Urgent Appeal from the Philippines: End Violence in the Movement

Against the Current, No. 115, March/April 2005

Focus on the Global South

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current wish to call to the attention of the left and the global justice movement the following statement from Focus on the Global South.  It is crucial for all of us to condemn and demand an end to violence in all forms, let alone murder, within the movement.  We urge that the information below be widely distributed and the Stalinist methods of the Communist Party of the Philippines absolutely repudiated by the international left.

We refer our readers to extensive documentation by Pierre Rousset on the CPP’s methods (posted at www.internationalviewpoint.org).  A lead article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Communist Party ‘Hit List’ Denounced, Akbayan Leaders Fear for Their Lives” by Juan Sarmiento, December 26, 2004, is also available at here.

DEAR FRIENDS, RECENTLY, our executive director Walden Bello was named by the key organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines as a “counterrevolutionary” in a list that included both living and dead activists.  After consultation with a number of people, we have reasons to believe that this represents a real threat to Walden’s security.

Focus staff members have therefore decided to call the attention of global civil society to this development, not only out of concern for Walden, but also because we feel strongly that the CPP’s drastic method of resolving differences must be publicly condemned by global civil society.

Please find below a signed statement to this effect that we are distributing through the listserves and networks, both in the North and the South, that Focus has been interacting and working with.  We hope to have your support for this action.  Any comments would be appreciated.

—Chanida Bamford, Deputy Director (on behalf of 23 staff members)


A Statement of Concern about a hit-list including Walden Bello and other activists

OUT OF DEFERENCE to the more than 160,000 victims of the tsunami tragedy that engulfed South Asia on December 26, 2004, we in Focus on the Global South (Focus) have refrained until now from pointing to an alarming development bearing on the security and well being of our Executive Director, Walden Bello.  Focus is not in the habit of calling attention to the status of its staff.

This time, however, things are different.  In the December 2004 issue of Ang Bayan, the principal organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Walden was singled out as a “counterrevolutionary.”  His name was listed alongside fourteen other names of individuals who are either living or dead.

Two of the people in the “counterrevolutionaries” list, Arturo Tabara and Filemon Lagman, have already been assassinated, the former just three months ago. Another one, Ricardo Reyes, is being hunted down by operatives of the Communist Party and New People’s Army (NPA) and has been forced to go into hiding.

For people familiar with the history and practices of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its paramilitary wing, the New People’s Army, the message of the counterrevolutionaries’ list to Walden and the others is unmistakable: You’re beyond the pale.  You’re a “class enemy” to be eliminated, the only questions remaining being when and where the party will carry out the execution.

For us in Focus, the listing of Walden and other Filipino activists as counterrevolutionaries deserving of elimination comes as a shock.  Walden’s writings, books, and contributions speak for themselves: a recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize), he is acknowledged to be one of the most articulate critics of U.S. intervention and corporate-driven globalization.

Others named in the list include prominent international activist Lidy Nacpil and Etta Rosales, head of the Human Rights Committee of the Philippine House of Representatives.  Walden, along with Congresswoman Rosales, did the best thing they could do to protect themselves upon the issuance of the CPP hit list: They publicized it in the media.

Since then, in a post-facto effort to justify Walden’s being on the hit list, scurrilous attacks have been heaped on him by Jose Maria Sison, chairman of the CPP, and Fidel Agcaoili, another high-level CPP officer.  Walden has been pictured as, among other things, an agent of U.S. imperialism and a pro-WTO advocate seeking reform of the organization so it can better exploit the world’s people.

Focus on the Global South has been pictured as a recipient of “imperialist funds.”  Organizations and movements that Walden and Focus work with have been labeled “Trotskyite” or “Social Democratic” counterrevolutionary groupings.  The global civil society movement that helped bring about the collapse of the WTO ministerial meetings in Seattle and Cancun has been described as a front for global capitalism.

This most recent attack on global civil society is consistent with earlier attacks by CPP-linked groups on the World Social Forum (WSF) and Porto Alegre process as an “imperialist plot” to derail people from world revolution.

Coming from a sectarian political grouping with a very specific agenda, these fantastic charges against Walden, Focus and global civil society do not deserve a serious answer.  It is important to understand, though, what lies at the root of Walden being listed as a counterrevolutionary.

Apparently, the CPP and its allied groups are threatened by the agenda and process of civil-society-led change that Walden and Focus support—a program that is pluralist, inclusive and democratic, where different traditions are seen as a source of strength rather than poisons to fundamentalist purity.

But the threat to Walden’s life and to the lives of the others named as counter-revolutionaries is very real and cannot be ignored.  Moreover, sectarian activities carried out by CPP-linked groups—activities carried out in the name of “isolating the reformists and counterrevolutionaries”—are sowing intrigue and conflict in some civil society networks and movements, thus weakening our ranks in confronting corporate-driven globalization and U.S. militarism.

Differences among groups fighting for change are natural.  But these differences should be resolved through democratic debate—this is a fundamental premise of our movement.  Seeking to resolve these differences through threats, force, and assassination cannot be condoned and must be denounced in the strongest terms possible.

The use of violence, terror and assassination must always be condemned, whether the agents are states or non-state actors like the CPP-NPA. Focus on the Global South calls on all civil society organizations and networks globally to condemn such threats and actions in the strongest possible terms.

Being part of a bigger global movement for social justice, we have interacted with, worked with, or even supported groups that are associated or working closely with the CPP such as Ibon Foundation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), KMU (May 1st Movement), Asian Student Association (ASA), and Migrante.

We now appeal to the sense of decency of individuals in these and other groups and urge them to denounce these actions and apply moral suasion on Sison and other leaders of the CPP and NPA to refrain from the threat and use of force and assassination.

We make a final appeal to the CPP to desist from its destructive course of action and refrain from dividing the movement fighting against corporate globalization at a critical time in the struggle for a better, just and equitable world.

—Bangkok, January 15, 2005

Why We’ve Been Targeted

By Walden Bello

JOSE MARIA SISON must take us for fools.  He and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leadership compile a list of living and assassinated “counterrevolutionaries,” disseminate it among CPP members, then claim this is simply a harmless exercise in information dissemination!

Professor Sison has a really low opinion of the public.  Does he really think ordinary readers are so stupid as to believe that he is just a consultant to the CPP and not its chairman, its “pontifex maximus,” the one that literally calls the shots?

Is he so out of touch as not to realize that the informed reader need not be a card-carrying party member to know that in fundamentalist Marxist Leninist parties like the CPP, being branded “counterrevolutionary” is practically a death sentence, with the only question being the time and place when the party will carry it out?

This is the hideous truth that Sison tries to cover up by his verbal acrobatics, which attempt to cover up the CPP’s mistake of having made the hit-list public by cooking up the canard that we are part of a plot to discredit the CPP and “assassinate” his character.

The CPP has long discredited itself, a process which began with the party’s internal massacre of over 1,000 of its best cadres in Operation Ahos and other purges carried out in the mid-1980s.

In his desperate effort to set us up for elimination, Mr. Sison implies we receive “imperialist” funds to hold conferences and write books.  Yes, Mr. Sison, we have organized international conferences to formulate strategies to drive the United States out of Iraq and Israel from Palestine, but with funds raised from progressive, not imperialist, sources.

Yes, Mr. Sison, we plead guilty to having written books—but books documenting the depredations of U.S. and other transnational corporations and exploring alternatives to corporate-led globalization.

While you have been busy drawing up diagrams of your perceived opponents and dreaming of world revolution in the safe confines of Utrecht [Sison lives in The Netherlands—ed.], your so-called counterrevolutionaries have actually been engaged in helping create a truly global movement for change—a pluralist and democratic enterprise that has, among other things, brought about the collapse of the ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization, the main agency of corporate-driven globalization, in Seattle and Cancun.

That the CPP is an agent of progressive change is a bad joke, indeed a sick joke.  Today’s CPP is not the party of brave but open-minded revolutionaries that we were once part of in the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.  Today’s CPP has degenerated into an Al Qaeda-type fundamentalist sect that is simply concerned with imposing its terrible vision of the future on the Filipino people.

Because the CPP’s fanaticism has given the left such a bad name, paradoxically enough it serves objectively as an ally of U.S. hegemony locally.  Indeed, what better ally can the U.S. have than the CPP-NPA?

Anti-communists and U.S. operatives do not need to cook up propaganda campaigns to discredit the Left.  They simply have to point to the murderous behavior of the New People’s Army (NPA).  They simply have to point to the system of “revolutionary” taxes that has made the NPA complicit with the big loggers in the environmental rape of the Sierra Madre, that led to the deaths of over 1,000 people in Real and Infanta.

Along with feudal landed structures, transnational capitalism, and US imperialism, leftwing fascism of the CPP variety has, unfortunately, become one of the basic problems of the Filipino people.  It is because progressives in Akbayan and other organizations have opted for a pluralist road to change, one based on vigorous democratic debate and on non-violent means, one that sees opponents as people to be won over, not eliminated, one that regards different political traditions as a source of strength rather than as poisons to fundamentalist purity, that we have become anathema to Mr. Sison.

Mr. Sison and the CPP are fossils stuck in the mud of the 20th century, with all its tragedies.  We in Akbayan and other progressive organizations have moved on to confront the challenges facing the Filipino people in the 21st century.  That is the real reason we have been marked out for elimination.
—December 28, 2004

To contact Focus on the Global South, write:
Chulalongkorn University
Bangkok 10330, THAILAND.
Tel: 662 218 7363/7364/7365/7383
Fax: 662 255 9976
Web Page: www.focusweb.org

ATC 115, March-April 2005