Huwebes, Marso 18, 2010

Foreword to the Book "Notes from the Underground"

to the book "Ka Popoy: Notes From the Underground", which was launched on February 12, 2006 at UP Diliman

After Ka Popoy Lagman was felled by an assassin's bullet in February 2001, several texts lay unfinished in his computer at the underground house he was using at that time. The ideas left unfinished in those documents are lost forever to the revolutionary movement that he sacrificed his life for.

Still Ka Popoy's large body of extant writings that is yet to be collected may probably fill several volumes. From comprehensive critiques of the fundamental propositions of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to short agitational pieces meant for mass distribution, the job of gathering Ka Popoy's work is a fitting tribute to a working class hero who combined a passion for fighting with a talent in writing.

Whether the scholar who seeks to study the remarkable history of the revolutionary movement in the Philippines or the partisan who seeks to resolutely advance the class struggle of the workers for socialism, Ka Popoy's writings are a rich and interesting resource. Or even to the concerned Filipino who in this period of apathy amidst crisis yearns for inspiration from real-life idealists who fought in frontlines of the struggle to change society.

This is just an initial attempt to collect and publish Ka Popoy's writings for a popular audience. It may be necessary to forewarn the reader that his works are hard though not dull reading.

Ka Popoy's writings not just deal with serious subjects but are weapons in the life-and-death class war. it is frequently argumentative whose logic is woven taut and rigorous to arrive at airtight conclusions and analysis.

Amazingly however it is written in a style that is not stereotypical and attentively adapted to the consciousness of the workers and the poor. In fact, Ka Popoy's polemics border on the vulgar and uses the language of the streets to elicit passion from its intended audience. Arguably it is witty, barring the opinion of the targets of his sharp critique.

To understand Ka Popoy's text, it is absolutely necessary to place in its context. He himself has said not a few times that his ideas and beliefs have evolved and developed through time and experience.

Assembled in this first volume of Ka Popoy's collected works are the so-called counter-theses to the basic principles and organizational norms of the CPP.

Within the new revolutionary party - the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP) that Ka Popoy headed in its founding in January 1999 - these documents are known as the Counter-Theses I and Counter-Theses II. Written in the period of the great split within the revolutionary movement, the counter-theses sought to deepen the critique of the CPP on basis of theory and tactics.

Among the two, probably more well known are the Counter-Theses I which was penned in February 1994. It has to be remembered that the debate within the CPP that was sparked by the infamous paper of Joma Sison called "Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rebuild the Party," matured into a schism on the basis more of organizational, even personal, issues. The Rejectionists who petitioned for a party congress to resolve the disputed Reaffirm paper were forced to break away because the party leadership brooked no opposition from within and were intolerant of inner-party debate.

Contrary to common knowledge, the split transpired without the benefit of debate along fundamental principles and ideological lines. It was the Counter-Theses I that first attempted to ground the split on the firm foundation of a Marxist-Leninist critique of the Stalinist-Maoist principles and practice of the CPP.

Thus The Counter-Theses I dealt with the questions of the analysis of Philippine society, the class line of the party program and the strategy of protracted guerilla war.

The first document of the Counter-Theses I demolished the orthodoxy of the semi-feudal and semi-colonial analysis of Philippine society that for the longest time was the dogma of activists since the period of the First Quarter Storm. Instead Ka Popoy argued on the basis of Marxist theory that Philippine society was indisputably capitalist though obviously backward. Or to use his own colorful description, "mongrel or mongoloid" because Philippine society is a "mixture of the worst features of two opposing modes of production" or "afflicted by an abnormality in its fetal stage of development."

In the next document, Ka Popoy critiqued the Maoist "mass line" of the CPP and called for a Leninist "class line" to be reflected in the basic program of the party. It put to task Joma for "obscuring and glossing over the struggle for socialism in his obsession for national democracy." In its platform and practice, the CPP acted as a revolutionary of the people rather than of the proletariat.

For Ka Popoy, the CPP's semi-feudal and semi-colonial analysis served simply as an alibi for the protracted war that was a vulgarized form of revolution. This he argued in the last document of the Counter-Theses I. Reviewing the history of the Chinese revolution, he proves that Joma's protracted war is a trying-hard copycat of Mao's strategy that was successful in the peculiar conditions of their society. And reexamining Marxist theory, he illustrates that reducing revolution into war is not just a gross distortion but also a fatal mistake. In his words, "We started a war in 1969 without a revolution. By 1986, because of this war strategy, we missed a revolution."

Continuing on the track of the first, the second set of Counter-Theses was composed in 1995. The documents usually called "Reoryentasyon" and "Reorganisasyon" called for correcting the compass of the work and role of the party during the democratic struggle. These two papers form one integral whole arguing the case for reorienting the party and reorganizing its work towards a correct exercise of the vanguard role of the working class in the struggle for democracy.

In the distorted practice of the CPP, it assumed the vanguard role in the democratic revolution by directly organizing the people - primarily the peasants in the countryside - and by directing the mass organizations in the struggle for "national democracy" thru secret party groups. Ka Popoy called this distortion as the sin of vanguardism.

In its stead he reasoned that the party indeed aspires for leadership over revolution but it is the working class itself and not its party that exercises the vanguard role in the people's struggle for democracy. The working class assumes this vanguard role through its frontline position in the actual struggles and by striking an alliance with other classes especially the peasantry in the common fight for democracy. It is the primordial task of the party to conscienticize and organize the workers so that they can exercise this vanguard role.

It follows then that the party instead of scattering itself among people, concentrate on organizing the class struggle of the workers - both in the formal and informal sector, in the cities and countryside. Towards this end, he contends that the party must cultivate the dynamism of workers organizations and its movement instead of secretly manipulating them.

Ka Popoy maintains that the party must remain underground in a situation of brittle bourgeois democracy as presently exists. And party group remain secret to evade surveillance of the enemy but not so much in the eyes of the masses for in fact communist elements guide them as the most dedicated activists and leaders.

In the last document of Counter-Theses II entitled "Islogan", Ka Popoy ridicules the CPP for brandishing an incorrect strategic slogan and having no tactical slogans to rally the workers and the people in the twist and turns of history. No wonder he states that the CPP was left behind by the rapid change in events during the twilight of the Marcos dictatorship and the post-EDSA regimes.

The paper "Islogan" is in fact unfinished for it should have ended with a proposal for a set of tactics and a tactical slogan for the tactical situation based on an analysis of the objective condition and subjective forces during the mid-1990s.

The limitation would be resolved in the founding platform and propositions of the PMP that Ka Popoy wrote in late 1998. The "negative formulations" of Counter-Thesis I and II in the period of the CPP split served as preparation and basis for the new "positive formulations" of the Theses and Program of the newly founded PMP.

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