By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
30 March 2014
Comrades and Friends:
I wish to express my greetings of solidarity to all of you in this informative and cultural gathering organized by the International Office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the founding of the New People’s Army (NPA) by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
I am deeply pleased and highly honored to be invited to speak on the building of the New People’s Army and waging the people’s war in the Philippines. I wish to share with you basic information and ideas on the following: first, the circumstances and reasons for founding the NPA; second, the growth and victories in the people’s war; and third, the prospects of the people’s war.
With boundless joy, I recall how I presided over the founding of this revolutionary army of the Filipino people on 29 March 1969 in my capacity as Chairman of the CPP Central Committee and its Military Commission. This is a time to give the highest honors to the martyrs and heroes, and to congratulate all the Red commanders and fighters for all the victories won through hard work, sacrifices and relentless struggle.
Let us give a special Red salute to Comrades Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, for their long service to the Filipino people and new democratic revolution. They have contributed greatly to the growth and advance of the revolutionary forces of the people. They are senior field consultants of the NDFP in the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP. We demand their immediate release in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, mutually approved since 1995 by the aforesaid negotiating parties.
I. Circumstances and Reasons for Founding the NPA
Since the Philippine revolution of 1896, the Filipino people have fought for national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination. But since the US defeated the Philippine republic in the Filipino-American War that started in 1899, the Filipino people have been subjected once more to foreign and feudal domination, and have repeatedly sought to complete the struggle for national independence and democracy.
The formation of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP, People’s Army Against Japan) in 1942 resulted in the most serious struggles of the people to liberate themselves from the Japanese fascist occupation during World War II, and from the US-dominated puppet government up to the early 1950s. But serious opportunist errors of the leadership of the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties led to defeat. The rectification of these errors from 1966 onwards paved the way for the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968 and the founding of the New People’s in 1969.
Since 1946, when the US granted nominal independence, the ruling system in the Philippines has become semi-colonial politically; I.e., ruled indirectly by the US through its Filipino political agents. It has retained its semi-feudal character economically;i.e., maintained directly by the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class and their political agents, in collaboration with the US and other foreign monopoly capitalists.
The Filipino people aspire to free themselves from oppression and exploitation. Thus, the CPP has put forward the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. This program seeks to realize national independence and democracy; social justice; land reform and national industrialization; a national, scientific and mass culture; international solidarity; and peace.
The working class is the leading class in the democratic and socialist stages of the revolution. The peasantry is the main force of the revolution and demands the agrarian revolution. It serves as the largest source of personnel, and inexhaustible resource base for the people’s army and people’s war. It provides the widest physical and social terrain for the people’s army to maneuver against the enemy in the expanse of the countryside.
The armed struggle is the main form of revolutionary struggle. It answers the central question of revolution, which is the seizure of political power. But the united front is also an important weapon of the revolution. The basic worker-peasant alliance is the foundation of such united front, which includes the urban petty bourgeoisie as one more basic revolutionary ally, and further takes on board the national bourgeoisie as a positive, though vacillating, ally. Under given circumstances, the united front may be further broadened as to take advantage of splits among the reactionaries, and thereby aggravate and hasten the isolation and destruction of the enemy.
The NPA carries out the strategic line of protracted people’s war, which means encircling the cities from the countryside and accumulating strength until conditions are ripe for the seizure of the cities on a nationwide scale. This strategic line is of decisive importance. It allows the NPA and other revolutionary forces of the people to grow from small to big and from weak to strong. It avoids a war of quick decision which favors the militarily far superior enemy forces.
In a protracted people’s war, the NPA has the chance to develop in stages. At first, it takes the strategic defensive against the enemy’s strategic offensive but launches guerrilla warfare, waging tactical offensives that it can win until it has accumulated enough strength to put the enemy in a strategic stalemate. Through a combination of regular mobile warfare and guerrilla warfare during the strategic stalemate, it can destroy the enemy forces faster and change the balance of forces until it puts the enemy on the strategic defensive and reaches the strategic offensive.
In carrying out the people’s war, the NPA integrates armed struggle with agrarian revolution and mass base building. It gains the inexhaustible support of the peasantry only by carrying out the agrarian revolution. The fulfillment of the peasant demand for land is the main content of the democratic revolution. The mass base of the revolution must also be built by forming the mass organizations, the local organs of political power, and the local CPP branches. Thus, wave upon wave, the people’s democratic government replaces the power of the reactionary state.
The agrarian revolution is done in two stages. The first is the minimum land reform program, which involves rent reduction, elimination of usury, fair wages to the farm workers, fair prices for products at the farm gate, and raising production in agriculture and sideline occupation through rudimentary cooperation. The second is the maximum land reform program, which involves the confiscation of land from the landlords, and the free and equable distribution of the land to the landless tillers. The anti-feudal united front relies mainly on the poor peasants and farm workers, wins over the middle peasants, and takes advantage of the splits among the landlords in order to isolate and destroy the power of the despotic landlords.
The local organs of political power constitute the people’s democratic government and are established at the barrio (village), municipal and higher possible levels. The barrio revolutionary committees are assisted by working committees concerned with mass organizing, public education, land reform, production, health care, defense, arbitration, cultural activities, and so on. They are supported by the mass organizations of workers, peasants, women, youth, children, cultural activists, and so on, in the implementation of social programs, campaigns and activities. The local CPP branch that arises from the local mass base takes the lead in mass work and governance.
II. Growth and Victories of the NPA
Under the leadership of the CPP, the NPA and other revolutionary forces of the people have preserved themselves, grown in strength, and won great victories since the founding of the NPA in 1969, because they have a just revolutionary cause, which is the national and social liberation of the people from the terrible scourges of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. They have a clear program of people’s democratic revolution, the correct strategy and tactics, and a definite socialist perspective.
We started the NPA from scratch in the second district of Tarlac in 1969. We had only nine automatic rifles and 26 other inferior firearms to rotate among 60 Red fighters to whom we had given politico-military training. But we were confident. We had a party that had avidly studied Marxism-Leninism, the revolutionary experience of the Filipino people, the teachings of Comrade Mao Zedong, and the writings of Vietnamese comrades on building the people’s army and waging the people’s war. We benefited from the guerrilla experience and mass base of 80,000 people in Tarlac, as well as from the urban-based mass movement which we had resumed and revitalized.
We anticipated that Tarlac would become the focus of enemy attacks as soon as we launched tactical offensives in the people’s war. Thus, we recognized immediately the urgent need for expansion cadres to start the revolution in as many other regions and provinces as soon as possible. We gave politico-military training to a few expansion cadres for certain provinces in the Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, and Western Visayas. In the period of 1969-72 (before the martial law period), the most successful of the expansion efforts was in the Cagayan Valley, especially Isabela.
In 1969-71, in less than two years, we were able to increase the number of NPA rifles to 200 through tactical offensives in Tarlac, and we almost captured another 200 rifles from the armory of Camp O’Donnel of the US Navy. We were very successful at the minimum land reform program and improving the housing of many people. As early as 1969, Marcos organized Task Force Lawin, with a total strength of 5000 military troops and policemen.
By 1971, the CPP Central Committee had shifted its headquarters to Isabela to direct the rapid growth of the mass base (already about 200,000 people), the land reform campaign, the accelerated politico-military training of expansion cadres for Northern Luzon and other regions of the country, and the intensification of armed struggle with a significant increase of rifles from the successful raid on the armory of the Philippine Military Academy in December 1970. The Marcos regime formed the Task Force Saranay of so many battalions in Isabela after the enemy noticed the use of the Browning automatic rifles captured from the PMA raid.
Aside from developing the revolution in a region of strategic importance, the greatest value yielded by building the guerrilla bases and zones in Isabela was the politico-military training and the experience of guerrilla war and mass work given to the trade unionists and youth activists that came from cities all over the country, thanks especially to Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) and the First Quarter of 1970. By early 1972, a significant number of expansion cadres had flowed out to new areas of expansion nationwide, including the rest of Northeast Luzon, Northwest Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao.
As early as 1970, the CPP was already forming regional Party committees to start the people’s war in their respective regions, with the assistance of mass organizations. Such regional Party committees tried to do their best and became ever more successful, as they accumulated experience and summed up lessons, including bitter ones, and as they were reinforced by cadres and fighters who had previous politico-military training and guerrilla experience from Tarlac and Isabela. Consequent to the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and the declaration of martial law in 1972, significant numbers of trade unionists and youth activists joined the people’s army.
When Marcos declared martial law, he claimed that the NPA had 10,000 fighters; but in fact it had only about 350 rifles in the hands of the NPA fighters, excluding the people’s militia and self-defense units of the mass organizations. A relatively big number of national cadres were released from underground administrative functions in 1974, to be integrated into the people’s army and to conduct rural mass work.
By December 1975, the country was well covered by relatively stable regional committees of the CPP and regional NPA commands.
The two NPA companies that had been isolated in the Isabela forest region since 1972, because of a wrong decision by the regional Party committee, marched out towards Cagayan province in 1975. The NPA in Eastern Visayas started to carry out platoon-sized guerrilla offensives, and these grew more frequent from 1976 onwards. The NPA grew steadily in Northwest Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, and Western Visayas. It expanded rapidly in Mindanao. It was the first to use the term “guerrilla front” to define the combination of guerrilla bases and zones in a contiguous area. The CPP Central Committee adopted the use of the term and instructed the Mindanao Party Committee to divide the big region into several regions in 1976.
After the 1975 Plenum and the subsequent carrying out of guerrilla offensives nationwide, it became clear that both the CPP and the NPA were truly nationwide forces with deep roots among the masses in the regions and provinces. The point had been reached that the NPA forces could withstand concentrated enemy attacks on one guerrilla front or a whole region, and could fight back not only in that guerrilla front or region but also in several regions and guerrilla fronts where the enemy forces were weaker. On a national scale, the CPP and NPA had overcome tremendous odds, become tempered in struggle, and gained the strength for continuous growth.
When I was captured in November 1977, the NPA was already at the level of 1500 automatic rifles, excluding the far bigger number of men and women in the people’s militia and self defense units. I was confident that the CPP and NPA would grow in strength further and become a major factor in the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The NPA reached the level of 3000 rifles in 1983 and 5600 automatic rifles in 1986.
Fearing the growth of the people’s war, the US, the Catholic church, and the big comprador-landlord oligarchs in the country decided within the period of 1984 to 1986 that Marcos had become more of a liability than an asset and had to be removed from power the way Duvalier had been deposed.
The people’s army grew in strength and the people’s war spread because of the Maoist leadership in both the CPP and NPA. The cadres and fighters were well-versed on the specific characteristics of the people’s war in the Philippines, the revolutionary guide to land reform, and the urgent tasks in building the mass base.
Despite overall growth in the 1980s, a few members of the Central Committee spread the subjectivist notion that the Philippines was no longer semi-feudal and that, by implication, Marcos had greatly developed the economy with his big comprador-landlord policy dependent on foreign loans. Based on said notion, Right and “Left” opportunism arose and slowed what should have been a faster rate of growth. The opportunists deviated from the analysis of the Philippine economy as semi-feudal, the general political line of people’s democratic revolution, and the strategic line of protracted people’s war.
The worst of the Right opportunists wanted to do away with the working class leadership, and make the bourgeois-led united front the main weapon and legal struggle the main form of struggle. The worst of the “Left” opportunists wanted to enlarge and regularize NPA combat units, without minding agrarian revolution and building the mass base. Upon failure of their line, the military adventurists raised a hysteria about deep penetration agents and engaged in witch hunts, thus eroding the strength of the revolutionary movement and the mass base in certain areas at various times, from 1985 onwards.
Happily, the CPP launched the Second Great Rectification Movement in 1992. Comrades Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria played important roles in this educational movement. Since then, the CPP and NPA have won resounding victories in reaffirming basic revolutionary principles and the strategic line of protracted people’s war; regaining the mass base (60 percent of which had been lost by 1991 due to the “Left” opportunist line); revitalizing the mass movement: and carrying forward the people’s war. The line of the people’s war has been sharpened as the waging of extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever widening and deepening mass base. It has been resoundingly successful.
At present, the CPP is reported to have about 150,000 members, the NPA has about 10,000 fighters, the people’s militia tens of thousands of personnel, and the self-defense units hundreds of thousands. The guerrilla fronts number more than 110, covering significant portions of 71 provinces. The mass organizations have members in the millions; and the people’s democratic government has millions of people in its territory. Despite the recent arrest of Comrades Tiamzon and Austria, the revolutionary movement of the people will continue to grow in strength and advance. There is a far bigger mass movement now than when Julie and I were captured in 1977.
The CPP, NPA, and the revolutionary forces of the people have withstood and prevailed over the attempts of the 14-year fascist dictatorship and the subsequent pseudo democratic regimes to destroy them with US-instigated national plans of military suppression and deception, like the current Oplan Bayanihan. It has been proven again and again that the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war are correct and invincible against the rotten ruling system which is in a chronic crisis that is always worsening.
III. Prospects of the NPA and People’s War
Like the CPP, the NDFP has declared that the general line for people’s democratic revolution for the protracted people’s war is the same line for the peace negotiations with the reactionary government, and that the people’s war is justified for so long as the demand of the people for national and social liberation is not satisfied. The revolutionary forces and the people consider the peace negotiations as a way of carrying forward and helping realize their demand for national independence and democracy.
They always resist the reactionary government’s obsession of perpetuating the semi-colonial and semi-feudal system, and seeking the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary movement. They have made clear that they are ever ready for the eventuality that their enemy terminate the peace negotiations. The reactionary government has been brazenly disrespecting and violating existing agreements, like The Hague Joint Declaration, The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The CPP and NPA are determined to realize the plan to advance from the strategic defensive to the strategic stalemate in the near term, and to overthrow the ruling system and establish the people’s democratic system in the long run. They intend to bring up the number of CPP members to 250,000, the NPA to 25,000, the guerrilla fronts to 200, and the scope of the agrarian revolution and the mass base to many more millions of people.
They aim to advance until they reach the strategic offensive in order to overthrow the ruling system and establish the people’s democratic state system. They are confident of advancing from stage to stage in the people’s war because they fight for the just revolutionary cause of the Filipino for national and social liberation, because they have the correct general line and strategy, because they accumulate strength though hard work and struggle, and because conditions favorable to the revolution are provided by the unprecedentedly grave and ever worsening crisis of global capitalism and the domestic ruling system.
The broad masses of the people suffer terribly from the escalation of exploitation under the neoliberal economic policy, from state terrorism, and from the imperialist wars of aggression. But they are driven to fight ever more fiercely for their national and social liberation, and for a fundamentally new and better world of greater freedom, social justice, development, cultural upliftment, and peace.