PRISM received this emailed statement by a regular reader, who requested anonymity and will temporarily go by the initials “OC”, in response to the 13 November 2020 editorial of the Tribune of the People (https://tribuneofthepeople.news/2020/11/13/to-celebrate-bidens-victory-is-incompatible-with-anti-imperialism-an-open-letter-to-the-communist-party-of-the-philippines/).
The TOTP editorial, in the form of an “open letter” to the Communist Party of the Philippines, criticizes the CPP for its statement on the recent electoral victory of Joe Biden over incumbent US President Trump. The CPP statement, entitled “On the defeat of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections,” is posted on https://cpp.ph/statements/on-the-defeat-of-donald-trump-in-the-us-presidential-elections/ .
We decided to publish Contributor “OC”s” response here in the spirit of pursuing discussions on strategy and tactics of the revolutionary mass movement as applied to various countries and as seen from the framework of Marxism-Leninism and Maoist theories on people’s war.
Response to “Tribune” editorial vs CPP stand on Biden victory
By Contributor “OC”
20 November 2020
On November 13, 2020, the US revolutionary news service “Tribune of the People” (TOTP) put forward an editorial entitled “To Celebrate Biden’s Victory is Incompatible with Anti-Imperialism: An Open Letter to the Communist Party of the Philippines.” In it, the authors criticize the CPP for its recent public statement on the probable election victory of former Vice-President of the United States, Joe Biden, over incumbent President Donald Trump.
While the authors of the editorial begin with a tone of comradely criticism for the CPP-led “remarkable armed struggle”, they quickly make their position clear when they introduce the CPP as a “Mao Zedong Thought-influenced organization.” This label misleads their readers by presenting the CPP as holding some eclectic, loose ideological position, and avoids using the CPP’s own self-designation as “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist” (MLM). If the authors dispute this self-designation of the CPP, they are welcome to do so, but they should at least state the facts.
Rather than muddle through every detail of the article, let us look at the fundamentals. The authors of the TOTP editorial accuse the CPP of being “swindlers”, and of peddling revisionism and liberalism. They claim that the CPP’s statement promotes a liberal anti-Trump position, and in so doing legitimizes reactionary bourgeois elections. They claim that the CPP promotes a positive view of the election of Joe Biden, and sets him up as a friendlier figure for struggles against US imperialism.
Firstly, let us consider the context of the CPP statement. The CPP does not primarily write statements for the benefit of Americans. The statement is written at some distance from the USA, and primarily for its propaganda value in the Philippines.
Even if the TOTP believes there is no struggle for bourgeois democracy in the USA, a country with widespread voter suppression, and with frequent violations of bourgeois law by the police forces, this does not mean there is not a struggle for bourgeois democracy in semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries like the Philippines. In this light, the CPP’s statement is instructive. It describes how a very obviously reactionary leader, like Duterte, could be removed from office by a mass democratic struggle. “If the Americans can do it, so can we” is the tone of the CPP statement for the masses of the Philippines.
But let us look at the CPP statement instead as a (brief) analysis of the US situation.
It is true that there were “four years of Trumpian fascism, militarism, racism, misogyny and bigotry.” The TOTP attacks the accusation of fascism, but given Trump’s public support for racist paramilitaries and suggestions that he would maintain power in the face of an electoral loss, it is not an unreasonable label. If anything, from the perspective of American Maoism one might expect the opposite view, that both Trump and Biden are equally fascist, a view that could derive from the writings of Black revolutionary George Jackson.
In fact, everything the CPP says occurred under Trump is true. The objection from the TOTP is that the CPP does not highlight Trump’s continuities with Joe Biden. So what does the statement say about Biden?
It says that he “rode on the crest of a gigantic wave of democratic mass movement which has engulfed the entire country.” It credits this movement to Black Lives Matter, as “the latest display of mass opposition following the show of mass resistance by American workers, immigrants, women, youth and other sectors of American society.”
Are the CPP “putting a dunce cap” on the American people? Are they insulting the masses inside America? The accusation would seem hard to sustain. None of this resistance is credited to Biden, who according to the CPP won the election only as a side effect of the mass mobilizations against police violence, racial oppression, capitalist exploitation, and the social murders of the pandemic.
In a country where there is no mass proletarian movement, the struggles of the people will tend to take bourgeois forms. This is the essence of Lenin’s arguments on socialist vs. trade unionist consciousness. And we can see that this is true in the USA, where Trump lost the election in the largest voter turnout since 1900. It would be false to call the recent mass movements inside the USA socialist, even if vanguard elements are working hard to promote socialist ideas.
What does the CPP say should be done, now that Trump has lost the election? Do they claim the American people have won their struggle with the election of Biden?
No. The CPP says that “the American working class and people must continue to organize and mobilize in their numbers to make the Biden government act swiftly to respond to these urgent demands.” That “conditions are ever favorable for proletarian revolutionaries to strengthen their ranks and expand the scope of their leadership.” In effect, the CPP extends its well-wishes to those proletarian revolutionaries working to turn the existing bourgeois democratic struggle of the masses into a socialist struggle.
What else does the CPP have to say about Biden? Will he be a friendlier figure to those fighting US imperialism abroad?
The CPP reminds its readers that “over the past two decades, the US has been reasserting its global hegemony through military might.” That “for more than ten years now, the US government has… waged wars of aggression and intervention.” That “Biden will now head the US imperialist state.” Perhaps the authors of TOTP’s editorial fear the Filipino people have forgotten that Biden was a political leader in the USA during those decades. Fair enough, although the masses of the Philippines might recognize their oppressors more closely than the peoples of the imperial core recognize the leaders of the countries their nations oppress.
When it comes to Biden and the Philippines, the CPP points out that the US military “continues to maintain facilities and troops across the country” and that it “extend[s] military funding, training and support to the AFP [(Armed Forces of the Philippines)].” Does the CPP thus suggest that the liquidation of the armed struggle, or that the mass organizations relax their own legal-democratic struggles?
It does not.
Rather, the CPP says that “[w]ith the ascendancy of Biden, the Filipino people and their friends in the US must strengthen the call for an end to military support to the Duterte fascist terrorist regime. They must double their efforts to convince the American people that continuing US military support for the Duterte regime equals support for his tyranny, his bloody reign of murder and state terrorism against the Filipino people.”
Must strengthen the call. Must double their efforts. This hardly sounds like the CPP is fostering illusions about the ease of anti-imperialist struggle under a Biden-led US government.
The editorial by TOTP sounds surprisingly akin to recent articles by Trotskyists attacking the CPP. They too focus on trivial wording and scattered phrases in order to build a huge structure of accusations that the CPP is liberal, that it is allied with the reactionary Filipino bourgeoisie, that it is giving up the struggle for socialism.
But this structure inevitably comes tumbling down in the face of 50 years of protracted people’s war. The CPP engages in peace talks with the government to show that it is the reactionary government, not the CPP, which is the warmongering party. This is the same reason Mao held peace talks with the Guomindang. The CPP engages in peace talks to show that the armed struggle is necessary in order to obtain victories, rather than fostering illusions about achieving fundamental changes through elections and reforms.
Are the CPP’s forces eager to conclude their righteous armed struggle? Of course they are. Only a fool would prefer a late victory to an early victory. But only a fool looks at an ongoing armed struggle and calls it a surrender.
Anyone in the national democratic struggle, whether in legal democratic organizations or engaged in underground work, knows that the peace talks do not begin with or depend on the end of the armed struggle. Other struggles, such as that of the FARC-EP have taken this route, and the world knows how this has “worked” for the struggle. The CPP, having led a protracted people’s war for five decades, is well aware of the pitfalls of peace talks.
The framework of the peace talks is as follows: an agreement on following human rights and international humanitarian law (CAHRIHL); an agreement on social and economic reforms (CASER); an agreement on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR); end of hostilities and disposition of forces comes only at the end of the agreements (CAEHDF).
The proposed texts of these comprehensive agreements can be found on the NDFP’s website. “Reforms” in CASER include real distribution of land to peasants; independent national industrialization; protection of the environment from extractive industries; and not only economic policy, but also the economic and social rights of different classes in society. The comprehensive agreements put forward by the NDFP do not lay out a blueprint for their surrender, but a blueprint for the first stage of national democracy. Until this is achieved, the armed struggle continues.
If TOTP then objects to a two-stage revolution in the semi-feudal, semi-colonial countries, rather than an immediate and purely socialist revolution, they can take it up with Mao, or throw their lot in with the Trotskyites. #