Jose Maria Sison led the re-founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the late 1960s. The CPP formed the New People’s Army in 1969. It undertook people’s war of the kind pioneered by Mao Zedong in China, in which the working class leads and the peasantry is the main force.
Comrade Sison led the struggle in the rural areas until he was captured by the dictatorial Marcos regime in 1976. He spent nine years in solitary confinement. He was only released when Marcos’ regime was forced out by the masses in 1985. Though Marcos fell his generals remained. Comrade Sison and others were forced into exile in the Netherlands where they remain to this day.
Last year the U.S. government put Comrade Sison and the NPA on their “terrorist” list. The U.S. then prevailed on the Dutch government to do the same. They are no such thing: there are in truth the leaders of the oppressed masses in their struggle against a backward and rotting social order. It is the imperialists who are the real terrorists, as they prove every day.
The “terrorist” label cost Comrade Sison the economic benefits he had received as a political refugee. A worldwide movement in his support demands that he be taken off these hypocritical lists, instigated by the world’s worst terrorist, U.S. imperialism.
The long people’s war in the Philippines has had ups and downs, but in recent years has grown to the point where the reactionaries now consider it an acute challenge to their rule. (See the New York Times, January 4, 2004, “Fear of a Communist Rebellion Is Growing in the Philippines”) On December 25 I had the honor and pleasure of the following interview with Joma in Utrecht.
Question: When you work in imperialist countries in support of revolutionary movements in oppressed countries, what are the specifically communist tasks?
Jose Maria Sison (JMS): Persevere in carrying out the ideological, political and organizational tasks for developing the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries and for supporting the revolutionary movements in oppressed countries. You must have a home base for supporting the struggles of the people abroad.
The ideological tasks involve the propagation and application of Marxism-Leninism. Thus, you develop the proletarian vanguard and hardcore of the revolutionay movement. The political tasks involve arousing, organizing and mobilizing the proletarian, the semi-proletarian and petty bourgeois masses. Thus, you have the strength of the masses to win the battle for democracy, overthrow the monopoly bourgeosie and establish socialism. The organizational tasks involve upholding democratic centralism and expanding the ranks of communists by drawing the most advanced from the mass movement.
Question: Could you explain further the relationship of revolutionary struggles in both imperialist and oppressed countries?
JMS: The revolutionary struggles in imperialist countries and those in oppressed countries interact and support each other. They have a common enemy in imperialism and reaction. Revolutionary work must be done in both imperialist and oppressed countries. The working class exists in every country and should take the lead in the revolutionary movement for the best possible revolutionary outcome in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. There must be proletarian internationalism among communist and workers parties and revolutionary solidarity among the peoples.
Question: What is the main contradiction in the world today?
JMS: It is valid to say that the struggle between the people of the world and imperialism is the main contradiction. But we can make a more penetrating distinction of contradictions in the world. There is the contradiction between the imperialist powers and the oppressed peoples and nations. There is the contradiction among the imperialists. And there is the contradiction between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the proletariat within imperialist countries.
The contradiction between the imperialist countries and the oppressed peoples and nations is the main contradiction today. It is the most intense in terms of oppression and exploitation and in terms of counterrevolutionary violence being unleashed, either onesidedly or opposed by revolutionary violence.
Question: Does the focus of armed revolution change in terms of location?
JMS: Yes. In the early years of the 20th century, Lenin observed that after the bourgeois democratic revolutions in Western Europe armed revolutions had shifted from the West to the East. The focus can change from continent to continent and from country to country. Lenin pointed out that if the revolutionary movement in oppressed countries develops it helps the struggle in the imperialist countries.
Revolutionary struggle in the oppressed countries can help bring about the best conditions for armed revolution in the West. However, inter- imperialist wars have also given the workers in the West to rise up. Mao was very confident that revolutions in the East would develop and help revolutions in the West. But revisionism has sabotaged the world proletarian revolution and caused big setbacks.
Question: What is the revolutionary role of the peasantry in the East?
JMS: The peasantry is the most numerous class in the predominantly agrarian East. It is a class that cries out for the democratic revolution to solve the land problem. The proletariat and its revolutionary party can and must bring about the worker-peasant alliance in order to win the bourgeois-democratic and socialist stages of the revolution. Stalin spoke of the peasantry as the reserve of the proletariat. Mao went further. He spoke of the peasantry as the main force, actively following the working class as the leading force.
Question: You once said in a forum that the revisionists opposed Mao’s line of people’s war but Reagan would use a kind of “people’s war in reverse?” What do you mean?
JMS: The Soviet and other revisionists worshipped the hightech military power of the Soviet Union. But Reagan had a strategy of people’s war in reverse, the use of mass-based reactionary forces against the targets of imperialism. In Afghanistan the mujaheddins had a religious kind of mass base against the Soviet occupation. In Angola the UNITA had a tribal kind of mass base against the Soviet-supported government. There were the Contras in Nicaragua, who used a kind of religious and anti-communist mass base against the Sandinistas.
In every revolutionary situation the U.S. tries to form some kind of a reactionary mass base against the revolutionary mass base. In the Philippines, the US and the local reactionaries periodically use the elections in trying to draw ther masses away from revolution. In the countryside they also field psy-war experts in order to form anti-communist communities based on tribalism and religious cultism. Ahead of Reagan, Kennedy had the idea to use counter-guerilla tactics by mimicking the revolutionary guerrillas. He tried to use the tribes in the central highlands in Vietnam against the Communists. But the big US defeat came anyway. Thus, the role of Kennedy as a pioneer in counter-guerrilla tactics has been obscured.
Question: What is the status of people’s war in the East right now?
JMS: At the moment, there are not too many people’s wars led by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. These are in India, Nepal, Peru, Philippines and Turkey. But they are very weighty in relation to what communist and workers’ parties are doing in the West. These people’s wars are directly answering the central question of revolution by seizing political power wave upon wave in the rural areas. People’s war can and must be the effective counter to the wars of aggression, high tech weapons of mass destruction and the possibility of nuclear war.
Question: What is the role of the people of imperialist countries in relation to wars and the possible use of nuclear weapons?
JMS: The people of the imperialist countries, led by the proletariat, have a special mission of preventing the imperialists from waging wars and using nuclear weapons. When the people have sufficient organized strength, they can surround, weaken, isolated and remove from power those officials who are wish to launch wars of aggression and use nucrear weapons. Stockpiles of nuclear weapons were useless when the revisionist regimes were disintegrating. At the moment, there are no big nuclear powers blatantly threatening each other. But the Bush regime is planning to miniaturize nuclear weapons to make them more useable.
Question: After 9/11 the US has benefitted much from further penetrating Central Asia. Is there any counter from Russia and China?
JMS: Indeed, the U.S has benefited much from intrusions in Central Asia. It is trying to outflank both China and Russia. These seem to be allowing the US to do what it wants. But in fact they take steps to prevent one-sided penetration. The Shanghai Cooperative Organization was originally an agreement to stabilize the borders of five countries: Russia, China, Kyrghistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. But they are now undertaking joint military exercises under the guise of “relief and rescue operations”. Russia and China are also setting up some military outposts in their Central Asian neighbors in connection with said exercises.
Question: To return to the question, how may revolutionaries in imperialist countries develop in connection with revolutionary struggles in oppressed countries?
JMS: When the imperialists engage in wars of aggression in the East, the revolutionaries and people in the West can rise up against such wars. They can condemn these wars as detrimental to the people at home and abroad. The solidarity and support that they extend to the revolutions in the East are ultimately useful and beneficial to the entire people of the world. But the revolutionary party of the proletariat must grow from within the imperialist country. It must lead, build and correlate with the mass movement. A small party can actually lead the mass movement and grow in stages. Such a party grows faster as the crisis worsens and the mass movement expands.
Go into the trade unions and communities. Lead the struggles there and recruit members into the revolutionary party. You can start with a few, go through a slow process of developing Party cadres and members through study and mass work. In a big crisis you can attract many people to the mass movement. From this you can draw more Party members than when the mass movement was nonexistent.
The Philippine Communist Party started with a few members. To increase, we required each of five members in a Party group to recruit five candidate members. It was five times time every six months. In a short period of time, we became scores. When it was time to break away from the old party, which had degenerated, into a revisionist party, the proletarian revolutionaries outnumbered the revisionists. Clarity of line is the first thing, and work among the masses follows quickly.