SPP founding congress
By Reihana Mohideen
MANILA — The founding congress of the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa (Socialist Party of Labour — SPP) was held on June 18-20. The congress opened with a rally and march, throughout which the SPP delegates sang the Internationale and shouted slogans such as "Long live the SPP" and "Socialism — solution to the crisis".
The congress brought together 150 delegates from various traditions in the Philippine left: those who left the formerly Moscow-aligned Philippine Communist Party (PKP), the pro-Maoist Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the left wing of the Philippine Democratic Socialist Party. Socialists from the two main national liberation movements in the Philippines also attended, including delegates from the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) and from movements struggling for self-determination for the Moro people.
The congress had a strong internationalist theme. Representatives from Indonesia's People's Democratic Party Australia's Democratic Socialist Party and Italy's Party of Communist Refoundation gave solidarity greetings, which were followed by lively discussions. The struggle in Indonesia was of particular interest to delegates and video presentations of the struggle were shown several times during the congress, which voted to give priority to solidarity with the struggles in Indonesia and East Timor.
Messages of solidarity were also received from the Labour Party Pakistan, the South African Communist Party, the New Zealand Alliance and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia which welcomed the establishment of relations between the two organisations.
A report on the SPP's work reaffirmed the party's commitment to its international work and its support for initiatives that facilitate the discussion and collaboration of revolutionary socialist parties around the world. It formalised its participation in strengthening the international socialist journal Links.
The congress deliberated on two main documents: the SPP's draft program and constitution. One of the highlights was the discussion on a thesis entitled "The Russian Revolution and its degeneration", which contained an analysis of the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet workers' state.
The thesis argued that while bureaucratic deformations of a revolution under backward economic and social conditions was inevitable, the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution itself could have been prevented if a successful political struggle had been waged against Stalin's faction in the party. It pointed to Cuba as an example of a healthy party and revolution where such a struggle was waged.
The thesis was presented on behalf of the SPP leadership but was not put to a vote; its purpose is to open up discussion on this question in the party.
Many delegates expressed their shock and sorrow at the nature of the collapse, with one delegate asking, "How did a party of several million members allow this to happen with no opposition?". Another delegate answered that this had occurred because the party itself had rotted out and consisted mainly of opportunists and careerists. Some former members of the PKP described how, during visits to the former Soviet Union, they had witnessed the lavish lifestyle of some party officials.
The section of the SPP's program on the nature of Philippine capitalism refuted the Maoist thesis that it is "semi-feudal and semi-colonial", instead characterising it as "underdeveloped" or "backward" capitalism. It pointed out that there is a "revolutionary democratic" transitional stage after the overthrow of capitalist state power before the revolution enters its openly socialist phase.
The program critiqued the Stalinist "two-stage" theory of revolution which is advocated by the CPP in the form of the theory of "national democracy" and the formation of a national democratic government made up of a "bloc of four classes". Instead, it affirmed in the Philippine context Lenin's "two-stage" theory of revolution.
Since the SPP has been accused by the CPP of being the main proponent of "Trotskyism" in the Philippines, the program also clarified the SPP's critique of Trotsky's theory of "permanent revolution". As Sonny Melencio, founding chairperson of the SPP, stated in his explanation of this part of the SPP program, "At least we know our Trotsky".
The section of the program supporting the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, including to a separate state, was adopted. The congress also decided to draft a separate thesis recognising the Cordillera and Moro peoples as oppressed national minorities and supporting their struggle for self-determination.
A separate report on establishing SPP branches in the Cordilleras and conducting a national campaign in support of the right of the Cordillera people to genuine autonomy was adopted. It was also decided that the SPP would establish relations with the three main Moro national liberation movements.
The CPLA and the Moro movements are currently involved in negotiations with the government and there was a lively discussion about the problems presented by this process. A Moro delegate argued for extreme caution, saying that such a process contains "many traps" for liberation movements.
He argued strongly against any agreement to integrate the military wing of the liberation movements into the Philippine state, pointing to the experience of the Moro National Liberation Front for whom such a deal had virtually destroyed its cadre base. MNLF members integrated into the armed forces are now being used against their own people in "counter-insurgency" operations.
He argued for an alternative strategy based on the education and mobilisation of the masses and said he had joined the SPP in the hope that the party could assist in this process. An SPP branch has already been set up in Zamboanga, one of the main cities in the south.
The section of the party's program on the agrarian question sparked interest from SPP delegates coming from the Association of Workers in Agriculture, one of the largest poor peasants' and agricultural workers' organisations in the country. The SPP's agrarian policy revolves around intensifying the class struggle in the countryside, with agricultural workers leading the struggle.
One of the delegates remarked that this was the first time the agrarian question had been discussed in a comprehensive way, with clear demands ranging from the immediate to the strategic. The SPP program put forward a range of agrarian demands and actions covering land nationalisation, a "land to the tillers" program, expropriation by the people of idle government land, seizure of "crony" land, and community access and control of land and marine resources.
There was a lively discussion about the party's role in electoral alliances and its right to exert its discipline over elected party candidates' financial benefits. Eventually, the congress voted overwhelmingly for the party's active support for progressive electoral alliances and individual candidates with a proven record in the mass movements, and for the party's right to "nationalise" what remains of elected candidates' financial benefits after they have taken care of their daily expenses.
The congress also adopted a Marxist analysis of the oppression of women: that women's oppression flows from the development of class society and that the family is a class institution which plays a fundamental role in this oppression. A proposal to develop a more detailed thesis on women's oppression in the Philippine context was also adopted.
The congress adopted a position against discrimination against lesbians and gays, recognising the right of individuals to decide their sexual preferences.
A prominent theme of the congress was the centrality of uniting revolutionary socialists in the Philippines. Thus, the party constitution that was adopted allows the national leadership to coopt members onto the party's central council on the basis of a two-third majority vote by the council. A warm message of solidarity was presented to the congress on behalf of Makabayan, a trade union federation affiliated to the Movement for National Democracy, whose forces recently left the CPP.
The congress also discussed the party's youth work. It decided to recognise the Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (Young Socialist League — LSK) as an independent revolutionary socialist youth organisation in political solidarity with the SPP, and to give the party's fullest support to building the LSK.
A new national SPP leadership was elected with special consideration given to women, youth and the comrades from the Cordillera and Moro struggles. According to Melencio, "The congress marked an important first step in grappling with past ghosts that still haunt us, but also in moving ahead with the process of building a revolutionary socialist party — a genuinely Leninist party — in the Philippines".