Ho Chi Minh likened the revolution to riding on a cart down a bumpy road. Many get bumped off, but a lot more than quite as many manage to hold on aboard up to the end.
The end, of course, here means success, as the defeat by the Viet Minh of America in Vietnam or by the People’s Liberation Army of the Kuomintang in China.
In the Philippines, the National Democratic Revolution launched by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) way back in 1968 has gone so protracted through much a bumpy course that quite many have gotten thrown off the revolutionary cart. This has long given rise to suspicion that the PPDR (or Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution) was, in the first place, crafted simply to protract, not to end. A point had been reached at which the Jose Maria Sison-authored National Democratic Revolution (NDR) was likened by revolutionary elements themselves, although in a jest tinged with irony, to the similarly long-running struggles of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) in Japan and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Ireland.
For some, getting bumped off the cart was intentionally blissful. They learned early on that capitalism, the evil the revolution sought to crush, was after all the current bread of life, no use fighting it. They proceeded to pursue masteral studies in business and economics, and got themselves into successful entrepreneurship in due time. Others got more polishing in political science studies and eventually got elected to public offices or landed choice posts in the country’s top bureaucracy. No need to cite names here, they’d come aplenty.
In strict Leninist-Maoist standard, cuddling up to capitalism is a no-no for revolutionists. As early as the period of the Bolsheviks in Russia, Lenin was condemning revisionism, generally regarded as a sliding back to capitalism. In Mao’s time in China, revisionists were branded, as was Deng Xiao Peng, as capitalist roaders. This was the line taken by Jose Maria Sison when he launched his so-called National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in 1968, as expressed in the popular branding he gave to Luis Taruc and the Lava Brohers (Vicente, Jose and Jesus): “the Lava-Taruc revisionist clique.” Taruc was the Supremo of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP), the powerful guerilla group that shouldered the burden of resisting Japanese occupation of the country in World War II, after General Douglas MacArthur decided to abandon the Philippines in favor of attending to Europe first. The Lava Brothers, on the other hand, were the heirs of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) founded by Crisanto Evangelista early on in the American colonization of the country in 1930. When Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. began his hate-Marcos campaign in the late sixties, he got then University of the Philippines professor Jose Maria Sison and the head of a ragtag band of Huk remnants, Bernabe Buscayno alias Kumander Dante, to meet in the Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita. Subsequent to the meeting was the formation of the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, 1968 and the New People’s Army on March 29, 1969.
From the looks of it, a design no less grand than the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) was needed to damn Marcos and thereby frustrate the perpetuation of his political power. But the great bulk of Philippine proletarian forces at the time was under the sway of the Lava-Taruc tandem which in turn was allied with Russia. It was this great bulk of proletarians (workers and famers combined) that had to be won over by the Sison-Dante pair-up to make effective its function of demolishing Marcos.
Hence the intriguing feature of the National Democratic Revolution: a fight against Soviet social imperialism, ubiquitously expressed in sloganeering campaigns, street rallies and demonstrations, and even in media releases: “Lava-Taruc revisionist clique.”
Now, why intriguing? Because, for one thing, socialism is the very opposite of imperialism. How can you be a socialist and yet an imperialist at the same time? For another thing, revisionism is, as is self-explanatory, a sliding back to capitalism. And Sison, in his Struggle for National Democracy (SND), a pamphlet that was the Bible of early ND activists, was proclaiming the Philippines a semi-feudal and semi-colonial, hence non-capitalist, society. How can he rightfully charge Lava and Taruc of revisionism in a setup that is not yet capitalism, where there is nowhere yet to slide back to, precisely because socialism has not yet been attained from which to slide back?
But for the purpose of demonizing Marcos, the call to combat Soviet social imperialism alongside the call for crushing US imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism stormed the nation during the entire decade of the 70s, and well into half of the 80s when US finally edged Marcos out of the Philippine presidency and in his stead installed Cory.
That US ploy simply caught the entire national democratic movement unawares. Instead of seizing upon the revolutionary situation that had become all too obvious with Marcos’ succumbing to US pressure to hold snap presidential election, the movement opted for boycotting the polls. The boycott policy completely did the movement in. It gave Sison the justification to reassert leadership over the CPP and the NPA, by which reassertion to bring about such results as the revolution’s virtual demise now.
Revolution a way of life
But to the activists of the 70s, revolution was not just a slogan, it was a way of life. No matter the bumps, no matter the tumbles, revolution has persevered in them as air perseveres in giving them breath or water in quenching their thirst.
Praises have been heaped upon the young men and women who died heroes’ deaths early on in life for advancing the cause of the revolution. The Lacabas, the Romeros, the Alejandros, the Jopsons, the Sontillanos, the Balandos, the Tivars, oh, the list is long, the sacrifices many. But has anybody ever paused and pondered how far greater heroism is being done, and on a day-to-day basis at that, by sexagenarians and septuagenarians who have had the misfortune of surviving through all adversities and yet not outgrowing the romance of the First Quarter Storm?
I remember friend and kumpadre, Bayani Abadilla, poet, journalist, revolutionist, for a time a combatant in the New People’s Army (NPA), a Joma loyalist. He was one of the most dedicated, consistent supporters of the strike our union KAMAO (Katipunan ng mga Makabayang Obrero) staged at the Makabayan Publishing Corporation owned by J. Amado Araneta, grandfather of Manuel Roxas II. Though we consistently clashed on ideological issues, we never got this to hinder our camaraderie, and when my first born Maoie was baptized, Bayani was among the godfathers. Bayani died in 2008, and it was very evident in his wake that the Joma faction in the revolutionary movement was giving him honors fit for a hero. In life, Pareng Bayani was a very modest person, so unassuming you would not rank him above the ordinary street character. The only rising he would evince above the commonplace is his being a professor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and his gift as a writer; he authored a book, Sigliwa Kamao, a collections of his poems.
To be concluded tomorrow, Sunday Dec. 20.