Jose Maria Sison with Rainer Werning
Strategic Value of the Philippines
To the United States, the Philippines is a country of great strategic value. It is a meaty and juicy economic appendage with a 5S million population and rich natural resources to exploit. Huge U.S. military bases arc maintained in this country in order to preserve an economic and political system hospitable to U.S. and other foreign multinational firms and banks; and to project U.S. politico-military power to the whole of Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific region and farther afield, including the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. foothold in the Philippines is integral to U.S. global hegemony. The powerful U.S. air, naval, communications and other facilities here have been the fruit of a successful aggression against the Filipino people in the Filipino-American War at the beginning of the century; the instruments of U.S. intervention and aggression in China, Korea, Indochina and, recently, as far as the Middle East; and a crucial part of the strategy of nuclear deterrence.
To the people of the world, the Philippines is of strategic value not only because of its objective natural and human attributes and location in an important part of the world but also because the advances being made by the movement for national liberation and democracy weaken the hegemonist and aggressive capacity of the United States and help strengthen progressive forces on a global scale.
Quite ironically, the use of U.S. military bases as launching pads for U.S. aggression in the Vietnam war served as a stimulus for the resurgence of the anti-imperialist mass movement in the Philippines in the 1960s and early 1970s. When U.S. defeat in the Vietnam war loomed, such emissions from Washington as the Nixon doctrine and the ideology of national security instigated Marcos to impose his autocracy on the people.
This dictatorship proved to be a big failure. The political and economic crisis worsened. And the revolutionary mass movement that the dictatorship sought to destroy, especially by military means, grew even stronger. Washington subsequently calculated that replacing the dictator Marcos with the widow of his arch political rival Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., a victim of assassination in the hands of Marcos’ military minions, would mollify the Filipino people.
After the dramatic fall of Marcos and a period of euphoria over the rise of Corazon C. Aquino to the presidency, the Philippines is conspicuously turbulent and the new regime is increasingly speaking and acting the way the Marcos regime did. Obviously, the fundamental problems of Philippine society have remained unsolved. The social crisis persists and worsens. Armed revolution continues to find fertile ground for growth and advance.
Uniqueness of the Book
There has been a spate of books on the Philippines by Western scholars and journalists since 1986. Most fail to fully take into account the nature, causes, growth, implications and consequences of the national democratic movement. This movement has been regarded as a marginal or marginalized phenomenon, a target to be destroyed or an affliction to he exorcised by elite-controlled voting exercises.
However, the din of conflict incessantly reverberates in Philippine and international mass media. U.S. officials themselves grudgingly admit the significant strength of what they disdainfully call the forces of insurgency. In fact, the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines continues to be at the center of the stage challenging the entire ruling system. 1 dare say that the Philippine situation and revolutionary process are bound to draw ever increasing attention from the people of the world from year to year.
A complete understanding of contemporary Philippine history, current circumstances and trends is impossible without giving due attention to the movement for national liberation and democracy and its varied forces, including the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, the National Democratic Front and legal mass organizations and alliances.
This book is unique. No less than the widely acclaimed principal thinker and practical leader of the Philippine revolutionary movement, Jose Maria Sison, is given ample latitude to share with readers his comprehensive and deep-going knowledge of this movement. His is the most authoritative voice on the movement because he has been the person most responsible for the rebirth, resurgence and growth of all its major forces since the 1960s.
It is therefore appropriate for the book to unfold the story of the movement through his life, times and ideas. This book is not just that of an outside observer. It is the definitive hook of the foremost exponent of people’s democratic revolution in the Philippines and, as such, has a high documentary value.
But Sison is not simply a partisan. With his feudal background, his high learning from the best bourgeois university in his country and his standing as a Marxist theoretician, he has an excellent overview of Philippine history and society, a firm grasp of empirical data from all sides and the analytical method and skills with which to uncover the laws of motion or dynamics of the crisis-ridden social system.
Regarding the overthrow of Marcos, for instance, his view is that a convergence of revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces effected it. Although he considers the revolutionary movement as the most decisive factor, he admits that the balance of forces in his country has been such that the United States and the conservative forces—using their dominance—have been able to determine the character of the Aquino regime. But he points to the ceaseless deterioration of the ruling system; and the irrepressible advance of the anti-imperialist and antifeudal movement.
Responsibility of the Interviewer
As interviewer, I assume full responsibility for the personal and biographical questions. These bring out the most concrete and crucial facts about the revolutionary movement. The interview itself is of documentary and historical value because the interviewee speaks from direct knowledge of events and issues.
At first, Sison was agreeable to only a brief biographical introduction because he had wanted the book to focus on his views on theoretical, political, economic, military, cultural and international issues. But I prevailed by pointing out that his activities and ideas as chief theoretician, political articulator and organizer have been the most effective and influential in the mass movement since the 1960s; and that the biographical approach would make the book even more lively and interesting to both scholarly and popular readers.
After all, he has done quite a lot of discourses on various issues. Soon after his 1986 release from political detention and return to the University of the Philippines as a research fellow of the Asian Center, he has written a series of ten lectures on the Philippine crisis and revolution, an update of Philippine Society and Revolution, which has been the bible of the Philippine Left since the 1970s; and has gone around his country and the world delivering lectures before academic audiences and speeches before public-meetings.
I also assure responsibility for formulating such questions as would require elaboratt answers of long-lasting value. The purpose is to underplay my role and eve full play to Sison’s explication of principles and policies as well as the presentation of his intimate knowledge of major events in his life and in Philippine society.
The structuring of the entire book is the common responsibility of the interviewer and the interviewee. We spent a number of grueling hours to arrive at the basic chapter outline. Then I could formulate the questions and draw the answers.
Sison’s life basically covered in six chapters, from his birth and formative years through his leadership of and participation in the legal mass movement arxj the armed revolution to his political detention, share in the final push to overthrow Marcos and release from prison. Further on, in two more chapters, he defines the trends and prospects in his country and tackles questions in the international environment pertaining to the CPP and other revolutionary forces.
Those who think that scenarios for the Philippines cannot be conceived of without reference to international factors will find this book rewarding. Sison inevitably considers the interaction of national and international factors. The United States dominates his country. And it is his fundamental view that the Philippine revolution has to be consciously fought out in the international arena in the world era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution.
Sison’s Continuing Role
By this book, Sison demonstrates not only his intimate knowledge of but also his continuing and increasing role and influence in the movement for national liberation and democracy in his country. As a matter of fact, Philippine political and military authorities have accused him of having reassumed the position of chairman of the CPP Central Committee, notwithstanding his well-known preoccupation with research, writing and lecturing. Unlike journalistic interviews, this structured interview permitted Jose Maria Sison to re-examine and rework his answers in a period of five months, from October 1987 to February 1988. Although the relaxed style of the interview is adopted, I have tried to be the serious inquirer rather than the journalist out to beat a deadline or out to trap my subject into making some absurd or indiscreet answer. The point is to draw the most factual and most meaningful answers for the edification of readers.
Of course, I have been provocative at times to be able to extract the best possible answer; and 1 have also sounded provocative at other times simply because the issue touched is by itself controversial. The liveliness of the book arises from the candor of Sison in giving details of his life, work and struggles, which heretofore have not been known to the public.
Included in this book are four poems by Sison. In lyrical terms, they express the ideas that he is well known to express in prose. Sison is also a recognized poet—a recipient of such literary awards as the National Book Award in his country in 1985 and the Southeast Asian WRITE Award in 1986. It was upon my insistence that a sampling of his poems are included as a further revelation of Sison’s person and fighting spirit.
Although this book has the distinction of presenting a full view of the life, ideas and works of Sison, it does not exhaust him as a subject for study. He has done a large body of writings and continues to play a major role in Philippine affairs.
Appended to this book, therefore, is a list of Sison’s works, which are the reference materials for this book and which can be read and studied by those who wish further to study the inner dynamics of the entire Philippine society, as well as that of the revolutionary movement.
Dr. Rainer Werning