First of two parts
In celebrating the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio last Nov. 30, a workers group calling itself MASO (Manggagawang Socialista) ng Pilipinas signals its resolve to advance socialism in the Philippines the correct way. Firebrand Nilo Brin, boasting credentials as a former New People’s Army (NPA) red fighter, is MASO Secreariat Head, and at the founding assembly of the group last Friday, he reiterated a stand for continued revolutionary struggle by the working class in aspiring for political power.
Given the current obvious accommodation of the CPP/NPA/NDF triumvirate into the Duterte government, a need has arisen for a revolutionary undertaking by the Philippine working class such as witnessed the period of the First Quarter Storm when the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng mga Manggagawa (KASAMA) took the frontlines in combating the Marcos dictatorship. The militant pronouncements by leaders in the MASO founding assembly, aside from Brin, like Rasti Delizo of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) and Josie Cruz of Katipunan ng Manggagawang Pilipino (KMP), whose just as militant renditions of revolutionary songs together with other members of MASO’s cultural group called Sining Laya, is so stirring it prompted listeners to take up arms, served notice that MASO is rising to the challenge. And for its initial foray, a morning assembly at the Liwasang Bonifacio during which it will conduct a short program, prior to a march to Morayta to strike up solidarity with students in a full-blown program of revolutionary speeches and songs. To survivors of the First Quarter Storm, the affair can offer them much release of revolutionary nostalgia.
The ideal of serving the working class has been so addictive that once one got hooked to it, there was no outliving the romance: the proletariat can no longer liberate itself without at the same time liberating the whole of society. And the only way to liberate the working class, so say Brin and company, is armed struggle.
Anyway MASO is a group consisting of various organizations all pursuing socialist aims without one’s advocacy of methodology precluding others from persevering in their own. In short, socialism is the objective. By whatever means it may be achieved, fine.
Is the proletarian revolution to be satisfied by the Deng Xiao Peng dictum: “I don’t care if a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice?”
By Marxist orthodoxy, it must not be so. Marx was unequivocal in the Communist Manifesto: “Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.” Such tenet is endemic in the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The antagonism between these two classes is irreconcilable and so cannot be resolved by any means other than force – armed struggle, if you may.
In my olden days as Education Head of the Party Group (CPP) in the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng mga Manggagawa (KASAMA), it was my consistent pleasure and privilege to be getting workers agitated on the idea of bringing capitalism down through armed revolution. That I got certainly from reading and imbibing at heart Marxist principles elucidated on in such revolutionary documents as Das Kapital, Communist Manifesto, Lenin’s State and Revolution and What’s To Be Done?, and Mao Tse Tung’s Five Volumes.
Of Mao’s Five Volumes, one, On Practice, delineates the process undertaken by knowing, that is, the first stage, the perceptual stage, needing to be proven by practice in order to achieve the second stage, the conceptual stage, which is the qualitative knowing, the true knowledge.
In the fire and fury of the First Quarter Storm, only the book learning of the theories of revolution seized activists with in combating the Marcos Dictatorship. In Mao’s On Practice, this corresponded only to the perceptual stage. One needed to pause from the frenzy of it all to be able to sum up his experiences and raise the learning to the theoretical level whereupon his knowing becomes true.
During the MASO founding assembly, Marxist and Leninist orthodoxy evidently proliferated, with firebrands stranding pat on pursuing violent revolution as means for achieving the liberation of the working class, the establishment of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, as the condition for instituting socialism.
In my case, after the assassination of NPA Chief Rolando Kintanar and as a consequence I was isolated from the Party together with all those under the Kintanar wing, I got that needed pause during which to synthesize the many facets of my revolutionary practice. As a result, I found myself reaching conclusions that appear to be different from those I got from reading Marxist, Leninist and Maoist books. In 2012 I committed these conclusions to writing, publishing them, for want of any other outlet, in my blogsite KAMAO.
Given the upheavals that are currently springing, upheavals in which the Filipino proletariat as a matter of exigency must assert its vanguard role in changing society – given further the evident intransigent stand of workers leaders to stick to the orthodoxy of Marxism and Leninism – I feel constrained to dig up those conclusions from the archives of KAMAO and publish them in my column on this MASO’s commemoration of the birth anniversary of Bonifacio.
Lessons from proletarian struggles
THE PITFALL of anyone arguing that communism is not attainable in our lifetime is the same as that of those who preach to the poor to accept their wretched existence on earth for anyway they will inherit the kingdom of heaven – metaphysics.
At a time when Marx had just completed formalizing the idea of communism, it was understandable that one would think about it as attainable only beyond our lifetime. The Communist Manifesto had antedated the Paris Commune by more than two decades, hence at the time he wrote the manifesto no experience was at hand to prove that communism could be achieved in the immediate sense.
The Paris Commune upheld the fact, which Marx proceeded to annotate into the manifesto, that “the proletariat cannot just lay hold of the machinery of the bourgeois state and use it for its purpose.” This reinforced the idea of armed struggle having to be waged in order to install the workers as the ruling class. Such installation, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is the condition for the abolition of classes and the withering away of the state whence alone to proceed the communist society.
Moreover the liberation of the proletariat must be on a world scale. Therefore, so long as there remain in the world workers continuing to suffer bourgeois oppression and exploitation, communism cannot be said to exist.
Indeed the context within which to establish communism is awesome: workers armed revolutions raging all over the world; proletarian dictatorships needing long periods to consolidate; and longer periods still for those dictatorships to rearrange relations of productions and put in place the mechanism for the abolition of private property and classes. One whole great era counting centuries appears to be necessary to truly bring about the withering away of the state, the final phase for the establishment of a communist society. Given this context, communism appears utterly unrealizable now or in the near future.
For this reason, communism has been categorized as no different from that heaven for inheriting by the poor not in the here-and-now but in the great beyond.
But, again, in the time of Marx that was understandable. But between 1848, when he wrote the Communist Manifesto, and 2012 is more than a century and a half of workers’ unceasing struggles. These struggles have crystallized aspects of proletarian politics which support the idea that communism is not a heavenly promise but a dream attainable in our lifetime.
For instance, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Contrary to popular perceptions, that revolution was not against the bourgeoisie but against the feudal rule of Czar Nicolas II. What overthrew the succeeding bourgeois rule was not a revolution but a quiet coup undertaken by the Bolsheviks through the simple expedience of arresting the Kerensky cabinet and making Kerensky himself just flee. Whereupon Lenin proclaimed the famous lines: “All power to the Soviets!” From accounts of the event, it was hardly a violent takeover, definitely a bloodless one.
In contrast, the struggle of the Chinese Communist Party against the Kuomintang was bloody. After fighting together against the Japanese invasion beginning 1938, the two parties were thrown into the bloodiest ever in recorded history of civil wars. Erupting immediately at the end of World War II, the civil strife lasted for five years and culminated in communist takeover of the entire mainland China in 1949, while the Kuomintang retreated to the small island of Formosa (now Taiwan).
On the other hand, the struggle of Fidel Castro against Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959 offers a role model for a revolution against a totalitarian regime. Though having communistic aims due to the influence of Che Guevarra, the Castro revolt did not show its communist color all throughout the struggle. Castro proclaimed socialism only when he was already entrenched in power.