I was shopping yesterday nearby SM China when I saw a box on the shopper’s hallway full of free 90th Founding Anniversary of the Communist Party of China souvenirs up for grabs. I picked 5 pieces of CPC@90 stickers for posterity’s sake. Going home I thought about how far CPC has come a long way from a small group of idealists in Shanghai to the world’s biggest political party and helmsmen of one the world’s superpower. At the same time, I thought about whatever happened to the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and its splinter-group and more known Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
CPP was founded on July 1, 1921 in Shanghai by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao with USSR’s help. At that time Russians were exporting their ideology and they’ve found willing recipients among Chinese intellectuals and students foremost of which is the young Mao Zedong. According to some Chinese historians the original purpose of the Russians in co-organizing CPC was to infiltrate the ruling Koumintang (KMT) government and to reform the party from within. The Russians were at that time had access to KMT given the cordiality and open-mindedness that KMT founder Sun Yat-sen had given to communists. Hence, for the Russians it was but practical and more efficient to just be part of KMT. Regardless of several oppositions to this move, CPC was incorporated into KMT and the Chinese United Front Party with KMT spearheading was formed.
With the death of Sun Yat Sen in 1925 came the split of the United Front. Sun was replaced by Chiang Kai-shek, an ardent anti-communist military man. 2 years later, in 1927, the CPC and KMT fought in a bloody civil war. The young Mao Zedong and his peasant fighters gained prominence among CPC members as he successfully waged battles against KMT.
It was at this time of disunity and strife in China that the Empire of Japan launched its deadly attack in 1937. With China and its people fighting and killing one another, the Japanese saw a perfect time to start its brutal Greater East Asia colonization campaign. To the surprise of Japanese Imperial Army, KMT and CPP re-united and successfully won over them in 1945. Soon after, KMT and CPP continued on their war. KMT was backed by US while CPP was backed by USSR. CPP now led by Mao Zedong emerged as the victors in 1949. KMT fled to Taiwan. The People’s Republic of China was born.
From 1949 to Mao’s death in 1976, China has experienced painful experiences on their course of finding solutions to social problems and challenges using Marxism-Lennism-Maoism as guiding principles. Foremost of this experience is the Cultural Revolution which many Chinese now consider as their nation’s lost decade. With the death of the Mao came Deng Xiaoping and his Reform and Opening-up Program. From that time on until the present time, China zoomed from a backward, ideologically-driven country to a progressive and ever-prospering state.
With the rich history of CPC and with its share of great failures and overwhelming successes, CPC under Hu Jintao has a lot to celebrate and be proud of. But it would do well for CPC not to rest on its laurel and be complacent. The 90th anniversary is a perfect time not just for celebration but for them to make a sincere reflection on whether they are really living up to its ideal on giving the Chinese people a better, happy, and peaceful life. CPC ought to reflect on their recent actions on the Spratlys, on curtailing civil rights, and most importantly, on the deep disenchantment of the Chinese people on government corruption. I suppose Hu Jintao is very well aware of this. On his speech on CPC @ 90 celebrations he emphatically mentioned that corruption is the number 1 enemy of CPC and China. How true, after all, the old generation CPC leaders gained the trust and support of the Chinese people because of the corruption and decadence of KMT.
Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) was founded 9 years after CPC was formed. PKP was established during the American colonial era in November 7, 1930 by Crisanto Evangelista and by members of various labor groups. PKP like CPC has links with Moscow and the Comintern. Banned by the Commonwealth government, PKP made the Socialist Party of Pedro Abad Santos as its legal front. Pedro is the brother of former Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and grand uncle of former Sen. Jamby Madrigal’s granduncle. This history kind of explains Jamby’s soft-heart and association with the Philippine Left.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, PKP with its armed group HUKBALAHAP (HUKS) was at the fighting front against the Japanese Imperial Army. At the end of the war in 1945 PKP enjoyed increasing support from the Filipino people most especially from the ranks of peasants and workers. During the 1946 elections, PKP allied with Sergio Osmena’s Nacionalista Party and the Democratic Alliance as against to Manuel Roxas newly-formed Liberal Party. Osmena lost to Roxas on a very tight race. PKP on the other hand, gained 6 seats in the Congress but were not allowed to exercise their functions and duties because of some unscrupulous accusations. Frustrated by government harassment and repression and worsening inequality in the society, PKP and HUKS now led by the Lava Brothers and Luis Taruc went underground in late 40’s and launched bloody campaign against the Manila government. By mid-50’s the PKP and HUKS were neutralized by the hard and charm offensive of the Manila government.
In 1964, Jose Ma. Sison, a young member of PKP, founded Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in an attempt to reinvigorate Philippine communism. Sison later on moved out of PKP after several of its leaders became pro-government. Sison, together with his KM stalwarts formed the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. CPP with its armed group New People’s Army (NPA) were at the forefront of the anti-Marcos dictatorship in the 70’s and early 80’s but was eclipsed by mainstream political personalities during the 1986 EDSA Revolution. After the restoration of democratic process in mid-80’s, Sison decided for CPP not to participate in the 1987 elections despite strong clamor from among its members to take chance in the new democratic space. It was only in the 90’s after CPP produced splinter-groups and bloody in-fighting that it decided to field and support candidates (irony is several party-lists denies association with CPP, what’s the truth?) while at the same time maintaining NPA to carry on their armed struggle. Meanwhile, the weakened PKP re-organized itself, changed its name to PKP-1930, and is currently being led by Pedro Baguisa.
It is worthy to mention that both PKP and CPP had access to Beijing prior to China’s Reform and Opening-up Program. The pro-Soviet PKP enjoyed affiliations with CPC before the Sino-Soviet split. The CPP with its ideology anchored on Maoism replaced PKP’s seat in Beijing. One persistent rumor is that the infamous 1971 Plaza Miranda Bombing was plotted in Beijing by young Filipino communists.
In reviewing the history and current news on CPC, PKP, and CPP one can easily notice one sharp contrast between the Chinese Communist Party and the communist parties and left-leaning parties in the Philippines. While CPC maintained unity in purpose and vision and was flexible and innovative enough to adapt to the changes in time, its Philippine counterparts were not. Filipino political scientist Mon Casiple on his analysis of Philippine Left said that as long as the Left is fragmented it would be incapable of going mainstream and it will never become a strong force in Philippine politics.
Clearly, Philippine Left leaderships’ penchant for ideological purity and the “correct line”, political radicalism, and organizational sectarianism are its stumbling blocks to fully and effectively “serve the people”. CPP and the Philippine Left ought to have sense of urgency to shape-up and innovate as most people in the Philippines (correct me if I’m wrong) are now feeling alienated and disenchanted, with many of them accusing CPP and the Philippine Left as one of the nation’s stumbling blocks to peace and progress.
Image credit: UK Telegraph