Beginning with the Perestroika that brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union and the crumbling of its satellites in Eastern Europe, socialism should have been already proven as a historical faux pas. But such is history’s tyranny over the working class that even after the crash of the first-ever dictatorship of the proletariat established in history, socialism continued to be proclaimed by followers of Karl Marx as the main trend in the world. China under Mao Zedong emerged as the new bastion of orthodox Marxism even as its own course, the strategy of the protracted people’s war which called for the “wave by wave” encirclement of the cities through the countryside had been a radical departure from Marxist orthodoxy which, proclaiming as it does the workers as the vanguard class in the revolutionary struggle against the bourgeoisie, calls for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the cities first.
1953 had been a particularly crucial year for the world socialist movement. That year saw Russian Premier Leonid Brezhnev calling for the establishment of the international dictatorship of the proletariat. This necessarily meant the Soviet Union as the center of that dictatorship. And this should be anathema to a China already grown world class in international politics. Mao Zedong taught internationalism did not preempt national sovereignty of the nation states. His vision of communism is for individual nations to establish their own dictatorships of the proletariat, let those dictatorships chart the Marx-prescribed course to dissolution of social classes by which to bring about the withering away of the state thence the evolution of the classless, stateless society – communism.
How, indeed, would Brezhnev bring about that worldwide withering away of the state in one fell swoop if not through Soviet military conquests of non-socialist states first, as those of Eastern Europe, which turned socialists as a consequence of World War II. Theoretically, only after a socialist state has been established can the process for transforming that state into communism start. And the process can be excruciatingly painful and long, and that’s only considering the theory of it. On the practical plane, it’s even highly doubtful if communism is achievable at all.
China’s opposition to the Brezhnev line cut a swath across the world socialist camp, splitting it into two: the Marxist-Leninists, adhering to orthodox Marxism, led by China, and, what Mao Zedong termed as revisionists or those toeing, as again Mao Zedong termed it Soviet social imperialism. In the Philippine proletarian struggle, otherwise one and powerful under Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) founder Crisanto Evangelista and its subsequent leadership by the Lava brothers Jesus, Vicente and Jose and Hukbalahap Supremo Luis Taruc, the Sino-Soviet rift made a corresponding split between, what Jose Maria Sison termed as advocates of MLMTT (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought) and, as again Joma would term it, the Lava-Taruc Revisionist Clique, which advanced the Mao Tse Tung-condemned “Soviet social imperialism.”
For half a century, Sison has been waging his copycat version of Mao Zedong’s protracted people’s war in the Philippines. After the Marcos era, Sison’s New People’s Army has made no significant muscle-flexing except extorting money from entrepreneurs operating in the countryside, the extortion in the guise of revolutionary tax.
Only upon the inception of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has the CPP/NPA served notice that it was still breathing, and it was great wonder that the President has chosen to honor the communist rebels with the dignity of peace talks. In any case, outside of the peace talks, the rebel group has made no signal whatsoever of any advancement other than protract on and on.
During the past week, the workers group Manggagawang Socialista (MASO), one of several alliances of workers who have dared rip themselves off the Sisonite protracted formula of bringing about socialism in the Philippines, has been in a frenzy of organizing a huge rally for commemorating the traditional Labor Day. I bet my talent fee for this article that speakers in the rally will talk about, first, the Chicago incident on May 4, 1886 called the Haymarket Affair in Chicago in which a number of rallying workers were killed but which eventually institutionalized the eight-hour working day.
“No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today,” this according to one account.
For more revolutionary reminiscences, certain speakers will talk about the Paris Commune, that gallant stand of the workers of Paris who seized political power in 1848 which showed for the first time in history that the workers are capable of governing themselves without need of bourgeois state power. The Paris commune will be cited again as the role model for proletarian political power that would be established thenceforth, beginning with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917. Unfortunately for the Philippine proletariat, the Paris Commune will, for the umpteenth time, be cited as well as the role model for establishing socialism in the country.
In the euphoria of holding high the vanguard role of the working class in the development of society, consistently neglected is the fact that the Paris Commune lasted for only a month or so, after which the Paris bourgeoisie returned with the full support of the Prussian army, massacred the Paris communards and retook political power. As we are all aware, until now Paris continues to sizzle and scintillate with French bourgeois high living.
My personal experience in commemorating Labor Day was in May 1, 1971. I wasn’t yet quite into the mainstream of the Sisonite people’s democratic revolution. I was only then just heading a newly-organized labor union, the Katipunan ng mga Makabayang Obrero (KAMAO) at the J. Amado Araneta-owned Makabayan Publishing Corp. in what is now known as Araneta Center, and in the inevitable consequence of such organizing, I was given my walking papers by the management, prompting the union to call a strike. Seized with the naivette of a trying-hard new recruit into activism, I required my union members to march to the May Day Rally in front of the Congress building in Manila, even taking the front lines.
How nice to feel being a revolutionary.
No sooner had we reached the grounds below the improvised dais on the Congress steps than a series of pillbox explosions astounded me. This was immediately responded by a ratatat from armalites of snipers hiding in the rafters of the Congress building, prompting the crowd to stampede away from the legislature. The natural, accessible safe grounds were the Sunken Garden on the opposite side of Taft Avenue.
Just the mere sound of armalites firing away sent creeps down one’s spines, and a reflex response jolted me off my feet, making me dive into the grass. Hot steel sliced through my back skin as I made the dive, even as I gaped at a comrade getting slammed with armalite slug that broke his shoulder. I hugged the ground and cussed myself for being unable to come to the rescue of a woman getting blasted with armalite shell smack on the chest, shattering it. Further ahead, a septuagenarian male was having a hard time trying to untangle himself from the barbed wire of the fence that had snagged his pants, while armalite slugs hit the ground close to his feet and the iron beside his arm.
The next day, the papers splashed in their front pages a picture of the woman who was blasted by armalite shell on the chest. She was identified as Liza Balando, president of a union in a garments factory. Those who were pictured making a futile try to help her were members of my union.
I had had the romantic notion of freezing that moment for posterity. But over time, I have grown wise to the fact that historical moments enshrined in workers’ consciousness and iconized as moments of workers’ heroism are really moments depicting the workers’ failure at bringing about their theoretical destiny of communism.
The Paris Commune was a failure. The Bolshevik Revolution was a failure. The continuously protracting Sisonite People’s War is a failure. But workers have been continuously deluded by false hopes of socialism and communism becoming a reality in the Great Beyond. Is this delusion a handiwork of capitalism or is it actually an ideological enslavement by history?
(To be continued)