August 30, 2007 · Posted in: i Report Features, In the News

The great Left divide

THE recent arrest under strange circumstances of Jose Maria “Joma” Sison by Dutch authorities on charges that he allegedly ordered the killing of two former comrades is only the latest twist in the continuing saga of the fractured Left in the Philippines.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, of which Sison was founding chair (and whom the Philippine government suspects to have reassumed his position while in exile in The Netherlands), owned up to the murders of Romulo Kintanar, the former chief of the CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army, and Arturo Tabara, who once headed the Visayas Commission (VisCom). NPA hit squads gunned down Kintanar in January 2003 and Tabara in September 2004.

NPA guerrillas [photo by Rick Rocamora]

The two, along with another assassinated Left leader Felimon “Popoy” Lagman; Ricardo Reyes, former editor of the communist publication, Ang Bayan; and Benjamin de Vera, were central figures in the split in the CPP in 1992, all of whom the exiled Sison branded as “counterrevolutionaries.” Basically, the accusations stemmed from major ideological differences and deviations from what the local communists uphold as theory and practice, that of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. In a nutshell, that means:

  • maintaining the view that Philippine society is “semifeudal” and “semicolonial” as it has not become industrialized and urbanized;
  • pursuing the general line of new democratic revolution by relying on the alliance of workers and peasants and winning over the urban petty bourgeoisie or the middle classes;
  • recognizing the CPP as the vanguard force of the proletariat or the working class;
  • waging the protracted people’s war (PPW) strategy of “encircling the cities from the countryside,” among others.

The split, though internal in nature, came on the heels of the dramatic dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of most communist party governments of Eastern Europe. The rectification movement ushered by the “Reaffirm our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors” document issued by Armando Liwanag (believed to be Sison’s nom de guerre) drew a sharp dividing line between those who agreed with these views (the “revolutionaries”) and those who didn’t (“counterrevolutionaries”) — or in more popular Left parlance, the “reaffirmists” (RAs) and “rejectionists” (RJs), respectively.

Our i magazine report in 1999 tried to document and make sense of the unprecedented period of metastasis that the Left, particularly of the national democratic (ND) tradition, endured after seven years of the rectification movement. At that time, we counted at least eight disparate splinter groups that had continued to wage “revolution” in similarly disparate forms.

Then, the report noted as well how, despite the major and intense upheavals in the ranks of the Left, the ideological fights had not reached the level of physical violence that characterized the splits in the old communist party, the Jesus Lava-led Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP). Much like the 1992 split, Amado Guerrero (Sison’s nom de guerre then) broke away from the PKP over ideological differences and re-established the CPP under the sway of Maoist praxis.

But apparently we spoke too soon. Two years later, Lagman was dead, felled by assassins’ bullets (though the NPAs denied any responsibility) at the Bahay ng Alumni inside the University of the Philippines campus. Kintanar would meet Lagman’s fate two years later, and then Tabara, almost two years after Kintanar’s murder.

Re-read the PCIJ report.

2 Responses to The great Left divide


Manuel L. Quezon III: The Daily Dose » Blog Archive » Missing link

August 31st, 2007 at 12:58 am

[…] The Great Left Divide in PCIJ, and Rebelmind for an explanation of the schism within the […]



September 2nd, 2007 at 9:42 pm

arrest of joma is a great breaktrough in the Philippine government.long live AFP, long live democracy!communist is long DEAD!

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