Presentation for Webinar #2 in Philippine Series, ILPS Asia Pacific
By Jose Maria Sison, Chairman Emeritus, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
September 11, 2020
Dear Webinar Participants,
First of all, I thank ILPS Asia Pacific for inviting me to speak on the importance of the national democratic revolution in the Philippines in relation to the global anti-imperialist movement and in the context of the raging contradictions among the imperialists, especially the US and China.
In my presentation, I wish to present first the context of the worsening crisis of the world capitalist system and the raging conflicts among the imperialist powers, especially the US and China. Then I shall present the historical and current importance of the national democratic revolution not only to the Filipino people but to all the peoples in the Asia-Pacific region and the whole world.
As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, with the aggravation by COVID-19 and by the sharpening conflicts between the US and China, there is an urgent need for all peoples of the world to understand the situation in our respective countries, in the Asia-Pacific region and entire world. In this regard, let us learn from each other and help each other in waging anti-imperialist and democratic struggles.
I. Context of Raging US-China Conflicts Amidst the Rapidly Worsening Crisis of the World Capitalist System
After enjoying three decades of prosperity from 1945 to 1975, the US began to be afflicted by stagflation. This was due to the crisis of overproduction in the world capitalist system because of the reconstruction and revival of the competitive economies of capitalist countries, especially Germany and Japan, which had suffered devastation from World War II.
The US adopted the neoliberal economic policy in 1979 in a futile attempt to overcome the crisis of overproduction at the expense of the working class and the peoples of the world. The logic of the policy is to maximize by all means the amount of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie so that it can re-invest this to grow the economy and supposedly create more jobs. The neoliberal policy would actually aggravate the crisis of overproduction, bringing about more frequent and ever worse cycles of boom and bust.
Maximizing capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie has been done through tax cuts, wage freeze, limits on job tenure, cutbacks on social benefits and services, privatization of public assets, deregulation of restraints on the abuse of labor, women, children and the environment, liberalization of investment and trade and denationalization of underdeveloped and dependent economies. The imperialist powers used their multilateral agencies to make multilateral arrangements to harmonize their economic and trade relations and shift the burden of crisis to the underdeveloped countries.
Emerging from its costly wars of aggression in Indochina, the US hoped to make profits from military sales to the oil producing countries and expand production with the use of petrodollars deposited in Western banks. At the same time, the US succeeded in engaging the Soviet Union in an arms race in order to undermine and debilitate its economy while the Soviet social imperialists were making big mistakes in their foreign adventures, especially in Afghanistan.
The revisionist betrayal of socialism and capitalist restoration ran ahead in the Soviet Union but subsequently the Chinese revisionists headed by Deng Xiaoping were able to defeat the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in 1976 with a counterrevolutionary coup after the death of Mao Zedong.
The US had started rapprochement with China in 1972 in order to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet dispute but from 1978 onwards the US saw its far greater opportunity to cultivate China as a capitalist partner upon the declaration of the GPCR as a complete catastrophe and upon the adoption of the Dengist policy of capitalist reforms and opening up for integration into the world capitalist system.
In the entire 1980s, the US outsourced consumer manufacturing to China’s sweatshops. And after the 1989 uprisings in Tiananmen and elsewhere in China, the US acceded to the pleas of China’s Dengist leaders to bring in more investments and technology to China. In the 1990s, China became the main US partner in the promotion of the neoliberal policy of imperialist globalization and more so after China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.
The US was so happy and jubilant over the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and over the partnership with China that it overlooked the potential of two more imperialist powers, China and Russia, joining the world capitalist system, to aggravate the crisis of overproduction in the world capitalist system. As sole superpower in hubris in a supposedly unipolar world, the US could not see clearly the possible aggravation of the crisis of overproduction and its continued strategic decline.
With the single message that socialism was dead and so was anti-imperialism, the US carried out an ideological and political offensive in combination with the neoliberal economic offensive and the military offensives in the Middle East and other regions where in combination with Zionist Israel they acted to fill the vacuum left by the Soviet Union. The heavy costs of military expenditures and the aggravated crisis of overproduction accelerated the strategic decline of the US and caused the loss of its sole superpower status in a multilateral world.
In the years after the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in an unprecedented global recession, the US strategic planners noticed the economic and military rise of China as a potential US economic and political rival. At the same time, it was becoming starkly clear that the US was on an accelerated decline because of the outsourcing of manufacturing, the financialization of the US economy, the leap in public debt and the extreme costs of overseas military bases and the endless of wars of aggression mainly in Central Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Under the Obama presidency, the US took notice that it had not paid enough attention to the rise of China in the Asia-Pacific region. Thus, it declared a strategic pivot to East Asia in order to contain China in 2011 and pushed the Trans Pacific Partnership Arrangement without China in 2015. Under the Trump presidency, the US strategic planners issued the National Security Strategy in 2017 to target China as the US chief economic competitor and chief political rival. Subsequently Trump began in 2018 to denounce China as taking advantage of a two-tiered economy (state and private capitalism), using unfair economic, trade and financial practices and stealing technology from US companies and research laboratories.
Since then, there has been a sharpening of US-China contradictions over economic, trade, technology and security issues. The US wants to cut down China’s export surpluses in trade with the US and weaken the Chinese economy and deprive it of the surplus capital to invest globally and dominate the countries covered by the Belt and Road Initiative as well as the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific maritime route through which some 60 percent of world trade passes.
The US expects to benefit from a new Cold War, this time with China. But it has huge problems in decoupling from China and recovering the concessions and advantages it had given away. And China has the size and the experience in using state planning to counter the US and to hold its ground. But it is sitting on a mountain of bad debts and has been dependent on the trade surplus with the US for a long time. It is more likely that the two imperialist powers would weaken each other, while surely aggravating further the crisis of overproduction and the danger of more wars due to increasing confrontations in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere. At any rate, it is important to consider the consequences of the US-China conflicts to the Philippines and other countries of the world.
The US used to claim that with China abandoning the socialist cause and proletarian internationalism and withdrawing support from the revolutionary movements the anti-imperialist, democratic and socialist struggles of the people would wither away. They have not withered away but have resurged at every worsening of the global capitalist crisis. We can learn one major thing from developments since the defeat of the GPCR in 1976 that the increase in number of rival imperialist powers has aggravated the crisis of overproduction and has generated favorable conditions for anti-imperialist struggles and the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution.
II. Importance of the National Democratic Revolution in the Philippines and Relevance to the Global Anti-imperialist Movement
Now let us focus on the historic and current importance of the national democratic revolution in the Philippines. In the whole of Asia, the Filipino people led by the Katipunan were pioneers in waging the national democratic revolution of the bourgeois liberal type in 1896 and in winning national independence against Spanish colonialism in 1898. We achieved the great historic feat of defeating one Western colonial power impelled by mercantilist capitalism but came another Western power to colonize us on the impulse of monopoly capitalism or imperialism.
We valiantly resisted the war of aggression launched by US imperialism, which engaged in the mass murder of at least 250,000 Filipinos to consolidate its positions in Manila and other major cities by 1902 and proceeded to kill more people up to 1.5 million by 1913. It was through bloody conquest that the US was able to establish a colonial and semifeudal system in the Philippines.
Since 1946, when the US granted nominal independence, the Philippines has become its semicolony run by the political representatives of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords at the national and lower levels of a puppet government, still under the economic, political, military and cultural dominance of US imperialism.
In the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution, the national democratic revolution in the Philippines has taken a new character, with the proletariat rather than the liberal bourgeoisie taking the lead in the revolutionary struggle of the broad masses of the people against foreign and feudal domination. It seeks the national and social liberation of the people from imperialism and the local exploiting classes and looks forwards to a socialist future.
The immediate demands of the national democratic revolution include the following: full national independence, democracy, social justice, economic development through genuine land reform and national industrialization, a national, scientific and mass culture; and international solidarity with all peoples for peace and development.
The most powerful forces of the Filipino people in today’s national democratic revolution are the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, the millions of people in the revolutionary mass organizations of workers, peasants, indigenous communities, women, youth, professionals and other social sectors (which are in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines) and the greater millions of people under the local organs of political power which constitute the people’s democratic government now challenging the reactionary government of big compradors and landlords.
The CPP is guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and adheres to the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. From a few scores of members in 1968, it now has tens of thousands of members who are spread nationwide and are deeply rooted among the oppressed and exploited masses of workers and peasants.
The CPP has created and led the New People’s Army (NPA), which has thousands of Red fighters in more than 110 guerrilla fronts in 73 out of 81 Philippine provinces. The people’s army is augmented by tens of thousands of people’s militia members and hundreds of thousands of people in self-defense units of the revolutionary mass organizations, which are different from the legal democratic forces now being red-tagged by the state terrorists and their special agents, like the clerico-fascists and Trotskyites.
The people’s army is invincible because it is the weapon of the Filipino people in their just struggle for full national independence, democracy and social justice against the extremely oppressive and exploitative ruling system. Thus, all the strategic operational plans of the US and its puppets have failed to destroy the NPA and the revolutionary mass movement from the time of Marcos to Duterte or from one tyrant to another.
The revolutionary perseverance, resilience and achievements of the Filipino proletariat and people in the national democratic revolution of the new type can be evaluated not only in terms of Philippine history and current circumstances but also in terms of how this revolution has withstood the revisionist betrayal of socialism and restoration of capitalism in the former Soviet Union and China and the consequent huge ideological, political and economic offensives of the US and all its imperialist and reactionary allies.
With the strategic economic and political partnership of the US and China breaking up, the current Duterte puppet regime tries to serve two conflicting imperialist masters for its selfish benefit. The regime still keeps the treaties, agreements and arrangements that make the US the No. 1 imperialist power dominating the Philippines as its semicolony. The US has condoned the regime’s gross and systematic violations of human rights because of its pledge to use all foul means to destroy the armed revolutionary movement of the people and to cause charter change for granting to US corporations unlimited ownership of land, natural resources, public utilities and all types of businesses in the Philippines.
At the same time, the regime receives bribes in connection with high interest loans for overpriced infrastructure projects to be undertaken by Chinese contractors as well as from Chinese criminal syndicates smuggling illegal drugs and other contraband and operating casinos in the Philippines. In exchange, the regime has laid aside the 2016 final judgment of the Permanent Arbitration Court and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which uphold the sovereign and maritime rights of the Filipino people over the West Philippine Sea. It abets China in building and militarizing artificial islands in the Philippine exclusive economic zone and in illegally claiming the marine and mineral resources of the Filipino people.
An absurd situation has arisen in the camps of the reactionary armed forces. The US maintains its military personnel, stockpiles and facilities in these camps under certain military agreements with the reactionary government. At the same time, the regime has allowed China Telcom-DITO to erect cell towers within the same camps. China has also delivered stockpiles of firearms and explosives, which most soldiers in the pro-US military do not like to use and which are being sold to private security agencies and gun runners by corrupt military officers.
It is an interesting question how long and how far can the Duterte regime serve two conflicting imperialist masters without getting squeezed and squashed. The US still considers the Philippines as its reliable base and unsinkable aircraft carrier. But China has now spy towers eavesdropping on US military facilities and it has seven island military bases in the Philippine exclusive economic zone. The US assures the Philippines and other littoral states of Southeast Asia of protection from China’s illegal claim of owning 90 percent of the South China Sea. But in this regard Duterte joins China against the ASEAN colleagues of the Philippines.
As the crisis of the world capitalist system now worsens, the national democratic revolution in the Philippines stands out as one of the major torch bearers of the global anti-imperialist movement and the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution. It is a source of light and lessons for all peoples of the world in developing the various forms of anti-imperialist and democratic struggles, especially revolutionary armed struggle. Thus, US imperialism has licensed the Duterte regime to use every foul means to suppress it.
Long before the spread of COVID-19 spread, the crisis of the world capitalist system has worsened to the point of generating militant anti-imperialist and democratic mass actions of unprecedented magnitude and scale in so many countries, including the industrial capitalist and underdeveloped ones. The people have been agitated by the devastation wrought by the neoliberal policy on their lives, the austerity measures at their expense, the state terrorism and wars of aggression unleashed by the imperialist powers.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions being undertaken, the people have found ways of waging mass resistance through street actions and the use of the electronic media. In many instances, because of the extreme policies and actions taken by imperialist and reactionary governments, the people have made responses similar to those made by them in pre-pandemic times.
The Filipino people find powerful inspiration and abundant support for their national democratic revolution in the upsurges of anti-imperialist and democratic mass struggles abroad and they are doing their best to carry out their own mass struggles not only on Philippine issues but also on issues of concern to other peoples. They have engaged in global days of action as well as forums of various kinds and scales on issues of common concern against imperialism and all reaction.
While the imperialists and the reactionaries persist, they are capable of all sorts of violence and deception. Thus, aside from brazenly using the coercive apparatuses of the state to suppress the people, they launch ultra-reactionary currents and movements in order to cover up the root causes of the basic ills of society and try to mislead some sections of the the people against the people. Such currents and movements are those of fascism, racism, chauvinism, communalism, gender discrimination and Islamophobia. These have produced some effect in the election of the despotic type of leader through the electoral system controlled by the exploitative ruling class.
It is quite comical that US imperialism is deploying its Trotskyite hirelings to attack the CPP, the revolutionary forces in the NDFP and the broad range of legal democratic forces for supposedly enabling and supporting the Duterte terror regime, to use anti-Stalin stock phrases and deny the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat and the necessity of the new democratic and socialist stages in the Philippine revolution, to demand that the people’s war be liquidated and that socialism be the main issue under semicolonial and semifeudal conditions and yet pontificate that socialism is impossible in any single country. In brief, the Trotskyites are being farcical in once more playing their worn-out role as anti-Stalin and anti-communist agents of US imperialism and the local reactionaries.
The global anti-imperialist movement must always be alert to the full range of deceptions and barbarities that the imperialist powers and their puppets commit in the violation of the basic national and democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of the people and in the suppression of the demands, complaints and protests of the people. The crimes against the people range in kind from brutal frontal attacks of state terrorism or aggression to tactics of turning people against each other through methods of deception.
In continuing the national democratic revolution against tremendous odds, including the most brutal forms of suppression, the Filipino people demonstrate their determination, courage and capabilities to fight the imperialists and reactionaries. At the same time, they find common cause with the peoples of the world and seek international solidarity and support from them against imperialism and all reaction.
As the crisis of the world capitalist system is rapidly worsening, there is an urgent need for the people of the world to fight the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation and to stop the plunder and degradation of the environment by monopoly capitalism. The revolutionary strength of the people is also needed to counter and stop the danger of direct world war among the imperialist powers and the attendant danger of a nuclear war of annihilation. The imperialist powers can be defeated and disarmed by the people in their homelands if their revolutionary mass movement is strong enough to confront and overcome them. ###