In advance of the 51st founding anniversary of the New People’s Army, journalists, academics and activists have asked me what is the key role of the NPA and related questions in the context of the ongoing people’s democratic revolution in the Philippines.
I have relied on my background knowledge and reading of current publications from the Philippines to explain the role of the NPA as the cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and Red commanders and fighters of the New People’s Army would themselves do. I write this paper for sharing my views with the widest possible range of readers.
The NPA under the Leadership of the CPP
Three months after its founding on December 26, 1968, the CPP as the vanguard party of the proletariat established under its absolute leadership the NPA on March 29, 1969 and gathered support for it from the mass movement of workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, women, youth and the intelligentsia.
Guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the CPP has analyzed the semicolonial and semifeudal character of Philippine society and has put forward the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people war.
The Filipino people confront the ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats who serve and perpetuate the basic problems of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism.
These are the evil forces that oppress and exploit the Filipino people, remove from the country a great part of the social wealth created by the toiling masses of workers and peasants and cause underdevelopment, unemployment, low incomes, lack of social services and mass poverty.
The counterrevolutionary state always tries in vain to deflect attention from the real causes of social ills by blaming the oppressed and exploited masses for their own oppression and exploitation as well as by vilifying their legal mass protests and armed revolutionary resistance. The social realities instantly belie the psywar claims that the ruling system would run well in developing the economy and delivering services to the people if it were not for the revolutionary resistance.
Currently taking the name of the Filipino nation in vain, the rabid anti-communists in power unleash state terrorism against the people under Proclamation 374 and Executive Order No. 70. The fiat has the aim of totally destroying the revolutionary movement and even the legal democratic forces in the name of anti-communism. They engage in red-tagging, killing people, faking surrenders and bombing rural communities to preserve traditional landlordism as well as to enable logging, mining and plantation companies to take over the land.
They know no bounds for imposing on the people state terrorism on the pretext of anti-terrorism. Thus, they are in the process of enacting the Anti-Terrorist Law by amending the so-called Human Security Act to allow the regime and its armed minions to arbitrarily call anyone a terrorist, make warrantless arrests, detain people for 14 days without any charge and have no liability for any wrongful detention.
It is absolutely clear that the main objective of the people’s democratic revolution is to achieve full national independence, democracy, social justice, economic development through genuine land reform and national industrialization and patriotic and progressive culture before there can be a basis for socialism.
It is an imperative just cause for the entire revolutionary movement of the people to confront and fight the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and deceptive Duterte regime. This evil regime subjects the Filipino people to the most terrible forms of oppression and exploitation like the Marcos fascist dictatorship did from 1972 to 1986.
It practises the most horrendous forms of state terrorism in the futile attempt to suppress the revolutionary movement of the people. Bankrupted by its exploitative character and worsening crisis, the counterrevolutionary state knows no better than to engage in gross and systematic human rights violations.
In exercising theoretical leadership in the revolutionary movement, the CPP takes the vantage point of the revolutionary industrial proletariat to take into account the history, current circumstances and socialist direction of the people’s democratic revolution.
In exercising political leadership, the CPP makes sure that it gains strength as the vanguard party of the revolution and that it must wield revolutionary armed struggle to effect the seizure of political power and the united front in order to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in their millions.
In exercising organizational leadership, the CPP must build the proletarian revolutionary core in the NPA and mass movement and apply the principle of democratic centralism. It must grow in strength by recruiting Party members from the ranks of Red commanders and fighters and the activists in mass organizations and institutions.
The NPA as Instrument for the Central Task of the Revolution
The central task in any revolutionary struggle is the seizure of political power. The New People’s Army plays the key role in smashing and destroying the military and bureaucratic machinery of the counterrevolutionary state and enabling the people’s democratic revolution to arise.
The united front is for various forms of struggle, legal and otherwise, in order to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in their millions. But it is principally for armed struggle on the basis of the worker-peasant alliance under the leadership of the working class and its advanced detachment, the CPP.
The revolutionary armed struggle in a country like the Philippines is the way to gain the participation of the peasants in their millions. It is integrated with agrarian revolution and the building of the mass base and the organs of political power in the countryside.
The reactionaries mock at the revolutionary forces for having been unable in the last 51 years to seize the presidential palace in Manila. But they obscure the fact that the revolutionary forces and movement of the people have already established on a national scale the local organs of political power which constitute the people’s democratic government.
What is most gratifying about the strategic line of protracted people’s power is that it lays the ground for developing the basic alliance of the working class and the peasantry in building the people’s democratic government in the countryside even as the people’s army is not yet capable of seizing the cities.
The strategic line of protracted people’s war by encircling the cities from the countryside allows the people’s army to have the widest social and physical terrain for preserving itself, luring in and destroying the enemy force piece by piece and growing in strength through the stages of the strategic defensive, stalemate and offensive by using tactical offensives at each stage to change the balance of strength at every stage.
The NPA is determined to build the revolutionary bases and accumulate armed political strength for advancing wave upon wave until the cities become ripe for seizure. It has become tempered like steel in the crucible of revolutionary armed struggle in 51 years.
It has thousands of Red fighters well-trained and battle-tested in more than 110 guerrilla fronts in 73 provinces out of the 81 Philippine provinces. It coordinates with the people’s militia and the self-defense units of mass organizations as auxiliary and reserve forces. It enjoys the support of millions of people in mass organizations and under the local organs of political power.
NPA units follow the command of 14 regional operational commands under the National Operational Command. The CPP exercises its absolute leadership over the NPA through the Central Committee and its Military Commission, through the regional Party committees directing the respective regional operational commands and through the Party branches and groups in NPA companies, platoons and squads.
The NPA conducts a fluid war of movement and maneuvers freely in more than 80 percent of the Philippine territory. It is now carrying out intensive and extensive guerrilla warfare on an ever-expanding and ever-deepening mass base. In every guerrilla front, one-third of the NPA is relatively concentrated and ever ready for waging battles that it can win. Two-thirds are relatively dispersed for mass work.
The NPA has a flexible strategy and tactics. It can concentrate, disperse and shift its units according to need and advantage. It seeks and plans for battles, raids and arrest operations to defeat the enemy and seize his arms. To develop the Red commanders and fighters, they are rotated periodically in carrying out combat and non-combat tasks. Neighboring and adjoining guerrilla fronts are developing coordination, inter-operability and mutual support.
The NPA confronts and fights the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which is the main component of the reactionary state power and is a puppet mercenary force of US imperialism. Despite the pretenses of the Duterte regime that it is terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and shaking off military dependence on the US, the puppet Philippine government remains bound to the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines. The VFA may undergo only minor refurbishing.
The AFP is hated by the people as the brutal instrument of the US and the Duterte regime. It is against the national and democratic rights and interests of the people. It robs the tax money extracted from the people. It is extremely costly, corrupt, overextended and ineffective as a fighting force.
The US military assists the AFP in establishing, indoctrinating and training new combat units including the Light Reaction Regiment, the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team which are all based in Fort Magsaysay, where the US maintains facilities under the EDCA. Up to this time, however, the AFP has only 140 maneuver battalions, of which, 35 are deployed in Luzon; 19 in the Visayas; and 83 in Mindanao (19 battalions in Moro areas, and 64 in NPA areas).
Close to 85% or 118 battalions are deployed against the entire NPA and close to 55% of these are directed against the NPA in Mindanao, mainly in the Eastern Mindanao regions. Combined AFP and PNP troop deployment is highest in Southern Mindanao, followed by Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, North Central Mindanao, Far South Mindanao and Negros.
The aim of the AFP is to deploy one combat battalion against every NPA guerrilla front, in the vain hope of crushing the entire NPA through intelligence, psywar and combat operations. But the AFP is extremely anti-people and too puny and impotent in relation to the size of the Philippine population and land.
The enemy forces are being worn down and worn out by the people’s war. And the regime is already bankrupting the government treasury with military overspending and corruption in the acquisition of equipment, fake surrender projects and fake community support projects. Even then, the
Duterte regime feeds daily to the bourgeois press false claims that the NPA fighters are either surrendering or getting killed and that it has wiped out far more than the supposed size of the entire NPA.
On the contrary, the NPA mounted last year at least 710 big and small military actions against the enemy. These include ambuscades and raids on enemy detachments, harassments, disarming, demolition, sapper and partisan operations and punitive actions. At least 651 enemy troops were killed and more than 465 were wounded in action. The casualties are equivalent to around 30 platoons or two battalions of enemy troops.
The people’s war is now in the process of moving from the middle to the advanced phase of the strategic defensive. The NPA can win tactical offensives in order to further increase its arms and debilitate its enemy. Under strategic guidelines from the NPA national operational command to the regional commands, all the guerrilla fronts can be directed to carry out a monthly minimum quota of annihilative battles to increase their arms.
The NPA is now mastering the use of platoons and multiplying them on a nationwide scale for the purpose of guerrilla warfare. Occasionally these platoons can be concentrated for company-size offensives whenever possible. The NPA is determined to enter the stage of the strategic stalemate with the increasing use of companies for regular mobile warfare in most guerrilla fronts.
Since the Second Congress of the Party
Since its Second Congress in 2016, the CPP has directed the rectification of the major error of conservatism which has overstressed mass work at the expense of tactical offensives. The overdispersal of the armed force of a guerrilla front into teams or squads for mass work is being corrected. A third of the armed force is relatively concentrated for tactical offensives and two-thirds are relatively dispersed for mass work.
The constant reference by the counterrevolutionary state to the NPA as the No. 1 threat to “national security” attests to the great victory of the NPA in developing itself as the instrument of the people in their struggle for national and social liberation. All the reactionary regimes from Marcos to Duterte have failed to suppress the armed revolution with all their strategic campaigns of military suppression designed and supported by US imperialism.
The armed revolutionary movement of the people in the Philippines can be praised for having preserved itself, persevered and grown in strength on a nationwide scale in an archipelagic country which has often been described as the favorite neocolony of the US and sometimes as the unsinkable armada of the US in the Pacific Ocean.
The people’s war has advanced by overcoming the 14-year fascist dictatorship of Marcos and the strategic plan of every post-Marcos regime to destroy it. The NPA has been most inspiring to all Filipino revolutionaries and has become the haven and fighting base for those who can no longer act legally in the urban areas in the face of rampant red-tagging and extrajudicial killing of social activists and human rights defenders.
The strength of the armed revolution has grown to such an extent that the counterrevolutionary state seeks peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines from time to time. The NDFP has engaged in peace negotiations to assert the status of belligerency of the armed revolution, spread the program of the new democratic revolution to the people in their millions, probe the possibility of basic social, economic and political reforms and expose the unjust and unreasonable policies and actions of the enemy regime.
Like the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the Duterte tyrannical regime unwittingly creates the most favorable conditions for people’s war. It oppresses and exploits the people in the extreme and thus compels them to wage revolution. Brutality and corruption run rampant in tandem. Trillions of pesos are wasted in bureaucratic and military corruption, in graft-laden infrastructure projects, in the militarization of civil government functions and in the soaring appropriations for the military and police.
Such trillions of pesos could have been redirected towards national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform if the Duterte regime were seriously interested in negotiating and achieving a just peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines by addressing the roots of the civil war through social, economic and political reforms.
But the uppermost interest of the regime is to gain absolute power to enable absolute corruption and yet to perpetuate puppetry to imperialism. Thus, it is completely just for the Filipino people to carry out the new democratic revolution through protracted people’s war and build their own organs of political power in the expanse of the countryside before the seizure of the cities in the strategic offensive of the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic is an intrusion into the familiar flow of Philippine events and appears to be an apolitical phenomenon. But it has a tremendous impact and far-reaching consequences that are greatly injurious to the Filipino people. It involves the criminal responsibility of the Duterte regime for the entry and spread of the pandemic in the Philippines by refusing to carry out a travel ban on more than half a million travelers from China, including thousands from Wuhan, since January.
The regime has also failed to make adequate preparations to fight the pandemic, like the deployment of health workers to do mass testing at the community level and make referrals of the sick for treatment in hospitals and health centers. It has carried out lockdowns and other repressive measures to prevent the working people from earning their subsistence and the sick people from getting the appropriate and necessary treatment.
Production has taken a plunge, the people are starving from lack of food aid and compensation for the disruption of work and livelihoods by the lockdowns. And the pandemic continues to spread. After failing to deploy the available resources to fight the pandemic, Duterte uses it as the pretext for grabbing absolute power and hundreds of billions of pesos of public money.
His criminal acts, the pandemic and the deepening economic, political and moral bankruptcy of the ruling system are inciting the people to rise up and oust the Duterte regime. The regime has isolated itself from the people by its own crimes and cannot buoy itself up by begging for external aid because the world capitalist system is now in the vortex of a grave crisis.
The financial and economic collapse is occurring in the first quarter of 2020 at a rate faster than that in the period of the Great Depression from 1929 onward. We can be certain that the rapid worsening of the crises of the semi-colonial and semifeudal ruling system and the world capitalist system inflict extremely intolerable suffering of the people and thus generate exceedingly favorable conditions for the rapid rise and advance of the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war.
The High Standing of the Philippine Revolution in the World
The armed revolution in the Philippines is highly laudable for having been well-rooted in the dire conditions and demands of the Filipino people and having thrived self-reliantly and survived the systematic attempts of the Dengist counterrevolution to liquidate the people’s wars in Southeast Asia in the name of regional peace and capitalist development.
Because of the CPP’s long-standing and firm Maoist and anti-revisionist line, the people’s war in the Philippines has never been demoralized by the victory of modern revisionism and capitalist restoration in China and in the former Soviet Union and by the rise of US imperialism as the sole superpower from 1991 to the recent years.
Now, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces are more inspired than ever before as the crisis of the world capitalist system has worsened and US imperialism has declined from being the sole superpower to being one of the imperialist powers in the multipolar world. It is still the No. 1 imperialist power but is on a downward course in contrast to the economic and military rise of its chief rival China.
The people’s democratic revolution stands to benefit from the intensifying contradictions among the imperialist powers, between the imperialist powers and the oppressed peoples and nations, between the imperialist powers and countries assertive of national independence and between labor and capital in the imperialist countries,
It stands to gain from the rising anti-imperialist struggles in all continents and from the looming resurgence of the world proletarian revolution. The anti-imperialist struggles are against the neoliberal modes of exploitation, wars of aggression, mass unemployment, low incomes, austerity measures, rising costs of living, gender discrimination and environmental destruction.
By persevering in the new democratic revolution through protracted people’s war, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces have been acknowledged as a torch-bearer of the anti-imperialist and democratic struggles on a world scale and are contributing significantly to the resurgence of the world proletarian-socialist revolution.
Since the financial crash of 2008 in the world capitalist system, the imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization has rapidly unraveled. It has resulted in the economic and trade war as well as a new cold war between the two main imperialist rivals of today, the US and China. The crisis of the world capitalist system has taken an unprecedented deep plunge at a rate faster than during the Great Depression.
The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the economic and financial crisis by compelling lockdowns, production breakdowns, mass unemployment, loss of incomes and extreme suffering for the jobless and homeless. It has exposed the lack of social protection and social services for the overwhelming majority of the people and the cruelty of the capitalist system, while the monopoly bourgeoisie that is merely one percent of the population is being assured of financial bailouts and asset protection.
The Filipino people are outraged by the gross crimes of the Duterte regime in abetting the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, failing to test and treat those who are sick and preventing the working people from earning their subsistence. The National Democratic Front of the Philippines, together with the CPP and NPA, has, therefore, stood up for the campaign of the revolutionary movement against the pandemic and has refused to reciprocate the false ceasefire declaration of the Duterte regime in order to avoid complicity in its crimes.
As a co-belligerent in the civil war in the Philippines, mindful of the international law on human rights and humanitarian conduct and ever concerned with the interests of the Filipino people, the NDFP has responded positively to the call of the UN general secretary for a global ceasefire among warring parties in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The CPP has therefore ordered the NPA, the people’s militia and the self-defense units of mass organizations to cease fire against their enemy from March 26 to April 15.
But the revolutionary forces and the people have to remain vigilant and be ready to undertake self-defense because the reactionary forces, police and paramilitary forces continue to unleash attacks and intrude into the territory of the people’s democratic government. Even then the CPP, NPA, and NDFP stay firm on their commitment to cease fire and take a defensive position and are thankful to the UN secretary-general for recognizing as exemplary the ceasefire declaration issued by the CPP.
The NDFP has gone to the extent of indicating its desire for the Duterte regime to heed the people’s demands for the timely testing and treatment of the sick, compensation for the loss of the subsistence incomes of the working people, the release of the political prisoners and preparations for the resumption of the peace negotiations.
But the Duterte regime is preoccupied with grabbing more powers, applying repressive measures and looting the hundreds of billions of pesos that has been given by Congress to Duterte in violation of the 1987 Constitution which allows the president to reallocate savings but not the entire budgets of departments of the reactionary government.
We can expect that the broad masses of the Filipino people, the broad united front of patriotic and democratic forces and the armed revolutionary movement of the people will confront and fight more resolutely and more courageously than ever the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation under the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and mendacious Duterte regime as it aggravates the crisis of the semi-colonial and semifeudal ruling system.
In the face of the Duterte virus, which is far more deadly than the Covid-19, the Filipino people see no other recourse but to take the road of the new democratic revolution with the socialist perspective. The advance of the Philippine revolution is now more than ever favored by the rapidly worsening crisis of the domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system, the irrepressible desire of the people for revolutionary change and the growing strength of the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the New People’s Army.