TO understand why the communist movement has persisted in this country, one has to realize that psychologically and philosophically, it is a religion, a cult in secular form — one which has become dogmatic, fanatic and, of course, as violent as extremist Islam.
Surprising as this assertion may seem, this has been pointed out, and written about in detail during the rise of the communist movement in Europe by European philosophers, mainly by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin and his colleagues in the so-called Frankfurt School of critical theory in pre-war Germany. These philosophers pointed out that communism is simply a “translation” into the materialist language of Judeo-Christian messianism.
Messianism in essence is the belief started by the Jewish nation thousands of years ago, that one day there will be the Messiah who will defeat the Chosen People’s exploiters and create the new Eden humanity had lost because of its original sin, Paradise in which everyone is happy, everyone is prosperous. Indeed, the classic collection of essays by six renowned intellectuals who once believed in communism but later totally rejected it, was entitled The God That Failed.
Respected historian Reynaldo Ileto, I suspect, was inspired by this communism-as-messianism idea when he convincingly argued in detail (in his 1979 book Pasyon at Rebolusyon: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840-1910) that the 1896 Katipunan-led revolution was viewed — and supported — by the masses as a retelling of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection (i.e., victory).
One can easily detect the similarity of concepts in Christianity and communism: the Messiah as the Communist Party, the Chosen People is the proletariat, and paradise, the classless society. The communist Holy Trinity could be Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong. Benjamin, himself both a Jew and Marxist — which facilitated his insight into Marxism as messianism — pointed out that the biblical “original sin” is really the sacralization of the concept of private property.
An insightful 2005 article by Polish philosopher Marcin Kula in the journal Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, obviously drawing from his country’s experience under a communist regime argued:
“Communism took on para-religious forms on various levels. Even the fight against religion was surprisingly religious in its nature: after all, one of the points of this conflict was to ensure that the people shall have no other god approved by the system.
“The communist philosophy of history was constructed around the concept of good against evil; it was a Manichean vision that constantly drew upon the image of a secular Satan. Communist ideology held that history was preordained — just as a religious perspective insists that our fate is the manifestation of God’s will.”
Anybody who’s been involved in the Communist Party will easily see the parallels: Party cadres as the priests holding esoteric, “underground” secrets; their monk-like spartan way of living; and rituals such as that of marriage, where the male, at least in our case, is given a .45 bullet by the female, who receives an Armalite bullet for him.
New party recruits are also “reborn” in a secret ritual, in which, as in all religions he adopts a new name, his nom de guerre. In this ritual the recruit swears his loyalty to the party, just as in the Catholic baptism the godparents speak for the baby and recite the Our Father for him. There is even an “altar” in which the hammer-and-sickle flag is displayed, and on it a .45 pistol, or an Armalite.
In this church that is the Maoist CPP, the Scriptures consist of, apart from the Marxist classic, Mao Zedong’s Collected Works (his Little Red Book the handy prayer book), its founder Jose Ma. Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution. As in the Holy Bible, the truth of Sison’s PSR is immutable, even if this was written 50 years ago and is basically a plagiarism not just of Mao’s works but Indonesian communist leader Dipa Nasuntara Aidit.
The Catholic Church in the medieval period when it had state power, reserved its brutality and odium for those who questioned its dogma, and had the notorious Spanish Inquisition seek out and then burn at the stake supposed “heretics.” Similarly, Sison devoted much of his hate energy to the old pro-Soviet Partido Komunista and recently, to a Trotskyite whose University of California doctoral dissertation was an unflattering account of the Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines.
Even if they remained communists and still believed in toppling Sison’s enemy, the Philippine state, “splitists” who broke away from the party like Filemon Lagman, Romulo Kintanar, and Conrado Balweg were killed by the party’s Alex Boncayao Brigade — at a high organizational and financial cost.
This church’s Pope or the Islamic Ayatollah in the communist movement here has been for decades Jose Ma. Sison, and just as Catholic Popes take on new names, this Chinese-looking, failed English instructor with thick glasses became Amado Guerrero (“Beloved Warrior”) in 1968. His College of Cardinals is the Central Committee. Just as the Pope cannot commit any mistake, Guerrero or Liwanag has not committed any mistake in the party’s 50 years of existence.
Like the Church, especially in its early years, the party is assiduous in glorifying its martyrs, as if there were a proletarian heaven, by naming its guerrilla fronts with their names: Alex Boncayao Brigade after a labor leader who joined the NPA; Menardo Arce Command, after a top NPA leader in the Bicol area where that command operated (and was wiped out).
No wonder that the party has attracted many clerics to its ranks, with the “Christians for National Liberation” being one of the organizations it runs, and with the National Democratic Front — in essence merely its PR machinery internationally — headed by former priest Luis Jalandoni and his wife, former nun Connie Ledesma. These clerics simply replaced Christian notions to the conceptual boxes of Marxism.
Indeed one of the communists main propagandists now, the nun Mary John Mananzan, has claimed that the government’s intensified campaign against the communists is just like the prosecution of the Christian Church in its early years, which will trigger its growth. (She’s totally wrong of course: what gave Christianity a boost was when Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century made it the Roman Empire’s state religion.)
That communists are really religious fanatics is one reason why they really can’t be persuaded through reason and plain facts that their cause after 50 years has failed and will fail. Worse, they are really less Christian fanatics, but more like Islamic jihadists.
I wonder though what would be the communist heaven? That image in their imagination of their coffin draped in the hammer-and-sickle flag, or Chairman Liwanag’s eulogy to them as revolutionary martyrs, or if they’re lucky, a guerrilla front named after them?