People’s War in the Philippines
Prof. Jose Maria Sison before a painting of the people’s war in the Philippines at the NDF Information Bureau in Utrecht, the Netherlands
JMS: The Arroyo regime is daydreaming about the impossible. History shows that the Marcos regime could not destroy the revolutionary forces with 14 years of fascist dictatorship when these were still far smaller and far weaker than now. Instead, they grew bigger and stronger. The objective conditions now have become far more favorable for the Filipino people and the revolutionary forces to wage armed revolution. The crisis of the world capitalist system and that of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system have become far worse than before.
The subjective forces of the revolution, such as the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP, have overcome the grave errors of subjectivism and “Left” and Right opportunism through the Second Great Rectification Movement since 1992. They have thus been able to take advantage of the ever worsening crisis of the ruling system in order to gain strength and advance in response to the Filipino people’s demand for revolutionary change against oppression and exploitation.
Q2: Will you describe briefly the crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system? Hasn’t the policy of “free market” globalization brought about development and prosperity? Isn’t it ideological nonsense for the revolutionary forces to continue the fight? Are not the revolutionary forces afraid of the “strong republic” line of Arroyo and the US-promoted war on terror?
JMS: It is Arroyo who is engaged in ideological nonsense by believing in the dogma of the “free market” against the reality of foreign monopoly capitalism, the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class, and corrupt politicians like her escalating the exploitation and oppression of the broad masses of the people. It is a matter of reality and urgent necessity for the people to wage the new democratic revolution for national liberation and democracy against the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system.
Neoliberal “free market” globalization has accelerated the concentration and centralization of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie and has rapidly pressed down the incomes of the working people and more than 90 per cent of the countries. It has actually constricted the global market. For a while, this market contraction was concealed by the expansion of money supply and credit to finance consumption, cover trade and budgetary deficits, and promote corporate speculation. Now, the US and other imperialist countries are in a severe economic and financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression.
“Free market” globalization has prevented the Philippines from engaging in self-reliant comprehensive and well balanced socio-economic development. The Philippines has not undertaken national industrialization and land reform and has abandoned self-reliant food production. It has been victimized by policies of denationalization, liberalization of imperialist-controlled investment and trade, privatization of public assets and deregulation against the workers, women, children, and the environment.
It has used huge amounts of foreign and local covering to cover trade and budgetary deficits. Now, there is a global credit crunch, a big drop in global demand for the raw material and semi-manufactured exports of the Philippines, and the soaring prices of fuel, food, and other imported necessities. The broad masses of the people are undergoing terrible suffering. They are protesting in increasing numbers and are clearly desirous of revolutionary change.
Q3: Will you describe briefly the status of the revolutionary forces? How near or far are the revolutionary forces from taking the central seat of power in Manila? Are not the people getting tired that after 40 years of people’s war they have not yet seized power on a nationwide scale? How do the revolutionary forces measure success?
JMS: I think that the CPP, the NPA, the NDFP, and other revolutionary forces are strong enough to be considered the most serious political challenge to the entire ruling system. Although the revolutionary forces are not yet about to seize power in Manila and take over the presidential palace, they have made outstanding achievements in forty years of armed revolution and can use these as the basis for making larger achievements. The achievements of the revolutionary forces are due to the participation and support of the people. The people cannot grow tired of their own achievements and accept the reign of greed and terror that victimizes them.
On the basis of my readings, let me cite the achievements of the revolutionary forces. The CPP has members in so many tens of thousands and exists in all regions and provinces of the country. It leads millions of people in the urban and rural areas. The NPA has thousands of rifles and operates in 120 to 130 guerrilla fronts, covering thousands of barangays in 15 regions, 70 provinces, and 800 municipalities. It enjoys the support of millions of people and it can move freely in at least 90 per cent of Philippine territory. Through the local revolutionary organs of political power, the people’s democratic government has supplanted the authority of the reactionary government in extensive areas.
The NDFP encompasses 17 revolutionary forces within its fold. These include the CPP, the NPA, alliances like those of the Christians for National Liberation (CNL), the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), Mindanao hill tribes (LUMAD), and the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) and the mass formations of the workers (KASAMA and RCTU), peasants (PKM), women (MAKIBAKA), youth (KM), teachers (KAGUMA), health workers (MASAPA), lawyers (LUMABAN), writers and artists (ARMAS), scientists and technologists (LAB), and government employees (KAWANI). The NDFP has effectively expanded the influence of the revolutionary forces in the Philippines and abroad.
Q4: You have explained well that the people and the revolutionary forces have achieved a lot over a protracted period of time. But do you see any indications that the CPP is seeking to accelerate the growth and advance of the revolution? Won’t there be a great leap forward soon? If there are indications, will you point these out?
JMS: There can be no clearer indications than the statements of the CPP published in its website and the news reports of intensified NPA offensives. The CPP has been calling on the people and the NPA to intensify the people’s war and bring it to a new and higher level by seizing the initiative and launching tactical offensives at a faster rate and on a wider scale.
What is foreseeable is that the people and the revolutionary forces will continue to frustrate and defeat Oplan Bantay Laya, bring about the maturation of the middle phase of the strategic defensive, and pave the way for the advanced phase of this stage in the people’s war. The middle phase of the strategic defensive is supposed to involve the development of platoons as strike forces of the guerrilla fronts and companies as the offensive units of the regional and eventually provincial commands of the NPA.
Making a great leap forward depends on the revolutionary determination and capabilities of the revolutionary forces of the people and the rapid worsening of the crisis of the ruling system. There is no doubt that the people are sick and tired of the rotten ruling system and are desirous of revolutionary change. The stage of the strategic defensive in the people’s war has taken such a long time but the succeeding stages of the strategic stalemate and strategic offensive can be comparatively much shorter.
Q5: What is the CPP trying to do in order to enhance its leadership and accelerate the advance of the Philippine revolution? What is the CPP doing to make sure that significant advances are made?
JMS: Relying on my background, I presume that the CPP has to undertake ideological, political, and organizational work in order to strengthen itself, realize the revolutionary leadership of the working class, and accelerate the advance of the Philippine revolution. The Philippine revolution would be indestructible and would continue to advance so long as the CPP engages in Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideological building, pursues the general political line of people’s democratic revolution through people’s war, and follows the principle of democratic centralism in organizational building among the toiling masses of workers and peasants mainly and among people in the middle social strata secondarily.
The CPP is publicly known to have an organizational and educational plan to increase its membership into hundreds of thousands, who have the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist stand, viewpoint, and method in thinking and acting, who are in the revolutionary mass movement and who are prompt in recruiting to the CPP the most advanced mass activists. The CPP is strengthening itself at all levels. It seeks to be deeply rooted among the masses at the lowest level. It is strengthening itself at the village, section, and district levels to further develop the mass base for people’s war. It aims to strengthen itself at the provincial and regional levels in order to maximize its ability to lead and coordinate the use of NPA units from the guerrilla fronts for more frequent tactical offensives on the scale of a province or a region.
Q6: What is the NPA trying to do to advance the revolutionary armed struggle? Are there new developments in this regard?
JMS: The NPA is a fighting, propaganda, productive, and cultural force. It has long been the main organization of the CPP not only for defeating the armed counterrevolution in military terms but also for arousing, organizing, and mobilizing the people in various aspects, politico-military, socio-economic, and cultural. Under the leadership of the CPP, the NPA has encouraged the formation of mass organizations and organs of political power and the carrying out of the land reform campaign and other campaigns socially beneficial to the people.
The NPA integrates revolutionary armed struggle, land reform, and mass base building in carrying out people’s war. According to CPP publications, the guerrilla fronts will be increased from the level of more than 120 to 173 in order to have a guerrilla front in every congressional district in the rural provinces. There will be more frequent tactical offensives involving platoons, oversized platoons, and companies. There will also be well-calculated head blows against the chieftains and centers of the armed counterrrevolution. Both CPP and NPA statements have been making these announcements.
Q7: Is there any new development in the politico-military strategy and tactics of the NPA? Anything new in terms formation and deployment, targeting, tactics, and technique?
JMS: It is a matter of public knowledge that the CPP and the NPA continue to pursue the strategic line of protracted people’s war, encircling the cities from the countryside over a protracted period of time until the people’s army has gained enough strength to seize the cities and take power on a nationwide scale. In the meantime, the NPA is waging an intensive and extensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever widening and deepening mass base. It is conscious of a course in which guerrilla warfare is the main form of warfare in the strategic defensive, giving rise to regular mobile warfare in the strategic stalemate, and further developing into a more widespread regular mobile warfare of larger forces, with elements of regular warfare and mass uprisings, in the strategic offensive.
In the present phase of the strategic defensive, the NPA is increasingly using platoons, oversized platoons, and company-sized tactical offensives to annihilate or disarm enemy units through ambuscades and raids. At the same time, small NPA units are being used for various offensive purposes, including sniping, punitive actions, arrest operations, seizing arms, and sabotage. Carried out often and on a wide scale, these can weaken, demoralize, and force the reactionary armed forces to commit serious mistakes.
According to CPP publications, the NPA gives the highest priority to the tactics of wiping out its armed opponents and capturing their weapons as well as impeding their operations by attacking their depots and lines of fuel, communications, and food supply. The NPA also gives high priority to the dismantling of the operations of mining, plantation, logging for export, and other enterprises which grab the land from the people, plunder the natural resources, and ruin the environment. The NPA targets those entities most notorious for human rights violations, corruption, narco-trafficking, and other serious anti-social crimes.
Despite military superiority for its strategic offensive, Oplan Bantay Laya has failed to destroy the NPA because this is a people’s army that uses the major tactics of concentration to attack an enemy unit it can defeat, shifting to evade a superior enemy force, and dispersal to do mass work or to deprive the enemy of any visible target. The forces of the NPA can use the tactics of concentration, shifting, and dispersal because they enjoy the people’ participation and support in the armed revolution. They develop their tactics and technique because they learn lessons from the onslaughts of the enemy forces and seize weapons and other kinds of equipment from them.
Q8: Is there any effort to advance the agrarian revolution from the long-running minimum land reform? What is the response of the revolutionary movement to the scoffing statement that it is not at all interested in making the tiller the owner of the land he tills?
JMS: According to CPP publications, the NPA is still carrying out of land reform: the minimum program of reducing land rent and interest rates and raising farm wages, prices at farm gates, and production in agriculture and sideline occupations. But the NPA is ever ready to carry out wherever possible the maximum program of enabling the tillers to take over the land at no financial cost to them. It has long been experienced in confiscating land from the despotic landlords and causing the restitution of land grabbed from the peasants and indigenous people. But this time it is determined more than ever to dismantle or disable large estates owned by corporations and landlord families and pave the way for the landless tillers to take over the land.
The reformists have carped that the reactionary government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is truly meant to deliver land ownership to the tillers, unlike the minimum land reform program of the revolutionary movement. But the CARP has spent more money on the upkeep of the bureaucracy of the Department of Agrarian Reform than on the tokenistic amount of overpriced land sold by the landlords for supposed redistribution. The CARP allows the big landowners and agri-coprorations all tricks to prevent genuine land reform. These include the overpricing of the land, re-classification of the land, the stock distribution option, pure and simple land grabbing and so on.
Q9: Is there anything new concerning building the mass base?
JMS: According to CPP publications, the CPP looks forward to the emergence of stable base areas as a result of the merging and development of the guerrilla fronts as bulwarks of the revolution in politico-military, socio-economic, and cultural terms. The stable base areas can emerge as the product of the integrated advances of the revolutionary armed struggle, agrarian revolution, and mass base building.
With regard to mass base-building, the CPP and the NPA are striving to consolidate and expand the revolutionary mass organizations, strengthen the organs of political power, and form the committees for carrying out campaigns of mass organizing, public education, land reform, defense, health, arbitration, and cultural uplifting. The system of justice is being improved. The people’s militia and self-defense units are trained to do local security work, support the NPA, and stand as the reserve force. The people’s militia can run into tens of thousands of members. The self-defense units based in the mass organizations can easily run into hundreds of thousands.
Q10: What role does the united front or the NDFP play in advancing the revolution? Why is it that up to now the broad united front has not yet ousted the Arroyo regime? What is the relationship of the united front for armed struggle and the united front for legal struggle?
JMS: The policy and tactics of the united front play an important and decisive role in the development of the people’s democratic revolution. They serve to amplify the strength of the revolutionary movement, win over allies, and mobilize many more millions of people in order to isolate and destroy the enemy of the people at every given time. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines is the most consolidated united front organization of the patriotic and progressive forces that are committed to armed revolution for national liberation and democracy.
You better ask those involved in the broad legal united front to oust the Arroyo regime. I believe that there are favorable conditions for this broad legal united front to achieve its objective. It is up to the main forces to find out what needs to be done in order to bring out hundreds of thousands and then millions of people to the streets on a nationwide scale and persuade the military and bureaucracy to withdraw support from Arroyo.
The success of the broad legal united front to oust the Arroyo regime will not topple the ruling system but will involve some gain of strength among the legal progressive forces and will serve to encourage the people’s war. But if the broad legal united front fails to oust the Arroyo regime, the broad masses of the Filipino people will find it more necessary than ever to place their hopes on the armed revolution and to regard the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP as their most reliable and most effective instruments for overthrowing the entire reactionary ruling system.
Roselle Valerio is editor of Liberation International. Read Parts I and III of the interview.