If the Communist Party of the Philippines were a person, he/she would be approaching middle age. If he were male, his gut would be extending now, head balding, the skin under his jaws filled with fat and hanging. If she were female, the party would also be sagging all over, her hips expanding, and most likely experiencing the first hot flashes associated with menopause. In short, if “humanized,” the CPP is at that phase in life where it is expected to slow down.
Now, if you factor in the age of its top leaders, then we are talking of a “movement” that is, in reality, a decade older than its formal age. CPP eternal chairman Jose Ma. Sison, is 75 years old, and has not been in the Philippines for 23 years now. His Utrecht retainers – wife Julie, Luis Jalandoni and wife Connie Ledesma, Fidel Agcaoili, and the sinister Jose Luneta – are also of the same age as the Filipino Ayatollah. At home, the Tiamson couple and other members of the politburo now in jail (prominently, Alan Jazmines), and those still on the outside (Vic LadLad and Jorge Madlos) are also about to enter their 70s.
Defenders, including those in media, will insist that there is a new generation of communists that is taking over the day-to-day work of propaganda, agitation, expansion, and warfare. The simultaneous ambush of military detachments last December 29 in Tubungan, Iloilo, and Mabini, Compostela Valley, are just one of many examples of this resilience. Moreover, in the majority of these small fire engagements, the communists were clearly taking the war to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that seems to prefer being constantly on the defensive. So there is truly some cause for optimism for communists and their supporters.
However, one is not sure if this holds water.
Organizational atrophy remains a long-standing norm. The dotards in Utrecht, the countryside, and the urban underground are still keeping a firm autocratic control over the rest of the flock, especially ensuring that the young ones are well-behaved (one can’t have a repeat of the late 1980s, where the younger cadres complained about the remoteness of the Maoist doctrine to Philippine realities and demanded the party hold its Second Congress after 1967!).
This is, of course, not new. Communist parties seem to be the favorite digs of the old and the retirees: Brezhnev and Andropov slavered and held on to power well into their 70s (they smoked and drank a lot, so add in 15 years); Le Duc Tho was Vietnamese eminence grise until he conked out at 89; and Mao ruled until he finally croaked at 93. The CPP is simply being steadfast in keeping with tradition.
Today’s big picture is likewise a killjoy. When placed in the middle of the forest, the so-called “revolutionary gains” bandied in the 46th anniversary pale in comparison with the resilience of this evil “semi-colonial, semi-feudal system.” And in this particular anniversary even the pictures cannot any more lie. In a city of 12 million, the party of the masses could only muster a hundred members of the proletariat to complicate traffic along Taft Avenue. Out in the kanayunan, only the northeastern command of the New People’s Army (NPA) could afford to host a celebration, one that could easily be trumped by a fiesta in honor of the patron saint of the barrio.
The party leadership has not contradicted the AFP’s claim that the NPA is unable to expand beyond its current force of 4,000 – the same number when a new century began. Instead, we have this contorted excuse called “uneven development” to explain the failure of the maquis to grow (Note that guerilla zones are amorphous realms, so the numbers given by Madlos and the CPP’s rag Ang Bayan are not true).
A former serious communist suggested that there is a far more fundamental thing that is out of synch here: the party and Marxism itself. Across the ideological spectrum, writers – from columnists of The Economist to the social democrat Thomas Piketty to the leftwing theorists of the New Left Review – have observed in different ways the continuing relevance of the Marxist analyses of capitalism and its impact on social relations and income inequalities. In short, political economy is in vogue again, and topping the reading lists for many an activist and intelligentsia worldwide is Grumpy Karl’s writings.
The CPP has bucked the trend. Its dwindling adherents still think Philippine Society and Revolution, a manuscript Sison wrote in 1968, is the best guide to 21st century politics. Fil-Am activists fighting the revolution from the comforts of their California and New Jersey homes even rap PSR and writing adoring lyrics about their “homie” Joema and the “three basic problems.” Nothing new has come out of its best thinkers, including those manning Ibon Foundation, while at the University of the Philippines, its top cadres like to tinker more with post-colonial amphigory and enjoying the perks of bureaucratism, instead of updating the Ayatollah’s palimpsest, especially its economic arguments.
The CPP’s visage may, therefore, look middle age, but its real corpus is more that of an old geezer. The party cannot party like it’s 1999 anymore, and it definitely cannot hip-hop.
The best it could do is a slow dance. And the old man – now hard in hearing – reportedly wants to go home to learn how to ballroom dance. – Rappler.com
Patricio N. Abinales is author of Love, Sex and the Filipino Communist (or Hinggil sa Pagpigil ng Panggigigil), published by Anvil in 2004.
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