Fwd (Links): LESSONS AND PROSPECTS FOR THE PHILIPPINE LEFT (Part 2 of 2)

Alan Bradley abradley1 at bigpond.com
Thu Apr 11 07:52:22 MDT 2002


The people's power strategy

The series of people's power uprisings has not only posed the strategy
question for the left, but has also led to the further concretisation of the
character of the revolution in the country.

Before the Edsa uprisings, questions of strategy for the Philippine
revolution were often debated in the context of revolutionary models in
other countries. The most prominent was the protracted people's war strategy
(PPW), which is eternally affirmed by the Maoist CPP as the only road to
victory. Later on, the Vietnamese model and the Latin American revolutionary
experience (Nicaragua, El Salvador) led to the coinage of the so-called
politico-military strategy, which was seen by some as a more appropriate
strategy for the Philippines.

The successes, albeit limited, of people's power uprisings have helped
concretise the path to revolution in today's context. The impact of these
uprisings cannot be disregarded. Today, two generations have experienced the
liberating dynamics of two Edsa uprisings - the generation of 1986 and the
generation of 2001.

Compare this with the 32 years of the PPW strategy (a strategy of prolonged
and escalating guerrilla warfare that encircles the cities from the
countryside) by the CPP - with no victory in sight. This is also the case
with the so-called pol-mil strategy, which has led to the weakening and
eventual disbanding of most urban guerrilla groups organised around it.

While the PPW and pol-mil schemas have failed to deliver, people's power
uprisings have erupted leading to the overthrow of two unpopular regimes
over a period of 15 years. (The period of course is unimportant, since
uprisings can never be scheduled but are a result of the escalation of class
struggle to a higher or revolutionary level.) However, due to the
limitations and weaknesses of the Edsa risings, they have never reached
revolutionary proportions.

This means that the people's power strategy (PPS) lays the basis for
building a viable strategy for revolutionary change in the Philippines. The
SPP has referred to PPS previously as the mass struggle strategy, a strategy
of direct mobilisation of the masses, as opposed to the Maoist PPW strategy
or the confused politico-military strategy of a number of party formations.
(Or as opposed to the parliamentarist strategy, such as the "civil society
strategy" of social democratic and popular democratic groups.) People's
power uprisings have been discovered by the Filipino masses, through
concrete experience, as the most effective method of mass struggle.

How do we develop this people's power strategy towards a successful
revolutionary conclusion?

There are three major components of such a strategy. One is the mass
mobilisation itself, which is the most crucial factor. Next is the
establishment of people's power councils, which constitute the organs of
self-rule by the evolutionary masses. This will have to develop to the stage
of arming the masses through self-defence units, militias and ultimately a
people's army.

Third is the military component which takes the form of neutralisation of
the reactionary military institution. Neutralisation here ranges from
paralysing capacity of the army and the police to strike at the revolution
to splitting the military, with a wing of it going over to the insurrection,
i.e., the disintegration of the army.

This means that the character of the revolution is insurrectionary as
opposed to PPW or any other form of guerrilla warfare military strategy.
("Ah, the insurrectionists! Didn't we tell you so?", we can imagine the CPP
leaders commenting.)

Simply put, as Lenin patiently explained to his own party's central
committee, insurrection is the armed uprising of the advanced masses aimed
at the seizure of power:

"To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy [here Lenin
was differentiating Marxism from Blanquism]... but upon the advanced class.
That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge
of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that
turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of
the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations
of the ranks of the enemy ... are strongest. That is the third point."(1)

Most importantly for us today, Lenin also stressed that if the revolutionary
party "has not on its side the sympathy of the majority of the people, as
proved by objective facts", then insurrection is out of the question.

The people's power strategy envisions the spread of the revolutionary
conflagration to various corners of the country (a people's power uprising
that erupts into a revolution will never be confined to Edsa!). The people's
power council (or whatever name history may attach to it) organises and
consolidates the revolution by building the alternative institutions and
structures to the reactionary state (which will have to be smashed and
replaced by these institutions). The paralysis, mutiny or splitting of the
military ensures the final blow that clinches the victory of the
insurrection.

It is not the intent of this paper to elaborate on the components of the
people's power strategy. Suffice it to say that the overall strategy builds
on the concrete character and dynamics of class struggle as it has evolved
in the Philippines over the years. It should also be emphasised at once that
the people's power strategy is based on the existence of a revolutionary
socialist party that will organise and direct the development of the
strategy's various components. We shall return to this topic.

On coup d'etat and revolution

There are groups-mainly the revolutionary section of the Young Officers
Union (YOU), a nationalist formation within the military - that articulate a
strategy called "coup d'etat cum revolution" or "coup cum uprising". The
problem with this strategy is that coup d'etat and revolution are two
contradictory concepts. In the history of the Philippine struggle, coups
have been engineered by the military to counter the rise or to frustrate the
advance of the revolution.

A revolutionary period is characterised by a situation in which the ruling
class cannot rule in the old way and the masses do not want to be ruled in
the old way. The relationship is not only causal (i.e., one factor causes
the rise of the other factor), but the two factors should coexist in a
dialectical manner.

For instance, Edsa I was a situation in which a military rebellion was said
to have spurred the uprising. But prior to this, there was a series of
convulsions that were building up the revolutionary climate (massive
rallies, noise barrage, widespread riots). Both the uprising and the
military rebellion were in fact simmering even before the official Edsa I
period (February 20-25). The point, however, is that the military rebellion
showcased the deep split among the ruling class ("cannot rule in the old
way") and the uprising pointed to the masses not wanting to be chained to
the dictatorship any more ("would not want to be ruled in the old way").

Edsa II was similar. The regime had collapsed even before Estrada fled the
palace. Some called this the regime's "crisis of governance", but in precise
Marxist terms it was the paralysis of the state machinery, from the
executive and legislature to the military. Like Edsa I, the main dynamic
here was the continuously growing mobilisation at the Edsa shrine (preceded
by ubiquitous anti-Erap rallies that went on daily) and the march to
Mendiola on January 25 that led to Erap fleeing Malacanang palace.

On the other hand, a coup d'etat is a military solution staged from above by
the top brass or the military hierarchy and is purely conspiratorial. A
coup, in the Philippine experience, has always been part of the arsenal of
the ruling class to resolve a festering political crisis. If the aim of
people's power is a mere changing of guard or removing an unpopular and
unstable president, a coup d'etat suffices. This limited aim accounts for
the peaceful character of the upheaval. The question of arms will be posed
only should the aim of the uprising go beyond this, i.e., develop towards
insurrection - the smashing of the reactionary bourgeois state and its
replacement with a people's power government or a government of the
insurgent masses.

In a revolutionary situation, the insurgent masses themselves will demand
arms to implement sweeping and radical changes and to protect their gains in
the uprising (the main gain of course will be the proto-governmental bodies
they will set up in place of the collapsing bourgeois state structure).
Sections of the military joining the uprising will constitute detachments of
the revolutionary people's army that will have to be built among the
insurgent masses.

The people's power strategy is basically a revolutionary strategy. It means
revolution in the basic sense of direct action of the masses to overthrow
the existing order and build a new social system that solves their problems.
While the "military factor" looms in the equation, it should not becloud the
point that any military undertaking, or military struggle remains
subordinated to and merely a direct outcome of the revolution, i.e., part
and parcel of the mass struggle and the direct action of the masses.

The revolutionary and progressive forces

Leadership of the revolutionary forces in a people's power uprising is the
crucial factor in developing the struggle towards a revolutionary
conclusion. However, in the Philippines today, the revolutionary vanguard is
dispersed around a number of groups and party formations. Worse, the biggest
or most influential section of the revolutionary left - the CPP through its
open "national democratic" (natdem) organisations such as Bayan Muna, Bayan
and KMU - has adopted the line of "critical support" for the GMA regime.

On May 1, the CPP group - together with the social democratic (socdem)
forces mostly grouped around Kompil II (Congress of Filipino People; the
first Kompil was an alliance formed during the anti-Marcos struggle) and
also the party-list Akbayan (an electoral coalition composed mostly of the
"popdems" and the "demsocs" such as Bisig) - called for the defence of
Malacanang palace and the GMA regime from the assault of the Edsa III
forces. These groupings actually set up their own barricades at Mendiola to
defend the Malacanang perimeter. They later dismantled the barricades and
huddled inside a nearby church upon hearing that the pro-Erap forces
marching from Edsa were far bigger in number.

The call for the defence of Malacanang palace was purportedly to defend the
so-called gains of Edsa II. What they fail to grasp is the fact that the GMA
regime constitutes the main loss of Edsa II. On the other hand, the
undeniable gain of Edsa II (or the other Edsas) was the uprising itself, the
direct mobilisation of millions. The CPP's pathetic mobilisation on May 1 in
support of the GMA regime was merely a culmination of its opportunist line
that began even during the period of the anti-Erap struggles - a line of
uncritical support for GMA's ascension to power.

The main division within the ruling class today is between the pro-Erap camp
and the camp supporting GMA. Among the so-called civil society forces, those
supporting GMA include the CPP through open mass organisations like Bayan,
Bayan Muna, KMU, Gabriela, and others (although the CPP now claims to be
supporting the GMA regime "critically"). Their line is no different from, or
is an extension of, the socdem line that supports the liberal GMA regime in
order to advance its "social reform agenda".

Among the socdem groups, "critical collaboration" with the GMA regime is a
classic example of the utterly reformist and opportunist line of these
forces. They clearly lack a revolutionary perspective and have never been
part of the revolutionary socialist forces. Today, they allow themselves to
hold whatever posts the GMA regime provides them under its reactionary
dispensation (socdem leaders hold cabinet positions and top positions in the
state bureaucracy). Because of their conscious support and defence of the
GMA regime - now the main promoter of pro-imperialist, pro-ruling class and
anti-poor interests in the country - we cannot expect the socdem groups to
be part of any revolutionary united front.

Our task now is to build an independent political counter-pole against the
pro-Erap and the pro-Gloria forces. It means adopting a "Neither Erap nor
Gloria" line, and putting forward a genuinely pro-rnasses line. That was
what we did during the May 1 "assault" on Malacanang. We did notjoin the
natdems' and socdems' defence of the palace, nor did we support the "return
Erap" line of the Edsa III forces. We mobilised calling for a government of
the poor as the alternative to elite rule.

The backbone of this political counter-pole can only be built by the
revolutionary forces and groups themselves. The revolutionary groups can
ensure that the struggle will develop in a radical and revolutionary manner
and not in the reformist and useless manner that the socdems stand for.

And if there is a broader progressive front or alliance that should be built
today, it can be built only in the framework of exposing and isolating the
GMA regime, which is now the main pillar of support for imperialist and
ruling-class interests.

The political spectrum has clearly changed since Edsa II. Then the main
focus of mass struggle was the corrupt regime of Estrada, and all the groups
that banded together in the growing anti-Erap rallies would undeniably be
part of the progressive ranks. Today, when Erap has been deposed and the GMA
regime becomes the main focus of struggle, those who insist on "critically
supporting" the new regime are falling into the class-collaborationist and
reformist socdem trap of merely pushing for "social reforms" within the
rotten system. The "critical collaboration" line is clearly a line that
confuses, distorts and dilutes the character of the class struggle today. It
is our task to expose this line and all who uphold it.

The socdems have followed an openly class-collaborationist line by
membership in the capitalist cabinet. They have become the chief
implementers of the regime's neo-liberal capitalist program. (At least the
natdems, who have not taken cabinet positions or leading positions in the
bureaucracy, have not yet collapsed into this outright
class-collaborationist line. Even this early, we see the CPP grouping
increasingly taking an anti-GMA stance in its actions and pronouncements.)
Therefore, the soedems have ceased to be "progressives". Come Edsa IV, they
will be on the enemy's side of the social barricades, and it would take a
twisted political sense to classify them as still a part of the progressive
ranks.

It is also wrong to categorise the socdems who belong to the GMA
administration as part of "civil society". The term "civil society" has been
used to narrow or limit the role of the mass organisations to that of mere
"watchdogs" against the reactionary state. In an instant, this definition
negates the main role of mass organisations (which is self-organisation of
the masses independently of the capitalist class and its institutions) as
pillars of the independent mass movement that uncompromisingly fights for
the people's interests. This is clearly an insidious attempt to coopt the
mass movement and cripple it.

Moreover, we cannot regard even the main socdem leaders and their
organisations today as part of the abovementioned definition Of civil
society. They are not even "watchdogs", but more the lap dogs of the
reactionary state.

Our line of march

The main task of the revolutionary socialist forces in the Philippines today
is to build the leadership that will direct the next upsurge towards a
revolutionary conclusion. This means regrouping the scattered social
vanguard or politically conscious forces under a single revolutionary Party
formation.

Efforts are under way to push for the merger of major revolutionary
socialist party formations. The SPP takes the initiative in opening merger
discussions with some revolutionary socialist groups because we believe that
the vanguard's dispersal has become untenable when the prospect of another
upsurge looms on the near horizon. In this situation, to split and form more
party or pre-party formations would be retrogression and might even spell
the collapse of the revolutionary socialist movement (either a collapse to
the right or a physical collapse and disintegration).

The political situation demands that the revolutionary vanguard regroup and
reunite its ranks by dropping all sectarian posturing.

In the political field, the task of the revolutionary and socialist forces
today is to build a counter-pole to the pro-Erap and pro-Gloria forces. It
can be advanced through the formation of a united front of revolutionary
groups (what we call the revolutionary united front or RUF). In the broader
sense, this RUF can include even non-socialist groups that uphold the
revolutionary perspective, i.e., the overthrow of the present regime and the
establishment of a revolutionary-democratic government.

On this basis we should open talks even with groups like the YOU and the
PMAP (the urban poor base of the so-called pro-Erap forces) to probe the
possibility of uniting around a political line that espouses the overthrow
of the reactionary GMA regime and the establishment of a government of the
poor (or a revolutionary-democratic government).

The revolutionary united front can unite around a political platform that
highlights basic and transitional demands that can be undertaken by a
revolutionary government of the poor - demands such as jobs and a living
wage for all, free land to the tillers, socialised housing for the poor,
free education and free health care for all.

Meeting these demands will require actions that go beyond bourgeois rule,
such as the nationalisation of the main financial institutions; the
expropriation and confiscation of assets of drug lords, gambling lords and
cronies (including the assets of the Marcoses); massive land redistribution;
and repudiation of the debt to imperialist institutions. This points to the
need for a democratic revolution based on the state power of the workers,
urban poor, rural poor and petty bourgeoisie.

In advancing the campaign around these demands, we should continue the
agenda for a genuine alternative to the current regime - a genuine
government of the poor, a people's power government, a
revolutionary-democratic government.

In other words, the line of march of the revolutionary and socialist forces
in the Philippines today is towards their regroupment around a single party
formation, the establishment of a broad revolutionary united front, and the
widespread mobilisation of the masses against the pro-imperialist and
pro-elite character of the GMA regime.

It means the persistent and unceasing exposure and isolation of this regime
in order to mobilise the masses for the next edition of people's power
uprising - this time an uprising that completes its job and leads to a
revolutionary conclusion. It also means exposing and isolating from the
masses all those who maintain a policy of critical support and collaboration
with this regime.

Notes.

1. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, Progress Publishers, Moscow. 1972,
pp. 22-3.



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