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Monday, October 3, 2022

It’s not hard to choose liberalism over fascism

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Bogie Bobis
Bogie Bobis is a father of two adorable daughters and is married to Maritess Bobis who is also his personal editor. He works for a human rights-based NGO, Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances as Social Media Point Person and Web Master. He is a Sociology undergraduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila. As a visual artist, Bogie is a regular participant in the PUP annual arts month. He is also a convenor and member of the Board of Editor of socialistseed.blogspot.com where he regularly contributes an article.

Liberalism is hard to define if we put it in the Philippine context. Perhaps the easiest way to locate liberalism in the Philippines is through the practical way of sorting out the historical experiences during the post-colonial and the anti-dictatorship/anti-fascist struggle. The anti-Marcos dictatorship struggle served as the highlight of this historical experience. It molded the democratic spirit of the Filipino nation that culminated in the 1986 People Power Revolution – which were participated by a wide array of bourgeois and left movements. Loosely speaking, democracy, freedom and human rights serve as the ideals developed within that historical experience.

However, even if the Filipino nation has gone through it, the definitive culturalization of liberalism, that is, its ideals and meaning, never materialized in the formal and informal sphere. In governance, from the president, down to the law makers, governors, mayors and barangay captains, liberalism/democracy and draconian style of leadership are often confused with one another. More so, in the daily language of the citizens.

Now, this predominance of social/political confusion can be blamed to the lack of a historical fulfilment. The Cory Aquino administration, although it was able to place the 1987 Constitution, which can be considered as liberal and democratic, did not make a palatable socio-economic changes that could set a liberal and democratic sense of fulfillment.

Thus, even if the liberal and democratic ideals of Edsa in 1986 were able to ascend as the national spirit, the remnants of fascist experience slowly developed into a political nostalgia.

Given that the Philippines is in a constant drive to modernize, or that it appears to be in a constant struggle against backwardness and mass poverty, the principle of the state swings from democratic to fascist depending on the political climate of the public (or whichever wins in the political tug of war between the competing ruling classes). The rise of Duterte to power demonstrates this swing from democratic to a fascist regime – the liberal democratic regime having been exhausted by its own failures.

However, the Marcos dictatorship has its own failures too. Given the fact that it had concentrated power and wealth to a few in decades, mass poverty was more prevalent; while modernization served only as a face lift. Also, the lack of modernization was a testament of the concentration of power to a selected few. Other ruling classes were disenfranchised and therefore there were less economic and political competition. The remaining ruling classes in power, specially the Marcoses, easily amassed wealth.

The re-dispersion of power among all the ruling classes after the 1986 revolution was the real intention of the Cory democratization. Even the Marcoses and cronies were not disenfranchised, thus they owe their own political survival to the very revolution that toppled them. What the 1986 revolution assured was the mechanism, through the 1987 Constitution, of preventing the Marcos-type of dictatorship to return.

Here we see the connection between democracy and modernization, at least in the Philippine context. Modernization is more aggressive in democratic times because it serves more sectors in the ruling classes and big businessmen. We have seen this during the Ramos and PNoy administration. Through the rule of the market, the wealth of the nation is projected to increase. Thus, we have seen a relative rise in the country’s national wealth during these two past administrations.

Duterte, on the other hand, can only fail because he is inclined to concentrate power by making a mockery of the law and the constitution. It looks quite obvious that the competition between the ruling classes is leading to a re-concentration of power to the hands of a few. More so, the tenets of liberalism, democracy, freedom and human rights are being destroyed and violated in the pretext that only a strong man can lead the nation to modernization; while a huge portion of the population are driven to ride on the political gamble.

The people who live in poverty, or those who were left behind by the relative modernization, are more capable to struggle for their political and economic rights if they are guaranteed by the state of their democratic rights. In other words, the liberal-democratic context provides a better playing fields for the struggle for radical reforms, that is, a struggle could generate material benefits for the poor and marginalized. That should be clear, for it would be quite stupid if we say that fascism is the way to empower the people, politically and economically speaking. According to the American Senator, Bernie Sanders, “politics is tactical,” when it comes to defeating the most evil president in American history. It goes to the Philippines as well.

Democracy within us

Why do we have to say that the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution had failed when it toppled down the Marcos dictatorship in the first place? It gave birth to a democratic and human rights inspired 1987 Constitution. It had set forth democratic values that we use in our daily political affairs. We use it to measure the level of threat every time we are confronted with the return of dictatorship. Unfortunately, at the same time, these democratic values are being overlooked or misunderstood every time we are confronted by the failures of post-Edsa regimes. Poverty, underdevelopment, corruptions, and others are realities beset by the Filipino people, a situation far from the post-Edsa expectation.

This confluence of unresolved political imagination also acts like a chain of problematic political impasse that can boil into a retrogressive political craving for a strong state, which consciously or unconsciously brings forth the Marcos nostalgia. Henceforth, the unfortunate empowerment of Duterte, as strong man, manifests its effect with people sacrificing their democratic values and political sanity, that is taking a political gamble, in the hope that the Philippines would finally take the right path to progress. 

However, the danger lies in the present political dichotomy of which the populist-right has the tendency to revise history and put the momentum into the side of tyranny. It can also be stated that the Yellow Hegemony has been successfully deconstructed. But does it also mean that our democratic values had died with it?

The Yellows, however, have no monopoly of the general spirit of the anti-dictatorship struggle. Left and progressive democratic principles and the general democratic sentiments of the people contributed to the resultant formation of democratic values. Thus, even if the hegemony of the yellow ideology ended in the empowerment of the Duterte regime, the democratic spirit of the people power revolution must not die accordingly.

What else should we get from our history? I was not there in 1986, but I was in Edsa 2 in 2001. I shall keep and cherish my 7-day experience of ousting a corrupt president. It might be the only revolution that my lifetime can give me. The point is, revolution is revolution – you just know that it is. The Great October Revolution in Russia was a real socialist revolution. We cannot put it into scrutiny as it happens.

If the 1986 Revolution has failed, it is because we didn’t make it permanent. We expected it to be the bearer of the new dawn. History doesn’t work that way. It is not a “thesis – antithesis = new society” thing. What the 1986 revolution had thought us is that people do have the power and the right to revolt. So maybe we should be revolting more often and try some fitting reforms. And yeah, no worries, hopefully it’s going to be alright.

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