PHILIPPINES: Left merger a great leap forward

November 14, 2001


The regroupment of the revolutionary left in the Philippines has taken a great leap forward, with the August announcement by the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (SPP, Socialist Party of Labour) and the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipina (PMP, Philippines Workers Party) of their decision to merge.

Green Left Weekly's NICK SOUDAKOFF spoke with the SPP's Sonny Melencio who is on the pre-congress committee, the provisional leadership and coordinating body of the merger, about the project.

This merger comes at a time when there have been recurring political crises for the ruling class: the "People's Power II" demonstrations that overthrew President Joseph Estrada, a war in the southern Mindanao province and a sharp economic downturn. Has this political climate and opportunities for the left contributed to the merger?

Yes. The worsening economic and political climate provides the opportunity for the left's political resurgence; that's confirmed by the growing cooperation and collaboration among the left forces especially during the anti-Estrada struggle and right after the formation of the new regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In fact, during this period, the revolutionary left groupings were simplified to two formations: the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) forces, and all the rest of the revolutionary groupings. It was during this time that the SPP worked closely with both Sanlakas and BMP [Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino or Solidarity of Filipino Workers], the main mass formation of the PMP. The merger is made possible by this close cooperation.

During "People's Power II", the SPP and PMP advocated an independent political line for the masses. The SPP issued the call, "Neither Erap [Estrada] nor Gloria, Build a Government of the Poor", while Sanlakas issued its rallying call of "Resign All"; it was the same in terms of exposing the bankruptcy of the new Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

The CPP forces chose "critical collaboration", supporting GMA's ascension to power, while criticising some of her "anti-people policies".

We know there is going to be another "People's Power", and it is only a matter of time. In all the opportunities opened up by the series of uprisings, the lacking factor has always been the role of a conscious, revolutionary leadership. The PMP also shares the same view.

Has the merger opened up or renewed discussions with other left forces about further regroupment?

Yes. One of the left blocs, the Party for Proletarian Democracy, composed mostly of forces belonging to the former "united front commission" of the CPP before the 1993 split, have signified its intention to join the unity congress slated for January. It's possible that it will be able to join the pre-congress committee before that. The pre-congress committee acts as the coordinating leadership body that prepares for the unity congress.

Recently, we have opened talks with the Mindanao group that used to be with the Revolutionary Workers Party (RWP). We'll have a definite assessment on this latest development in December.

Have the rest of the left commented on the fusion (in particular, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Revolutionary Workers Party)?

There's been no comment from the CPP. But the merger was generally welcomed by other political groups. In every instance where we publicly announced the merger, the progressive community always showed its approval by clapping and congratulating us.

The RWP has signified its intention to at least join the Revolutionary United Front, a project also initiated by us that aims to encompass almost all the revolutionary parties and groupings under a unified political platform and a coordinating leadership centre that monitors the implementation of consensual agreements.

The RUF consists of groups that have not yet merged but want to jointly undertake political activities and start the process of unification.

Right now the RUF is composed of our merger party (SPP-PMP), the PPD, and a group called the Marxist-Leninist Caucus. There are three other groups who have signified in varying degrees their intention to collaborate with the RUF in the near future.

What is the relative weight of the new PMP-SPP formation amongst the left in the Philippines?

The merged parties constitute the largest and the most capable revolutionary socialist group in the country today — in terms of numbers, political clout and theoretical clarity. In a way, the PMP has the numbers (with its mass base of around 200,000, half of that among the unions), while the SPP strengthens the theoretical capability of the merged party.

In the unions, it means the merger will have to consolidate around 600 unions that are a product of an electoral campaign in May.

On the campuses, this [merger of the groups' student groups has] led to the winning of student council seats in major universities, such as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the largest university in the country. The merger has also inspired the formation of the broadest, so far, urban poor coalition in the country. We'll be showing the strength of this new coalition during the planned November 30 rally.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has committed Philippine facilities and troops to the US government's "war on terrorism". What has been the response of the people in the Philippines?

Because of strong US propaganda, recent polls have placed the number of people supporting the "war against terrorism" as high as 70%. Less than 40%, however, favoured the sending of troops to Afghanistan to assist the US forces. The tide is shifting day after day, especially after the heavy bombardment of Afghanistan which has been killing large number of civilians.

The "war against terrorism" propaganda in the Philippines is linked up with local cases of "terrorism", especially Abu Sayyaf's kidnappings in the southern part of the country. In that sense the initial response is for people to support that.

But we have pointed out that even in the case of the Philippines, the "all-out war" of the GMA regime, or the previous Estrada regime, against the Abu Sayyaf has dismally failed. It has only victimised the Moro people struggling for their political self- determination in their land.

This explains why we have argued that, in order to stop local terrorism in the country, the solution is not military but political — for the government to immediately adopt a mechanism for the Moro people to exercise their right to national self-determination.

There have been reports about the anti-war campaign in the Philippines, including daily peace pickets of the US Embassy. Could you comment on what's been happening in the campaign?

We had the first "peace rally" in front of the US embassy in Manila. It was announced as a peace rally in solidarity with the American working class and people victimised by the terrorist attacks, and to oppose the US plans of "retaliatory attacks".

These daily activities showed the way for other political forces. The proof has been in the successful launching of the biggest anti-war coalition through the efforts, in the main, by the merged parties who hosted it.

The largest mobilisation so far was on October 10 during the launching of the Peace Camp, a coalition of several political blocs, NGOs and individuals against the war. After the launching of the Peace Camp on the morning of October 10, a march of 1000 people was held which ended up at the US embassy gates.

Peace Camp is also focusing on attracting to the coalition several groups in the Moro communities in Metro Manila. It has joined prayer rallies and protest activities held by Moro groups, especially a group called Maradeka, in front of the Muslim mosques in Manila.

What are some of the new party's plans for helping develop the anti-war movement in the Philippines?

We have identified the anti-war movement as the priority campaign of the SPP-PMP today. However, we have noted that the local issues have been eased out of the central place because of the war against Afghanistan.

For the coming rallies, to start on November 30, we will attempt to link up the local issues with the anti-war movement. Our plan is for the progressive forces to come out with a people's charter that will incorporate all the demands of the basic sectors. This will enable us to raise further the level of struggle against our own ruling class as we simultaneously wage resistance against the imperialist forces.

The biggest base of the SPP-PMP merger is the trade union movement. We are bringing the anti-war issue to the unions. We have organised series of forums against this imperialist and racist war. We are planning a series of demonstrations with some key dates, like October 23 (to coincide with the protest against a meagre wage hike granted by the government), November 30 (National Heroes Day and a usual day for large workers' demonstrations in Metro Manila), and December 10 (Human Rights Day).

From Green Left Weekly, November 14, 2001.
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