The collection of essays titled “For Justice, Socialism and Peace” is the first of a four-volume series of selected writings of Prof. Jose Maria Sison between 1991 and 2008. That and the second volume titled “For Democracy and Socialism against Imperialist Globalization” are now in print and scheduled for release in Europe in May this year. Prof. Sison has pride of place in the Philippine democratic and revolutionary movements, as founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on peace negotiations, and as chair of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle. He is a highly regarded commentator not only on Philippine affairs but also on international affairs, from the perspective of the oppressed people and nations of the world.
His writings are unambiguous in their aim to serve the Philippine people’s struggle for liberation, democracy and socialism. He has paid a heavy price for speaking out on the side of the people. The price includes incarceration in the Philippines under Marcos, forced exile and various forms of persecution and maltreatment by a combination of forces including the reactionary Government of the Philippines, its US imperialist master, and reactionary allies in the Government and the state apparatus of the Netherlands, including being branded as a “terrorist”, denial of political asylum, deprivation of employment and social benefits, unlawful detention; and threats of and attempts at assassination. Prof. Sison has, as ever, been defiant in the face of adversity and held firmly to his commitment to advance the Philippine people’s struggle and international solidarity against imperialism and reaction.
It is my privilege to review the first of the four volumes. The fifteen articles in this volume besides the Introduction, by Luis G Jalandoni, Chair of the National Democratic front of the Philippines, cover a period from soon after the fall in rapid succession of socialist regimes in Eastern and Central Europe followed by the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the start of the subversion of Chinese socialism. It was also a time when revolutionary mass struggles for liberation and social justice faced setbacks, some of them very serious, around the globe, and a time when reactionaries all over celebrated the events, especially the collapse of the Soviet Union, to declare it the end of socialism and communism. Some went to the extent of calling it the “End of History”, meaning that imperialist globalization had arrived and was there to stay for ever, and that there was no future but imperialist globalization. Some faint-hearted members of the international left were dismayed and disheartened by the events and imperialist bragging about a mono-polar world led by the US, so that they echoed with dismay the words of the jubilant imperialists to dishearten a sizeable section of the left and anti-imperialist forces. But it took less than a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union for the world to witness the Asian economic collapse, which showed that imperialist globalization itself was a far bigger ill than all the ills of global economy put together that it sought to cure. It took less than another decade for US-led global capitalism to face its biggest crisis since the Great Depression of seven decades ago.
What is most remarkable about this volume, comprising writings by Sison between February 1991 and April 1995, a time of dismay for many in the left and progressive circles, is Sison’s confidence in the correctness of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and its worth as a revolutionary beacon to light the way for the liberation of humanity. He fares prominently among leaders who confidently pointed to the beginnings of a bright future for socialism where many others saw only its doom. His words inspired those engaged in revolutionary struggle in the Philippines and elsewhere, and encouraged many in unfavourable situations to persevere amid adversity. His words of encouragement were not wishful thinking and did not take long to realise. An anti-imperialist wave is sweeping across the world, and countries in what was the backyard of US imperialism in South and Central America and the Caribbean are one after another standing up in defiance of US imperialism. A revolution in Nepal has rid it of its monarchy and conditions are maturing for fulfilling the tasks of new democracy. The revolutionary struggle in the Philippines has reinvigorated itself and steadily advancing. Recent events in Thailand, though a far cry from a revolution, are a measure of the people’s rising distrust in the pro-US imperialist royalty and the military. The essays in this volume thus have even greater significance in today’s context than when they were written.
While most of the articles either concern the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines or draw heavily on the experiences of that struggle, the spirit of internationalism is a strong thread that runs through all the articles, making them very relevant to struggles for democracy, and liberation from all forms of oppression and injustice.
Among articles that refer specifically to the conditions in the Philippines, “Two Articles on the People’s Struggle for a Just Peace”, “The Critical and Creative Tasks of the Rectification Movement in the Communist Party of the Philippines”, and “Strengthen the Alliance for Human Rights in the National Democratic Movement” are particularly important. The notes on peace process in the first of the “Two Articles on the People’s Struggle for a Just Peace” argue the need for a confident but well considered approach that the revolutionary forces need to adopt. It is particularly important since local oppressors and their imperialist backers tend to accuse the revolutionary forces of opposing peace and the negotiated settlement of conflicts, which are really the result of cruel oppression. The article on the second rectification movement contains vital lessons against complaisance in a revolutionary movement and for a positive approach in overcoming setbacks suffered. The arguments put forward there are a timely reminder that a revolutionary political party has to be on constant alert about errors of both the opportunist and the adventurist kind. Human rights in its true spirit has always been a theme of the revolutionary left that has been hijacked by liberals and now distorted to serve imperialist ends. The final article in the volume calling for the strengthening of the alliance for human rights is an excellent comment on the subject and a timely call to salvage it from opportunists and reactionaries.
The article “Let Aquino Regime and its US Imperialist Masters Answer for their Gross Crimes Against the Filipino People”, although written seventeen years ago is still applicable to conditions prevailing in the Philippines: the difference is that the corrupt and brutal regime of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime has not the mask of democracy and justice that Aquino wore in the wake of the stage-managed “People Power” that brought her to power, and the US now used its “War on Terror” as pretext for its continued domination and interference in the affairs of the Philippines. “An Update: Qualitatively Unchanged Conditions”, is a particularly important article in the context of attempts to divert the course of the revolutionary struggle in several Third World countries by over-emphasising the significance of ‘urbanisation’ and the growth of the ‘service industry’, while fundamental questions of land ownership and relations of production have remained substantially the same.
The articles “On the Petty Bourgeoisie and the Future of Socialism” and “On the Question of Revolutionary Violence” refer to issues that keep recurring in political debates involving the left movement. They address the issues in the light of historical and current experience, and are followed by “Message to the Symposium on Mao Zedong Thought in the Philippines”, a rather short but useful reminder of the relevance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought at a time there is tendency to generalise the limited successes that have been achieved under conditions very specific to countries like, for example, Venezuela. While it is important to support and encourage the progressive and anti-imperialist measures of countries like Venezuela, it is wrong and dangerous to be crudely pragmatic so as to build global models of “21st Century Socialism” based on such experiences and fail to warn against underlying risks and obvious dangers.
“Message to the International Congress against the World Economic Summit” and “Technology and Poverty from the Viewpoint of the Third World” are important articles whose themes now recur frequently, especially in the context of the desperate bid of US-led imperialism to rescue itself from the economic mess into which it has been sliding, and rather badly since 2008, by passing the burden on to the Third World. The first article following the introduction, “Sorting Out Contradictions Pertaining to Iraq” is an excellent analysis that, when read in context of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now spilling over into Pakistan and threatening to affect India, drives home the point that imperialism never learns from its past mistakes.
The article that I appreciated most in this volume is “Socialism and the New World Order”. Written in the form of answers to specific questions, it sums up the historical experience of the revolutionary socialist movement since the Russian revolution and key ideological issues that determined its tortuous course. Things have changed in the twelve and a half years since it was written, and some of the promising struggles of the time suffered major setbacks, but others have surged forward and yet others are coming up.
Julieta de Lima in her preface to the series has pointed out that “the consistent thread that runs through the series, as in all of Sison’s other works, is the firm and vigorous exposure and opposition to all the offensives that imperialism and its puppets have launched ideologically, politically, economically, militarily and culturally. The message is unwavering: the proletariat and people will never surrender to the system of oppression and exploitation and will always aspire and fight for national and social liberation”.
The publication of the selected writings of Prof. Sison coincides with a time of a most acute financial and economic crisis of the world capitalist system that is bound to further aggravate suffering of the people and thereby impel them to intensify revolutionary struggles. The favourable conditions obtaining now could be used to change the world only through a deep understanding of the nature of the crisis, the alignment of forces, and developing the right strategy to defeat imperialism and its allies. Sison’s writings constitute an important part of the revolutionary literature that will guide revolutionaries in taking up the critical and creative tasks needing to be undertaken to achieve that goal.