Interview With Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
By Steve Da Silva
Editor, BASICS Free Community Newsletter
9 August 2009
On August 9, 2009, the BASICS Free Community Newsletter Editor Steve da Silva interviewed José Maria “Joma” Sison, the chief political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, a founder of the central organizations of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines – namely, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army – and the current Chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggles, an alliance of more than 350 people’s organizations from more than 30 countries.
BASICS linked up with Joma at the NDFP office in Utrecht, Netherlands to talk about the current economic crisis and the international struggle for democracy and socialism against imperialist globalization. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.
BASICS: Joma, thank you for meeting with BASICS.
Joma: Thank you too for having me.
B: The past year has been witness to the unfolding of one of the most grave crises in the history of capitalism, and this coincides with the worsening of the capitalist world food crisis, military aggressions and occupations, and a scale of environmental destruction approaching catastrophic proportions. What are the economic roots of these crises and how can they be resolved?
J: The current economic crisis comes after a series of worsening and deepening crises over the decades. The monopoly capitalists thought that they could overcome the phenomenon of “stagflation” of the 1970s by adopting the policies of neoliberal globalization. This means, simply, blaming the working class and social spending by governments for the phenomenon of “stagflation”. The monopoly bourgeoisie has carried out a fierce class struggle against the working class [in recent decades]. They have been cutting back wages and social spending for education, health, housing, and so on. But despite all these attempts to maximize profit by reducing the incomes of the working people, economic crisis has repeatedly emerged. The pressing down of the wage only exacerbates the crisis of overproduction in capitalism.
In capitalism, production is constantly expanding, especially with the adoption of higher technology and with “outsourcing”, which has made more goods available at cheaper prices by using the cheaper labour of oppressed countries. But if the policies are to reduce the incomes of the working people and to degrade the economies of so many countries in the world, then what happens is a constriction of the market. But the imperialists have been able to conceal this constriction of the market by using means devised by finance capitalism.
In the United States, we see heavy debt financing for households while workers are being thrown out of their regular jobs and are compelled to take on part-time jobs and have their incomes stagnate. But with the expansion of consumer credit – credit cards and with mortgages offered at teaser rates to working class people – the level of consumption in the U.S. has kept up. But, as we are now seeing, debt financing could not go on forever.
The producer corporations and financial corporations have generated large funds by using bonds and all sorts of financial devices – such as derivates in the financial world – and the state has also engaged in excessive borrowing to cover up the basic problems. So you have this borrowing to cover up the basics problems, and so it becomes a continuous process of trying to resolve the problem of overproduction by pressing down the real wages while using debt financing instruments to keep up consumption. But the accumulating debts could not go on forever – capitalism is not Santa Claus. At any time the interest rates can be reduced to encourage people to borrow, but there comes a time for raising the interest rates and demanding payments, taking over properties, and in effect reducing the consumption of the people. These are some of the basic problems we see in the U.S., and the unemployment and under consumption in that country is affecting the whole world capitalist system. As the demand in the U.S. is declining, the production in those countries where it has been outsourced to is also declining.
B: Will the capitalists be able to resolve this crisis and the contradictions that it entails.
J: It is difficult or impossible for the capitalist system to reduce this problem to a manageable level. This crisis is going to worsen and deepen as the policy makers of the imperialist countries stick to neoliberalism. They are giving bailouts to the very financial corporations and banks that have caused the problem. There’s not even the programs that were done under Roosevelt [in the 1930s] with the New Deal, generating jobs with the use of the work projects. But now public funds are being funneled to favoured corporations so that they can cover their losses and wherever possible to continue making profits, and all this is being done at the expense of the public. The corporations are not even creating jobs with these funds. So what we see is the continuing rise of unemployment and the contraction of the market.
B: So if capitalist imperialism can’t recover from such a crisis – or in any way that is peaceful or acceptable to the people – then the task of recovery seems to rest on the democratic, anti-imperialist, and revolutionary peoples of the world. What must be done by people who are struggling around the world? How can we build a society a different society that doesn’t contain these contradictions?
J: Well, the people have to organize themselves. But to enable the people to organize themselves, there must be systematic campaigns of information and education to let people know what are the causes of the crisis. By knowing the roots of the crisis the people can then think of the solutions. Real problems are solved through knowledge of the internal factors in a problem – the solution can only be found once the real problem has been identified. With an increased level of understanding of the crisis as a problem, then people will get organized.
Naturally, we must prioritize the working class, since it is the most progressive force in productive and political terms. It is the agency for change up to socialism. But in the industrial capitalist countries, you also have the urban petty-bourgeoisie, which is a large class as well. They have to be organized. Those are the two basic classes to be organized.
But at the mass level, there is a real mix-up of ideas among the classes. The monopoly bourgeoisie makes it a point to deceive people by presenting monopoly capitalism with petty-bourgeois dressing: monopoly capitalism is described as “free enterprise” or “the free market”. That’s a big lie, no!?…
When the workers and the petty-bourgeois are organized together, and when they understand the nature of the problems and are ready to fight and struggle, they will understand that what is to be done is revolutionary struggle.
B: What about in the majority of the countries in the world, in the semi-colonized / neo-colonized? What are the revolutionary class forces there and where in the world do we see these organized class forces making revolutionary struggle?
J: In many countries, the working class is in the minority and so there has to be consideration of the role of the peasantry. In countries like the Philippines, which is semi-feudal, you have the peasantry as the majority class. Then there are also the intermediate social strata – those petty-bourgeois in character. In many countries, the workers, the peasants, and the petty-bourgeois comprise the basic forces of revolution. In the Philippines, these comprise the potential and real basic revolutionary forces against the big comprador agents of imperialism and the feudal lords.
So to look at the whole world, the industrial proletariat is still in the minority. The majority are still peasants. Only 20% of people in the world live in industrialized capitalist countries, while the other 80% remains underdeveloped.
B: Where in the world do we see these three basic forces of the semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries making revolution?
J: In addition to the Philippines, you have India, Colombia, Peru… In Nepal, there is a diversion towards parliamentary struggle. The Nepali Maoists are still trying to capitalize on what they gained through ten years of protracted peoples’ war [in the countryside], and they hope to be able to make a people’s uprising by testing the limits of the parliamentary struggle and by discrediting their opponents through that process.
But overall you may say that the revolutionary potential as a result of the current crisis has not yet realized itself. The current conditions are so favourable to revolution. This crisis will run for at least ten years before there is any temporary reduction of the severity. In the absence of revolutionary struggles, the imperialists can manage to reduce the level of gravity of the crisis, even while the crisis remains grave and unresolved. The degradation of the economies of the world can go on and on. But there will come a time when the people will rise up. In fact, the Director of National Intelligence of the U.S., Admiral Dennis Blair, has already expressed fears that there may be a return to the violence of the 1920s and 1930s [when workers were rising up and fascism was being established to deal with them].
We must understand that there is a price to be paid for the betrayal of socialism by the revisionists [those so-called communists who led the great socialist countries back into capitalism]. Because of that betrayal it seems as if capitalism will go on forever and that socialism is hopeless. But now, with imperialists in total control of the world, you’re going to have an escalation of this kind of economic crisis, with fascism and wars of aggression.
The world is becoming much tighter with more imperialist powers being added to the mix. There’s Russia. Russia went from social-imperialism [in the second half of the twentieth century to regular imperialism by the 1990s]. And the same goes for China, which is itself is aiming to become a major imperialist power. But if you look close at China it is still a poor country, with sweatshops on the eastern coast supplying consumer products to the U.S. and other imperialist countries. If you look at the per capita GDP, China is not even in the top 100 countries.
B: History teaches us that the other major threat that looms in times of economic crisis is the threat of inter-imperialist war, or world war. The First World War and the Second World War broke out when the imperialists were in crisis and so decided to go to war with one other in order to redivide the colonies of the world. And with China and Russia asserting themselves more forcefully today…
J: That’s right, the world is becoming tighter with the increase of imperialist powers and there is an intense competition and desire to redivide the world, as all of the imperialists struggle to have more access to cheap labour and raw materials, markets, fields of investment, and fields of influence. The danger of war comes out of this contradiction.
Because of the powerful weapons that are in the hands of the imperialists, they first wage war against one another by proxy [or through their neo-colonies]. The most effective counter to the possibility of world war – which runs the risk of nuclear war – is the rise of revolutionary civil wars. A nuclear superpower becomes paralyzed when the people themselves amass and prevent imperialists from using their nuclear weapons. But before we can have a coming to the brink of nuclear war, what we will see more and more, from year to year, is the intensification of inter-imperialist struggle through their proxy wars.
B: Let’s talk about resistance and organizing, then, which is what is necessary in this time of crisis. Joma, you are the Chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS). What is this organization and how can other people and people’s organizations get involved?
J: Well, first of all, people should be aware of the main concerns of the ILPS. There are 18 main concerns of the ILPS, and they include: national and social liberation for all peoples of the world; economic development for underdeveloped countries; human rights; the cause of peace against imperialist war; the promotion of trade union rights; agrarian reform; women’s rights; the rights of children; and so on. And of course, there is the problem of ecological destruction by the imperialist powers. There is no major issue that is not covered by the ILPS.
With all these concerns, all entities, be they organizations of whatever size, or still unorganized people, can come forward. Genuine mass organizations can join the ILPS. Currently unorganized people can join existing mass organizations. Or people can form organizations that dedicate themselves to becoming member organizations of the ILPS. Applications for membership can be found through the International Coordinating Committee on the ILPS website.
If in a country, there is already a national chapter of the ILPS, then mass organizations can file their applications with that chapter.
B: Why is this level of international level of coordination necessary for people’s organizations?
J: The ILPS was conceived of in expectation of the worsening of the crisis of the world capitalist system. Even before 1999, when the formation of ILPS was announced, while the [anti-globalization protests of the] “Battle of Seattle” were going on, it was already seen that world capitalism was going to enter into grave crisis.
B: And while the anti-globalization has come and gone with its summit-hopping protests and rebellions, the ILPS has survived this period and has grown much larger, has it not?
J: Yes, we have grown from 240 organizations at our founding in 2001 to more than 350 organizations.
B: To conclude then Joma, do you have any final thoughts for the people struggling in Canada right now in this time of crisis?
J: I would wish that the people of Canada…
B: And I should also mention that this includes the indigenous peoples, who are setting an example of how to struggle and fight for their rights…
J: Yes, I wish that the people of Canada of various nationalities, and of course all the indigenous peoples, fight against imperialist globalization. They can play a very important role, because they are right next to the imperialist monster, the U.S., and of course that of the ruling class of Canada. The ruling classes in U.S. and Canada work together to oppress the people of the world and the people in their own countries. So I would wish that progressive organizations work hard and succeed in arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the people of Canada – of various nationalities and ethnicities – against monopoly capitalism and for democracy and socialism.
B: Well, Joma, thank you very much for meeting with BASICS Free Community Newsletter and Radio BASICS.
J: Thank you too.