Open Letter to Marco Valbuena and the Communist Party of the Philippines

By the Editorial Board

The following is the second open letter regarding the Communist Party of the Philippines, after their press officer Marco Valbuena responded to our editorial posted last Friday. Tribune of the People reiterates its support for the armed struggle in the Philippines. We issue the following response with a sense of duty to the correct political line, we feel that no organization, however organically advanced is beyond just criticism.

We remarked that the CPP is “Mao Zedong Thought-influenced,” and we hold this to be the correct assessment of their ideological line, due to their own vacillating use of Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism interchangeably. We hold that these terms are not interchangeable and oppose their claims that there is no difference between ‘Thought’ and ‘-ism.’ Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, with the contributions of universal validity of Chairman Gonzalo represents the third and highest stage of Marxism, and is all powerful because it is true. While we maintain major ideological differences, we remain focused on the matter at hand, the right opportunist tailing of the US electoral farce which props up revisionism internationally, legitimizes the illegitimate elections, and peddles fear of “fascism” to promote tailing the reactionary demoliberal bourgeoisie.

Setting aside the typical and meaningless charges of “ultra-leftism,” which all who tremble before the ‘legitimacy’ of bourgeois elections hurl at those who do not, Tribune must engage with Comrade Marco Valbuena’s other claims.

Comrade Valbuena, speaking for the CPP, writes in his first point, “The TOP article denounces the CPP as ‘revisionist’ for recognizing the results of the recent US elections as an expression of the American people’s repudiation of the Trump regime.”

It is important to start with the fact that Tribune of the People did not and does not declare the Communist Party of the Philippines to be revisionists. We pointed to their revisionist international policy and collaboration with revisionism across the world. This aspect of the organization does not constitute its main aspect, which as we have stated, is waging a correct and just armed struggle against the reactionary Old State and foreign imperialism in the Philippines. Such distractions should not be entertained by anyone who is capable of honest reading.

Comrade Valbuena continues: “The TOP dismisses the fact that the electoral defeat of Trump, who represents the ultra-Right section of the US ruling classes, is an important victory for the American people, as it boosts the people’s struggle against Trump’s anti-people programs. It does not appreciate the Trump defeat in the US elections as a byproduct of the widespread mass protest movement of Blacks, workers, women, immigrants and other sectors who have mobilized in large numbers over the past few months.”

Comrade Valbuena is still, perhaps by being removed so far from the situation of the people in the US, under the illusion that the bourgeois electoral farce, which sees the highest disapproval rating and the lowest voter participation of any industrialized first-world country, is indicative of the will of the masses. Donald Trump’s defeat is no more indicative of the masses’ sentiments any more than the over 70 million people who voted for him is proof that the masses are themselves reactionary. Comrade Valbuena should remember that elections are not simply a matter of popular votes but of imperialist backing. It is no coincidence that the dominant imperialist military interests, the arms manufacturers, and the majority of the military industrial complex backed Joe Biden—is this too the will of the American masses to stop Donald Trump? We conclude that it is not. In fact, the most reactionary sections of the US ruling class favor a more tempered persona in office. Aside from this, Comrade Valbuena is concealing the fact that the imperialist Joe Biden trafficked in the misery of the masses for opportunist purposes, he does not and cannot represent the masses in this country. It is common that the Democratic Party diverts mass struggles into electoral dead ends as their preferred method of counterinsurgency. What is clear, is that while Biden paid some lip-service to Black lives, he ran on a “law and order” ticket, both he and his running mate have a long track record of crimes against Black people. 

Such a result as the electoral farce cannot be considered a blow against Trump’s policies, when invariably the policies of the Democratic Party are based on war, mass incarceration, mass deportation, and all the other things the people rightly hate Trump for. The movements against Trump must now be directed against Biden, lest the Democrat counterinsurgency strategy prevails again—this is something all revolutionaries must grasp without delay. The obfuscations of the CPP only confuse things in desperate tailism which amounts to liberal pandering.

“In denouncing the CPP, the TOP actually heaps contempt on the American people for participating in the elections, which the Tribune called for a boycott of,” said Comrade Valbuena. “They expose their ‘Left’ infantilism when they demand that revolutionary forces must have nothing to do with the reactionary elections, other than to condemn it, even if the politically middle section of the people are not yet sufficiently roused to undertake more revolutionary forms of action.”

Tribune of the People does not “heap contempt” on voters who have yet to recognize the elections as a farce. We simply insist that these minorities do not represent the will of the majority, a fact highlighted in the 2016 elections where more eligible voters refused to vote than the total of those who voted for either imperialist candidate. Still, instead of examining the implications of these facts and the reason that Tribune asserts them, Comrade Valbuena unpacks unsubstantiated slurs, allegations of “ultra-leftism” and “Trotskyism.” This is a simple stand-in for constructing an argument, the cheap currency of the politically impoverished international line of the CPP, which tails behind the bourgeois electoral farce.

Tribune of the People does not assert that “revolutionary forces have nothing to do with the reactionary elections.” To have nothing to do with them, one would need to do nothing, say nothing, and examine nothing. On the contrary, Tribune promotes active boycott, not passive abstinence. Boycott is the opposite of having nothing to do with something—it is active struggle against something, a boycott is not simply to “condemn” the electoral farce, it is to educate, mobilize, and organize. Hence, the bourgeois elections offer revolutionaries a great opportunity to expose the bourgeois electoral farce through organized opposition in the form of a boycott and, where possible, to impede them. The CPP encourages ignoring the majority who do not vote, those composing the deepest and broadest masses, the young, the poor, oppressed minorities etc. (when taken together these form a majority among those eligible to vote) in favor of pleasing the a more affluent minority of the population. Bourgeois elections are alienating to the masses, not the election boycott. Only a fraction of the population voted for Biden, even if it was just to vote against Trump. The CPP remains sadly, and willfully ignorant on the question of “to which masses do we go?”

Comrade Valbuena goes on to quote Vladimir Lenin’s “Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder,” when he says, “when legal and illegal, parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms of struggle are combined, it is sometimes useful and even essential to reject parliamentary forms. It would, however, be highly erroneous to apply this experience blindly, imitatively and uncritically to other conditions and other situations.”

Tribune unites with the Great Lenin that it is “sometimes useful to reject the parliamentary forms.” There is nothing in Lenin which compels revolutionaries to prize the victory of one imperialist over another in a miserable system that offers no alternative. To do so is to play into the imperialists’ agenda of legitimizing their electoral farce. This is a tactical question of supporting or opposing, and in the given conditions, it is clear—oppose imperialism, fight for revolution. The aging and increasingly reactionary bourgeois democracy of the US today is scarcely comparable to the nascent bourgeois democracy to which Lenin was referring to. Furthermore, had Comrade Valbuena bothered to read Tribune of the People, he would find dozens of articles and editorials which highlight that the support for the election boycott is based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, it is not applied blindly, imitatively, or uncritically. On the contrary it is the CPP which is applying support for the US bourgeois elections blindly, imitatively, and uncritically by regurgitating nonsense and providing zero analysis of who votes and who does not in the US. Valbuena is not defending the great Lenin, he is simply using a tired, and dogmatic, uninspiring reading for his own opportunist purposes.

Lenin’s excellent and correct work “Left Wing Communism an Infantile Disorder” was not a defense of parliamentarianism, he was speaking about Communist Parties who were capable of making headway among the people by participating in elections themselves, by running their own candidates, he was not calling for Communists to vote for or support one imperialist or another, in fact, it was the great Lenin who condemned such activity as social-chauvinism in the struggle against the Second International. Comrade Valbuena uses a dogmatic reading of Lenin to make a new return to social democracy, it has nothing to do with Leninism. In his subjectivist and opportunist way, he completely ignores when there is appropriate conditions to mobilize the people in active boycott of bourgeois elections, which Lenin defended, led, and participated in.

Comrade Valbuena continues, “Because of its infantilism, the TOP fails to grasp that for the revolutionary proletariat to lead the working class and oppressed people, it will take more than exposing the class nature of elections and asserting the truism that the elections are reactionary contests which leave people with no choice, i.e. that Trump and Biden both represent the same class of monopoly capitalists.”

Contrary to the claims of Comrade Valbuena, Tribune of the People has not posed election boycotts as the sole means to establishing proletarian leadership in the US, but situated the boycott as one of many tactics to, as he says, “accomplish the task of winning over the broad masses in their millions, and of educating and raising the political and class consciousness of the workers…” This includes highlighting the fact that the majority of the proletariat are not voters to begin with, by turning a passive abstention into an active boycott and reaching those who are still deceived to vote for one imperialist over another by pointing out the failure, and not proclaiming success, of bourgeois elections. It is evident that a growing number of non-voters have decided to cease voting after having been conned by those they voted for, the boycott resonates with these people as well.

Tribune of the People has highlighted the tendency to vote against Trump and has acknowledged that more voters used this reason to support Biden than would have supported him otherwise—it is imperative to point out that this is no cure for the reactionary trajectory of US imperialist bourgeois democracy. It is the duty of revolutionaries to correct mistaken ideas, not to engage in subjective positivism and tail them. The boycott could only be accused of “speaking over the masses heads,” as Comrade Valbuena does, if one’s head is planted firmly in the sand, and one continues to ignore the low enthusiasm and low participation in bourgeois elections in the US. By ignoring the basic facts and conditions in the US, the CPP promotes an arrogant and stupid line of tailing the middle elements, and worse, justifying this policy to side with one imperialist against another which only serves to legitimize the bourgeois democratic (reactionary liberal) state.

In his second point, Comrade Valbuena goes on: “The TOP article declared its task the ‘deconstruction’ of the CPP’s statement, but misrepresented it by claiming in the title that the CPP ‘celebrated’ Biden’s victory. Celebrating the defeat of Trump is one thing. It is not equal to celebrating Biden’s victory. In fact, the CPP statement suggests that Biden’s electoral victory is more an outcome of the American people’s protests against Trump; and puts to task the incoming Biden government to respond to the demands of the American people.”

It is impossible, no matter what fantasies are promoted by Comrade Valbuena and the CPP, to celebrate Trump’s electoral defeat without celebrating Biden’s electoral victory since one is directly the consequence of the other. Marxists cannot look only at one part of a thing; to do so is subjectivism and, in this case, opportunism.

The CPP is precisely celebrating Biden’s victory by putting faith in his coming administration to be more responsive to the people’s demands, in their words “puts to task the incoming Biden government to respond to the demands of the American people.” The task for revolutionaries has not changed with the administration: combat and resist US imperialism by engaging in the people’s struggles and providing the necessary organic forms to bring these spontaneous struggles to new, revolutionary levels. What is clear, US bourgeois democracy is becoming more, not less, reactionary—this is plain to see when studying recent history, regardless of who sat in the Oval Office.

In his third point, Comrade Valbuena writes: “The TOP misrepresented the CPP by claiming it called Duterte as the ‘first socialist president’ of the Philippines. It also denigrated the CPP by claiming that that is ‘eager to conclude’ the armed struggle using peace talks as ‘tactic.'”

In regard to Duterte, anyone with a memory can recall the undue optimism the CPP expressed regarding his presidency as the “peace talks” approached. This pandering sums up the CPP’s interpretation of the mass line, as expressed by Comrade Valbuena. This hardly requires more elaboration from Tribune, but we do encourage our readers to closely study the document First Critical Remarks about the role of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the International Communist Movement for a good understanding.

Comrade Valbuena alleges that Tribune wants to place the CPP in a “purely military situation,” by not engaging in parliamentary struggle. In his imagination, this would be the case if they were to not legitimize bourgeois elections. In reality, we assert only the Maoist truth derived from the great military theorist Clausewitz: war is politics by other means. We seek no artificial distinction which limits political struggle to what can exist within the bourgeois reactionary state.

Comrade Valbueno finishes off by stating: ‘The TOP’s ‘Maoism’ is a masquerade to attack Maoism. In its website, the TOP professes to be Gonzaloites or followers of ‘Chairman Gonzalo’ (the incarcerated leader of the Communist Party of Peru). It derides the CPP as ‘Mao Zedong Thought-influenced’ and denounces the Party’s foreign policy as ‘revisionist.’ The TOP’s editorial was not a cordial criticism from one Maoist to another Maoist but was an open denunciation of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist line of the CPP.”

As for Tribune’s lack of “cordial criticism,” we are guilty as charged. We have a political commitment to not be cordial with serious rightist deviations which affect the course of proletarian struggles in our country, stupefy Maoism, and prop up revisionism. While not being cordial, Tribune has never withdrawn its support for the armed struggle in the Philippines, even if these comrades remain fixated on a “Maoism” of the past. The CPP is free to be cordial if it likes, but we would prefer direct and unsweetened Marxist criticism as the basis for exchange.

Tribune of the People seeks to make its ideological and international view clear by affirming that:

“Chairman Gonzalo, the greatest man of the present time, head of the party and the Revolution. The Peruvian people, in glorious years of combat and victories, march uncontrollably to the conquest of power throughout the country. People’s Committees have been opened, expression of the new power, developing the war of movements. Chairman Gonzalo directs all our work, all our struggle. You ask yourself, who is Chairman Gonzalo? He is the new leader of the heroic deeds, teacher of teachers, great among the greats, he is the eagle of our Party. Look at him in these years of the triumphant revolution, look at him how he forms communists in his image and likeness, how he forms iron legions ready to overcome all storms. How the new power is built brick by brick. The rebellion is justified. What do we have? Nothing. What do we want? Everything. We want a new, communist society. No rich or poor. A society of eternal harmony. Chairman Gonzalo guarantees it. Hoisting, Defending and Applying Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzalo Thought. The people’s war in Peru lights bright hopes. Incarnate Gonzalo Thought! ”

This statement from the Communist Party of Peru has implications far beyond Peru, all of the above is completely true, and in synthesis, Chairman Gonzalo is our Chairman as well, and the leader of all genuine Maoists.

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