Notes on People's War in Southeast Asia
By Jose Maria Sison
Communist Party of the Philippines
19 May 2007
The subject of people's war in Southeast Asia is quite large. It would take at
least a book to answer many of your possible questions. In a short discourse, I
can only try to give you an outline of the subject, some important facts and
ideas. Of course, I do so from my viewpoint. Thus, I prefer to describe my
contribution as "notes" to signal that there is plenty of room for discussion.
Let me present to you the armed struggles led by communist parties in Southeast
Asia before, during and immediately after World War II, focus on the people's war
when Southeast Asia developed into the storm center of the world proletarian
revolution from 1960 to 1975, evaluate the post-Mao China policy against people's
war in the region, describe the people's war in the Philippines and explore the
prospects of people's war in Southeast Asia.
Arranged chronologically according to their order of establishment were the
following communist parties that led armed struggles at one time or another
in Southeast Asia:
1. Communist Party of Indonesia (organized as the Communist Association of
the Indies in 1920 under the auspices of the Communist International and
renamed Communist Party of Indonesia in 1924)
2. Communist Party of the Philippines (Communist Party of the Philippine
Islands in 1930, the Communist Party of the Philippines as merger party of
the Communist and Socialist parties in 1938 and the Communist of the Party
of the Philippines as reestablished in 1968)
3. Communist Party of Vietnam (Communist Party of Indochina in 1930, Vietnam
Workers' Party in 1951 and Communist Party of Vietnam in 1976),
4. Malayan Communist Party (1930),
5. Burmese Communist Party (1939)
6. Communist Party of Thailand (Communist Party of Siam in 1942)
7. Party of Democratic Kampuchea (Kampuchea People's Revolutionary Party in
1951, Cambodian Communist Party in 1960 and Party of Democratic Kampuchea
8. Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Lao People's Party in 1955 and Lao People's
Revolutionary Party in 1975)
9. North Kalimantan Communist Party (1971)
1. Before World War II, 1926 to 1941
Under the auspices of the Third Communist International (Comintern), communist
parties were established in Southeast Asia before World War II. The earliest to be
established was the Communist Party of the East Indies in 1920. It had the
distinction of being the first communist party in the whole of Asia. It led an
armed uprising for national liberation against Dutch colonialism in 1926, the first
armed struggle in the region led by a communist party. The armed uprising was
brutally suppressed by the Dutch colonialists but gave the Communist Party of
Indonesia the highest prestige as the fighter for the national liberation of the
Under the shadow of the Great Depression and upon the intensified work of
the Comintern, the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands, the Communist
Party of Indochina and the Communist Party of Malaya were organized in quick
succession in 1930. The Vietnamese communists launched in 1930 and 1940
uprisings against French colonial rule. Both failed but raised the prestige of the
communists as fighters for national and social liberation. The Communist Party
of the Philippine Islands was suppressed by the US colonial authorities a few months
after its founding. The exile and imprisonment of the principal leaders served to
pressure the legal cadres to stay within the bounds of legalism with regard to the
questions of national liberation and agrarian revolution.
The peasant masses were severely exploited in these countries. Thus, there were
spontaneous peasant uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s in Southeast Asia. But in
general the communist parties were not able to systematically arouse, organize
and mobilize the peasants for the purpose of waging a protracted people's war
against colonialism and feudalism through the encirclement of the cities from the
countryside until the accumulation of armed strength made possible the seizure
of political power in the cities.
The main thrust of the political work of the communist parties in the 1930s was
to oppose the Western colonial powers and seek national liberation through all
forms of struggle. Like the Filipino, Indonesian and Indochinese communists against
US, Dutch and French colonialism respectively, the Malayan and Burmese communists
were so focused on opposing British colonialism that it took sometime for them to
accept entirely the decision of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935 to
focus the revolutionary struggle against the fascism of Germany, Italy and Japan and
develop the popular front with forces associated with the Western colonial powers
but were opposed to fascism.
The Southeast Asian communist parties gradually took the anti-fascist position and
more quickly after Japan launched a full-scale invasion of China in 1937. However,
in the case of the newly-established Communist Party of Burma, principal party leaders
Thakin Aung San went to Japan in 1939 for military training against British colonialism
and came back to form the Burmese National Army. Japanese fascism had been using
the slogans of nationalism and Asian economic co-prosperity sphere to oppose the
Western colonial powers in Southeast Asia.
2. In the Course of World War II, 1941 to 1945
Immediately following its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japan
invaded the Southeast Asian countries. The communist parties of Southeast Asia
exposed the phenomenon of fascism and the inter-imperialist war as the result of
the rotten character and crisis of the world capitalist system, called for the national
unity of all anti-fascist forces and the building of the people's armies and other
revolutionary forces against Japan.
The inter-imperialist war created the excellent conditions for the communist parties
and the people to build their revolutionary strength in fighting the Japanese invasion
and occupation. The communist parties organized people's armies against Japan
mainly among the peasant masses, engaged in land reform and built organs of
political power in Indochina, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaya and Burma.
The Communist Party of Indochina had organized the Revolutionary League for
the Independence of Vietnam (Viet Minh) since 1941 to unite the communist
and other anti-fascist forces to engage in guerilla warfare against the Japanese
invaders and occupiers. It succeeded in building a powerful people's army based
in the countryside and in building organs of political power and mass organizations.
Ultimately, it defeated the Japanese aggressors, launched the uprising of August
1945 to seize political power, proclaim the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and
suppress the pro-Japanese collaborators and made preparations to fight the plan
of the French colonialists to reconquer Vietnam in 1946 and thus to ignite the
First Indochina War.
The Communist Party of Indonesia was able to build guerrilla forces during the
resistance against Japan and an alliance of the left wing and youth section of
the Indonesian Socialist Party. These were the most reliable forces for upholding
the proclamation of national independence by Sukarno in August 1945, frustrating
the British military intervention and continued use of Japanese military units and
fighting the return of Dutch colonialism to Indonesia. The US also began to
intervene in Indonesian affairs.
The merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties in the Philippines organized
the People's Army Against Japan (Hukbalahap) in 1942, independently of the US
Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). Despite Right opportunist errors in strategy,
it was able to build units of the people's army and organs of political power and carry
out land reform. But it overconcentrated in only one region close to the national
capital region and was unable to expand the revolutionary movement on a nationwide
US imperialism took tremendous special efforts to reconquer the Philippines as a colony
because of its strategic importance in the US counteroffensive against Japan and the
US plan to impose its hegemony over the whole of Southeast Asia even at the expense
of its imperialist allies. As early as September 1943 the US had started its bombing
operations in the Philippines to destroy Japanese forces and to prepare for massive
US troop landings in 1944.
Right opportunism persisted in undermining the merger party of the Communist and
Socialist parties because of the leadership's decision to welcome the return of the US
imperialist military forces and the puppet Commonwealth government. Subsequently,
the Browderite line of peace and democracy blew in from the Communist Party of the
USA, which had had a long relationship with the merger party.
The Malayan Communist Party built the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army and
cooperated with British military forces in fighting against the Japanese occupation.
But it maintained its initiative and independence. It demanded the independence
of Malaya from British colonialism upon the defeat of Japan, thus incurring the hostility
of British imperialism which was determined to recolonize Malaya and secure British
interests in Southeast Asia.
The Burmese Communist Party took a major role in organizing the Anti-Fascist People's
Freedom League (AFPFL) to fight the Japanese occupation which began in 1941-42.
The AFPFL cooperated with the British military forces to expel the Japanese in 1945.
Later on, it came under the control of military officers who increasingly became anti-communist,
chauvinist and militarist. The Burmese Communist Party and the national minorities resisted
the military regime.
3. Aftermath of World War II, 1946 to 1959
After proclaiming the independence of Vietnam in 1945, the Viet Minh formed the National
Assembly in January 1946. The French government recognized the Democratic Republic of
Vietnam as a free state of the French Union in March 1946 but declared war against it in
November of the same year and began the First Indochina War. It set up the puppet
government of Bao Dai in Saigon in 1948. The people's army of the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam strengthened its bases in northern Vietnam and gained support from the
victorious Chinese Communist Party in 1949.
In 1951 the Indochinese Communist Party decided to divide into three parties in to order
let them focus on the problems in their respective countries. The kingdoms of Cambodia
and Laos were recognized by France as "independent states" of the French Union in
1953. In the name of the Cold War, the US started to give substantial political and
financial support to the French war effort in 1949 and at the same time increased
its influence among prospective Vietnamese puppets. The Vietnamese people's army
defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 on the eve of the Geneva Conference.
The Geneva Conference of 1954 agreed to divide Vietnam into North and South
temporarily and to reunite it after elections in 1956. But the US-supported Ngo
Dinh Diem regime that had deposed the Bao Dai regime in 1955 refused to hold
elections. Following orders from the US, it declared South Vietnam a republic. A
Filipino lawyer asset of the US Central Intelligence Agency drafted the constitution
of the phoney republic.
The Ngo regime unleashed a reign of terror against the Viet Minh, the people and
all opposition forces, including patriotic religious organizations. Local revolts occurred
in 1957. A full scale civil war developed in 1959. This began the Second Indochina
War, in which the US increased its military intervention until this became a full-scale
war of aggression.
Following the declaration of Indonesian national independence in 1945, Indonesian
president Sukarno proceeded to call for national unity to fight against the British
military forces and thereafter the Dutch military forces who sought to reconquer
Indonesia. At first, he relied mainly on the disciplined and battle-tested guerrilla
forces of the Communist Party of Indonesia and on the left-wing and youth section
of the Partai Sosialis Indonesia. But he and his vice president Hatta increasingly relied
on the pro-US and pro-Western military officers, including those who had served in
the Japanese occupation army. The communists were massacred in Madiun in 1948
to make way for the neocolonial compromise in the Round Table Conference Agreement.
Challenged by the US and pro-US forces and ultra-reactionary forces in Indonesia
represented by Hatta and the right wing forces of the Masjumi and Socialist Party,
Sukarno sought once more the alliance of the Communist Party of Indonesia in 1951.
The Communist Party of Indonesia ordered its remaining armed units to disband and
appeared to thrive politically by pursuing the peaceful and parliamentary road of struggle
and by keeping an anti-imperialist alliance with Sukarno and his nationalist following.
It was able to increase its party membership, rapidly build large mass organizations and
won 16.4 per cent of the votes in the 1955 elections. It was able to stand up against
the US military intervention and armed rebellions of the pro-US ultra-reactionary forces
in 1958. In this connection, it was able to build militia units and gain followers and influence
within the military and police of the Sukarno government. But subsequently, it agreed to
relinquish leadership over its armed units and submit them for integration in the Indonesian
army. The Communist Party of Indonesia became bound to the Right opportunist and
revisionist line of legalism and parliamentarism and wishing to enlarge the "pro-people
aspect" of the Indonesian semi-colonial state of the big compradors and landlords.
The old merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties pushed for and welcomed
the grant of nominal national independence to the Philippines by the US in 1946. It
agreed with the reactionary authorities to demobilize the people's army and surrender
its arms despite the rising brutal acts of the US and local reactionary forces against units
of the people's army and the peasants who had undertaken land reform during the
Japanese occupation. It was heavily influenced by the Browderite line of peace and
democracy. It formed the Democratic Alliance to compete in the electoral struggle.
The Democratic Alliance won enough seats in Congress in 1946 to prevent the passage
of an amendment in the 1935 Constitution for the purpose of allowing US corporations
and citizens to have rights at par with the Filipinos in exploiting Philippine natural resources
and operating public utilities. The puppet government ousted from Congress the progressive
members on false charges of electoral fraud and terrorism. Moreover, the brutal attacks on
the people in the revolutionary areas escalated. Thus, the ground was laid for a decision
of the old merger party in 1948 to start revolutionary armed struggle. But only in the
latter half of 1950 was the people's army able to launch some relatively large offensives
on a wide scale along the Sierra Madre mountain range.
The "Left" opportunist line of seeking to win complete victory in two years' time
without painstaking mass work, without land reform and without building the people's
army in stages but relying on the growth of the spontaneous uprising of the people
due to the severe crisis of the system and violent contradictions among the reactionaries
proved disastrous. The enemy was able to launch a sustained counter-attack against
the forest-based camps of the people's army and capture most of the city-based principal
leaders in 1950-52. Since then, the old merger party swung back to Right opportunism,
including the orders to liquidate the people's army in 1955 and the party in 1957, and
caused the party to become moribund, until efforts were made to revive it from 1959
The British colonialists legalized the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army but banned it
in 1948 and declared a state of emergency in order to suppress it. Peace talks between
the Malayan communist leaders and the chief ministers of Malaya and Singapore broke
down as the latter officials demanded the dissolution of the Malayan Communist Party.
The state of emergency was ended in 1960 after the authorities estimated that they
had virtually crushed the people's army. But in fact this continued to fight from a
relatively secure area along the Thailand-Malaya border area.
After being expelled from the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League in 1946, the
Burmese Communist Party launched an armed revolution in 1948. It operated mainly
in Central Burma and the in the Arakan mountains and Irrawaddy delta. It engaged
in alliances with the minority nationalities that were also waging armed struggle against
the Burmese reactionary government. It engaged in peace negotiations withn this
government in 1958 but these did not stop the people's war.
The people's armies led by communist parties in Southeast Asia stood their ground
against the attempts of the old Western colonial powers to reconquer and reimpose
their rule on their former colonies. The people's armies were also resolutely and
vigorously against the attempts of the US to expand its hegemony. The resounding
victories of China against the US-Guomindang tandem inspired the communist parties
of Southeast Asia to engage in people's war. The US became more aggressive in
carrying out the Cold War in Asia from 1948 onwards as well as in unleashing the
wars of aggression against Korea in 1951-53 and in the next decade in Vietnam
4. People's Wars in Southeast Asia, 1960 to 1975
The communist and noncommunist forces in the armed struggle against the US-supported
Ngo Din Diem regime united to form the South Vietnam National Liberation Front in 1960.
In 1961 the US began to deploy large numbers of "advisors" in the South Vietnamese
military and bureaucracy and in 1964 it began to launch military operations against the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam by land, sea and air.
The US war of aggression against the people of Vietnam became indubitably clear with
the rapid deployment of hundreds of thousands of US troops and with large military
operations from US military bases inside and outside of Vietnam. The Vietnamese
communists and people were determined to carry out a war of national liberation
against the US war of aggression through the strategy of protracted people's war.
At that time, the Vietnam Workers Party was close to the Communist Party of China
under Comrade Mao Zedong. It was disappointed that the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union under Khrushchov was hyping the general line of peaceful coexistence
and the road of peaceful transition and was not interested in assisting the Vietnamese
communists in people's war. It was only after the overthrow of Khrushchov that the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev extended support to the
Vietnamese war of national liberation. Consequently, the Vietnam Workers' Party
took a centrist position in the Sino-Soviet ideological debate.
The US escalated its military intervention through military advisors and military
supplies to the level of a full-scale war of aggression involving hundreds of thousands
of troops, huge US military bases and US fire bases all over South Vietnam. It engaged
in all types of vicious military campaigns in South Vietnam and made frequent bombing
raids on North Vietnam. The Vietnamese people intensified their resistance and
inflicted heavy casualties on US and puppet troops on the ground, shot down
thousands of US planes and destroyed convoys of enemy vehicles.
The US instigated the military coup in Cambodia against Sihanouk by Lon Nol in
1970 in the vain hope of disrupting and preventing the passage of supplies for the
South Vietnam National Liberation Front through either the so-called Ho Chi Minh
trail or ports of Cambodia. Earlier in 1968 the Communist Party of Kampuchea had
launched the armed revolution against the Sihanouk government. But the overthrow
of Sihanouk by Lon Nol brought about the conditions for the alliance between the
Communist Party of Kampuchea and the forces of Sihanouk with the support of
the Communist Party of China.
The people's war led by the Communist Party of Cambodia advanced very rapidly.
The alliance of patriotic forces formed the Royal Government of National Union of
Kampuchea. The Vietnamese, Kampuchean and Laotian revolutionary parties and
peoples united in waging people's war against US imperialism and its puppet forces.
Their intensified people's wars compelled the US to negotiate towards the Paris
Peace Accord of 1973 and paved the way for the total victories of their revolutionary
struggle for national liberation against US imperialism
From 1960 onward, the calls for people's war in Southeast Asia resounded against
the continuing aggressiveness of the US in expanding its hegemony. In the growing
Sino-Soviet ideological debate the revisionist line of Khrushchov did not dull but
sharpened the resolve of the communist parties to wage armed revolution. The
Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China further sharpened such resolve and
the Communist Party of China under the leadership of Chairman Mao was enthusiastic
in supporting the communist parties that decided to wage people's war in Indochina,
Thailand, Burma, Malaya, Kalimantan Utara and the Philippines. All these had long been
inspired by the victories of the Chinese people in the new democratic and socialist
revolutions and in making a great breach on the imperialist front in the East.
Even the Communist Party of Indonesia, which had become the biggest communist
party among those in nonsocialist states by pursuing the line of peaceful and legal
struggle from 1951 to 1965, began from 1963 onwards to consider the necessity
of armed revolution against armed counterrevolution. It was then categorically
expressing support for the Marxiist-Leninist line of the Chinese Communist Party
in the ideological debate against the line of modern revisionism espoused by the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union headed by Khrushchov. But it also wanted
to retain friendly relations with the Soviet party.
It intended to "prepare" for the armed struggle by waging the campaign of rural
investigation and intensified peasant organizing, the campaign to nationalize foreign
enterprises and the "crush Malaysia" campaign. It called on the Sukarno government
for arming the people, especially the militia. But it remained unclear on whether to
wage armed struggle against the semi-colonial state and was vacillating about what
form of armed revolution it would undertake, even as the US, British and Dutch
imperialists and their puppets headed by Suharto were feverishly preparing to
massacre the Indonesian communists, their mass following and sympathizers in
The debacle of the Indonesian communists was in sharp contrast to the growing
victories and ultimate victory of the Indochinese communists against US imperialism
in the period of 1965 to 1975. But the communists of Indonesia were still expected
to fight back and recover their debacle through people's war. However, they did
not succeed in their initial efforts at people's war in Blitar and Kalimantan in 1967
and 1968. Their further defeat allowed the US, British, Dutch and Japanese
imperialists to take advantage of the oil and other natural resources of Indonesia.
The North Kalimantan Communist Party was founded only in 1971 and had some
armed units. It was unable to sustain and develop its revolutionary armed struggle.
Since 1961, the Communist Party of Thailand had taken a strong Marxist-Leninist
position in the Sino-Soviet ideological debate and decided to adopt the strategic
line of protracted people's war. It started guerrilla warfare in 1965 in the
northeastern provinces of Thailand along the border with Laos, where they won
the support of the Meo tribesmen, and subsequently spread to the northern
provinces and to the extreme south, where the Malayan Communist Party and
people's army were based. The Thai People's Liberation Army received considerable
support after 1970 from China and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. It was
able to carry out major offensives, including raids on US air force bomber bases
In the early 1960s the Burmese Communist Party also took a strong Marxist-Leninist
position in the Sino-Soviet ideological debate. In 1967 the Communist Party of China
openly declared its support for the Burmese communists and their people's war.
The Burmese Communist Party transferred its headquarters to the Chinese border
area and received substantial military assistance from China. However, in 1967-68,
it mishandled a rectification movement and committed grave errors which
undermined the revolutionary integrity, strength and prestige of the party in
the short and long term.
As early as 1959 the proletarian revolutionaries in the Philippines were already
desirous of resuming the armed revolution along the general line of the people's
democratic revolution through protracted people's war. They were also enlightened
by the international debate between the Marxist-Leninists and modern revisionists in
the early 1960s and inspired by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution from 1966
onwards. But they were also desirous of summing up and analyzing the concrete
conditions and revolutionary experience in the Philippines, rectifying errors and
rebuilding the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the anti-imperialist and
anti-feudal mass movement for a certain period of time before launching the
The rectification movement under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong
Thought began in 1967. The Communist Party of the Philippines was reestablished
on December 26, 1968 and in a few months' time founded the New People's Army
on March 29, 1969. The enemy tried to nip the armed revolutionary movement in
the bud from 1969 to 1971, pitting a full division against a few squads of the NPA,
but failed. Then in 1972 the Marcos regime began to impose a fourteen-year fascist
dictatorship on the Filipino people. The revolutionary forces and people grew even
stronger through people's war.
The period of 1960 to 1975 may be described as the period when the whole of
Southeast Asia was the focus of the storm of the world proletarian revolution through
people's war and the eye of the storm was in Vietnam and then the whole of Indochina,
when the people's war completely triumphed in 1975. In view of this great victory,
there were bright hopes for the peoples of Thailand, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia and
the Philippines to persevere in people's war and win their own great victories.
5. Post-Mao Policy of China, 1976 to the present
In the last five years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1971-1976, the
Rightist and Centrists in the Communist Party of China had gained so much ground
in weakening the Left, in devaluing the need for people's war in Southeast Asia, in
giving priority to developing rapprochement with the US under the guise of opposing
the Soviet Union.
Ultimately, after the demise of Comrade Mao Zedong, the alliance of Centrists and
Rightists paved the way for a counterrevolutionary coup and the restoration of
capitalism, under the slogans of "reforms" (capitalist-oriented reforms), "opening
up to the world" (integration into the world capitalist system) and "promoting peace,
stability and economic development in the region" (including the withdrawal of support
from the Southeast Asian communist parties, the dissolution of Central Committee
delegations of fraternal parties in China and wherever possible the liquidation of
What obfuscated China's policy of liquidating people's war in Southeast Asia was its
conspicuous support for Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 onwards and in the entire
duration of the Third Indochina War from 1979 onwards, its opposition to the invasion
of Kampuchea by Vietnam and its counter-invasion of Vietnam also in 1979 and its
support for the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CDGK) based on
the three-way alliance of the Party for Democratic Kampuchea (the erstwhile Communist
Party of Kampuchea), the Sihanouk forces and the Khmer People's National Liberation
Front led by Son Sann in 1982, extending up to 1991.
But the Party of Democratic Kampuchea was put in the position of being cornered by
its two major allies in the coalition government. It was supported by China but it was
also required to collaborate with the US and Thai governments to allow all allies in the
coalition government to have bases along the Thai border and free passage of personnel
and materiel to and from Kampuchea across Thailand. Democratic Kampuchea retained
the UN seat of Kampuchea until 1982. Then this was passed on to the CGDK until 1993.
The Party of Democratic Kampuchea became bound to agreements in 1991 under the
auspices of the UN to liquidate the people's war and attain national reconciliation among
all political forces through elections in the 1993 under the supervision of the UN
peacekeeping mission. The Party of Democratic Kampuchea was outmaneuvered
by the other political forces, including its allies in the CGDK, and by the US, Chinese
and Thai governments. It backed out of the agreements and resumed the people's
war after realizing that it had been outmaneuvered. But by then, it had become
isolated and deprived of the support of its former foreign supporters. The Party of
Democratic Kampuchea went into a process of rapid disintegration from 1996 to 1998.
The war between Vietnam and Kampuchea disrupted the previous important relations
and arrangements of the Communist Party of Thailand with the Communist Party of
Kampuchea and the People's Revolutionary Party of Laos. China also used its support
for the Party of Democratic Kampuchea and its allies in the coalition government to
advise the Communist Party of Thailand to refrain from revolutionary radio broadcasts
against the Thai government and finally to close down its Yunnan-based radio
In connection with its policy of peace, stability and economic development and policy
of supporting the resistance in Kampuchea, the Chinese authorities had advised,
pressured and induced the Communist Party of Malaya to make a peace agreement
with both the governments of Malaysia and Thailand since the early 1980s. The
peace agreement was done in 1989. Subsequently, the Malayan Communist Party
liquidated itself, surrendered its arms to the Thai authorities and converted the former
revolutionary base at the Thai-Malaysian border into a tourist spot.
There are reports that upon Deng Xiaoping's return to power, the Chinese authorities
prevented the leaders of the communist parties of Thailand and Burma from promptly
communicating and meeting with their forces across the border. It may be true that
these parties suffered setbacks due to external factors. But in the first place there
are internal factors to consider. A communist party has to develop on its initiative
and be self-reliant. Otherwise it becomes dependent on another party and becomes
vulnerable to dictation from the outside.
The leadership of the Communist Party of Thailand based in Northeast Thailand was
predominantly Chinese and failed to expand towards the non-Chinese communities
in the plains and to handle correctly the thousands of Thai students who had joined
the revolution after the military coup of 1976. The Thai government succeeded in
attracting back these students with an amnesty proclamation in 1982. From that
time on, it was able to make military advances on the armed base of the people's
army and to arrest cadres of the communist party in urban and rural areas. There
is no open manifestation of the current existence and activities of the Communist
Party of Thailand.
Nearly all members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Burma
were outside of Burma. Unable to cross the border from China, they could not
have a handle on the people's army which increasingly came under the control
of localist commanders.
But the Communist Party of Burma still shows some signs of life, such as a website
and statements by a prominent communist general who was one of the major
founders of the Burmese National Army but who joined the Burmese Communist
Party. The Burmese military regime had rebuffed previous proposals of the Burmese
Communist Party to retain its armed units and some territory in exchange for a
6. Perseverance and Development of the Communist Party of the Philippines
By virtue of its own history and circumstances, the Communist Party of the Philippines
could be reestablished in 1968 and could resume the revolutionary armed struggle
in 1969. A series of major Right and "Left" opportunist errors had afflicted the old
merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties and needed to be rectified in
the light of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought.
The Right opportunist line of reducing the units of the people's army to small teams
of three to five members and refraining from tactical offensives from 1942 to 1943
and welcoming the return of the US from 1943 to 1945 limited the development
of the people's army in the course of World War II and subsequently derailed the
revolutionary mass movement towards legalism from 1946 to 1948. It shifted to
"Left" opportunism when the party decided in 1948 to wage armed struggle and
win in two year's time, without developing the people's army in stages, implementing
land reform and carrying out painstaking mass work. After the arrest of the principal
cadres in 1950, Right opportunism came back with a vengeance and continued until
the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968.
The CPP was among the parties least expected to succeed in people's war, supposedly
because the Philippines was an archipelagic country, without the advantage of having
a common land border with China. That is not the only disadvantage. The Philippines
is the favorite secure base from which US imperialism launches all kinds of intervention
and military aggression in Asia. The ruling classes of big comprador and landlords are
well schooled and trained in counterrevolution. Moreover, the US-Marcos regime imposed
a 14-year long fascist dictatorship on the people. But it failed to destroy the CPP and the
revolutionary movement. Instead, these grew from small to big and from weak to strong.
The CPP has proven that under correct leadership it can preserve and develop the people's
army and other revolutionary forces, such as the organs of political power and the mass
organizations. It has generated powerful mass movements in the economic, social,
political and cultural fields for the benefit of the people along the line of national democratic
revolution. The people's army has been waging people's war for more than 38 years, far
longer than it took China to win the people's democratic revolution. The CPP has learned
much from the teachings of Comrade Mao about protracted people's war and has
successfully applied these on the concrete conditions of the Philippines.
But there are those who might say that the people's war has been extremely protracted
in the Philippines. If this is said to demoralize the people and the revolutionary forces,
the riposte is: how much more successful at social revolution or basic reforms are those
who have engaged mainly or solely in legal and electoral struggle or those who have
been wishing for a quick victory in armed struggle?
The CPP has accumulated enough revolutionary experience and knowledge to respond
to the challenge of accelerating the advance of the people's democratic revolution. In
this connection, it must study well and analyze the concrete conditions of the Philippines.
At the same time, it must consider how people's war can resurge in Southeast Asia
and in other global regions under the present crisis conditions of the world capitalist
7. Prospects of People's War in Southeast Asia
There are some bright prospects, especially in the objective conditions, for the
resurgence of people's war in Southeast Asia. The world capitalist system is in an
increasingly severe economic and financial crisis. Southeast Asia has never fully
recovered from the crisis of 1997. This has been covered up merely by new lethal
doses of foreign borrowing to cover trade and budgetary deficits. The people of
Southeast Asia suffer from intensifying exploitation and oppression. They are
therefore being driven to wage resistance.
The policy of "neoliberal globalization" has accelerated as never before the
concentration and centralization of productive and finance capital in the hands
of a few imperialist powers. The adoption of higher technology has only served to
maximize imperialist profit-taking and step up the accumulation of constant capital
and reduction of variable capital for wages. After every round in the crisis of
overproduction, unemployment rises and incomes of the working people sink,
thus the market is further constricted.
The economic and financial crisis of the world capitalist system has become so
grave and deep that it is leading to acute political crisis and pushing the monopoly
bourgeoisie to step up military production, whip up war hysteria, chauvinism, racism
and fascism on a global scale and unleash wars of aggression under the pretext of
a permanent and preemptive global war of terror. Since 9/11, US imperialism has
been drumming up the line that the Philippines and the adjoining countries with
large oil resources and Muslim population constitute the "second front" in the
"global war on terror".
The restoration of capitalism in the former socialist countries has resulted in the
increase of imperialist powers competing for economic territory (sources of oil
and other natural resources, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence)
and struggling for a redivision of the world. The world cannot accommodate too
many imperialist powers. As the US and the NATO preoccupy themselves and are
overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan, their attention to other parts of the world
is reduced or their spurts of attention are increasingly rebuffed by the people and
The basic contradictions in the world are intensifying, those between the imperialist
powers and the oppressed peoples, those among the imperialist powers and those
between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the imperialist countries.
Driven by greed for oil, the US imperialists insist on staying in Iraq and are incurring
significant losses. Elsewhere in the world, especially in South Asia, there is high
probability of widespread people's war. We can also look forward to the emergence
of revolutionary forces in countries where the ever worsening conditions of oppression
and exploitation drive the people to wage armed resistance.
In Southeast Asia, there is something precious to learn from the experience of the
Communist Party of the Philippines in preserving and developing the people's army
and in waging people's war for more than 38 years. If protracted people's war is
viable in a country like the Philippines, it should be even more viable in a country
like Indonesia, with a bigger number of people suffering from semicolonial and
semifeudal oppression and exploitation and with an archipelagic and rough terrain
of a scale far larger than that of the Philippines.
Indonesia has the high potential of becoming a major field of people's war against
the US and other imperialist powers that were behind the massacre of more than
three million Indonesians and the 33 years of the military fascist dictatorship of Suharto.
We are gratified to know that proletarian revolutionaries here are determined to
pursue the people's democratic revolution through protracted people's war and to
grasp and realize such three magic weapons, as the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party, the
people's army and the united front.
As the Communist Party of the Philippines was able to rise from the ashes of the 1950-52
defeat of its predecessor party and from the prolonged period of violent anti-communist
reaction, so can other communist parties in Southeast Asia rise from defeats and setbacks
through summing up and analysis of conditions and experience, through a rectification
movement and through resolute and militant efforts to resume the revolutionary struggle.
In a country where the people have won the new democratic revolution through people's
war and are carrying out socialist revolution and construction, modern revisionism can rear
its ugly head in the bureaucracy and generate the line and policies for the restoration of
capitalism. The genuine communists and the people can wage the ideological struggle
and the cultural revolution to combat modern revisionism, prevent capitalist restoration
and consolidate socialism. They can wage people's war if the modern revisionists succeed
in overthrowing them. If they fail to do so, a later generation of communists will wage
people's war under worse conditions of social retrogression.###