Works of Lagman: Counter-Thesis 2
Published: February 22, 1994;
Source: Provided by Bukluran ng Manggagawa Pilipino;
Markup for sa Marxists.org: Anonymous and Simoun Magsalin.
The Program for a People's Democratic Revolution drafted by Sison in 1968 is the best proof of his abandonment or ignorance of the most basic principles of Marxism-Leninism—the class struggle and scientific socialism.
In the Party program, he substituted the Maoist “mass line” for the Marxist-Leninist “class line.” He completely obscured and glossed over the struggle for socialism in his obsession for national democracy. Sison's failure to grasp the Marxist-Leninist class struggle and his fanatical adherence to Maoism which distorts this theory explain his vulgarized concept of revolution.
The essential defect of PPDR is its basic character which makes it totally unacceptable as a class program of the Party of the class-conscious Filipino proletariat. It does not even pretend to be a class program but proclaims itself to be a “people's program.”
It is a Party Program without the struggle for socialism and without a separate section on workers' demands in the period of the democratic revolution. It characterized Philippine society as “semicolonial and semifeudal” without bringing into the foreground and emphasizing more strongly its bourgeois, capitalist basic process. It failed to present the real meaning and substance of proletarian class leadership in the democratic revolution. It elaborated a vulgarized, totally non-Marxist, non-Leninist concept of a people's revolution that departs fundamentally from the theory of class struggle. And lastly, it presented a peasant not a proletarian stand on the agrarian question and a patriotic not a proletarian stand on the colonial question.
What is a Party program?
It must principally be a statement and a formulation of the most basic views of the party of the proletariat, which serves as a fundamental premise of all the remaining parts of the program—its political and practical tasks, including its minimum program.
What should be the essence of the program of a proletarian revolutionary party?
It can not have any other essence but to organize the class struggle of the proletariat and to lead this struggle, the ultimate aim of which is the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the establishment of a socialist society. This class struggle of the proletariat, this emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself.
Hence, the need for an independent class party of the proletariat, the need for an independent class program of the proletariat. It should become “the bone of our bone, the flesh of our flesh,” in the continuing revolution from the democratic to the socialist stage of the working class movement.
In the introductory part, in what should be its theoretical section, what statement or formulation of the most basic views of the Party of the class-conscious proletariat did Sison's PPDR make?
Nothing! No indictment of capitalism. No proclamation of the proletariat as the only revolutionary class. No statement of the class struggle of the proletariat, its struggle for class emancipation. And worst, it forgot to draft the socialist maximum program as a basis of its minimum democratic program. And to add insult to injury, it even forgot to draft a separate section of working class demands in its democratic program!
The entire introductory section of PPDR (I. The Basic Condition of the Philippines Today) is but a statement, or an exposition, of Sison's “national democratic” views (though, he calls it, “of a new type”! ). The Party program, to say the least, is filled with “superfluous verbosity.” It talks of everything but says nothing about what it should be saying in a program of the proletariat: the basic class views and platform of the proletariat in the continuing revolution from the democratic to the socialist stage.
By its very title, this is not a Party program for the Philippine revolution, but only for its first stage, the democratic stage. It even had the “maximum-minimum” format for a program but both only for the people's democratic revolution.
But somewhere in his national democratic program Sison says: “The immediate general programme of the Filipino people and the CPP is a people's democratic revolution and the long-term maximum programme is socialism.”
It is crystal-clear! Sison admits: This PPDR is not a class program alone of the proletariat and its revolutionary class party, but the multiclass (or supraclass) program of the Filipino people. In fact, even the program for socialism is not a class program of the Filipino proletariat, but the program of the Filipino people, which means, including the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie!
This is Sison's Maoist understanding of the Marxist-Leninist concept of the proletariat providing representation of the broad masses of the people, of the proletariat's class leadership of the revolution—mer-ging the proletariat's class struggle with the struggle of the entire people!
True, the character of the democratic revolution is, that it is a struggle of the “whole people.” Meaning, there is a “singleness of will” precisely in so far as this revolution meets the needs and requirements of the entire Filipino people. But “beyond the bounds of democratism” there can be no question of the proletariat and the peasant bourgeoisie or the whole people having a single will for socialism. Class struggle among them is inevitable.
In fact, even during the struggle for democracy, despite of the “singleness of will” in this people's revolution, class differences, class conflicts and class treacheries will persist and arise among the people. Hence, the necessity for an independent class party of the proletariat and an independent class program. Hence, the temporariness and instability of this “singleness of will” and the tactics of “striking a joint blow” against imperialism and feudalism with the petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie, and the duty of keeping a strict watch “over our ally, as over an enemy.”
And Sison even hastened to add: “It is dishonest, demagogic and utopian to insist that socialism is the immediate goal under conditions that the people are still dominated and exploited by US imperialism and domestic feudalism.”
But who is insisting? The point is not socialism as the immediate aim but Lenin's warning that “we should never for a moment lose sight of our ultimate aim in the struggle to complete the democratic revolution.” And Sison not only “lost sight” of socialism, but completely forgot about it in drafting the Party program. Perhaps this is due to his eagerness and excitement to begin the people's democratic revolution. If this is a simple case of forgetfulness, of over-excitement, this can easily be forgiven by the Filipino proletariat. The problem is, it isn't.
What is the significance of “not losing sight” of our socialist aim? Is it not just a formal “declaration” of what we intend to achieve in the “future,” after the completion of the democratic revolution?
Indeed, in his petty understanding, this is just formalism. So it is enough for him to simply state that “our long-range program is socialism,” period. It is enough for him to just declare that ours is a democratic people's revolution with a socialist “perspective,” and by perspective, he means the “future.” Anyway, we are still in the first stage of this “two-stage” revolution. We'll have enough of “socialism” when we “cross the bridge” of national democracy!
But this is the Party program of the proletariat! How can it talk about the “people's revolution” without talking first of the “workers' revolution”? How can it talk of the proletariat joining and leading this “people's revolution” without explaining first its connection, its relevance, its necessity to a “workers' revolution”?
But how we intend to proceed to the socialist revolution, to the real and ultimate aim of the proletariat, Sison has nothing to say in his PPDR. For Sison, socialism is literally just a question of perspective, a question of “time and space,” a “second step” after the “first step.” Not a question of the real dimension of the democratic revolution in relation to the socialist aim of the proletariat, of the real starting point and framework of the proletariat in actively participating and taking the leading role in the democratic movement.
How does Sison intend to arouse the working class, not only to join the people's revolution but to play a leading role, when he does not even talk about the workers' own revolution—the socialist revolution—and all he talks about is the people's revolution! And can the working class really understand this democratic revolution, grasp its real meaning for the working class, define its tasks without understanding it from the perspective, i.e., from the viewpoint of socialism?
Here lies the fundamental error of Sison's presentation of the necessity for a “people's democratic revolution.” He presented it from a national democratic viewpoint not from the socialist viewpoint, from the class struggle of the revolutionary proletariat.
The Filipino proletariat stands for a national democratic revolution, which is bourgeois in character whether it is of the old or new “type,” not precisely because the proletariat is pro-"peasant” (as a class) and pro-"people” (beyond class), not because the proletariat is a “democrat” and a “patriot” (in the bourgeois democratic sense).
We are for a national democratic revolution—and this we should teach to the Filipino working class with all clarity—because it clears the way for the free development of the class struggle of the proletariat which is directed towards the attainment of its ultimate aim. We are for an agrarian revolution, for the complete abolition of all feudal remnants because it clears the way for the free development of the class struggle in the countryside. We are for a national revolution, for self-determination because only through political democracy can we attain the free and full development of the proletariat as a class.
The national democratic revolution should be properly understood by the Party from the properly understood interest of the proletariat and social progress, and nothing more.
The essential problem with Sison's PPDR is that what it understands and presents is a democratic revolution “with” a socialist perspective—meaning, a socialist “future.” Not a democratic revolution “from” a socialist perspective”—meaning, a socialist starting point, a socialist framework, a socialist viewpoint. In short, from the class position of the revolutionary proletariat.
The basic defect of PPDR, which makes it unacceptable as Party program is the entire character of the program itself. It is a “people's program” for a national democratic revolution, not a class program of the revolutionary proletariat in the historical era of the transition from the democratic to the socialist revolution. And Sison openly admits that it is such a program—a “people's program.” In fact, for Sison, even the long-range maximum program for socialism is a “people's” program! A joint popular program of the Filipino people and the CPP!
This program does not have the “class stamp” of the proletariat, it is not presented from the class point of view, from the class struggle of the proletariat. The Party program of the proletariat was presented and formulated from the national and democratic interest of the broad masses of the Filipino people. He should have written it for the National Democratic Front but not for the Communist Party of the Philippines. Very democratic, very patriotic for Sison, but very unproletarian!
What should be a cardinal point in a Party program? It should be a statement, from a consistent proletarian class viewpoint, of the basic character of the economic development of society.
To paraphrase Lenin, this should bring into the foreground and emphasize more strongly the process of economic development that is engendering the material and spiritual conditions for the socialist working-class movement, and the class struggle of the proletariat which the Party sets itself the aim of organizing.
Now, what “characterization” of the economic development of Philipine society did Sison formulate in the Party program? What “process of economic development” did he “bring into the foreground and emphasize more strongly”? What is this “process of economic development” that “engenders” the material and spiritual conditions fo the class struggle of the proletariat?
This “process of economic development” is none other than capitalism. Did Sison make any “characterization” of this process in Philippine society in our Party program? No, nothing of this sort. What he characterized in the first two paragraphs of the Party program was the “semicolonial and semifeudal” basic condition—or more precisely, particular features—of the Philippines, and nothing more.
This is what he “brought into the foreground” and “emphasized more strongly”—the colonial and the agrarian questions of the Party program—not the “material and spiritual conditions” for the class struggle of the proletariat.
No small wonder, Sison forgot the socialist maximum program of the Party! No small wonder, Sison forgot even a “workers section” in the minimum program of the Party!
Imagine, a working-class program without a separate section for the workers demands in the democratic revolution. Obviously, his concern is not the “worker's class struggle” but the peasant's agrarian struggle and the people's national struggle! He speaks not for the proletariat, but for the peasantry, for the Filipino people.
In fact, in the first two paragraphs of the program that characterized the present conditions of the Philippines—its semicolonial and semifeudal character—Sison did not even give particular distinction to the plight, to the impoverishment, to the struggle of the Filipino working class.
According to Sison: “These vested interests mercilessly exploit the broad masses of the people,” referring to US imperialism, the comprador bourgeoisie, the landlords and the bureaucrat capitalists. And his second paragraph: “It is US imperialism and domestic feudalism that are the main problems afflicting the whole nation and from which the masses of the people aspire to be liberated.”
The Party program, the program of the working-class party, talks about the “ruthless exploitation” of the masses of the people. But not a word about the “ruthless exploitation” of the masses of workers. It talks about the “impoverishment” of the entire country. But not a word about the “impoverishment”—the growth of “the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation”—of the working class.
Perhaps, since the workers are part of the masses of people, and they reside in the country,there is no need to make a distinction. And in the first place, PPDR is a program not of the working class alone or even principally, but of the entire Filipino people, and mainly, of the peasantry, for this is primarily a peasant revolution.
The Party program, the program of the working-class party, writes about “US imperialism and domestic feudalism are the main problems afflicting the whole nation.” But not a word in this “proletarian program” about wage-slavery, about the “affliction,” the impoverishment of the masses of wage workers under the yoke of capital, as if capitalism is not a basic problem of the working class.
Perhaps, Sison is wary that once he indicts capitalism, it might arouse the class consciousness of the workers against capitalism and divert their attention from the “real” main problems, from the “real” main enemies. And instead of demanding a “people's democratic revolution, the working class might demand a socialist revolution!
Where in the world can you find a Communist who, in his program, is afraid of “indicting” capitalism and wage-slavery, afraid of arousing the socialist class consciousness and socialist class struggle of the proletariat because it might divert them from the people's revolution!!!
Where in the world can you find a Communist, who is afraid of teaching the working class its ultimate socialist aim aware of the fact that this can only be accomplished by way of a democratic revolution!!!
Where in the world can you find a Communist who is afraid of teaching the working class the evils of capitalism while at the same time clarifying that this is a “necessary” evil, that capitalism is a “halfway-house” to socialism, that capitalism creates the material and spiritual conditions for socialism!!!
Must the proletariat be so utterly unselfish, so self-sacrificing that even in what should be its class program, its Party must give first place to the interest of the nation, to the interest of the peasants, and obscure its own class interest, its own class struggle and submerge it in the people's struggle, in the peasants' struggle?
But is this wrong? Is not our society “semicolonial and semifeudal”? Is not our revolution a national and a democratic revolution at the present stage and not a socialist revolution? What's wrong with giving emphasis to the national and agrarian questions rather than to the class struggle of the proletariat? Is this not a people's revolution, so it follows, that the interest of the people is paramount, and the interest of the proletariat is secondary or is “merged” with the interest and the struggle of the people?
Just because we are still engaged in a democratic revolution, we can forget for the time being the class struggle of the proletariat and their struggle for socialism as if they are of no consequence in the theoretical and practical questions of the “peoples revolution”? How can the proletariat preserve its independent class line and assert its class leadership in the democratic revolution if it artificially relegates the class struggle and the socialist aim to some distant future because this, anyway, is a two-stage revolution?
From the standpoint of the basic ideas of Marxism, only one thing stands higher than the interest of the proletariat—and it is none other than the interests of social development, the interests of social progress. Scientific socialism represents the interests not only of the working class, but all social progress.
The working class must actively participate and strive to take the leading role in the democratic revolution in the interest of its socialist struggle and in the interest of social progress as a whole. And not primarily because the proletariat stands for the interests of the peasantry as a class or stands for the interests of the people regardless of its class composition.
The proletariat stands for the struggle of the peasants and the struggle of the whole people insofar as it corresponds to the interest of its socialist class struggle and to social progress as a whole. Support for the democratic demands of the peasantry that serve social progress and the class struggle certainly does not mean support of the petty bourgeoisie just as support for liberal demands does not mean support of the national bourgeoisie.
This is basic, a most fundamental question for a Marxist-Leninist who knows his theory of class struggle. Now, how can the Filipino working class correctly understand this “people's democratic revolution” when, instead of presenting it from the strict class view of the proletariat, from its socialist perspective, it is presented exclusively from the national and democratic interest of the people? Is the working class suppose to participate and take a leading role in such a revolution, and put aside its own class struggle, because it understands the democratic and national interest of the people?
Must we be reminded that the daily oppression and exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie under capitalism in the Philippines and throughout the world is being committed under the slogan of “freedom” and “democracy” which are bourgeois slogans. The class conscious Filipino proletariat will be a vanguard fighter for freedom and democracy, not primarily because of a deep sense of patriotism and democratism (of which they have plenty) but mainly because only through political liberty can its class and its class struggle develop to the full and advance more freely towards socialism.
It is for this reason that the analysis and characterization of the economic developments in Philippine society—in a Party program—should “bring to the foreground” and “emphasize more strongly” the material and spiritual conditions for the development of the class struggle of the Filipino proletariat.
Our program should begin with an understanding and definition of capitalism in the Philippines—and if Sison subscribes to Marxist political economy, he must accept capitalism as the basic process in the socio-economic evolution of Philippine society unless he still ridiculously believes that it is feudalism. He must scientifically define it as capitalism while describing its specific features as “semicolonial and semifeudal.”
Beneath the “semicolonial and semifeudal” peculiarity of Philippine society is the basic process of capitalism. The process of development of capitalism in the Philippines has semicolonial and semifeudal features just like the development of capitalism in Russia was characterized by autocratic rule and the widespread survivals of serfdom.
In its program, the revolutionary party of the proletariat is expected to formulate in the most unambiguous manner its indictment of Philippine capitalism and the world capitalist system. To dispense with this question by simply describing Philippine society as “semicolonial and semifeudal” and obscuring its capitalist basic process of socio-economic evolution is to evade a cardinal question in a working class program.
The suspicious thing with Sison, he obscures and evades this question, this “capitalism,” this wage-slavery, like the plague. Even if he believes that his “semicolonial and semifeudal” characterization of Philippine society, in itself, defines the prevailing mode of production—if nevertheless, he still has the proletarian interest and not just the proletarian label in his heart—he should have “brought into the foreground” and “emphasized more strongly” the capitalist factors engendering the development of the Filipino working class both in the cities and the countryside and outlined the fundamental tendency of capitalism—the splitting of the people into a bourgeoisie and a proletariat in the cities and the countryside, the growth of the “mass of misery, oppression, slavery, depredation, exploitation” in the cities and countryside creating the material and spiritual conditions for the class struggle of the proletariat for socialism.
Sison conceded only one paragraph in the program pertinent to this question, and it was not to highlight economic developments positive to the development of the working class. It was just a part of his standard operating procedure of enumerating the situation of every class composing the “people.” Although, he presented it in a very negative light, to say the least, it is extremely enlightening with regards to Sison's understanding of Marxism.
According to Sison: “The Filipino working class has significantly grown in number and experience since the latter period of Spanish colonial rule. But its further growth was stunted because of the limitations on local industrialization and emphasis on raw material production, and lately, on mere assembly plants, new plantations and businesses in the grip of foreign monopoly capitalism. The Filipino working class has suffered lack of opportunity and the remittance of superprofits from the Philippines by foreign monopolies and loan payments to imperialist banks.”
See how Sison avoids the issue of “capitalism.” The working class has “suffered” because of everything except “capitalism”!
See how this Communist talks like a national democrat in analyzing why the working class is impoverished! Imagine a Communist declaring—in a Party program—that the working class is “suffering” because of the “lack of opportunities,” the “remittance of superprofits” and “loan payments,” and not because of wage-slavery, not because of the oppression of labor by capital! The elimination of these aggravating problems of the working class which are problems of the whole people will not in least solve the essential problem of impoverishment due to wage-slavery, due to capitalism, an essential problem not only of the working class but all the working people.
But Sison's fanatics will protest: imperialism is capitalism, the worst kind of capitalism, so if you indict imperialism you indict capitalism! Wrong. Even our bourgeois nationalist senators and congressmen can indict to high heavens “US imperialism” but on the basis of national oppression not class exploitation. They indict US imperialism to advance the struggle for self-determination not for the struggle for social emancipation. Recto, Diokno, Tanada, etc., condemn “imperialism” not as monopoly capitalism, or moribund capitalism, not as the rule of the international bourgeoisie and finance capital, but as “neocolonialism,” as oppressor of nations.
A proletarian party program, even in a “semicolonial and semifeudal” society should have pinpointed and highlighted the meaning of the domination of commodity production in the countryside and the destruction of feudal natural economy, the developments in the social division of labor and the transformation of agriculture itself into an industry, into a commodity-producing branch of economy, the continuing growth of the industrial population at the expense of the agricultural, the ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production, the continuing differentiation and disintegration of the peasantry as a feudal class, the ruin of the small producers, the increasing number of farmworkers, the growth of a huge reserve army of labor, the influx of monopoly capital, etc.,—and interpreted the meaning, in terms of theory and practical tasks, of all these economic developments for the class struggle of the proletariat which the Party set itself the aim of organizing!
From reading the Party program and Party literature, one will get the impression that the Party—the party of the proletariat—is not particularly and keenly interested in any form of capitalist developments in Philippine society. And in fact, its basic attitude is to downgrade all these developments insisting that Philippine society is basically feudal in its mode of production and semifeudal in its characterization because of imperialism impinging on the old feudal mode.
It is as if, for Sison, the basis for a national democratic revolution will be undermined once we affirm the basic bourgeois nature of Philippine society beneath its semicolonial and semifeudal features, once we affirm that capitalism is the basic process in our country's social and economic evolution, and, in world reality, it cannot actually be otherwise. Need we remind Sison that it is basic in Marxist thought (maybe not in Mao Ze Dong Thought) that the process of the development of capitalism—the ousting of small-scale production, the concentration of property, etc.,—will proceed and will continue, despite all the resistance of feudalism and the interference of imperialism, and through all these feudal remnants and imperialist interventions as what is happening—gradually, not in a revolutionary way—in Philippine society.
What is the programmatic significance of this insistence on the correct characterization of the economic developments in the country from the point of view of the proletariat?
It is of utmost importance because it “determines” our ultimate aim, it provides a concrete, historical basis in our country for a socialist maximum program and a clear framework for the development of the class struggle of the proletariat from the democratic to the socialist stage of struggle which is our paramount concern side by side with social progress. The Party of the proletariat cannot proceed to the democratic revolution and aspire to lead it in the real meaning of class leadership and advance it to its completion without going through this process.
In the Party program, it is stated that this national democratic revolution is of a new type due to its proletarian class leadership. Is this not enough to satisfy this “obsession,” this “fidelity,” this “orthodoxy” to proletarian class struggle?
What class leadership are they talking about? What is clear is the leadership of the CPP headed by Sison. But whether this leadership is proletarian is a different question.
How did theprogram explain this proletarian leadership? What is Sison's concept of proletarian leadership in the democratic revolution?
According to Sison: “A proletarian revolutionary leadership, guided by Marxism-Leninism, is what makes the people's democratic revolutiona a new type of national democratic revolution.” How—Sison has no concrete explanation. He just repeats and repeats this assertion without explaining how or why.
Again, Sison: “Indeed, people's democracy is a new type of democracy because of its proletarian instead of bourgeois leadership.” Where lies the difference between proletarian and bourgeois leadership of the democratic revolution, Sison has no clear and categorical explanation.
The only difference that Sison was able to insinuate is on the question of “resoluteness,” because according to Sison, bourgeois liberal leadership is “inadequate.” “The national bourgeoisie and the urban petty bourgeoisie,” according to Sison, “have long become inadequate at leading the Philippine revolution in the era of imperialism as demonstrated as early as the start of the armed conquest of the Philippines by US imperialism when its bourgeois-liberal leadership capitalated.”
“Adequacy” or “inadequacy” of leadership can spell victory or defeat but it does not, by itself, explain the difference between the old and new type of people's revolution. Imagine a party program announcing the launching of a new type of revolution but cannot explain clearly why precisely its a new type except the fact that its now under the firm leadership of the proletariat as opposed to the “inadequate” leadership of the bourgeoisie.
This is a new-type of democratic revolution because, with the leading role of the proletariat in the people's revolution, it will be a continuing revolution towards the transition to socialism. It will and it must smash all the remnants of feudal and colonial rule to facilitate the free development of the class struggle.
Its difference from the old type is not in its content but in its form and direction, in the role the proletariat must take in the interest of its socialist revolution. Sison cannot explain this essential difference because he forgot his socialism, his starting point is not socialism and social progress but merely the injustice of feudal and foreign rule just like a true-blooded democrat and patriot.
In the first place, the Party program should not only declare that it will be the proletariat that will lead this people's revolution. It should announce with unequivocal clarity that the proletariat alone is a truly revolutionary class and all the rest are conditional in their revolutionariness. In Sison's Party program, instead of extolling this absolute revolutionariness of the proletariat, it filled the Party program with excessive “indulgence to the revolutionariness” of the other classes that composed the “broad masses of the Filipino people.”
This statement is not a formalistic declaration of fidelity to a most fundamental Marxist-Leninist tenet. This is of utmost theoretical and practical significance in our concept of a proletarian-led people's revolution and its transition to a socialist revolution.
Integral with the concept that “the proletariat alone is a truly revolutionary class” is the basic Marxist principle that “the emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself.” Failure to understand these two Marxist concepts in their integral whole, and in their theoretical and practical significance, will definitely result in a distorted conception of revolution. We cannot talk of proletarian class leadership of the democratic revolution and call this revolution a “new type” without an integral understanding of these Marxist-Leninist concepts.
Sison not only failed to understand these Marxist-Leninist concepts but completely ignored them and adhered instead to his Maoist brand of “Marxism-Leninism,” to his metaphysical, petty bourgeois romanticist “mass line,” hence, the completely distorted concept of revolution as expounded in the Party program.
What is meant by the leading role of the proletariat?
First. This is a completely scientific concept that has a material, economic basis in society that should have been explained concisely in the Party program instead of just being asserted demagogically. The problem is how can Sison explain the economic basis of the leading role of the proletariat and its strength in the process of history which is immeasurably greater than its share in the total population, when he refuses to confront “capitalism” in the Philippines.
What sense is there in explaining the revolutionary role of the proletariat, if here in the Philippines, the exploitation of the working class is explained in the Party program not by the bourgeois organization of social economy, not by wage slavery, but by the “lack of economic opportunities,” etc.
How can one accept Marxist economic theory and its corollary—the revolutionary role of the proletariat—if Communists like Sison try to find ways to communism other than through the medium of capitalism and the proletariat it creates, a proletariat which they refuse to single out from the rest of the people as the only revolutionary class in present-day society.
Second. Leadership implies representation, and the industrial proletariat is the natural representative of the entire working and exploited population.
Natural because the exploitation of the working people in the Philippines is everywhere capitalist in nature, if we leave out of account the moribund remnants of feudal economy. The exploitation of the mass of producers and farm hands is on a small scale, scattered and undeveloped, while the exploitation of the factory proletariat is on a large-scale, socialized and concentrated.
And in order for the proletariat to fulfill its function of representative in an organized, sustained struggle, all that is needed is to make it understand its position, the political and economic structure of the present system that oppresses it, and the necessity and inevitability of class antagonisms under this system.
But, again, how can the Filipino proletariat fulfill its function when Sison, in writing the Party program, evades and obscures the exposition of capitalism and instead typecasts the economic characterization of Philippine society to his “semicolonial and semifeudal” paradigm.
Third. The leading role of the proletariat presupposes a correct relationship with other classes in society, what attitude it takes towards other elements of society in the struggle for democracy. The attitude of the working class, as vanguard fighter for democracy, towards other social classes is precisely determined in the Communist Manifesto. The class-conscious proletariat supports the progressive social classes against the reactionary classes.
But this support does not presuppose, nor does it call for any compromise with non-socialist programs and principles—it is support given to an ally against a particular enemy. The proletariat render this support in order to expedite the fall of the common enemy, but expect nothing for himself from these temporary allies, and concede nothing to them. The emancipation of the workers will be the act of the working class itself.
While pointing out the solidarity with other progressive elements, we must always single out the workers from the rest as the only truly revolutionary class, point out that these alliances are temporary and conditional, and emphasize the independent class identity of the proletariat who tomorrow may find themselves in opposition to their allies of today.
This “vanguardism,” this stressing of the conditional revolutionariness of the other democratic classes, will not weaken but strengthen the other fighters for democracy.
In fact, according to Lenin, “the merging of the democratic activities of the working class with the democratic aspirations of other classes and groups would weaken the democratic movement, would weaken the political struggle, would make it less determined, less consistent, more likely to compromise. On the other hand, if the working class stands out as the vanguard fighter for democratic institutions, this will strengthen the democratic movement, will strengthen the struggle for political liberty, because the working class will spur on all the other democratic and political opposition elements, will push the liberals toward the political radicals, will push the radicals toward an irrevocable rupture with the whole of the political and social structure of present society.”
On this third point, Sison has committed a most grievous sin. In his PPDR, the democratic struggle of the proletariat was completely “merged” with the democratic struggle of the whole people, its independent class character completely obliterated, the “revolutionariness of the peasantry excessively extolled while failing to single out the proletariat as the only truly revolutionary class and the only consistent fighter for democracy.
Fourth. This leading role of the proletariat in the democratic revolution must be assumed by the working class themselves and not only by their vanguard. It is the task of the Party vanguard to make sure that working class will rise to this role as the leading class.
Here is what Lenin said on this point: “Accordingly, it is on the working class that the Social-Democrats concentrate all their attention and all their activities. When its advanced representatives have mastered the ideas of scientific socialism, the idea of the historic role of the Russian worker, when these ideas become widespread, and when stable organizations are formed among the workers to transform the workers' present sporadic economic war into conscious class struggle—then the Russian WORKER, rising at the head of all the democratic elements, will overthrow absolutism and lead the RUSSIAN PROLETARIAT (side by side with the proletariat of ALL COUNTRIES) along the straight road of open political struggle to the VICTORIOUS COMMUNIST REVOLUTION.”
How can the Filipino working class assume their historic role, when its vanguard, the CPP, instead of “concentrating” its attention and activities upon them, opted to “concentrate” its attention and activities on the peasantry as the main force of the revolution, opted to concentrate its forces in the countryside building its peasant base areas, calling upon urban forces to continuously shift to the countryside, and branding those who stress urban work as “reformists” and “insurrectionists.”
How can the Filipino working class assume their historic role, when its vanguard, the CPP, instead of teaching them socialism and the class struggle instill on them the bourgeois spirit of “national democracy” and insist that their working class movement is “national democratic in orientation” and not socialist, and those that teach them otherwise are deviationists from the Party line!
For Sison, and this is categorically clear in PPDR, and also by virtue of his sins of theoretical omission—proletarian class leadership is reduced and equated to the party leadership of the supposed proletarian vanguard, the CPP. For Sison, it is the party assuming the role of the class, and that's all there is to it. This is Sison's Stalinist and Maoist reductionism in all its vulgarity on the question of class leadership
According to Sison: “In the political field, the CPP advances the revolutionary leadership of the working class, fights to overthrow the reactionary bourgeois regime and all reactionary classes supporting it and in its stead, establishes a people's democratic state system, a coalition or united front government of the working class, peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie.” It is very clear, it is the CPP that shall establish the new state system not the coalition of political forces of the successful revolution! Here, its not only the Party acting for the class but for the entire “people.”
In the economic, educational, cultural and military fields, its all the same: it is the Party acting for the class and also for the whole people, not only in leadership but in the actual conduct of revolution and reconstruction. Not a word in the program regarding the role of the class itself. In all aspects, it is the Party representing the class and the people and this representation is absolutized as class leadership as if the Party has been given the blanket authority to represent the class and the Filipino people.
In the countryside, since it is the Party that is organizing the peasantry, hence, its the “worker-peasant” alliance whose concrete expression is the people's army. This “basic alliance” is therefore firmly established with the firm leadership of the Party over the peasantry. The “peasant army” is proletarian-led because it is Party-led. All these are proletarian-led just because of the leadership of the Party, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Party members are peasants, are not truly socialist-educated and socialist-oriented, and most of all, the Party program does not contain the independent class line of the proletariat. This concept of proletarian class leadership through the party vanguard will be revealed in all its real content when we analyze Sison's concept of a “democratic people's revolution.”
We have discussed above how Sison obscured in the Party program the class struggle of the proletariat in his people's democratic revolution, submerging it in the purely national democratic struggle of the whole people.
After detaching the independent class struggle of the Filipino working class from the democratic revolution, he proceeded to present a totally distorted concept of revolution alien to the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism. Here is Sison's concept of revolution as expounded in the Party program:
“There is only one road which the working class under the leadership of the CPP must take. It is the road of armed revolution to smash the armed counterrevolution that preserves foreign and feudal oppression in the Philippines. In waging armed revolution, the working class must rely mainly on the mass support of its closest ally, the peasantry. The peasantry is the main force of the people's democratic revolution. Without the peasantry's struggle for land, no genuine and formidable People's Army can be built and no revolutionary base area can be established. The peasant struggle for land is the main democratic content of the present stage of the Philippine revolution.”
He then proceeds to an exposition of his war strategy:
“From the countryside, the people's democratic forces encircle the cities. It is in the countryside that the enemy forces are first lured in and defeated before the capture of the cities from the hands of the exploiting classes. It is from the countryside that the weakest links of the reactionary state are to be found and these can be surrounded by the people's democratic forces tactically before strategically defeating them. It is in the countryside that the People's Army can accumulate strength among the peasants by combining agrarian revolution, armed struggle and the building of revolutionary base areas. The Party and the People's Army must turn the backward villages into advanced military, political, economic and cultural bastions of the people's democratic revolution.”
Next, is his “third magic weapon,” the united front:
“A true national united front exists only if it is founded on the alliance of the working class and the peasantry and such alliance has been strongly welded by armed struggle, by the creation of a People's Army mainly among the peasants by the working- class party. A true united front is one for carrying armed struggle. The urban petty bourgeoisie can participate in this united front. The national bourgeoisie can also lend direct and indirect support although it always carries its dual character, the contradicting progressive and reactionary aspects. In a national united front of workers, peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie, the revolutionary proletarian party can fully guarantee its leadership, independence and initiative only by having the People's Army firmly at its command.”
(Criticism on the “war revolution” of Sison up to this point will be concentrated or limited to its programmatic context and will be dealt with more thoroughly on the particular section on Protracted People's War.)
From these statements, the following major conclusions can be drawn that define Sison's concept of revolution:
Approaching it first from the theoretical aspect, the most basic question that should be asked of Sison's concept of revolution is: Are these “absolutes” consistent with the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism or are they purely Maoist dogma completely alien to the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
What is Sison's theoretical explanation for his “absolutes”? No theoretical explanation whatsoever in the program. Perhaps, for Sison, its truth is self-evident and self-explanatory, a case of simple common sense, and no need to drag Marx or Lenin to confirm their absolute correctness.
Why armed struggle as the only road? Because “only armed revolution can smash armed counterrevolution.” Why rely on the peasantry? Because, the “peasantry is the main force of the revolution,” their “demand for land is the main democratic content of the revolution.” Why from the countryside to the cities? Because “its in the countryside that you can find the weakest link of the reactionary state.”
The logic is quite clean and simple, isn't it? For his “strategy of seizure” and “united front for armed struggle,” he did not even offer a word of explanation because its logic follows from all the given assumptions.
Sison has achieved the level of perfect ingenuity, unreached by the likes of Marx, Engels and Lenin, but armed of course by the acme of proletarian ideology—Mao Ze Dong Thought—that he is now capable of blueprinting a revolution in the form of a definite war plan—the invincible strategy of protracted people's war. The key to Sison's concept is his idea of armed struggle reduced and transformed into war revolution.
It is universally accepted that armed struggle is a means of struggle, a firm of struggle, a question of tactics. What is the principle that makes it acceptable as a means of struggle of the revolutionary proletariat?
It lies in the theory of class struggle, in the antagonistic nature of the struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed, between the exploiter and the exploited.
“Force,” in the words of Marx, “is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one,” and for Engels, “is the instrument with the aid of which the social movement forces its way through and shatters the dead, fossilized political forms.”
As for Lenin, “in the final analysis, great historic issues are decided only by force.” But Lenin hastened to add: “Social-Democracy has not advanced the slogan of insurrection on the spur of the moment. It has always fought, and continues fight, against revolutionary phrase-mongering, and it will always demand a sober estimation of forces and an analysis of the given situation.”
It is very clear, that for Lenin, armed struggle is a means of struggle that demands a sober estimation of forces and an analysis of the given situation. He said: “The working class would, of course prefer to take power peacefully,... but to renounce the revolutionary seizure of power would be madness on the part of the proletariat, both from the theoretical and practical-political point of view; it would mean nothing but a disgraceful retreat in the face of the bourgeoisie and all other propertied classes. It is very probable—even most probable—that the bourgeoisie will not make peaceful concessions to the proletariat and at the decisive moment will resort to violence for the defense of its privileges. In that case, no other way will be left to the proletariat for the achievement of its aim but that of revolution. This is the reason the program of 'working-class socialism' speaks of the winning of political power in general without defining the method, for the choice of method depends on a future which we cannot precisely determine.”
In drafting the Party program, Lenin said: “...we believe that the program of a working-class party is no place for indications of the means of activity ...The program should leave the questions of means open, allowing the choice of means to the militant organizations and to Party congresses that determine the tactics of the party. Questions of tactics, however, can hardly be introduced into the program (with the exceptions of the most important questions, of principle, such as our attitude to other fighters against the autocracy. Questions of tactics will be discussed by the Party newspaper as they arise and will eventually be decided at Party congresses.”
Indeed, according to Lenin, to attempt to draw a hard and fast line between program and tactics can ony result in scholasticism and pedantry. However, it should be made clear that program defines the general and basic relations between the working class and other classes while tactics define particular and temporary relations.
Sison obviously does not subscribe to Lenin, yet he calls himself a Leninist!
For Lenin, the program should “leave the question of means of struggle open,” the program “is no place for indications of the means of activity,” that “questions of tactics can hardly be introduced into the program” and all these because the “choice of method depends on a future we cannot precisely determine.”For Sison, armed struggle is not just a means of activity or a question of tactics or a choice of method. It is the revolution itself!
For Leninists, armed struggle is a question of tactics. But for Sison, it is a question of “strategy,” a line question, a matter of principle that is not open to alteration in the entire historical period. For Sison, revolutionary violence determines the difference between revolutionism and reformism. Form is substance, the medium is the message.
Here lies the difference between Lenin's and Sison's understanding of the revolutionary process wherein, for Lenin, “the choice of method depends on a future we cannot precisely determine,” while for Sison, “there is only one road, and it is the path of armed struggle.”
For Lenin, revolution is an objective, historical process, the movement of class forces in the dynamic process of social change. It is a situation wherein the ruling classes can no longer rule in the old way while the oppressed classes no longer want to live in the old way, not as a historical view but a political fact.
As a social revolution, it is a historical situation wherein the forces of production of society are ruined by the existing moribund relations and struggle to liberate themselves from these old relations. As a political revolution, it is a concrete situation wherein the struggle for political power among the contending class forces come to a head to resolve the internal crisis of society with the overthrow of the oppressive state relations or the subjugation of the forces that seek its overthrow.
In short, it is a dynamic, creative process following closely the continuing alignment and antagonism of class forces in society, its concrete and exact forms and means of struggle forged and “manufactured “ by the masses themselves in the process of their revolutionary awakening, and not only by their conscious, vanguard elements in their plenary meetings.
But for Sison, revolution is a subjective, conspiratorial, deliberate process, created by the conscious, advance elements of society which have declared society as moribund, in a state of constant, chronic crisis. The revolutionary situation is always excellent. The only thing needed is to build the subjective forces of revolution.
For Sison, it is the armed struggle that makes a revolution, it is the revolution. But for Lenin, it is the revolution that leads to armed struggle, the class struggle developing to its sharpest form.
How come in drafting his party program, Lenin, with all his dialectical genius, his treasury of knowledge, his mastery of theory, his tactical brilliance, his materialist foresight, cannot decide beforehand his “choice of methods,” his “means of struggle,” saying simply that it depends on a future which he cannot precisely determine!
But here comes Sison with his program, with all his superfluous verbosity, unfolding his “blueprint” for a people's democratic revolution, announcing with absolute certainty that there can only be one road—the road of armed struggle, one hope—the revolutionary peasantry and a peasant army, one line of advance—from the countryside to the cities—and he calls this the invincible strategy of protracted people's war, the “body and soul” of his people's democratic revolution.
Shame on Lenin's admonitions against predetermined tactics, shame on Lenin's reliance on the dynamics of the class struggle! We only have to dissect Sison's logic to see how his “genius” operates.
He begins with his thesis that “armed counterrevolution can only be smashed by armed revolution.” How do we launch an armed revolution? By building a people's army. How do we build a people's army? By organizing the peasantry. Why the peasantry? Because the countryside is the weakest link of the enemy. How do we win over the peasantry? By upholding the peasant demand for land as the main content of the revolution. How do we advance this armed struggle? From the countryside to the cities in a protracted war.
The logic is very neat. Everything falls into place, the revolutionary design is complete and perfect.
But there is one dangling question. Why a protracted war? Why start immediately the armed struggle? Why not build first the mass forces for this armed revolution and let the conditions mature for this is the internal law of revolution, its process of development?
If such will be the case, this will no longer be a protracted war, but the tactics of insurrection, the tactics of armed uprising.
back to the first question. Why protracted war? Why not use Lenin's materialist approach to revolution, relying mainly on the development of the objective conditions, of the class struggle?
Again, Sison did not answer this in the Party program. He just makes his assertions and he expects everybody to just take his word for it.
Why protracted war?
Because Philippine society is “semicolonial and semifeudal”? This determines the class nature of the revolution, its national democratic character. But not the means of revolution, its “protracted war” form of development.
Because of the armed counterrevolution? This determines the armed nature of the revolution. But, again, not the definite form of this violent revolution which could take the form of armed uprisings or a “protracted war.”
There can be only one explanation for this grotesque type of revolution: Based on the concrete conditions of the Philippines, we cannot proceed with the revolution, engage in revolution, gradually build revolutionary strength except by immediately launching armed struggle. And if such is the case, this armed struggle cannot but take the form of protracted war.
But the fundamental point is: Did such conditions exist in the Philippines in 1968 so that we cannot proceed with the revolution except through armed struggle?
Meaning, can we not advance the workers' movement except through armed struggle? Can we not advance the student movement except through armed struggle? Can we not advance a nationalist movement of the national bourgeoisie except through armed struggle? Can we not advance broad democratic movements and united front work except through armed struggle? But most of all, can we not advance the peasant movement except through armed struggle?
For Sison, armed struggle pertains principally to the peasant movement. In PSR, he declared: “There is no solution to the peasant problem but to wage armed struggle, conduct agrarian revolution and build revolutionary base areas.”
This statement may be historically correct, but is definitely theoretically unsound. Even Lenin did not make such an absolute formulation on the peasant question of the Russian revolution although the survivals of serfdom were more prevalent in Russia even after its formal abolition by Tsarism and considering that it is a more brutal form of feudal oppression than what persisted in the Philippines in 1968.
We may and we must “incite” the peasantry to rebellion in our practical calls, using historical experience and social injustice as our material for agitation. This is principled. But theoretical demagoguery and trickery is unacceptable in a Marxist-Leninist Party.
It has been proven in the experience of many countries under imperialist domination or intervention that the reactionary bourgeois state can make decisive political decisions regarding land reform and resolving their peasant problem, at least, to the level that the armed option in agrarian struggle becomes unviable.
Moreover, even assuming that in a given situation, armed struggle is the only viable option for the peasantry due to the extreme reactionariness and conservatism of the ruling class on the question of land reform, it does not automatically follow that this must take the form of a protracted war. It may take the form of spontaneous and sporadic peasant armed uprisings which in fact is its more universal form in world history and even here in the Philippines.
Under what conditions then, can we correctly say, that the revolution can not proceed and advance, at the outset, except through the path of immediate armed struggle which inevitably must take the form of protracted war?
This can occur if the prevailing political conditions in a country is a total military situation, when class struggle objectively is transformed into a generalized armed conflict as in colonial occupations or wars of aggression, and in extreme cases, fascist rule.
But even conditions of open terrorist rule like the Marcos fascist dictatorship do not necessarily mean a protracted war-type of revolution though the positive factors for the armed struggle is extremely intensified by such conditions. Tsarist absolutism, a political system more ruthless and barbaric than Marcos fascism, was not reason enough for Lenin to design his revolution in the mold of a protracted war struggle.
Conditions in Lenin's Russia in 1900 were perfect for “protracted war,” much better for “protracted war” than Sison's Philippines in 1968.
The overwhelming majority of Russia were peasants engaged in sporadic, spontaneous armed uprisings. The remnants of the old serf-owning system were still extremely numerous in Russia's countryside. Corvee and bondage, the peasants' inequality as a social-estate and as citizens, their subjection to the privileged landowners who still have the right to flog them, and their degrading living conditions which virtually turn the peasants into barbarians—all this, according to Lenin, is not the exception but the rule in Russian countryside. This is all a direct survival of the serf-owning system, the classic form of feudalism. These relics of serfdom are more prevalent in Lenin's capitalist Russia than in Sison's “semifeudal'' Philippines. In fact, Lenin even had Tsarism—the bulwark of reaction in Europe—while Sison only had Marcos fascism. The Philippines is a small archipelagic country while Russia is a huge solid mass bigger and more mountainous than China.
What prevented Lenin from opting for a protracted war “strategy,” for calling at the very outset for armed struggle in the Party's program instead of “concentrating all the Party's energy on organization and the regular delivery of literature” almost exclusively among the Russian working class?
The answer is simple, and it is not because Russia is capitalist as Sison's fanatics have been trained to answer. It is because Lenin did not share Sison's grotesque notion of revolution.
Lenin insisted in organizing and directing the revolution through a party vanguard against the tailists and economists who worship spontaneity. Not in the sense of undermining, disregarding, distorting the objective laws of development of revolution and the dynamics of the class struggle but by grasping its internal motion, never imposing his will and wishes based on preconceived plans and venerated dogmas, never hesitating to discard old ideas that no longer fit to fast changing conditions.
Lenin's brilliance and success he owes to his strict and incisive materialist approach to revolution, integrating creatively his profound grasp of Marxist theory and the dynamics of the revolutionary struggle. To Lenin, the revolution is a “living organism” in a state of constant development corresponding to the development of the internal contradictions in society, and not as something mechanically concatenated, not as something artificially advancing along a preconceived, predesigned, prefabricated strategic line and therefore permitting all sorts of arbitrary impositions by some vanguard spiritual force.
Sison's protracted war-type of revolution is the exact opposite of Lenin's approach to revolution. His ideological stock-in-trade is pure voluntarism and reductionism. To a protracted war-type of revolutionist, the advance of the revolution is determined by the armed struggle, its power source is the armed struggle. An armed struggle launched by the vanguard and its army, advancing independent of socio-economic developments for it is something given and constant ("chronic crisis theory”), advancing on the basis of the laws of war ("strategy and tactics of protracted war”) and not the laws of class struggle, and as the center of gravity, all revolutionary work must conform to and serve its needs.
Hence, the stress in peasant work, the fixed line of advance from countryside to the cities, first in the hinterlands, next to the foothills and then down to plains, advancing wave upon wave on the basis of the requirements and limitations of guerilla warfare and not on the dynamism of class warfare, the advance of the struggle dictated by the tempo of the war comforted by the belief that, anyway, this is a people's war, this is for our “people.”
The problem with this type of revolution is not only its un-Marxist approach to revolution. It also taught us to become un-Marxist. We accepted the given premises laid down by Sison as “absolute truths,” primarily his “armed counterrevolution” thesis, as if there's something profound in such a formulation.
From here, we easily swallowed “hook, line and sinker” his concept of armed revolution, the principality of the armed struggle, his distinction of revolutionism and reformism, etc. And then we embraced “lock, stock and barrel” his invincible strategy of “protracted people's war.”
Actually, to the question of “Why start the war immediately?,” Sison had an answer in his “Specific Characteristics of Our People's War.” According to Sison: “the more time we have for developing our armed strength from practically nothing the better for us in the future.” This is the convoluted logic of Sison's grotesque concept of revolution in its most vulgar form.
What is an agrarian program of a Communist Party?
It is a definition of the guiding principles of the policy of the party of the class conscious proletariat on the agrarian question, i.e., policy in relation to agriculture and the various classes, sections and groups of the rural population.
Big landowners, agricultural wage-workers, and peasants—these are the three main components of our rural population. But since ours is a “peasant” country, the Party's agrarian program is chiefly a proletarian program defining our attitude towards the peasant question, a proletarian program in a peasant revolution that is directed against the survivals of feudalism, against all that is feudal in our agrarian system.
According to Sison, our people's democratic revolution, in the main, is a “peasant revolution,” a “peasant war.” Although the “leading force” is the proletariat, the “main force” of this revolution is the “peasantry.” Peasant demand for land is the “main democratic content” of our people's revolution.
This is how important, how crucial the peasant question is to our revolution. Many revolutions met their “Waterloo” on this question. Hence, the need for an agrarian Party program that is consistent in principle and politically expedient. Here lies the biggest challenge to the Party of the revolutionary proletariat, drafting a proletarian program that is “consistent” with the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism and at the same time “expedient” in developing the countryside as a bulwark of the revolution.
Contrary to what Sison would like us to believe, as he obviously believed, the “peasant question” is a most difficult and most complicated question. It has no simple formulations and simple solutions that address an agrarian situation warped in a three dimensional development of history—its feudal, capitalist and socialist elements interwoven in a complex web of relations.
But first, on questions of principles, mainly on the attitude of the proletariat toward the peasantry, which again will push into the forefront the class viewpoint of the Party in drafting its agrarian program, the class position of the Party on the peasant question.
It should be made clear at the outset that not because we are presenting a “peasant program” we will formulate it from the class position of the peasantry instead of from the class viewpoint of the proletariat.
PPDR made categorical theoretical formulations on its attitude towards the peasantry. It considers the peasantry as the “closest ally” of the proletariat, as “the main force of the people's democratic revolution.” According to Sison, “the peasant's struggle for land is the main content of the people's democratic revolution.” In launching the armed revolution, the working class, according to Sison, “should principally rely on the mass support of its closest ally, the peasantry.” But in building the revolutionary antifeudal united front, the working class “must rely mainly on the poor peasants and farm workers, then win over and unite with the middle peasants and neutralize the rich peasants.” As formulated in PPDR, the relationship of the working class with the farm workers is one of alliance ("In its close alliance with the poor peasants and farm workers...).
Let us analyze the meaning of all these formulations in their “consistency in principle,” i.e, in relation to Marxism-Leninism.
What is the Marxist-Leninist attitude, in terms of theory with regards to the peasantry?
In present-day society, the peasantry no longer constitutes an integral class. The differentiation within the peasantry is relentlessly sharpened, its ruin as a class of small-scale producers is intensified as a result of the continuing inroads of capitalism in agriculture, specifically, the dominance of commodity production, and the continuing decay of the old feudal mode.
In the struggle against the survivals of feudalism, in “instances and relationships where this system still prevails, and insofar as it still prevails, its enemy is the peasantry as a whole.” In the struggle against feudalism and the state that serves in preserving its remnants, the peasantry still stands as a class, a class not of capitalist but of feudal society.
According to Lenin, “inasmuch” as this class antagonism between the “peasantry” and the landlords, so characteristic of feudal society, still survives in our countryside, “insomuch” a working class party must undoubtedly be on the side of the “peasantry,” support its struggle and urge it on to fight against all remnants of feudalism.”
But he adds that, “inasmuch” as feudalism is being eliminated by 'present day' (bourgeois) society, “insomuch” the peasantry ceases to be a class and becomes divided into the rural proletariat and the rural bourgeoisie (big, middle, petty, and very small). “Inasmuch” as feudal relationships still exist, “insomuch” the peasantry still continues to be a class, a class of feudal society rather than of bourgeois society.
to Lenin: “This 'inasmuch—insomuch' exists in real life in the form of an extremely complex web of serf-owning and bourgeois relationships in the Russian countryside today. To use Marx terminology, labor rent, in kind, money rent and capitalist rent are all most fantastically interlinked in our country.”
This is the reason why Lenin sometimes put the word “peasantry” in quotation marks in order to emphasize the existence of an absolutely indubitable contradiction with regards to the status of the peasantry as a class. This, according to Lenin, is not a contradiction in a doctrine but a contradiction in life itself.
Hence, the inevitability of a complex solution of the agrarian question, and the task is not to look for a “simple solution to such tangled problems. It is our duty to fight against all remnants of feudal relations—that is beyond doubt—but since these are intricately interwoven with bourgeois relations, “we are obliged to penetrate into the very core, undeterred by the complexity of the task.”
Sison, obviously, did not heed Lenin's advice. He simplified the Party's “agrarian problem” with a simple solution—“Land to the Landless!” But before we tackle Sison's fighting slogan, we must first clarify the Marxist-Leninist guiding principles on how the proletariat should support “peasant” demands, on how the Party defines the nature of the proletariat's “peasant” demands.
The class-conscious Party of the proletariat should make “two highly circumscribed conditions” in the inclusion of the “peasant” demands in its program. According to Lenin: “We make the legitimacy of “peasant demands” in a Social-Democratic program dependent, firstly, on the condition that they lead to the eradication of remnants of the serf-owning system, and secondly, that they facilitate the free development of the class struggle in the countryside.”
Why these “two highly circumscribed conditions”? Because, for Lenin, the “fundamental criterion” of what we can and must demand (in the minimum program) for the wage-workers and for the peasants is “absolutely different.”
According to Lenin: “For the workers, we demand such reforms as would 'safeguard them from physical and moral degeneration and raise their fighting capacity'; for the peasants, however, we seek only such changes as would help 'to eradicate the remnants of the old serf-owning system and facilitate the free development of the class struggle in the countryside'. Hence, it follows that our demands in favor of the peasants are far more restricted, that their terms are much more moderate and presented in a smaller framework.”
Why this class difference, why this “class bias”? Here is Lenin's explanation: “With regard to the wage-workers, we undertake to defend their interests as a class in present-day society. We do this because we consider their class movement as the only truly revolutionary movement... and strive to organize this particular movement, to direct it, and bring the light of socialist consciousness into it.”
How about the peasantry, do we defend them as a class? According to Lenin, no, “we do not by any means undertake to defend its interest as a class of small landowners and farmers in present-day society. Nothing of the kind.”
“The emancipation of the workers must be the act of the working class itself—and for this reason, Lenin insists that, “Social-Democracy represents—directly and wholly—the interest of the proletariat alone, and seeks indissoluble organic unity with its class movement alone.” For Lenin, “all the other classes of present-day society stand for the preservation of the foundations of the existing economic system, and that is why Social-Democracy can undertake to defend the interests of those classes only under certain circumstances and on concrete and strictly defined conditions.”
This is how Lenin views the peasantry and other class forces from his unswerving proletarian standpoint. He fully subscribes to the entire spirit of Marx teachings. The Communist Manifesto declares outright that “of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie... the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class... The small manufacturer... the artisan, the peasant... are not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary... If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat... they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”
Lenin insisted that in a party program, we must point in positive form to the conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie, referring to the peasantry. And only in conditional form should we point to its revolutionary spirit. Only such a formulation will coincide in full with the entire spirit of Marx teachings.
Sison and his cabal of fanatics must not be allowed again to swindle Filipino communists with their stock-in-trade theoretical trickery that Marx' declaration in the Communist Manifesto and Lenin's teachings do not apply to the Philippines because we are “semifeudal.”
Lenin's Russia is more “semifeudal” and he described Russia as such—“semifeudal”! Mao was not the originator of such term. In fact Lenin's Russian countryside of 1902 was more backward than Sison's semifeudal countryside of 1968. Russia was ruled by Tsardom and what survived and predominated in its countryside are the relics of the worst kind of feudalism—serfdom! But more important than this “comparative” argument is the fact that Marx' and Lenin' analysis of the peasantry as a differentiated and disintegrating class conforms to the concrete realities of Philippine countryside.
The demand for the eradication of feudal remnants is common to all democratic elements. Where lies our fundamental difference with all the rest? It is by demanding that the “free development of the class struggle be ensured,” the second of Lenin's two preconditions for a correct presentation of the peasant demands in the proletarian program. This is of utmost importance both for the principled presentation of the agrarian question in general, and for an appraisal of individual agrarian demands in particular.
This condition is the fundamental and focal point in the theory of Marxism on the agrarian question.
For Lenin, “To acknowledge this condition means recognizing that, despite all its confusion and complexity, despite all the diversity of its forms, the evolution of agriculture is also capitalist evolution, that (like the evolution of industry) it also engenders the proletariat's class struggle against the bourgeoisie, that precisely this struggle must be our prime and fundamental concern, the touchstone for both questions of principle and political tasks, as well as methods of propaganda, agitation and organization.”
And Lenin further emphasized: “To acknowledge this condition means undertaking to abide unswervingly by the class viewpoint also in the very painful question of the participation of the small peasants in the Social-Democratic movement, means sacrificing nothing of the proletariat's standpoint in favor of the interests of the petty bourgeoisie, but, on the contrary, demanding that the small peasant, who is being oppressed and ruined by all modern capitalism, should desert his own class standpoint and place himself at the standpoint of the proletariat.”
And just to show how far Sison had abandoned the class line, let us quote furthermore from Lenin on this question: “By setting this condition, we are providing a guiding principle that will enable any Social-Democrat, even if he finds himself in some out-of-the-way village, even if he is faced with the most tangled web of agrarian relationships, which bring general democratic tasks into the foreground, to apply and stress his proletarian standpoint when he is tackling those tasks—just as we remain Social-Democrats when we tackle general-democratic, political problems.”
It's as if Lenin had in mind people like Sison, who in their eagerness for the people's revolution, in their over-indulgence to the “revolutionariness” of the peasantry, forgot their proletarian standpoint, forgot socialism, forgot Marxism, and transformed themselves into “national democrats of the new-type,” meaning Communists who transformed themselves into national democrats.
Lenin even affixed the following point as a footnote: “The more 'indulgence' we show, in the practical part of our program, towards the small producer (e.g., to the peasant), the 'more strictly' must we treat these unreliable and double-faced social elements in the theoretical part of the program, without sacrificing one iota of our standpoint...” With this kind of class attitude to the “peasantry,” no wonder a petty bourgeois revolutionist like Sison would prefer a Mao than a Lenin in worshiping the “revolutionariness” of the peasantry in “armed struggle” to appropriate the landholding of the landlord for themselves as small producers.
Does it mean, because of these Leninist convictions with regards to the peasant question, a Communist should not provide the strongest support for the antifeudal struggle of the peasantry? On the contrary, he can and he must.
Without betraying our convictions in the slightest, but, rather, because of those convictions, Lenin insists that “the working-class party should inscribe on its banner support for the peasantry (not by any means as a class of small proprietors or small farmers), insofar as the peasantry is capable of revolutionary struggle against the survivals of serfdom in general and against the autocracy in particular... If support for the liberal demands of the big bourgeoisie does not mean support of the big bourgeoisie, then support for the democratic demands of the petty bourgeoisie does not mean support of the petty bourgeoisie; on the contrary, it is precisely this development which political liberty will make possible in Russia that will, with particular force, lead to the destruction of small economy under the blows of capital.”
Lenin identified two basic forms of the class struggle intertwined in the Russian countryside: 1) the struggle of the peasantry against the privileged landed proprietors and against the remnants of serfdom; 2) the struggle of the emergent rural proletariat against the rural bourgeoisie.
And he declared categorically: “For Social Democrats the second struggle, of course, is of greater importance; but they must also indispensably support the first struggle to the extent that it does not contradict the interests of social development.”
This is how unswerving and consistent Lenin is on his class line. First, he considers the struggle of the farm workers more important than the antifeudal struggle of the peasantry though it should be supportive of the latter. Second, support for the antifeudal struggle of the peasantry should advance not contradict social progress. Meaning, as he always insists, support for the antifeudal struggle is not because the proletariat is supportive of the peasantry as a class, but, rather, because this peasant antifeudal struggle conforms to the interest of social progress and the class struggle of the proletariat. By social progress in agrarian struggle, Lenin is primarily refering to the development of the productive forces, to the economic basis of the proletarian agrarian program.
Lenin never underestimated or doubted the existence of revolutionary elements among the peasantry, their “revolutionariness” in the antifeudal and antitsarist struggle. But he did not in the least exaggerate the strength of the peasantry, he did not forget the political backwardness and ignorance of the peasants. He did not in the least forget the endless means which the government has at its disposal for the political deception and demoralization of the peasantry.
From all these there follows only one thing, according to Lenin: “It would be senseless to make the peasantry the vehicle of the revolutionary movement, that a party would be insane to condition the revolutionary character of its movement upon the revolutionary mood of the peasantry. There can be no thought of proposing anything of the sort to the Russian Social-Democrats. We say only that a working-class party cannot, without violating the basic tenets of Marxism and without committing a tremendous political mistake, overlook the revolutionary elements that exist among the peasantry and not afford those elements support...”
And Lenin was not in the least worried that the revolution will fail if he does not make the peasantry the vehicle of the revolution, if he does not exalt with full indulgence the revolutionariness of the peasantry, if he does not absolutely rely on their revolutionary capacity, for if the peasantry “prove themselves incapable, the Social-Democrats will have lost nothing as far as their good name or their movement is concerned, since it will not be their fault if the peasantry does not respond (may not have the strength to respond) to their revolutionary appeal. The working-class movement is going its own way and will continue to do so, despite all the betrayals of the big bourgeoisie or the petty bourgeoisie.”
In the light of all these guiding principles of Marxism-Leninism, and most specially the last point cited from Lenin, how should we now evaluate Sison's platform on the peasant question? How should we now understand in terms of consistency in principle and political expediency Sison's formulation that the “peasantry is the main force of the people's democratic revolution,” the “peasant struggle for land is the main content of the people's democratic revolution,” and his preaching, his advocacy (and not only “support”) of the “Land to the Landless” peasant slogan in our program?
The peasantry as the main force? What “peasantry” is Sison talking about? The peasantry no longer stands as an integral class, it is differentiated into poor, middle and rich peasants, each developing its own class tendencies. A “main force,” therefore, that is not an integral whole. What kind of “strategy” is this! A divided main force, each section having its own distinct tendencies.
Maybe, Sison is referring to the peasantry standing as a class in the antifeudal struggle. Still, its duality, this objective weakness, remains as described in Lenin's “inasmuch-insomuch” scenario. This “split character” of the peasantry is a simultaneous situation, an “indubitable contradiction” that is not imaginary but exists in real life.
Maybe, Sison is referring not to the entire peasantry but to a particular section of it. But he should be reminded that in strict Marxist usage, the word peasantry pertains principally to the middle peasant. Among the three strata of the peasantry, by its objective position, it is the genuine carrier of peasant class interest.
But its “conditional revolutionariness” is very conditional! Its basic interest is its stability as a middle peasant. But on the one hand, it aspires to become a rich peasant, while on the other hand, it resists the stronger pull of bankruptcy and falling into the ranks of the poor peasants. Actually, when Lenin talks of the peasantry as the closest ally of the working class in the democratic revolution, he is referring to the rural petty bourgeoisie, which are principally the middle peasants. But Lenin will never consider the middle peasants, meaning the rural petty bourgeoisie as the “main force” of the democratic revolution in the sense, in the “absolute revolutionary” sense given by Sison.
Definitely Sison is not referring to the rich peasant which he himself identified as a force that should be neutralized. (Note, Sison never mentioned a policy of expose and oppose against the rich peasants inasmuch as they exploit the farm workers and poor peasants).
If Sison is referring to the poor peasants, alone, as the “main force,” then it is ridiculous. First, the working class—meaning the factory and farm workers—are much bigger than the poor peasants in terms of share in the population and definitely are a much better fighting force of the people's democratic revolution. Secondly, they can no longer be considered strictly as part of the peasantry which is basically petty bourgeois in character. They are semi-proletarians in character than petty bourgeois and are fast falling into the ranks of the working class as part-time wage earners.
If Sison is referring to the poor peasants plus the middle peasants, this is a big force but still not comparable to the real strength of the combined force of the factory and farm workers. But this combination of poor and middle peasants will still leave us with a heterogenous main force, a big section of which is not that reliable. Why not consider the combined force of the factory and farm workers instead as the leading and at the same time the main force of the democratic revolution and lend the people's revolution a distinctly proletarian “character”?
If Sison is referring to the poor peasants plus the farm workers, then this is trickery. Why attach the farm workers to the peasantry when they have more in common with the working class? To reinforce his “peasant revolution,” to justify his “peasant main force”? Is Sison planning to revert the farm workers, those proletarianized elements of the countryside, back into the fold of the peasantry, into the rural petty bourgeoisie?
We can actually cast aside all these “speculative” interpretation of Sison's “main force” of the revolution in his PPDR (In PSR, Sison clarified that when he speaks of the “peasantry as the main force,” he refers primarily to the poor peasants plus the small and middle peasants). The fundamental point, however, is this:
Is it consistent in principle for Sison to “make the peasantry the vehicle of the revolutionary movement” since he considers it as the main force of the revolution.? Lenin has a word for this—“senseless.”
Is it politically expedient for Sison to “condition the revolutionary character of its movement upon the revolutionary mood of the peasantry,” since for Sison, this revolution absolutely relies on the revolutionariness of the peasantry, this revolution is a peasant revolution and its victory hinges on the success of his peasant army and peasant war? Lenin has a word for this—“insane.”
How about Sison's formulation that the “main content of the people's democratic revolution is the peasant struggle for land”? Again, what is the meaning of this very “profound” formulation typically Maoist in its simplicity?
It is theoretically correct to state that the antifeudal struggle is the main element or main content of the democratic aspect of the people's revolution. But to reduce it further, reduce the antifeudal movement into a “struggle for land” and then exaggerate this “struggle “ out of proportion as the main content, not only of the democratic aspect, but of the entire people's revolution, is nothing but revolutionary sensationalism.
Such a formulation implies that between the anti-imperialist and the anti-feudal aspects of the people's revolution, between the struggle against imperialist oppression and the struggle against feudal exploitation the latter is more important and more decisive as the “main content of the revolution.” To be more precise, what is most important and decisive in the entire people democratic revolution is the peasants' struggle for land since he is not even referring to the entire antifeudal struggle as the “main content” of the revolution. As a testimony to what kind of a Marxist theoretician Sison is, it should be emphasized that he presented this “main content” formulation in a programmatic, orientational and theoretical way and not as tactical proposition expressing a particular, temporary and concrete situation in the entire historical process of the democratic revolution. Again, Sison has theorized and absolutized his view (or what he plagiarized from Mao) that the “pivot” of the people's revolution—and not only of the agrarian revolution—for the entire historical stage of the democratic revolution is the peasants' “struggle for land” for this is the meaning of the “main content” proposition.
But Sison's logic is this: The main content of the antifeudal struggle is the struggle for land. Since we agree that the antifeudal movement is the main element of the democratic aspect of the people's revolution, therefore, the struggle for land is the main democratic content of the people's revolution. Wrong. Theoretically, the struggle for land is not the main content of the antifeudal struggle. The struggle to overthrow the landlord class—economically and politically—is its main content although the struggle to overthrow the landlord class expresses itself generally in the struggle for land.
What is the class nature of this “struggle for land” whose practical expression in PPDR is the slogan “Land to the Landless!”? What is the economic and political basis of this slogan which was formulated and presented by Sison as a programmatic position and a declaration of principle in the democratic revolution and not merely as a tactical proposition? How does Sison justify the consistency of this slogan to the basic theoretical principles of Marxism-Leninism? To all this fundamental questions of utmost programmatic and tactical importance, Sison has no answer in his PPDR, and even in all his subsequent writings, and failing in this, he cannot but be accused of revolutionary demagoguery.
This is how Sison formulated in PPDR his simple resolution of the agrarian question and we quote in full the section entitled The Land Problem: “The main content of the people's democratic revolution is the struggle for land among the peasants. The people's democratic revolution must satisfy the basic demand of the peasants and farm workers for land. The agrarian revolution is the necessary requirement for the vigorous conduct of the armed struggle and the creation and consolidation of revolutionary base areas. Land shall be distributed free to the landless. Usury and all other feudal evils shall be wiped out. Plantations and estates already efficiently operated on a mechanized basis shall be converted into state farms where the agricultural workers shall establish proletarian power and provide themselves with better working and living conditions. In the whole countryside, mutual aid teams and mutual labor exchange systems shall be created as the initial step toward higher forms of agricultural cooperation. Through agricultural cooperation, production shall be raised and well planned, the sale of produce shall be assured at the best price possible and welfare services guaranteed. The higher purchasing power of the peasantry shall enable the ceaseless expansion of industrial production. The basis of the national economy shall be agriculture because it fulfils the food and raw materials requirement of expanding industrialization and mainly the peasantry absorbs the products of industrialization.”
Sison titled this section as The Land Problem but the range of his elaboration extended to his vision of the new agrarian system. But, anyway, what did he say about the land problem?
Three points. First, “the people's democratic revolution must satisfy the basic demand of the poor peasants and farm workers for land.” Second, “land shall be distributed free to the landless.” And third, “plantations and estates already efficiently operated on a mechanized basis shall be converted into state farms...” This is all he said about the “main content” of our revolution, the “pivot” of the democratic revolution.
What do we get from this?
First. According to Sison, land is not only a basic demand of the poor peasants but a basic demand also of the farm workers. Must Sison be reminded that the poor peasants are the semiproletarians (Lenin even goes to the extent of considering them as rural proletarians) and the farm workers are the proletarians in the countryside. Is this what Sison means of the peasant struggle for land—the demand for land of the landless semiproletarians and proletarians in the countryside. Since they are the only ones mentioned as demanding land and the revolution must meet this demand, the party of the class conscious proletariat—the party that is fighting for the abolition of private property—in its agrarian program, in its declaration of principles, deliberately intends and commits itself to transform the proletariat and semiproletariat in the countryside—the propertyless masses of the countryside—into middle peasants, into petty bourgeois small-property owners, into petty bourgeois small-commodity producers!
So, this is Sison's agrarian revolution—reverting the rural propertyless masses into property owners. The party of the class conscious proletariat is concentrating its forces and attention in the countryside, abandoning the industrial proletariat in the cities, enduring extreme sacrifices in a bloody protracted war to advance a “struggle for land” as the “main content” of the revolution that seeks to revert the propertyless semiproletarian and proletarian masses in the countryside into petty bourgeois property owners and commodity producers! So, this is Sison's idea of social progress, of developing the productive forces in the countryside and developing the class struggle of the proletariat in the democratic revolution—the bourgeoisification of the countryside.
Sison specifically cited the farm workers as demanding land but did not mention the middle peasants and the rich peasants. Are they not also basically demanding land or more land for their small-scale agricultural economy so as to become more viable, productive and competitive in a commodity economy? Are they not economically affected to a considerable degree by landlordism, by the land monopoly of the landlord class? Are they not also after the vast landholdings of the landlords in the countryside? Are they not the real beneficiaries, in the economic sense, of a bourgeois agrarian revolution in the countryside? But since they are not the “landless” masses in the countryside, and since they are not mentioned as “demanding land,” they shall not benefit from Sison's “Land to the Landless” slogan, they shall not receive free land from Sison because they are not landless and are not demanding land. But the problem is, they are the real peasants and farmers in the countryside, and in the economic sense, they are the real class forces that are after the landlords' vast landholdings for their individualist class interests.
Second. Sison began discussing all sorts of things in the section regarding the land problem but forgot to clarify where he will get the land that he will distribute “free” to all the landless and the principles that shall guide the redistribution of land. He clarified this in his Revolutionary Guide To Land Reform. But as it is, Sison's program, with all its superfluous verbosity, declaring that the “struggle for land” is the main content of the people's revolution but failing to clarify the “target of this struggle” in its section regarding the land problem, cannot pass as a party program.
But since Sison said that even “plantations and estates already efficiently operated on a mechanized basis shall be converted into state farms,” it is implied that all vast landholdings will be confiscated (even this confiscatory policy is not mentioned which is a most crucial question in any agrarian program). The question is: What types of confiscated lands will be redistributed free to the landless and what types will be exempted from this redistribution? Since Sison mentioned only one type—those already “efficiently operated on a mechanized basis”—that shall be “converted into state farms,” again it is implied that all the rest will be redistributed, even those that are “mechanized” but are not “efficiently operated” or those that are “efficiently operated” along capitalist lines but are not “mechanized,” for what is the sense of affixing this qualification. If this “efficiently operated on a mechanized basis” qualification is merely “superfluous verbosity,” then Sison must admit that he does not even know how to write a program.
We cannot but take at face value what Sison wrote in our program for in reality it is nothing but phrase-mongering and pedantry. So if we take Sison seriously, his agrarian program aims to redistribute and subdivide into small parcels all vast holdings in the countryside including those big farms operating along capitalist lines and even those that are “mechanized” but are not “efficiently operated.” This is consistent to his idea of transforming even those landless farm-workers, the rural proletariat, into middle peasants, into petty bourgeois small property owners because their basic problem is the “demand for land.” This is the meaning of the slogan “Land to the Landless”—all those that do not have land and wish to till the land will be provided with land! If this is not petty bourgeois revolutionism, anarchism and utopianism, what shall we call this mess that Sison intend to do via a bloody protracted war?
Third. Sison's “Land to the Landless” slogan falls into the category of a “General Redistribution” policy or what Lenin calls as a “divisionist” line. In principle, a proletarian party does not reject the admissibility of such an agrarian policy which in form, seems to deviate from the demands of social progress and class struggle because it promotes small-scale production rather than large-scale production and private ownership rather than public ownership of the land. But for a proletarian party to support, and not only support but preach such a policy, and moreover, to include it in its proletarian party program—its consistency in theory and expediency in practice must be clearly justified, and its economic and political basis expounded. On this account, Sison miserably failed, he provided not a grain of thought, not an ounce of wisdom on why he opted for a “General Redistribution” policy rather than, for example, a “Nationalization of the Land” for the agrarian revolution in our country. He presented it in our program as something given and apparent, indisputable and indubitable, something self-explanatory and self-evident in its absolute correctness for all times in a democratic revolution. Proof of such an attitude: after 25 years, he does not even bother to review the correctness in theory or expediency in practice of such an agrarian policy in the light of more than two decades of peasant work and the current developments in the countryside. Like his protracted war strategy, his semifeudal theory, and all his other absolutes, Sison's agrarian program is for all seasons.
What is the theoretical, economic and political basis of this “Land to the Landless” slogan of Sison, of this “General Redistribution” land policy, of this “divisionist” line in solving the agrarian question in the Philippines? To answer this question, we must first clarify the character, the class nature of the agrarian revolution in the Philippines of which, Sison again failed to clarify categorically and theoretically in PPDR and even in all his subsequent writings.
All are agreed that the peasants' struggle for land is an antifeudal struggle, a struggle to eradicate the feudal survivals in our agricultural system. What is the character of this struggle? Undoubtedly and obviously, this is a bourgeois-democratic struggle, a bourgeois agrarian revolution. Meaning, its aim is to accelerate bourgeois development in our agricultural system by eradicating the survivals of feudalism in the countryside. Sison cannot argue that he is taking a “non-capitalist path” in the agricultural development of the country because his “divisionist” agrarian line promotes an out-and-out private ownership of the land and an extreme program of small-scale commodity production in the countryside. Again Sison tries to evade and obscure the capitalist path of development by keeping mum on the character of his agrarian program, hiding it behind his non-capitalist, non-socialist “national-democratic” slogans. Sison's “Land to the Landless” slogan and Lenin's “Nationalization of the Land” slogan are both bourgeois slogans which cannot go beyond the bounds of bourgeois progress and will establish nothing more than a bourgeois agricultural system in the countryside.
Ever since they founded their party, the Russian Social-Democrats, according to Lenin have maintained the following three propositions: “First. The agrarian revolution will necessarily be a part of the democratic revolution in Russia. The content of this revolution will be the liberation of the countryside from the relations of semifeudal bondage. Second. In its social and economic aspect, the impending agrarian revolution will be a bourgeois-democratic revolution; it will not weaken but stimulate the development of capitalism and capitalist class contradictions.Third. The Social-Democrats have every reason to support this revolution most resolutely, setting themselves immediate task, but not tying their hands by assuming commitments, and by no means refusing to support even a 'general redistribution'.”
According to Lenin, “the agrarian question is the basis of the bourgeois revolution in Russia and determines the specific national character of this revolution. The essence of this question is the struggle of the peasantry to abolish landlordism and the survivals of serfdom in the agricultural system of Russia, and consequently, also in her social and political institutions.” For Lenin, “the pivot of the struggle is the feudal latifundia which are the most conspicuous embodiment and the strongest mainstay of the survivals of serfdom in Russia.”
Ten and a half million peasant households in European Russia own 75 million dessiatins of land. Thirty thousand landlords each own over 500 dessiatins—altogether 70 million dessiatins. For the information of Sison's “semifeudal” fanatics, this is Lenin's capitalist Russia. This is “the main background of the arena on which the peasants' struggle for land” was developing in Russia at that time. This is the main reason “for the predominance of feudal landlords in the agricultural system in Russia and, consequently, in the Russian state generally, and in the whole of Russian life.”
Lest Sison's “semifeudal” fanatics will again question this reference to Lenin's Russia on the agrarian question, let us quote Lenin's definition of landlordism: “The owners of the latifundia are feudal landlords in the economic sense of the term: the basis of the landownership was created by the history of serfdom, by the history of landgrabbing by the nobility through the centuries. The basis of their present methods of farming is the labour-service system, i.e., a direct survival of the corvee, cultivation of the land with the implements of the peasants and the virtual enslavement of the small tillers, in an endless variety of ways: winter hiring, annual leases, half-share metage, leases based on labor rent, bondage for debt, bondage for cut-off lands, for the use of forests, meadows, water, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.”
Now, which is more feudal—Lenin's Russia or Sison's Philippines?
According to Lenin: “Capitalist development in Russia has made such strides during the last half-century that the preservation of serfdom in agriculture has become absolutely impossible, and its abolition has assumed the forms of a violent crisis, of a nationwide revolution. But the abolition of serfdom in a bourgeois country is possible in two ways.”
What are these “two ways” which Lenin is so emphatic about in his agrarian writings? The development of commodity production and capitalism will certainly and inevitably put an end to the survivals of serfdom. In this respect, Lenin asserted that “Russia has only one path before her, that of bourgeois development.” But there may be two forms of this bourgeois development.
According to Lenin: “The survivals of serfdom may fall either as a result of the transformation of landlord economy or as a result of the abolition of the landlord latifundia, i.e., either by reform or revolution. Bourgeois development may proceed by having big landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal methods of exploitation. It may also proceed by having small peasant economies at the head, which in a revolutionary way, will remove the 'excrescence' of the feudal latifundia from the social organism and then freely develop them along the path of capitalist economy.”
These two paths of objectively possible bourgeois development Lenin calls the “Prussian path” and the “American path,” respectively. In the first case, “feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois, Junker landlord economy, which condemns the peasants to decades of most harrowing expropriation and bondage, while at the same time a small minority of “big peasants” arises. In the second case, “there is no landlord economy, or else it is broken up by revolution, which confiscates and splits up the feudal estates. In that case the peasant predominates, becomes the sole agent of agriculture, and evolves into a capitalist farmer.”
Lenin emphasized: “In the first case the main content of the evolution is transformation of feudal bondage into servitude and capitalist exploitation on the land of the feudal landlords—Junkers. In the second case the main background is transformation of the patriarchal peasant into a bourgeois farmer.” These “two paths” of bourgeois development in agriculture are two types of bourgeois agrarian evolution. Lenin calls the first as “bourgeois evolution of the landlord type” and the second as “bourgeois evolution of the peasant type”—a “peasant agrarian revolution”
What is the significance of this distinction? This is of cardinal importance for arriving at correct views on our revolution and for advancing a correct proletarian agrarian program. According to Lenin: “Only by clearly understanding the difference between these two types and the bourgeois character of both, can we correctly explain the agrarian question in the Russian revolution and grasp the class significance of the various agrarian programs put forward by the different parties. The pivot of the struggle, we repeat, is the feudal latifundia. The capitalist evolution of these is beyond dispute, but it is possible in two forms: either they will be abolished, eliminated in a revolutionary manner by peasant farmers, or they will be gradually transformed into Junker estates...”
With regards to tactics, how did Lenin view the first type, the “bourgeois evolution of the landlord type?
Lenin took as an example the Stolypin program, which was supported by the Right landlords and the Octobrists and was avowedly a landlord's program. According to Lenin: “...can it be said that it is reactionary in the economic sense, i.e., that it precludes, or seeks to preclude, the development of capitalism, to prevent a bourgeois agrarian revolution? Not at all. On the contrary, the famous agrarian legislation introduced by Stolypin under Article 87 is permeated through and through with the purely bourgeois spirit. There can be no doubt that it follows the line of capitalist evolution, facilitates and pushes forward that evolution, hastens the expropriation of the peasantry, the break-up of the village commune, and the creation of a peasant bourgeoisie. Without a doubt, that legislation is progressive in the scientific-economic sense.”
Here, Lenin displays his consistency and integrity as a Marxist theoretician, objectively appraising in the scientific-economic sense the agrarian program of the ultra-reactionary Stolypin and never allowing his proletarian and revolutionary class bias to muddle the issue with demagoguery as phrase-mongers like Sison instinctively do.
But just because this Stolypin program is not reactionary in the economic sense, that this legislation is progressive in the scientific-economic sense, does it mean the class-conscious proletariat should support such a program?
According to Lenin: “It does not. Only vulgar Marxism can reason in that way, a Marxism whose seeds Plekhanov and the Mensheviks are so persistently sowing when they sing, shout, plead, and proclaim: we must support the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the old order of things. No. To facilitate the development of the productive forces (the highest criterion of social progress) we must support not bourgeois evolution of the landlord type, but bourgeois evolution of the peasant type.”
Bourgeois evolution of the landlord type, according to Lenin, “implies the utmost preservation of bondage and serfdom (remodelled on bourgeois lines), the least rapid development of the productive forces, and the retarded development of capitalism; it implies infinitely greater misery and suffering, exploitation and oppression for the broad mass of the peasantry and, consequently, also for the proletariat.” On the other hand, bourgeois revolution of the peasant type, according to Lenin, “implies the most rapid development of the productive forces and the best possible (under commodity production) conditions of existence for the mass of the peasantry. The tactics of Social-Democracy in the Russian bourgeois revolution are determined not by the task of supporting the liberal bourgeoisie, as the opportunist think, but by the task of supporting the fighting peasantry.”
When Lenin began to sharply draw the distinctions between the types of agrarian evolution, he was already pursuing the revision of the 1903 agrarian program of the RSDLP of which he was one of the authors. “In 1903,” according to Lenin, “when the Second Congress of our Party adopted the first agrarian program of the RSDLP, we did not yet have such an experience as would enable us to judge the character, breadth, and depth of the peasant movement. The peasant risings in South Russia in the spring of 1902 remained sporadic outbursts. One can therefore understand the restraint shown by the Social Democrats in drafting the agrarian program...”
The 1903 program attempted to define concretely the nature and terms of the radical revision of Russian agrarian relations about which the Emancipation of Labor group spoke only in a general way in its draft of an agrarian program in 1885. According to Lenin: “That attempt—in the main item of the program, dealing with the cut-off lands—was based upon a tentative distinction between lands which serve for exploitation by means of serfdom and bondage (lands 'cut off' in 1861) and lands which are exploited in a capitalist manner. Such tentative distinction was quite fallacious, because in practice, the peasant mass movement could not be directed against particular categories of landlord estates, but only against landlordism in general.”
The 1903 program raised a question which has not yet been raised in the 1885 program—the question of the conflict of interests between the peasants and the landlords at the moment of the revision of agrarian relations. According to Lenin: “...the solution given to this question in the program of 1903 is not correct, for, instead of contraposing the consistently peasant to the consistently Junker method of carrying out the bourgeois revolution, the program artificially sets up something intermediate.”
The absence of an open mass movement of the peasantry at that time made it impossible to solve this question on the basis of precise data. According to Lenin: “No one could say in advance with certainty to what extent disintegration among the peasantry had progressed as a result of the partial transition of the landlords from the labor service to wage labor. No one could estimate how large was the stratum of agricultural laborers which had arisen after the Reform of 1861 and to what extent their interests had become separated from those of the ruined peasant masses.”
The erroneous 1903 program was the result of the over-estimation of the degree of capitalist development in Russian agriculture. The survivals of serfdom appeared then to the Social-Democrats, including Lenin, to be a minor detail, whereas capitalist agriculture on the peasant allotments and on the landlords' estates seemed to be quite mature and well-established.
According to Lenin: “But the survivals of serfdom in the countryside have proved to be much stronger than we thought: they have given rise to a nationwide peasant movement and they have made that movement the touchstone of the bourgeois revolution as a whole. Hegemony in the bourgeois liberation movement, which revolutionary Social Democracy always assigned to the proletariat, had to be defined more precisely as leadership which rallied the peasantry behind it. But leading to what? To the bourgeois revolution in its most consistent form. We rectified the mistake by substituting for the partial aim of combating the survivals of the old agrarian system, the aim of combating the old agrarian system as a whole. Instead of purging landlord economy, we set the aim of abolishing it.”
Theoretically, the 1903 program should have been developed, according to Lenin, “by clarifying the economic basis of our program, the facts upon which the demand for a radical revision, as distinct from a non-radical, reformist revision can and should be based, and finally by concretely defining the nature of this revision from the standpoint of the proletariat (which differs essentially from the general radical standpoint).”
Practically, it should have been developed by taking into account the experience of the peasant movement. According to Lenin: “Without the experience of a mass—indeed, more than that, of a nationwide peasant movement, the program of the Social-Democratic Labor Party could not become concrete; for it would have been too difficult, if not impossible, on the basis of theoretical reasoning alone, to define the degree to which capitalist disintegration had taken place among our peasantry, and to what extent the latter was capable of bringing about a revolutionary-democratic change.”
Here, Lenin teaches us the materialist style of work which is alien to Sison. First, to admit what is erroneous in one's work. Second, to amend one's position on the basis of facts. Third, to adapt to changing conditions. Fourth, to appreciate the lessons of experience.
After only three years, Lenin vigorously initiated the revision of the 1903 agrarian program of which he was a principal author, admitting its erroneous content, meticulously compiling and studying voluminous data with the aim of clarifying the economic basis of his agrarian position, and above all, giving paramount importance to the concrete experience in peasant struggle.
How about Sison? All his basic propositions he considers as Gospel truth, and after 25 years, he wants them all “reaffirmed.” After 25 years, no clarification of the theoretical basis of his agrarian program, no evaluation of new economic facts on which it should stand, no appraisal of the peasant movement that should validate his agrarian tactics and slogans. After 25 years, his agrarian program stands as is, as if the Philippine countryside stood still for the past two and a half decades. Perhaps, the economic evolution in the Philippines can be held in abeyance for Sison's agrarian revolution whose dynamics depend on protracted war, and not on a nationwide, genuine peasant mass movement.
The correction of Lenin's 1903 agrarian program, made under the impact of the imposing course of events, did not make many of the Social-Democrats to think out, to its logical conclusion, their new evaluation of the degree of capitalist development in Russian agriculture.
Lenin clarified: “If the demand for the confiscation of all the landlord estates proved to be historically correct—and that undoubtedly was the case—it meant that the wide development of capitalism calls for new agrarian relationships, that the beginning of capitalism in landlord economy can and must be sacrificed to the wide and free development of capitalism on the basis of renovated small farming. To accept the demand for the confiscation of the landlord estates means admitting the possibility and the necessity of the renovation of small farming under capitalism.”
Is support for small-scale farming instead of large-scale farming admissible in principle? Does it correspond to the requirements of social progress and the class struggle of the proletariat? Is it not a gamble to support small farming under capitalism? Is it not a demagogic “trap for the peasants”?
In the polemics regarding the “restitution of the cut-off lands,” the central clause of the 1903 agrarian program, Lenin already clarified this question of “admissibility in principle.” According to Lenin: “Generally speaking, it is reactionary to support small property because such support is directed against large-scale capitalist economy and, consequently, retards social development, and obscures and glosses over the class struggle. In this case, however, we want to support small property not against capitalism but against serf-ownership; in this case, by supporting the small peasantry, we give a powerful impulse to the development of the class struggle. Indeed, on the one hand, we are thus making a last attempt to fan the embers of the peasant class (social estate) enmity for the feudal-minded landlords. On the other hand, we are clearing the way for the development of the bourgeois class antagonism in the countryside, because that antagonism is at present masked by what is supposedly the common and equal oppression of all the peasants by the remnants of the serf-owning system.”
Why is Lenin talking of “a last attempt to fan the embers of the peasant class enmity for the feudal-minded landlords”? Because, even at that time, Lenin was already aware of the Junker-type agrarian evolution that was in progress in the Russian countryside. Lenin warned: “if a 'constitutional regime' `a la Shipov lasts in Russia for ten or fifteen years, these survivals will disappear; they will cause the population untold suffering, but nevertheless they will disappear, die out of themselves. Anything like a powerful democratic peasant movement will then become impossible, and it will no longer be possible to advocate any sort of agrarian program “with a view of abolishing the survivals of the serf-owning system.”
Lenin was very much aware that the economic evolution in Russia cannot wait for the peasant revolution, that it cannot standstill while the peasantry musters its strength for a peasant-type bourgeois revolution because the inroads of capitalism is steadily progressing and the bourgeoisie is pursuing its own type of agrarian reform. But for Sison, the agrarian revolution can take its time, keep pace with the protracted war, because anyway, “imperialism will not liquidate feudalism,” imperialism will not liquidate its social base. As long there is imperialism in the Philippines, there will be feudalism. Hence, we can take our own sweet time in protracted or even in perpetual struggle.
As soon as the character, breadth and depth of the peasant movement in Russia began to unfold, Lenin immediately saw the possibility of a peasant-type bourgeois revolution in the countryside gaining dominance over a Junker-type evolution and insisted that “the renovation of small farming is possible even under capitalism if the historic aim is to fight the pre-capitalist order. That is the way small farming was renovated in America, where the slave plantations were broken up in a revolutionary manner and the conditions were created for the most rapid and free development of capitalism. In the Russian revolution the struggle for land is nothing else than a struggle for the renovated path of capitalist development. The consistent slogan of such a renovation is—nationalization of the land.”
From the limited “restitution of the cut-off lands,” Lenin shifted to the slogan of “nationalization of the land” on the basis of the thesis that the feudal latifundia is the pivot of the peasants' struggle for land, a thesis validated in the concrete experience of a nationwide peasant mass movement. The RSDLP was united in admitting that the bourgeois revolution in the sphere of agrarian relations must be regarded as a peasant agrarian revolution. But differences arose over the question whether Social-Democrats should support division of the landlords' estates among the peasants as private property, or municipalization of the landlords' estates, or nationalization of all the land.
Lenin fought vigorously in the Congress for the adoption of the Bolsheviks “nationalization” slogan. But the Menshevik “municipalization” slogan prevailed. We will not deal here with Lenin's polemics against “municipalization.” We will instead expound the theoretical, economic and political basis of Lenin's “nationalization” slogan and his polemics against the “divisionist” slogan which is very relevant to an understanding of Sison's agrarian program and his “Land to the Landless” slogan.
What is nationalization of the land? Nationalization of the land under capitalist relations, according to Lenin, “is neither more nor less than the transfer of rent to the state.” Hence, the theoretical concept of nationalization is inseparably bound up with the theory of capitalist ground rent.
What is rent in capitalist society? According to Lenin: “It is not income from the land in general. It is that part of surplus value which remains after average profit on capital is deducted.” Hence, rent presupposes wage-labor in agriculture, the transformation of the cultivator into capitalist farmer, into an entrepreneur. Nationalization (in its pure form) assumes that the state receives rent from the agricultural entrepreneur who pays wages to wage workers and receives average profit on his capital—average for all enterprises, agricultural and non-agricultural.
Marxism distinguishes two forms of rent: differential and absolute rent. Differential rent springs, according to Lenin, “from the limited nature of land, its occupation by capitalist economies, quite irrespective of whether private ownership of land exists, or what the form of landownership is.” Absolute rent arises from the private ownership of land. “That rent,” according to Lenin, “contains an element of monopoly, an element of monopoly price.” Differential rent arises from competition, absolute rent arises from monopoly.
There are differences between individual farms which can be summed up as differences between better and worst soils. The price of production of the agricultural product (capital expended on production, plus average profit on capital) is determined by the conditions of production not on the average soil, but on the worst soil. The difference between the individual price and the highest price of production is differential rent.
According to Lenin, “differential rent inevitably arises in capitalist agriculture even if the private ownership of the land is completely abolished. Under the private ownership of the land, this rent is appropriated by the landowner, for competition between capitals compels the tenant farmer to be satisfied with the average profit on capital.” If through nationalization private ownership of the land is abolished, that rent will go to the state. According to Lenin, differential rent “cannot be abolished as long as the capitalist mode of production exists.”
Private ownership of land hinders free competition, hinders the levelling of profit, the formation of average profit in agriculture and non-agricultural enterprises. By hindering the free levelling of profits in agricultural enterprises on a par with non-agricultural enterprises, the private ownership of land makes it possible to sell the agricultural product not at the highest price of production, but at the still higher individual value of the product (for the price of production is determined by the average profit on capital, while absolute rent prevents the formation of this “average” by monopolistically fixing the individual value at a level higher than the average).
Thus, according to Lenin, “differential rent is inevitably an inherent feature of every form of capitalist agriculture. Absolute rent is not; it arises only under the private ownership of land, only under the historically created backwardness of agriculture, a backwardness that becomes fixed by monopoly.”
The question of nationalization of the land in capitalist society falls into two essentially distinct parts: the question of differential rent, and that of absolute rent. According to Lenin: “Nationalization changes the owner of the former, and undermines the very existence of the latter. Hence, on the one hand, nationalization is a partial reform within the limits of capitalism (a change of owners of a part of surplus value), and on the other hand, it abolishes the monopoly which hinders the development of capitalism as a whole.”
Lenin vigorously opposed “agrarian bimetallism,” mechanically combining private and public land-ownership, criticizing it as a theoretical absurdity, an impossibility from the purely economic point of view. For Lenin, there are two alternatives:
Either private ownership is really needed at a given stage of development, really corresponds to the fundamental interests of the capitalist farmer class—in which case it is inevitable everywhere as the basis of bourgeois society which has taken shape according to a given type.
Or private ownership is not essential for the given stage of capitalist development, does not follow inevitably from the interests of the farmer class, and even contradicts those interests—in which case the preservation of that obsolete form of ownership is impossible.
According to Lenin: “The Narodnik thinks that repudiation of private landownership is repudiation of capitalism. That is wrong. The repudiation of private landownership expresses the demands for the purest capitalist development.”
Marx criticized not only big landownership, but also small landownership. He admits that the free ownership of land by the small peasant is a necessary concomitant of small production in agriculture under certain historical conditions. But the recognition of this historical necessity does not relieve the Marxist of the duty of making an all-round appraisal of small landownership. And according to Lenin: “Real freedom of such landownership in inconceivable without the free purchase and sale of land. Private ownership of land implies the necessity of spending capital on purchasing land.”
If redistribution is contraposed to nationalization, i.e., private against public landownership, what will be the meaning of the “free ownership of land by the small peasant” under the “Land to the Landless” slogan? According to Lenin, “real freedom of such landownership is inconceivable without the free purchase and sale of a land. Private ownership of land implies the necessity of spending capital on purchasing land.” On this point, Marx said: “The expenditure of capital in the price of the land withdraws this capital from cultivation... One of the specific evils of small-scale agriculture, where it is combined with free landownership, arises from the cultivator's investing capital in the purchase of the land... The expenditure of money-capital for the purchase of land, then, is not an investment of agricultural capital. It is a decrease pro tanto in the capital which small peasants can employ in their own sphere of production. It reduces pro tanto the size of the their means of production and thereby narrows the economic basis of reproduction.”
This is the Marxist criticism of private land-ownership. This form of ownership, according to Lenin, “is a hindrance to the free investment of capital in the land. Either complete freedom for this investment—in which case: abolition of private landownership, i.e., nationalization of the land; or the preservation of private landownership—in which case: penetration of capital by roundabout ways...”
The abolition of private landownership, according to Lenin, “is the maximum that can be done in bourgeois society for the removal of all obstacles to the free investment of capital in agriculture and to the free flow of capital from one branch of production to another. The free, wide, and rapid development of capitalism, complete freedom for the class struggle, the disappearance of all superfluous intermediaries who make agriculture something like the 'sweated' industries—that is what nationalization of the land implies under the capitalist system of production.”
Under what conditions of the development of capitalism in agriculture can nationalization be brought about?
In Lenin's time, most Marxists were of the opinion that nationalization is feasible only at a high stage of development of capitalism, when it will have fully prepared the conditions for the public ownership of the land. To bring about nationalization, it was assumed that large-scale capitalist farming must first be established.
Lenin pointed out the incorrectness of this view. Theoretically, it cannot be substantiated. It cannot be supported by direct references to Marx. The facts of experience speaks against it. According to Lenin, nationalization is the “ideally” pure development of capitalism in agriculture. Nationalization is not only an effect of, but also a condition for the rapid development of capitalism, a measure of bourgeois progress.
According to Lenin: “To associate nationalization with the epoch of highly developed capitalism means repudiating it as a measure of bourgeois progress; and such a repudiation directly contradicts economic theory.”
Lenin based his assertion directly on Marx. After pointing out that the landowner is an absolutely superfluous figure in capitalist production, that the purpose of the latter is “fully answered” if the land belongs to the state, Marx said: “That is why in theory the radical bourgeoisie arrives at the repudiation of private landed property... In practice however, since the attack on one form of property, private property in relations to the conditions of labor, would be very dangerous for the other form. Moreover, the bourgeoisie has territorialized himself.”
According to Lenin, Marx does not mention the undeveloped stage of capitalism in agriculture as an obstacle to the achievement of nationalization. What he mentions are two obstacles which speak much more strongly in favor of the idea of achieving nationalization in the epoch of bourgeois revolution.
Lenin interpreted Marx' “two obstacles” to nationalization. First obstacle: the radical bourgeoisie lacks the courage to attack private landed property owing to the danger of a socialist attack on all private property. Second obstacle: By the bourgeoisie having “territorialized himself,” what Marx has in mind is that the bourgeois mode of production has already entrenched itself in private landed property.
According to Lenin: “When the bourgeoisie, as a class, has already become bound up with landed property on a broad, predominating scale, has already 'territorialized itself', 'settled on the land', fully subordinated landed property to itself, then a genuine social movement of the bourgeoisie in favor of nationalization is impossible. It is impossible for the simple reason that no class ever goes against itself.”
These two obstacles are removable only, according to Lenin, “in the epoch of rising and not of declining capitalism, in the epoch of the bourgeois revolution, and not on the eve of the socialist revolution. The view that nationalization is feasible only at a high stage of development of capitalism cannot be called Marxist... The 'radical bourgeoisie' cannot be courageous in the epoch of strongly developed capitalism... In the epoch of bourgeois revolution, however, the objective conditions compel the 'radical bourgeoisie' to be courageous; for, in solving historical problems of the given period, the bourgeoisie, as a class cannot yet fear the proletarian revolution. In the epoch of bourgeois revolution the bourgeoisie has not yet territorialized itself: landownership is still too much steeped in feudalism in such an epoch. The phenomenon of the mass of the bourgeois farmers fighting against the principal forms of landownership and therefore arriving at the practical achievement of the complete bourgeois 'liberation of the land, i.e., nationalization, becomes possible.”
If nationalization is regarded as a measure most likely to be achieved in the epoch of bourgeois revolution, does it mean that nationalization will probably be a transition to division of the land as private property?
Lenin admits that nationalization may turn out to be a mere transition to division. The farmers who have adapted themselves, who have renovated the whole system of landownership, may demand that the new agrarian system be consolidated, i.e., that the holdings they have rented from the state be converted into their property. The circumstances under which the new farmers' demand for division of the land cannot be predicted with accuracy. But capitalist developments after the bourgeois revolution will inevitably give rise to such circumstances.
In the light of this possible development, the fundamental question is: how will this affect the proletarian agrarian program, what will be the attitude of the workers' party towards the possible demand of the new farmers for the division of the land?
To this question, Lenin gave a very definite reply: “The proletariat can and must support the militant bourgeoisie when the latter wages a really revolutionary struggle against feudalism. But it is not for the proletariat to support the bourgeoisie when the latter is becoming quiescent. If it is certain that a victorious bourgeois revolution in Russia is impossible without the nationalization of the land, then it is still more certain that a subsequent turn towards the division of the land is impossible without a certain amount of 'restoration', without the peasantry (or, rather, from the point of view of the presumed relations: farmers) turning towards counterrevolution. The proletariat will uphold the revolutionary traditions against all such strivings and will not assist them.”
In the event of the new farmer class turning towards division of the land, Lenin insisted that it would be a great mistake to think that “nationalization would be a transient phenomenon of no serious significance. In any case, it would have tremendous material and moral significance.”
Material significance, in that nothing is capable of so thoroughly sweeping away the survivals of medievalism in Russia, of so thoroughly renovating the rural districts, of so rapidly promoting agricultural progress, as nationalization. Lenin stressed: “Any other solution to the agrarian question in the revolution would create less favorable starting points for further economic development.”
The moral significance of nationalization in the revolutionary epoch is that the proletariat helps to strike a blow at “one form of private property.” Lenin stressed: “The proletariat stands for the most consistent and most determined bourgeois revolution and the most favorable conditions for capitalist development, thereby most effectively counteracting all half-heartedness, flabbiness, spinelessness and passivity—qualities which the bourgeoisie cannot help displaying.”
A most thorough sweeping away of all the survivals of feudalism, a most consistent and most determined agrarian revolution of the peasant-type—this is the meaning of the slogan for the nationalization of all the land. Hence, the nationalization slogan, the agrarian struggle, is inseparably connected with the political revolution.
This peasant agrarian revolution, this nationalization of the land involves the confiscation of the landlord estates, i.e., the taking of the land without compensation. According to Lenin: “The peasantry cannot carry out an agrarian revolution without abolishing the old regime, the standing army and the bureaucracy, because all these are the most reliable mainstays of landlordism, bound to it by thousand of ties.” For the peasantry to take all the land, all political power has to be taken as well. Hence, the inseparable connection of Lenin's slogan for the “nationalization of the land” with the slogan for a “republic.” The former is impossible apart form the latter. Unless the peasants go the whole way in politics, it is of no use thinking seriously of confiscating the landlords' land.
According to Lenin: “The Party explains that the best method of taking possession of the land in bourgeois society is by abolishing private ownership of land, nationalizing the land, and transferring to the state, and that such a measure can neither be carried out nor bear real fruit without complete democratization not only of local institutions, but of the whole structure of the state, including the establishment of a republic, the abolition of the standing army, election of officials by the people, etc.”
The nationalization of the land, the victory of the peasant revolution can only come about with the conquest of power of the peasantry, and this conquest of power of the peasantry can only come about under the leadership of the proletariat. Why is it that a peasant revolution in a bourgeois country is possible only and can only be victorious under the leadership of the proletariat? According to Lenin: “... since commodity production does not unite or centralize the peasants, but disintegrates and disunites them, a peasant revolution in a bourgeois country is possible only under the leadership of the proletariat...”
Hence, Lenin defines the victory of the peasant revolution, the victory of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia as the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. According to Lenin: “The Bolsheviks from the outset defined the general and the basic class conditions for the victory of this revolution as the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” This is what is meant by Lenin by the decisive victory of the democratic revolution.
In his draft agrarian program of 1906, Lenin presented the slogan for the nationalization of the land in this manner: “If, however, the decisive victory of the present revolution in Russia brings about the complete sovereignty of the people, i.e., establishes a republic and a full democratic system, the Party will seek the abolition of private ownership of land and transfer all the land to the whole people as common property.” (In a footnote, Lenin presented a variant formulation: “... the Party will support the striving of the revolutionary peasantry to abolish private ownership of land and seek the transfer of all the land to the state.”)
Hence, Lenin's “nationalization” slogan is an agrarian policy in the event of a decisive victory of the revolution, in the revolution resulting in the establishment of a revolutionary-democratic of the proletariat and the peasantry. Lenin considered two possible outcomes of the bourgeois revolution and he considered the “nationalization” slogan as possible only in the event of the “favorable outcome of the revolution,” of the peasant conquering power with the proletariat in the democratic revolution. The other possible outcome is bourgeois agricultural development of the Junker type.
Lenin admitted the possibility of an unfavorable outcome of the revolution due to a “fundamental economic difficulty” in advancing the peasant struggle, declaring that “the real 'difficulty' lies in securing the victory of the peasant agrarian revolution in a country which, at least since 1861, has been developing along Junker-bourgeois lines.”
He insisted that Marxism must reckon with the two possibilities in the capitalist evolution of agriculture in Russia and clearly show the people the conditions and significance of each possibility, and that Marxism must resolutely combat the view that a radical agrarian revolution is possible in Russia without a radical political revolution. And above all, Lenin insisted that Marxism cannot link the destiny of socialism in Russia with the outcome of the bourgeois democratic revolution.
According to Lenin: “Social-Democracy, the party of the proletariat, does not in any way link the destiny of socialism with either of the two possible outcomes of the bourgeois revolution. Either outcome implies the development of capitalism and the oppression of the proletariat, whether under a landlord monarchy with private ownership of land, or under a farmers republic, even with the nationalization of the land. Therefore, only an absolutely independent and purely proletarian party is able to defend the cause of socialism 'whatever the situation of democratic agrarian reforms' may be, as the concluding part of my agrarian program declares...”
We quote the concluding part of Lenin's draft agrarian program if only to show the meaning of Leninist consistency in principle in a proletarian program: “Furthermore, the object of the RSDLP in all circumstances, and whatever the situation of democratic reform, is steadily to strive for the independent class organization of the rural proletariat; to explain that its interests are irreconcilably opposed to those of the peasant bourgeoisie; to warn against being tempted by small-scale ownership, which cannot, so long as commodity production exists, abolish poverty among the masses; and lastly to urge the necessity for a complete socialist revolution as the only means of abolishing all poverty and exploitation.”
But the bourgeois nature of both possible outcomes of the agrarian revolution by no means implies that Social-Democrats can be indifferent to the struggle for one or the other outcome.
According to Lenin: “It is undoubtedly in the interests of the working class to give the most vigorous support to the peasant revolution. More than that: it must play the leading part in that revolution. In fighting for a favorable outcome of the revolution we must spread among the masses a very clear understanding of what keeping to the landlord path of agrarian revolution means, what incalculable hardships (arising not out of capitalism, but from the inadequate development of capitalism) it has in store for all the toiling masses. On the other hand, we must also explain the petty-bourgeois nature of the peasant revolution, and the fallacy of placing any 'socialist' hopes in it.”
And since Lenin did not link the destiny of socialism with either of the possible outcomes of the bourgeois revolution, his program cannot be identical for both a favorable and “unfavorable case.” According to Lenin: “When Plekhanov said that we do not need drafts specially providing for both the one and the other case (that is, drafts built upon 'ifs') he said it simply without thinking; for it is precisely from his standpoint, from the standpoint of the probability of the worst outcome, or of the necessity of reckoning with it, that it is particularly necessary to divide the program into two parts, as I did. It needs to be said that on the present path of landlord-bourgeois development the workers' party stands for such and such measures, while at the same time it helps the peasantry with all its might to abolish landlordism entirely and thus create the possibility for broader and freer conditions of development.”
Plekhanov ridiculed Lenin for his “optimism” in assuming the victory of the peasant agrarian revolution though it was Lenin who was insisting on the two possible outcomes of the bourgeois revolution, on the necessity of preparing for these two possibilities, on the error of linking the destiny of the socialist revolution with the outcome of the bourgeois revolution, etc.
But how about Sison? He is not only an optimist. He looks at things as preordained. He talks only of one path—a peasant agrarian revolution. There is only one possibility: the victory of armed agrarian revolution. And the destiny of the entire Philippine revolution—the socialist and the democratic—depends entirely and exclusively on this agrarian revolution which he oversimplified into a struggle for land and equated with protracted war.
If we lose in this protracted war which is essentially a peasant war, then everything is lost, including the socialist revolution, because it depends entirely on the victory of the people's democratic revolution, on the completion of the bourgeois revolution that has only one meaning: the seizure, the conquest of power of the proletariat in the democratic revolution.
But for Sison, this is idle talk, these are bad words. Defeat is impossible because the revolution—this peasant revolution, this people's revolution—is invincible! He calls it invincible because he is unmindful of the fact that the peasant revolution is a petty bourgeois revolution, that the people's revolution is a bourgeois revolution or because his mind if filled with the absolute revolutionariness of the peasantry and the masses of the people regardless of their class tendencies, regardless of their non-proletarian character.
Sison talks of the proletariat seizing power in the democratic revolution, and according to him, together with the peasantry and the people, which are both under the absolute hegemony of the Party.
The party of the proletariat will seize power in the democratic revolution, yet his maximum agrarian program, the hallmark of his agrarian program is aimed at promoting the private ownership of the land. And not only private ownership of the land but small landownership of the middle peasant type, small-scale commodity production. Furthermore, not only small private landownership and small-scale commodity production, but the conversion of the propertyless proletarian and semiproletarian masses in the countryside into petty bourgeois small property owners and small-scale commodity producers. This agrarian program is a complete rupture with Marxist economic theory and an error of historical perspective.
Lenin said: “Everything in good season. Social-Democracy cannot undertake never to support division of the land. In a different historical situation, at a different stage of the agrarian evolution, this division may prove unavoidable. But division of the land is an entirely wrong expression of the aims of the bourgeois democratic revolution in Russia in 1907.”
Under what historical situation, and stage of agrarian evolution, can a workers' party undertake to support division of the land in its proletarian agrarian program?
First. Not in a historical situation when the “pivot” of the struggle is the break-up of the vast holdings of the landlord class” and the period of “rising” capitalism in agriculture with all the survivals of feudalism still prevalent. If Sison believes that semifeudal Philippines is more backward than capitalist Russia, his “divisionist” agrarian line is theoretically and economically untenable in such a historical situation and stage of agrarian evolution.
Second. Division of the land might be progressive if it consolidates modern farming, modern agricultural methods and scraps the old. It might be progressive if the real conditions of life of the small cultivator, of the small farmer in the village, confront him with economic problems that require the consolidation of the new agriculture, which has already taken shape, by means of dividing the land as private property.
But if the economic problem is not of “consolidating the new agriculture” but of “clearing the ground for the creation of a new agriculture” (out of the existing elements), Lenin insists that this new agriculture be built on “free,” i.e., nationalized, land. For the workers' party to preach the division of the land under this condition “is glaring historical tactlessness and reveals the inability to take stock of the concrete historical situation.”
The “divisionists,” according to Lenin “are skipping the historical task of the present revolution; they assume that the objectives of the peasant mass struggle have already been achieved, whereas the struggle has only just begun. Instead of stimulating the process of renovation, instead of explaining to the peasantry the conditions for consistent renovation, they are already designing a dressing-gown for the appeased, renovated farmer.”
Sison obviously does not know the correct economic theory and correct historical context of a “divisionist” agrarian program because, while preaching the private ownership of the land, in all his analysis and assertions never did he assume that the objectives of the peasant mass struggle against feudalism have already been achieved, and until now, he believes that the Filipino peasantry is a feudal class and not a renovated farmer.
If a new system of agriculture must first develop sufficiently to have the division of the land adapted to it, the question is: what will be the character of this agricultural development? It will probably develop as a Junker-type, a landlord-bourgeois type of agrarian evolution. Under this condition, Lenin's “fundamental economic difficulty” of advancing a powerful peasant revolution will come to the fore, and there is no certainty that a “Land to the Landless” slogan can really incite the mass of the peasantry to a nationwide revolt. As the mass of proletarian and semiproletarian elements in the countryside increases, the revolutionary appeal of such a slogan decreases and its theoretical and economic soundness put in question.
According to Lenin: “... by what criterion are we to determine whether the new system of agriculture has already developed sufficiently to have the division of the land adapted to it, and not to have the division of the land that will perpetuate the old obstacles to the new farming? There can be but one criterion, that of practice. No statistics in the world can assess whether the elements of a peasant bourgeoisie in a given country have 'hardened' sufficiently to enable the system of landownership to the be adapted to the system of farming. This can be assessed by the mass of the farmers themselves.”
What is meant by Lenin by the peasant bourgeoisie sufficiently “hardened”? Lenin is referring to the fanaticism of the private property owner which, in due time, “will assert itself as a demand of the newly-hatched free farmer for the assured possession of his farm.” According to Lenin: “The small farmer, at all times and throughout the world becomes so attached to his farm (if it really his farm and not a piece of the landlord estate let out on labor service, as is frequently the case in Russia) that his 'fanatical' defence of private ownership of the land is inevitable at a certain historical period and for a certain space of time.”
It was not statistics that proved that the Russian peasantry have not sufficiently “hardened” in defence of private landownership, but the peasant mass movement itself. At that time, all the peasant parties came forward in the Russian revolution with a program of land nationalization. According to Lenin: “... in the present epoch the mass of the Russian peasants are not displaying the fanaticism of private property owners (a fanaticism which is fostered by all the ruling classes, by all the liberal-bourgeois politicians), but are putting forward a widespread and firmly held demand for the nationalization of the land...”
Lenin gave paramount importance to concrete practice for the dynamics of peasant mass struggle itself will resolve the complex nature of agrarian relations and prove the correctness or incorrectness of agrarian programs.Speaking of practice, it should now be asked: After 25 years of concentrating our forces and attention in the countryside, how do we appraise and describe the level of development of the peasant mass movement in the Philippines? How do we explain the fact that despite our stress and effort on peasant work, there is still no trend towards a genuine spontaneous mass movement of the peasantry, not a single experience of a peasant mass uprising or even a peasant mass upsurge for the past several decades? Is there really a genuine peasant agrarian revolution in the Philippines that is mustering its strength nationwide or what we have is a declining protracted war supported by a dwindling organized peasant base? Is peasant support for Sison's protracted war to be interpreted as the peasant mass movement, as the peasant revolution, as the peasant agrarian revolution? Has the “Land to the Landless” slogan really inspired and incited the peasantry towards a real mass, historic struggle for such a demand?
Criticism against the “divisionist” line of Sison's agrarian program does not necessarily mean that we are now advocating a “nationalization” slogan. We will push for a “nationalization of the land” if Philippine economic conditions today correspond to what Lenin defined as historical conditions for this form of agrarian policy, namely: (1) Philippine agriculture is still in the period of developing capitalism; (2) the pivot of the agrarian struggle is the break-up of feudal landholdings; and (3) if the democratic revolution in the Philippines brings about a worker-peasant coalition government.
But one thing is definite: If Philippine agriculture is what Sison describes as feudal and semifeudal, and if the peasant struggle culminates in a revolutionary seizure of power in a national democratic revolution, then the policy of “General Redistribution” is a totally wrong agrarian policy. The correct slogan under this condition is the “Nationalization of the Land” on the basis of Marxist economic theory and the confluence of economic and political conditions for a victorious agrarian revolution of the peasant-type.
This paper, what we are presenting is not an alternative agrarian platform but a critique on the theoretical, economic, political and tactical basis of Sison's agrarian program, particularly its “divisionist” line which Sison did not bother to clarify for the past 25 years. This is actually a critique against Sison's petty bourgeois demagoguery and cretinism. It has never been the concern of Sison to clarify the theoretical, economic, political and tactical basis of his agrarian program because his “agrarian revolution” is nothing but revolutionary demagoguery and cretinism.
He talks of “agrarian revolution” not because he seriously wants to solve the peasant question in the Philippines from the standpoint of the proletariat and of social progress (or even from the real standpoint of the peasantry). He talks of “agrarian revolution” because he simply wants to mobilize the mass of the peasantry for his protracted war in the countryside and his “strategy of seizure.”
He will preach, like the rabble-rousing politician that he is, the most demagogic, the most populist agrarian slogan devoid of any principles and coherence merely to induce and incite the peasantry to support his protracted war. Sison's “agrarian revolution” is a grand and brutal deception of the Filipino peasantry and a complete betrayal of the principled revolutionary standpoint of the proletariat on the peasant question. His “agrarian” program and his “agrarian” revolution arose not from a clear, scientific analysis and understanding of agrarian political economy from the theoretical framework of Marxism-Leninism. It arose from his preconceived, prefabricated and predetermined strategy of people's war, from his desire and obsession for a Chinese type protracted war.
Sison vulgarized not only the Philippine revolution but the agrarian revolution and the peasant mass movement as well, all in the interest of his protracted war. He completely subsumed the agrarian revolution to his protracted war, substituted the armed struggle for the peasant mass movement, and subordinated the dynamics of the mass struggle to the strategy and tactics of military struggle.
Sison's struggle for a minimum agrarian program (rent reduction) and maximum agrarian program (land confiscation) is premised not on the actual development of the mass struggle of the peasantry and the proletariat, on the real dynamics of the peasant mass movement as a historic class movement, but on the strategy and tactics of protracted war.
He arbitrarily and stupidly imposes a limit to the peasant struggle—restricting it to rent reduction—not because this is the maximum development that the peasant mass struggle is capable of achieving in an entire historic situation. In the first place, who is Sison, to predetermine the limits of, and impose his will on the peasant mass struggle which is supposed to be a historic struggle against the old, feudal order?
This arbitrary and stupid imposition of a limit to the peasant struggle, to the agrarian revolution, restricting it to rent reduction for a long period time—this suspension has now taken 25 years—is based not on the anticipated growth of the strength of the peasant movement to go farther, to push to a greater distance, to a more advance point, but on the limits of the armed struggle, on strength of the people's army, on the stage of development of the protracted war.
He imposes such a limit because this is only what the people's army is capable of defending and not because this is only what the peasant movement is capable of achieving. Sison will only push for the maximum demand of the peasantry, for land confiscation, as soon as the people's army attains the strength to defend such a gain in the higher stages of the war.
This is virtually saying to the peasantry: hold in abeyance your revolutionary energy, your economic necessity, your class struggle and to wait for your people's army to accumulate more strength, wait for the reactionary army to weaken in military capability through protracted war, and meanwhile, rest content for a long period of time in “rent reduction.” Imagine, telling the peasantry to sacrifice to the utmost for a long period of time, endure the lost of their love ones, endure the atrocities of the enemy—specially during the most difficult stage of the war, the strategic defensive—all these for “rent reduction”!! For the past two and a half decades, the party of the proletariat and the mass of the peasantry have sacrificed so much in a most ruthless war, and yet we have not really achieve so much even in “rent reduction” and we dare call this “rent reduction through armed struggle” our agrarian revolution, a 25-year “peasant revolution” for “rent reduction.”
Indeed, for Sison, the peasantry is a most revolutionary class for it to withstand a most ruthless war—not merely because of this measly “rent reduction” minimum demand—but because the peasantry is staunchly antifeudal and anti-imperialist whatever this means to the uneducated mass of small property owners and commodity producers of the countryside. If the peasantry is enduring this protracted war because they are conscious of their class interests as peasants, of their demand for “rent reduction,” indeed, they appear to be more revolutionary than the industrial proletariat—the supposed vanguard of the struggle for freedom and democracy—for the working class will not sacrifice this much for a struggle for a measly “wage increase,” a struggle to better the terms of their enslavement, the price of wage-slavery. Perhaps, this explains why Sison is offering to the rural proletariat and semiproletariat, not the vision of socialism but a parcel land, not the struggle for a propertyless society for the propertyless masses but to revert themselves into small property owners because in small commodity production without imperialist and feudal oppression life will be a perfect bliss for the masses of tillers. For Sison, the struggle for land is not only the “main content of the people's democratic revolution.” This struggle for land—this struggle for the private ownership of land for small commodity production—revolutionizes the consciousness of the propertyless masses of the people, inspire them to become small property owners against feudal and imperialist oppression.
Even the struggle for “national democracy” will not awaken the full magnitude of the revolutionariness of the working class, of the mass of the working class, for it offers to them the “abolition of feudal and foreign oppression” but not the abolition of wage-slavery. The working class, the mass of the working class and not only its party, will readily assume the vanguard role in the struggle for national freedom and democracy, if they correctly understand this historic struggle from the class point of view, from the point of view of the struggle for socialism, from the point of view of the abolition of wage-slavery, the abolition of private property, the abolition of classes in society through the class struggle of the proletariat.
But for Sison, in the supposed proletarian program of the supposed working class revolutionary party, what he offers to the Filipino proletariat is nothing more than national democracy—the overthrow of foreign and feudal rule. To the industrial working class, he offers them “national industrialization.” To the agricultural working class, he offers them a “parcel of land” which they can call their very own, a promise to revert them from miserable propertyless masses into aspiring property owners in a generalized system of small commodity production. This is Sison's program for a people's democratic revolution of the working class party—a program of revolution for bourgeois rule.