Interview with Comrade Jose Maria Sison
The following is an interview which I conducted with Comrade Jose Maria Sison, the Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Chairman Emeritus of the International League of People’s Struggle. Comrade Joma is a proletarian internationalist, a Filipino patriot, and a revolutionary. Joma has written many books, including Basic Principles of Marxism-Leninism: A Primer, and Selected Readings from the Works of Jose Maria Sison. Joma can be found on twitter at @JoseMariaSison or his website (https://josemariasison.org/).
Q: One topic of contention amongst Marxists is the question of whether or not there are currently, any states that have either built or ar in the process of building socialism, what is your view on this issue.
JMS: There are still significant remnants of the series of socialist countries that arose in the 20th century. On the whole, the DPRK is a socialist country. Cuba has certain significant socialist features. These so-called remnants can be appreciated for having outlived the former socialist countries that have taken the capitalist road for many decades already.
Q: On a similar note, which countries would you say historically developed socialism?
JMS: They include the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of Mongolia, China, Vietnam, DPRK, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Cuba, Cambodia and Laos. You can supply any country that I have overlooked.
Q: Which countries today would you define as having reached imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism?
JMS: You have the traditional ones (the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Japan, France, Netherlands, Belgium and the like) and the new ones (Russia and China).
Q: A trend I have observed emerging on the left lately, a trend which I observe to be a harmful and revisionist one, and one which often leads to electoralism, is so-called “lesser-evilism”, for instance, last year, many self-proclaimed “leftists” advocated for voting for Joe Biden, due to the fact that in their view this would be better than Donald Trump, ignoring Biden’s own heinous imperialist record. Inevitably, this has led many to proclaim that socialism can be won by voting. What would your advice be to combat this, and the modern revisionism of today more broadly?
JMS: You are correct in describing Biden and criticizing those who have obscured his rabid imperialist track record. It remains important and necessary to keep an ideological Marxist-Leninist-Maoist stand against bourgeois reformism and electoralism as well as against modern revisionism. However, there may be political flexibility in allowing anti-imperialist solidarity with certain countries which assert national independence and have socialist aspirations even if they were previously associated with Soviet modern revisionism. The correctness of the Marxist-Leninist critique of modern revisionism is well proven by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Dengist counterrevolution and capitalist restoration in China.
We must recognize that the world proletarian revolution or socialist cause has suffered a big setback since its peak before 1956 and the US became the sole superpower from 1991 onward and rode high on the policies of anticommunism, neocolonialism, neoliberalism, state terrorism, neoconservatism (endless wars of aggression). Most importantly, we must recognize that all these policies have gone bankrupt and have in fact accelerated the strategic decline of the US in the 21st century and the current rise of anti-imperialist and democratic mass struggles on a global scale which are generating conditions for the rise of proletarian revolutonary parties and the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution.
Q:Of course many communist parties have succumbed to modern revisionism, in your opinion, how can we rebuild the communist parties that were taken by revisionism?
JMS: Communist parties that succumbed to modern revisionism underwent various ways of completely ending the pretense of being communist. Outside of the revisionist-ruled countries, some communist parties completely disintegrated after the collapse of the Soviet Union and others split with one part trying to be social democratic and the other part becoming a dwindling club of old folks. Within the former revisionist-ruled countries, the previous ruling communist parties were generally put out of existence or put aside by the bourgeois parties. Some of the assets of the CPSU were conceded to its Russian replacement and the latter persisted as a declining castrated revisionist party. In China, the communist party has been taken over by the bourgeoisie since the Dengist counterrevolution which expelled all
genuine communists and enrolled the supporters of capitalist restoration. It continues as the center of political authority and legitimator of the state and economy dominated by the partnership of the monopoly bureaucrat capitalists and the private monopoly capitalists.
It is impossible to rebuild the old revisionist parties and convert them to genuine communist parties after so many decades of disintegration or decline. Many of the old revisionist folks are either dead or too old. It is more effective to build communist parties by bringing together those groups and individuals who have been guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and recruit and develop party members from the ranks of advanced activists in the current anti-imperialist and democratic mass organizations and movements. It is fine if there is already a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party that one can join in a certain country. If none, such a party should be built. The founders can start with the advanced elements of the current mass movement who wish to build a new Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party.
Q: One question I would like to ask you, considering the work I am currently doing on the topic, is what is your opinion on Muammar Gaddafi, and the present-day Green Resistance movement, a movement of those who were loyal to Gaddafi, who fought against NATO imperialism and colonialism?
JMS: Muammar Gaddafi was a great anti-imperialist leader. For decades he fought hard against NATO imperialism and colonialism. Thus, the US, UK, France and NATO imperialism did everything to attack and overthrow his government. Gaddafi enabled democratic reforms and provided substantial social benefits to the people from the oil income of Libya. It is important for the Green Resistance movement to cherish, perpetuate and develop the legacy of Gaddafi.
Q: The previous question could also be linked to the broader question of should communists support non-communist, but still progressive, anti-imperialist movements and governments, such as for instance the Polisario Front in the Sahara, and the anti-imperialist resistance in Yemen, what is your stance on this?
JMS: Of course, communists should engage in anti-imperialist solidarity, alliance, mutual support and cooperation with noncommunist, progressive and anti-imperialist movements and governments, like the Polisario Front and the anti-imperialist resistance in Yemen. It would be dogmatism for communists to impose ideological principles on all types of relations and policies in the political field.
Q: Of course there are many revolutionary struggles, including people’s wars and wars of national liberation, ongoing all around the world. Which countries would you identify as currently having strong revolutionary potential and do you envisage any ongoing people’s wars being victorious in the near future?
JMS: The most outstanding people’s wars and wars of national liberation include those in India, Philippines, Nepal, West Papua, Myanmar, Turkey, Kurdistan, Donbas region, Palestine, Colombia and Peru. All of them have a strong revolutionary potential. We must grasp the point that the world capitalist system is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis due to the aggravation of the crisis of overproduction by imperialist polcies against the working class and against the oppressed peoples and nations. The various forms of anti-imperialist and democratic struggles have burst out all over the world and are favorable to all forms of revolutionary struggle and the resurgence of the world proletarian-socialist revolution.
Q: Another trend that has been emerging amongst some, particularly amongs some Maoists, is a trend known as “Third Worldism”, this is essentially the view that the First World has no revolutionary potential, some Third Worldists go as far as to say that there is no proletariat in the First World, and that the entire population of the First World constitutes a labour aristocracy. What is your view on this school of thought?
JMS: I do not agree with the trend known as “Third Worldism” which is dismissive of the revolutionary potential of the proletariat in the industrial capitalist countries. I do not agree with such notions as that the First World has no revolutionary potential, that there is no proletariat in the First World, and that the entire population of the First World constitutes a labour aristocracy. These notions are nonsense. The crisis of capitalist countries, aggravated by the neoliberal policy of unbridled greed, is now characterized by the extreme exploitation and oppression of the working class, the
dwindling of the so-called middle class and the precarity and economic proletarialization of the petty bourgeoisie. What is needed now in the industrial capitalist countries is the building of proletarian revolutionary parties that can generate and intensify the campaigns to arouse, organize and mobilize the proletarioat and people against monopoly capitalism and for democracy and socialism.
Q: In your view, for revolutionaries in Europe and the First World more broadly, what revolutionary strategy do you think we should pursue?
JMS: In Europe and the entire First World, you cannot avoid engaging first in building the genuine communist party and the mass movement and striving to win the battle for democracy against everything that the monopoly bourgeoisie can throw at the proletariat, including the coercive apparatuses of the state and the ideas of anticommunism, conservatism, liberalism, social democracy, neoliberalism and fascism. It is only through the process of mass struggles that you can strengthen the communist party, the mass organizations and the organizations of self-defense in mass organizations and communities. There must be such organizations for self-defense and Bolshevik style efforts to send cadres into the reactionary army.
A communist party that tries to start any kind of armed revolution without any strong and wide mass base, without self-defense organizations and without the ruling system being sufficiently weakened by systematic crisis and imperialist war will be smashed in a matter of days or even hours. Only the infantile type of Maoists and agents provocateurs can suggest waging a protracted people’s war in industrial capitalist countries in which the rural population is less than 5 percent of the national population and consists of rich peasants and farm workers employed mainly by farm capitalists. So far no group of infantile Maoists has launched an armed revolution in either cities or countryside of any imperialist countries for more than 20 years.
In the past, inter-imperialist wars like World War I and II provided favorable conditions for partisan warfare in both urban and rural areas in Europe. But the imperialist powers themselves have avoided direct inter-imperialist wars because of their fear of mutually assured destruction with the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The inter-imperialist policy in the last more than 70 years has been to shift the burden of capitalist crisis to the third world countries and to unleash aggressive wars against recalcitrant countries in the third world. It is therefore of great importance to correlate and encourage the interactive development of revolutionary mass struggles of various forms in both developed and underdeveloped countries of the world.
Q: One particularly disturbing trend that has been emerging is the rise of right-wing anticommunist propaganda, as well as fascism. What is your advice on how to combat this?
JMS: The emergence of right-wing anticommunist propaganda and fascist groups is a clear sign that the monopoly capitalism is in a grave crisis and that the monopoly bourgeoisie is promoting and funding the rise of the ultra-reactionary trend and groups in order to preempt and block the rise of the anti-imperialist, democratic and socialist movements. The way to combat the anticommunist and fascist trend and groups is to build the revolutionary party of the proletariat, raise the revolutionary consciousness of the proletariat and entire people about the crisis of capitalism and the need for immediate reforms as well as the need for socialist revolution, organize various types of mass organizations as well as organizations of community self-defense and self-defense groups within mass organizations and keep on mobilizing more people in campaigns against capitalism and imperialism and for democracy and socialism.
Q: As you know, there are many different tendencies amongst the left, anti-capitalist movement, including, for instance, anarchism. Many on the left have of recent been proposing an idea called “left unity”, that is the unity of all sections of the left, from Marxist-Leninist-Maoists to anarchists, what is your opinion on this idea?
JMS: Any alliance that may be called Left Unity can be firm in principle against the common enemy that is imperialism together with all its monstrosities like neoliberalism, fascism, state terrorism and wars of aggression. But there must be political flexibility to allow the unity of communists and noncommunists. Their parties and organizations have independence and initiative and agree on the basis of consensus and broad political principles and policies. The alliance may have a consultative and consensual committee or secretariat to coordinate meetings and mass actions. The alliance should not include any entity whose sole or main objective is to disrupt or prevent the alliance.