Countercurrents Collective | December 18, 2022
Professor Joma Sison expired in the night of December 16th. Joma died peacefully after a period of confinement in a hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands last night at around 8:40 p.m. (Philippine time). He was 83.An irreparable loss of one of the great Marxist intellectuals and leaders of our times. Sison has departed but he has planted seeds for many roses to bloom. He propelled the Filipino people to shape the country’s future and achieve their aspirations for national freedom and democracy.
He was responsible for re-establishing the Communist Party of Phillipines in December 1968 and igniting the spark of the armed struggle in 1969.Unfortunately the bourgeois media is hailing Sison’s death as a culmination of the armed insurrection of the CPP, and a victory of the fascist Duterte regime. Bourgeois intellectuals are labelling late Sison as a terrorist, responsible for bloodshed.
We must uphold the role played by Joma as a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist mascot who galvanised the proletariat engulfing the entire globe, to shimmer the flame of the international communist movement as it penetrates a new phase of resurgence.
Joma was the major pivot in the historic two line struggle undertaken by the CPP in 1992
In recent decades no Marxist leader as symmetrically defended or synthesized theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought or distinguished it from revisionism. Without doubt amongst the great architects in confronting revisionism, relentlessly withstanding counter –revolutionary currents and constructing massline.With deep dialectical approach he defended concept of the party as a vanguard and rebuked post-modernism and Trotskyism. Through his writings, a Joma formulated the theoretical foundation of the Philippine revolution. He also left behind a rich and deep Marxist-Leninist-Maoist treasure trove which will serve as guide for the Party’s continued growth in the next stage of the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggles. No Marxist intellectual has produced such diverse range of writings in the last half century, be it on peoples war, political economy, massline, fascism, environment and climatic changes, Maoism, History of Communist Movement in Philippines etc
He gave a most balanced analysis of the pros and cons of USSR under Lenin and Stalin and China under Mao, giving a striking blow to the counter revolutionary winds, defacing Socialism.
Joma’s interviews an writings illuminated light of liberation struggle in nation more than any Marxist leader since Chairman Gonzalo, in 1992 and gave a most lucid illustration of the International economic crisis and the global setback in Marxist movements.
He exposed the most sectarian or anti-Marxist nature of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and even aspects of he Peruvian Communist party proclaiming ‘Gonzalo Thought’, ‘Militarisation of the party’, ‘Peoples War Till Communism ‘.
Unlike dogmatist Maoists he upheld Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevera as great Marxist revolutionaries and, projected the progressive aspects of societies like Cuba.
Most comprehensively he analysed the entire futility of line of protracted peoples war in Imperialist countries, and why it was line unique for third world countries. Classically he refuted Ard Kinera in 2 articles posted on Democracy and Class Struggle blog in 2019.
In the last few decades no leader as comprehensively projected how Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought has not been extinguished from the globe and could still resurrect like phoenix from the Ashes.Sison’s writings illustrate that Maoism is not only about military line but on establishing the Broad United Front.
I deeply admire his openness to express view sin an interview with me 4 years ago, during celebrations of 50th anniversary of the CPP,in Utrecht. Rare ever to witness such degree of optimism in a Communist leader.
Only because of guidance of Sison can the CPP led New People’s Army untap the potential of their striking capacity to shimmer the torch of liberation .Joma vividly described the democratic functioning of people’s mass organisations.
Sison’s writings are an invaluable treasure house for any Marxist reader or revolutionary Democrat. His very biography is also fascinating illustrating what factors crystallise the spiritual transformation of a Marxist revolutionary. Sison was a most accomplished poet, whose poems were soul-searching.
A most important lesson to be imbibed was how he knit the CCP and the NPA in the 1970’s in the background of the fascist Marcos regime, and how his leadership sprouted bastions of mass revolutionary democratic formations from below, or people’s self government. Another most important aspect of study is Joma’s refutation of urban putchist struggle and methods 2 line struggle should be undertaken. Joma portrayed how the CPP could resurrect itself from the grave to reach the pinnacle of résistance.
He demonstrated how a United Front like the National Democratic Front could include even Non Marxist forces, establish link of people’s war with urban areas and even adopt extra-parliamentary methods of struggle.
Sison’s writings distinguished between massline and military line, contrasting the role and practice of the CPP with the NPA. Most illustratively he projected how the NPA, integrating itself in the very heart of the lies of the people and how self- government was established in practice.
He illustrated that Maoism was an integral part of Marxism-Leninism and not a separate entity. In recent times he most boldly defended Russia in the Ukraine War, even if it was an Imperialist country.Joma asserted that Russia was confronting the tyranny of NATO backed chauvinism.
With deep insight Sison probed into China’s imperialist ventures but asserted how revolutionaries should utilize it’s contradiction with United States of America.
He displayed great humility in assessing that the CPI (Maoist) in playing a leading role in the International Communist Movement and held it’s contribution in Dandakaranya in great esteem. Extricating himself from dogmatism he gave high credibility to the CPI (Maoists) analysis on Brahmanical fascism or caste question.
With an open mind he expressed admiration for the Russian Workers Party and paid homage to Irina Malivnoskaya.,after her death.
Most imaginatively, he encouraged Pakistani comrades of ‘Workers and Peasants Party’ and ‘National Students Federation of Pakistan. ‘to combat the revisionist lines.
Joma also endorsed the contribution of the Church and classed it as an ally to the revolution, thus not completely negating religion.
As a leader of National Democratic Front with great resilience he gave solidarity to anti-imperialist struggles blooming all over the globe.
Above all he was manifestation of how the Marxist underwent a spiritual transformation.
Sison’s writings are useful even for non-Marxists in many spheres and for progressive intellectuals in general.
Weaknesses of Joma
Joma’s main weaknesses lay in soft-pedalling and establishing relations with revisionist parties like in erstwhile USSR and Eastern Europe in the 1980’s , to build the United Front.
He hailed countries like Cuba and Vietnam as Socialist erroneously and took an eclectical position upholding Hugo Chavez. of Venezuela.
He failed to diagnose the left sectarian line practiced of the C.P.I. (Maoist) and it’s erstwhile constituents,
Sison upheld nationality struggles in India in Punjab, Kashmir and Assam in 1996 without a concrete understanding of the Indian realities.
Joma failed to adopt a firm stand against Lin Biaoism, and failed to recognise contribution of Zhou En Lai. His recognition of China going revisionist under Deng was much delayed in 1989.
He hardly investigated deeply into the reversals in past Socialist Societies.
He wrongly analysed Cuba and Vietnam as Socialist countries.
Joma made no diagnosis of changes in methods of peoples war in accordance to the changed times to globalisation.
No constructive self-criticism of the stagnation in the armed movement in Phillipines and even overestimated prospects of victory of revolution.
Sison also did not redress the aspect of why the International Communist movement received such a jolt and the proletariat was so alienated.
Interview Summary of 2019
I recommend readers to see his interviews on Kites Blog recently, earlier by Professor RADI,and by me on Democracy and Class Struggle blog .in February 2019. Readers in the Democracy and class Struggle blog interview of mine in 2019 will be enlightened in every aspect of the CPP.
First it probed into the factors that led to the re-organisation of the Communist Party of Philippines and how leader Jesus Lava was isolated from any mass movement. It describes how the mass student’s movement turned the complexion completely, and how the students played vanguard role in giving shape to the armed struggle. The Kabataang Makabayan was formed in 1964 as a comprehensive mass organization of students, workers, young peasants and young professionals. They became most active in promoting the study of the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, and in creating Party groups within the mass organizations and party branches in localities to serve as the revolutionary core of the mass movement. They were also the most militant in launching workers strikes and mass actions to expose the anti national and anti democratic policies of the reactionary government. The Lava revisionist renegades wished to impose their line of indefinite parliamentary struggles on the proletarian revolutionaries and the people. Their line was engendered by their own bourgeois subjectivist and opportunist world outlook and encouraged by the line of Soviet revisionist renegades. The two-line struggle between the Lava revisionist renegades and the proletarian revolutionaries became so intense that the former wished to inflict physical harm on the latter. Preparations began with consolidation meetings of the proletarian revolutionaries and mass activists and drafting the documents of re-establishment “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party” and the CPP Constitution and Programs for a people’s Democratic Revolution.”It dwelled on how the mass organizations were formed amongst workers,peasants,youth and women ,with a 15000 strong legal peasant demonstration in Manila and a 50000 strong demonstration in Tarlac.It intrinsically penetrated how the CPP waged rectification movements from 1992-1998 ,in repudiating ‘left’ and ‘right’ errors. In detail it explored the 2nd rectification movement. The Second Great Rectification Movement criticized, repudiated and rectified the Right opportunist error of taking out the leadership of the communist party and the working class from the national united front supposedly to attract more people and make the united front the main weapon of the struggle; and several trends of ¨Left¨ opportunism, the most damaging of which overstressed the verticalization of the NPA at the expense of horizontal deployment of the NPA for mass work and which upon failure resulted in blaming those tagged as deep penetration agents as causing the failure and subjecting them to punishment without due process.
As a whole, the CPP has learned well from the Second Great Rectification Movement by developing the balance between armed struggle and mass work and the center of gravity in a relatively concentrated force (e.g., command platoon of a company or the command squad of a platoon) and the relatively dispersed force for mass work (two-thirds of a formation deployed on a wider scale).
The interview summarized the extensive role penetrating all spheres of the New Peoples Army to arouse, organize and mobilize the masses of the people in literacy and health campaigns, implementing land reform, and other campaigns, aside from military warfare. It describes how it carries out a war of fluid movement and avails of the tactics of concentration, dispersal and shifting as circumstances require following the strategy of protracted people´s war, with three probable strategic stages: defensive, stalemate and counteroffensive.
It reviews aspect of establishing the United Front, developing the alliance of the working class with the peasantry in the anti -feudal untied front, the CPP has correctly taken the line of relying mainly on the poor peasants, winning over the middle peasants, and neutralizing the rich peasants in order to isolate and destroy the power of the landlord class.
It highlights the political achievements of the CPP in undertaking the minimum and maximum land reform programs. The minimum program involves rent reduction, elimination of usury, setting of fair farm-gate prices and promotion of agricultural production and sideline occupation through independent households and rudimentary cooperation. The maximum program involves the confiscation of land from the landlords and land grabbers and free land distribution and agricultural cooperation in stages.Because of the people´s army and advance of the people´s war, the CPP has been able to build the local organs of political power nationwide, from the barangay level upwards.
It described the method the CPP undertook ideological education. The CPP has educated tens of thousands of Party cadres and members in the theory and practice of MLM by providing them with three levels of Party study courses: basic, intermediate and advanced. These cadres are the ever growing hard core of the revolutionary mass movement, institutions of various kinds and specialized fields of work. Party education is meant to enlighten and inspire the Party cadres and members among the toiling masses of workers and peasants as well as among the middle social strata of the bourgeoisie.
The basic Party course provides Party cadres and members with a knowledge of Philippine history, the basic problems of the Filipino people and the people´s democratic revolution. The intermediate Party course is on building the Party, the people´s army and the united front, including a comparative study of successful revolutions led by the proletariat.
The advanced Party course is devoted to gaining a comprehensive knowledge of materialist philosophy, political economy, scientific socialism, the strategy and tactics of proletarian revolution and the international communist movement.
Sison summarise why he negotiated with Duterte as a dictator. Yes, he is autocratic but he did earlier cooperate with the movement in Mindanao and supported progressive reforms. He made positive proposals in 2014. We thought that even if he had defects as a bureaucrat capitalist, we could utilize the contradictions among the reactionaries to split and defeat the ruling system. Duterte was the less reactionary and wished to cooperate five years ago. The policy of the united front was being applied to advance the revolution.
The Chinese Communist Party engaged in peace negotiations with the Guomindang and even had two great alliances with it first, against the northern warlords and next against the Japanese invaders. Mao himself engaged in peace negotiations in Chungking in an attempt to prevent civil war with the Guomindang.
Sison defends CPP International line. A communist party can have fraternal relations with other communist parties on a MLM ideological basis and friendly anti-imperialist relations with all sorts of parties.
Sison dealt with the subject of universality of protracted Peoples War. Mao was absolutely clear that protracted people’s war, especially building a people’s army from small and weak to big and strong over time, is possible only in semi-colonial and semi-feudal countries because of their chronic crisis and their wide physical and social terrain (countryside and peasantry) for guerrilla warfare to develop into a regular mobile warfare.
While there is yet no inter-imperialist war, genuine Communists can do what the Bolsheviks did like penetrating the reactionary army with cadres. The main thing is to do however is to form self-defense units among the workers and youth as the hard core of the proletarian masses. They can exist as self-defense groups during strikes or as athletic groups.
For more than 75 years, the imperialist powers have avoided a direct war among themselves because they fear the probability of mutual destruction in a nuclear war.
But it is also probable that the crisis and disintegration of the imperialist countries can be so grave and rapid that the masses can take power in cities through uprisings and not through a protracted people’s war.
In mass work, which is; political, a Maoist deals with all sorts of people who have different thoughts and beliefs. There is no such thing as discovering and dealing only with ready-made Maoists among the masses.
Also, a Maoist party does not prohibit the united front organizaion or the people from having proto diplomatic and diplomatic relations with non-Maoist governments.
Cooperating politically with a revisionist communist party does not mean supporting it’s ideological line or totally supporting its political line or practice. In the 1980’s their “Left” in the CPP advocated establishing CPP relations with the CPSU.
Sison analysed the adverse impact on the Maoist Movement after the capitalist restoration in China. In China itself, the Maoist movement was defeated after the death of Mao and the coup engineered by Deng Xiaoping and his collaborators was successful.
The GPCR was denounced, the communes were dismantled and capitalist reforms and opening up to the capitalist world were promoted.
Analysis is needed to understand, draw lessons and overcome the defeat of Maoism in China from 1976 onward. The Chinese communists are trying hard to bring back the socialist revolution under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
The CPP admires the Maoist parties that have waged people’s war in such countries as India, Nepal, Peru, Turkey and the like.
Being the proletarian revolutionary party in such a big population, the CPI (Maoist) can play a major role in the world proletarian revolution, like the Bolsheviks in the former Soviet Union and the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Mao.
The CPP stands to benefit greatly from from the advances achieved by the CPI (Maoist).
Sison reflects o the concurrent state and fluxes in the world today. US imperialism is on the strategic decline. Acute contradictions are intensifying among the imperialist powers.
The contention of the imperialist China with the US is of great political significance by way of challenging US global hegemony.
Revolutionary forces can take advantage of the Inter-imperialist contradictions. Today fascism is rising worldwide, taking different shapes.
Maoists can cooperate with non-Marxist but progressive Left sections of the people to combat fascism in Europe and elsewhere.
A major feature in third world countries is the reign of neocolonialism and neoliberalism.
Finally he covers the prospects of the revolution in Phillipines. Today the CPP has 75,000 members and leads a mass movement of people in the millions. It is in all spheres of society. It is marching from victory to victory because of its adherence to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as guide to action and because of its application of the mass line in pursuing the people’s democratic revolution.
The CPP has excelled in leading the armed revolution that is among the longest running, strongest, and continuously growing armed revolutions for national liberation, democracy and socialism in the world. This armed revolution has proven correct Mao´s theory and practice of protracted people´s war.
The CPP has developed this theory and practice in accordance with the specific characteristics of the Philippines in terms of social and physical terrain, with the peasant population as the most numerous class in the mountainous archipelago.
What makes the Philippine revolution most outstanding currently is that it has overcome a long running fascist dictatorship like that of Marcos and a long series of strategic operational campaign plans of US-lining pseudo-democratic regimes to destroy it.
The Central Committee and the entire Party expressed that it will forever be guided and inspired by Joma’s revolutionary spirit and pledged to establish his memory and legacy and prolong determination to continue the legacy of the revolution.
In 2016, the Second Congress of the Communist Party of the Philippines declared an emphatic statement giving Joma the Party’s highest tribute and summarising his contributions to the growth of the Philippine revolution.
The CPP declared ten days as a period of mourning for the entire Party in order to give the highest possible tribute to Joma. It decided to dedicate the Party’s upcoming 54th anniversary to Ka Joma’s memory, to celebrate his life and all the victories that we have achieved under his leadership and guidance.
All units of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been ordered to stand in formation at the break of dawn of December 26 and silently perform a 21-gun salute by way of giving the highest tribute and bidding farewell to their beloved leader. During this period of mourning, the NPA has been called to stage tactical offensives against the rampaging fascist forces to defend the people.
Film on Joma
A film like “The Guerilla Is a Poet” is a most illustrative portrayal of Joma’s life story.
For those who were not yet born anywhere near the declaration of martial law, the film is a lucid introduction of the Marcos era of the 60s and the early 70s and how the political and social milieu of that era was the turning point in the life of Jose Ma. Sison .
The filmmakers probably found echoing of the revolutionary’s life in his own poetry like this one entitled, “The Guerilla Is A Poet” a part of which read:
The guerilla is like a poet
Keen to the rustle of leaves
The break of twigs
The ripples of the river
The smell of fire
And the ashes of departure.
The guerilla is like a poet.
He has merged with the trees
The bushes and the rocks
Ambiguous but precise
Well-versed on the law of motion
And master of myriad images.
The film unfolds like images from Sison’s poem.
It unravels Sison’s childhood in his native Cabugao town and peaks as he gets involved with activist groups to the time he got so famous he rubs shoulders with the likes of Ninoy Aquino who is the political nemesis of the Marcoses.
When he gets arrested, the film shows a sequence where Marcos and his loyal guardian, Fabian Ver, get to talk to Sison who vows never to relent to what he perceives as a rotten political establishment.
In the course of the film, some famous personalities enter into the picture namely Bernabe Buscayno who is a high-ranking official of the New People’s Army, a Major Aure who is accused of torturing a woman political detainee and PMA graduate Victor Corpuz (portrayed by Marcus Madrigal) who raided the PMA arsenal before joining Sison in the mountains.
The film illustrates images from the underground and shows with abject realism the turmoil militant guerillas go through.
Angeli Bayani as Sison’s wife, Juliet, delivers a most intensive performance in complete tune with he character, that revealed her fully grounded on her character’s vulnerability. The image and sound of former president Marcos found exact duplication in the superb performance of Willie Nepomuceno. The film is most systematically orchestrated, consisting of Jao Mapa (as Ninoy Aquino), Anthony Falcon, Bong Cabrera, RK Bagatsing , Chanel Latorre, Lehner Mendoza, Lui Quiambao-Manansala, Jes Evardone and Raymond Bagatsing,
Karl Medina, who won the best actor award as the young Sison, merges into the very character of Sison, projecting Sison as the young writer and poet. With so many controversial characters in the film, the Dalenas, however, managed to produce a coherent film with distinct comfortable boundaries between reportage and propaganda.
The film illustrated that Sison led an arduous life as a family man and revolutionary.
Without doubt Dalenas managed to humanize a public figure both admired and ostracized for his ideology.
The film ends on a poetic note with images and recited passage from his 1968 poem –
The guerilla is like a poet.
He moves with the green brown multitude
In bush burning with red flowers
That crown and hearten all
Swarming the terrain as a flood
Marching at last against the stronghold.
An endless movement of strength.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance writer who has done extensive research on the International Communist Movement and personally conducted an interview with Joma Sison in Utrecht.