PRISM editors are posting below the full text of a response by Petra P. Enduco to the controversial lecture on 26 August 2020 by Trotskyite academic Joseph Scalice on the supposed role of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its founding chairman, Jose Maria Sison, in the fascist rule of the Rodrigo Duterte regime. We will post other reactions on Scalice’s lecture and his other Trotskyite writings and pronounements on the basis of Marxism and from nationalist-democratic viewpoints as well, as these become available to us.Read more
Jose Ma. Sison delivered this speech at the Australia National Conference of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle on 25 July 2020. Here he presents a quick overview of the history and circumstances of imperialism, especially US imperialist interests and the restoration of capitalism in China, as factors from which the threat of war and reaction arises. He He then presents an assessment of the threat, currently and in the near future, and clarifies the tasks of anti-imperialists in order to build resistance to such a threat.Read more
Contribution by Prof. Jose Maria Sison
To the webinar titled “Exposing Toxic Relationship: Signs Imperialist US is an Abusive Partner”, hosted by the League of Filipino Students – National and University of Santo Tomas Chapter, July 11, 2020
Dear Fellow Activists,
I thank the League of Filipino Students – National and its University of Santo Tomas chapter for inviting me to participate in this webinar, titled “Exposing Toxic Relationship: Signs Imperialist US is an Abusive Partner” and to discuss the topic, Of Love Triangles and External Affairs: PH Caught Between US and China.
Let me discuss the relations of the Philippines with US imperialism and then with Chinese imperialism. In the concluding part of my presentation, I shall consider the sharpening inter-imperialist contradictions between the US and China and look at the dangers and opportunities that arise from these contradictions.
1. Relations between the Philippines and US imperialism
US imperialism has the monstrous record of successfully waging a war of conquest against the Philippine republic and the Filipino people from 1899 onwards. In the process, it killed at least 1.5 million Filipinos. As a result, it has been able to dominate the Philippines in an all-round way economically, politically, militarily and culturally in violation of national sovereignty and democratic rights of the Filipino people. I agree with you that the relationship between US imperialism and the Philippines is toxic.
With the exception of the Japanese Occupation during World War II from 1942 to 1945, the US was able to impose its colonial rule on the Filipino people from 1902 to 1946 and then granted a bogus kind of independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946; and thereby shifted from colonial to semicolonial or neocolonial rule over the Philippines, with the Filipino puppet politicians allowed to run all levels of the counterrevolutionary state of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.
This false kind of independence was preconditioned by the US-RP Treaty of General Relations in 1946, which retained the US military bases on Philippine territory, the property rights of US corporations and US control of foreign trade and diplomatic relations. To this day, the US has been able to dominate the Philippines by using a series of treaties, agreements and arrangements to bind the country and the people against their own sovereign rights and interests.
For this purpose, the US has been able to use the collaboration of the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists. To adjust the Philippines to the requirements of foreign monopoly capitalism, the US has brought about a semifeudal economy run by the city-based comprador big bourgeoisie and the rural-based landlord class and by training political puppets mainly from these exploiting classes and the middle social strata to do the bidding of the US and become bureaucrat capitalists.
After using such legal devices as the Parity Amendment in the 1935 Constitution, the Bell Trade Act of 1946, the Quirino-Foster Agreement of 1950 and the Laurel-Langley Agreement of 1955 to ensure US economic dominance over the Philippines, the US has taken cover under multilateral foreign investment laws and treaties and all kinds of economic, trade and financial agreements under the auspices of the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and the Asian Development Bank.
To this day, the US remains the No. 1 foreign investor in the Philippines and the No. 1 largest export market. It also accounts for 43 per cent of hot money inflow. US corporations are dominant, with the assistance of the comprador big bourgeoisie of Spanish, Chinese and Filipino ancestry which acts as the chief trading and financial agents in a semifeudal economy characterized by the exchange of raw materials and some semimanufactures from the Philippines and capital goods and consumer goods from abroad. Japan is the No. 2 largest foreign investor in the Philippines but is the No. 1 provider of so-called official development assistance (ODA). Yet the largest part of this ODA is tied aid and spent on Japanese materials, equipment and contractors.
China, even including Hong Kong, is only the distant No. 3 largest foreign investor in the country in relation to the US and Japan. It has become the No. 1 trading partner of the Philippines, especially since 2013. It steadily came to this position after it started to dump cheap Chinese consumer goods and after it became the global manufacturing base for semiconductors and other products after the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Most imports from China are not even Chinese but from US, Japanese and other foreign transnational corporations located there to take advantage of its cheap labor. China also enjoys certain advantages in trading due to the collaboration of Chinese and Filipino-Chinese big compradors.
The US-RP Military Bases Agreement of 1947 was not renewed in 1991 as a result of the demand of the broad masses of the Filipino people who were indignant over the fact that the Marcos fascist dictatorship had used economic and military relations with the US in order to maintain autocratic rule. But the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 has continued to bind the Philippines and its military forces to the aggressive policies of US imperialism. The US-RP Military Assistance Agreement of 1947 has also persisted to allow the US to control the security policy, military planning, indoctrination of military officers, intelligence exchange and armaments of the counterrevolutionary semicolonial state.
Soon enough the US imperialists were able to obtain the series of military agreements to authorize and facilitate the deployment US forces and de facto military bases. The agreements include the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA, 1999), Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (the latest MLSA, 2002), the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA, 2014) and so many operational and supply agreements. US imperialism is the biggest terrorist in the entire history of mankind, responsible for the mass killing of 25 to 30 million people since after World War II. Especially since after September 11, 2001, it has used the term “terrorism” as a pejorative expression against the anti-imperialist and democratic forces and as pretext for unleashing wars of aggression and staging false flag operations by CIA-trained mercenaries posing as Islamic jihadists.
Quite recently on January 11 the Duterte regime made the threat to abrogate the VFA to create the impression that he was favoring China, drawing away from the US and forging an independent foreign policy. It did not take long before Duterte exposed his incorrigible puppetry to US imperialism and his shallow deceptive character by backing out of his false threat after just a few months on June 2. All the while other military agreements aside from the VFA have remained valid and in effect and the regime has continued to receive US military assistance and collaborate with US military forces under Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines.
Since the moment he set out to take the presidency, Duterte has always been surrounded by bureaucrats and generals who are rabid agents of US imperialism. As president, he has done nothing to undo the all-round US dominance over the Philippines. In fact, he has promised Trump to terminate the peace negotiations with the NDFP, wipe out the revolutionary movement of the people by all means and deliver charter change allowing US corporations the unlimited right to own Philippine land, exploit natural resources and operate public utilities and all kinds of businesses.
Thus, Trump has practically given Duterte the license to form a civilian-military junta called the National Task Force-ELCAC to further militarize his regime, escalate state terrorism in the name of anti-communism and prepare the ground for a full-scale fascist dictatorship. He has already used the COVID-19 pandemic to form the Inter-Agency Task Force to carry out the lockdowns as dress rehearsal for military and police control of population and resources under a projected fascist dictatorship and to railroad a bill of state terrorism that negates democratic rights and makes superfluous the declaration of martial law.
The US does not just use economic and military means to dominate the Philippines. It has also used cultural, educational and other propaganda means to dominate the Philippines. To combat the demand of the youth and the national democratic movement for a national, scientific and mass cultural and educational system, the US uses various ways to control the educational and cultural policy of the Philippine reactionary state and thus perpetuate their influence over the politicians, bureaucracy and professionals and, in effect, among the masses.
As university activists, you are aware of how the US uses its own official agencies and multilateral agencies, private philanthropic foundations, business corporations, the mass media, social media, publications and films and certain subjects and textbooks in the curricula to propagate colonial mentality and influence the thinking of faculty members and students, the entire intelligentsia and broad masses of the people to follow the US imperialist line on historic and current issues.
2. Relations of the Philippines with China
The Philippines established diplomatic and trade relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1975. The Marcos fascist dictatorship felt confident to establish such relations because the US and China had been on a path of rapprochement since the Nixon visit to China in 1972. It became easier for Sino-Philippine relations to develop after the Dengist coup in 1976 and China’s adoption of capitalist reforms and opening up for integration in the world capitalist system in 1978.
The US established diplomatic relations with China in 1979 and proceeded to concede to it low-tech consumer manufacturing for export to the US by way of weaning China from socialism while continuing to press for more capitalist reforms in favor of foreign monopoly firms. The course of capitalist development in China was increasingly characterized by rampant corruption and inflation, which ultimately resulted in massive protests and their violent suppression in Beijing and many other Chinese cities in 1989.
In the aftermath of such mass protests, the Deng ruling clique begged for more economic, trade and technological concessions from the US and promised to adopt further capitalist reforms, especially the reduction of state-owned enterprises, increase of joint private-state sector enterprises and further loosening of the foreign investment law. The US played hard to please but made enough concessions in investments and technology transfer to help China stabilize its economy in its rapid conversion to capitalism, advance significantly from cheap consumer manufacturing and register high growth rates.
The rapid growth rate of China, especially its expanding production of cheap consumer goods for export to the US market, had an adverse impact on the so-called tiger economies of East Asia and triggered the Asian financial crisis of 1997. When this crisis occurred, China further expanded its production of cheap consumer goods and became the final platform for assembling semimanufactures from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
The US was pleased to have China as its main partner in carrying out the imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization and to have China’s high growth rate cushion the falling global growth rate. During the financial crash of 2008 and consequent Great Recession until recently, China was celebrated as the ever-rising star of the world capitalist economy. It has raised its own level of scientific and technological development, with the help of technology transfer from the US and elsewhere through foreign direct investments, direct purchases of dual-purpose equipment and academic exchanges in science and technology.
By the time China joined the WTO in 2001, the US under Bush junior was pleased with the apparent extent of liberalization of the Chinese economy and the surges of foreign investments there. The Bush regime preoccupied itself with drumming up its so-called war on terror after 9-11, with unleashing wars of aggression in Iraq and elsewhere and with trying in vain to buoy up the US economy through “military Keynesianism”, making more and bigger purchase orders from the military-industrial complex.
Obama played the house boy loyal to the interests of US imperialism and continued to pursue wars of aggression. But it was during his regime that US strategy planners began to pay attention to the gravity of the US economic crisis as well as the world capitalist system in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, the high cost of overseas military bases and the wars of aggression away from the Asia-Pacific region and the galloping growth of the public debt burden.
The Obama regime noticed the economic and military rise of China and its growing geopolitical potential and ambitions. Thus, by 2012 it called for a strategic pivot to East Asia and stronger economic and security cooperation among the US, Japan and Australia to hold the line in the Pacific. The US was facing up to the challenge of China as it harped on owning 90 per cent of the South China Sea and demanding the return of the Daoyu islands from Japan. It was also around this time that China started to tout its Belt and Road Initiative to reverse Western dominance in maritime trade since the 16th century while consolidating its growing ties with countries across a vast swath of the Asian mainland reminiscent of the ancient Silk Road.
China began to build artificial islands in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea and claim even the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in violation of Philippine sovereign rights and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines was therefore compelled to file a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration on January 22, 2013. It won the case on June 12, 2016.
But the incoming Duterte regime declared that it would lay aside the judgment. He expected his ruling clique to benefit from Chinese loans for infrastructure projects as well as from lucrative connections with Chinese big compradors on both sides of the South China Sea and with criminal syndicates in drug smuggling and casino operations. The Duterte ruling family and its cronies are known to have been stashing away their ill-gotten wealth in China. They are thus tied to China and have to play an ambiguous role whenever issues arise publicly against Chinese policies and actions detrimental to the Philippines.
Under the Duterte regime, China has been able to build and militarize seven artificial islands in the Philippine EEZ in the West Philippine Sea. It has brought Philippine soil from Zambales and northeastern Mindanao in connection with the frequent smuggling out of mineral ores for China and likewise to serve as landfill for its artificial islands. It has also consolidated its control over the national power grid and built cell towers of China Telecom inside AFP military camps in contradiction with EDCA even as China has not delivered on most of its promises of loans for infrastructure projects. But it would be even worse if it fulfilled these promises because the loans carry high interest and require overpriced Chinese contractors, labor and supplies.
In the meantime, the Philippines under the Duterte regime has isolated itself from nearly all other members of the ASEAN, especially Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia, in standing up against the aggressive claims and acts of China in their respective EEZs and extended continental shelves. The Duterte regime also runs counter to the position of the US that China must not claim ownership over the high seas, violate the freedom of navigation and take any aggressive action against the ASEAN states.
The position of the Trump regime on China’s unlawful claims over the whole of the South China Sea and on keeping free and open the Indo-Pacific maritime route is related to a whole framework of protectionist and punitive measures against China for using state planning and the still dominant state-owned enterprises (supposedly only 3 per cent of Chinese corporations but in fact in control of the most strategic 30 per cent of the Chinese economy) to achieve strategic economic and military goals. The US has vigorously accused China of using state power to manipulate its economic, trade and financial policies in violation of global market rules and stealing technology from the US and becoming the chief economic competitor and political rival of the US.
3. Dangers and Opportunities from the Inter-Imperialist Contradictions
From time to time, there are naval and air military shows of strength in the South China Sea by China and by the US independently or together with allies. Sometimes, there are expressions of fear by political analysts that war might break out. Frequently, the tyrant Duterte practically gives China the license to occupy the maritime features of the West Philippine Sea by gratuitously saying that he cannot do anything to stop China because he does not have the capability to wage war against China which would wipe out his troops in case of any armed conflict.
There is no immediate danger of direct all-out war breaking out between the US and China because the latter is obsessed with gaining more time for its “peaceful economic rise” and because each of these two imperialist powers has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other. There is a balance of terror between them, resulting in mutual deterrence. The two imperialist powers are still subject to certain decision-making processes domestically. And under current circumstances in the world, the people have the high potential to counter and defeat a government that is poised to launch a nuclear war and cause a catastrophe of global scope.
For some years to come, the crisis of the world capitalist system, including inter-imperialist rivalries, will worsen but the imperialist powers will avoid a direct war between any of them. As much as possible, they would rather shift the burden of crisis to the underdeveloped countries and launch wars of aggression against them or mire them in regional and local proxy wars. That has been the case for 75 years already since after the end of World II. The nuclear stalemate arose during the Cold War when the Soviet Union developed its own nuclear weapons and delivery system.
Major economists and international institutions, including the IMF, World Bank and OECD, have come to the conclusion that the global economy is now afflicted by a crisis far worse than the still unsolved Great Recession that began in 2008 and even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s that generated the inter-imperialist contradictions leading to World War II. COVID-19 has aggravated the crisis but the root cause is the ever worsening crisis of overproduction, the bankruptcy of the imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization and the sharpening struggle for a redivision of the world among the imperialist powers.
The inter-imperialist contradictions between the US and China and their respective alliances with other imperialist powers will escalate and will expose the weaknesses of both sides. At the same time, the anti-imperialist and democratic struggles of the proletariat and peoples of the world will intensify and generate the conditions favorable for the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution.
The strategic decline of the US will continue. Meanwhile, the efforts of the US to contain and cut down the economic and military rise of China will have adverse effects on both China and the US. The trade war between the two imperialist powers does not solve but aggravates the crisis of overproduction and sharpens the struggle for a redivision of the world among the imperialist powers. But for some more years to come, the imperialist powers can still find ways of cutting down each other through calibrated adversarial means, including covert cyber or biotech operations and regime-change strategies but short of a direct all-out conventional or nuclear war.
The inter-imperialist contradictions generate dangers and opportunities. Under current circumstances, the worst kind of danger for a country like the Philippines is to become a complete captive and pawn of any imperialist power, whether the US or China, or to become a confused victim of these two imperialist powers. But on the contrary, the Philippines under a patriotic leadership can take advantage of the opportunities generated by the inter-imperialist contradictions and avail of the ASEAN to counter the most outrageous impositions of any imperialist power.
With regard to problems posed by China’s claim of ownership of nearly all of the South China Sea, the ASEAN countries can agree with nearly all countries of the world that the right of free navigation in the high seas must be respected and be so exercised by countries critical of China’s expansionist ambitions as to help prevent China from violating said right and from crossing over from its own EEZ and ECS to take over those that belong to the Philippines and other ASEAN states.
In the face of the traitorous character of the Duterte regime, the Filipino people and their patriotic and progressive forces must do everything in their power to oust it as soon as possible and intensify the demand for China to respect the 2016 judgment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favor of the Philippines in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as encourage the other ASEAN countries to assert their own sovereign and maritime rights against the expansionist policy and actions of China and avail of the legal precedent set by the 2016 judgment of the Permanent Arbitration Court in favor of the Philippines. The ASEAN countries can take all possible legal and political initiatives to invoke said judgment as precedent and discourage China from violating their rights.
The Philippines and other ASEAN countries can present their respective complaints against China and demand compensation for damages before the appropriate agencies of the UN and file cases in the appropriate courts that can make the assets of China in certain countries answerable for Chinese obligations and liabilities. The point is to require China to withdraw from the artificial islands it has built, militarized and occupied in the West Philippine Sea and to pay for the damages that it has done to the marine environment in the same manner as the US was previously compelled to pay USD 2 million for the damage done to Tubbataha Reef by the US warship USS Guardian.
The Duterte regime has played up fear of China’s military might in making the Philippines desist from exploring and exploiting the hydrocarbon (oil and gas) resources in its own exclusive economic zone. And the traitor, coward and crook Duterte has even gone so far as to offer to China joint ownership of the resources under the guise of joint exploration and exploitation of said resources. He is in fact giving away to China full control of the technology, personnel, the accounting of costs and production and the siphoning of the resources to China.
The utter stupidity of the tyrant Duterte is best demonstrated by his obfuscation of the fact that the Philippines can get the best possible technology and the best possible terms from one of the three companies (Norway’s Equinor, previously known as Statoil) Royal Dutch Shell and the US Chevron) that are acknowledged as the best in undersea exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources. If for instance, the Philippines can get the best possible terms from the Norwegian oil company, China will not dare to make war on the investments of a company belonging to a NATO member-state.
The Duterte regime has utterly failed to assert the sovereign rights of the Philippines over its own exclusive economic zone. The marine resources there have an estimated value of USD 1.5 trillion and the oil and gas resources an estimated value of at least USD 26 trillion. These are more than enough to industrialize the underdeveloped Philippine economy, engage the revolutionary forces of the people in a just peace agreement, overcome imperialist dominance and bring about a higher quality of life for the Filipino people. Instead, the regime has bowed to the aggressive claims of China and has reduced the Philippines to begging for loans at the most onerous terms for infrastructure projects that are overpriced and undertaken by Chinese companies and their own Chinese employees.
Yet the Duterte regime has the temerity to occasionally claim that its subservience to China is veering away from the US and developing an independent foreign policy. There can be no bigger lie. The regime has a two-faced character. It has not done anything to cut down the all-round dominance of the US over the Philippines. It has backed out of its false threat to abrogate the VFA and it is still hell-bent on fulfilling Duterte’s 2017 promise to Trump to wipe out the revolutionary movement of the Filipino people and change the constitution to allow US and other foreign corporation to own up to 100 per cent of land, natural resources, public utilities and other business enterprises in the Philippines.
The Duterte regime cannot be trusted to act in the interest of the Philippines and the Filipino people. In fact, it is the fervent desire of the Filipino people to oust this traitorous, tyrannical, murderous and corrupt regime and obtain justice against its so many grievous crimes. The rights of the Filipino people can best be protected by a government that arises from the revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation against imperialist domination and the local exploiting classes of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. ###
This Q & A on the land problem, peasant class and agrarian revolution in the Philippines is a follow-up to the just-concluded three-part series of web forums on Philippine Society and Revolution at the National Democratic Online School (Mga Serye ni Tito Jo). In this article, Jose Maria Sison focuses on 17 points to further elaborate on the Special Course on the Peasant Movement.
Prof. Sison, who is founding chairman of Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth, founded in 1964), posted this Q & A article on his Facebook page on 5 July 2020. PRISM is posting the full text of the article with only minor format adjustments, not only as educational material for Filipinos, but also as reference material for other progressive mass activists and educators in various countries facing similar social conditions.Read more
This paper was presented by Prof. Jose Maria Sison to a webinar on the toxic character of US-Philippine relations as well China-Philippine relations, as well as the dangers and opportunities of inter-imperialist contradictions for the Philippine struggle for full national freedom. The webinar, entitled “Exposing Toxic Relationship: Signs Imperialist US is an Abusive Partner”, was conducted on 4 July 2020 and hosted by the national office and University of Santo Tomas chapter of the League of Filipino Students. The video version is available at this YouTube link.Read more
This Q & A is the second in a three-part series of web forums on Philippine Society and Revolution at the National Democratic Online School (Mga Serye with Tito Jo). In each web forum, Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS) answers the questions posed by Anghelo Godino of Anakbayan-Europa. This second Q & A, focusing on the basic problems of the Filipino people, was presented on FB Live on 21 June 2020. PRISM is posting the full texts of the said web forums, not only as educational material for Filipinos, but also as reference material for other progressive mass educators and researchers in various countries facing similar social conditions.Read more
First of series of three web forums on Philippine Society and Revolution at National Democratic Online School (Mga Serye with Tito Jo) Answers by Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS) to questions by Anghelo Godino of Anakbayan-Europa
June 14, 2020
1. Can you explain the meaning of “Mayaman ang Pilipinas pero Naghihirap ang Sambayanang Pilipino”? How is the Philippines a rich country?
JMS: The Philippines has rich natural resources. And we have a large population of 109 million, with a labor force of 45 million people, that can be a formidable productive force if mobilized for economic development for the benefit of the Filipino nation.
The Philippines has a tropical climate, with mountains of volcanic origin, forests despite heavy deforestation in the last 50 years and fertile soil, rivers and seas that can assure the people of more than sufficient food and raw materials for manufacturing. It has all the major mineral ores for industrializing the Philippines. It has iron, gold, copper, nickel, oil coal, manganese, chrome, zinc, bauxite and many others. It has huge oil and gas resources in the West Philippine Sea and vast methane gas hydrate deposits In the Bentham Rise in northeast Luzon.
Because of the rich natural resources of the the Philippines, the imperialist powers covet our country and constantly bribe the reactionary politicians to gain access to and control over these resources. We have the human resources to develop these for our own benefit. We have a nation with a high literacy level, skilled workers and peasants and a large corps of professionals in various fields. But unfortunately those who rule the country act in the interest of foreign corporations, the big compradors and landlords.
2. What is the basis of the class division in the Philippines? Does this still apply and relevant now?
JMS: There are four continuing criteria by which social classes are defined in the Philippines: ownership of the means of production, role in the organization of production, share in the distribution of the product and the political mode of thinking.
Ownership of the means of production is the main determinant of the basic exploiting classes. The big compradors own the banks and main trading facilities and import-dependent manufacturing, the landlords own the large tracts of land, the middle bourgeois own medium-type enterprises and the petty bourgeoisie own the small enterprises or small tracts of land that they themselves cultivate or operate with hired farm workers.
Those who do not own any means of production have to work for those who own them. The workers sell their labor power to the capitalists to earn their wages or means of subsistence and most of the peasants till the land and pay rent to the landlords. The various strata of the bourgeoisie either own enterprises or receive relatively high compensation for their professional or technical services in the bureaucracy or in business companies.
Ownership or nonownership of the means of production also determines one’s share in the distribution of the social product. The magnitude of one’s income or share can be large enough for a highly skilled worker to rank himself and live like the middle class. But more than 95 per cent of the workers get wages for bare subsistence.
It is possible for the urban petty bourgeois to shift his class position to that of the capitalist or landlord or to that of the workers on the basis of the political mode of thinking. So can a worker abandon his class by becoming a scab of the capitalist in strikes. Likewise can a peasant abandon his class by becoming an overseer of the landlord.
3. It is said that even in the pre-colonial period of the Philippines the slavery and feudal systems were already existing in their society, what is the difference between the pre-colonial and colonial feudal exploitation? Would it be better if we have not been colonized by the Spanish Empire?
JMS: The small-scale communal system without sharp class differences and the patriarchal type of slave system existed in the pre-colonial times. In the latter system, there were the aliping namamahay (house slaves) and aliping sagigilid (field slaves) for the landowning ruling families headed by the datus and rajahs. They inherited their slave status or lost their free status because of failure to pay debts, the commission of a crime or capture in inter-tribal wars. The feudal system was first established under the Islamic sultanates in Mindanao ahead of the coming of Spanish colonialism. The peasants paid rent to the landlords as well as tribute to religious leaders.
In pre-colonial Philippines, there were mostly small autonomous communities around bigger communities where the ruling families owned land and slaves. The wealthiest owned the joangas which were trading boats that could carry as many as 300 passengers. The less wealthy would own the caracoas that could carry 50 to 100 people. The most commonplace boats were the barangay that could carry 30 persons and the small boats for local fishing. The Islamic sultanates were the highest social formation, with wider agricultural fields and with bigger trading boats of the joanga and caracoa type.
Spain was the colonial power that was able to place the Philippines archipelago under a centralized system of administration, developed feudalism on a wide scale, spread Christianity and cultivated a few Spanish-speaking landlords in more than three centuries. By the law of contradiction, the centralized system of oppression and exploitation over most of the archipelago ultimately resulted in the unity of the people to struggle for national liberation and democracy against colonialism and feudalism.
If the Spanish colonialism did not come, most likely the Islamic feudal social system and religious faith would have prevailed in the Philippines just like in our neighboring countries in Southeast Asia. As historical materialists, we study and analyze the given historical facts and we consider it idle to imagine at length how the Philippines would have become if Spanish colonialism had not come. We have to trace how Spanish colonial domination ultimately led to the Philippine revolution of 1896.
4. Please discuss the motives of Spain in colonizing the Philippines.
JMS: Mercantile capitalism was the overriding economic motive of Spain in colonizing the Philippines. Merchants capitalized the colonial expeditions for the purpose of making profits. They were interested in gold and spices from the Philippines. And eventually the Manila-Acapulco trade developed and thereafter the export of commercial crops from the friar estates. Colonialism was a major method for primitive accumulation of capital in the history of capitalism.
But of course, there were other motives cited to ennoble and glorify colonialism like the desire of the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic church to “civilize” and Christianize the barbarians and pagans. Thus, the motives of Spanish colonialism have been described as God, gold and glory. Up to now, the modern imperialist powers embellish their capitalist operations and wars of aggression with claims to bringing enlightenment, democracy and progress to the peoples that they oppress and exploit.
5. What were the economic and political systems that the Spanish colonialists imposed and how did it become effective in colonizing the country further?
JMS: The Spanish colonialists developed in the main the feudal system through the encomienda system of land grants to the Spanish colonial bureaucrats and military officers, through the accumulation of land by religious orders and through letting the native landlords and merchant-usurers expand their own landholdings and displace the communal form of agriculture.
The Spanish colonialists developed their political system by having a centralized system of administration based in Intramuros, Manila with Spanish citizens being appointed the governor-general and the alcalde-mayor as the provincial administrator and an army of Spanish officers and native conscripts being deployed at key points of the archipelago. At the municipal level, there was the triumvirate of the Spanish curate, the Spanish alferez who was chief of the local civil guards and the native or mestizo governadocillo from the landlord class.
6. How is it possible that Filipinos accepted the Christianity as their religion and what is the effect of this? Besides religion, what kind of culture did the Spanish colonialists impose and how?
JMS: The Spanish priests were chaplains to the Spanish conquistador army. When the native population resisted the conquest, the Spanish soldiers delivered a crushing blow to the resisting community with cannons and sword. Then the Spanish priests would go forward to entice the natives to come out of their hiding places by assuring them of peace and safety.
But there were also many cases of non-resistance because the Spanish conquistadors with came with beads and other token gifts for the ruling family in a community. And the Spanish priests offered to give catechetical education to everyone, especially the mothers and children. The children of the landed families were educated in the Spanish language and religion in schools run by the friars.
Up to the middle of the 19th century, the highest profession a native could aspire for was the priesthood. Thereafter, natives were admitted to the University of Santo Tomas and other tertiary schools to take up courses in law, medicine, engineering and other high professions. Some children of well-to-do landed and merchant families went to Spain to study in the last two decades of the Spanish colonial rule. They included Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena and others who imbibed liberal democratic ideas and formed the Propaganda Movement, with La Solidaridad as their main publication.
7. Did Filipinos resist on the early colonial period?
JMS: Of course, most communities resisted the arrival of the Spanish colonialists. These came from afar, from the opposite side of the vast Pacific Ocean. They usually ran out of supplies and had to requisition from the natives. They could not have been so attractive and so welcome to the natives. They were prone to take things away without paying.
Lapulapu made short shrift of Magellan in the shallow waters of Mactan island. Some decades later in the 16th century, Legazpi came and was also resisted. But he was able to use the tactics of divide and rule more successfully than Magellan. He befriended certain Visayas communities and then recruited from them soldiers for further expeditions and conquest under Spanish officers in other parts of the archipelago.
Before a certain province could be created under an alcalde-mayor, the area was considered a corrigimiento a war zone subject to pacification by the Spanish and was placed under the rule of the corregidor. People in the lowlands along the sea and major rivers were relatively easier to conquer than the tribal communities on high ground, like the Igorots,Mangyans and Lumad. Thus, these upland tribal communities would resist Spanish colonialism and retain the indigenous culture. They have been estimated at 15 per cent of the Philippine population.
The Moro and Igorot tribes were the most outstanding in resisting Spanish colonialism up to its end and in launching counter-offensives. The Moros did not only defend themselves from Spanish offensives but also sailed out to do counteroffensives against colonial outposts as far as the sea coast of northwestern Philippines. The Igorots were successful at warding off attempts of the Spanish colonialism to access and open the gold mines, launched counterattacks, cooperated with Ilocanos who revolted against Spain and joined the Philippine revolutionary movement against Spain and the against US imperialism.
8. What was the goal of the 1896 Revolution? Do they already have a concrete ideology or theories during that time? What do you think their mistakes are so that we can prevent them from happening in waging armed revolution today?
JMS: The goal of the 1896 Revolution was to secure national independence and democracy by force of arms. The leaders of the Katipunan like Bonifacio studied the French revolution and received study materials from those in the Propaganda Movement. Their ideology was liberal democratic. Even if Bonifacio was a worker, he shared this ideology with the anti-colonial ilustrados, plebeians and peasants.
The Philippine revolution of 1896 was successful in defeating Spanish colonialism in 1898 despite the criminal acts of Aquinaldo in eliminating Bonifacio and then Antonio Luna. The fatal weaknesses of the Aquinaldo government would come out in the capitulation to Spain in the Pact of Biak na Bato and then under the pressure of the two-handed policy of US imperialism, one hand offering “benevolent assimilation”, which was sugarcoated with Jeffersonian expressions, and the other a ruthless mailed fist for destroying the revolutionary movement with the machinegun and water cure torture.
The bourgeois-liberal revolutionaries were not yet equipped with Marxism-Leninism to comprehend the nature and capabilites of modern imperialism. The current revolutionary movement has learned lessons not only from the old democratic revolution but also the earlier attempt of the old communist party to lead the struggle for national and social liberation from imperialism and feudalism from 1930 to the early 1950s.
As an individual, Aquinaldo had a weak subjectivist character. Soon after his capture by the US army, he issued a call for the surrender of the people. In contrast, the sublime paralytic Apolinario Mabini had a stronger patriotic character and will. Even in captivity, he prevailed over all pressures on him to bow to US imperialism. Learning a lesson from the capitulationist character of Aquinaldo, the current revolutionary movement is ever ready to reject any counterrevolutionary call of any leader in the hands of the enemy.
9. Is it true that Americans helped us win our revolution? If not, then what is their intention in intervening in the Filipino’s struggle for independence from Spain?
JMS: The US pretended to offer help to the Aguinaldo government in exile in Hongkong. It received money for three shipments of arms but delivered only one shipment. It brought back Aguinaldo and other leaders to Cavite on an American cutter. And he would be able to proclaim Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 “under the protection of the noble and mighty America”.
The Filipino revolutionary forces were able to rapidly strengthen themselves because of victories in battles and the transfer of Filipino colonial conscripts from the local civil guards and Spanish colonial army to the revolutionary side. Thus, they were able to defeat Spanish colonialism on a nationwide scale and occupy all strategic points to encircle Intramuros. But as US reinforcements came from outside the Philippines arrived, the US army pushed out the Filipino revolutionary forces from their advantageous positions in Manila and suburbs.
Finally, the US and Spain secretly agreed that the latter surrender Manila to the former in order to preempt the Filipino revolutionaries from seizing Intramuros. The agreement was in line with the peace negotiations in Paris for Spain to sell the Philippines to the US for the amount of 20 million USD. Thus, the ground was laid for US imperialism to claim victory over Spain and assert power over the Philippines. It led to the outbreak of the Filipino-American War on February 4, 1899 when the US began to attack the Filipino revolutionary forces.
The US had constantly the intention and plan to grab the Philippines for itself as a base for expanding economic territory in Asia, turning the Pacific Ocean into an “American lake” and getting a share of the big Chinese melon which was being divided among the imperialist powers. The US was a modern imperialist power engaged in the struggle for a redivision of the world in order to obtain colonies as sources of cheap raw materials, markets, field of investments and spheres of influence. That’s why it declared war on Spain, a decrepit colonial power, to grab Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines.
10. Why and how did the American imperialists retain feudalism in the Philippines? Did they introduce a new political and economical system? How was it able to retain its colonial rule over the Philippines?
JMS: US imperialism retained feudalism in the Philippines as the base for imposing monopoly capitalism on the entire economy and for acquiring a nationwide network of political puppets from the landlord class. From the symbiosis of feudalism and monopoly capitalism emerged the semifeudal economy and the comprador big bourgeoisie as the chief native ruling class arising from the landlord class.
To make the economy semi-feudal, the US colonial regime allowed the free movement of peasants from one area to another beyond the old feudal controls, expanded the plantations for export, opened the mines, improved the infrastructure for domestic and foreign trade and promoted the public school system but also the private schools run by religious orders to increase the number of professionals and clerks to serve the expanding businesses and bureaucracy,
The US was able to appease the local exploiting classes and retain its colonial rule by promising to grant independence after “educating and training” the Filipinos for self-rule. But in the meantime, it engaged in brainwashing the Filipinos to become “brown Americans”, further entrenching US economic interests, training politicians as agents of both US imperialism and the local exploiting classes and making them pass through stages of subordination to the US. But eventually US colonial rule in the Philippines would be shaken by the inter-imperialist war that led to Japan occupying the Philippines and by the growth of the revolutionary movement.
11. What was the Philippines’ involvement in the Second World War? How was the US imperialism able to come back to rule over the Philippines after the war?
JMS: The Commonwealth government was still a creature and puppet of US imperialism although the US conceded that it was a government in transition to the grant of independence in 1946. Thus, in facing up to the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines, the US and Commonwealth government of Quezon agreed to integrate Filipino troops and eventually pro-US Filipino guerrilla forces into the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).
The old communist party was able to build a strong armed revolutionary army mainly in Central Luzon and partly in the Southern Tagalog region during World War II and thereafter but failed to seed the whole country with revolutionary cadres. Due to the anti-fascist united front since 1936, the old CPP and Hukbalahap could have alliance with some USAFFE guerrilla units but maintained their independence and initiative. The two anti-Japan guerrilla forces avoided collision when they could not cooperate.
At any rate, the US was able to come back to rule the Philippines towards the end of World II by reconquering the Philippines from the Japanese imperial army through successful naval, air and ground operations and then granting nominal independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946 after making sure that the Philippines would remain a semi-colony by retaining its military bases and the property rights of US corporations and citizens. Thus, the US was able able to shift the Philippines from the colonial and semifeudal system before World War II to the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system after the war.
12. The Resistance of the communist party was first seen against the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines in 1942. However, many historians dismiss the involvement of HUKBALAHAP with PKP. Why do you think so?
JMS: The old Communist Party or to be more precise the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist Parties established and led the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap). This is an undeniable historical fact. All serious historians acknowledge this fact.
But of course the leadership of the old Communist Party under the Vicente Lava as general secretary made the Right opportunist error called “retreat for defense” which stunted the growth of the people’s party with the fragmentation of the squadrons or companies to small teams of 3 to 5 fighters. But the majority of cadres and members of the old CPP and the Red commanders and fighters of the Hukbalahap objected to the Right opportunist line and proceeded to fight with platoon-size and even company-size operations against the Japanese army in eastern and western provinces of Central Luzon.
When the retreat for defense policy line was rejected at the Bagumbali conference in September 1943, Vicente Lava pushed one more wrong line to welcome the return of the Commonwealth government, convert the people’s army into a legal veterans organization and end the revolutionary armed struggle. By then, the US military forces were already unleashing air and naval offensives in the Pacific and preparing for the landing of US troops in the Philippines in the following year of 1944.
13. Can the presence of HUKBALAHAP be expounded in regards of Defending the Philippines against Japanese Occupation, what can the present revolutionaries learn from them?
JMS: Despite the Right opportunist errors of the Vicente Lava leadership in the fight against the Japanese Occupation, the cadres and members of the old CPP , the Red commanders and fighters of the Hukbalahap and the revolutionary masses were able to grow in strength and liberated Central Luzon from the Japanese fascists. Following the examples of the Huk squadrons in the mountainous areas of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga and Tarlac, the Huk squadrons reemerged in the plains of Central Luzon on time for the offensive against the Japanese fascists.
The lessons to learn from the positive and negative experiences of the old CPP and the Hukbalahap in fighting the Japanese Occupation can be read and studied in the the rectification document of the CPP reestablished in 1968, “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party”. The teachings of Mao Zedong on people’s war helped a lot in the analysis of the experience of the CPP and the Hukbalahap.
14. Why did the US imperialists give the Philippines “independence”? How did they make sure they still have colonial control over the country even if they would no longer be directly in power?
JMS: Some high US officials at first expressed reluctance to fulfil the US promise of independence. But there was the strong demand for national independence by the entire Filipino people and there was the challenge posed by the armed revolutionary movement despite the Right opportunist tendency of the leadership of the old CPP. Although Manuel Roxas was made president by the US from being a recent pro-Japanese puppet, there was the Democratic Alliance and the Nacionalista Party demanding national independence.
The US made sure that they would continue to control the Philippines as a semi-colony under the Treaty of General Relations which guaranteed the continuance of the property rights of US corporations and citizens and the US military bases. The US felt confident about yielding national administration to the political representatives of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. In fact, they nullified the election of the six elected congressmen of the Democratic Alliance in 1946 in order to obtain the votes for making the Parity Amendment in the Constitution, which allowed US corporations and citizens to have rights equal to those of the Filipinos in exploiting natural resources and operating public utilities.
15. How did the Filipino people continue their resistance after the Philippines so-called independence?
JMS: As a result of the defeat of the Japanese Occupation, the old CPP, the Democratic Alliance, the Congress of Labor Organizations, the Civil Liberties Union and other patriotic and progressive organizations became strong in the Manila-Rizal region and waged outstanding legal struggles against the persistence of US domination and the reactionary policies of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.
The armed units of the Hukbalahap remained active because the US imperialists and the reactionary puppets created the civilian guards to take back the land from the peasants to the landlords and to kill cadres and members of the old CPP, Hukbalahap and the peasant association. The enemy launched an anti-communist campaign in both cities and countryside. Thus, the revolutionary forces and masses had to fight back with various forms of struggle.
Because of the attacks of the enemy, the old CPP under the Jose Lava leadership decided to wage armed struggle against the puppet regime and rename the people’s army Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB)or People’s Liberation Army in 1948. But the Jose Lava leadership adopted the “Left” opportunist or adventurist line to win victory within two years by banking on the outrage of the Filipino people over the corruption of the Quirino regime and on an unreliable alliance with the Laurel-led opposition and without paying attention to the needs of painstaking mass work, land reform, accumulation of armed strength and nationwide expansion of the revolutionary forces.
The forces of the HMB of only 2500 fighters were based mainly in camps on the Sierra Madre mountain range and secondarily in the western mountains of Central Luzon. They were able able to make dramatic attacks and seizures of major military camps in Central Luzon in 1949. But in a few months thereafter, the urban-based Politiburo-In of the Jose Lava leadership was rounded up in Manila and the crackdown began against the urban-based legal democratic forces. As leader of the rural-based Politburo-Out, Jesus Lava assumed the over-all leadership of the old CPP and the revolutionary movement and declared the continuance of the armed revolution in 1951.
But the “Left” opportunist line of Jose Lava was never criticized and rectified. The old CPP was afflicted by contradictions between the Lava faction and the Taruc faction. And the 30 enemy battalions which were newly-trained and armed by the US and the anti-communist pyswar campaign launched by the CIA worked effectively against the old CPP and HMB. Eventually, amidst the weakening of the armed revolution, Jesus Lava took the Right opportunist line of calling for the conversion of the HMB into organizational brigades and in effect for the liquidation of the HMB in 1955 and then adopted the “single file” policy in 1957 that resulted in the liquidation of the branches and other collective units of the old CPP.
16. Was Marcos significantly different from the previous presidents? What pushed him to declare Martial Law?
JMS: Marcos was significantly different from the previous presidents because he deliberately generated the conditions for him to impose a fascist dictatorship on the people at a time of relative stability after the backbone of the armed revolutionary movement was broken around 1952. There was some amount of social unrest emerging from the chronic crisis of the ruling system. But Marcos exaggerated it as social volcano about to erupt if not preempted by constitutional amendments.
The actual purpose of Marcos for amending the constitution was to make provisions that would allow him to stay in power beyond what was then the constitutional limit of two four-year terms and grab absolute power as fascist dictator in order to achieve absolute corruption. Marcos came from the rural bourgeoisie, born of a father from a rich peasant family and a mother from a small landlord family. He was envious of the wealth of the big compradors and landlords and wanted to join them and even surpass them through the exercise of political power and bureaucratic corruption.
His formula for rising to absolute power was to hire former Leftwing writers to ghostwrite nationalist speeches for him, ingratiate himself with the Lopez family to gain media support, take money from the big compradors and landlords, steal huge amounts of public money by taking large foreign loans for infrastructure projects and then overpricing them and then scapegoating the newly reestablished revolutionary forces in the late 1960s in order to call for charter change and for the use of the commander-in-chief and martial law provisions of what was the the existing constitution.
17. Was there any President that served the interest of the Filipino people? Would that be possible?
JMS: All presidents of the Commonwealth and the puppet republic have been demagogues. They posture as patriots and nationalists and as democrats and advocates of social justice. But if you take a hard look at them you can see that they are puppets of US imperialism and take their electoral campaign funds from foreign intelligence agencies and the big compradors and landlords. When they are in power, they enrich themselves in collaboration with their business cronies as their bag men. They come from modest dwellings but they ultimately retire in mansions.
In my lifetime, the only president I know who had a great deal of demagoguery but had some amount of patriotism was Carlos P. Garcia. He and his brother Cosme stole from Japanese reparations funds. But Garcia was a credible advocate of economic nationalism in favor of the national bourgeoisie. He adopted the “Filipino First” policy and favored Filipino capitalists to the extent that he alarmed the US which decided to back up Diosdado Macapagal to replace him and to adopt the decontrol policy and free enterprise in favor of US monopoly interests and to repudiate the “Filipino First” policy
If pressed publicly, all presidents agree to the need for social justice and even go so far as to launch a bogus land reform program or agree to raise wages and social benefits for workers. But they always find a way to avoid any significant and lasting change of the dire conditions of the workers and peasants. To this day all presidents of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system have sought and managed to keep the toiling masses of workers and peasants in this system of oppression and exploitation.###
This is Part 1 of a series of commentaries by PRISM editors and Art Belisario on the ongoing events and trends in the U.S. around the issue of racist violence by state forces and the people’s massive protest actions in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and socio-economic crisis.Read more
For Online Discussion on Lenin’s Legacy and Imperialism, sponsored by ILPS-Australia
By Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson Emeritus, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Dear Comrades and Friends,
By the time that Lenin wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in 1916, he had already made major contributions to the development of Marxism in the fields of philosophy, political economy and social science.
I wish therefore to present first how Lenin’s theory on modern imperialism is related to and interconnected with his previous and prospective works that would together comprise his entire revolutionary legacy. Then, I proceed to focus on this theory, its implications and consequences in the socialist revolution in Russia and in the entire world in the time of Lenin. Thereafter, I discuss the implications and consequences on a world scale since the time of Lenin.Read more
The following is the text of an initial interview conducted by the National Democratic Online School with Jose Maria Sison, Emeritus Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, on Marx’s popular pamphlet “Value, Price and Profit”. The interview was posted online and further discussed by Prof. Sison on 24 May 2020, as Episode 2 of the “Marx and Labour Serye [Series] with Tito Jo”. The Marx and Labour Series, organized by Anakbayan Europa, is conducted as an online event broadcast and recorded on Facebook Live. Click here to watch Episode 2.Read more
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