Guest Lecture to Students on Political Mobilization at the Center for Conflict Studies, University of Utrecht
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philipines
6 December 2010
I have been requested by Prof. Mario A. Fumerton to explain to you how my comrades and I organized the revolutionary movement in the Philippines. How did we recruit the first cadres for the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army? How did we go about raising the consciousness of the workers, peasants, youth and other women in order to recruit and organize them for the revolutionary movement?
What were the challenges that we faced like government repression, lack of resources, lack or low level of political commitment and will from some of the early recruits? And how did the movement overcome these challenges and difficulties, strategically, politically, and socially? How did we and the movement forge the strong relationships and commitments necessary not only for starting a revolutionary movement, but also for sustaining it for as long as the CPP and NPA have now existed?
Common Understanding and Commitment to Serve the People
At the very outset, let me answer the question on why my closest comrades and I who started the revolutionary movement in the Philippines were so determined to wage the revolution. We had a common understanding and commitment to serve the people. We considered the revolutionary cause as just. We assumed as a moral duty for us to continue the revolutionary struggle of previous generations.
We had a strong sense of history about the Filipino people. They won the revolution against Spanish colonialism. But US imperialism intervened and brutally suppressed the revolution. In order to prevail, the US military forces massacred 1.4 million Filipinos. Certainly, it is necessary for the people to continue the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and democracy.
We saw Philippine society as semi-colonial and semi-feudal in character. There is no longer a US colonial administration. But the US continues to rule the Philippines indirectly through puppet politicians and to dominate the economy, politics, culture and the military. The anti-democratic ruling classes of big compradors and landlords are servile to the US and they exploit and oppress the working class and peasantry. Even the urban petty bourgeoisie and middle bourgeoisie suffer a certain measure of exploitation and oppression.
My earliest comrades and I started to do revolutionary work where we could, at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1959. We formed the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) as a patriotic and progressive organization in opposition to the UP Student Catholic Action (UPSCA) which was a religio-sectarian and anti-communist organization of the dominant church in the Philippines.
Since the beginning, we in the SCAUP wanted to raise the level of debate in the university from one between the bourgeois liberals and the religio-sectarians on the issue of academic freedom to one between the Left and the Right on social issues concerning the national and social liberation of the Filipino people. We allied ourselves with the bourgeois liberals in upholding academic freedom and the secular character of the university. But we also formed open study circles to advocate national independence and democracy against US domination and the local exploiting classes.
Furthermore, we formed secret study circles on Marxism. These were clandestine because there was the Anti-Subversion Law of 1957 which penalized officers of any communist organization with death. The Congressional Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAFA) used this law in 1961 to witchhunt faculty members and students for publications deemed as Marxist and communist. The SCAUP had done so much political work among the students that it could mobilize 5000 of them to scuttle the congressional CAFA hearings in 1961.
The mass action was a signal event after a decade of anti-communist repression, following the defeat of the communist-led armed movement in the early 1950s. For the first time, university publications which had an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal character were defended by a large protest action. After its success with the anti-CAFA mass protest, the SCAUP decided to encourage students of other universities to organize progressive associations.
My closest comrades and I, who gave up climbing the academic and social ladder of the ruling system, further decided to do volunteer work in the education and research departments of the Workers’ Party in 1962 and a peasant association in 1963. We also decided to join the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties which was outlawed and in the underground.
My comrades and I from the student movement developed as cadres by participating in the work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the workers and peasants. It was also in this way that we could form Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) in 1964 by combining the young workers and young peasants with the students and young professionals.
KM described itself as the assistant of the working class in carrying forward the national democratic movement. It gained members rapidly and established chapters on a nationwide scale. It was outstanding in protest actions against the oppressive and exploitative policies of the reactionary government as well as against US impositions on the Philippines and against the US war of aggression in Vietnam and the whole of Indochina.
In 1966 a debate within the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties arose on a number of issues: whether or not to follow the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, whether or not previous leaders of the party were to be held accountable for grave errors that caused defeat in the past, and whether or not the chronic crisis of the ruling system was a ground for starting a protracted war for national liberation and democracy.
My comrades and I who were the majority of cadres in the organizations of workers, peasants, youth, cultural workers and professionals, called ourselves the Marxist-Leninist or proletarian revolutionaries and broke away from those we called Lavaite revisionist renegades who followed the Soviet party. The Lava revisionists tried with might and main to cover up the grave errors that caused the defeat of the revolutionary in the past and at he same time wanted to avoid revolutionary armed struggle indefinitely.
We published the rectification documents, Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party and subsequently the drafts of the Constitution and Program for People’s Democratic Revolution for the purpose of reestablishing the Communist Party of the Philippines under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought on December 26, 1968.
Requirements for the New Democratic Revolution
We accepted the requirements of the new democratic revolution of the Filipino people under the leadership of the working class. We agreed to build the CPP as the advanced detachment of the working class in terms of ideology, politics and organization. We agreed that the Party must wield the revolutionary armed struggle and the united front as weapons to destroy the counterrevolutionary state and install the people’s democratic state.
In building the Party ideologically, we adopted the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism. This covers the philosophy of dialectical materialism, political economy ranging from the critique of capitalism to socialist construction, the social science of class struggle and the class dictatorship of the proletariat, Party building and rectification movement, people’s war and the theory of continuing the revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution.
We read and studied the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. We recognized that raising the level of our theoretical knowledge would give us the necessary hindsight, acuity on the current situation and foresight. Our revolutionary commitment was strengthened and enriched for long-term struggle by the comprehensiveness and profundity of the theory. We did our best to grasp materialist dialectics and accordingly to develop our scientific and pro-worker stand, viewpoint and methodology.
We considered theory as the guide to action and as the antidote to subjectivism. Without theory, we would act blindly and fall into the pit of empiricism. But without social practice, the theory would lead us to dogmatism. We followed the teaching of Mao that correct ideas do not fall from the sky but come from social practice consisting of production, class struggle and scientific experiment. Social progress involves the wave-like alternation of rising level of knowledge from social practice and rising level of social practice guided by the rising level of knowledge.
We integrated the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism with the history and concrete conditions of the Philippines and with the concrete practice of the Philippine revolution. In this regard, we produced such seminal writings as the rectification document, the founding documents of the Party, Philippine Society and Revolution, Our Urgent Tasks and Specific Characteristics of People’s War in thre Philippines.
We undertook the rectification movement from 1966 onwards against the grave errors of the Lavaite revisionist leadership since 1942. But we recognized the fact that we, the cadres and members of the reestablished party, would also be liable to commit errors and shortcomings. We also recognized the fact that these could be rectified in a periodic or timely manner through criticism and self-criticism and if accumulated or large enough could be rectified through a fullscale rectification campaign within the entire Party.
The last great rectification movement in the Party was done from 1992 to 1998 in order to correct the errors of “Left” and Right opportunism resulting from the subjectivist notion that the Phillippines had ceased to be semifeudal due to the pseudo-development policies of the US-Marcos regime.
As the Party leading the Philippine revolution, we put forward the general political line of carrying out the new democratic revolution through protracted people’s war, corresponding to the rotten semicolonial and semifeudal character of the Philippine society in chronic crisis due to the afflictions of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
In terms of class analysis, we asked ourselves who were our friends and who were our enemies in the new democratic revolution. We identified the big compradors and landlords as our enemies and the working class, peasantry, urban petty bourgeois and middle bourgeois as our friends in the revolution.
The working class is the leading class in the revolution because it is the most progressive productive and political force among the exploited classes waging revolution. It is capable of leadership not only in the stage of the new democratic revolution but also in the stage of socialism. The most numerous exploited class is the peasantry. It is the main force of the revolution and its struggle for land is the main content of the democratic revolution.
The urban petty bourgeoisie is still a basic revolutionary force but is no longer the leading force as it was in the old democratic revolution. It has a great influence in society farbeyond its proportion in the population and can help swing the people to the side of the revolution. The middle bourgeoisie is interested in national independence, national industrialization and land reform and can be won over to the national democratic movement.
We had to adopt the mass line. The general line of new democratic revolution responds to the basic demands of the people. But we continued to learn from the masses their conditions, needs and demands through social investigation and return to them what we learn from them when we aroused, organized and mobilized them.
We trusted and relied on the masses. Thus, we could wage revolution self-reliantly, without dependence on any foreign entity. Upon the success of the trade union movement and land reform, the workers and peasants could give bigger voluntary contributions to armed revolutionary movement in terms of cadres, Red fighters and material resources. Upon the growth of the people’s army, the people’s democratic government could enforce its policy, laws and regulations. It could collect taxes on private business enterprises for the purpose of raising adequate resources for our educational, health, cultural and other programs.
We aroused the masses on the general political line and in accordance with their sectoral needs. We organized them into mass formations according to classes, sectors and issues. We mobilized them in campaigns to protest the violation of their rights and to improve their social conditions. We had developed the legal democratic mass movement for nearly a decade from 1959 to 1968 before we launched the revolutionary armed struggle.
We considered the revolutionary armed struggle as the highest form of struggle because it answers the central question of political power. Social revolution can be effected by the toiling masses of workers and peasants and middle social strata only if they have the political power to do so. In this regard, we adopted the strategic line of protracted people’s power, encircling the cities from the countryside and accumulating strength until we have enough strength to seize power in the cities nationwide.
We formed the New People’s Army on March 29, 1969, a few months after the founding of the Party. We linked up with the benign parts of the remnants of the old people’s army and benefited from their modest strength and rich experience in armed struggle. We built the NPA as a combination of proletarian revolutionaries and battle-tested fighters mainly from the peasantry.
We envisioned a probability course of development of the people’s war in three stages: strategic defensive, strategic stalemate and strategic offensive. We looked forward to changing the balance of forces at every stage by launching tactical offensives and gaining armed and political strength in the process.
We as the leading party required the NPA to integrate the revolutionary armed struggle, agrarian revolution and the building of the mass base through the building of mass organizations and the local organs of political power. While we took the strategic position of being on the defensive against the superior military force of the enemy, we carried out guerrilla warfare and launched the tactical offensives we could win on the basis of the ever expanding and ever deepening mass base.
The NPA has been able to preserve itself and grow in strength against the 14-year fascist dictatorship of Marcos and the vicious US-directed campaigns of suppression for more than four decades because the revolutionary cause of the NPA is just and enjoys inexhaustible support from the masses, because it uses flexibility in strategy and in tactics of concentration, shifting and dispersal to attain definite objectives, because it relies mainly on the peasant masses and helps them to carry out land reform and because it builds the mass organizations and local organs of political power as the foundation of the people’s democratic government.
Aside from wielding the people’s army, the Party also wields the united front as weapon of the revolution. The united front encompasses several forms of alliances. First of all is the basic alliance of the working class and peasantry as the foundation of the revolution. Second is the alliance of basic revolutionary forces, including the urban petty bourgeoisie. Third is the alliance of patriotic or positive forces, including the middle bourgeoisie. Fourth is the broadest of alliances which includes reactionaries as temporary and unstable allies for the purpose of isolating and destroying the political power of the enemy, which is the force most reactionary and most servile to the imperialists.
The Party’s policy and tactics of the united front have helped to increase the strength and spread the influence of the Party and the revolutionary mass movement. The alliances have helped to link up the masses led directly by the Party to the masses under the influence of other political forces. In engaging in alliances with reactionary forces against the worst reactionary force at a given time, the Party has to be sharply aware of the need for independence and initiative in order to protect itself from betrayal by reactionary allies.
The basic organizational principle of the Party is democratic centralism. Centralism is based on democracy and democracy is guided by centralism. A higher organ deliberates and makes decisions on the basis of reports and recommendations from lower organs and lower organizations of the Party. There is freedom of debate in the process of deliberations. But after a decision is carried by a majority or unanimous vote, the Party organ and organization concerned must unite behind the decision. There is a balance of responsibility between freedom and the necessity of discipline, especially in revolutionary struggle.
If a decision proves to be wrong, the leading organ concerned is accountable. It engages in criticism and self-criticism. But there can be a timely correction or adjustment of policies and decision if new facts or arguments are presented to debunk the previous assumptions. Party cadres and members are ever willing to correct their organizational errors and shortcomings. They eschew authoritarianism, bureaucratism and sectarianism as well as ultra-democracy and anarchism.
We the Party cadres and members from Kabataang Makabayan take pride in having provided a great help to the Party in making it nationwide in scale during the first ten years of the armed revolution. The KM had the most widespread nationwide organization, surpassing the trade unions and the peasants associations. But of course, the trade unions, the peasant associations and the people’s army have made the Party deeply rooted among the toiling masses.
The Party has drawn its membership from the most advanced activists in the mass organizations and from the rank and file of the New People’s Army. The growth and advance of the revolutionary mass movement and the people’s war have resulted in the growth and advance of the Party.
The waves of fresh recruits to the Party and people’s army from the mass movement surpass by far the number of those who are martyred, those who opt for legal struggle because of health or family reasons and those few who drop out because of erroneous thinking, wrongdoing, retrogression or treason There is always an accumulation of revolutionaries who have a high level of revolutionary consciousness and are tempered by the revolutionary struggle.
The Party is in the leadership and core of the mass organizations and the people’s army. There is a Party group in every mass organization and every squad of the people’s army. There are Party branches in NPA companies and in the localities and Party committees at every territorial level.
The Party has always been happy to receive teams of cadres from the working class and the educated youth who are willing to learn from the peasant masses and the people’s army, to work in the countryside among the peasant masses or to join the people’s army. The people’s army and the peasant masses always need the range of experience, knowledge and skills that the workers and the educated youth can bring. ###.