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Fight Back! interview with Jose Maria Sison on the people’s war in the Philippines

By staff

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Fight Back! interviewed Jose Maria Sison, the founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, August 19, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. This is the first part of the interview. See part 2 here and part 3 here.

The interview was conducted by Fight Back! editor Mick Kelly, who is also responsible for the international work of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).

Fight Back!: In the Philippines, there is a people’s war taking place, for basic social change. Why? Jose Maria Sison: The Philippines is a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. Corresponding to that is the bourgeois democratic revolution of the new type. That is to say, it’s of the new type because it’s under working-class leadership – no longer under the bourgeois leadership, as in the old democratic revolution. One other way of phrasing what I call the ‘bourgeois democratic revolution, the new type’; they seem to call it ‘the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.’ And you know, the kind of character, as a new type of democratic revolution is determined by its class leadership – the working class – and the working class is the force that carries over the revolution from the democratic stage to the socialist stage of the revolution.

People’s war can be carried out in the Philippines any time, because Philippine society, which is semi-colonial and semi-feudal, is in chronic crisis. It’s a country that is agrarian and underdeveloped and most people are in the countryside. They are peasants. So, you have a wide countryside, as the physical terrain for building the New People’s Army and carrying out people’s war through stages, from small and weak, to bigger, to stronger.

We have three probable stages in the development of the people’s war. First stage is strategic defensive, in which we change the balance of forces by launching tactical offensives. You get the weapons from the enemy’s side and then you can get onto the strategic stalemate, where there is a parity. In other words, in so many areas, there will be a tug of war, over, let’s say, over towns – over town centers and even some small cities.

The enemy cannot hold on to any areas firmly and the NPA must maintain its mobility. When the enemy advances in bigger force, then the NPA retreats, it takes a more advantageous position, and then hits back [laughs]. Anyway, the final stage is when the force that was on the offensive, on the strategic offensive, is already placed on the defensive, and, so it’s now the force that was previously on the strategic defensive that goes on the strategic counter-offensive.

In terms of the growth of the army, when guerilla warfare is predominant in the strategic defensive, but elements of regular mobile warfare will already arise, upon the completion of that stage. And most of the fighting in the strategic offensive will be – most of the crucial fighting will be – done by the regular, by the mobile forces, so there will be bigger units, but with characteristics of mobility: The use of the tactics of concentration, dispersion, and shifting of forces, depending on the circumstances – whatever’s advantageous to the revolutionary army.

Now, in the strategic of counter-offensive, there will be instances where in crucial battles there will be some positional warfare, especially to destroy the strongholds and then of course, where certain cities can be taken over, by fighting, then the army that wins, the people’s army that wins, can leave the place: turn over the city to other types of forces – turn over the cities to the self-defense units, so that it can go – to beat the enemy as well.

So, you never throw away the mobility. But in the strategic counter-offensive you’ll see much use of positional warfare and the regular mobile warfare, depending on the situation. You don’t tie down your force, because, you know, you have already the momentum of winning, so [laughs] you don’t just keep territory, because you can transfer the matter of governance, peace and order, to the local revolutionary forces.

So that’s how we envision its probable course. And additional scheduling of each stage, the stages will appear as the people’s war develops. There can be even some zig zag – yeah it can happen – but the general course is from victory to victory.

Now, it is crucial that the working class is the lead factor that is taking up the democratic revolution from the bourgeois. Completely, surely, that with the working class in the leadership of the revolution, that puts the democratic revolution, even if it’s reliant on both peasants and workers, surely on the path, towards socialism. The one that is placed in the role of realizing the socialist cause is the working class. The working class leads the main component of proletarian dictatorship, the People’s Army. It smashes the military and bureaucratic machinery of the reactionary state. Then it will take over the enterprises that are in the commanding heights of the economy, the sources of raw materials, the main lines of communications. Those will be taken over by the proletarian state.

Democratic reform, land reform, will be carried out. You see, it’s when you seize power, all over the country, when you can really carry out, when you can complete land reform – it’s no longer here and there, as at present, in the strategic defensive. But when you have power, when the proletariat has already seized power, then the democratic reform, land reform, affecting the majority of the people can be carried out within a relatively short period of time.

But at the same time, there are stages in the development of agricultural cooperation. In the first stage, [it] can be based on certain villages, townships and districts. The third and highest level would be the communes. So, you combine social organization and the building of whatever amount of mechanization you can have.

Of course, whatever old ways of tilling, storing and processing the agricultural products will have to be pursued, pending deliveries from the industrial sector of the economy. And the working class is directly in charge of that part of the economy. Building the industries, also those industries will eventually recruit the peasants whose surplus population will be absorbed, given jobs by socialist industry.

Fight Back!: Very good…

Sison: Then we may also give concessions in the transitional processes. The small and medium entrepreneurs may be given an opportunity to participate in the national recovery, if, let us say, in the process of the revolutionary war, and because of let’s say, imperialist blockade, you have difficulties getting all the means necessary for building socialist industry. Well in Russia, you have the New Economic Policy, even then the proletariat will be in command, the proletariat will be in charge of economic planning.

And also, rather than frighten the people with [possessing] professional and technical skills, you can buy them off in a sort of way, you can give higher wages so they don’t flee [laughs] from the country.

Filipino people can also avail of the Filipinos in different countries – Filipinos who work abroad as professionals in technologies and as skilled workers – they can come back, to help in the socialist construction.

So that’s the outlook.

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