Whose mask slips?

By Dan Borjal
Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Based on a few quotations taken out of context from Jose Maria Sison’s interviews in connection with the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Dem Volke Dienen’s piece “The mask slips” makes the outlandish conclusion that the Philippine revolutionary movement has already surrendered and allowed itself to become a mere tail of bourgeois democracy.
It is clear that Dem Volke Dienen knows very little about the revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and about its founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.
The Filipino revolutionaries have been engaged in a life-and-death struggle against US imperialism and its domestic lackeys for more than 47 years now based on the strategy of protracted people’s war waged in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. The revolution has developed in a comprehensive manner with armed struggle in the countryside as the main form of struggle complemented by the legal democratic struggle in the cities, electoral struggle and peace negotiations as secondary forms of struggle.
Through the years, the movement has accumulated victories unparalleled in our country’s revolutionary history in having built a formidable people’s army, organs of self-government and mass support running into millions in both the cities and countryside. To throw away these revolutionary gains would be the height of lunacy! Nay, surrender would be a desecration of the sacrifices of the thousands of our revolutionary heroes and martyrs. The revolutionary movement would rightfully incur the wrath of the masses who have given their best sons and daughters to the struggle and who are demanding the radical transformation of Philippine society.
Dem Volke Dienen quotes the following statement of Sison and makes the baseless assertion that the Filipino revolutionaries and Sison have capitulated simply because they have declared openness to holding peace negotiations with the incoming Philippine president. “Let us take advantage of a new situation in which the worsening crisis of the ruling system, the growing strength of the revolutionary movement of the people and the failure of previous governments have generated a presidency that is bold and proud to say that he [Duterte] is the first left president of the Philippines and willing to accept and implement the necessary reforms for a just and lasting peace. ”
If you are engaged in a real revolution and not just in revolutionary phrase-mongering, a favorite past-time of armchair revolutionaries, you can have a realistic assessment of what is achievable at any given time based on the concrete objective and subjective conditions and the balance of forces between revolution and counter-revolution. The Filipino revolutionaries while taking what is achievable at a given time are not so naive as to stop there as Right opportunists would do in the process abandoning the fight for the ultimate goal.
The movement has simply welcomed the possibility of alliance with a president-elect who has declared himself socialist and the first left president of the Philippines for the purpose of carrying out substantial reforms beneficial to the people. No candidate for the Philippine presidency in the whole history of the country has been so bold as to declare himself a socialist and to propose a coalition government with the Communist Party of the Philippines for fear of earning the ire of the US imperialists and the local reactionaries. This situation has been brought about no less because of the advances in the revolutionary struggle.
It remains to be seen though if such an alliance is even possible. The movement is also acutely aware that the US imperialists and local reactionaries will surely oppose such an alliance for reforms and put up fierce resistance even to the point of organizing a coup against Duterte. Duterte himself tries to be prudent in a reactionary way by including in his cabinet neoliberals and by invoking an “inclusive government” without “class hatred”, to cite expressions from his inaugural speech.
But it is one thing to conclude that Duterte is a fascist or a stooge of imperialism before his unfolding and another thing to test his best claims and self-contradictions by challenging him to heed the people’s agenda for change and testing him through the peace negotiations. If he proves conclusively to be an unmitigated counterrevolutionary, the revolutionary forces can fight him. If he proves to be a genuine patriot and firm anti-imperialist and progressive, he will need the support of stronger revolutionary forces and a well-mobilized people with arms in their hands to avert a fall similar to that of Sukarno and Allende.
In any case, only infantile petty bourgeois revolutionists or Left ” philistines will reject any thought of reforms just because it does not fit into their narrow dogmatic understanding of Marxism as pure storm and thunder without any place for basic reforms before the revolutionary leap. Genuine Marxists,including Maoists, know that bourgeois-democratic reforms of the new type are undertaken in a semicolonial and semifeudal country in the course of the people’s democratic revolution and prior to the socialist revolution. Marx pointed out a long time ago that the revolutionary proletariat must first win the battle for democracy to attain socialism even in a capitalist country.
Well, even if certain reforms are carried out as a result of an alliance with Duterte, it does not mean that the movement will stop half-way and be content with the achievement of partial goals. There is no question that the Filipino revolutionaries will continue holding on to their weapons because they are determined to bring to completion the current stage of the national democratic struggle and thereafter proceed to the socialist revolution.
Dem Volke Dienen quotes the following statement from Sison but completely misses the point focusing only on Sison’s citing Duterte as having been his pupil. “President Duterte did not fall suddenly from heaven. He grew intellectually and politically under the deteriorating conditions on the basis of the chronic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. Since his youth he tended to stand on the side of the oppressed and exploited. He was my student in political thought and joined the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth), a youth organization close to the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
Dem Volke Dienen fails to grasp the profound insight in the statement that Duterte is a product of the concrete historical circumstances of a Philippine society in deep crisis. That Duterte in his university days was significantly influenced intellectually and politically by the social ferment in the country in the 1960s that produced many student activists who later reestablished the Communist Party of the Philippines on the theoretical foundation of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and relaunched the armed struggle. One of the progressive youth organizations Duterte joined was Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) of which Joma Sison was one of the founding leaders.
Kabataang Makabayan performed an invaluable service to the revolution acting as the vehicle for spreading the revolution nationwide with many of its activists instrumental in establishing the first guerrilla fronts and forming the first units of the New People’s Army (NPA) throughout the country.
It is based on such knowledge of the early background of Duterte, his public pronouncements and his friendly relations with the movement’s branch in his home province of Davao in Mindanao that the revolutionary movement has made an estimation of the possibility of alliance with the incoming president for the purpose of implementing progressive reforms beneficial to the Filipino people.
As matters stand, the only thing that is really unmasked here is the remarkable ignorance of Dem Volke Dienen about concrete Philippine conditions and about the Philippine revolutionary movement, and its audacity in exhibiting its idealist, ahistorical and un-Marxist way of thinking. #