IT was indeed heart-wrenching to hear mothers tearfully relating at a Senate hearing, how their teenage daughters — for chrissake! daughters — abandoned their homes and schools as they were recruited to become full-time cadres of Anakbayan which, I will mince no words, is one of the fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
To be honest, I am astonished at how the communists are still able to recruit students – by definition an educated, thinking sector – into their ranks, most likely to lose their lives for a useless cause, and be buried in unmarked graves in some jungle.
Maybe it’s self-serving, but in my time, there were so many things that would have easily convinced anyone to join the Communist Party. There was the global student movement against the “Establishment.” There was the Vietnam war which made “US imperialism” so real. Philippine elites were in deadly combat, so that two villages in the North were even ruthlessly burned to the ground because they didn’t vote for one gubernatorial candidate.
The Communist Party even succeeded in nearly pushing things to breaking point when it bombed with four grenades the Liberal Party’s miting de avance in 1971. Thousands of students marched to lay siege to Malacañang, with several killed or wounded by brutal “fascist police.” The biggest country in the world, China, was at the height of its Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which purportedly would make it the beacon for socialist revolutions worldwide. And of course, there was Che Guevara, of whom countless youths fancied themselves to be the reincarnation of.
But now, and in the past decade, there have been no similar events to make up such a “revolutionary flow.” Communism as an ideology or even program of government has failed terribly, with Russia, and even China to some extent, abandoning it and relying on capitalist mechanisms for their growth. Agrarian reform has been undertaken here to such an extent that the problem has become the fall in land productivity because of the break-up of large farms.
In my era, communist ideology had an allure for young people as materials on it were banned and therefore were nearly esoteric, hidden books of power — Mao’s Little Red Book, his Selected Works, even Das Kapital. Communist demagogue Jose Ma. Sison’s blueprint for revolution Philippine Society and Revolution–which he plagiarized from Indonesian communist leader D.N. Aidit’s Indonesian Society and Indonesian Revolution–was distributed secretly only through the party.
Now, these works are freely available in the world wide web, and even Sison’s works of plagiarism are sold at National Book Store.
Quite ironically, there are things that did not exist during that era of revolutionary flow that exist now, and which explain why the communists still manage to fool some students into joining their useless, bloody cause.
First, the Corazon Aquino’ regime’s naïve idea that the party-list system would encourage the communists to pursue their goals in the framework of democracy, completely backfired. Instead, it has given their representatives in Congress a wide platform to disseminate the party’s propaganda line, which is mainly of elected governments always being a puppet of “US imperialism,” exploiting and persecuting the masses.
A press statement of the Communist Party, say, on the massacre in Sagay, Negros Oriental, would most likely be ignored by media. But a similar statement by a congressman of Bayan Muna or Gabriela–because he is a congressman–will be published. With the constant propaganda of party-list representatives in media, the communist agenda would appear to the youth to be legitimate. Why wouldn’t it be as these representatives are elected, they would wrongly think.
But not only that, the Communist Party has been able to set up a slew of NGOs–funded even by US and European bleeding-heart foundations–that pursue its propaganda tack. The most important interrelated messages of this are two: 1) that New People’s Army (NPA) casualties in battles with the military, are not really casualties, but extrajudicial killings, with the victims merely being activists of some farmers’ organizations; and 2) that these proves the government is a fascist state, suppressing the masses and therefore it is the duty of Filipinos to rebel – and help the communists. Before, the only “NGOs” the party managed to use as its propaganda venues were Church-based entities focusing on alleged human rights violations.
A student barraged with that kind of propaganda and, as young people do, seeking an identity and a meaning in life, creates an image of himself or herself as a noble fighter for the “masses.”
Second, the basic conditions for such massive propaganda effort to be successful is something that did not exist during Martial Law: total freedom of the press.
What makes it worse today is that there is a corps of media people who in their youth were part of the communist movement, and who believe that their contribution to the Revolution would be in media as editors allowing pro-communist propaganda to be published or even reported in the first place.
They are mostly in the Yellow media. Philippine Star has a regular columnist who had been (or still is) a Politburo member for decades, while the Manila Bulletin has one whose writings are straight out of a communist manifesto. The Philippine Daily Inquirer has romanticized the NPA since its founding in 1985, with its correspondents in the field being given exclusive access by NPA commanders. Check out newspaper photos of the NPA, some of which I have included in this piece, and I’m sure you will agree with me.
When a student being recruited into the communist ranks therefore reads even in mainstream media things that his recruiters have been telling him, the party’s views are “validated.’
Similarly contributing to the youth’s recruitment to the communist insurgency are what I would term the “pink” academics. “Pink” since while they still believe in or were part of the Red revolution, they didn’t have the balls to actually join it or later preferred a comfortable bourgeois life even as they tell their students to “serve the people” and join the NPA.
A typically naïve thinking of these pink academics is that the communists, despite their false ideology, function to put pressure on the elites to pursue social reforms. They obviously aren’t bothered by the fact that such “pressure” has and will result in the wasted lives of thousands of our youth.
Third, one thing that didn’t exist in the 1970s, but which has tremendously helped the communists’ recruitment effort is the worldwide web. In my time, one could get an idea of what was happening in the communist movement, or what its current efforts involved, only though the party newspaper Ang Bayan, mimeographed in the early 1970s and tediously distributed through its organization and, when their cadres got control of them, in campus newspapers.
But now there’s the worldwide web, accessible even through cellphones and in cheap internet cafes in much of the Philippines, by which a student being recruited would get to read how the NPA is winning battles, how it is serving the people, how it is resisting a fascist state through websites such as bulatlat.com (set up 18 years ago) and the websites of the CPP, the NPA and the National Democratic Front (NDF). A youth immersing himself totally in these websites could well believe that everything that his parents, his school, even common sense say are false, and are merely the propaganda of the ruling class.
This of course is the same worldwide web that Western analysts have concluded has been the main factor that has radicalized young Muslims all over the world, including the rich nations, to join even the most extremist organizations such as the Islamic State.
There is not even a government site countering the propaganda of these outfits. As the director-general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Center has admitted: “If there is an area where we are losing against the CPP-NDF-NPA, it is in the arena of propaganda.”