minimal alliance in the electoral arena. The left today is unable to unite effectively to support even one-single progressive candidate – from senator to local councillor. The conduct of the Philippine left in these elections is a testimony to the poisonously divisive impact of left sectarianism. It’s a tragic example of how this sectarianism completely disarms the working class and progressive movement in a period when elite rule in this country is facing the most severe crisis since the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1980s.

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