Book Review by Professor Mario A. Fumerton Volume 3: Crisis of Imperialism and People’s Resistance by Prof. Jose Maria Sison

I am delighted and honoured that Professor Joma Sison has asked me to review today Volume 3 of his selected writings, entitled “Crisis of Imperialism and People’s Struggle.” My name is Mario Fumerton, and I am a university professor at the Centre for Conflict Studies, Utrecht University.

[singlepic id=36 w=320 h=240 float=right]Since the ending of the Cold War at the start of the 1990s, Marxist ideology and Marxist political movements came increasingly to be seen as quaint and anachronistic expressions of a by-gone era, and as such gradually lost credibility and appeal throughout much of the world. As a reflection of this general mood, the Japanese-American political scholar Francis Fukuyama even declared that the end had been reached in the history of struggle between ideologies. With an apparent end to superpower confrontation, people all over the world looked forward to the prospect of world peace; and for a time (at least throughout much of the West) there reigned a popular conviction in the inevitable global triumph of Western liberal democracy as the final form of universal human political government and economic organisation.

Yet two decades on—as a new generation is born into a world where moral and legal abuses are perpetrated in the name of the “war on terror,” a world where business interests continue to take precedence over concerns that planet Earth is heading irrevocably towards massive human-induced environmental disaster, a world where global economic hardship worsens daily in the wake of IMF-dictated austerity measures, and repeated cycles of financial and economic crises (indeed with recent events in Greece, the very future of the European Union and its currency is said to be at stake)—proof is all around us that Fukuyama’s end of history was but a mirage, and that an understanding of the human condition through the analytic lens of Marxism-Leninism is still as vitally relevant and valuable today as it ever was in the past.

This is the context in which I will review Professor Sison’s book; and it is in the light of this setting that its importance becomes immediately apparent to the reader.

Given a lack of time, I will not discuss each individual essay in the volume in detail; and in this way I will not ruin for you the pleasure of reading the book for yourselves. Rather, I will highlight those works that I feel best encapsulate the central ideas and arguments of this book. The essays are presented in chronological order, in a style of writing that combines a holistic historical-materialist analysis with political commentaries on current affairs throughout the world, and on Philippine politics and society in particular.

[singlepic id=19 w=320 h=240 float=right]As I see it, the principal purpose of the author for penning these fine essays has been to educate his readers as to the context and necessity of people’s armed struggle for national liberation. He does so in three steps. First, he carefully situates people’s resistance within a global system of monopoly capitalism, or modern imperialism. The material contradictions, economic crises, exploitation, oppression and destitution brought by imperialism to nations throughout the world—coupled with the intransigent and violent opposition by imperialist powers and their client-states to true, meaningful change for social justice and human development—are the catalysts for the emergence and rise of armed revolutionary forces. Second, he describes in detail, with special reference to the experience of the Philippines, the organisational and mobilisational capacities of revolutionary forces as they wage a political and moral struggle against imperialism and neo-colonialism. And third, he offers reasoning and argumentation as to why the only real solution to the crisis of imperialism is militant and uncompromising armed struggle for national liberation, social justice, and socialism.

To this end, one of the early essays in this volume, entitled “Contradictions in the System and the Necessity of Revolution,” lays out in detail the fundamental argument that is repeated throughout the rest of the book. According to Professor Sison, in the course of the 20th century, imperialism (which is the highest and final stage of capitalism) managed to penetrate into every corner of the world. Leading the advance of global imperialism is the United States. According to the author, American imperialism has pursued an economic policy shift from Keynesianism to neoliberalism based on “free market” globalisation and domestic military production ever since the end of the Cold War. In the process of expanding and consolidating itself, however, this global capitalist system engenders and exacerbates social, political, and economic contradictions and crises at three levels: (1) between the proletariat and the monopoly bourgeoisie within individual imperialist countries, (2) between imperialist countries themselves, and (3) between the imperialist bloc and the oppressed nations and peoples of the Third World.

[singlepic id=33 w=320 h=240 float=right]The contradictions and damage caused by the world capitalist system are much greater than its supposed benefits, and when and where necessary imperialist powers will manipulate international institutions and even will resort to military force in order to safeguard free market globalisation and resource interests abroad. In response to the contradictions and crises caused by imperialism, people’s resistance arise in non-imperialist states, as in the Philippines.

While I was reading this essay, I thought about how suitable it was for understanding the root causes and dynamics of the current global economic crisis. I thought about the thousands of Americans who, during the credit crisis, had lost their jobs and their homes, and were reduced to living in tent cities in places like Southern California, Nevada, and Florida. I thought about how rapacious American military aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan had inadvertently provoked the multiplication of insurgent groups in other countries, like Pakistan and Yemen. Indeed, while it quickly became obvious to me that this essay can competently frame what is happening in the world today, what is truly remarkable about it is that it was an essay written back in May 2001. That his political-economic assessment of world affairs a decade ago could accurately anticipate future political, economic, and social developments attests to Professor Sison’s power of astute observation, and the explanatory potency of his method of analysis, which is based on historical-materialism.

On 18 September 2001, Professor Sison released a public statement of sympathy for the victims of 9/11, and in so doing makes it clear that his fight is not against the ordinary people of America. “Terrorism from any quarter is reprehensible and must be combatted and eradicated,” he wrote. He was careful to add, however, that the state terrorism meted out by US imperialism is what provokes “…such terrorists as those responsible for the 11 September terrorist attacks to give the US a dose of its own medicine.” His outspoken criticism of US state terror and its politics of labelling have undoubtedly played a role in landing him on various terrorist lists. Such has been the price he has paid for speaking out against the hypocrisy that underlies the so-called “global war on terror.”

[singlepic id=8 w=320 h=240 float=right]His long-distance keynote address to the “Conference On Laws, Labels and Liberation,” at the Université du Montréal in May 2004, explains the fascinating yet sad details of the process that led to the addition of himself and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army on various terrorism lists. In October 2002, the Dutch authorities terminated the basic social benefits that he had hitherto received as a political asylum seeker, even though no formal criminal charges existed against him in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world, including the Netherlands. “I [was] deprived of the essential means for human existence,” he tells us. “The seizure of such means violate my basic right to human life. The deprivations amount to punishment worse than that imposed on convicted murderers who are provided in prison with the essential means for human existence.” The author goes on to describe in vivid detail how, without delay, the formidable organisational and mobilisational apparatus of the NDPF was mustered to coordinate his legal and political defence.

The political and moral hypocrisy of these so-called “terrorist lists” is made blatantly obvious when we consider that Professor Sison, who has been living as a political refugee in the Netherlands since 1987, was put on numerous terrorist lists, whereas the late Velupillai Prabhakaran (founder and paramount leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) never was, despite the fact that up till 9/11 the LTTE had been the world’s leader in suicide terrorism. Moreover, he correctly points out that terrorist lists are not only handy tools with which to demonise and justify the repression of all kinds of internal political dissention; “they [also] transgress the right of the Filipino people to fight for national liberation.” Indeed, if such lists existed in his time, it is likely that even George Washington—father of the American revolutionary war of national liberation—would have landed on one.

As is clearly explained in the essay entitled “Socio-Economic and Political Realities and Peace Negotiations,” if omitting a group from a terrorist list serves to keep avenues open for negotiation, then placing a group on the list effectively shuts the door on the possibility of finding negotiated political solutions to decades-long conflicts like those in the Philippines and in Colombia. Indeed, given the resilience and endurance shown to date by insurgency movements that have existed since as far back as the height of the Cold War, negotiated settlement is probably the only realistic final solution to some of the world’s longest running civil wars.

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