By Michael C. Williams
University of East Anglia
Source: Biographical Dictionary of Marxism
Edited by Robert A. Gorman, 1986.
London: Mansell Publishing Limited, 1986.
José Maria Sison was born on 8 February 1939 in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, the Philippines.
He attended high school in Manila and graduated from the University of the Philippines in 1959.
He studied Indonesian language and literature in Djakarta in 1962 and returned to teach in Manila the following year. In 1964 he founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM, National Youth) and was its national chairman until 1968.
Sison succeeded in linking the activities of the KM with labor unions and especially with Workers’ Party (Lapiang Manggagawa), of which he also became general secretary. In 1966, he became the founding general secretary of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN), a united front organization for national independence and democracy that sought to include support from the national bourgeoisie.
From 1963 to 1968, Sison was also editor of the journal Progressive Review.
Sison became founder and chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (Marxist-Lenninist) from 1969, a breakaway from the older Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP), following a “Congress of Reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Communist Party of the Philippines” held in Southern Tarlac Province, Luzon Between 26 December 1968 and 7 January 1969.
In March 1969, under Sison’s direction, the CPP(M-L) organized the Party’s military wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). Since then, the NPA has waged guerrilla warfare on Maoist lines against the government of President Marcos.
Sison until his arrest in November 1977, remained the principal CPP(M-L) theoretician and NPA tactician. He has since been detained on charges of subversion and conspiracy to commit rebellion.* Prior to its effective reestablishment by Sison in 1969, the Philippine Communist Party had lost the influence and prestige that it gained during the Japanese occupation of 1942-44 and the Huk rebellion of the late 1940s.
As chairman of the reestablished Party, Sison undertook a comprehensive class analysis and strategy for revolution, which he outlined in his Philippine Society and Revolution. From the beginning, the CPP(M-L) and later the NPA adopted a separate article in its Constitution on the “territorial organization” of the Party, which effectively gave local Party units self-government.
The Central Committee, Sison argued, should only put forward the “general line.” Initiative was to be left to regional Party organizations in accordance with local conditions. Centralized leadership was always to be accompanied by “dispersed operations.” At the same time, Sison argued for the need for “liaison teams” to operate between the masses and the NPA.
The teams were charged with establishing close contact with the public at large “through various flexible methods” and the conducting of “social investigation.”
Struggle for National Democracy (Quezon City: Progressive Publications, 1967).
Amado Guerrero (Sison), Philippine Society and Revolution (Hong Kong: Ta Kung Pao, 1971.)