Questions by the Host Anghelo Godino of Anakbayan-Europa in ND Online School
Answers by Jose Maria Sison
September 27, 2020
- What was the significance of the overthrow of Marcos dictatorship to the national democratic movement? What were the gains, even though it did not lead yet to complete victory?
JMS: The overthrow of Marcos in 1986 meant that the people detested and rejected the fascist dictatorship as something evil. It also proved that the national democratic movement had gained enough strength and had advanced to such an extent that it could play a decisive role in the process of overthrowing the dictatorship.
In the days when Marcos was overthrown in 1986, more than 90 per cent of the people encircling the presidential palace came from the national democratic movement, especially the Kilusang Mayo Uno and the League of Filipino Students. The 20 per cent hard core of the peak two million people at Edsa also came from the national democratic movement, especially BAYAN and its organizations.
The fascist dictatorship could last for 14 years because the traditional intrasystemic opposition became impotent when Marcos enjoyed US support and used the armed strength of the state against the entire people. Despite their previous large mass actions, the legal and democratic forces were vulnerable to the brute strength of the armed forces under the orders of Marcos. They had to go underground.
But they were able to develop networks of resistance in the underground, circulate publications and launch lightning mass actions against the fascist regime. In 1974 to 1975 they were able to launch nationwide workers’ strikes in 300 workplaces. In 1976 the student masses were able to establish openly student councils and student organizations in defiance of the fascist dictatorship.
The fascist regime came under pressure to “normalize” the situation as a result of the public outrage in the Philippines and abroad over the gross human rights violations. Consequently, many legal forces of the national democratic movement emerged among the workers, peasants, students, community youth, teachers, professionals, women, journalists and human rights defenders.
After the Aquino assassination in1983, they played a decisive role in launching mass actions along the united front line under such banners as Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA), Coalition for the Restoration of Democracy (CORD), Nationalist Alliance for Freedom, Justice and Democracy (NAJFD), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and others against the regime in the years of 1983 to 1986.
With regard to the revolutionary forces, when martial law was declared in 1972, the CPP, NPA, NDFP, revolutionary mass organizations and local organs of political power were still small and weak relative to the armed forces of Marcos. But by waging armed struggle and other revolutionary forms of struggle, they were able to grow in strength nationwide in several scores of guerrilla fronts.
Thousands of activists belonging to the Kabataang Makabayan joined the armed resistance after being forced to go underground. The increasing strength and tactical offensives of the NPA undermined the previous US confidence in Marcos being able to destroy the NPA. By 1985 the NPA had increased its high-powered rifles from only nine in 1969 to 5,600 automatic rifles in November 1985. But this number was not yet enough for it to be able to capture any city, especially Manila, the national seat of reactionary power.
After the Aquino assassination, which brought to the wake and funeral hundreds of thousands of people, the US conclusively judged Marcos as more of a liability than an asset to US national interest and decided to junk him. It persuaded him to call for a snap presidential election and when he cheated as expected, the broadest range of political forces condemned the cheating and called on the broad masses of the people to rise up.
The legal forces of the national democratic movement joined up with all other anti-fascist forces to arouse, organize and mobilize the people for gigantic mass actions in Metro Manila and nationwide. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Concerned Artists of the Philippines and the rest of BAYAN coordinated with the pro-Aquino forces and other anti-fascist forces and were in the forefront of the gigantic mass actions that condemned and opposed the Marcos fascist regime from 1983 to 1986.
The NPA intensified the armed struggle and was able to seize 500 more high powered rifles, raising its rifle strength to 6100 in 1986. This was more than two times the armed strength of the old people’s army in the late 1940s. And the NPA did not benefit from struggle in an inter-imperialist war as the old people’s army had done.
Upon the overthrow of Marcos, the balance of strength between the revolutionary and reactionary forces was such that the US, big compradors and landlords, the Catholic church and the majority of the armed forces and police could still put into effect the proclamation of Cory Aquino as the duly-elected president of the neocolonial republic.
The way to measure the victory of the CPP and the revolutionary movement in the struggle against the fascist dictatorship is to know how small and weak were the revolutionary forces from 1968 to 1972 and how much bigger and stronger they became from then on to 1986. The local organs of political power established in the countryside constituted the People’s Democratic Government (PDG) of the workers and peasants.
The exploiting classes managed to hold state power in the cities. But in the countryside, the toiling masses of workers and peasants were able to establish and develop the People’s Democratic Government. This government was led by the CPP, defended by the NPA and supported by the NDFP, the revolutionary mass organizations and millions of people nationwide.
The People’s Democratic Government has lasted for more than 51 years, surpassing the life spans of the governments put up by the old democratic revolution. It continues to accumulate strength politically, economically, culturally and militarily. It governs millions of people, has a people’s army with thousands of full-time fighters, people’s militia with tens of thousands of members, self-defense units with hundreds of thousands of members and mass organizations with millions of members.
- You have stated in various interviews that Duterte can be compared to Marcos, or even worse. Can you tell us what their major similarities are? Or differences, if there are significant ones?
JMS: In terms of personal character, Duterte and Marcos are both extremely greedy for power and personal wealth and extremely deceptive, capable of saying anything at a given time to gain a personal advantage but ever ready to say the opposite when it suits them. They have a proneness to the criminal use of violence for personal gain or out of malice or braggadocio.
In terms of class character, they are bureaucrat capitalists who are obsessed with using political power to gain personal wealth in a quick way and rise from their provincial origins as middle class and small landowners to the stratosphere of the super-rich among the big compradors. They have relatives and friends who are previously far more wealthy than their parents and they are hell-bent on surpassing them through the use of political power.
Marcos was far more smart and became president at a much younger age. Duterte was a mediocre student by his own admission but streetwise, wily enough to become a long time mayor of Davao city and demagogic enough to outshine other presidential candidates who were lacklustre in addressing crowds.
As regards to being a butcher, Marcos killed 3.257 political opponents and critics. Duterte has already killed far more poor people, more than 30,000 in the bogus war on drugs. And he wishes to kill more political opponents by applying on them his law of state terrorism and his Tokhang methods of mass murder.
It is a matter of history that Marcos was able to rule as a fascist dictator for 14 years. Duterte still needs to prove that he can rule beyond his six-year term that is supposed to end in 2022. It is already well-known that he is seriously sick physically, mentally and morally. He has already made himself a de facto fascist dictator with his own law of state terrorism. But it remains to be seen whether through a charter change he can make himself formally a dictator and rule beyond 2022 or handpick a successor.
- In the beginning of the Duterte regime, he presented himself to be open to pro-people policies and working with activists. How did it turn into the direction his regime has today, which is actively having a violent crackdown on activists?
JMS: In trying to outshine his rivals for the presidency and obfuscate his reputation as a human rights violator and as a factotum of the Marcos and Floirendo families, he claimed to be Left and socialist, appeared in ceremonies to honor the late Ka Parago, volunteered to be the medium for the release of the prisoners of war of the NPA and promised the amnesty and release of all political prisoners prior to peace negotiations, despite his being told frankly that the revolutionary movement was not in any position to support his presidential bid.
Soon after he became president, he started to wiggle out of his promise to amnesty and release all the political prisoners. It would also become clear that the US used former President Ramos and Esperon to encourage him to run for president, that he got financial support from the Marcoses, Arroyos, Estradas and other big plunderers and their respective financiers and that he got unrecorded cash contributions from some Filipino-Chinese big compradors and from the Chinese criminal triads.
Despite Duterte’s failure to amnesty and release all the political prisoners, the NDFP proceeded with the peace negotiations in response to the clamor of the peace advocates and the people to negotiate a just peace and in the spirit of giving Duterte a chance to fulfil his promises and of testing him. At the same time, the NDFP wanted to present not only to the enemy but more importantly to the people the social, economic and political reforms they desired to be adopted and carried out to achieve a just and lasting peace.
As soon as the NDFP draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms was being presented to the public, Duterte signalled that he could not agree because his pro-US retired and active military officers were already pressuring him to back out of the peace negotiations, escalate the all-out war to destroy the CPP and NPA and pretend to opt for fake localized peace negotiations with their own psywar agents. But the estimate of the NDFP is that Duterte was never interested in peace negotiations, except as a device for deceiving the public and for trying to trick the NDFP into capitulation.
- Would you say that the Philippines is under an undeclared Martial Law? If so, can you please state concrete basis of this?
JMS: Indeed, the Philippines is already under an undeclared martial law by virtue of Duterte’s law of state terrorism and the frenzied actions of the military and police to apply it through red-tagging, abductions, gruesome acts of torture and extrajudicial killings.
Before Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, Duterte looks like he is imitating his idol Marcos. In advance of his last year in power, Duterte has also signed into law his law of state terrorism. This law is far worse than the suspension of writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and is even far worse than the martial law declaration of 1972.
Why? Duterte’s law of state terrorism allows him and his armed minions even now to ignore all civil and political rights, red-tag social activists critics or political opponents and then abduct, torture and murder them with impunity. Thus, you observe quite a number of victims like Randall Echanis, Zara Alvarez, Jory Porquia and many others being murdered in quick succession. People are so outraged that they wish to retaliate immediately against those in power.
Human rights organizations in the Philippines and abroad are now concerned that Duterte and his armed minions are hell-bent on slaughtering people to stay in power. The troll armies of Duterte and Marcos in the social media boast that the military and police will apply Tokhang methods on their political opponents and they plan to to kill more people whom they red tag as “communist terrorists” than the poor people whom they have arbitrarily listed and murdered as alleged drug users.
- Do you think Duterte would officially declare a nationwide Martial Law?
JMS: Duterte’s law of state of terrorism is already far worse than the kind of martial law declared by Marcos in 1972, in which executive orders took the place of judicial warrants of arrest. It is well demonstrated in Oplan Tokhang and in the recent cases of political murder by Duterte’s masked armed minions simply barge into the private apartment or home to torture and kill someone like the peace consultant Randall Echanis or to kill someone in a public place, like the health worker Zara Alvarez who was peppered with bullets.
Most likely Duterte will formally declare martial law to take full control of the ruling system and make sure that he will also get a new charter that will centralize absolute power in his hands under the pretext of establishing a revolutionary government or shifting to federalism and parliamentarism. He would certainly prefer to declare martial law and have a new charter to secure his fascist dictatorship and his power to choose his successor because of his ill health.
- Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law was backed by the United States. How is the relationship now of Duterte and the US? And how about China? Would it benefit them if Marcos declared Martial Law?
JMS: Definitely, Duterte has gotten approval, advice and logistical support from the US for his all-out war to destroy the CPP and NPA and even the legal anti-imperialist and democratic forces. But the US has already noticed that Duterte is failing to destroy the revolutionary forces but succeeding in encouraging more people to join the armed revolutionary movement.
The US is already offended by Duterte’s allowing China to build and militarize seven artificial islands in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, to control the national power grid of the Philippines, to erect China Telcom-DITO cell towers inside AFP military camps, and to assist the military and police in improving their electronic communications and surveillance systems.
There are indications that the US will not approve Duterte’s declaration of martial law. Political leaders of the US and the European Union are already calling on Duterte to stop the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations or else face economic sanctions.
But there are some speculations that the US has some deep scheme to let Duterte declare martial law and get the full wrath of the people for doing so and then signal to its assets within the AFP and PNP to withdraw support from Duterte. That would be similar to the US persuading Marcos to call for snap presidential election and then bringing him down for cheating.
China has become wary of Duterte since some two years ago for failing to surrender outrightly to China the entire West Philippine Sea. Thus, the delay in the implementation of infrastructure projects it has promised. There are more reasons now for China to be wary of Duterte because of his recent speech to the UN General Assembly, saying that no Philippine government can give up the 2016 judgement of the Permanent Arbitration Court in favor of the Philippines pertaining to the West Philippine Sea.
- What would Martial Law mean to the socio-economic situation of the Philippines now, which is already in deep crisis?
JMS: Martial will certainly accelerate the worsening of the already terrible socioeconomic and political crisis of the ruling system. The people will suffer far worse conditions of exploitation and oppression. There will be far more unemployment, less income and more mass poverty. There will be more social discontent and the fascist regime will inflict more acts of state terrorism on the people.
The recurrence of fascist dictatorship from Marcos to Duterte is a manifestation of the chronic crisis and fatal rottenness of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. It is a sure sign that Philippine society is in need of revolution and radical social transformation. Unwittingly, Duterte is giving the revolutionary movement of the people one more chance to make a great leap forward in the people’s war. The revolutionary movement now has a far wider, deeper and stronger base for advancing in the people’s war than in 1972.
- The people´s struggle during Marcos time was strong enough to overthrow the Marcos fascist dictatorship but not yet the entire semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system. Would you say that the movement now is strong enough to be able to overthrow the entire semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system?
JMS: There is a greater possibility now than during the time of Marcos for the revolutionary movement to bring down not only a specific fascist regime but even the entire ruling system. The starting base for the revolutionary movement in 1972 was relatively too small and too weak in comparison to the current strength of the revolutionary forces nationwide.
Let me hypothesize on the basis of my experience: when we started guerrilla warfare in Tarlac and then in Isabela, our mere squads could finish off enemy combatants at the rate of at least 10 enemy combatants and their weapons per week per guerrilla zone or base. In two years in Tarlac from 1969 to 1971, our nine rifles increased to more than 200 through tactical offensives.
At present, the revolutionary movement has more than 110 guerrilla fronts . Their platoons can launch tactical offensives that can wipe out more enemy combatants. It would be a conservative and lackluster guerrilla front that cannot finish off ten enemy combatants per month. That would mean 10 enemy combatants multiplied by 110, totalling 1100 enemy casualties. That is equivalent to 11 companies wiped out per month or 132 companies wiped out and an increase of Red companies every year. At that rate, the people’s war will be graduating soon from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate.
The CPP and NPA have issued publications to the effect that they are shaking off conservatism and are committing one third of NPA armed strength for battles with short rest periods against the enemy while two-thirds of the strength attend to mass work and local self-defense.
The NPA units are rotated periodically for full-time combat duty so that they can wipe out more enemy units and increase the arms of the NPA. They benefit from the wise decisions of the leading organs, the daring spirit of the commanders and fighters and the mass base that provides them with the wide area for maneuver in extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare.
The objective conditions for the people’s war in the Philippines are favorable because the chronic crisis of the domestic ruling system will certainly worsen from year to year. The crisis of overproduction in the world capitalist system is also worsening the inter-imperialist contradictions, especially between the US and China. The proletariat and people of the world are already rising up against neoliberalism, fascism, chauvinism, racism, gender discrimination and the destruction of the environment.
- Were there mistakes that the movement experienced during Marcos’ Martial Law that the current generation of activists should not repeat?
JMS: There were great triumphs as well as certain setbacks due to mistakes of varying scales. There were mistakes that could be dealt with through periodic and timely criticism and self-criticism sessions. And there were bigger mistakes that required a rectification movement of some duration and territorial scale.
The biggest error of subjectivism during the time of Marcos was the spread of the notion of a Trotskyite-influenced cadre since 1980 who promoted the line that the Philippines was no longer semifeudal but industrial capitalist. He veritably echoed the false claims of industrialization by Marcos, the revisionists and imperialists.
The subjectivist line led to the Right opportunist trend of reformism, which advocated taking out working class leadership in the national united front supposedly to attract more popular support. The worst result of the same subjectivist line was whipping up the “Left” opportunist line of urban insurrectionism among certain regional cadres influenced by Trotskyism.
To cite major examples: in Metro Manila there was the line that it was enough for the workers to take the lead in armed revolution by launching an urban insurrection and the rest of the people in the whole country would follow. In Mindanao, there was the line of making the people’s strikes and armed city partisan warfare in urban areas the lead factor and the people’s army in the countryside as the secondary factor that must catch up with the urban insurrectionists by rapid formation of regularised companies in absolute concentration without minding the balance of relatively concentrated units for tactical offensives and relatively dispersed armed units for mass work.
When the “Left”opportunist lines resulted in damage to the mass base and military setbacks, especially in the period of 1985 to 1988, the cadres did not focus on reviewing the erroneous line and the circumstances but they claimed that “deep penetration agents” had sabotaged their putschist line. So they carried out punitive actions without due process. It was good that the central leadership of the CPP acted promptly in 1987 to 1991 in one region after the other to stop the wrong line and the violations of due process.
And the Second Great Rectification Movement was launched in 1991 as a campaign of ideological and political education in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and in the strategy and tactics of the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war until 1998. As a result of the rectification movement, the revolutionary movement became stronger from year to year. It defeated insurrectionism, reformism and the inroads of bourgeois liberalism, Trotskyism, Gorbachovism, Dengism and other obnoxious currents.
- On the other hand, what were the successes, effective practices and lessons can activists today learn and apply from the activists during the Martial law dictatorship?
JMS: The most important successes, effective practices and lessons arose by virtue of ideological, political and organization building of the the CPP as the advanced detachment of the leading revolutionary class, the proletariat.
Ideological building meant learning the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (then called Mao Zedong Thought). The CPP cadres and members read and studied the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao on philosophy, political economy and social science and sought to apply the basic principles in the study and understanding of Philippine society, current circumstances and the concrete practice of the revolution.
In political building, the CPP set the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people war against fascism, imperialism and feudalism. It developed itself as the vanguard of the proletariat, the revolutionary armed struggle and the united front as the political weapons of the proletariat and the people against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists.
In pursuing the protracted people’s war, the CPP realized the strongest alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry and integrated the revolutionary armed struggle with agrarian revolution and mass base building. The CPP started first with some guerrilla bases and guerrilla zones and then connected these and consolidated them as guerrilla fronts. It was able to establish and develop the People’s Democratic Government, which now stands brilliantly against the fascist regime.
In organizational building, the CPP was guided by the principle of democratic centralism. This means centralised leadership on the basis of democracy. The CPP took deep roots among the toiling masses of workers and peasants and organized itself on a nationwide scale by requiring every Party member to belong to a party group within a definite mass organization or related formation of any of the various patriotic and democratic classes and sectors.###