A Tribute

Joma Sison is No More

Harsh Thakor

Professor Joma Sison passed away in the night of December 16, 2022. Joma died peacefully after a period of confinement in a hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands. He was 83.

The Communist Party of Phillipines (CPP) declared ten days as a period of mourning for the entire Party in order to give the highest possible tribute to Joma. It decided to dedicate the Party’s upcoming 54th anniversary to Joma’s memory, to celebrate his life and all the victories that Filipinos have achieved under his leadership and guidance. All units of the New People’s Army (NPA) have been ordered to stand in formation at the break of dawn of December 26 and silently perform a 21-gun salute by way of giving honour and bidding farewell to their beloved leader.

He was responsible for re-establishing the Communist Party of Phillipines in December 1968 and igniting the spark of the armed struggle in 1969.Unfortunately the so-called mainstream media is hailing Sison’s death as a culmination of the armed insurrection of the CPP, and a victory of the fascist Duterte regime.

Professor Jose Maria Sison ranks amongst the most accomplished Marxist leaders, and writers, to have landed their feet into the Communist movement. Few leaders have contributed so much to shape a nation’s path breaking achievements in revolutionary movement or defend citadel of Marxism-Leninism. Sison knitted the scattered seeds to sow the nucleus of the Communist Party of Philllipines and the New People’s Army. His writings and talks most illustratively trace the genesis of the germinating of the people’s war and how the party and red army steered through the most tortuous paths to lead one of the greatest armed uprisings in history.

In 1974, Sison was captured by the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and faced years of torture and solitary confinement before being released in 1986 after the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. In 1988, Sison was forced to seek asylum in the Netherlands after the Philippine reactionary government cancelled his passport while he was abroad on a speaking tour.

Sison obtained recognition as political refugee from the Dutch Council of State in1992, and has since enjoyed the protection of the principle of non-refoulement under the Geneva Refugee Convention and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, thus preventing his deportation to the Philippines or any third country.

While the people’s war continued, Sison faced repeated attempts of legal harassment and repression during his forced exile.

In recent decades no Marxist leader as symmetrically defended or synthesised theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought or distinguished it from revisionism. With deep dialectical approach he defended concept of the party as a vanguard and rebuked post-modernism and Trotskyism. Through his writings, Joma formulated the theoretical foundation of the Philippine revolution. He also left behind a rich and deep Marxist-Leninist-Maoist treasure trove which will serve as guide for the Party’s continued growth in the next stage of the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggles. No Marxist intellectual has produced such diverse range of writings in the last half century, be it on people’s war, political economy, massline, fascism, environment and climatic changes, Maoism, History of Communist Movement in the Philippines etc.

He gave a most balanced analysis of the pros and cons of USSR under Lenin and Stalin and China under Mao, giving a striking blow to the counter revolutionary winds, defacing Socialism.

Joma’s interviews as writings illuminated light of liberation struggle in nation more than any Marxist leader since Chairman Gonzalo, in 1992 and gave a most lucid illustration of the International economic crisis and the global setback in Marxist movements.

He exposed the most sectarian or anti-Marxist nature of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and even aspects of the Peruvian Communist Party proclaiming ‘Gonzalo Thought’, ‘Militarisation of the Party’, ‘People’s War Till Communism’.

Unlike dogmatist Maoists he upheld Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevera as great Marxist revolutionaries and, projected the progressive nature of societies like Cuba.

Most comprehensively he analysed the futility of line of protracted people’s war in Imperialist countries, and why it was unique for third world countries. In the last few decades no leader as comprehensively projected how Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought has not been extinguished from the globe and could still resurrect like phoenix from the Ashes.Sison’s writings illustrate that Maoism is not only about military line but on establishing the Broad United Front.

Sison’s writings are an invaluable treasure house for any Marxist reader or revolutionary Democrat. His very biography is also fascinating, illustrating what factors crystallise the spiritual transformation of a Marxist revolutionary. Sison was a most accomplished poet, whose poems were soul-searching.

A most important lesson to be imbibed was how he integrated the CCP and the NPA in the 1970’s in the background of the fascist Marcos regime, and how his leadership sprouted bastions of mass revolutionary democratic formations from below, or people’s self government. Another most important aspect of study is Joma’s refutation of urban putchist struggle.

He demonstrated how a United Front like the National Democratic Front of Phillipines could include even Non- Marxist forces, establish link of people’s war with urban areas and even adopt extra-parliamentary methods of struggle.

Sison’s writings distinguished between massline and military line, contrasting the role and practice of the CPP with the NPA.

He illustrated that Maoism was an integral part of Marxism-Leninism and not a separate entity. In recent times he most boldly defended Russia in the Ukraine War, even if it was an Imperialist country. Joma asserted that Russia was confronting the tyranny of NATO backed expansionism.

With deep insight Sison probed into China’s imperialist ventures but asserted how revolutionaries should utilise its contradiction with United States of America.

He displayed great humility in assessing that the CPI (Maoist) in playing a leading role in the International Communist Movement and held its contribution in Dandakaranya in great esteem. Extricating himself from dogmatism he gave high credibility to the CPI (Maoist) analysis on Brahmanical fascism or caste question.

With an open mind he expressed admiration for the Russian Workers Party and paid homage to Irina Malivnoskaya.,after her death.

Most imaginatively, he encouraged Pakistani activists of ‘Workers and Peasants Party’ and National Students Federation of Pakistan to combat the revisionist lines.

Joma also endorsed the contribution of the Church and classed it as an ally to the revolution, thus not completely negating religion.

As a leader of National Democratic Front with great resilience he gave solidarity to anti-imperialist struggles blooming all over the globe.

Sison’s writings are useful even for non-Marxists in many spheres and for progressive intellectuals in general.

In recent times 11 books have been published of the Sison reader series. Without rhetoric they rationally address subjects. They comprise On Culture, Art and Literature, On the Philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Critique of Philippine Economy and Politics, On the People’s Democratic Revolution, On the Communist Party of the Philippines 1968-1999, On the Communist Party of the Philippines, 2000-2022, On People’s War, On the United Front, On the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations, Socialism: Resistance and Resurgence, and On the Marcos Fascist Dictatorship.

Sison recently in On the Philosophy of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, refuted subjectivist idealism. He has also written articles on the Frankfurt school, Austrian school, French postmodernism, the British analytic philosophy and so on.

Joma Sison last month wrote an invaluable essay on World Imperialism written from a Leninist standpoint; traversing all spheres it dissected positive and negative elements. It delves on crystallisation of modern imperialism to dominance, elaborates the current contradictions and crises engulfing the world’s capitalist countries and the entire global capitalist system, and illustrates prospects for revival of anti-imperialist struggle and socialism.

Joma’s main weaknesses lay in soft-pedalling and establishing relations with revisionist parties like in erstwhile USSR and Eastern Europe in the 1980’s, to build the United Front.

He hailed countries like Cuba and Vietnam as Socialist erroneously and took an eclectical position upholding Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

He failed to diagnose the left sectarian line practised by the CPI (Maoist) in India.

Sison upheld nationality struggles in India in Punjab, Kashmir and Assam in 1996 without a concrete understanding of the Indian realities.

Joma failed to adopt a firm stand against Lin Biaoism, and failed to recognise contribution of Zhou En Lai. His recognition of China going revisionist under Deng was much delayed in 1989.

He hardly investigated deeply into the reversals in actually existing Socialist Societies in East Europe.

Joma made no diagnosis of changes in methods of people’s war in accordance with the changed times of globalisation.

He didn’t make any constructive self-criticism of the stagnation in the armed movement in Phillipines and even overestimated prospects of victory of revolution.

Sison also did not redress the aspect of why the International Communist Movement received such a jolt and the proletariat was so alienated.

He also made a kind of balanced assessment of M K Gandhi, treating him as a Tolstoy type social reformer, but still an opponent of revolution.


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Vol 55, No. 28, Jan 8 - 14, 2023