Comments on Tribune of the People’s “Open Letter” to the CPP
Last November 13, a website that calls itself the “Tribune of the People” (TOP) published as its editorial the article “To Celebrate Biden’s Victory is Incompatible with Anti-Imperialism: An Open Letter to the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
The “Open Letter” deserves critical repudiation by the CPP, especially since it was authored by a group that claims to be Maoist and anti-revisionist. It must be exposed as ultra-“Left” phrase-mongering that has nothing to do with Maoism. Beneath the revolutionary rhetoric, it actually wants to push the CPP and other Maoists to give up the task of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the broad masses through linking-up and winning over the middle section and taking advantage of the splits among the reactionaries and the imperialists. Following the line of analysis the TOP will cause the separation of the proletarian revolutionaries from the broad masses rendering the vanguard communist party isolated and ineffective.
1. 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. 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. In an assertion that smacks of Trotskyism, it considers as non-progressive and unrevolutionary any democratic struggle (or the legal struggle for reforms)–falsely equating “democratic struggles” with the “democratic revolution”–as these supposedly fall short of their call for “socialist revolution” and does not help advance the “people’s war.”
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. 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. In summing-up the Bolshevik’s political leadership, Lenin said: “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.”
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. To accomplish the task of winning over the broad masses in their millions and of educating and raising the political and class consciousness of workers and oppressed people, the vanguard party must be able to militate and win over the middle section and guide their actions, not by speaking above their heads, but by speaking the language they understand.
In “Concerning Methods of Leadership,” Mao wrote: “(Leaders must) be skilled in uniting the small number of active elements around the leadership and must rely on them to raise the level of the intermediate elements and to win over the backward elements. A leading group that is genuinely united and linked with the masses can be formed only gradually in the process of mass struggle, and not in isolation from it.” This sums up the basic Maoist tenet of mass line and leadership. If the vanguard will insist on imposing the “purity” of their line without consideration of the level of the masses’ political consciousness and activity, they will only become isolated and unable to exercise leadership. Specifically, revolutionary leaders must be able to hold the hands of the people in conducting struggles within the legal framework of the reactionary system in order to raise the level of their political consciousness and their commitment to political activism. Revolutionaries must be good at uniting and leading the masses in their practical struggles for urgent reforms while raising the ideological and political level of the advanced and middle section.
2. 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.
When the Filipino people ousted Marcos in 1986 through popular mass actions, the Party celebrated with them the end of almost 15 years of fascist dictatorship. It also celebrated with them the ouster of the Estrada regime in 2001 through the direct action of hundreds of thousands of people. In both cases, the Party was keenly aware that the successor regimes represented the same class interests of the big bourgeois compradors and big landlords and were similarly beholden to US imperialism. The Party and the legal democratic forces took advantage of the splits within the ruling system under the new regime and won substantial gains, such as the release of political prisoners including revolutionary leaders, the demand for justice for all victims of fascist repression. Greater public support was generated for the clamor of the broad masses for land reform, wage increases and other democratic demands. These were attained even as the Party and revolutionary forces did not for one moment lose grip of the armed struggle as the principal form of struggle.
3. 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.”
Everyone knows that the claim of being the “first socialist president” was made by Duterte himself which, of course, the CPP had no illusions of. The CPP is fully aware of the reactionary class nature of the Duterte regime as caretaker of the oppressive and exploitative ruling system. As a local town official of several decades, Duterte was aware of the strength of the NPA and chose to be friendly and cooperative with the revolutionary movement in terms of facilitating the release of prisoners-of-war, extending financial aid to post-calamity rehabilitation efforts and publicly recognizing the people’s democratic government and its system of taxation. The Party, however, was fully aware of his class orientation as a bureaucrat capitalist. At the very outset, the Party described Duterte as “the new chief of the neocolonial state.”
The CPP engages in peace negotiations not with the narrow view of “concluding” the armed struggle, rather as an extension of it. There is peace negotiations because there is an armed conflict.
With the prolonged state of civil war in the Philippines, the question of achieving peace has been one of the urgent questions that one regime after another since the 1980s has had to address. Invariably, every regime at the outset of its term presented itself before the Filipino people as interested in peace and in engaging the revolutionary forces in negotiations. Corollary to this, the Party and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) take the policy of openness to peace negotiations in order to deny the reactionary state exclusive use of the platform to define the discourse of peace (which invariably equals to the surrender of the armed revolutionaries); and in order to assert the Filipino people’s demand for a just and lasting peace.
As such, in 2016, the CPP, through the NDFP engaged Duterte in peace talks. The CPP took Duterte’s words and pretensions and demanded that he be true to the pronouncements he made before the people. Within the context of peace negotiations and outside it, the CPP and the revolutionary movement asserted the national and democratic demands of the people in order to push any concession which may benefit the people, assert the revolutionary principles of a just and lasting peace and expose the falsity and fascism behind the reactionaries’ claim to peace.
4. The CPP does not believe that US imperialist policies, domestically and internationally, will change fundamentally under the incoming Biden regime. This is precisely the point when it stated that Biden will now be head of the US imperialist state. As representative of the ruling monopoly capitalists, Biden is now set to preside over the crisis-stricken US economy and implement policies which will intensify the oppression and exploitation of the working class and people.
The CPP statement said Biden “rode on the crest of a gigantic wave of democratic mass movement,” which is, on the one hand, an implicit criticism of how the reactionaries used the people’s mass protests to its advantage; at the same time, an exhortation on the American people to press on with their struggles and demands knowing that Biden “owes them” his victory. The TOP one-sidedly insinuates that this is class opportunism and subservience when, in fact, it is a call on the American working class and people to assert their political independence vis-a-vis the political representatives of the bourgeoisie.
Indeed, among the democratic political demands that the incoming Biden regime will face is the widespread clamor for the US to end military and political support to the fascist Duterte regime that has become an international pariah for gross human rights violations.
5. The Tribune of the People purports to be Maoists but actually vulgarizes Marxism-Leninism in criticizing the CPP from an ultra-“Left” position. They feign praise for the “remarkable” armed struggle being led by the CPP but wants to induce the Party to cast away the importance of supporting the people’s legal struggles or struggle for reforms. They claim to support “the continuation of armed struggle against imperialism” but wants to dismiss the need to wage political struggle (including parliamentary struggle) alongside it, which in the end will isolate the armed struggle and put it in a purely military situation.
6. 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.
It is becoming apparent that there is now a concerted effort to mount attacks against the CPP in a futile effort to discredit it ideologically and politically. These attacks range from rehashing questions on the nature of the semicolonial and semifeudal system in order to undermine the theoretical and practical grounds for waging protracted people’s war as strategy for carrying forward the people’s democratic revolution, to unfounded accusations that the CPP was an “enabler” of the Duterte regime’s fascism, and so on. These attacks are being mounted by the imperialists and reactionaries and the slew of revisionist, pseudo- and counter-revolutionary groups inside and outside the Philippines. These attacks must be actively opposed by the Party through rigorous ideological and political struggle in defense of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.