PEOPLE’S WAR REPORT: Climate Disasters and Revolution

In December this year, Typhoon Odette struck the Philippines and left a wake of destruction behind.
The ruling Duterte regime is only using a fraction of public funds of what would be needed to do proper rebuilding work.
The New People’s Army (NPA) is conducting relief work in the struck areas and mobilizing the people to organize themselves and resist state attempts to extend their military influence.
History shows that disaster relief can only succeed if you connect it to class struggle and revolution.

People’s War Report, 29.12.2021

Semi-weekly report on today’s people’s wars, their conditions and the perspectives they give us

Produced by The Red Flag

A brief explanation of the old people’s war bulletins for new readers

Introduction

From December 12th to December 22nd of this year, a typhoon by the name of Odette (international name: Rai) tore through the south of the Philippines and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, crops and livelihoods. So far, 401 people have been confirmed dead and 60 missing; around 100’000 people could be evacuated in advance. The worst thing about Odette is its economic impact: Damages are estimated at 39,3 billion Filipino pesos (₱) or 786 million US dollars, making it the third most costly typhoon in recent Filipino history.1

Everything lost in one blow.

The old Filipino state, led by the current fascist Duterte government, has done nothing to mobilize the necessary resources to salvage the livelihoods of all Filipinos affected by Odette’s aftermath.

The Filipino people, especially the millions of survivors of supertyphoon Odette, are outraged at the claim of Rodrigo Duterte that state funds have been depleted and that there is no money left for rehabilitation and reconstruction of devastated areas.

Duterte is clearly lying. The Commission on Audit revealed today that up to ₱1.4 trillion in government funds released to large infrastructure projects are lying idle and being wasted.

He later ordered the release of ₱4 billion from the Office of the Executive Secretary, an amount that is sorely insufficient to quickly bring millions of people back on their feet. Several billions of pesos more are needed to aid the people in reconstructing their homes and rebuilding their lives.

In the face of this disaster, billions of so-called intelligence and discriminatory funds should be immediately released. Billions set for the highly questionable spending of the NTF-ELCAC2 must be realigned for reconstruction in the coming weeks and months. Funds for its so-called “barangay development program” must be released to the hundreds of barangays that suffered from utter devastation.

It all likelihood, Duterte and his minions have stashed away billions of pesos of government funds as preparation for next year’s elections. Duterte is known among the bureaucrat capitalist circles for hiding his loot in China leaving his minions with little to share among themselves.

[…]

Millions of people are left with no homes or damaged houses, no electricity, no services and no telecommunication services. People are left with no jobs and no sources of income as the economic infrastructure was leveled. Agricultural fields have been wasted leaving hundreds of thousands of people at the brink of hunger.

The people who suffered the brunt of the supertyphoon are now becoming victims twice over as they are being practically abandoned by Duterte.”

https://prwcinfo.wordpress.com/2021/12/23/calamity-survivors-must-denounce-dutertes-corruption-and-wanton-infra-spending/

Climate change and imperialism

If we want to set recent typhoons like Odette in their proper context, we need to talk about global climate change. A broader marxist analysis of climate change is a huge topic that deserves articles of its own, so we will stay very basic here.

While we as a human species have always had an impact on our environment, just like all species do, environmental destruction as a societal phenomenon only started with class society3. It’s no secret anymore that you can overwork nature, that taking a large amount of resources with no regard of how this might disrupt the natural world can have disastrous consequences. Just like we are overworked as workers in that we produce much more than we get for it and the boss pockets the rest of the revenue after deducting material costs and our shitty wage, exploiters hardly care at all about what digging a huge mine in the ground and dumping the waste in the river nearby might mean for drinking water and forests in the area. While slave societies and feudal societies also experienced environmental destruction, it started increasing with the emergence of capitalism, starting with colonialism and the development of modern industry. Friedrich Engels already pointed out in 1876: „In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result […]”4

At the end of the 19th century, capitalism entered into a higher stage, imperialism5. All sources of raw material were seized more and more by monopoly associations comprised of the biggest industrialists and bankers in the capitalist countries. Production became more centralized and planned by the monopolies of different countries, though market competition and economic crises still exist. While environmental destruction was still more spontaneous when capitalism emerged and developed, imperialism generalized it on a world level by exporting it to the oppressed colonies and semi-colonies. This raised environmental destruction to a new stage: climate change. Environmental effects shifted from being mainly regional to being mainly global. This has persisted along with imperialism until today.

The most well-known effect of climate change is CO2 pollution through the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests, which to a steady temperature increase in the earth’s atmosphere: global warming, also known as the „Greenhouse Effect”. One effect that this has is the worsening of natural disasters, in particular tropical storms.

Each year the world is struck by about 86 tropical cyclones, according to a study published in the journal PNAS in May, and this has stayed constant over the last four decades. While scientists predict the number of cyclones may fall because of changing ocean conditions, the ones that do form will get stronger.

This is because of simple physics. Warmer air holds more moisture: For every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) the atmosphere warms, the air holds about 7% more water. By burning fossil fuels and heating the planet — particularly the oceans — we’ve put more water into the air.

That matters for tropical cyclones, like the ones raging across Central America and the Philippines this week, because they are powered by warm, humid ocean air. Rain falls when water vapor condenses. More water means more rain. And the heat released in that process strengthens the storm even further.”

https://www.dwnewsgngmhlplxy6o2twtfgjnrnjxbegbwqx6wnotdhkzt562tszfid.onion/en/climate-storms-cyclones-hurricanes-typhoons-explained/a-55521226

Global warming generally slows down tropical weather circulation more and more in the summer (by about ten percent in the last seventy years). Tropical cyclones travel at the speed of the environmental wind they are inside of.6 This leads to the following effect:

In the Atlantic Ocean, for instance, climate change may be slowing storms as wind patterns change. That sounds less threatening. But slow-moving storms can still have high wind speeds — they just take longer to move along their path. By pounding the areas they lingered over with stronger winds and heavier rains, this effect increased the destruction from Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over the Texan city of Houston, as well as Hurricane Florence the next year and Hurricane Dorian the year after.

[…]

By 2050, coastal floods that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to the IPCC, the gold standard on climate science. This is because climate change has made sea levels rise.

Higher seas make storms worse in two ways. First, tropical cyclones create storm surges. This means fast winds and low atmospheric pressure raise the level of water hitting the coast. This increases the frequency and intensity of flooding by raising the platform from which storm surges strike.

Then there’s the rain. After a storm, rainfall further inland that has built up tries to escape into the oceans. But this can overwhelm the capacity of drainage channels in the ground and burst riverbanks. As that travels downstream to the oceans, it can worsen flooding in coastal cities.”

https://www.dwnewsgngmhlplxy6o2twtfgjnrnjxbegbwqx6wnotdhkzt562tszfid.onion/en/climate-storms-cyclones-hurricanes-typhoons-explained/a-55521226

This brief explanation applies directly to recent Filipino history of cyclone disasters:

Approximately 19 to 20 tropical cyclones enter the Philippine area of responsibility per year, with about six to nine making landfall. This is because the country faces the Pacific Ocean where 60% of typhoons in the world originate.

Due to climate change, natural calamities now lash the country five times more than in 1980. It has also aggravated the impact of calamities today. The worst typhoons which hit the country is the past decade include Sendong (2011), Pablo (2012), Yolanda (2013), Glenda (2014) and Ompong (2018). The combined damage caused by these typhoons amount to ₱216 billion, with nearly 13,000 deaths.

Just this October to November, four strong typhoons successively hit the country resulting in 115 deaths and a conservative estimate of losses amounting to ₱45 billion. These include the supertyphoon Rolly which is considered the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year [2020 — our remark]. These typhoons resulted in massive floodings in the country which was last experienced in 2009, as well as landslides.”

https://prwcinfo.wordpress.com/2020/12/07/successive-disasters-in-2020/
Odette hitting the Philippines at full force.

Super Typhoon Yolanda and a Yankee „visit” of the Philippines

As the above quote touches on, the Philippines were hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: „Haiyan”) in November 2013. The effects of the typhoon were and still are unbelievably disastrous:

— It was the most deadly typhoon to hit the Philippines in recent times; 6’300 people were confirmed dead, with a huge dark number as vast amounts of people are missing to this day.
— 1,8 million people lost their homes and six million people were displaced in the aftermath.
— It is the typhoon that has caused the most economic damage in recent Filipino history, estimated at 95,5 billion Filipino pesos or 2,2 billion US dollars. This is more than double the amount of the runner-up, Typhoon Pablo from the year before.

Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the Eastern Visayas islands the hardest, a region where the CPPh and the NPA have been very strong in recent years. The island of Samar that suffered the first landfall has been featured in our former „People’s War Bulletins” regularly with reports of guerrilla actions carried out by the NPA there. We quote the CPPh’s Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) on the typhoon:

An estimated nine million people, or 10% of the entire Filipino population suffered the wrath of the storm considered to be the strongest in recorded history, which barreled through 36 or 72 provinces. Majority of the victims of the storm are small peasants, farm workers, fisherfolk, mountain people, workers and other poor people who are the most vulnerable to the storm. Wide swathes of land were engulfed by the surging seas resulting in massive destruction of public infrastructure, homes, property and agricultural land. It is feared that the number of deaths may run up to several thousand people.

[…]

The national mobilization of resources is necessary to sufficiently extend assistance to all areas devastated by the storm. There must be appropriate national coordination and cooperation in order to appropriately distribute help and supplies. Priority should be given to those requiring immediate medical attention, the children and the elderly.

The CPPh calls for the formation of organizations of disaster victims in order to facilitate the distribution of emergency supplies and prevent the situation from leading to widespread chaos. The people need these organizations of disaster victims in order to extend information about their situation and needs.

The commands of the New People’s Army (NPA) units operating in the devastated areas have immediately changed their mode of operation and have carried out search, rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts. Within the guerrilla front areas, barrio committees, provisional revolutionary government units and revolutionary mass organizations have immediately been mobilized to carry out efforts to assist the people and organize rehabilitation efforts to help the people resume production and other aspects of their normal lives.

[…]

The Filipino people are angered over the Aquino regime’s slow and terribly inadequate response to the disaster. They criticize Aquino for blaming the people for being unprepared. In the hours immediately after the storm, the Aquino government was practically absent in Tacloban and other parts of the country.”

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20131111_carry-out-all-out-mobilization-for-relief-support-to-disaster-victims

Directly after Yolana hit, the CPPh and the NPA called for a temporary humanitarian ceasefire between themselves and the old Filipino state. They announced however that they would still be on defensive alert. As was to be expected, the state and its Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) broke the ceasefire at the first chance they got:

Malacañang and its AFP officials were lying when they claimed that the 31st IB troops that figured in an encounter with the NPA yesterday were involved in humanitarian aid operations for Yolanda victims.”

[…]

While awaiting more detailed field reports from the NPA Celso Minguez Command in Sorsogon, it is instructive to point out that the reported encounter happened in the interior areas of Matnog, a site that is at least three kilometers away from the Maharlika Highway land route from Luzon to Samar island and five kilometers away from the Matnog port.

[…]

The Aquino regime and the AFP are lying through their teeth in claiming that their troops involved in an armed encountered yesterday were involved in a humanitarian mission, exploiting the plight of the Yolanda diaster victims to conceal the brutalities of their continued offensive operations.

[…]

The encountered AFP troops were clearly on an offensive mode and carrying out search and destroy operations in the interior areas of Matnog.”

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20131113_afp-lying-encountered-troops-in-sorsogon-not-carrying-yolanda-relief-cpp

The AFP weren’t the only ones to use the natural disaster to further their interests. The US military quickly sent out six warships to the Philippines, including US flagship aircraft carrier USS George Washington, that had with it at least 80 jet fighters as well as war helicopters and 5,000 naval soldiers. It was accompanied by the USS Antietam, USS Cowpens, USS Mustin, USS Lasses guided missile cruisers and the USS Charles Drew supply ship. The British government also sent their HMS Daring warship and a Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft.

The upper ship carries the morbid and revealing name „USNS Mercy”.

Furthermore, the US had deployed armed personnel and equipment in advance in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and other parts of the country, indicating the continuing presence of armed US troops. The military even took over the airport of Tacloban, a city that Yolanda struck at full force.

Since the US had declared its „Asia pivot” in 2010, it had been waiting for every opportunity to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, resulting in the militarization of territorial disputes and diplomatic relations among countries in the region and in outright violation of the territorial sovereignty of the Philippines and other countries.

The use of Yolanda’s aftermath to further class interests continued when the Duterte government took power in the Philippines in 2016:

The Duterte regime has demolished at least 10,000 households living in the coastal barangays of Tacloban City, Palo, and Tanauan, Leyte to give way for the construction of the 7.9 billion-worth Tide Embankment Project. It has displaced residents of marginalized fishing communities surrounding the San Jose Airport to facilitate the entry of foreign goods and capital in the regional center.

It continues to be fixated on big-ticket infrastructure projects, while pulling further into poverty the majority of disaster survivors who live in farming communities in the region. Farmers continue to suffer from lack of aid, low agricultural production, crop infestation, low prices of their produce, rising costs of basic commodities, neoliberal policies in agriculture, and intense militarization among other fascist attacks.”

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20131111_carry-out-all-out-mobilization-for-relief-support-to-disaster-victims

The situation with Odette today

There’s no question that the aftermath of Typhoon Odette will play out much the same as the aftermath of Yolanda did. The actions of the AFP and the US military come as no surprise. These operations served their class interests, so they didn’t have to think twice about it in doing it again at first notice.

Already now, the 62nd Infantry Battalion in Negros Oriental is forcing disaster survivors to rebuild their damaged detatchments, while self-organized „bayanihan” mutual aid groups are being red-tagged (= framed as communists and repressed on that basis).

Natural disasters simply sharpen class contradictions. What they’re doing must be denounced not as something inhumane, but as proving which side they’re on. In turn, it’s essential that the CPPh and the NPA use relief work to strengthen the new state they’re building and the Filipino revolution as a whole. The NPA has already announced that things like mutual support activities and medicinal services are not enough:

In addition to performing these social duties, the NPA must also help the peasant masses amplify their demand for reducing or suspending land rent and cancellation of debts, and for urgent state subsidies to help them recover from their losses.”

https://prwcinfo.wordpress.com/2021/12/18/mobilize-the-people-in-the-wake-of-typhoon-odettes-destruction/

In order to carry out proper disaster relief, it’s necessary to take class struggle as the key link. Rebuilding parts of society that have been destroyed always bear the question: Rebuild it how, rebuild it serving whom?

There are historical examples from China in the 20th century for how this played out. In 1976, China was struck by the worse earthquake in human history that hit Peking among other places and left over a million people dead. Some people in charge of the disaster relief, such as Teng Hsiao-ping and Hua Ko-feng, would become the engineers of the counterrevolutionary coup that took place that same year in China after Mao Tse-tung died. They used the relief work to strengthen their position in China’s armed forces and push for rewarding people with bonus wages for doing relief work, essentially trying to replace solidarity with bribery.

There is also an excellent example from the Chinese revolutionary war on how relief work can be carried out to serve the revolution. In 1938, while fascist Japan was invading China, the Chinese Kuomintang government decided to intentionally breach the southern dam of the Yellow River in an attempt to slow the invaders down. While the ensuing flood did little to halt the invasion, it killed at least half a million people in China and turned millions into refugees. It was the biggest disaster that happened in the entirety of World War 2. The Chinese communists took control of the situation, correctly denounced the Kuomintang government as being willing to sacrifice millions of Chinese lives for a panicked and fruitless war manoeuvre and set up the Yuwansu base area in the hit area in the years after the breach. This work went so well that the communists and masses were even able to temporarily beat back US and UN forces that entered the country to „seal the breach” in 1947, two years before the Chinese revolution triumphed.

The CPPh and the NPA would profit a lot from learning from these examples, focusing less on denouncing the old society’s human rights abuses and more on constructing the new society and expropriating landlords and private companies who will start exploiting the people again the minute they’ve mitigated their damages.

We here in Switzerland must also draw lessons from revolutionary relief work to apply ourselves in the future. The melting of the Alpine glaciers is causing more and more mountain dams to form. If such natural dam breaks, the surrounding valleys will be flooded and cause death and destruction just like with Odette and Yolanda. If the revolutionaries aren’t there to help then, the reactionaries will definitely be there first.


Appendix – Action report

India

Sabotage

22/12/2021: Destruction of a truck, a multi-utility vehicle and a JCB machine at a stone crushing plant in Murdona village (Bijapur) by a dozen Naxalites.

28/12/2021: Naxalites targeted a contractor of Bhilai Steel Plant, India’s first and biggest steel rail producer, with an explosive near Narayanpur (Chhattisgarh).

Guerrilla combat

21/12/2021: Injury of an assistant constable of the District Reserve Guard of Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) by an explosive attack while the Naxalites were on retreat from a counterinsurgency operation in the area (they suffered no casualties).

The People’s Liberation Guerilla Army of India.

The Philippines

Guerrilla combat

14/12/2021: Disarmament of the Moncal criminal armed group in Quintin Remo township (Negros Occidental). A .357 pistol was confiscated and the group was warned to cease their theft and harassment activities, lest they face judgement by the people’s revolutionary court and higher forms of punishment.

15/12/2021: „The NPA-Surigao del Sur was able to seize three pistols in an ambush against soldiers in Barangay San Vicente, Madrid on December 15. The soldiers were aboard an Isuzu pick-up when they were ambushed. The NPA belied claims by the military that the soldiers were deployed in the area to facilitate preemptive evacuation of residents and distribute relief goods in preparation for the typhoon Odette.

Unfortunately, two motorcycle-riding civilians were injured as they were hit when they overtook the soldiers’ vehicle. The responsible NPA unit issued an apology to the victims’ families for this weakness and offered to indemnify them.”

(Taken from „The Country”, 21.12.2021)

Selective annihilation

29&30/11/2021: Punishment of anti-communist, fascist militia member and AFP affiliate by the NPA-Roselyn Jean Pelle Command; the day after, punishment of a rapist and robber that had been reported to the people’s revolutionary court months earlier.

14/12/2021: People’s justice was served against a rapist and informant by the NPA-RJPC in Bandila township (Negros Occidental).

20/12/2021: Punishment of a military asset and hitman by the NPA-Leonardo Panaligan Command in Cabacungan township (Negros Occidental) after multiple chances were given him to transform himself.


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Rai

2 „National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict” — a fascist counterinsurgency paramilitary force founded by current Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte grants these goons billions of Filipino Pesos in government funding. They can act almost fully independently in terrorizing the Filipino masses as they please, be it by occupying villages or staging forced „NPA surrenders”.

3 „What are classes in general? Classes are that which permits one section of society to appropriate the labour of another section. If one section of society appropriates all the land, we have a landowner class and a peasant class. If one section of society owns the factories, shares and capital, while another section works in these factories, we have a capitalist class and a proletarian class.” — V. I. Lenin: „The Tasks of the Youth Leagues”, 02.10.1920 http://i4o5f6f7udiw3np2e5ycgubyeivwi2ija7e4gkydqltvkebv57trhiyd.onion/en/v-i-lenin-the-tasks-of-the-youth-leagues/

4 Friedrich Engels: „The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man”, 1876

5 See V. I. Lenin: „Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, October 1916 http://i4o5f6f7udiw3np2e5ycgubyeivwi2ija7e4gkydqltvkebv57trhiyd.onion/en/v-i-lenin-imperialism-and-the-split-in-socialism/

6 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0158-3