Thousands of progressive forces are paying tribute to the late revolutionary leader and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding figure Jose Maria Sison and celebrating his legacy. The enemies of the people, meanwhile, are celebrating; most of which we won’t mention here since this article is not about them.
It is undeniable even among political rivals that contend with the national democratic movement that his work and his share of the struggle changed the landscape of Philippine politics.
Immediately, a day after Joma’s passing, a historian seeking readership for his debut publication tried to malign his legacy. That historian is no other than Joseph Scalice, a self-styled internet and academic adversary of “Stalinists.”
In his Twitter thread, Scalice once again vilified not only Sison and the national democratic analysis of the national bourgeois interests but the people’s aspiration for national industrialization and development. Like before, he dismissed the analysis as “Stalinist” tendencies of “capitalist origins.”
I wonder if Scalice would survive a day without saying the word “Stalinist.” Actually, it would be a good drinking game: take a shot everytime Scalice says “Stalinist.”
I would have loved to write a principled point-by-point response on how the national bourgeoisie is not the primary enemy of the people in the present stage of the revolution or is not as despotic as the bourgeoisie-comprador class, but Sison, the CPP and many martyrs and leaders of the movement have explained it comprehensively in countless times.
This is also to challenge others who are confused by Scalice and his parrots’ dismissive and reductive claims against Sison, the CPP and the national democratic movement as a whole. The internet is wide and somewhat free and any reader who would reach this point must have the time and resources at their disposal to understand things.
Secondly, Scalice attacked Sison’s class origins—saying that had he not hailed from a privileged class, he would not have had any impact on mass struggles and national politics.
Many know that Sison abandoned his class origin for the sake of the revolution. This was highlighted by his years of imprisonment and torture during the Marcos dictatorship. Further, by his decades of living as a political refugee in the Netherlands. Comrades, activists and anyone who has visited their Utrecht abode and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) office can attest to this.
Sane and well-meaning individuals would find Sison and many others like him worthy of praise, just as progressive literati revere Tolstoy for giving away his possessions and preaching against land monopoly before his final years. It is no ordinary feat to cast away one’s class in the name of the greater good, for causes greater than us.
The class origin of any individual will never be a hindrance for them to remold and embrace revolutionary ideals, tread the revolutionary path and live a revolutionary life. This should even go without saying.
Kampanyang Ahos and Cadena de Amor, the purgings—these are the favorite subjects of any political adversary of Sison and the national democratic movement. Scalice, like the lapdogs of the AFP and the NTF-Elcac, solely blames the dreadful internal purgings of the CPP itself, claiming it is based on Sison’s instruction.
Of course, it’s always easy for those who think in black and white to point their fingers at specific figures and not examine a particular matter in its entirety. The truth is that the conditions in the 1980s that brought about these errors were created while Sison was in jail, the same as the major decisions that authorized these.
Furthermore, the CPP already owned up to its mistakes and successfully rectified as a whole. In “Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors,” a 1992 document drafted by Sison Sison himself using the nom de guerre Armando Liwanag, the CPP laid down its errors and deviations from the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Instead of showbiz-like accusations, it comprehensively traced all errors from ideological, political, and organizational problems.
Hence, the purging which victimized comrades and cadres during the ‘80s cannot be reduced to a one-man policy since it is a collective mistake. We can go on and debate this, but we cannot deny that the beauty of the Marxist outlook is that it constantly assesses and rectifies itself. A party becomes stronger when it purges itself—of wrong ideas and wrong practices, right? This is something that the likes of Scalice do not appreciate.
Scalice also tried to play some drama of conspiracy and intrigue-mongering, saying Sison would proclaim from time to time that between two representatives of the ruling class, one is progressive and the other is reactionary. This only displayed his ignorance of broad united front work. Moreover, this gives us a hint at how much practical knowledge and experience Scalice has on actual mass struggles.
Accusing Sison and the CPP of being “class traitors,” he pointed out how the movement supported the first US-Aquino regime and “enabled” the successive massacres and brutality of the post-Marcos pseudo-democratic landlord rule. Second, he claimed that Sison and the CPP “endorsed” the murderous Duterte regime.
It doesn’t really require much Marxist education to understand how trial and error process works for almost everything, even in the struggle and the revolution. The national democratic movement worked alongside, maybe not locking arms with, the Aquino faction of the elite.
Immediately after the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship, the first Aquino regime paraded itself as the champion of democracy. At that time, its brutal nature was not yet unveiled. The movement immediately terminated support after the Mendiola massacre, leaving the real class traitors at the disposal of the Aquino regime.
The same goes for the Duterte regime. The Makabayan Coalition, a coalition of progressive partylists and does not represent the CPP in any way, supported Grace Poe’s candidacy (I can confirm this because, at the time, we were campaigning for Kabataan Partylist and Grace Poe).
But then, Duterte won by a landslide, feigned “socialist” ideals, and offered the possibility of some substantial reforms. Who would not want agrarian reform, environmental protection, basic social services and peace negotiations?
Through the NDFP, the CPP sincerely faced the representatives of the government, with Sison as the chief political consultant. Isn’t it logical and reasonable for any revolutionary party to maximize a small space where substantial reforms might be achieved or at least agreed upon?
I can well remember that the movement tried to campaign for the continuation of peace talks but it was Duterte who was never for peace. Hence, there is no substantial “endorsement” or “support” for Duterte from Sison and the movement.
There is something terribly wrong when progressive forces, aligning themselves with a lesser evil to defeat a powerful and incumbent bigger evil, are blamed for the crimes committed by the lesser evil after it gains power.
This kind of thinking will have progressive forces do nothing, or go their own way, and objectively support the powerful and incumbent bigger evil. This thinking coheres with a misreading of the quote “the worse, the better.” This is not a dictum of movements that puts paramount importance on the interests of the masses – the mass line, according to Mao, something the Trotskyist Scalice won’t understand.
Scalice’s series of non-sequiturs pathetically tried to paint Sison and the national democratic movement as puppets of the capitalist class because for the likes of him, any alliance or relations regardless of the context with other political forces means the abandonment of principles. They’d choose isolation over winning hearts and minds; “correctness” over practicality – even as, objectively, they are still supporting factions of the capitalist class.
The problem with this seemingly revolutionary outlook is that it is devoid of analysis in the political milieu, disregards any movement’s qualitative and quantitative capacity in the political and organizational sense, and is obsessed with textbook correctness in ideological and political lines. We all have seen how this tendency in the guise of correctness leads to a movement’s demise. But this article does not intend to explain how mass campaigns and struggles or united front work should be done so let’s leave it at that.
A good reply in his thread says “when a Trotskyite is dancing on a Marxist’s grave you can be sure that that Marxist was a great man.”
Indeed, Sison was a great man. He and the movement he led have achieved many victories and were tested by time and countless adversities. This is one thing that the likes of Scalice will not be able to do: build a movement across all possible democratic and progressive forces, the 99%.
They will always be busy blabbering about their version of correctness in ideology and politics, pointing out mistakes, missed opportunities and other mishaps that were already addressed and will always be rectified by the movement.
One last thing, for Scalice and his ilk: teorya mo, isa-praktika mo. Let history be the judge. We will all be vindicated by our actions anyway.
Sison lived a life of struggle and has taught movements across the world with the sharpest tools of analysis. People’s organizations and parties pay their tribute and celebrate his legacy. That’s something that Scalice will not receive for his works and maybe in his entire light. Too bad. What a pity.
But there will always be room for remolding and improvement and that is when intellectuals recalibrate themselves and their individualism – and cast away dogma – to devote their lives to the struggles of the masses. In the meantime, let Scalice wallow in envy. As our generation puts it, “‘pag inggit, pikit!”.