Reform Does Not Bring Peace: Support for Armed Struggle in the Philippines

By the Editorial Board

Tribune of the People has issued three articles pertaining to rightism promoted by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with regard to their position on the US elections and the ‘peace talks’ in the Philippines. The purpose of these articles is to defend Maoism, the center of which is the question of power. Our support for the armed struggle in the Philippines requires further elaboration.

The old reactionary and decrepit state in the Philippines has escalated its attempts to smash the resistance of the Filipino people, and simultaneously right opportunism uses every available means to promote talks for ‘peace’ without talking so much about the seizure and maintenance of power. This is a dangerous situation—revolutionaries must defend the armed struggle by approaching the issue of repression and capitulation theoretically.

On December 11, the CPP exposed that the Duterte administration is using blackmail against sections of the Old State to declare the Party and its supporters “persona non grata” by using threats of budget cuts to force its own armed organizations to comply. This shows the panic and decrepitude of the Old State in a striking way—it must resort to such extremes out of desperation, revealing the fact that its fighters are mere mercenaries.

Duterte, for his part, is correct to be so desperate and afraid. The Filipino people see this land-selling fascist for what he is, a tyrant who seeks to consolidate power around himself and pimp his country out to two imperialist powers at once—mainly US imperialism, which is the world’s sole hegemonic imperialist superpower, as well as Chinese social-imperialism. Duterte is afraid that when his time in office is complete, he may face charges for his numerous crimes against the people and transparent corruption in office. Thus, he is the bulwark behind such blackmail.

History has proven that his replacements will continue their land-selling just as his predecessors have. The solution to this vicious cycle of national oppression from imperialism can only be new democratic revolution—that is, the seizure of power through anti-imperialist armed struggle. Nothing short of this can free the Filipino people.

One of the largest mass mobilizations since the start of the pandemic took place on December 10, when thousands marched against the reactionary policies of Duterte in spite of pouring rain and police repression. The Filipino people display the courageous defiance to struggle against all odds. The same day, the Old State showed its desperation by arresting five union organizers and a journalist on false charges of possession of weapons and explosives without any sustaining evidence.

The above are just examples to highlight the needs of the people and their potential when mobilized to follow Lenin’s teachings of seizing power by smashing the Old State completely and not seeking new representatives of imperialism which leave the Old State intact through a changing of the guard. Right opportunism, however, seeks to evade this fundamental revolutionary law.

In a recent comment from the founder of the CPP, former chairman of the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) and longtime consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) Jose Maria Sison, this right opportunism is on full display. He comments: “For the Filipino people to be able to hope for a just peace through social, economic and political reforms, they must unite to fight the Duterte gangster clique and oust it from power. They have no alternative but to wage all forms of struggle so long as the tyrannical, traitorous, mass murdering, plundering and swindling Duterte regime persists.”

A regime change, in and of itself, is not a change in class rule. It is a swindle to treat the matter as if such a change would fulfill the “hopes” for “just peace through social, economic and political reforms” due to the fact that a just peace cannot exist under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie anywhere for the peasants and proletarians—peace cannot be brought about by reforms of the Old State. Sison promotes false hope to the people. He traffics in their struggles and flirts with what is actually impossible. He is neither honest nor upright. The fact is this: the people have no choice but to pursue the armed struggle regardless of which representatives of the big bourgeoisie are in office so long as the dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie remains in place.

Reform does not bring peace—this is a fact long established by Marxism. Revolutionaries accept reforms as conquests of revolutionary struggle on the path of seizing power. It is power that is fundamental. By promoting the above, Sison should be understood as a proponent of armed reformism and not armed revolution.

Chairman Mao expressed that revolution is a violent act, an armed insurrection, the overthrowing of one class by another—the “just peace” of “social, economic and political reforms” that Sison endorses is capitulation in disguise. It can be understood only as peace for the ruling class to oppress and exploit the workers, peasants, and petty bourgeoisie of the Philippines. There is neither justice nor peace in this formulation. Sison dangles the carrot of false peace to court the bourgeoisie against one of their own, and this can only ever come at the expense of the exploited and oppressed.

Sison would treat the land-selling, the abuses of the people, etc. as if they were simply manifestations of Duterte’s rotten personality and not an inevitable and unavoidable fact of imperialist oppression, and hence sells them as something that could be changed through an ousting of Duterte. It is certain even he does not believe his own sermons.

The “tactical peace talks” are a policy which the CPP has maintained for quite some time, and they are the fruit of rightism which does a disservice to the armed struggle, which alone can destroy the repression of the Old State through its complete overthrow.

Sison is not incorrect to speak of the fact that Duterte’s refusal of peace talks is evidence of his reactionary character, but this is not a unique characteristic of Duterte. At the same time, his former eagerness and willingness toward ‘peace talks’ were no evidence of any progressive potential—on the contrary, as these types of talks prove time and time again, quite the opposite—they are evidence of the deeply reactionary character of the Old State as well. Rightism and the Old State have something in common: both want to use bait-and-switch reforms to promise an end to armed struggle, all predicated on the false idea that peace can ever be accomplished without proletarian rule.

The Communist Party of Peru provided a leftist understanding of this theoretical issue: “the masses must be educated in the People’s War, in its theory and practice. Thus, educating them in the peace of bayonets is to allow them to be slaughtered. The masses should no longer shed their blood with impunity only to be betrayed by their false leaders, for capitulation—rather this precious blood should serve the conquest of Power for the class and the people.”

This has become clear: Sison and other right opportunists like Marco Valbuena are educating the masses in the peace of bayonets and carefully avoiding the question of power.

Right opportunism speaks of economic and political demands, but these are only one side of the coin. On the other side, what is principal is the struggle for power. Chairman Gonzalo teaches us that “to talk only about the struggle for economic and political demands is revisionism.”

Support for the armed struggle in the Philippines can only mean support for the political and economic struggles of the people, and most importantly, the struggle for power. This can only be realized by the violent overthrow of one class by another, the overthrow of the big bourgeoisie by the oppressed classes, led by the proletariat to establish proletarian rule and the New State, completing the new democratic revolution and continuing without pause into socialist revolution.

Revolutionaries must necessarily condemn talks of false peace by any swindler no matter their credentials. Such talks not only obscure what is fundamental in Maoism—power—they also promote the idea that peace can be achieved through mere economic and political reform, and this is revisionism.