The Philippines: The Philippine Communist Party (PKP) To Celebrate 75th Year

11-05-05, 9:16 am


The PARTIDO KOMUNISTA NG PILIPINAS (PKP-1930, or Philippine Communist Party) will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its public proclamation on November 7, 2005, which will coincide with the 88th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

Rooted on the interlocking concepts of patriotism and proletarian internationalism, the PKP has two (2) dates of its inception. It was organized as a party by a convention held on August 26, 1930, the 34th anniversary of the beginning of the national revolutionary armed struggle against Spanish colonialism (the 1896 Revolution which was led by national hero Andres Bonifacio). The founding convention was held at the Templo del Trabajo ('temple of labor') in the working class district of Tondo in Manila, with 60 delegates who were leaders of labor federations, trade unions and peasant associations affiliated to the Katipunan ng mga Anak-Pawis ng Pilipinas (KAP, or the Proletarian Labor Congress of the Philippines).

The PKP was formally launched at a public rally on November 7, 1930, the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia which ushered in the epoch of world socialist revolution. Held at the Plaza Moriones in the center of Tondo, Manila, the open-air public launching of the PKP was attended by almost 6,000 workers and peasants, with almost half of them turning in membership applications on that occasion after the party constitution was explained.

The founding General Secretary of the PKP was Crisanto A. Evangelista, the long-time leader of the federation of workers in the printing and graphical industry. He and other founding leaders decided to form the PKP due to the need for a party of the workers and peasants to lead the anti-imperialist struggle for national independence, which struggle had been betrayed by the Filipino bourgeois parties which collaborated with the US imperialist occupiers. The PKP founders were however aware that the struggle for national liberation was only one aspect of the role of the party, and was only one phase of the broad class struggle with the objective of achieving economic and social emancipation --- of national democracy and eventually socialism --- for the Filipino people.

Significantly, the PKP came into being in 1930, the year of the severe crisis of the capitalist system, and signaled the determination of the Filipino working people to struggle for the attainment of a better social system --- socialism --- that would be free of the anarchy and crises of capitalism. Significantly too, the PKP grew wholly out of the working classes, and was set up by working class leaders. The PKP was built on a worker-peasant alliance that had already been created and had been functioning for a decade, an alliance that had become aware of the international significance of the Great October Socialist Revolution. A few of the founding leaders of the PKP have earlier attended meetings in China and in Soviet Russia of the PROFINTERN (the Red International of Labor Unions) and of the KRESTINTERN (the Peasants' International), to which progressive Filipino federations of trade unions and peasant associations have affiliated by the late 1920s.

From its founding, the PKP embodied the unity and intertwining of the concepts of patriotism and proletarian internationalism. The Filipino workers and peasants who organized the PKP believed in patriotism as a force that would help mobilize the Filipino people in a unified struggle for national liberation from US imperialist occupation and domination, and they believed in proletarian internationalism as the force that united the working class of all countries in the common struggle against imperialism and the capitalist ruling classes, for class liberation through the establishment of scientific socialism. The founding of the PKP was the first real political challenge to US colonial rule, the first organized movement for independence since the US invasion which saw the bloody suppression of the 1898 Philippine Republic and the annihilation of at least 600,000 Filipinos in the US war of colonization of 1898-1902.

The propaganda offensive by the newly-formed PKP, which saw almost daily public meetings in Manila and surrounding provinces from November 1930 to February 1931, alarmed the US colonial authorities, the Filipino bourgeois and landlord groupings, and the reactionary Catholic church hierarchy. Repressive steps were quickly initiated by the US colonial government, and the attempt by the PKP to bring its program to the people as a legal organization in wholly legal ways was stopped by the US colonial government which aimed at illegalizing the PKP. Starting in January 1931, city and town mayors began arresting PKP leaders for sedition. The most serious of the early acts of repression came on May 30, 1931, when secret service agents led by an American officer raided the building where the PKP's First Congress was being held. The raiders were able to arrest 317 of the 400 delegates, and many of those arrested were jailed and/or exiled for 'illegal association'. Despite the illegal status to which it was driven, the underground organs of the PKP continued to lead the militant activity of mass organizations (trade unions, peasant associations, organizations of tenants, leagues of the unemployed, etc.), whose struggles were always linked with demands for immediate and complete national independence. Campaigns for the release of the PKP political prisoners were launched, which were highlighted by solidarity campaigns launched in the USA by the Communist Party USA and its mass organizations. Despite illegality, the PKP was also able to send delegates to the 7th World Congress of the Communist International (COMINTERN) in Moscow in 1935.

The central call of the 7th World Congress of the COMINTERN was for the building of a worldwide anti-fascist united front. Its practical translation in the Philippines was the PKP's readiness to find common ground not only with the reformist sections of the working class and the middle class, but also to work in cooperation with bourgeois sectors (with which it had been in confrontation) which display a tendency to oppose fascism. The struggle against fascism was viewed as a powerful force to extend democracy, to organize masses around progressive aims, and to strengthen the working class movement.

This same period saw the 'New Deal' reform program in the USA, which found reflection in the 'Social Justice' program of the Philippine Commonwealth government organized in 1935 and headed by Manuel Quezon, who came to recognize that the basic demands of the people must be heeded in the overall national interest. A number of the demands of the PKP and its mass organizations --- the setting of a minimum wage, an 8-hour work day, a fixed sharing of rice produced by farm tenants, expropriation of friar lands, women's right to vote, free and compulsory primary education, expansion of public higher education, the development of an official national language instead of English --- were formally won during this period, and opened the way for new struggles for the realization and broadening of the gains made. In response to numerous petitions, President Quezon granted paroles and conditional pardons to several batches of imprisoned and exiled PKP leaders in 1937, as steps to strengthen the people's unity against the impending fascist threat.

With the release of its founding leaders, the PKP launched new organizations and movements on broad anti-fascist themes. The organization, Friends of China, gathered support for China's resistance to the Japanese invasion. The Philippine Friends of the Soviet Union popularized the achievements of socialism in the USSR, and exposed the nature of fascism as the most reactionary and war-mongering section of world imperialism. The League for the Defense of Democracy, the Congress for Democracy and Collective Security, and the Civil Liberties Union, propagated solidarity with the Spanish Republic which was under siege by falangist forces aided by Hitler and Mussolini, and condemned Hirohito's vicious drive for an Asian 'co-prosperity sphere' under zaibatsu-militarist rule. In the USA, several Filipinos joined the Lincoln Brigade organized by the CPUSA to fight in Spain in defense of the Spanish Republic, and one survivor was able to return to the Philippines to become active in the PKP.

The PKP and its mass organizations also launched a boycott of Japanese goods and a campaign to expose the Filipino political leaders who were cooperating with the zaibatsus. Upon reaching Manila, the Japanese invaders immediately launched a manhunt of PKP leaders ; among those captured were PKP General Secretary Crisanto Evangelista, who was tortured and eventually executed. Undaunted, the PKP organized and led the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP, or the People's Anti-Japanese Army) which grew to become the country's main guerrilla army which fought the Japanese occupation forces. HUKBALAHAP squadrons fought 1,200 engagements with Japanese and puppet forces from March 1942 up to mid-1945, and inflicted around 25,000 enemy casualties (mostly local puppets). By war's end, the HUKBALAHAP had a strength of 20,000 armed regulars and 50,000 reservists, supported by mass base of more than half a million people in the Central and Southern Luzon towns and provinces where former feudal estates have been redistributed and where Provisional Revolutionary Local Governments had been set up.

However, the US forces which re-colonized the Philippines in 1945 turned over the reins of power to the pre-war Commonwealth government, many of whose leaders have collaborated with the Japanese occupiers. These war-time Japanese collaborators now collaborated with the returning US colonialists to eliminate the PKP-led guerrilla army and to regain their feudal estates and political clout. Forced to fight back for survival, many HUKBALAHAP forces were decimated by the US-armed reactionary forces who gathered around the new president, Manuel Roxas (who had been the food czar during the Japanese occupation). PKP leaders and supporters who were elected to the new legislature in 1946 were not allowed to take their positions, in order to assure the approval of US-dictated treaties which allowed the maintenance of US military bases, and of the right of US citizens and corporations to exploit natural resources and to engage in all areas of business in the Philippines. The kidnapping and assassination of leaders of the PKP and its mass organizations led to sporadic armed encounters between HUKBALAHAP veterans and the forces of the state. Deteriorating events under the neocolonial conditions in 1949 led to an erroneous assessment of a 'revolutionary situation' by the Jose Lava leadership of the PKP, which proceeded to organize the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB, or the People's Liberation Army), and to launch an armed bid for power. The armed uprising was crushed by the mid-1950s, at a loss of around 10,000 revolutionaries, mostly HUKBALAHAP veterans.

By the early 1960s, the PKP had to be rebuilt, and had to shift from the underground armed struggle to an open political path of struggle. Party rebuilding was done alongside the rebuilding of mass organizations --- the Malayang Samahang Magsasaka (MASAKA, or the Independent Federation of Peasants), the Congress of Trade Unions of the Philippines (CTUP) and some other labor federations, the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth), and the multi-sectoral Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN). However, the rebuilding of the PKP and its mass organizations was hampered by the rise of maoism in 1966, and by the ensuing Sino-Soviet conflict. Under the influence of the so-called 'great proletarian cultural revolution' in China, a youth-based maoist group was nurtured within the PKP by Political Bureau member Jose Maria Sison, Sison wanted to continue with an adventurist armed struggle on the basis of Mao's 'world revolutionary situation' thesis, while the veterans who comprised the majority of the PKP leaders were convinced that there was no revolutionary situation in the country, and that the armed struggle was then already a futile road to gaining political power in the Philippines.

On Mao's birthday (December 26) in 1968, Sison and a handful of his followers formalized their split from the PKP by holding a 'congress' to form the maoist 'Communist Party of the Philippines' (CPP). The formation of the CPP, and later of its 'New People's Army' (NPA), had the covert support of then-Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino and media magnate Don Chino Roces, both known agents of the US CIA. Among the first major actions of the CPP-NPA to 'accelerate' the supposed 'revolutionary situation' was the terrorist bombing of the electoral campaign meeting in Manila of the opposition Liberal Party in 1971. That bombing was blamed on Marcos, who in turn used it as the reason for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Succeeding adventurist actions by the CPP-NPA, including two (2) bungled landings of shiploads of arms from then-maoist China, became the convenient pretext for Marcos' declaration of martial law in September 1972. The CPP-NPA's boast of launching a 'people's war', in response to a declaration of martial law, came to naught. While martial law saw the grave curtailment of civil and political rights, this period also featured some positive developments which were to later be of serious concern to imperialism --- the building up of the state sector in vital areas of the economy, particularly in industry ; the opening of diplomatic, trade and other relations with the USSR and other socialist countries ; and closer Philippine identification with the Non-Aligned Movement. In October 1974, as a result of negotiations initiated by Marcos, the PKP entered into a political settlement under which the PKP renounced the armed struggle, while Marcos in turn recognized the legal existence of the PKP, extended government recognition to HUKBALAHAP veterans, expanded agrarian reforms in PKP-influenced areas, and granted amnesty to remaining PKP and HMB political prisoners. Aside from formalizing its renunciation of the armed struggle (which even a decade earlier was already deemed futile as a way of gaining political power), the political settlement of 1974 did not prevent or stop the PKP from criticizing the pro-imperialist positions of Marcos.

The political settlement left the PKP free to organize among the masses, and by 1975, new sectoral mass organizations have been formed to take the place of those declared illegal with the imposition of martial law. Throughout the Marcos period, among the main demands consistently raised by the PKP were the removal of US military bases and the realization of a nuclear-weapon-free Philippines; respect for human rights; control of transnational corporations; opposition to the dictates of the World Bank and the IMF; nationalist industrialization and economic protectionism; and closer cooperation with socialist countries and the non-aligned movement for better terms of trade, for safeguarding world peace, for the ending of racist regimes, and for the independence of all remaining colonies. These were the same demands raised by the PKP with the end of the Marcos regime; however, aside from lifting the Marcos curbs on civil rights, the Cory Aquino and other succeeding regimes proved to be just as pliant to imperialist dictates. The present Arroyo regime is even tending to curtail civil and political rights, even without the formal proclamation of martial law or emergency rule.

In the international field, the PKP consistently denounced maoism and 'new left' adventurism as special tools of imperialism to divide the international communist movement, the socialist community, the international working class movement and national liberation movements. At the same time, the PKP criticized the rightist trends within some 'Euro-communist' parties which made anti-Sovietism and the denunciation of the dictatorship of the proletariat as their main platforms in the 1980s. The PKP strongly supported Vietnam's internationalist assistance for the liberation of Cambodia, even while the maoist CPP consistently supported the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Later, concerned about the growing non-class concepts in the period of 'perestroika', the PKP criticized Gorbachyov's pronouncements which tended to accept the continuation of US military bases in the Philippines, even while the masses of our people were agitating for their immediate dismantling. Sadly, the PKP failed to criticize more forcefully the rightist trends within the CPSU which led to the demolition of the USSR and the socialist community by the imperialist-applauded Gorbachyov-Yeltsin-Shevardnadze gang.

The PKP considers as tragic the dissolution of the USSR and the socialist community in 1989-1991, even while the maoist CPP hailed those events. The PKP however believes that those reverses are only temporary, and that the class interests of the working peoples of Eastern Europe and the former USSR, who have tasted again the capitalist yoke under the US-EU domination, will lead them to again establish socialism and on firmer foundations. Unfortunately for the PKP, many of those who became disillusioned with those 1989-1991 events left the PKP, especially those from intellectual backgrounds, and the PKP's membership fell by half to only 2,000 in the last decade. In the same period within the maoist CPP, questions about the validity of a 'revolutionary situation', about the need to continue with the armed struggle and 'to surround the cities from the countryside', and about the need to hold a 2nd Congress to revise the CPP's 1968 maoist documents, led to bloody purges. A series of splits from the maoist CPP saw the formation of 4 other ('rejectionist') parties with outlooks ranging from social-democratic to trotskyite, and with 2 of those break-away parties maintaining their own armed groups in opposition to the CPP's NPA. In effect, the maoist CPP and its break-away groups are still fighting over the same strategic issues that have been resolved within the PKP in the 1960s.

(Note : Since the late 1980s, the PKP has been appending the year '1930' to its initials, i.e., PKP-1930, to distinguish it from the maoist CPP which split from the PKP in 1968. This was particularly necessary due to the rise of maoist terrorist activities starting that period --- the bombing of bridges and the sabotage of railway lines in Southern Luzon, the burning of transport and communication facilities in several parts of the country, the kidnapping of Japanese and other businessmen for ransom, the extortion of so-called 'revolutionary taxes' and periodic 'election campaign permit fees', attacks on civilian religious congregations in the Davao provinces, the torture and massacre of internal dissenters within the CPP-NPA [code-named 'Oplan Missing Link' and 'Kampanyang Ahos'], and the assassination of those who led the different splits from the CPP/NPA --- which are being presented in the media as 'communist' activities in order to denigrate the true essence of communist advocacy.)

As the PKP-1930 marks this year the 75th anniversary of its founding, it continues to be proud of its working class roots, its history of struggle, and its loyalty to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Given the neocolonial situation of the Philippines and the under-development of the productive forces (primarily the country's industrial base) the PKP-1930 will continue to pursue the struggle for national democracy as the transitional stage to socialism.

The PKP-1930 continues to appreciate the internationalist solidarity that was rendered to it by fraternal parties --- primarily the CPUSA in the 1930s and 1950s, and the CPSU in the 1970s and 1980s--- which helped to give strength to the patriotic anti-imperialist struggles in the Philippines. The PKP-1930 will continue to pay homage to the uniting and coordinative role of the COMINTERN ; and to the great sacrifices of the Soviet people in the struggle to defeat fascism, in assisting the formation and strengthening of the socialist community, and in the efforts to attain strategic parity with imperialism.

The PKP-1930 views the present international projection of social-democratic positions (as the supposed 'unifying platform' for all progressive and left forces), as part of the ideological maneuvers of imperialism in order to sow illusions about the possibility of 'reforming' capitalism. Putting forward the slogan, 'Another world is possible', without clarifying that that 'other world' is a world of scientific socialism, can only bring all kinds of illusions about the necessary direction of world transformation. Thus we see the attempt, on the one hand, to project the utopia of a future benign system of world capitalism tempered by some form of religious charity ; and on the other hand, a contraposed projection of maoist 'liberated' agrarian areas in Nepal or Peru as the 'future world' that is possible. The message left by some regional and international social forums, which are mainly sponsored and attended by social democratic and maoist or trotskyite parties, is that 'Stalinism' (meaning the socialist system) should not be revived, and that the only choices for mankind are to either humanize capitalism or to reap more crazy killing fields. For its part, the PKP-1930 stands for the international projection of the need to overthrow (and not to reform) capitalism, as the unifying platform for all progressive and left forces ; for the projection of the class nature of the international struggle against imperialism and reaction, on the basis of the principles of Marxism-Leninism. Working class interests remain the basis for unity in the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggles in all parts of the world.

The PKP-1930 retains the view that the main currents of the world revolutionary process are the socialist countries, the international working class movement, the remaining national liberation movements, and the broad movement of developing countries struggling against neo-liberal globalization. While the balance of forces has become less favorable than during the period of the strong existence of the USSR and the international socialist community, the forces and schemes of imperialism and reaction are not insurmountable. The whole capitalist system is constantly in crisis, and the multifarious struggles of the peoples (whether it is the anti-occupation struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan, or just the continued existence of socialist and progressive governments in Cuba, Venezuela, Indochina, China, Syria and elsewhere), are either constantly sapping the strength of imperialism, or frustrating the insatiable appetite of imperialism for more resources and profits. The bold examples of Cuba and Venezuela in resisting imperialism are proving to be a beacon for many peoples and governments.

The PKP-1930 will always stand in solidarity with other communist and workers' parties which likewise remain loyal to Marxism-Leninism. The PKP-1930 will exert every effort to help forge the unity of the International Communist Movement, conscious that communist and workers' parties worldwide are similar and need to be united, because the social forces and processes in various countries where they arose were basically similar, and because the historical process of change from capitalism to socialism is similarly occurring on a world scale.