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How the Maoist CPP conquered UP

AS big a challenge for the government to wipe out the Communist Party and its terrorist New People’s Army militarily is the dismantling of its ideological support, with the University of the Philippines — where the party’s founder Jose Ma. Sison started his Maoist movement — being its biggest ideological base, and recruitment grounds since the 1970s. It is not an exaggeration to say that the CPP since the late 1970s has conquered UP, with its academic community a testament to the adage, “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

To understand the seriousness of this problem, imagine what kind of politics would be in the US if Harvard and Yale were dominated intellectually by the Communist Party of the US, or Indonesia if the University of Indonesia by an underground revived Partai Komunis Indonesia, or if the Thais had not totally cleansed Chulalongkorn University of its radical students and professors?

I chanced on a blog titled “Beto Reyes Blog: Memoirs of an Anti-Martial Law Activist.” I don’t know him, and I hadn’t met him in my activist years. But from the information he discloses in his blog, he seems to be among the generation of activists that emerged right after martial law and rose to become a ranking Communist Party cadre in the late 1970s and 1980s. My sources confirmed this.

This photo was in an Aug. 20, 2019 article in the official website of UP Diliman, entitled ‘UP Diliman Stages Walkout.’

In one article he narrates in detail how he was arrested in 1979 and tortured by a Philippine Constabulary unit. He seems to have left the movement as one of his articles was entitled “Ten historical events that have weakened the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and rendered it irrelevant.”

The CPP organization in UP further strengthened a few years after martial law after its old pre-martial law, veteran cadres – after being released from Marcos’ prisons, and averse to the difficult life of an NPA or even in the underground – returned to UP to become instructors, professors and even deans of their colleges. One Pilipino instructor in fact was the Politburo’s former number three man, and about a dozen were ranking regional or national officers of the party. The top post in the university in fact had been held by communist sympathizers and even a former colleague of Sison in the old Soviet-leaning Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas.

I am publishing in full here one of the blog’s articles entitled “How the CPP reorganized in the University of the Philippines 1972-1974.” It describes in detail the CPP’s tactics and modus operandi in recruiting the gullible youth in the university: current UP students and their parents should realize how they could be deceived by the communists.

Beto Reyes blog:
“The CPP, still smarting from the illegalization of its front organizations, instructed its UP cadres in 1973 to establish or revive as many legal or non-activist student organizations as possible. This CPP strategy best explains the rapid proliferation of UP student organizations from 1973 to 1974.

“This strategic move by the CPP was part of its well worked-out policy, aptly called ‘legal struggle.’ A product of intense internal debate, it meant using legal organizations (LOs) to advance its urban political agenda at UP under martial law. Before martial law, the CPP campaign at UP was shouldered by CPP-led ‘national-democratic mass organizations’ like the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) and Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan (SDK). With these organizations banned outright by Proclamation 1081 and operating stealthily, they could not even approximate their effectiveness in their halcyon days.

“Before martial law, recruitment was done almost openly. In the immediate years before martial law, but especially after the First Quarter Storm (FQS), thousands of students and community youth joined the great recruiting machines, ready to be approached by CPP cadres and elevated into formal affiliation with the party. When Marcos called these organizations “CPP front organizations,” he was telling the truth.

New situation
“In one fell swoop, martial law did away with the leftist mass organizations, and squelched the CPP’s hope of further expanding its mass base. Unfamiliar with an unmasked dictatorship, the CPP showed tentativeness when it ordered the now illegal organizations to do their routine, albeit in much shorter durations and with much daring. These moves failed to generate a groundswell, and severely compromised security. The predicament was characterized by such problems as swiftly dispersed “lightning” rallies, arrests, underground publications of limited readership, and sluggish recruitment.

“Slowly, the awful truth dawned on the CPP — the mass organizations had outlived their usefulness. The emerging channels of recruitment and propaganda were organizations that were allowed or tolerated. These were nonactivist and legitimate sounding organizations like academic clubs, fraternities and community service groups. The CPP documents had a term for these outwardly innocuous societies. It called them ‘open and legal organizations.’

“For the time being, at least in UP, all the CPP had going for it were these organizations. However, it had to wrestle with their disadvantages. First, they were not by nature political, so propaganda and indoctrination were hamstrung. Second, the membership was limited, so recruitment expectations had to be adjusted. Third, precious cadre time was to be spent on the organizations’ social and leisure events. And fourth, government agents had infiltrated the organizations or were closely monitoring their activities.

“But the CPP had no choice; it was these groups or none at all. It wanted to reach out to the UP students but the groupings it once considered tame and bourgeois were the only route. The clarion call to its UP cadres, under the template of ‘legal struggle,’ was to ‘retire’ from their obsolete mass organizations and follow a new tack. This was the creation or revival of legal campus organizations.

“The CPP cadres were also instructed to create or revive organizations connected to their respective courses, or to which they had natural or justifiable ties. Doing so gave them the necessary legal cover, or, in activist jargon, the ‘prente.’ Once created or revived, their new tasks in these organizations were to ‘mingle with the masses’ and carry out propaganda and recruitment work in vastly innovative ways.

‘National-democratic core groups’
“In 1973, the CPP decided that these tasks were to be done by the ‘national-democratic core group’ (ND core group). Forming these core groups was an essential complement to the CPP call to establish or revive campus organizations. An ND core group was a CPP-controlled underground committee that operated secretly within a mother organization. CPP control was exercised via one or two cadres.

“Making up the rest of the group were three to four ‘national-democratic activists.’ The cadres presided over the meetings at first but relinquished this respected position to the activists once they had demonstrated enough leadership abilities.

“After reviving or establishing a legal organization, CPP cadres scouted the membership for possible recruits. They were on the lookout for those who were against martial law (AFs, or anti-fascists), or against ‘US imperialism’ (AIs), or against both (NDs). When they had pinpointed their targets, the CPP cadres engaged in person-to-person organizing. They befriended the subjects, helped them with their personal problems, hung around with them, gave them activist reading materials (‘RMs’), and most importantly, discussed politics with them. This laborious and painstaking method was called the ‘pakutkut’ (to slowly chip away) method. It demanded immense organizing skills and patience from the CPP cadres.

“The breakthrough period lasted several months, after which the subjects were introduced to the idea of forming an ND core group. If they agreed, the subjects, who were now considered organized activists (‘may ugnay’), were given their respective tasks or assignments. They were congratulated on their new status, and constantly enthused about the worthiness of the cause.

“The newly formed ND core group, under the direction of the CPP cadres, then proceeded to make a plan of activities, or what was called a ‘tactical program.’ The activities in the tactical program were broadly grouped into three, namely: ideological, political and organizational.

“An ND core group clandestinely tweaked the orientation and activities of a mother organization, along the guidelines set by the CPP. Its basic mission was to make the mother organization conduct propaganda activities that would legally and peacefully follow the political call, or “national-democratic line” espoused by the CPP. Because of the threat of suppression, these propaganda activities had to be low-key and subtle.

History society
“A good example is when Lipunang Pangkasaysayan (History Society), or Likas, sponsored the first public address by Sen. Jose W. Diokno, after he was released from detention on Sept. 11, 1974. However, there was always the option of increasing the activities’ level of militancy if there was an opportunity.

“To plan for an anti-martial law activity, an ND core group usually brainstormed in a clandestine meeting, where a CPP memorandum calling for a political campaign would be discussed and explained by cadres. After the concept is ironed out, the ND core group makes a plan on how a project will be carried out, taking pains to adapt the guidelines from the ‘higher organ’ (HO) to the type and orientation of the mother organization. Examples of these activities are symposiums, position papers, newsletters, photo exhibits, movie screenings, and joining issue-based inter-organization alliances.

“A more detailed plan is done legally, in a regular or special meeting of the mother organization. Here, the ND core group members would arrange for someone under their influence (usually the club president) to propose the plan to the membership. If the club president was already a member of the ND core group, then this made things a lot easier.

“The plan is usually approved, but if there are objections, ND core group members do some role playing in explaining and justifying it. Upon approval of the project or activity, activists and nonactivists would be given assignments and roles. The rule of thumb is for the CPP cadres to have minimum participation in the activity, with ND core group members and non-activists doing most of the work. This was the proper way, as the CPP directives would have it, that the ND core group exercised ‘political leadership’ over legal organizations.

“The CPP cadres’ tasks, however, were not limited to organizing and guiding the ND core group. They were required by the CPP to participate in the day-to-day activities of the organization. These activities, however boring or irrelevant to the ‘grim and determined’ CPP cadres, were what attracted the bona fide members to join the club in the first place.

“Specifically, the CPP cadres had to be present in the organization’s ‘tambayan’ or hang-out. They had to initiate activities like study groups, birthday get-togethers and peer counseling. As with the members of the ND core group, they were even expected to advise club members about their romantic relationships or even financial problems. In CPP jargon, the membership constituted the masses for the cadres and, following the Maoist dictum, the cadres must not divorce themselves from the masses. Through these activities, the CPP instructed its cadres to establish intimate ties with the membership.

“The CPP cadres kept the ND core group members well supplied with leftist reading materials. The activists were instructed to digest these materials well so they could participate actively in underground discussion groups or ‘ED’ sessions. A CPP cadre usually handled these ED sessions as an instructor, but sometimes the non-CPP activists or ‘NDs’ were asked to do so, if they showed proficiency.

Mao Zedong
“The standard fare for these discussion groups were Nilo Tayag’s ‘Komitment,’ Jose Maria Sison’s Struggle for National Democracy, Mao Zedong’s Five Golden Rays and Selected Quotations, Amado Guerrero’s Philippine Society and Revolution, and, for the national situation, occasional copies of the CPP’s official organ Ang Bayan.

“Expanding CPP membership was also in the ‘to do’ list of the CPP cadres. They were under instructions to recruit or ‘elevate’ (iangat) activists once they had progressed far enough in their standpoint (paninindigan), viewpoint (pananaw) and method (pamamaraan). There was a trial period, usually a year, in which the new recruit was a candidate member (kandidatong kasapi or KK).

“After this rite of passage, the KK is sworn into full membership (ganap na kasapi or GK). This slow but steady recruitment effort, which greatly expanded CPP membership, insidiously went on under the very noses of the UP authorities, particularly the administration of president Onofre D. Corpuz and his executive vice president, Emanuel V. Soriano. Before they knew it, they were confronted with a very adept and assertive UP organizational community, one that had fully adapted to martial law, thanks in large part to CPP prodding.

“This was how the Philippine Left morphed its activities at the UP, to deal with the realities of a newborn martial law. From then on, its corps of UP cadres was to carry on the fight adroitly concealed in the “pambansang-demokratikong grupong ubod,” as the ND core groups were called in Tagalog. They were further protected by the built-in legal status of the penetrated organization. For good measure, the CPP also deployed cadres in strategic university-wide student bodies like the Consultative Committee on Student Affairs (Concomsa), and the official student publication, the Philippine Collegian. These were very important in conducting campus-wide propaganda and agitation campaigns.

“With newfound stealth, the embedded CPP cadres and ND core groups transformed the various UP student organizations into hybrid anti-martial law units. These ND core groups were instrumental in enabling the CPP to bounce back as an effective political force at UP during the 1973-1974 period. The CPP-initiated stirrings began in 1975, first with campus issues, and then with broad national issues. By this time, practically all of the 70 or so campus organizations at UP had ND core groups.”

On Monday: Maoists under Popoy Lagman conquer other universities

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