WHATEVER the Left propagandists and bleeding-heart liberals claim are the serious dangers of what is unfortunately called “red-tagging,” such public identification of organizations and individuals as being fronts or members of the Communist Party, if it had been done in the 1970s with the same intensity that it is being done today, I wouldn’t have become a party cadre, and remain one for six years.
And probably neither would the 10,000 youths recruited by the party, many to die tragic, really useless deaths in some godforsaken jungle and paddy field.
Sick of the Ateneo’s colonial culture, of its embrace of everything American, I joined the Student Cultural Association of the UP (SCAUP) in 1969. After all, it declared to espouse nationalism, and to campaign for the removal of US military bases in the Philippines. I wasn’t really told that it represented the first organizational task of Jose Maria Sison, then the Soviet-backed Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas’ youth bureau.
I found out later that most of the longtime members of SCAUP were also members, and more involved, in the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), which Sison also organized with several other cadres that would later form the core membership of his Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in order to expand his recruitment of idealistic youth to Lyceum and other “University Belt” colleges.
As is the process of turning the youth into “true believers,” may it be for a political organization or a religious cult, the SCAUP and the KM became my “community” or fraternity that provided me with that sense of belonging that youths — I was 17 then — almost desperately needed. As I spent more time with KM members, I and they embraced the values that the CPP nourished in all is organizations — hate for the state and the rich, that there exists a class struggle which can only end in the oppressed overthrowing the systems of oppression built up by the imperialists and their local partners, that there was once a Huk rebellion destroyed by the CIA as it had done in many other countries.
At the time, the communist siren song was powerful because of the emergence of two large countries controlled by parties that believed in Marxism-Leninism — the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. And when we asked our seniors in the KM if there was a European country that was communist, we were told: “Of course: Albania.” Then in our minds we would mix vast forests and castles run by a communist dictatorship. That was hilarious. Albania, of course, is a tiny country ruled by a Soviet puppet, with its socialist policies leading to the extreme impoverishment of its citizens, that Albanians are now mostly known as poor migrants who spread out in Europe to work at menial jobs.
A critical phase in my Red brainwashing was the call of the KM (as ordered by the CPP) to assist workers’ strikes. After all, it was supposed to be the party of the proletariat. So, with several other Ateneans, along with the strikers, we manned the picket lines at the Goya chocolate plant in Marikina in 1970, which blocked non-striking workers (“scabs”) from entering the factory. Unfortunately for me and two other Ateneans, the second the truck trying to transport the “scabs” into the factory arrived, the police arrested us for illegally blocking entry into a private enterprise.
That was the worst five days of my life. We were thrown into the Marikina city jail, so crowded one had to sleep (or try to) standing up, and mice, bedbugs and mosquitoes infested the area. That jail made the Marcos detention camps — where I would be incarcerated years later — look like a summer camp. Such trauma, of course, would etch in the mind the “truth” of Marx’s class struggle and Lenin’s “the state as an instrument of the ruling class.” My Ateneo comrades were swiftly shanghaied to America by their parents, all getting unbelievably rich in their professions.
For me though, I was resolved to join the Revolution, ignoring ideas for instance that there are so many ways of fighting for justice or workers’ welfare other than through a very bloody project to topple the state, which would most likely be a failure. Another method that the CPP would use through its fronts to “brainwash” the youths was to send the new recruits — mostly middle and upper class, if they were at UP — to the poorest rural areas, which would leave them in shock at how there could be so much poverty, that they were left with the conviction that only a revolution could solve it.
If the government information machine had been intense at that time, and if there were crusaders as bold as Lorraine Marie Badoy patiently explaining in detail why this or that organization was a communist front, I don’t think I would have stayed in those fronts to go through that traumatic phase that would make me a true believer.
A classic case of a very successful Red front was the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), until today purportedly an organization advancing women’s rights and issues, but which officially became a Red underground organization. It was organized at the start to champion feminist causes, a movement that swept the US and Europe in the 1960s. It indeed attracted women who had studied, and even experienced, the oppression of women by men. The CPP was ahead of the curve as Mao himself had “declared that women held up half the sky.” Even the famous beauty queen Gemma Cruz-Araneta had joined it in its initial years.
By 1971, the party had set up its first leadership cell there led by Lorena Barros. After her husband, a student who became an NPA (New People’s Army) officer died in battle, Lorena decided to join the armed struggle, and became a renowned NPA commander before her death in battle. A perfect martyr for the CPP: forget the feminist thing, join the NPA. Makibaka, now also an underground National Democratic Front (NDF) organization, in fact, became an effective recruitment center for the party, attracting initially those convinced of the feminist cause.
KM and Makibaka were the template for the party’s development of front organizations (read: recruitment centers) for nearly all sectors, among them Christians for National Liberation, Katipunan ng Gurong Makabayan, Makabayang Samahang Pangkalusugan, Lupon ng Manananggol Para sa Bayan (for lawyers) and Artista at Manunulat para sa Sambayanan. These and 16 fronts have been “red-tagged” so much over the years that they became underground, official NDF members. This was in order to create the illusion that the NDF is a united front, each independent of the CPP. This is patently false, all of them are led by the CPP, with all of their members being party members.
Because these old fronts have been exposed as instruments of the CPP, each has created “legal” organizations for the sector it has been tasked to work in. The purpose of red-tagging is to expose these second-generation fronts.
If organizations like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) or the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) insist that they are not connected at all to the CPP, then they have to argue so in the court of public opinion. Government though, has the duty to inform the people, especially the youth, that based on data and reason, these are fronts or instruments of the CPP.
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out that “reason is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” That insight is useful in understanding “red-tagging.” “Red-tagging” has become a meme, an instrument of bewitchment, easily written and said while “tagging” implies “labeling,” or hasty, baseless categorization of people. The term reminds us of the unfair tagging with the scarlet letter “A” of alleged adulterers “in 18th century Puritan New England as dramatized” in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel and the much, much worse tagging with the yellow Star of David that the Nazis required Jews in Germany and all other occupied countries to pin on their shoulders.
But this is totally not red-tagging now. What the government and those crusading against the CPP-NPA are merely doing, if we go beyond the bewitchment of the term “tagging,” is a fair and rational identification, based on data, of certain organizations as fronts and recruitment vehicles of the CPP. Government needs to do this to prevent the idealistic youth and the gullible from being sucked into the insurgency before they realize it.
What’s wrong with that?
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