Interview with Jose Maria Sison (I): «We can see the conditions for the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution precisely because of the intensifying inter-imperialist conflicts»

Concerning the Communist Party of the Philippines, the philippine revolution and international situation

Interview with Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines


By Àngel Marrades

Entrevista a Jose Maria Sison en castellano

Jose Maria Sison is the founding chairman of the Communist Party of Philippines (CPP). Since 1968 the CPP and its armed branch, the New People’s Army (NPA), have carried a Protracted People’s War against the Philippine State and the US. Sison is a key figure in the development of the party and his historic struggle, which has lasted over 50 years and overthrew the Marco’s Dictatorship in 1986. This interview with Jose Maria Sison concerns the Communist Party of Philippines, the philippine revolution and international situation.

Your personal political experience began with your militancy in progressive patriotic organizations. How was this experience like and to what extent is it still important?

To understand the importance of what little we could do for a start in 1959 on the campus of the University of the Philippines, you must know that the old Communist Party in the Philippines had been nearly decimated and the backbone of the old people’s liberation army had been broken in 1952 to 1954. Waging its Cold War in the Philippines, US imperialism directed the puppet government to enact the Anti-Subversion Law in 1957 and use it for conducting anti-communist witchhunt in collaboration with the US Central Intelligence Agency and clerico-fascist elements in the dominant Catholic Church.

We, the patriotic and progressive student activists and teachers, were not frightened at all by the Anti-Subversion Law which threatened to mete out the death penalty to anyone who was pointed to as a communist leader by two witnesses. Instead, we were challenged to fight US imperialism and the local exploiting classes. We invoked the academic freedom of the university and its constituents to do research, issue publications and speak out on any issue in the public interest. We made it a point to write and speak for national and democratic rights against foreign and feudal domination.

We formed the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) in 1959 and I was elected the Chairman. We openly announced the objective to study and learn from the revolutionary history of the of the Filipino people against Spanish colonialism and then against US imperialism and to strive to continue the unfinished national democratic revolution, no longer under the leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie but under that of the proletariat. At the same time, we secretly conducted study meetings on the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism in relation to Philippine history and current circumstances of the people.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

We issued publications and conducted study meetings and mass protest actions on current national issues on and off the campus. The so-called Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAFA) of the Philippine Congress held a series of hearings from 1959 onwards in order to subject the progressive faculty members and students to anti-communist witchhunt. On March 15, 1961, the SCAUP succeeded in organizing 5,000 students to protest in front of Congress. And then we stormed into the hearing hall and scuttled the hearings.

For the first time since the crackdown in the early 1950s, we succeeded in holding a demonstration in the thousands in order to defend the publication of our anti-imperialist and anti-feudal writings. We were able to put a stop to the anti-communist inquisition and generate a movement of defiance and resistance against US imperialism and the ruling system along the line of national liberation and democracy.

In the 1960s, you created organisations such as MAN and MASAKA to mobilise sectors from different social classes which supported patriotic and democratic-oriented struggle for the liberation of the Philippines. What led you to split from the PKP, organization where you formerly were active in, and to lay the foundations of the new party in 1968?

In the 1960s, I played a key role in the organization of several major mass formations like Kabataang Makabayan in 1964, in the consolidation of Lapiang Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) and its reconstitution as Socialist Party in 1964 and 1965 respectively and in the formation of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism as an anti-imperialist and democratic united front. I had no part in the organization of MASAKA in 1963 but I was subsequently put in charge of the refresher courses for the veteran peasant cadres openly on the worker-peasant alliance and discreetly on Marxism-Leninism.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

Following the success of the anti-CAFA demonstration in 1961, the student leaders of SCAUP were highly appreciated by the leaders and masses of students in other universities in Metro Manila. Thus, we were welcome when we made a campaign to form student groups like the SCAUP to carry out openly the study of the national democratic struggle and discreetly the study of Marxism-Leninism as theoretical guide.

The authorities in my department in the university did not like my role in the anti-CAFA demonstration and they did not renew my teaching fellowship and graduate scholarship. Thus, I gained time organize secret study circles in Marxism-Leninism in several universities. I even found time to travel to Indonesia to study the Indonesian language and the mass movement there in the first half of 1962.

I joined the Lapiang Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) for political education work among the trade union members in the latter half of 1962. I became the head of the research and education department of the party. I was in charge of research, drafting party statements, issuing publications and holding seminars. The student activists from various universities joined the workers in seminars. Later on children of veteran peasant leaders from the rural regions close to Manila also joined.

Soon enough, we were able to launch mass actions on national issues against the reactionary government and its pro-imperialist policies, especially economic and military subservience to the US. Even before I joined the old Communist Party (CP), we in the SCAUP adopted a plan in late 1961 to form in the next two years a comprehensive youth organization, consisting of students and young workers, peasants, teachers and other professionals to be called Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth). We envisioned this as a force to assist the working class in leading the movement for national liberation and democracy.

I joined the old CP in December 1962 upon the invitation of its general secretary Jesus Lava through a nephew of his. He designated me immediately as a member of the Executive Committee which he formed and expected to be the embryo of the Central Committee, which he wished to reconstruct in the course of time. Since some years ago, there had been no single Party collective organ or any Party branch in existence. Lava was merely hiding himself in Manila without connection to any mass base or armed force since probably 1957 when he issued the “single-file policy” which practically liquidated the old CP.

Within the Executive Committee of the old CPP, I learned from internal documents of the old CPP and from my conversations with veteran worker and peasant cadres the facts about the errors of the series of Lava siblings who had become general secretary of the party (Vicente from 1942 to 1947, Jose from 1948 to 1950 and Jesus from 1951 to 1964). To know the errors fully, you can read the document titled “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party”. I wrote the draft of this document in accordance with the decision of the five-man Executive Committee in 1965. But the document was rejected by the majority, consisting of three close relatives of Jesus, for being critical of the series of Lava general secretaries.

Vicente Lava was responsible for the Right opportunist error called “retreat for defense policy” which echoed the policy of the pro-US guerrillas called “wait and watch” policy which meant doing intelligence work in preparation for the US reconquest of the Philippines from the hands of the Japanese fascists. Jose Lava was responsible for the “Left” opportunist line of “winning victory in two years time” of the armed struggle, without minding the needed mass work and agrarian revolution. After Jose was arrested, Jesus Lava lost interest in the armed struggle and he swung to Right opportunism by deciding to liquidate the people’s army in 1955 and the old CP itself in 1957.

Jesus Lava

It was my criticism of the history of subjectivist and opportunist errors of the series of Lava general secretaries and the emergence of highly important current issues in 1964 to 1966 that led to the two-line struggle in the old CP and eventually the breakaway of the proletarian revolutionaries, including myself, from the old CP. The current issues then involved the refusal of the Lavaite revisionists to make a definite plan for the resumption of the people’s war and to take a definite stand against Soviet modern revisionism.

How are democratic and national objectives linked to the objetives Socialist Revolution’s and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat?

The general line of the CPP is to carry out the people’s democratic revolution, with a socialist perspective, through protracted people’s war against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system dominated by US imperialism and run by the local exploiting classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists.

The national and democratic objective gis to achieve the national and social liberation of the Filipino people by defeating US imperialism and the local exploiting classes. The CPP is now fighting a civil war against the local exploiting classes but is ready to fight a war of national liberation in case the US unleashes a war of aggression.

It is by carrying out the people”s democratic revolution that the working class as the leading class builds the people’s army as the main component of the dictatorship of the proletariat or the worker state. Upon the completion of the people’s democratic revolution through the seizure of political power, the working class can commence the socialist revolution and socialist transformation of the economy because it has the state power to take all the commanding heights of the social, economic and political life of the nation.

What role has Maoism played during the build-up of the CPP, which was founded on Mao’s 75th birthday on 26 December 1968. Did your embrace of Maoism entail the breakup with the previous PKP? At a personal level, how did you come to know to Mao and how did his thought influence you? To what extent were you compelled by the Chinese Cultural Revolution?

We as proletarian revolutionaries broke away from the old CP which we called the Lavaite revisionist party on issues directly pertaining to its history since 1942 up to the circumstances of 1964 to 1966 in the Philippines as well as pertaining to international issues, especially the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and modern revisionism.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

We were critical of the subjectivist and opportunist errors of the series of general secretaries from the same family from 1942 to 1964 and to the revisionist line of their followers that armed struggle should be avoided and that the legal mass movement should run on indefinitely without any clear plan to resume the armed struggle. We took the position that within the next 4 or 5 years the armed revolution should resume on the basis of the nationwide spread of the mass movement and the deep roots of the party among the workers and peasants.

On international issues, we stood firmly for Marxism-Leninism against Soviet modern revisionism. We took the side of the Chinese CP on all major issues in the ideological debate. We expressed our position frankly on these issues which the Lava revisionist renegades tried to avoid. At first, they posed as having no position and then being neutral or centrist from 1962 to 1964 and finally admitted that they were pro-Soviet revisionist after all.

We were guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought in reestablishing the Communist Party of the Philippines. We applied this theory in the criticism, repudiation and rectification of the Lavaite errors that afflicted and weakened the old party from 1942 to the 1960s as well as in the analysis of Philippine history and the social circumstances and adoption of the genera line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war against US imperialism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

I had the good fortune of being in China in August 1966, when the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was just beginning. I had very enlightening conversations with members of the CPC Central Committee and the highest responsibles of the CPC Higher Party School. I went back to China in 1967 to make a nationwide tour. It was at the seminar in Beijing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the “Talks at Yenan Forum” when I met Comrade Mao Zedong personally. This was covered by the Beijing Review.

Despite it being such a broad topic, which lessons might be drawn from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution? How has this historical experience been studied by the Philippine revolutionary movement?

Comrade Mao brought to a new and higher stage, the third stage, in the development of theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism, by putting forward the theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through cultural revolution (starting with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) to combat revisionism, prevent the restoration of capitalism and consolidate socialism.

The GPCR brought to the peak Comrade Mao’s theoretical and practical achievements along the Marxist-Leninist line. It is the most important component of Mao Zedong Thought on top of its other components. It serves to underscore the series of major contributions Comrade Mao made in philosophy, political economy, social science, rectification movement in party building and protracted people’s war in the new democratic revolution. The CPP has sought to learn the principles and lessons involved in the theory and practice of the GPCR and in the earlier components of Mao Zedong Thought.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

In philosophy, Mao elaborated on and developed Lenin’s identification of the unity of opposites (divide into two) as the most fundamental law of materialist dialectics. He applied materialist dialectics in the process of gaining higher knowledge from the dialectics of theory and practice, in carrying out the new democratic revolution through people’s war and undertaking socialist revolution and construction.

In political economy, Mao had the advantage of learning positive and negative lessons from Stalin’s policy of socialist industrialization and agricultural collectivization. He criticized the revisionist reversal of socialist revolution and construction. And he put forward the line of self-reliant socialist construction by using the basic and heavy industries as the leading factor, agriculture as the base of the economy and light industry as the bridging factor under conditions of imperialist blockade, revisionist betrayal and natural calamity during the Great Leap Forward.

In social science, Mao developed further the theory and practice of the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution. But his most important achievement in social science was in recognizing the problem of modern revisionism and the continuing fact of classes and class struggle in socialist society and in adopting solutions. He put forward a series of campaigns to uphold, defend and advance socialism, such as the anti-Rightist campaign, the Great Leap Forward, the socialist education movement and ultimately the cultural revolution as he faced greater resistance from the revisionists and capitalist roaders within his party.

In party building, Mao adopted and developed further the Leninist teaching on building the proletarian vanguard party. He excelled at developing the rectification movement as the campaign for educating the Party cadres and members in Marxist-Leninist theory and practice, as the method for identifying the errors and weaknesses and for saving the patient from the disease and as the way for the Party to better serve the masses, mobilize them, let them acquire power and come under their supervision.

In people’s war, Mao had already demonstrated how the toiling masses of workers and peasants could defeat an enemy that was superior in military equipment and trained personnel through the strategic line of protracted people’s war by encircling the cities from the countryside in semicolonial and semifeudal countries. By winning the new democratic revolution through people’s war, the revolutionary proletariat and the people obtain the state power to proceed to socialist revolution.

The theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship through the GPCR was regarded as the greatest epoch-making contribution of Mao. It was aimed at combatting modern revisionism, preventing capitalist restoration and consolidating socialism. Even as the GPCR would be defeated by the Dengist counterrevolution, it still confirms and explains how socialism can be subverted and destroyed from within. Such a lesson will guide the forthcoming socialist revolutions.

We the Filipino proletarian revolutionaries have studied the GPCR as the answer to the problem of modern revisionism arising in socialist society in view of the degeneration of the bureaucrats and intelligentsia in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. At the same time, we benefited from its underscoring of the proletarian revolutionary line of Comrade Mao in the new democratic and socialist stages of the Chinese revolution.

Like the Paris Commune of 1871 being defeated by the bourgeoisie , the GPCR was defeated by the Dengist counter-revolution and capitalist restoration but it laid down the basic principles and methods for future adoption and further development in confronting the problem of revisionism and degeneration in future socialist societies.

The restoration of Capitalism in China did not stop the revolutionary movement which were taking place in India or Philippines, as well as those which would develop later in Peru or Nepal. How to you observe the absence or waning of revolutionary movements across the globe, other than the Philippine movement itself and its counterpart in India? Do you consider it the result of an ideological crisis, and therefore a political crisis, within Maoism?

We can be confident that the ever recurrent and ever worsening crisis of overproduction and the tendency of imperialist powers to use state terrorism and wage wars of aggression generate the conditions for the irrepressible rise of anti-imperialist and democratic struggles and the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution, despite the twists and turns and setbacks that it might undergo. Let me explain.

In my lifetime, I saw how the world anti-imperialist struggle and proletarian revolution peaked in the 1950s, with one third of humanity already governed by communist and worker parties and the national liberation movements advancing against colonialism, imperialism and neocolonialism, after the fascist powers failed to destroy the Soviet Union and stop the Chinese revolution. Then, the Soviet Union itself came under revisionist rule in 1956 and so did China in 1976. Both became capitalist, with the Soviet Union collapsing in 1991.

From 1991 to sometime around 2008, the US enjoyed being the winner in the Cold War and sole superpower in a so-called unipolar world while the recurrently worsening crisis of overproduction and the endless US wars of aggression accelerated the strategic decline of the US. The US and China became main partners in the propagation of the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalization for four decades. Now, they are locked in a bitter inter-imperialist competition and rivalry. The capitalist restoration in both the Soviet Union and China has aggravated in a big and deepgoing away the crisis of the world capitalist system.

Jose Maria Sison presiding over the International Seminar on Mao Zedong Thought at the celebration marking Mao’s 100th Birth Anniversary sponsored by the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations in Botrop, Germany in 1993

The advance of anti-imperialism, democracy and socialism is cumulative but is not always on a straight line. There are the twists and turns, ups and downs in history on varying scales of geography and time. On the whole at the moment, we the proletarian revolutionaries observe the intensifying inter-imperialist contradictions and the unravelling of the extremely anti-proletarian and anti-people policy of neoliberalism. We now see the rise of the anti-imperialist and democratic struggles all over the world. And we can see the conditions for the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution precisely because of the intensifying inter-imperialist conflicts.

The revolutionary movements in the Philippines, India and elsewhere can take pride in the fact that they have continuously stood up as torch bearers of the world proletarian revolution even in the decades of setbacks of the socialist cause on a global scale and decline of certain revolutionary movements as those in Peru or the cooptation of other revolutionary movements as in Nepal. But the conditions have arisen once more for the resurgence of the anti-imperialist struggles and the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution.

Revolutionary movements have their own share of errors and weaknesses from time to time but Comrade Mao has provided the principles and methods of the rectification movement. Entire revolutionary movements may suffer a big decline like that in Peru where the first ten years of its armed struggle in the 1980s was very heroic and promising. But only the proletarian revolutionaries in that country can rectify the errors and weaknesses of the movement. That is also true in the case of Nepal in which the Prachanda party in power is now being challenged by proletarian revolutionaries who are striving to resume the people’s war.

I would like to pose the same question regarding the People’s War in Nepal, which, as you already know, concluded with the revisionist’s victory. What are reasons underlying the defeat of Nepal’s revolutionary movement, a revolution which in fact was relatively close to achieving the victory over the State? What is the CPP’s position as to Prachandaist revisionism and the current situation in Nepal?

Like the people’s war in Peru, that in Nepal was a ten-year phenomenon which was brilliantly carried out up to the point of inflicting hard and heavy blows on enemy military forces based in Kathmandu, forcing the bourgeoisie to compromise and even the monarchy to dissolve. The Prachanda leadership stopped the people’s war before it could smash totally the bureaucratic and military machinery of the reactionary state and was satisfied with the dissolution of the monarchy as the victory of the democratic revolution.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

But the Marxist-Leninist line is for the proletariat through its revolutionary party to lead the new democratic revolution and to seize political power in order to commence the socialist revolution. It is not merely to overthrow the feudal monarchy but more essentially the bourgeois state. Otherwise what purports to be a proletarian revolutionary party is merely performing a bourgeois liberal task and backing out of the proletarian-socialist revolution.

How do you regard the People’s War led by the Communist Party of Peru – Shining Path? And your opinion on Chairman Gonzalo?

The people’s war in Peru broke out in the early 1980s as an exceedingly happy and inspiring event for the proletariat and people not only in Peru but in the whole world in the face of dismal events, such as the Dengist counterrevolution and capitalist restoration in China adding up to the continuing degeneration of Soviet modern revisionism and to the self-defeating adventures of Soviet social imperialism.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

But I think that certain problems or errors afflicted the party leadership and revolutionary movement and made them decline in the course of their ten years of armed struggle, especially after the capture of Abimael Guzman. But it is up to the proletarian revolutionaries of Peru to do their criticism and rectification of errors, even as many revolutionary observers have noted that the Gonzalo leadership had been ultra-Left sectarian and failed to use the united front fully as one more weapon in the course of the people’s war and that after his capture he swung to the Right by toying with peace negotiations as his possible way out of prison, with no safeguards against confusing the revolutionaries and the masses.

Historically, the Great Leadership has been Maoism’s hallmark but, unlike the case of Peru with Gonzalo, your role in the Philippines has been substantially different. Could you elaborate on this?

Out of modesty, the Chinese comrades even during the enthusiastic years of the GPCR shied away from touting Mao Zedong Thought as Maoism as if on the same plane as Marxism and Leninism, even as paradoxically they asserted that Mao Zedong Thought was the third and so far the highest stage of the development of the theory and practice of the revolutionary proletariat. As label to the great contributions of Mao, Mao Zedong Thought had evolved from previous labels like “Mao thinking” and then “Mao thought”, with a small letter t.

It is to the credit of the CP of Peru and the RIM that they were ahead of all other entities in using the label Maoism to supplant Mao Zedong Thought. But they were not only for the symmetry of Maoism in relation to Marxism and Leninism. They claimed that in adopting the label of Maoism they were determining and defining its content to shame all other CPs for being off the line by not using the term Maoism. Worst of all, Gonzalo or the CP of Peru adopted the phrase, Gonzalo Thought, with the immodest claim that the phrase signified his own definition of Maoism as the third stage of Marxism-Leninism and his Thought as the brilliant further development, despite the fact that he had not yet won total victory in the Peruvian revolution.

The CPP in 1994 and soon after the CP of India (People’s War, later Maoist) followed suit in using the word Maoism in lieu of Mao Zedong Thought for definite reasons: First, they accept the great contributions of Mao to the development of theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism constituting the third stage after Marxism and Leninism; and second, it is a matter of language symmetry to use Maoism instead of Mao Zedong Thought alongside Marxism and Leninism

To this day, CPP frowns on the immodest practice of certain parties naming their guiding theory after their principal leaders, like Gonzalo Thought, Prachanda Path and Avakian’s New Synthesis. These labels are immodest and are manifestations of puerile idolatry and the leaders’ own self-indulgence and self-glorification. Communists should selflessly do the best they can to wage and advance the revolution and forget about seeking personal fame or claiming for oneself the credit that belongs to the revolutionary forces of the proletariat and the people. It was not Marx and Lenin themselves who labelled their collection of ideas and actions with their respective names.

Going back to the ideological crisis seemingly haunting Maoism, how do you assess the fact that both Naxalites and Filipinos have not been able to serve as support bases to relaunch the Revolution in other countries?

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

The very cause of socialism has been in crisis in the last 70 years because of the rise of modern revisionism in the Soviet Union and then in China, the restoration of capitalism in these two big countries and the imposition of neoliberalism on the whole world by the imperialist powers. It is a good thing that in the last 50 years there have been Maoist parties leading the armed revolution in the Philippines and India, with current populations of more than 100 million and 1.38 billion, respectively.

Compared to the far bigger crisis of socialism in the last 70 years, it is much less of a crisis of any kind, ideological or other wise, that so far it seems only the CPP and CPI (Maoist) are carrying out armed revolutions that have a socialist perspective. It is a good thing that these two parties are engaged without let-up in armed revolution. But there are other Maoist parties in other countries already waging armed revolution or preparing for it, despite let-downs in the decline of armed revolution in Peru and the revisionist turnaround of Prachanda in Nepal. The rapid worsening of the crisis of the world capitalist system and the rise of anti-imperialist struggles on a widening scale signal the resurgence of the world proletarian-socialist revolution.

The CPP and the CP of India (Maoist) are parties that seriously carry out the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war in their respective parties. They also seriously carry out international work in the spirit of proletarian internationalism and anti-imperialist solidarity with all peoples. They are conscious of their revolutionary struggles being contributory to the world proletarian revolution, seek international support and are ever ready to share their ideas and experience.

But neither of them claims to be the leader or center of the world proletarian revolution. They have joined anti-imperialist as well as communist international organizations, conferences and seminars. But they do not make the immodest claim of being the center of authority or line-setter for the entire communist movement, unlike certain small groups calling themselves Maoists and exaggerating one component of Maoism like protracted people’s war and obfuscating other components of Maoism.

Like those who were called infantile communists by Lenin, there are infantile Maoists whose main activity is to prance around and preach dogmatically that protracted people’s war is doable at all times in all kinds of countries irrespective of the actual state of domestic social conditions and inter-imperialist conflicts. But if you look at the biographies of these infantilists in imperialist countries, they have been babbling about people’s war for at least two decades to make themselves look superior to the real Maoists who are actually waging protracted people’s wars.

These pseudo-Maoists do not do any serious mass work and do not set up any self-defense organization among the people for possible armed resistance. They are little chicks in comparison to the fascist gangs. These infantile Maoists are a fringe phenomenon and do not involve or cause any serious crisis of Maoism. Neither is it a crisis that certain genuine Maoist parties are still in the process of trying to reach the level of armed struggle and prominence already achieved by the CPP and the CPI (Maoist).

In 1977 you were arrested by the Marcos dictatorship, and you weren’t released from prison until 1986 under the new Corazon Aquino government, following her “national reconciliation” policies. However, shortly after this you had to go into exile, and since then you remain in Utrecht. Could you narrate how your imprisonment was and what it meant for the revolutionary movement? In a context of increasing repression, how did the party confront the arrest of its main leader?

Jose Maria Sison meet with Ferdinand Marcos after capture, 10 november 1977

I am happy and proud to say that when I was captured in 1977 the ideological, political and organizational foundation of the revolutionary movement had become solid and strong. The Marxist-Leninist ideological and political line was well-established by basic, intermediate and advanced courses of study among CPP cadres and members, by the rectification movement against the Lavaite errors from 1942 onwards (“Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party”) and by the analysis of Philippine history and society and (Amado Guerrero’s book Philippine Society and Revolution) and by the CPP Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution.

From a little over 100 CPP members in 1969, they were already in the thousands in 1977, nationwide in scale and deeply rooted among the workers and peasants. From only nine automatic rifles at the start in 1969, the NPA had increased them to more than 2000 automatic rifles in 1977. From only tens of thousands of mass activists in 1968, they were already in the hundreds of thousands in various types of mass organizations in 1977. The rural mass base had been 80,000 in only one district in Tarlac in 1969. There was a total of two million people as mass base in some 40 guerrilla fronts in 1977. They were also under the governance of the local organs of political power or the people’s democratic government.

The foundation of the revolutionary movement was so strong that it could withstand the major errors of subjectivism and opportunism in various regions at various times from 1981 to 1991. These errors could not stop the general advance of the movement even if they reduced the rate of advance. They became the target of timely rectification campaigns as well as the Second Great Rectification Movement from 1992 to 1998, under the guidance of the CPP document “Reaffirm Basic Principles and Rectify Errors”.

When the fascist dictator Marcos was overthrown by gigantic mass actions and by withdrawal of support from him by the reactionary armed forces, the CPP had only about 6000 full-time Red fighters with automatic rifles nationwide. These were not enough for seizing any major city and changing the balance of forces which was still in favor of the US and the reactionary classes. But the broad anti-fascist united front was strong enough to free all political prisoners, including myself. The legal forces of the national democratic movement was a formidable and decisive force in mobilizing the gigantic mass actions.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

I went back to the university to teach political science for one semester and had the opportunity to write a book Philippine Crisis and Revolution to confront the pseudo-democratic government of Cory Aquino before I left the Philippines on August 31, 1986 for a lecture tour in the Asia Pacific region. Just like my political detention from 1977 to1986, my stay abroad from the latter part of 1986 to the present has not adversely affected the general advance of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines. I intended to return home but the Aquino government cancelled by passport and fabricated a new charge of subversion against me. Thus, I was constrained to seek political asylum in The Netherlands, instead of delivering myself to the enemy.

The “EDSA Revolution” took place in 1986, leading to the end of Marcos’ dictatorship. It can be asserted that during this period the Communist Party and the New People’s Army presented themselves as the vanguard of this democratic movement. However, it was Corazón Aquino, supported by the USA, who finally managed to take the control of the country. How did the revolutionary movement face this historical moment? What mistakes led to the later dissolution of many political cadres?

Since its founding in 1968, the CPP had always described itself as the advanced detachment of the Filipino working class and as the leading force in the people’s democratic revolution as a matter of principle, policy and line. The extent of development of the revolutionary movement was significantly large despite the tremendous odds but it was not yet enough to overthrow the entire ruling system. It was just enough to cause the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship and participate in the broad united front to overthrow Marcos and release all the political prisoners. US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists were still dominant.

During the 14-year resistance against the fascist dictatorship from 1972 to 1986, the CPP had grown to some tens of thousands. The NPA had acquired 6000 automatic rifles through armed struggle and had organized auxiliary and reserve forces like the people’s militia and the self-defense units of the mass organizations. A few millions of people were in underground mass organizations and under the governance of the people’s democratic government. The legal mass organizations of the national democratic movement could muster hundreds of thousands of demonstrations in Manila. But these were not enough to overthrow the entire ruling system.

Orginal artwork by Max Santiago of Paaralang Jose Maria Sison for this interview

As part of consolidating her power, Cory Aquino asked for ceasefire negotiations in Manila. A ceasefire agreement for 60 days was reached for the purpose of negotiating the substantive agenda for the peace negotiations. But the ceasefire negotiations were surveiled by enemy intelligence and would lead to the arrest and killing of some negotiators and staff. Before the ceasefire agreement ran out, the presidential security guards murdered and injured peasant demonstrators and their urban supporters in the infamous massacre near the presidential palace on January 23, 1987. This led to the discredit of the Aquino regime and further inflamed the people’s war.

The most important guarantee for the continuance of the Philippine revolution is the perseverance of the CPP, NPA and NDFP on the road of protracted people’s war along the line of the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. In time of a crackdown on patriotic and democratic forces in urban areas, they have somewhere to go in the countryside in order to fight even better and in a more advantageous way for the national and social liberation of the people.

Second part: Interview with Jose Maria Sison (II): «Serving two imperialist powers that are now conflicting can become a big problem for Duterte»

Graduado en Ciencias Políticas en la Universidad de Salamanca. Hago seguimiento y análisis de procesos electorales, geopolítica, insurgencias y de las dinámicas del imperialismo en Descifrando la Guerra.

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