The spectre of Stalinism still lingers as the Communist Party of the Philippines steps up its programme of assassinating political opponents.
In the December 2004 issue of a publication of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), a diagram identified 15 individuals and organizations spanning much of the non-CPP Left in the Philippines as ‘counter revolutionaries’. Among those listed are Walden Bello, the Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, prominent international anti-debt campaigner Lidy Nacpil and Etta Rosales, head of the Human Rights Committee of the Philippine House of Representatives.
Ordinarily diagrams don’t frighten, but with the CPP’s habit of assassinating those it dubs ‘counter revolutionary’, many listed were alarmed. Others are in hiding. The remainder have already been killed, including Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in January and September last year respectively.
Fearing for their lives, Bello and others issued numerous appeals to the CPP and their various offshoots to stop the murders. In a Stalinist disregard for the facts, party leader Jose Maria Sison fired back at Bello, labelling him a ‘well-behaved and obedient citizen... of the US-leaning comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class’, implying that he deserved to be included on the hitlist. Bello’s actions speak otherwise. He is a tireless critic of and inspired campaigner against the brutal edges of globalization.
The policy is a tragic outcome of the Party’s implosion over the last few decades. From playing an inspiring role in the united front resisting the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s, the CPP has since eaten its own. Bloody internal purges such as Operation ‘Ahos’ in the 1980s led to the liquidation of at least 1,000 party members. Activists abandoned the Party in droves to set up one of the most thriving civil societies in Asia. As CPP membership lists shorten, their hitlists lengthen.
Former party members have been in the CPP’s cross fire. In the Philippine press, Sison accused former CPP member and now head of the Akbayan political party, Ricardo Reyes, of being responsible for pretty much every injustice the Communist Party has committed against itself. He demanded that Reyes ‘surrender himself for investigation to the authorities of the People’s Revolutionary Government’. As those receiving such directives have a nasty habit of being killed resisting arrest, Reyes read between the lines: ‘Now you... have sent a pack of assassins to finish me off,’ he retorted in the Philippines Daily Inquirer. He remains in hiding.
Why highlight the messy implosion of a far left political party? After all, the CPP’s abuses pale in comparison with the violence of the Philippine military or with the piles of Iraqi bodies being stacked by the US in the name of their own liberation. Certainly, we should care because people’s lives are on the line. In addition, such thuggery cuts at the heart of the internal struggle to create a better world – between the worst of 20th-century left-wing authoritarianism and the emerging pluralism and democracy of the global social justice movement of this century.
At this year’s World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil – the flagship of this new movement – a large group of prominent progressives including Naomi Klein, Susan George, Tariq Ali and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, spoke out: ‘In our efforts to consistently build an international movement for fundamental transformation we strongly reiterate that the resolving of political differences must be done through the struggle of ideas and democratic dialogue and not through the politics of individual assassination.’