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The tragedy of the Philippine communist insurgency

Last of a three-part series
THE Philippine communist movement in the 1970s recruited not only the best and the brightest of the generation that came of age in that period, perhaps also one of the most patriotic,mostly in their teens and early twenties, yet who were willing to devote and even give up their lives to change this nation.

Many of them, such as my close friends and fellow Ateneans Ferdie Arceo and Billy Begg were sent by the Communist Party to rouse the masses to revolution in now forgotten hinterlands, without any military training at all and armed with World War II carbines–-and therefore easy picking not just for the military and police, but even local militias who thought they were bandits.

A sadder tragedy though was the torture and killing of at least a hundred communists at the hands of their own comrades in the 1980s, who believed the paranoia of their superiors that they were military spies and therefore must be executed.

But the bigger tragedy, in that it has and will affect millions of Filipinos of this and succeeding generations because the social and economic structure will remain unchallenged, is the following: Even as the Philippines has one of the most exploitative class structures in Asia, and even as Marxist theory exposes the roots of this country’s poverty,the Maoist mentality of the Communist Party that could have been the vanguard in changing such a system has not changed a bit in five decades.

Thus, the communists have become irrelevant, politically and intellectually bankrupt. Its strategy for revolution, for its army to emerge from some Red base to encircle the cities to capture political power, as Mao Zedong did in the 1940s, is so out of touch with reality, a myth to give revolutionaries a false hope.All such strategy has done is create political and economic instability for the country that has deterred foreign and local investments, thus creating more poverty in the country.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) would have been relegated as a fringe leftist group, if not for its New People’s Army. But its emergence and survival merely reflects not the correctness of its cause nor its strategy, but simply the fact that there are pockets in this vast land–-as in all poor countries–where because of the weakness of the country’s physical and political infrastructure as well as government’s armed forces, the Philippine state has not been able to assert its authority. This also explains the persistence of other armed groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf, and even armed bandit groups in Mindanao

TWO PLAGIARISTS? Sison copied from Indonesian communist chief Aidit who copied from Mao the analysis that “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism” are the targets of the Revolution.

The party’s analysis of Philippine society, the local communists’bible, remains the founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution(PSR) first published in 1970, 46 years ago, now on its sixth printing.

Sison copied from a copier
Yet PSR is not even an original work. It copied the framework and even the words as well as phrases of Indonesian Communist Party leader Dipa Nusantara Aidit’s Indonesian Society, Indonesian Revolution, written in 1957. Aidit in turn copied much from Mao Zedong’s Specific Characteristics of People’s War, written in 1948.

Sison got a copy of Aidit’s book when he was sent in the 1965 by then pro-Soviet Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, the Youth Bureau of which he headed, to observe its fraternal party’s revolutionary struggle in Indonesia which his party believed was on the brink of capturing power.Sison barely escaped the massacre in 1965 by Suharto’s forcesof the Indonesian Communist Party, in which Aidit was killed,an episode in his life that traumatized him so much that he has never talked nor written about it.

The communists haven’t moved a bit from claiming that the three evils of our society are “imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat-capitalism,” which Mao formulated to describe Chinese society before World War II.

Mao wrote in 1948 in his analysis of China: “The Chinese revolution at the present stage is in its character a revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism.” Sison wrote in 1970 in his PSR for his analysis of the Philippines: “The central task of the Philippine revolution in the present stage is the overthrow of US imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism.”

Aidit in 1957 wrote with regard to Indonesia: “When we say that the basic targets of the Indonesian revolution are imperialism and feudalism, this means that the principal enemies of the Indonesian people at this stage of the revolution are the big bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries and the landlord class at home.” Sison in 1970 wrote with regard to the Philippines: “The targets or enemies of the Philippine Revolution are US imperialism and its local lackeys which are the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists.”

It is astonishing for instance that PSR in its 2005 edition lists as top US firms, the so-called agents of imperialism, such companies that have long closed shop as Atlas Consolidated, ESSO Philippines, Gulf Oil Corp., Standard Philippines Fruit Corp, and Bank of America. The book a has tabulation of 10,400 landlords owning at least 50 hectares, when land reform laws since Marcos’ martial law had already distributed nearly 90 percent of these lands to former tenants.

How can two generations of patriots devote and even give up their lives believing in a plagiarized work like Sison’s PSR? Alas, that was a time without a World Wide Web by which one can easily retrieve in a few clicks of the keyboard information and people’s writings from nearly all parts of the globe.

Suppressed and executed
What is also tragic is that Sison and his clique had ruthlessly suppressed and allegedly executed party leaders who questioned the PSR analysis and strategy, such as the fiery Popoy Lagman who organized and led the dreaded Alex Boncayao Brigade and Romulo Kintanar who led the Davao City uprisings in the 1980s he called the “pol-mil” (political-military) model.

The party’s dogmatism is even in stark contrast to that of the Catholic Church, which managed to absorb and adopt new ideas through the Age of Reason and the Age of Enlightenment, to make it more relevant to contemporary society, and thus more credible despite its basically superstitious beliefs.

Because it merely plagiarized Mao and Aidit’s assessments of their countries, our communists have been totally incapable of understanding important Philippine developments, among them: the anti-dictatorship movement of mostly the middle-class that toppled Marcos in 1986; the rapid expansion in the number of urban salaried workers as well as of overseas workers and the consequent drastic decrease of tenant farmers; the growth of the Philippine bureaucracy and the resulting worsening of both petty and big-time corruption that has sapped state funds; the replacement of US monopoly capital by those from other countries such as Japan and even Indonesia, in the case of public-utility magnate Anthoni Salim; the emergence in the country of a particularly rapacious form of capitalists, totally bereft of nationalism; and even the explosion of technology that has made this thing called the World Wide Web more powerful a venue for protest than street demonstrations.

What an unlucky country. Even our communists who are supposed to topple a rapacious ruling class are so intellectually and politically bankrupt that they have been more of a minor nuisance to the elite, rather than a revolutionary force to change our very backward and exploitative society.