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Workers Vanguard No. 878

13 October 2006

Philippines: Down With Arroyo's Reign of Terror

U.S. Troops Out Now!

Declaring “all-out war” against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), the government of president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has unleashed a renewed campaign of terror, vowing to “crush” them in two years. While the stated goal of this offensive, which was announced on June 16, is the destruction of Jose Maria Sison’s CPP and its affiliated organizations, the repression targets all who speak out for social justice or any improvement in the miserable conditions of the Filipino masses.

The new campaign is the latest chapter in an ongoing drive by the Arroyo regime against leftists and other oppositionists. Since Arroyo was installed in power in 2001, the police, the military and death squads have run rampant. The Philippines has become the site of an unrelenting wave of abductions, torture, disappearances and assassinations of not only leftists and labor and peasant activists but of women’s rights leaders, Moro (Muslim) leaders, lawyers and journalists, with over 700 killed under Arroyo. Even before Arroyo announced the new crackdown, the Asia Times (2 June) observed, “That the activists are not being killed en masse, but rather at a slow-motion rate of one every other day, seems calculated to maximize the chilling effect while also minimizing public outrage.”

A state of emergency was declared in late February on the eve of the 20th anniversary of “People Power One”—the movement that signaled the end of the hated Marcos dictatorship and resulted in the installation of Corazon Aquino as president. This crackdown, which followed a rumored coup attempt, fit seamlessly into the ongoing repression. Arroyo banned all demonstrations celebrating the fall of Marcos, raided opposition media offices and ordered the police and armed forces to suppress “any act of insurrection or rebellion.” Nevertheless, public protests broke out against the state of emergency, which was lifted after a week. And in March, more than 10,000 women defied a police ban and marched on International Women’s Day in Manila and other cities.

Fifty-nine individuals, ranging from leftist members of Congress to military officers, were arrested during the state of emergency on bogus charges of rebellion and planning a Communist/rightist coup d’état. Fifty of those arrested were prominent figures from across the spectrum of the left. Anyone alleged to have taken part in “rebellion,” including for acts carried out years ago, could be arrested at any time without a warrant—a threat against any group or individual deemed to be “subversive.” A case in point is that of leftist Congressman and veteran labor leader Crispin Beltran, who was arrested on the basis of a 21-year-old warrant. When lawyers challenged the arrest because the charges had been dropped in 1988, Beltran was then accused of “incitement to sedition” and subsequently charged with “rebellion” against the Arroyo regime.

Arroyo’s reign of terror is abetted and backed up by the presence of the U.S. imperialist military. Washington is intent on reinforcing the repressive apparatus of its Philippine bourgeois lackeys, enhancing imperialist exploitation and quashing social unrest in a country torn by a long-running Muslim secessionist rebellion, a protracted peasant insurgency and mass unrest over worsening economic conditions. Since 2001, the U.S. has provided the regime with $1.2 billion in aid. Much of this goes toward arming and training elite killer forces and supplying the military with helicopters, transport planes and naval patrol craft.

Despite our fundamental political differences with the Maoist CPP, we call on the workers movement internationally to defend them as the government again steps up its repression. The combative Filipino working class and its trade unions must mobilize their social power in class struggle against the bloody regime. But such a struggle requires politically combatting the class-collaborationist program of the CPP and others on the left who have repeatedly channeled plebeian anger and protests into support for a “progressive” wing of the bourgeoisie, waving the colors of Filipino nationalism. What is needed is the building of a Leninist-Trotskyist party—a Philippine section of a reforged Fourth International. Such a party, acting in concert with its comrades in the imperialist centers, is the necessary instrument to lead the proletariat, marching at the head of the oppressed, in the fight for socialist revolution.

Workers, Leftists, Muslims Under Attack

The death squads would not be able to operate without the complicity, direction and protective umbrella of regional military commanders. The Armed Forces of the Philippines circulated a June 2005 document called “Knowing Your Enemy,” a hit list containing the names of 26 leftist and other opposition groups described as enemies of the state. Moreover, as Amnesty International (AI) noted in a 15 August report, “Philippines: Political Killings, Human Rights and the Peace Process,” the government made public the names and addresses of members of the CPP-led National Democratic Front and others who had taken part in “peace negotiations” with the regime and whose identities had supposedly been protected by a “safe conduct” agreement.

A notorious ringleader of the murderous repression is General Jovito Palparan, who was appointed the army’s Chief of Staff following his return from heading up Philippine detachments that took part in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq until pulling out two years ago. After Palparan was assigned to Central Luzon in September 2005, the number of assassinations in the region reached 52 in four months. Palparan, who retired this September, has also been accused of perpetrating a spate of disappearances and assassinations of leftists during previous postings in Samar and Mindoro. The AI report quotes an Agence France Presse (3 February) article in which Palparan, known as “the Butcher of Mindoro,” coolly stated that the bloody repression would bring “collateral damage but it will be short and tolerable.... The killings, I would say, are necessary incidents in a conflict.”

Among those killed under Arroyo are 43 trade-union leaders and members, including Diosdado Fortuna, president of the Nestlé workers union, who was slain in September 2005 during a militant strike. The previous year saw the notorious massacre of striking Hacienda Luisita sugar workers in Tarlac (see “Protest Massacre of Unionists in Philippines!” WV No. 838, 10 December 2004). Other targets have included members of the CPP-linked national labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement), the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers, and electric utility and bus company unions. Other victims linked to the CPP include 113 members of the Bayan Muna (Nation First) party and 86 activists from the Gabriela women’s group. And at least 42 journalists have been cut down during Arroyo’s presidency.

The Arroyo regime’s repression has particularly hit the countryside, long the site of massacres carried out by the state, the landlords and death squads. Some 70 peasants and peasant leaders involved in land disputes have been killed. In November 2005, the army in the Visayas region attacked peasants holding a public meeting, killing nine. In a March 2005 slaughter shown live on national television, security forces stormed a military prison where 26 unarmed Muslim detainees, mostly displaced peasants and fishermen, were shot dead as they protested their arbitrary and prolonged detention and horrific prison conditions.

In a sop to international pressure, on August 17 Arroyo announced the formation of the Melo Commission, which is supposedly meant to investigate the murders of leftists and labor leaders. Composed of longtime loyalists of both the Macapagal and Arroyo families, this whitewash commission includes a former Supreme Court justice, the Chief State Prosecutor and the director of the National Bureau of Investigation!

Meanwhile, the longstanding terror campaign against the oppressed Moro population continues unabated. Since 2001, when the U.S. opened a “second front” in the “global war on terror” by landing troops on the island of Mindanao, tens of thousands of Moro Muslims have been forcibly displaced and hundreds tortured, killed or disappeared. The sight of American soldiers roaming Mindanao and inflicting bloody repression is a haunting reminder of the atrocities meted out to the Muslim population under U.S. colonial rule at the turn of the 20th century. This March marked the 100th anniversary of the methodical slaughter by American troops of some 900 Moro men, women and children who had taken refuge in the bowl of the volcanic crater of Bud Dahu mountain. No one was spared. “Not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother,” wrote Mark Twain in denouncing this atrocity. President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated General Leonard Wood, who directed the bloodbath, and his men “upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.”

The marginalization and expropriation of the Muslim population intensified in the postcolonial period, especially under Marcos, who attempted to put an end to the “Muslim question” by overwhelming the Moro population with Christian migrants. While in 1903 Muslims constituted 76 percent of the population of Mindanao, today they make up less than 20 percent. A Leninist-Trotskyist party would act as the tribune of the people, fighting for full equality for minorities and for the integration of the Muslim toilers into the working class. Down with the military occupation of Mindanao! U.S. and Philippine troops out now!

Arroyo Regime Aids Imperialists’ Anti-China Drive

After gaining nominal independence following World War II, the Philippines remained a semicolonial vassal of the U.S., serving as a linchpin of the anti-Communist ASEAN alliance. In the 1960s and ’70s, Clark Air Base and the Subic Bay Naval Base were crucial platforms for U.S. imperialism’s counterrevolutionary war against the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants.

The Arroyo government, a rabid supporter of the “global war on terror,” provided airspace and military facilities for U.S. warplanes en route to aircraft carriers and bases in the Indian Ocean during the invasion of Afghanistan, and it sent troops to Iraq. This March, the regime signed an agreement setting up the Security Engagement Board (SEB), which will increase U.S. forces in the Philippines under the pretexts of maritime safety, fighting “terrorism” and dealing with natural disasters and epidemics. The SEB is the latest in a series of military pacts drawn up since 1998 that effectively create a permanent U.S. military presence in the country. Manila has also invited the U.S. to reoccupy the bases it abandoned at the time of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92.

The growing U.S. military presence in the Philippines over the past decade is part of a broader strategic shift of American military forces to the Asia-Pacific region. This shift is aimed squarely at China, as the imperialists stoke their drive for capitalist counterrevolution in the largest and most powerful of the remaining deformed workers states, as well as at North Korea. A U.S.-Japan joint policy statement issued in February 2005 that declared capitalist Taiwan a “mutual security concern” signaled the imperialists’ intention to strengthen their military agreements and reposition their forces against China.

The Pentagon’s 2002 “Nuclear Posture Review” lists China as one of seven potential targets of a U.S. nuclear first strike. The U.S. has infested the Pacific Ocean with a massive armada of warships, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Barely a month passes without a military exercise conducted in the Pacific Rim involving thousands of American troops from different branches of the military, at times carried out jointly with U.S. allies. Near Guam this June, the Pacific Command’s “Valiant Shield” exercise, one of the largest in decades, involved some 30 warships, including three aircraft carriers, hundreds of warplanes and 22,000 troops.

Washington is seeking once again to turn the strategically located Philippine archipelago into an unsinkable aircraft carrier and add it to the string of countries around China’s perimeter that provide the U.S. with military bases, from Kyrgyzstan on China’s western flank to South Korea, Taiwan and Japan along the Pacific Rim. The Bush administration announced a nuclear pact with India in March as a step toward bringing that country into Washington’s anti-China alliance. In Australia, the southern arm of this encirclement, the U.S. is building huge bases at Bradshaw and at Yampi Sound.

Internationally, almost the entire left refuses to defend China against imperialism under the pretense that it is a capitalist country, pointing, for example, to the Beijing bureaucracy’s “market reforms” and the significant amount of investment by offshore Chinese and imperialist capital on the mainland. In fact, the imperialists have a two-pronged strategy for capitalist counterrevolution, combining military pressure with economic penetration. Currently, the U.S., European and Japanese capitalists are putting enormous pressure on China to open up its state-owned financial system to foreign banks, while the IMF “advises” Beijing to reduce its budget deficit by cutting back on investment in infrastructure, an austerity measure that would destroy the livelihood of millions of Chinese toilers.

Ever since the destruction of the Soviet Union, the imperialists have set China as the main target for counterrevolution, aiming to reverse the gains of the 1949 Revolution. Despite profound bureaucratic deformations, the Chinese Revolution was of world-historic significance, overthrowing the rule of the imperialist-backed Chinese bourgeoisie and creating a collectivized economy that laid the basis for an enormous leap in social progress. A nation that had been ravaged and divided by foreign powers for a century was unified and freed from imperialist subjugation. In a country defined by abject peasant backwardness, the revolution enabled women to advance by magnitudes over their previous status.

These gains, however, have been undermined by Stalinist misrule. Following the Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” and its corollary, “peaceful coexistence,” the Chinese Communist Party regime, from Mao Zedong up through today, has conciliated imperialism, not least through selling out revolutions in other countries. And one effect of “market reforms” has been the strengthening of domestic counterrevolutionary forces.

The impact of capitalist restoration on the Chinese population would be even more devastating than what befell the working people of the former Soviet Union, which had been a global industrial and military power. It is in the direct interest of the international proletariat to defend China and the other remaining deformed workers states—North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. What are necessary are proletarian political revolutions to oust the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies. Such a perspective must include the fight for socialist revolution internationally, crucially extending to the U.S., Japanese and European imperialist centers.

Class Collaboration vs. Proletarian Independence

Arroyo, like her predecessors, presides over the grinding immiseration of the Filipino population, imposing one IMF-dictated austerity program after another to pay for usurious loans, otherwise known as the “foreign debt.” Over eleven million of the Philippines’ 33 million people of working age are unemployed or underemployed. And some eight million Filipinos are currently working abroad, including in such dangerous places as Iraq, where an estimated 6,000 are working. At the same time, the large diaspora of overseas workers, along with Filipino seamen, who make up roughly one-fifth of the international maritime workforce, form a living bridge linking the struggles of the proletariat in the Philippines to those of its class brothers and sisters around the world.

Over 40 percent of households in the Philippines lack adequate shelter and food. Tens of thousands of Manila slum dwellers eke out a living scavenging mountains of garbage dumps. The public education and health systems have sharply deteriorated as a result of stepped-up privatization and slashing of public spending. In February, a devastating landslide, largely caused by deforestation, buried 1,800 people on the island of Leyte. The incompetence of the regime and its failure to provide the most basic relief was a cause of anger and indignation across the country. And in the slums around Manila, massive fires are now commonplace, as steep increases in power rates force people to use kerosene and candles for lighting. Thousands have been left homeless there.

Bent on reversing some measures instituted after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, the Arroyo regime has launched a campaign for constitutional “Charter Change,” or “Cha-Cha.” The proposed changes to the constitution include removing restrictions on the operation of foreign capital in the country and eliminating provisions for the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. It also calls for replacing the current electoral system, under which leftist parties have won a number of Congressional seats. If Arroyo succeeds in ramming through this scheme, the 2007 legislative elections will be postponed. There is plenty of opposition to “Cha-Cha” among sections of the bourgeoisie. But one thing the competing wings of the ruling class agree on is the need to repress the workers and the poor. As Arroyo told her cabinet, “The fight against the Left remains the glue that binds” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 18 June).

Resistance is growing among workers, farmers, students and minorities fighting for justice for the victims of the regime’s terror, an end to the U.S. military presence, the repeal of value-added taxes, land reform, an increase in the minimum wage and other demands. But the Filipino left, centrally Sison’s CPP, is attempting to channel this plebeian anger into a broad “anti-imperialist united front” with those sections of the domestic bourgeoisie that fear foreign investment rivalry and are uneasy with the Arroyo regime’s hawkish posture and open embrace of its American imperialist master.

While pursuing on-and-off peace talks with the government, the Sisonites taunt Arroyo as “anti-Filipino” and seek to broker alliances with disaffected military officers and the shadowy MKP (Nationalist Filipino Soldiers). In a March 12 statement, Sison called for the “legal and nonviolent ouster of the Arroyo regime” through a “broad united front of patriotic, progressive and anti-Arroyo forces” that would be “open to the participation of civilian and military officials and personnel of the reactionary government.” The statement called for the formation of a “Transition Council” that would include “the representatives of all major coalitions, political parties, mass organizations and groups of retired military and police officers.” The Sisonites thus seek an alliance with some of the very forces trained by the U.S. to hunt down leftists and Muslim militants.

Underlying this class-collaborationist policy is the Menshevik-Stalinist program of “two-stage revolution”: fighting for a “democratic” revolution in league with a mythical “progressive” and “anti-imperialist” wing of the bourgeoisie while relegating the struggle for socialism to an indefinite future. From the Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927, which was drowned in blood by Chiang Kai-shek, to the massacres of Indonesian Communists by General Suharto in 1965, history has repeatedly demonstrated that the first “stage” of “two-stage revolution” ends in the blood of the working class and the oppressed.

Against this Stalinist program of betrayal, revolutionary Marxists fight for the political independence of the proletariat from all wings of the bourgeoisie. In regard to the Philippines and other countries of belated capitalist development, the International Communist League is guided by the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution, whose validity was borne out by the proletarian Russian Revolution of 1917.

As explained by Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the October Revolution, the evolution of backward countries that came to capitalist development in the epoch of imperialism reflects the process of “combined and uneven development”: cottage industries and other backward forms of production exist side by side with massive industrial plants, funded by imperialist capital, employing the most advanced technique. Thus in the Philippines, production for the world market has led to the emergence of a modern, concentrated proletariat working for electronics giants like Hitachi and Philips, Japanese automakers and other major corporations, while the peasantry has been robbed of its lands to make way for sugarcane, coconut and banana plantations dominated by the likes of Dole and Del Monte. Facing this huge propertyless, impoverished mass is a sliver of a domestic bourgeoisie that acts as compradors for the imperialists.

Too weak to confront its imperialist overlords, on whom it depends for securing its class rule, and living in fear of a revolutionary upheaval of the exploited masses, the stunted Philippine bourgeoisie is incapable of achieving the democratic gains associated with the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, such as national liberation, agrarian revolution, political democracy and the separation of church and state. For the Stalinists’ mythical “progressive” national bourgeoisie, even a moderate agrarian reform is enough to give them apoplexy, and democracy is a “luxury” they cannot afford. They prefer death squads.

As Trotsky wrote in The Permanent Revolution (1930), “With regard to countries with a belated bourgeois development, especially the colonial and semi-colonial countries, the theory of the permanent revolution signifies that the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation.” Once in power, the proletariat of necessity must move toward building a collectivized economy through the expropriation of capitalist property. This in turn requires a fight to extend proletarian revolution to the imperialist centers in order to set the stage for an internationally planned economy—the basis for building a socialist society based on material abundance.

Forge a Trotskyist Party!

It is crucial that the Filipino proletariat champion the just struggles of the rural poor against the landlords and agribusiness interests. Rejecting the vanguard role of the working class, the Maoist CPP and New People’s Army have been waging peasant-based guerrilla warfare for almost four decades. Such guerrilla movements represent the class interests of the petty bourgeoisie and of necessity must seek to attract and make compromises with one wing of the bourgeoisie. Fundamentally, the CPP’s guerrilla struggles have served as a pressure tactic on the bourgeoisie, aimed at forcing concessions at the negotiating table.

Even under the most favorable historical circumstances, guerrilla warfare has been capable at most of creating bureaucratically deformed workers states. Thus in Cuba, Castro’s guerrilla movement, based on the petty-bourgeois peasantry, was able to take power in 1959 and smash capitalist property relations in 1960-61 due to extremely exceptional circumstances: the flight of the national bourgeoisie, the absence of the working class as a contender for social power in its own right, and, most importantly, an economic and military lifeline thrown by the Soviet Union. Even so, the Cuban Revolution placed in power an anti-proletarian, nationalist regime, requiring a fight for proletarian political revolution. With the destruction of the Soviet Union, and consequently no readily available lifeline against imperialist encirclement, the narrow historical opening that made it possible for petty-bourgeois forces to overturn the capitalist order has been closed.

What is necessary is a programmatic break with all variants of the Menshevik-Stalinist dogma of “two-stage revolution” that dominates the Filipino left. Both the CPP and its breakaway groups, including the Workers Party (PM), hailed “People Power Two,” the 2001 coup that ousted corrupt populist president Joseph Estrada and installed Arroyo with the blessing of the Catholic church and the backing of the Makati Business Club (see “For Workers Revolution in the Philippines!” WV No. 763, 31 August 2001). The Sisonite Bayan Muna party even campaigned for Arroyo’s senatorial ticket in the 2001 elections after her regime bloodily suppressed a May Day demonstration by Estrada’s plebeian supporters.

Like the CPP, the PM, whose policies are inspired by Felimon Lagman, a labor leader assassinated a month after Arroyo took power, demands a “transitional revolutionary government” to replace Arroyo. A current vehicle for the PM’s class-collaborationist politics is the Laban ng Masa (LnM—Struggle of the Masses) bloc, whose components range from the social-democratic BISIG party to the Revolutionary Workers Party-Mindanao, which is affiliated with the fake-Trotskyist United Secretariat.

In February, the PM/LnM advocated alliances with “patriotic” elements within the military and police. In particular, PM/LnM hailed a group of officers who had rebelled against Arroyo, declaring: “We are united with the Magdalo officers and rebel soldiers in their cause to overthrow an illegitimate regime” (Laban ng Masa Web site, 22 February 2006). This line was a continuation of PM honcho Sonny Melencio’s 2002 call for a “revolutionary united front” that was to include such “non-socialist groups” as the Young Officers Union, a nationalist military formation that called for a coup d’état against Arroyo (Links, January-April 2002).

In their appeals to the military officer corps and the police, the CPP and PM trample on the Leninist understanding of the capitalist state. Consisting at its core of the cops, courts, prisons and army, the capitalist state is a machinery of violence that exists to defend the profits and rule of the bourgeoisie against the working class and the oppressed. The struggle against repression, exploitation and poverty requires a fight to sweep away capitalist rule through a proletarian revolution that shatters the bourgeois state and replaces it with a workers state, supported by the peasantry and other oppressed plebeian layers.

Key to a victorious socialist revolution in the Philippines is the forging of an internationalist Leninist-Trotskyist party, centrally through polemical struggle against all variants of nationalism and class collaboration promoted by the opportunist left. Reforge the Fourth International—world party of socialist revolution!


Workers Vanguard No. 878

WV 878

13 October 2006


U.S. Torture Elections

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Philippines: Down With Arroyo's Reign of Terror

U.S. Troops Out Now!


ILWU Support Key

Filipino Seamen Win Strike in L.A.


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