Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 16:56:58 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Philippines/new workers party/RWP-P interview
From: (Jim Monaghan)
Article: 50434
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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From: International Viewpoint <>
Subject: Philippines/new workers party/RWP-P interview
Date: Wednesday, 16 December 1998 3:40

New Workers' Party

International Viewpoint interview with RWP representataives, Wednesday 16 December 1998

The Revolutionary Workers Party-Philippines is the largest regroupment since the explosion of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1992-3.

Over the last five years, the groups which form the new party have moved decisively away from their Mao-Stalinist origins, developing a dynamic and pluralist strand of revolutionary Marxism that is quite new in the Philippines

At its founding conference in 1998, the new party decided to seek Permanent Observer status in the 4th International, which has its origins in the Trotskyist movement.

In the coming months, we will introduce the new party, its analysis of the current situation, the national question in Mindanao, and the Philippine variant of liberation theology.

In this first installment, our staff writer Jean Dupont spoke to three RWP representatives: Harry, from the National leadership; Ricardo, from the national secretariat; and Jona, from the regional leadership for the capital, Manila. [JD]

How does your revolutionary strategy differ from the Maoist past?

Jona: before, it was the armed struggle which determined everything else. We had a rigid conception of military stages, copied from Mao Zedung's writings on the Chinese revolution. We tried to force political developments into our schema of stages: defensive, stalemate, offensive and revolution. We now have a more flexible strategic framework. We don't force developments into this military framework.

Harry: We thought that the accumulation of military strength would grow over into an accumulation of revolutionary potential. We now realise that the reverse is true.

Revolutionary developments don't just depend on armed strength. There are many factors influencing the growth, or retreat, of revolutionary consciousness and mobilisation. We now recognise the importance of open mass movements, electoral work, even parliamentary activities. The importance of these factors varies from place to place and time to time. Another important factor is the development and consolidation of organs of political power of the oppressed. Such as the territorial self-government of indigenous peoples, in the regions of Mindanao where our guerrillas operate.

This must mean big changes for your armed wing

Harry: Our armed forces [the Revolutionary Proletarian Army ? RPA] now have a defensive role. They do police work, and defend the gains made in areas where we are relatively strong. Before, we subjugated our political interests to our military goals. We attacked mainly to capture weapons, regardless of the consequences for the local population. Now, we choose our targets much more carefully ? military leaders, or particularly reactionary landlords.

Jona: Our troops are diligently adjusting to their new role. Before, we did everything we could to create the impression of a civil war between the government and the people. In those days, we said that the army was a product of the mass movement, but it was not. In fact, the main factor for recruitment was the popular reaction to the fascist characteristics of the regime. That is no longer present.

Ricardo: We are reorienting and reorganising the armed wing. We are trying to consolidate. We want the army to be at the service of the mass movement, not the other way round

Harry: But as we increase the self-organisation of the oppressed minorities, we see a sharp increase in the number of people wanting to join the military wing. Self-defence is an integral part of building those new organs of political power. Particularly since the land question is at the centre of the preoccupations of the indigenous peoples and poor peasants. And the landlords and warlords have their own armies. As well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which function as the private army of whichever local capitalist is ready to pay them.

We are transforming the relationship between army, party, and mass organisations. As we consolidate the organs of popular power, we assist the people in creating all aspects of governance.

The army is no longer part of the party, but answers to the self-government bodies. The government bodies take care of recruitment, and look after the families of the fighters. This removes a huge organisational burden from the party, which now concentrates on the ideological education of the guerrillas, and helps give overall direction and political leadership to the struggle.

What about mass work?

Harry: The revolution is not just about smashing the reactionary state. We need to begin building the alternatives ? like the organs of popular power. Building the revolution includes planting the seeds as we go forward. Marxists like ourselves must combine our work with that done by development NGOs, popular organisations, and the churches.

We have begun to develop electoral and parliamentary work. We are an underground party, so our candidates stand on other, broader lists. We also mobilise support for progressive candidates from outside our ranks. In Mindanao we present joint lists with a Moro liberation front.

Since the last elections, our representatives and parliamentary contacts have been able to channel development aid towards regions where the popular organisations are strong ? even, sometimes, to municipalities where the local government is revolutionary! So far, this combination of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary work has been a positive factor for the continuous improvement of our peoples' lives.

Ricardo: Alternative development strategies are at the centre of our transitional programme ? the party's strategy of combining concrete reforms with demands that take the popular movement forward.

The government has an official development strategy ? Philippines 2000 We can't just denounce this as a neo-liberal strategy. We need to propose alternatives, suitable for the current needs of the population and the resources available. All the aspects of our revolutionary work should be consistent with this transitional programme.

Land reform is at the centre of our proposals for a rational agricultural system. These proposals are particularly addressed to the organs of popular power, or organisations representing the rural poor, such as Banana and sugar plantation workers. Where we are strong, we try to implement these reforms.

We are currently consulting the mass movements about the issues which we should prioritise in the coming constitutional changes and elections. We hope to produce a legislative and constitutional agenda that will guide all areas of our work in this domain. It isn't just a question of propaganda. Whatever can be implemented already, we will do, wherever we are strong enough.

What are your main successes recently?

Harry: we spent five years trying to analyse our errors, and purify ourselves of the Mao-Stalinist poison. The big split in the Communist Party was the beginning of a long and painful process of rethinking and retooling. Party groups were working in isolation, but, as we entered the pre-party phase and finally founded the new party, we realised that we had all been undergoing the same process.

The Mao-Stalinist party is still strong. In Mindanao, we are more or less surrounded by areas they control. And they are very hostile to us. So our very existence is our greatest success.

Actually, as we developed the new ideological basis for a refounded workers' party, we found a new inner strength. Although the big bang in 1992-3 had a heavy cost, we have managed to expand the current which rejects the Mao-Stalinist line.

After years of being confined to a narrow, dogmatic schema and an anti-democratic political culture, we can define our own project, in an open, dynamic atmosphere. It is tremendously invigorating.

Ricardo: Now we have the party we want. The various groups which came together to form the new party have reached consensus on basic documents covering all areas of our work, and reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of our own history.

We have also consolidated a national party, with a solid base in the three main groups of islands: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Many of the other groups which split from the Communist Party are still at the pre-party stage, or confined to one particular region of the country.

And your main weaknesses?

Ricardo: We are still consolidating and deepening the new awareness we have been talking about. We need to level up the understanding at cadre level, and spread the new ideas at the level of our mass base. Transforming a Maoist party with 30 years of protracted people's war strategy is a tremendous task.

Jona: We used to see ourselves as a monolithic, hegemonic party, acting as the compass for the entire left movement. But now we face a new epoch for the Philippine communist movement. There are many radical and revolutionary organisations: some Maoist, some closer to our own thinking.

It remains to be seen how these groups will work together. The Maoist party is still the largest ? though it continues to split. Among those who rejected the Maoist line, we are moving from a phase of fragmentation towards a phase of regroupment.

Harry: The process of consolidation has been fairly uneven. Now that we have the party structures stabilised, we need to look at each sector of work, create the networks between comrades in different regions, articulate a national strategy, and disseminate best practice and new ideas. In some areas our trade union work is well developed. In others, like Visayas, it is less so.

The weaknesses of the new party will become apparent as we try to intervene in the various sectors and regions.

As Jona said, pluralism is a new phenomena in the Philippine Communist movement. Dealing with that pluralism, inside and outside the new party, may be a big challenge for us.

In the Maoist outlook, the sectoral organisations were mere transmission belts, with a uniform policy, implemented from above. But now, for instance, we have three different party youth organisations, in the three main island groups. How will we unify these groups? Will they form one organisation, or a looser federation? These are new, important questions.

Is there a generation gap in the new party?

Jona: I don't think so. There has been a continuous momentum in the revolutionary movement. The fall of the Marcos dictatorship meant the softening of some of the fascist elements of the state. But the new governments were not fundamentally different. There were no radical changes in the education system, for example. There is a wider democratic space, but the fundamental problems facing the population are the same. So recruitment to the Communist groups has been sustained, despite all the changes.

Harry: Perhaps there was a kind of generation gap. After the Marcos dictatorship, many comrades enthusiastically returned to legal areas of work. Among some, there was a development of institutionalised thinking. Those working in Non-Governmental organisations became increasingly concerned with their own careers, and the service they provided became increasingly bureaucratic. Some joined the middle classes. Others resented the level of party work we expected from them. Some became an anti-party element.

When the big democracy debate erupted in the Communist Party, these people seized the chance to move out of activism. They rejected the Mao-Stalinist orientation, but they also rejected all alternatives which currents like ourselves put forward!

Over the last five years, many of the most cynical or disillusioned have left. Hopefully, the new party will be able to ensure a more serious and co-ordinated intervention in the NGO and institutional spheres. But we have certainly lost comrades in the process.

What are the prospects for greater co-operation on the left?

Harry: The internal development of the party is the essential question. Can we open up our own organisation, and become truly willing to work with others? Can we accept that other groups may be better than we are in a certain sector of work? After all, we were trained to think that we were the best, and that we had the only correct line. How to unlearn that kind of thinking? It is a very painful process.

A number of external factors are pushing all left groups to consider closer co-operation. None of us are strong enough, on our own, to intervene in the 1999 constitutional convention. We will have to work together if we want to stop the government approving a new Visiting Forces Agreement, allowing the United States to again use the Philippines as a massive military base for intervention across Asia.

In Mindanao, our armed wing has good relations with a Moro Liberation Front. We have united on multi-sector campaigns. As they gradually accept the necessity of mass work alongside the military struggle, we are helping them. We also have a joint electoral project.

As in other countries, it is often easier to work with the broader left than with other revolutionary groups coming from our common past in the CPP. So, although the anti-Maoist current is still very fluid, there are all kind of irritants and obstacles to closer co-operation. But we were able to integrate some groups right before our April congress.

And, now that we exist, the other 'pre-party' groups will have to position themselves accordingly.

What attracted you to the Fourth International?

Harry: As we abandoned the Maoist project, we were fully aware that the revolutionary project cannot be confined to one country.

We wanted to reach out to progressive and revolutionary groups world-wide. Apart from the Fourth International, we didn't see any other group playing this necessary role at the international level.

Ricardo: The International has accumulated a wealth of experiences from different countries and periods. We can learn much in a short time through joining its discussions and training programmes.

The International's pluralist tradition helps broaden our outlook, and is an antidote to the one true way thinking which used to dominate the CPP.

In joining the International, you will change it

Harry: Our relationship with the International is symbiotic ? both sides contribute to the other, and both are changed in the process.

We will be holding our own second congress just before the International organises its own World Congress. So the debates will flow between the two levels.

At a concrete level, we add strength to the International. We are a large group with a long history, and a solid implantation in our country.

The Fourth International is weak in Asia, where we will help develop networks of revolutionary and radical groups.

Of course, we have no objection to the International maintaining friendly relations with other groups in the Philippines, wherever this is useful.