By H L Neri
Ask the average Filipino if he is against communism and he will unhesitatingly tell you that he is. Ask him what communism is and he will give you a blank look. He does not know.
He can, however, tell you why he does not like communism. He does not like communism because it suppresses civil liberties. He does not like it because it advocates the violent overthrow of the social order. He does not like it because it denies the existence of God.
The average Filipino has been so bombarded with anti-communist propaganda that he knows everything that is bad about communism. And knowing only what is bad in communism, he concludes that communism is all bad.
Hence, he cannot understand why people talk so much about the communist menace. How can communism ever be a threat? It is so unspeakably evil that he cannot imagine that anyone in his right senses could fall for it.
Our people, he tells himself, may be poor, unhappy and discontented; they may be disenchanted with the way our democratic system has been working and disgusted with the way their elected officials have been serving themselves at their expense; but they could never be so irrational and so stupid as to fall for the communist alternative. What then, he asks himself, is there to fear in communism?
Thus ignorance about the real nature of communism breeds complacency which can lead to disaster. It makes one absolutely helpless in coping with the real challenge communism poses.
Indeed, if communism were all evil, it should not be a threat at all in our country or anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, communism has its attractions side by side with its undesirable features. And these attractions have been underscored by the findings of some Filipino visitors to Red China whose veracity and competence we have no reason to question.
Life in Red China, so their reports go, is not as bad as we had thought. People there are generally better fed, clothed and sheltered than our people here. On top of that, they do not have to worry about education, medicine and medical care. The state takes care of all these. There are even exotic vacation resorts within the reach of everyone. In short, the Chinese in mainland China never had it so good, and this fact was radiated by the smiling and healthy faces which met the Filipino visitors wherever they went.
These reports perplex the average Filipino. It's as if some people had returned from the other life and told him that the problem of burning heat in Hell had been solved by air-conditioning.
To his mind, these reports completely discredit whatever U.S. propaganda he had imbibed before. There is real danger that he will react by thinking that there is nothing wrong at all with communism and that, in fact, it is the panacea to all the ills besetting our country.
We must face up to the fact that communism scored a tremendous propaganda victory in our country from the visit of Filipinos to Red China. There can be no better time to pause and ponder the problems and the dangers that have ensued, particularly if assessed in the light of the war in Vietnam and our own Huk resurgence here.
The thing for us to do is to take a closer look at communism, to know it better the more effectively to combat it.
Knowledge of communism tells us that not everything in it is evil, that it has its good and bad features, and that the way to fight it is not to reject everything in it but to reject only what is bad in it.
How would we appear if we fought communism by saying that we should not try to make our people better fed, clothed and sheltered because that is what the Red Chinese have done and to do the same is to be a communist?
How would we appear if we said that we should not advocate free education and free medicine and medical care because that is what they have in Red China and to have the same is communistic?
How would we appear if we fought communism by saying that we should not mouth nationalist and anti-imperialist slogans or speak against the injustices and abuses of capitalism because that is what the communists have been doing and to do the same is to be a communist?
Such a way of fighting communism would boomerang. It would be tantamount to giving the communists a patent on social justice and social welfare and nationalism and the socio-economic uplift of the masses. And it would be the surest way to make communism win in our country.
Neither should we fight communism by saying that, well, all right, there are good things in communism, but they have had to pay for all these things at the exorbitant cost of their freedom. It so happens that our people have been actually paying the same exorbitant price, without getting what the Chinese in mainland China have gotten for it.
There can be no real choice between bread and freedom because there can be no real freedom without bread. Economic bondage makes a mockery of political freedom, removes the substance from the form and renders the whole thing chimerical and meaningless. There can be bread without freedom, but there can be no freedom without bread. To make one choose between bread and freedom is to make him choose between bread and nothing. Any fool would know which to take.
The only way to defeat communism in our country is to demonstrate the ability of our system to give our people the good things communism offers without making them pay the price communism exacts.
We must show them that they can be as well fed, clothed and sheltered as the communists in mainland China without having to pass through the totalitarian regimentation the mainland Chinese have had to undergo.
We must show them that we can give our children free education up to college level without making them give up the freedom which is the only status worthy of the educated man.
We must show them that this Christian and democratic nation has the collective conscience to see to it that no one languishes in sickness or dies of a curable disease for lack of money to pay for medicine and medical care.
We must show them that we who believe in God and adhere to the teachings of Christ love and help one another through a government which not only fights lawlessness but also serves as our instrument for mutual assistance and national cooperation in the spirit of justice and charity.
I have drafted a Credo. I commend it to those who sincerely want to make this nation truly united and progressive under the benign skies of justice, liberty and fraternity.
We believe in the true and eternal principles of freedom and democracy;
We believe that communism is wrong because it denies these principles and the concept of human dignity from which they spring;
We believe that communism thrives best in the soil of discontent and the climate of despair in which the people find it preferable to surrender these principles in exchange for the essentials of life;
We believe that communism can be defeated only when social injustice is uprooted and the people are given the opportunity to improve their lives under a firmament of freedom, dignity and democracy;
We believe that our progress towards this goal, buffeted as we are by storms and high waves in a shark-infested sea, has been too slow for our comfort and peace of mind;
We believe that social reform should not be made to wait for economic development but should go hand in hand with it in accordance with the spirit of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum;
We believe that the patrimony of the nation and the wealth that springs from it should be equitably shared by all its citizens in the spirit of justice and charity, the fundamental tenets of Christianity to which this nation adheres;
We believe it to be the minimum imperative of Christian charity and justice that every citizen in this country have clothes for his body, roof over his head, food to keep himself alive, medicine and medical care when he is sick, and the opportunity to get the education he needs to become a useful and self-supporting member of society;
We believe it to be the collective duty of the citizens to bear the costs of these essentials of life according to their individual ability - more from those who can give more, less from those who can give less, and nothing from those who can give nothing;
We believe that on this rock of Christian charity and justice we can build a strong and united nation against which the storms and the tempests and the very gates of hell will never prevail.
[Philippines Free Press, July 9, 1966]
H L Neri, a native of Bohol, is author of many relevant and insightful writings. At the age of 23, he was Editor of Filipino First, a fortnightly in the late fifties. In the mid sixties, his feature articles began to come out in various periodicals: Philippines Free Press, The Weekly Nation, The Manila Times. Among the articles he wrote that have come out in the Manila Bulletin are: "The Limits of Authority of the Aquino Government", "The 1973 Constitution Still Stands", and "True Land Reform".
H L Neri has also authored and produced two color posters, "Love Your Work" and "Along Destiny's Road." "Love Your Work" is a familiar sight in offices, workplaces, and homes in the country. "Along Destiny's Road" began as one of the projects approved by the Media Bureau of the Cory Aquino for President Movement (CAPM) where H L Neri was a volunteer writer during the presidential campaign.