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Professor Joma Sison And CPP| Countercurrents


Professor Jose Marie Sison ranks amongst the most accomplished Marxist leaders, and writers, to have landed their feet into the Communist movement. Few leaders have contributed so much to shape a nations’ path breaking achievements in revolutionary movement or defend citadel of Marxism –Leninism. Sison knitted the scattered seeds to sow the nucleus of the Communist Party and Philllipines and the New Peoples Army. His writings and talks most illustratively trace the genesis of the germinating of the people’s war and how the party and red army steered through the most tortuous paths to lead one of the greatest armed uprisings in history.

Jose Maria Sison, was the Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which was established in December 1968 and which went on to create and lead the New People’s Army in the people’s war that was launched in March 1969. In 1974, Sison was captured by the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and faced years of torture and solitary confinement before being released in 1986 after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. In 1988, Sison was forced to seek asylum in the Netherlands after the Philippine reactionary government cancelled his passport while he was abroad on a speaking tour.

Sison obtained recognition as political refugee from the Dutch Council of State since 1992, and has since enjoyed the protection of the principle of non-refoulement under the Geneva Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, thus preventing his deportation to the Philippines or any third country.

While the people’s war continued, Sison has faced repeated attempts at legal harassment and repression during his forced exile: he has battled and defeated in the Dutch court system trumped up charges of multiple murder that were filed against him in 2007—charges that were instigated by the US-Arroyo regime in the Philippines. Sison later won a separate case before the European Court of Justice to have his name removed from the EU terrorist list, where it was placed in 2009. Sison lives in Utrecht, Netherlands with his comrade and wife Julie de Lima, surrounded by a community of supporters and friends of the Philippine national democratic movement.

Early Years

In the elementary grades, specifically in Grade 3, Joma became interested in reading and trying to write poetry. He was inspired by the poems his teacher asked him to recite. In high school at the Ateneo and Letran, he succeeded in having some of my poems published in the school publications. And of course, in the University of the Philippines, He published his poems in the Philippine Collegian and in various literary publications.

Sison composed poems to counter the psychological torture during my five years of solitary confinement. These are in his book of poems Prison and Beyond which won the Southeast Asia Write  for poetry in 1986.

Economy

Sison elaborates that Since the 1946 cosmetic  grant of independence, US imperialism has s ensured  through unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements that the Philippines is politically, economically, culturally and militarily submits  to the dictates of the US. The Philippines also remains semifeudal in economic and social terms. Feudal and semifeudal relations remain intact till today. In fact, feudal landlord-tenant relations encompass more poor peasants and farm workers and hectarage than the semi feudal relations in plantations run by agro-corporations which have a limited number of regular wage-earning farm workers and hire low-paid seasonal farm workers only during peak harvest seasons. As a whole, the Philippine economy is run by the big comprador-landlord combine rather than by an industrial capitalist class despite the dominance of the commodity system of production and distribution since the 19th century.

Foreign rule in the Philippines has always relied on local puppets. So under semi colonial conditions the foreign ruler makes use of the landlord class-based politicians to govern the whole country. This shows that the landlords, as well as the big compradors that are related to the landlords, patronise US imperialism.

The Philippines lacks an industrial foundation and cannot be considered industrial capitalist, despite the baseless claim of bourgeois economists that it has become a newly-industrialized country. It has rich mineral resources but these are merely extracted and exported to industrial capitalist economies.

The chief ruling class is no longer the traditional rent-collecting landlord class of feudal times. It is the comprador big bourgeoisie, which is the chief financial and trading agent of foreign monopoly capitalism and owns the big banks, export-import companies, shopping malls, construction, real estate companies and the like.

The comprador big bourgeoisie is often called the big comprador-landlord class to emphasize its semifeudal character. It engages in manufacturing but it imports the majority of its means of production, the fuel and most major components of the total product.

Peoples War

At the resurrection of the people’s war in the Philippines in 1969, it posed a major challenge for New People’s Army which knitted together a scattered bunch into  a cohesive  and strong  army in an archipelago where the main islands of Luzon and Mindanao are separated at the middle by a clutter of smaller islands called the Visayas. Some comrades complained that the NPA would have no wide spaces as in the Asian mainland for manoeuvrability, cross-border advantages or any long march similar to that of the Chinese in 1935 and 1936.

Specific Characteristics of Our People’s War dispelled the fears of such comrades by pointing out that although the Philippines is archipelagic its mountainous character, the oppression and exploitation of the people and their historical experience of armed resistance can be a trumpcard  for the people’s army ,in transition stage. Thus, the general line was carved out for developing the people’s war in major islands first and then in the minor islands next. It developed first the armed struggle in the eleven major islands which carried 94 per cent of the entire Philippine population.

At first, the archipelagic character of the Philippines was disadvantageous for the small and weak NPA. But in the long run the CPP, NPA, NDFP, the revolutionary mass organizations and organs of political power illuminated a spark into a prairie fire.. After only the first ten years of people’s war, the NPA succeeded in engulfing every region of the nation and developing strong links with the toiling masses of workers in most regions of the Philippines. Despite resorting to fascist dictatorship, the Marcos regime could not destroy the NPA but was instead overthrown in 1986.

The post-Marcos pseudo-democratic regimes engaged in campaigns of military suppression as well as in peace negotiations but failed to demolish the NPA. After 53 years of people’s war, the NPA has been able to build more than 110 guerrilla fronts in large areas of 74 provinces out of the 81 Philippine provinces. It has about 10,000 fighters with high-powered rifles and augmented by the people’s militia of the local organs of political power and self-defense units of the mass organizations. It has established the rapid growth of the revolutionary mass organizations, the alliance of patriotic forces and the people’s democratic government.

The strides of the NPA are illustrated by the fact that it has witnessed the bankruptcy of the 14-year Marcos fascist dictatorship in trying to destroy it. The brilliance of the victories of the NPA is backed by the fact they were achieved with no external help. The NPA had no cross-border advantages like the Chinese, Korean and Indochinese people’s armies had in the past. Worst of all the Dengist counter-revolution in China prevailed in 1976 or even earlier and cast away the principle of proletarian internationalism in favour of collaboration with US imperialism.

Within the last decade of the 20th century, the Second Great Rectification Movement (SGRM) made great efforts in healing the wounds done by the urban insurrectionist line in various regions and at further strengthening the guerrilla fronts on a nationwide scale and multiplying the NPA platoons and companies for the purpose of escalating the maturation of the middle and advanced phases of the strategic defensive. Thus, the US and the Arroyo regime tried to carry out coordinated offensives of the reactionary armed forces and police against a series of major guerrilla fronts.

The central leadership of the CPP thought of three ways to defeat the planned offensives of the enemy which eventually rolled out as Oplan Bantay Laya I, II amd III during the 10-year Arroyo regime. The first way was to welcome the enemy offensive with land mines and sniper teams, retreat the main force of the guerrilla, deprive the enemy of a prime target and observe how the enemy deploys his forces for the purpose of harassments and counter-offensive. The second way was for the NPA in other areas of the same guerrilla front and in other guerrilla fronts to launch their own offensives in order to distract the enemy and continue seizing arms. The third way was for the NPA to launch small but dramatic urban operations of the [Armed City Partisan]-type in order to further distract the enemy.

The first way proved successful in the long run in Mindanao and some other regions. The second way was slow, especially in the regions north of Manila. The organization of rural-based NPA units for ACP-type operations in the urban areas has hardly rendered effective until now probably because the regional and central organs of leadership have been unable to provide the leadership to coordinate the rural-based and urban-based regional leaderships.

Since the Second Great Rectification Movement in the 1990s the NPA has considerably expanded its guerrilla fronts and its ability to withstand fierce repression and counter-insurgency campaigns, including psychological warfare and aerial bombings.

In the earliest part of this year some of the most daring counter offensives were launched by the New People’s Army against the security forces.

The New People’s Army demonstrated great mobility and flexibility and surgically blended centralisation and de-centralisation of party work and dispersal and concentration in the New People’s Army work.

Still in Sison’s view when a guerrilla front is under attack by a superior enemy force, the NPA in the same guerrilla front should try to inflict sure damage to the attacking enemy force during its advance, encampment and withdrawal and should also be able to carry out its own offensives in the guerrilla zones previously opened up by mass work in order to increase the arms of the guerrilla front.

The clamour for various types of NPA offensives has been rising because of the so many campaigns of mass murders being committed by the reactionary military and police forces against innocent civilians and against old cadres of more than 70 years old who had participated in peace negotiations and retired from the battlefield under the terms of the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

With regard to the question of guerrilla warfare in which the enemy uses drones and attack helicopters, Sison  admires to the victory of the Taliban against the US where despite the fact that the Taliban had no stingers to use against the drones, helicopters and other aircraft of the US and its puppets in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2021, the Taliban simply relied on its political work and its ground-to-ground firepower in order to destroy the US and puppet personnel and installations on the ground.

In the guerrilla fronts of the CPP and NPA, the local organs of political power are established and constitute the people’s democratic government under the Guidelines for Establishing the People’s Government. They are committees which consist of representatives of the CPP, NPA and the revolutionary mass organizations of workers, peasants, youth, women and others. They elect their own executive officers, being based in the very heart of the masses. It assist the farmers in production, becoming an integral part of their lives.

They form sub-committees in charge of planning and implementing public education and mass organizing, land reform, social and economic development, finance, cultural affairs, self-defence, disaster relief and environmental protection. The barangay residents and the members of the revolutionary mass organizations supporting the people’s government penetrate into tens of millions in the entire country.

In the earliest part of this year some of the most daring counter offensives were launched by the New People’s Army against the security forces.

Opressed Nationalities

The oppressed nationalities and indigenous peoples in the Philippines amount to 15 per cent of the entire Philippine population but they occupy extensive areas of the Philippines which are hilly and mountainous. They include the Aetas (Negritoes), the various tribes of the Cordillera, the Muslim Moros of Mindanao, the Lumad, Mangyan of Mindoro, Tumandok of Panay and others. Historically, they have been more resistant to Westernization than the 85 per cent of Filipinos who live on the seacoast and along the big rivers and were more exposed to the Spanish and US colonial rules.

Since its foundation, the CPP has included in its Program for the People’s Democratic Revolution the following major point: “National minorities in the Philippines have been abused and grossly neglected. (The main concern of the national minorities is land; the abuses of landlords, loggers and land-grabbers; and exploitation in mines and plantations. The CPP and the revolutionary movement recognized the right of the national minorities to national self-determination, including the right to autonomy in a non-oppressive Philippine state up to the right of secession against an oppressive state. The oppressed nationalities uphold their right to autonomy and other democratic rights within the NDFP framework and have played a major role in developing the people’s war and have made major contributions to the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation.

Fascism

The futility  of the semi colonial and semi feudal ruling system are manifested by the, brutal and corrupt presidency of Duterte and the installation of Marcos junior as president and Sara Duterte as vice president through massive automated electoral cheating. Everyday that these usurpers of authority are in power, they are being discredited by their own dynastic records of treason, state terrorism and plunder and by the new wave of crimes of repression and plunder that they are committing,

. US imperialism expects Marcos junior to continue the Duterte policy of suppressing the revolutionary movement. He will certainly use the so called Anti-Terror Law to suppress the entire spectrum of opposition in order to legalize the previous ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and amass more wealth at the expense of the people.

Mercilessly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the military arm of the reactionary Philippine state, the fascist Duterte regime and the national bourgeois compradors and neocolonial international bourgeoisie, have unleashed terror on the people. The situation of human rights in the Philippines has deteriorated particularly since Rodrigo Duterte came to power. More people have already been murdered by the Duterte regime than under the notorious fascist Marcos regime. This is testified by the fact that in early 2018, Duterte said in a speech that he was giving an order for the AFP to shoot female rebels in their genitalia, although he later said this was “sarcasm”. The AFP employs a policy of state terrorism against both the NPA and against civilians, regularly conducting aerial bombardments of civilian areas, mass killings of civilians, aerial machine-gun strafing of civilian areas near mountain and rural communities, and forced mass evictions of indigenous peoples, plunging them further into deep poverty, to make way for multinational capitalist, usually foreign, corporations to exploit the resources of the Philippines and reap superprofits.

World Imperialist Crisis

Joma repeatedly pointed out the rapid deteriorating crisis of the world capitalist system since the financial meltdown of 2008, the exposing of the neoliberal and neoconservative policies of the US, the conspicuous US strategic decline, the big break between the US and China since the second decade of the 21st century and in recent years the upsurge of anti-imperialist and democratic struggles on a world scale as the prelude to the resurgence of socialism. The addition of two new imperialist powers (China and Russia) to the traditional imperialist powers has aggravated inter-imperialist contradictions and the crisis of the world capitalist system.

Sison analyses that The US-China inter-imperialist contradictions came to the fore during the Obama regime when the US complained against the economic and military rise of China and decided to carry out the strategic US pivot to East Asia and excluded China from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The contradictions became even more acute  when the Trump regime started to cut down China’s exports to the US, shift US investments from China to other countries and accuse China of manipulating economic, trade and currency policies and stealing technology from US companies and research institutes.

At this time, the CPP considers it very important to develop the international anti-imperialist united front and seek allies among countries that declare themselves as anti-imperialist and fully independent and as socialist (like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Venezuela) or as having socialist programs and aspirations. The CPP is happy to have relations with countries that consider themselves independent, anti-imperialist and willing to support the Philippine revolution.

In Sison’s opinion it would be politically regressive for the CPP to publicly judge whichever countries are truly socialist or not.

Ideology

Sison: asserts that the study of the history and social circumstances of the Filipino people and the old Communist Party of the Philippine Islands began in the latter half of the 1950s. When the time came in 1966 for his comrades and himself to separate themselves from the Lava revisionist clique which was in control of the old party, they gave priority to the research for and drafting of the rectification documents, “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party,” the CPP Constitution and the “Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution” for the purpose of re-establishing the CPP on December 26, 1968.

After the reestablishment of the CPP, he proceeded immediately to the researching for, outlining and drafting of Philippine Society and Revolution (PSR) from May to August 1969. PSR was urgently needed to elaborate on the history, problems and revolutionary program of the CPP, proletariat and entire people.

The CPP pledged to continue the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation as a new democratic revolution no longer under the class leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie but under that of the working class in consonance with the world era of modern imperialism and the world proletarian revolution. After 53 years of continuous struggle, the Philippine revolution has achieved unprecedented strength beyond the levels of strength previously achieved since the Philippine Revolution of 1896.

The cadres and social scientists of the CPP have consistently combated in publication and study sessions the various trends of subjectivist idealism, such as post-modernism and anti-communism, which are promoted in the bourgeois academies and on the internet in North America and Europe.

At this time, the CPP considers it very important to develop the international anti-imperialist united front and seek allies among countries that declare themselves as anti-imperialist and fully independent and as socialist (like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Venezuela) or as having socialist programs and aspirations. The CPP is happy to have relations with countries that consider themselves independent, anti-imperialist and willing to support the Philippine revolution.

In Sison’s opinion it would be politically regressive for the CPP to publicly judge whichever countries are truly socialist or not.

The CPP wants to maintain the distinction between ideological and political tasks. CPP would ensure  that its performance of its ideological work  does not demolish  the accomplishments of the political task of developing relations of proletarian internationalism among genuine communist parties, as well as a solidarity alliance against imperialism among parties of all sorts. Significant that Sison remarks “There’s no use trying to dogmatically apply the ideological purity of Marxism-Leninism, in conducting political relations with non-communist entities, especially at this time when there are no big socialist countries [in the world]. We are amidst a lagging phase of the accomplishments of the world proletarian revolution, and there is a need to ensure that a broad base is for the resurgence of the socialist cause on a world scale.”

Joma firmly holds that that a distinguishing feature of the Philippine revolution and the CPP’s leadership is the continued practice of two-line struggle and rectification campaigns which have enabled the CPP to not divert from the revolutionary path.

At the moment, the CPP continues to lead the Third Rectification Movement to combat conservatism and pacifism.

Contribution of Sison

To me the main contribution of Sison is defending the contribution of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, from attacks of the counter revolutionary media.

Methodically he affirmed how Mao thought or Maoism was an integral part of Leninism, and that Maoism was exactly what CCP defined it in 1966.

Dialectically Sison has analysed aspect of massline.

Astutely he projected achievements of USSR from 1917-1956 and China from 1949-76.Sison in every sphere has explained how China resorted to the capitalist path after 1978 and the essence of the nature of Chinese capitalism.

Joma refuted those intellectuals who claimed that Stalin and Mao exaggerated the personality cult to eulogise themselves.

He made a most balanced appraisal of late Chairman Gonzalo and the peoples War in Peru and analytically summed up the anti-Marxist nature of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement .He  summed up the anti Marxist nature of Gonzalo’s writings on ‘militarisation of the party’ and ‘Peoples War Till Communism.’ Sison analysed PCP’s wrongly evaluating stage of strategic equilibrium and prematurely fusing   urban armed actions with people’s war. He refuted Gonzoliate sections who advocated that protracted peoples war was a universal theory, applicable also to imperialist countries.

Sison makes the most  grounded and perceptive analysis of political economy by any Marxist today, in grasping the nature of a semi-feudal economy and it’s link with in neo- fascism as, well as International economic crisis. .

He has delivered the most insightful and lucid interviews and talks, encompassing every sphere of Marxism, Philllipines and World Revolutionary movement. I can’t forget the esteem with which late Nick Glais who ran blog Democracy and Class Struggle blog, and Bernard De Mello held Joma and the CPP.

In my view today no Marxist leader in as grounded a manner summarised the root of the world economic crisis.

Sison also made a most dialectical analysis of the war in Ukraine, explaining why in his view Russia was on the correct side. At the very root he summed up how imperialist forces crystallised backed by NATO to target Russia and how Biden through NATO hatched a conspiracy.

Sison also displays great flexibility in uniting with religious forces like the Church

He also produced invaluable writings on the link between climatic changes and Communism.

He also makes balanced assessment of M.K.Gandhi, treating him as a Tolstoy type social reformer, but still an opponent of revolution.

In recent times 11 books have been published of the Sison reader series, which I recommend for every Marxist readers or even progressive intellectuals. Without rhetoric or hyperbola they rationally  address subjects.  They comprise On Culture, Art and Literature’, On the Philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Critique of Philippine Economy and Politics, On the People’s Democratic Revolution,   On the Communist Party of the Philippines 1968-1999, On the Communist Party of the Philippines, 2000-2022, On People’s War, On the United Front, On the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations,  Socialism: Resistance and Resurgence, and On the Marcos Fascist Dictatorship. Without rhetoric or hyperbola they address subjects.

Sison recently in On the Philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, refuted subjectivist idealism. He has also written articles on the Frankfurt school, Austrian school, French postmodernism, the British analytic philosophy and so on.

In Socialism :Resurgence and Resistance it s projected how  carrying out the people’s democratic revolution in the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines has targeted as enemies of the Filipino people not only US and other foreign monopoly capitalist powers and the local reactionary classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists but also the revisionists who wear masks of   revolutionaries but in fact expound  bourgeois reformism and pacifism and pave the way  to capitalist restoration in socialist countries after the first half of the 20th century.

Communist Party of Philippines 2000-2022, book 5and 6 .most illustratively traces the crystallisation of the party, army and movement from the transition stage.and gives a lucid historical overview.

I suggest everyone read the interviews of Angel Marrades in Descifrando La Guerra blog on ‘Concerning the Communist Party of the Philippines, the philippine revolution, international situation’ ; by libyajamahiriya; by professor Raddi; and in Kites blog.

Joma Sison last month wrote an invaluable essay on World Imperialism written from a Leninist standpoint; traversing all spheres it dissected positive and negative elements. It delves on crystallisation of modern imperialism to dominance, elaborates the current contradictions and crises engulfing the world’s countries and the entire global capitalist system, and cogeally illustrates prospects for revival of anti-imperialist struggle and socialism.

Weaknesses

Still I feel Joma Sison and CPP have been plagued with certain weaknesses.

Sison in my opinion, wrongly evaluates Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea as Socialist countries .At  one stage in the 1980’s ,he elaborated a United Front with revisionist Brezhnevite USSR and East European Satellite countries in confronting US Imperialism.

At a late stage he diagnosed China as a revisionist state after 1989 and supported the CCP military clampdown at Tiannemen square .

Some of his writings are harsh on PCP or sections of Gonzaloites .Sison and CCP have failed to call for a review or self criticism for why Phillipines Armed struggle is still in stage of strategic defensive and setbacks caused in recent times.

Sison’s embarking on negotiations with President Duterte is questionable, when one sees the aftermath

He also over-estimated the movement of the C.P.I. (Maoist).

Sison to an extent soft-pedals with Lin Biao during the Chinese Cultural Revolution not perceiving his anti-Marxist treachery, and claims Zhou En Lai to have turned rightist .in the latter stages of the Cultural Revolution.

Sison fails to dwell on how peoples war will adopt a new form in the digital age or era of globalisation.

Sison fails to reflect sufficiently on aspect of mass line in USSR under Lenin and Stalin, China under Mao and in peoples Wars.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has undertaken extensive research in the International Communist Movement and interviewed Professor Joma  Sison on 50th anniversary of CPP celebrations in Utrecht.



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