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:
- 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)
- 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)
- Communist Party of Vietnam (Communist Party of Indochina in
1930, Vietnam Workers' Party in 1951 and Communist Party of Vietnam
- Malayan Communist Party (1930)
- Burmese Communist Party (1939)
- Communist Party of Thailand (Communist Party of Siam in 1942)
- Party of Democratic Kampuchea (Kampuchea People's Revolutionary
Party in 1951, Cambodian Communist Party in 1960 and Party of Democratic
Kampuchea in 1981)
- Lao People's Revolutionary Party (Lao People's Party in 1955
and Lao People's Revolutionary Party in 1975)
- North Kalimantan Communist Party (1971)
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 Indonesian people.
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.
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 scale.
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.
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
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 onwards.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 Thailand.
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.
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 people's war).
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 broadcasting station.
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 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 truce.
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
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
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 system.
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 various forces.
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. ###
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