by BILL FLETCHER, JR.
Full Interview with PROF. JOSE MARIA SISON
Founding Chairman, the Communist Party of the Philippines.(Shorter version appears in AlterNet, January 22, 2012)
Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and
Chairperson, the International League of Peoples' Struggle
1. Most people in the USA know little about the Philippines, its history, and/or its relationship to the USA. What do you believe are the reasons for this ignorance?
JMS: The US mass media are most responsible for informing, disinforming or simply keeping the American people ignorant about a country like the Philippines. I presume that most people in the USA become most aware of a country when the mass media are blaring out a certain extended course of sensational events of great interest to the US officialdom and the ruling class.
I am sure that in the past there were times of long duration when the mass media called the attention of the American public to the Philippines, like when the US was justifying and carrying out its war of aggression against the Filipino people from 1899 onwards, when the Japanese fascists pushed the US out of the Philippines at the start of World War II and the US reconquered the Philippines in 1945 and when the US-propped Marcos fascist dictatorship was in the process of being overthrown.
When the extraordinary or sensational subsides, the mass media pay less attention to the country and do not say much about the protracted reality of US colonial rule in the Philippines in most of the first half of the 20th century or the US semi-colonial domination of the Philippines since 1946. The ruling system in the US does not allow the Americans who know the truth about of the Philippines to impart their knowledge to the public promptly, widely and sustainedly through the mass media or any other means.
2. Given what you are saying, do you think that the US media has consciously mischaracterized the situation in the Philippines by focusing on groups like Abu Sayyaf?
|Jose Maria Sison in exile|
Through the mass media, the US has spread the scare about terrorism in order to justify a whole range of actions: the curtailment of democratic rights in the US and on a global scale, the stepping up of war production to please the military-industrial complex and the unleashing of wars of aggression.
3. Would you sum-up the situation in the Philippines, particularly the state of negotiations between the NDFP and the government; the situation facing workers and farmers; the overall economy; and fighting that may be taking place?
JMS: The Philippines is severely stricken by crisis because of the rotting semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system and the growing impact of the crisis of the US and global capitalist system. The prices of the raw materials and semi-manufactures produced for export by the Philippines are depressed and foreign loans to cover the trade deficits and debt service are becoming more onerous than before. There is now less demand for overseas contract workers and thus their remittances are decreasing. The global economic and financial crisis is hitting hard the Philippines. The growing public deficits (budgetary and trade) and the public debt are growing and exposing the bankruptcy of the big comprador-landlord state.
Various forms of popular resistance, including people's war, are ever growing because of the extreme and ever worsening conditions of exploitation and oppression of more than 90 per cent of the people, the toiling masses of workers and peasants. Like preceding regimes, the Aquino regime wants to destroy the armed revolutionary movement. It is implementing the US-designed Oplan Bayanihan, which is the same dog as Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya but which tries to be different by dressing up brutal military operations as peace and development operations and maintaining human rights desks in the reactionary army and national police for the purpose of shifting the blame for human rights violations to the revolutionaries. On the other hand, the New People's Army led by the Communist Party of the Party is carrying out a five-year plan to advance from the strategic defensive to strategic stalemate in the people's war, increasing the number of guerrilla fronts from 120 to 180.
While their respective armed forces continue to fight, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are supposed to engage in peace negotiations in order to address the roots of the armed conflict by forging agreements on social, economic and political reforms. But the GPH has paralyzed the peace negotiations by refusing to release a few political prisoners who are NDFP consultants in the negotiations and thus violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The GPH is also grossly violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) by refusing to release more than 350 political prisoners who are imprisoned on false charges of common crimes.
4. You have described the Philippines as semi-capitalist/semi-feudal. Please explain what this means in practical terms. We are in the early years of the 21st century. How could there be a semi-feudal situation in the Philippines? The Philippines seems, for all intents and purposes, to be tied into global capitalism.
JMS: You can say bluntly that the Philippines is capitalist and has long been capitalist since the 19th century if you mean that the commodity system of production and exchange through money has come on top of the natural economy of feudalism when local communities could subsist on a diversified agriculture and engage mainly in barter. The specialization in crops for domestic food (rice and corn) and for export (tobacco, hemp and sugar) and the import of a certain amount of manufactures from Europe for consumption pushed the domestic commodity system of production as well as integration with global capitalism through colonialism as a part of the primitive accumulation of capital in Europe and subsequently under the banner of colonial free trade.
But it is utterly wrong to say that the Philippines is industrial capitalist or even semi-industrial capitalist. The Philippines does not have an industrial foundation. Its floating kind of industry consists of imported equipment paid for by the export of raw materials and by foreign loans necessitated by the chronic trade deficits. It is most precise to describe the Philippine economy as semi-feudal to denote the persistence of the large vestiges of feudalism in the form of disguised and undisguised landlord- tenant relations and usury at the base of the economy, the peasant class constituting 75 per cent of the population and the combination of the big compradors and landlords as the main exploiting classes. The big compradors are the chief financial and trading agents of the foreign monopolies and are often big landlords themselves, especially on land producing crops for export.
Global capitalism under the neoliberal policy of "free trade" globalization has not changed but has aggravated and deepened the pre-industrial and underdeveloped semi-feudal character of the Philippine economy. The share of manufacturing with the use of imported equipment and raw materials under the policy of low-value added export-oriented manufacturing in the last three decades has decreased in comparison to that share under the previous policy of import substitution. The illusion of industrial development has been conjured by excessive foreign borrowing for consumption of foreign manufactures, by conspicuous private construction projects and by the sweat shops that engage in the fringe-processing of imported manufactured components and yield little net export income.
Neither the series of bogus land reform programs since decades ago nor the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalization has broken up feudalism completely and given way to a well-founded industrialization. The backward agrarian and semi-feudal character of the Philippine economy is now increasingly exposed by its depression and ruination due to the decreasing demand for its type of exports, the closure of many sweatshops of semi-manufacturing for export, the tightening international credit and the decrease of remittances by overseas contract workers in the current prolonged global economic and financial crisis in this 21st century of desperate, barbaric and imploding global capitalism. The conditions have become more fertile for people's war in the Philippines.
In the 1980s, certain elements in the Philippines pushed the notion that the Philippine economy was no longer semi-feudal but semi-capitalist or semi-industrial capitalist in order to glorify the Marcos fascist dictatorship as having industrialized the Philippines. This notion also aimed to undercut the Communist Party's strategic line of protracted people' s war involving the encirclement of the cities from the countryside by the armed revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants until such time that they have accumulated enough politico-military strength to seize the cities on a nationwide scale in a strategic offensive.
The bureaucratic big comprador Ferdinand Marcos conjured the illusion of industrial development by borrowing heavily from abroad and by importing consumption goods and luxuries and construction equipment and structural steel in order to build roads, bridges, hotels and other tourist facilities. The profligate spending of foreign loans only served to maintain the agrarian and pre-industrial character of the Philippine economy. Cognizant of the persistent semi-feudal reality, the New People's Army under CPP leadership has been able to wage people's war successfully with the main support of the peasantry and under the class leadership of the working class.
5. When one talks of the Philippine working class, what are the main sectors in which it is found and how is neo-liberalism affecting it?
JMS: The Philippine working class is found in such main sectors as the following: food and beverages, hotels and restaurants, public utilities (power generation, water and sewage system), mining and quarrying, metal fabrication (imported metals), car assembly, ship assembly, transportation, communications, mass media, assembly of electronic and electrical products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil refining, construction, construction materials (cement and wood), banks and other financial institutions and public sector services (education, health, etc).
In the Philippines, the neoliberal policy has favored certain enterprises away from industrial development and has expanded employment in such entterprises during boom periods. The favored enterprises include those in mining and export-crop plantations, the assembly of electronic and electrical products, the semi-manufacturing of garments, shoes and other low-value added products for reexport, car assembly, construction of office and residential towers, cement production, hotels and restaurants, business call centers and financial services. They are vulnerable to the ups and downs characteristic of global capitalism under neoliberal policy and now to the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Closures and reduction of production have resulted in a high rate of unemployment and the further immiseration of the people.
Under the neoliberal policy, the working class has been subjected to wage freezes and reductions, loss of job security, flexibilization or casualization (reducing the number of regular employees and increasing the number of temporaries or casuals), systematic prevention or break up of workers' unions and ceaseless attack on union rights and other democratic rights. The kinds of enterprises generated by the neoliberal policy involve cheap labor and the most tiring and health-damaging processes and conditions. They also limit the number of regular employees and expand the ranks of the casuals subjected to a series of short-term employment contracts in order to circumvent the law on regular employment. The scarcity of employment opportunities in the Philippines has compelled nearly 10 per cent of the population to seek employment abroad as overseas contract workers and undocumented workers with practically no rights. This fact proves the lack of national industrial development.
6. You mention that certain elements in the Philippines had a different view than yours (and the CPP) on how to characterize the Philippines today. What were/are the practical implications of these differences? Do the differences preclude any degree of unity or are there strategic differences that are irreconcilable?
JMS: Certain elements in the revolutionary movement put forward the subjectivist notion in the early 1980s that Marcos had truly carried out land reform, industrialized the Philippines and raised its urbanization to the level of 40 per cent. They subjectively concluded that it was already wrong to call the Philippines semi-feudal and to pursue the strategic line protracted people's war by way of accumulating strength in the countryside before seizing the cities. The subjectivist notion gave rise to two opportunist currents, Right and ultra-Left , both grounded on rejecting the line of protracted people's war but taking two different directions, one along the line of legalism and parliamentarism and the other along the line of military adventurism.
The ultra-Left opportunists adopted the line of speeding up the regularization of the people's army or the premature formation of absolutely concentrated companies and battallions supposedly to catch up with the expected development of urban insurrections as the lead factor in the revolution. The prematurely enlarged military formations were unsustainable, became divorced from the masses and were easy for the enemy to locate and attack. When they incurred heavy losses, the ultra-Left opportunists engaged in scapegoating and blamed so-called deep penetration agents as the cause of their disasters.
Meanwhile, the Right opportunists called for making legal struggle the main form of struggle against the dictatorship and for taking out working class leadership from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines supposedly to attract more people. After Marcos fell in 1986, they wanted to join the Corazon Aquino government and some of them succeeded in joining the new reactionary government. After failing to swing the Communist Party to a line of reformism, they fragmented into various groups and adopted various lines, including Gorbachovism, Trotskyism, social democracy, neorevisionism and even neoliberalism.
The most notorious and most aggressive of the Right and ultra-Left opportunists have found jobs in the regimes of Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino and the very worst of them have even joined even the intelligence agencies. They would be most hostile to any suggestion of reconciliation or unity with the CPP. But many of those they have misled are known to have returned to the revolutionary movement or have dropped out to mind their own private lives.
7. What have been the chief obstacles to a negotiated settlement between the NDFP and the government?
JMS: The Manila government and NDFP have their respective constitutions, governments and and armies. To lay the ground for peace negotiations, they issued The Hague Joint Declaration to define the framework for peace negotiations. They agreed to address the roots of the armed conflict or the civil war by negotiating and forging agreements on human rights and international humanitarian law and on social, economic and political reforms. They also agreed that they are guided by the mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice and that no precondition shall be made by any side to negate the inherent character and purpose of peace negotiations, i.e. no side can demand the surrender of the other side.
Under the current Aquino regime, his presidential adviser and his negotiating panel want to undermine and nullify the aforesaid declaration by asserting that it is a document of perpetual division. They are practically demanding the immediate surrender of the revolutionary movement. They do not respect the agreement on the sequence, formation and operationalization of the reciprocal working committees that are to negotiate and work out the agreements on reforms. The question of what kind of authority will be formed to implement the comprehensive agreements on reforms shall be settled when the time comes for negotiating the political and constitutional reforms.
The Benigno Aquino III regime has shown no respect for and has in fact violated the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by refusing to release some 14 political prisoners who are NDFP negotiating personnel and are therefore JASIG-protected. It has not called to account those military and police personnel who have abducted, tortured and murdered NDFP consultants who are JASIG-protected. Also, it has violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law by condoning violations of human rights of suspected revolutionaries and sympathizers by the Arroyo regime and by his own troops and by refusing to release 350 political prisoners who are unjustly imprisoned on trumped up charges of common crimes.
The regime keeps on demanding ceasefire in order to distract public attention from the agreement to address the roots of the civil war though basic reforms. The NDFP has offered truce and alliance on the basis of a general declaration on common intent on ten points, including the assertion of national independence, empowerment of the working people, land reform and national industrialization, immediate assistance and employment for the impoverished and unemployed, promotion of a patriotic, scientific and popular culture, self-determination of national minorities and independent foreign policy for peace and development.
The biggest obstacle to the peace negotiations is US political and military intervention. The US has upset the peace negotiations by unjustly designating the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant as terrorists. It has dictated upon the Aquino regime to draw up Oplan Bayanihan under the US Counterinsurgency Guide, which considers peace negotiations as a mere psywar device for outwitting, isolating and destroying the revolutionary movement. Oplan Bayanihan is a campaign plan of military suppression. But it masquerades as a peace and development plan. It regards peace negotiations only as a means to enhance the triad of psywar, intelligence-gathering and combat operations. Many people think that the US does not allow the puppet regime to make the overall agreement for a just and lasting peace with the NDFP.
8. Optimally what would a settlement between the NDFP and the government look like? What is the vision of the NDFP for a future Philippines?
JMS: The Communist Party of the Phlippines, the New People's Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have declared that their line in the peace negotiations is no different from their line of struggle for national liberation and democracy in the people's war, whose ultimate goal is a just and lasting peace. Through peace negotiations, they seek to forge agreements with the Manila government on social, economic and political reforms in order to pave the way for a just and lasting peace.
The NDFP is desirous of a settlement in which the national sovereignty of the Filipino people and territorial integrity of the Philippines are upheld and unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements with foreign powers are done away with. The workers and peasants who compose the majority of the people must be empowered in order to have real democracy. Land reform and national industrialization must be carried out in order to have real development and realize just social relations. A national, scientific and mass culture and system of education and information must be promoted. An independent policy must be carried out in order to promote development and world peace.
The vision of the NDFP is for the Filipino people to enjoy far better conditions when they have national independence, democracy, economic development and social justice. They can aspire for still better conditions in a socialist society. The protracted and worsening crisis of global capitalism is resulting in the resurgence of the anti-imperialist movement as well as the socialist movement. An increasing number of people are saying that it is not enough to fight against capitalism and imperialism. It is necessary to fight for socialism.
9. Are you optimistic that negotiations can result in a just settlement?
JMS: Frankly speaking, I am not optimistic that negotiations can result in a just settlement. Like its predecessors, the Aquino regime is too servile to US imperialism and stands as the current chief representative of the local exploiting classes, the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class. It has shown no inclination to assert national independence and undo unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements that keep the Philippines semi-colonial. It also has shown no inclination to realize democracy through significant representation of workers and peasants in government and through land reform and national industrialization.
It has become clear that the reactionary government is not seriously interested in peace negotiations as a way of addressing the roots of the armed conflict through agreements on basic reforms. Especially under the Aquino regime, the negotiators are always trying to lay aside the substantive agenda and to push the NDFP towards capitulation and pacification. Failing to accomplish their vile objective, they paralyze the peace negotiations by refusing to comply with obligations under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
10. What has been the role of the USA? And, have US policies towards the Philippines changed under President Obama? If so, how? What is your overall assessment of the Obama administration?
JMS: The USA has not been helpful to the peace negotiations. In fact, it has obstructed these. The US designation of the CPP, NPA and myself (the NDFP chief political consultant) as terrorists is meant to intimidate and put pressure on the NDFP in the peace negotiations. The US Counterinsurgency Guide actually tells the Philippine reactionary government that peace negotiations are dispensable but are useful only for purposes of psywar to mislead the people, possibly split the revolutionary forces and make the reactionary killing machine more efficient. But the US policy against peace negotiations with the NDFP has served to make the revolutionary force and people more vigilant and more resolute in opposing US intervention in the internal affairs of the Philippines.
From the Bush II to the Obama regime, there has been no change in US policy towards the Philippines. Obama continues the policy of serving the interests of the US imperialists in the economic, political, military and cultural fields, collaborating with the big compradors and landlords, manipulating the puppet regime and its military forces, preventing land reform and national industrialization, controlling the fundamentals and direction of the Philippine cultural and educational system and stationing US troops in the Phil ippines and maintaining a permanent relay of US military forces under the US-RP Mutual Defense Pact and the Visiting Forces Agreement. Obama is a good servant of US imperialism. He used his glibness to make himself look better than the brazenly brutal Bush. But he is using the same glibness to cover many acts as bad as or even worse than those that made Bush infamous.
11. How did the CPP and NPA end up on a list of terrorist organizations? How did you end up on a list of supporters of terrorism? What steps are being taken to remove this label from you, the CPP and the NPA?
JMS: During the November 2001 visit of then Philippine president Gloria M. Arroyo to Washington, she requested then US President Bush to have the US agencies (State Department and the Office of Foreign Asset Control of the Treasury Department) designate the CPP, NPA and myself as "terrorists". When US state secretary Colin Powell visited the Philippines in the early days of August 2002, he was reminded of the request and he assured Arroyo that he would act on it immediately upon his return to the US. Indeed, within August 2002 the CPP, NPA and I were designated as "terrorists."
The Philippine and US governments connived to take advantage of the terrorism scare that followed 9-11. They themselves engaged in terrorism by deciding to undertake harmful actions against the CPP, NPA and myself. The designation of the CPP and NPA as "terrorist" is absolutely absurd because they have carried out revolutionary actions strictly within the Philippines, have not engaged in any cross-border attacks against the US and up to now have not been discovered to keep bank accounts in the US or anywhere else outside of the Philippines.
In my case, I have been falsely accused of being the current CPP chairman and being responsible for the alleged terrorist acts, in fact the revolutionary actions, of the NPA despite the fact that I have been out of the Philippines since 1986 when I was released from nearly a decade of detention under the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The malicious intention of the US and Philippine governments is to pressure the entire NDFP negotiating panel and me as its chief political consultant. Like the Arroyo regime, the Aquino regime uses the terrorist designation as a kind of lever against the NDFP in the peace negotiations.
It is impossible for the CPP, NPA or myself to begin any legal process for undoing the terrorist designation in the US or in any other country tailing after the US in the so-called war on terror, without proving first the legal personality and material interest of the plaintiff. In my case, I could take legal action against the Dutch government for putting me in the terrorist list because I live in The Netherlands. After my administrative complaint, the Dutch government repealed its decision to put me in its terrorist list but took the initiative in having me put in the terrorist list of the European Union in October 2002. I went to the European Court of Justice and I succeeded in having my name removed from the EU terrorist list in December 2010 after eight years of legal struggle.
12. Has the "terrorism" designation made it difficult for NDFP supporters in the Philippines and in other parts of the world? If so, how? Have civilian political activists faced increased government-inspired violence as a result of this terrorism designation?
JMS: The "terrorism" designation is an incitation to hatred and violence and various forms of discrimination and harassment against known or suspected NDFP supporters in the Philippines and other parts of the world. Although the NDFP is not designated as terrorist, everyone knows that the CPP and NPA are the most important components of the NDFP. In the Philippines, the incitation to hatred and violence is quite deadly because the military, police and their death squads are emboldened to go on terrorist-hunting and are assured that they can abduct, torture and kill people with impunity.
Abroad, the EU, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have followed the US in labelling the CPP and NPA as terrorists and there are adverse consequences to Filipinos who oppose imperialism and the puppet government in the Philippines. The overseas Filipinos are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, nonrenewal of work contracts and denial of residence permits.
The Dutch authorities have advised the Norwegian government not to give any assistance to the NDFP negotiating panel for maintaining office and staff in The Netherlands on the claim that such assistance would be for building the infrastructure of "terrorists". They have also raided the NDFP office and houses of NDFP panelists and consultants and seized documents and equipment needed in the the peace negotiations.
13. Periodically the US media discuss alleged Muslim fundamentalist terrorism in the Philippines. What is the situation? In Mindanao there have been efforts at autonomy and self-determination. What has been the stand of the NDFP on these efforts? What is your take on allegations of Muslim terrorism?
JMS: The NDFP supports the Moro people's struggle for self-determination, including the right to secede from an oppressive state or opt for regional autonomy in a non-oppressive political system. The Moro people have long been oppressed by the Manila government and by local reactionary agents. They are not free in their own homeland and are victims of Christian chauvinism and discrimination. They have been deprived of their ancestral domain. They have been robbed of agricultural land as well as forest, mineral and marine resources.
The Moro people have all the right to fight for national and social liberation. The NDFP has therefore found common ground for alliance with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and subsequently with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after the MNLF capitulated to the Ramos regime in 1996. By fighting well against their common enemy, the NDFP and the MILF gain better conditions for growing in strength and advancing in their respective struggles.
The US government and the US media exaggerate the threat of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism because they wish to promote the entry of US corporations for the purpose of plundering the rich natural resources of Mindanao, especially oil, gold and deuterium. They also wish to justify the current stationing of US military forces and eventually the basing of larger US military forces for the purpose of strategic control over Islamic countries in Southeast Asia and strategic countervailing of China and the DPRK in Northeast Asia.
Like Al Qaida, Abu Sayyaf was originally a creature of CIA and the intelligence agency of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to counteract the MNLF. It has become a bandit gang since the capitulation of MNLF. It has also been convenient for the US and Manila government to depict the Abu Sayyaf as a Muslim fundamentalist group and as an extension of the A Qaidda, since 2001 when Bush declared Moro land as the second front in the so-called global war on terror. There are indications that the US and Philippine governments continue to arm and finance the Abu Sayyaf in order to block the advance of the MILF in Sulu and to provide the pretext for US military intervention in the Philippines.
14. In the 1990s there were several splits from the CPP. There were charges and counter-charges regarding sectarianism and militarism. Some who split seemed to have chosen to engage primarily in electoral politics. Some former CPP members have suggested that the CPP/NPA has attempted to kill/silence political opponents. Please give us your take on this and on these allegations.
JMS: In JMS to a previous question, I discussed the subjectivist ideological line that the Philippines was no longer semi-feudal. Such line emerged in 1981 and induced the political currents of ultra-Left and Right opportunism among a few members of the CPP. Eventually in the early 1990s, there would be splinters, not big splits, initiated by grouplets who opposed the Rectification Movement which was launched by the Central Committee of the CPP in early 1992.
The rectification movement was an educational movement inside the CPP to repudiate, criticize and rectify the major errors of ultra-Left and Right opportunism that had caused serious damage to the CPP and the revolutionary mass movement since 1981. But there were elements, whose connections with enemy intelligence were eventually exposed, who stridently attacked the rectification movement as a bloody scheme of "Stalinist purge" and who tried to spread the fear that those found in error would be terribly punished.
The rectification movement was undertaken precisely to rectify the sectarian and military adventurist line of the ultra-Left opportunists who tried to accelerate ill-prepared tactical offensives and the unsustainable formation of companies and battalions supposedly to back up the impending urban uprisings of the armed city partisans and spontaneous masses as the leading force. No such armed urban uprisings ever occurred. But mass work in the countryside was neglected and the rural mass base decreased by 15 per cent by 1988 and by 60 per cent in 1991.
Under the influence of the ultra-Left opportunists, CPP cadres in the urban underground (Davao City and Cagayan de Oro) also exposed themselves in the early 1980s to the enemy through mass actions which did not use the mantle of protection from the broad anti-fascist united front. When the ultra-Left line was resulting in effective enemy offensives, the ultra-Left opportunists did not look into their wrong line but instead engaged in scapegoating and in a bloody witchhunt for presumed deep penetration agents and saboteurs.
By 1988, the ultra-Left opportunists were already a spent force, especially after the failure of the so-called nationally coordinated NPA operations, which resulted in a big loss of ammunition, without any gain in rifles. Frustrated, they swung to the Right and joined the longstanding Right opportunists. But certain ultra-Left opportunists who were captured by the enemy were recruited into the intelligence service. They were used to attack the CPP line of new democratic revolution through protracted people's war. And they tried to discredit the rectification movement and they collaborated with the Right opportunists in doing so. At any rate, the Right opportunists became a relatively wider array of grouplets than the ultra-Leftists.
Since the 1989-91 fall of the revisionist regimes in Eastern Europe and disintegration of the Soviet Union, which they revered as socialist, the incorrigible Right opportunists have shed off their communist pretenses and have become bitterly anti-communist. They have joined the ruling system by getting employment in the bureaucracy and corporate offices, operating imperialist-funded NGOs or attaching their grouplets to major reactionary parties. Those who have chosen to engage in electoral politics have limited success because they are divorced from the masses and do not have a substantial mass base like the CPP, NPA and NDFP and the electoral parties being Red-baited as proxies of the CPP. A handful of them have been appointed to high positions by the Aquino regime.
The so-called ex-communists are the worst anti-communists. At one time, they misrepresented a political map of pseudo-progressive groups published in the organ of the CPP's Central Committee, Ang Bayan (The People), showing how the opportunists of the past have divided and subdivided, as a hit list for NPA assassination teams in order to slander the CPP and Red-bait progressive legal mass activists. The psywar attack by the ex-communists emboldened the death squads of the reactionary government to abduct, torture and kill suspected communists and to cover their criminal deeds by claiming that communists were killing each other.
15. We are in a tumultuous global situation with a convergence of economic and environmental crises. In this conjuncture, what do you see as the prospects for socialism? In many parts of the Muslim World so-called political Islam seems to be a leading force. Is this political tendency outpacing socialism (and the Left)? Are there viable left-wing alternatives or are we still grappling with the implications of the crisis of socialism?
JMS: The prospects for socialism are bright precisely because of the convergence of the grave economic and environmental crises which point to monopoly capitalism as the culprit and cause of the crises. This is the criminal force that plunders labor power in the economy and the material resources in the environment all for the sake of profit-making and capital accumulation. The identification of the monopoly bourgeoisie and the financial oligarchy as the class enemy that captivates and plunders nature and society points to the working class as the opposite force capable of leading the entire people towards liberation in a revolutionary process.
The epochal struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie involves zigs and zags and ups and downs. On the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto in 1998, I traced the alternation of great advances and retreats of the working class in periods of three to five decades. It is about time that the working class rises again from a deep trough and moves forward from the disintegration of socialist societies due to revisionist betrayal by degenerated ruling communist parties. The crisis conditions comparable to those of the Great Depression are again favorable for the rise of communist and workers' parties and the resurgence of anti-imperialist and socialist movements. In the last three decades, the CPP has been proud to call itself a torch-bearer in a relatively dark period for the world proletarian revolution.
For some three decades under the neoliberal policy, the greediest of capitalist relations of production thrived on the adoption of higher technology which facilitated production, distribution and abuse of finance capital as well as powered the system of education and information to serve the purposes of monopoly capitalism. But the higher social character of production made possible by higher technology contradicts the capitalist character of the relations of production and demands the socialist revolution to remove production from the clutches of the monopoly bourgeoisie. But it takes decades before the communist and workers' parties can take power again through the revolutionary process.
In the meantime, political Islam can arise and grow in certain Muslim countries against imperialism and against the most reactionary currents. But we cannot foreclose the possibility that Muslims, bourgeois nationalists and Marxists in Muslim countries can unite on the common ground of anti-imperialism and democracy to form secular states that assert national independence and aspire for socialism. There may also be viable Left-wing alternatives arising from the petty bourgeoisie or from a mix of workers and petty bourgeoisie. At the moment, they may be grappling with the petty bourgeois modes of thinking as well as with the implications of the defeats of the socialist cause. But we can be confident that in the long run communist and workers' parties will reemerge and resurge and will come to united front and united actions with other anti-imperialist and progressive forces.
16. Do the experiences of the 20th century with attempts at socialism, particularly socialism as articulated by Stalin, still hang over the leads of the revolutionary Left? Do you think that the crisis of socialism tells the radical Left something about a different vision that it needs for the 21st century?
JMS: We should recognize the great victories won by the proletariat and the rest of the people in building socialism in the 20th century. In the countries where socialism was built, especially in the Soviet Union and China, imperialist domination was ended and the exploiting classes were overthrown. The workers' socialist state was established. Socialist revolution and socialist construction were carried forward. Science and technology and proletarian culture flourished. Fascism was defeated. A powerful system of defense was established and the US and its imperialist allies were deterred from launching aggression against the socialist countries during the Cold War. It was modern revisionism (bourgeois degeneration of the party and state bureaucracy), not the US or Stalin, that corroded and ultimately brought down socialism in both the Soviet Union and China.
The imperialists and petty bourgeois anti-communists of various types have been demonizing Stalin and Mao as responsible for the defeat of socialism in the Soviet Union and China, respectively. The cause of socialism cannot be carried forward by those who simplistically scapegoat the longest-time builders of socialism Stalin and Mao for the defeat of socialism and restoration of capitalism. These two great leaders had their share of achievements and shortcomings, with Mao correcting and improving on Stalin in certain important respects. We should be able to learn a lot of positive and negative lessons from the class struggles in the socialist countries and the comprehensive experiences of building socialism in the 20th century. By learning such lessons, we have the advantage of knowing what principles, policies and methods we can carry over into the 21st century and what major errors we should avoid.
In 1992 the CPP issued a long document, Stand for Socialism Against Modern Revisionism, as a major document of the rectification movement and as a counter to all the attacks on the socialist cause churned out by the imperialists and the petty bourgeois anti-communists in the aftermath of the rapid full restoration of capitalism in the revisionist-ruled countries. For the purpose of building socialism in the 21st century, the CPP restated the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, pointed to the positive and negative lessons from the socialist past, made proposals among others for the development of democracy, legality and restrictions on leading organs within the socialist framework, the mass line in every type of social activity, the well-balanced economy in the service of the people, the various aspects of cultural revolution and the use of science and higher technology for material and cultural progress and for promoting democracy.
17. You are generally identified as a Maoist. First, in light of various analyses of China during the time of Mao's rule, do you see any limitations or weaknesses in Maoism? What is your sense of other left-wing tendencies (globally)? Do you see the chances for global and local strategic collaboration between differing left-wing tendencies? If so, do you have any examples from the Philippines or elsewhere? What role does Maoism have to play in the renewal of the Left?
JMS: I am aware of various analyses of China during the time of Mao's leadership in China. But despite my overall favorable view of Mao in philosophy, political economy, social science, strategy and tactics and so on, I do not think that Maoism is some kind of final perfection in theory and practice. It is a further development of Marxism-Leninism and goes as far as the theory and practice of cultural revolution under proletarian dictatorship in order to combat revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidation of socialism. But soon after Mao died, the Dengist capitalist counterrevolution prevailed in China. It means to say that even as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution prevailed for ten years there must be reasons for its defeat. The lessons can be learned as in the earlier case of the defeat of the Paris Commune of 1871 which held power for some two months. The Paris Commune would serve as the prototype of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917.
I have my grounding in Maoism. It is my guide to action. But I am open to all Left tendencies on the ground of anti-imperialism and common struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism. The CPP is not confined in any exclusive club of Maoist parties. It has publicly declared that it avails of bilateral and multilateral ways to exchange ideas and information, debate ideological and political issues, raise the level of common understanding through resolutions and arrive at various forms of practical cooperation. The protraction, worsening and deepening of the crisis of the world capitalist system inflicts intolerable suffering on the people but it also generates favorable conditions for the resurgence of the revolutionary mass movement and for the strategic collaboration and united front of various Left-wing tendencies.
There are various multisectortal, sectoral and issue-based alliances of anti-imperialist and democratic forces in Philippines. Maoism can play a major role in the renewal of the Left because it is concerned not only with the ideological building of the Maoist party but it is also concerned with political work, such as arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses for the revolution and availing of the united front and united actions of various parties and groups in order to reach and militate the masses in their millions in the quickest possible manner. Maoist parties are waging people's war in a number of countries and have gained the respect of many people in the world for daring to JMS the central question of revolution in the appropriate conditions. They are expected to increase in number as the crisis of the global capitalism protracts and worsens. Thus, they will be more inspiring to all Left forces and the people on a global scale. They will also need broad international support.
18. Let's focus, for a minute, on this matter of Stalin. Nationalities were expelled from their homelands; the leadership of the CPSU was largely annihilated; anti-Semitism was promoted after World War II; and it is difficult to identify any real mechanisms of worker control that were built during the Stalin period. What does the experience of the USSR and, in a different way, the PR of China, say about a vision for socialism for the 21st century? You speak about modern revisionism bringing down these various systems, but for our readers who have observed undemocratic systems that have called themselves "socialist", what would you say? What lessons have been taken from these experiences?
JMS: To say the least, despite all the allegations against him, Stalin must have made significant achievements with regard to keeping the Soviet Union as a state of various nationalities, with regard to maintaining the CPSU as the lead force in socialist revolution and socialist construction, with regard to letting Jews excel in Soviet society and defending them and the rest of the people against the racism of Nazi Germany and with regard to workers' control in factories and collective farms through the party and the workers' courts.
I think that is inaccurate and unfair to make a complete negation of Stalin and/or Mao or to simply dismiss them as anti-socialist and anti-democratic. It is even more unfair and unjust to use allegations against them as a way of burdening or denigrating non-Soviet and non-Chinese communist parties and leaders or later generations of fighters for socialism, who must be assessed and evaluated according to their own history and circumstances in the light of Marxist-Leninist theory and related experiences. I need not clutter my JMS with trying to cover what you sweep as undemocratic systems that have called themselves as "socialist".
Let me underscore that Stalin and Mao and their respective parties had remarkable merits and demerits. In studying their theory and practice, we must be as sober and fair as when we do not condemn and totally negate the French Revolution, the Jacobins and the liberal democratic revolution just because the French Revolution was followed by the Reign of Terror, the Thermidorean reaction and the monarchical restorations in France. We can learn valuable lessons, positive and negative, from the experiences of socialist revolution and socialist construction in the 20th century, for the purpose of fighting for and building socialism in the 21st century.
I have earlier referred to some lessons and proposals in this regard. Let me stress one of them: In the course of uniting the people for fighting imperialism and the persistent reaction and building socialism, let us ensure that democratic rights are respected and the state, the leading organs and leaders are prevented from abusing their power. We do so as a matter of principle as well as a matter of practical wisdom in view of the new means of communications which allow people to speak out to the whole world.
19. Did you ever think that the struggle would be this long? This is a question i have wondered for a while. When you and others formed the CPP and when the struggle started, did you ever conceive that it would be going on for this long?
JMS: At the founding of the CPP, I thought that the armed struggle to seize power would be protracted, perhaps ten to 20 years. I did not think that it would this long, more than 42 years already. It is even longer if you start counting from 1942 when the People's Army Against Japan (Hukbalahap) was formed or from the three centuries of Spanish colonial rule when more than 200 armed uprisings occurred before the Philippine Revolution could come into force in 1896. The people's struggle for national liberation and democracy will go on for as long as imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords continue to oppress and exploit the people.
20. When the People Power uprising took place against Marcos, it appeared that the CPP and much of the Left was taken by surprise. What are your reflections on that period and lessons learned? I thought about this in light of the Occupy movement that we are seeing taking place in the USA and elsewhere and the role/place of the Left in it.
JMS: The CPP was not taken by surprise. The course of events was too clear. In fact, soon after the Marcos dictatorship cheated in the February 1986 presidential snap election, the CPP leadership issued a call for all-out people's resistance to overthrow the regime in concert with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines which condemned the illegitimate and immoral foundation of the Marcos regime and Cory Aquino who called for civil disobedience. The legal organizations of the national democratic movement were at the forefront of the open mass struggles to overthrow the fascist regime along EDSA highway and in front of the presidential palace and in the provinces in all the days before Marcos was flown out of the Philippines by the US.
The biographical books, The Philippine Revolution: The Leader's View which I co-wrote with the German social scientist Dr. Rainer Werning in 1988, and At Home in the World: Portrait of a Filipino Revolutionary which I co-wrote with the Filipino novelist Ninotchka Rosca in 2004, describe the significant participation of the CPP and the patriotic and progressive forces, which are often Red-baited as organizations of the CPP. Their participation in large numbers was not only in Metro Manila but also in major provincial cities and towns. These organizations played a key role in starting the mass uprising and in providing a conscious and disciplined force, a hard core, for the mass uprising at EDSA and elsewhere.
What detractors of the CPP misrepresent as failure of the CPP to join the so-called EDSA revolution is actually the boycott policy adopted by the CPP leadership, in particular Chairman Rodolfo Salas and the Executive Committee, against the presidential snap election. The CPP leadership correctly stated that Marcos would use the election to keep himself in power but failed to see that, as in what was then a recent example in the Haiti of Duvalier, the US and the anti-Marcos forces would discredit and seek to oust Marcos on the charge of electoral cheating. Afflicted by sectarianism, the CPP leadership went to great lengths in disciplining CPP cadres in Metro Manila who opted for participation in the election and it failed to complement its boycott policy with a deployment of secret Party cadres and alternative legal formations to join the pro-Aquino electoral alliance. For sectarianism and inflexibility in the boycott policy, Salas himself would be removed from his position in May 1986.
I think that unarmed mass uprisings to confront those in power and seek their ouster are an important part of the revolutionary process. At a given time, such unarmed uprisings may not result in the overthrow of the entire ruling system but only the ouster of a corrupt and despotic regime and the adoption of some significant reforms. At any rate, they are part of a chain of events that can lead to the overhaul or overthrow of the ruling system. In this connection, I take a positive view of the Occupy movement in the US and elsewhere. whoever are the initiators at Wall Street. I appreciate the role that Left forces are taking in this movement. As chairperson of the International League of Peoples' Struggle, I have expressed solidarity with and support for the movement and have called on the more than 300 member-organization of the ILPS and their allies in more than 40 countries to expand and intensify the Occupy movement. ###
*Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time racial justice, labor and international writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, and a Visiting Scholar with the City University of New York Graduate Center.
(Reprinted with permission from Ka Joma Sison)
Fletcher, Bill. Revolutionary Jose Maria Sison on US Imperialism and a Way Forward for the Philippines. 22 January 2012. http://www.josemariasison.org (http://s.tt/15lBt). Original post in Alternet.org
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