People’s war report (formerly bulletin), 29.11.2021
Semi-weekly report on today’s people’s wars, their conditions and the perspectives they give us
Produced by The Red Flag
We apologize and self-criticize for not having uploaded a people’s war report last Monday as would be on schedule. Visitors of the website will have noticed a lot of different uploads in the past weeks, but a regular post should ideally never have to be delayed. To make up for this, we are back on track a week later and hope that you can take something along from this week’s report into your everyday struggles.
„There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”Vladimir I. Lenin
„Therefore, it is clear that there is no other path aside from that of armed struggle revolution across the country, if we truly want to liberate the oppressed people of our country and end the tyranny of the military junta which relies on their control of the arms to enact their terrorist acts.”Central Committee of the Communist Party of Burma: „Manifesto of the People’s Liberation Army”, 23.08.2021
Everyone will agree that we are living in grim times. The news are filled with new tragic reports on surging Covid-19 cases; governments mismanaging the crisis or not giving a shit and indirectly murdering millions of masses, as is the case for most third-world countries; fascists using the situation in order to build up putschist movements that are reactionary to the core, such as in this country; the USA threatening a military invasion in Ethiopia; refugees being shot at and put in camps by the Belarussian fascist Lukashenko who proudly talks of slaughtering them while the EU refuses to take even the minimum of refugees in; the climate being destroyed more day by day through imperialist excesses while all COP26 can offer is empty words; the list really doesn’t end.
Many of us often opt for not reading any more news altogether because our own daily struggles are already weighing down on us so much. How can coping with news of Lukashenko wanting to massacre refugees make a day of overtime or of yet another rejected job application more bearable? When we do read the news, we mostly shrug our shoulders in a depressed fashion, give our view on the events and conclude with “well that’s how the world works”.
Today’s bulletin doesn’t want to deny that this is how the world generally works today. We don’t want to provide feel-good headlines that gloss over the deep injustices of the world capitalist system and spread the illusion that „there is still joy to be found in the old society”. We do however want to outline that there is also a new society blooming from of this old landscape of death. In order to grasp where humanity is headed, we must look both the old and the new in the eye so that we can firmly make the decision that we want the new, that we want to help it completely destroy the old and accept the burdenful process that comes with it.
This article should especially remind all of us that the everyday drawl of exhaustion, frustration and depression can be shaken up quite abruptly and often at the most unexpected moments. Because in the last month, international news emerged that none of us have been able to hear in seventeen years since the CPI (Maoist) was formed: A new people’s war has been initiated – in Burma1! The Communist Party of Burma (CPB) has returned from exile in China and has refounded the People’s Liberation Army in the midst of the renewed state takeover of a brutal military junta that staged a coup in February this year.
Where there is repression,
resistance will soon follow
Undoubtedly, we all felt numb and desperate once again when we read the news in February:
„Myanmar’s military seized power of the Southeast Asian country in a coup on Monday, after detaining the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and numerous other top government figures.
In a television address, the army announced that power had been handed to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and that it was declaring a national state of emergency for one year.
Suu Kyi and several state ministers are being detained in the capital Naypyidaw, according to a spokesman for the governing National League for Democracy (NLD).”https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/01/asia/myanmar-military-coup-explainer-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
… and even more so when looking at what the bourgeois media is reporting now:
„More than 1,000 civilians have been killed in Myanmar since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a human rights group that records killings by the country’s security forces.
As of August 18, the association said 1,006 people had been killed since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi triggering nationwide protests and a mass civil disobedience movement.”https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/18/myanmar-coup-aapp-1000-killed-military
Yes, Burma has experienced a fascist coup. The military is governing the country directly once more.
This is nothing new for the Burmese people at all. 1962 to 2011 was marked by exclusively military rule – almost fifty years of it! It all started when the military commander Ne Win putsched in 1962. For the next 26 years, the military ruled under a disgustingly deceptive party name, “Burma Socialist Programme Party”, before the State Peace and Development Council militarily ruled the country from 1988 on until 2011.
Military rule was then officially ended and the junta initiated a “democratic transitiory phase” together with the National League for Democracy. General Thein Sein was put in power through a sham election and stayed the head of state until Aung San Suu Kyi was elected in 2021 shortly before the coup took place. Aung San played an important role for the Burmese state in the 2010s when she “took blame” for the ongoing state-led genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma that started in 2016 and has resulted in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh of nearly a million inhabitants.
Contrasting this brief history of the Burmese ruling class, the Communist Party of Burma was founded in 1939 as the oldest political party in Burma. During World War II, most of the party dedicated itself to bulding a people’s front against fascism and the party was involved at the front of the liberation struggle against the Japanese fascists. After the war, the majority of the party took up the ideas of an American pseudo-communist called Earl Browder: They said that because of the instability that the war had bestowed on imperialism, a legal electoral path to liberation and socialism was possible, despite the fact that the British colonizers returned right after the Japanese had been driven out. Due to this, a split occurred in the party, with the „Red Flag” faction of the communist party upholding the line of armed struggle. This was initiated in 1948, and due to the party grasping Burma as a semi-colonial country early on, the turn to the guidance of Mao Tse-tung and his thought in the 1960s after failed attempts at peace talks (i.e. capitulation) was not a large one. In 1989, the party split apart over internal strife. Mainly, a large wing of the PLA comprised of people from the Wa ethnicity split off and formed the … The party leadership went into exile in China until this year, when it reentered the country more ready than ever to retake the line of people’s war for liberating Burma. In August, the People’s Liberation Army of Burma was refounded.
The manifesto of the PLA provides a different perspective into the conditions in Burma at the moment and why the time is right to take up people’s war once more:
„5. Worker strikes and protests were occurring on regular basis. There were also peasant strikes across the country due to the military personals, military-owned enterprises, cronies and big businesses occupying and seizing the lands of the farmers illegally. Many workers and peasants were jailed subsequently. And in these instances, the NLD [National League for Democracy – our remark] government chose to stand with the oppressors instead of the oppressed. In the meantime, students started to protest because they were losing students‘ educational rights and the reform of the education system. Students and student unions who cannot stand and watch the injustice happening over the oppressed people enacted strikes and protests frequently (for example, students cooperating with workers on worker strikes).
6. Regardless, the NLD managed to win the 2020 elections, again with a landslide, same result as the last time. The military junta deemed the election results as a threat to their future economic interests and attempted to change the election results. But this time, negotiation between the junta and the NLD government fell through and to cancel the election results the junta decided to resort to military coup to protect their economic interests and possessions. But the coup was widely protested against by various political forces and all the oppressed citizens.”Central Committee of the Communist Party of Burma: „Manifesto of the People’s Liberation Army”, 23.08.2021
All genuine communists, revolutionaries and people with a deep wish for today’s hellish conditions to end were filled with joy at the news of Burma’s communists taking up their tasks and arms again. Undoubtedly, these news came as a great surprise to almost everyone. We are excited to be reporting not on merely two, but three people’s wars from here on out! For now, let us share the first photos from a PLA training camp that have been shared internationally.
How did it all start in India?
The origins of today’s people’s war being led in India trace back to a huge militant peasant revolt that started in India’s Naxalbari region of the district of Darjeeling in West Bengal, known as the “Naxalbari uprising” because of this. The communists, fighters and masses involved in India’s people’s war are hence commonly dubbed „Naxalites”.
India gained its formal independence from British colonial rule in 1947. However, as was the case with all declarations of independence that didn’t emerge from worker-led revolutionary struggle, it remained just that: formal. While India’s own national government was established, economic control still fully resided in the hands of foreign imperialists.
India had already had a genuine communist party (CPI) in the past that was founded in 1925. In the beginning, the party was very committed to making revolution and against collaboration with the British imperialists. For example, they founded the League Against Gandhism2 in 1934.
After formal indepence, the party led armed struggle in the countryside in 1948 against landlords, mainly in the state of Telangana, under the leadership of B. T. Ranadive and guided by a ‘Programme of Democratic Revolution’ that the second party congress had adopted. At the height of the struggle, the area liberated by the party and its people’s army and militias amassed about three million people. This aroused the “new” state’s bloodlust and the rebellion was brutally crushed, after which opportunism took over the party and B. T. Ranadive was denounced as a ‘left-adventurist’ and expelled.
From there on out, the once truly communist party only retained its name and completely sold out the Indian masses in favor of participating in the Indian government — a fitting thing, as this government had been formed through the very same betrayal. The huge success and lessons from the Chinese revolution that won in 1949 were completely disregarded, instead a “purely Indian” path supposedly followed.
Over the next decades, growing inner-party discontent for the sellout policies the leadership was following eventually led to a split in the CPI in 1964 and the CPI (Marxist) was formed. This split happened while internationally, the historic Great Debate was taking place between the genuine Communist Party of China with Mao Tse-tung at its head and the no-longer genuine Communist Party of the Soview Union, headed by the putschist and splitter Chrushchev. The CPI(M) first claimed „neutrality” in the ongoing international conflict between marxism and revisionism ( = dressing up capitalist ideas and actions as marxist ones). Then eventually, it sided with the Chrushchev clique and degenerated in the exact same way the CPI had. The newly adopted electoralism of the CPI(M) was extremely welcome to the Soviet revisionists: It was a great opportunity for them to get a foot in Indian politics and fight for a piece of the cake, as since the putsch they were driving by the same interests as the big capitalists of the US, Britain or the likes.
Among the members of the newly-founded CPI(M) was a communist named Charu Majumdar, who himself originated from the same region as Naxalbari. He later refounded India’s true communist party under the nape of CPI (Marxist-Leninist) became the ideological and political leader of the Naxalites before the old Indian state murdered him in prison in 1972. He initiated the struggle against the CPI(M)’s growing opportunism and ideologically fought for the Indian revolution to follow the Chinese example with the ‘Historic Eight Documents’ starting in 1965, the last of which was written two years later shortly before the uprising started. In it, he describes the political situation as follows:
„After giving the employers full right to exploit, the workers are being asked not to wage any struggle. Immediately after the Communist Party joined the government that was installed as a result of a mighty mass movement, the path of class collaboration was chosen. […] We have witnessed the betrayal of the working class. To this is to be added the announcement of the Communist Party leader, Harekrishna Konar. In the beginning he promised that all vested lands would be distributed among the landless peasants. Then the quantity of land to be distributed was slashed. In the end he informed that the existing arrangement would be left undisturbed this year. Remission of land revenue was left to the mercy of junior land reforms officers (JLROs). The peasants were shown the path of submitting petitions. They were further told that forcible seizure of land would not be permitted. Harekrishna Babu is not only a member of the Communist Party‘s Central Committee, he is also the Secretary of the Krishak Sabha in West Bengal. It was in response to the call of the Krishak Sabha led by him that the peasants had waged a struggle for recovery of vested and benami land in 1959. In the interest of landowners the government had resorted to repression and had given decisions in favour of eviction, yet the peasants had not given up possession of land in many-cases and had stuck on to the land on the strength of village unity. Did the Krishak Sabha leader support their movement after becoming a Minister ? No.
Agrarian revolution is the task of this very moment; this task cannot be left undone, and without doing this, nothing good can be done for the peasants. But before carrying out agrarian revolution, destruction of State power is necessary. Striving for agrarian revolution without destruction of State power means outright revisionism. So, destruction of State power is today the first and principal task of peasant movement. If this cannot be done on a country-wide, State-wide basis, will the peasants wait silently? No, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought has taught us that if in any area the peasants can be roused politically, then we must go ahead with the task of destroying State power in that area. This is what is known as peasants‘ liberated area. The struggle for building up this liberated area is the most urgent task of the peasant movement today, a task of this moment. What shall we call a liberated area? We shall call that peasant area liberated from which we have been able to overthrow the class enemies. For building up this liberated area we need the armed force of the peasants. When we speak of the armed force we have in mind the arms made by the peasants. So also we want arms. Whether the peasants have come forward to collect awns or not is the basis on which we shall judge whether they have been politically roused. Wherefrom shall the peasants get guns ? The class enemies have guns and they live in the village. Guns have to be taken forcibly from them. They will not hand over their arms to us voluntarily. Therefore, we shall have to seize guns forcibly from them.”Charu Majumdar: „Carry Forward the Peasant Struggle by Fighting Revisionism”, April 1967
This is exactly what happened over the course of the following summer.
„A peal of spring thunder has crashed over the land of India. Revolutionary peasants in the Darjeeling area have risen in rebellion. Under the leadership of a revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party [inside the CPI(M) – our remark], a red area of rural revolutionary armed struggle has been established in India. This is a development of tremendous significance for the Indian people’s revolutionary struggle. In the past few months, the peasant masses in this area, led by the revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party, have thrown off the shackles of modern revisionism and smashed the trammels that bound them. They have seized grain, land and weapons from the landlords and plantation owners, punished the local tyrants and wicked gentry, and ambushed the reactionary troops and police that went to suppress them thus demonstrating the enormous might of the peasants’ revolutionary armed struggle. All imperialists, revisionists, corrupt officials, local tyrants and wicked gentry, and reactionary army and police are nothing in the eyes of the revolutionary peasants who are determined to strike them down to the dust. The absolutely correct thing has been done by the revolutionary group of the Indian Communist Party and they have done it well. The Chinese people joyfully applaud this revolutionary storm of the Indian peasants in the Darjeeling area as do all Marxist-Leninists and revolutionary people of the whole world.”Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist): “Spring Thunder Over India”, November 1967
In the face of large-scale betrayal of the Indian masses by the party that was supposed to be made of the best among them, the peasants defied all odds by taking up arms. The true communists in the CPI(M) pulled their feet out of the deepening swamp of opportunism, joined the front rows of the uprising and were expelled for this. The CPI(ML) was founded in 1967 as a response and ever since then, India has consistently had a true communist party, albeit with many mistakes and deviations as it always is, that is committed to free and transform the entire country, today under the name of the CPI(Maoist) as we know.
How was it in the Philippines?
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had been founded in 1930. After it was illegalized and persecuted at the behest of the supreme court of the US, a different party, the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) developed widespread mass work among the peasantry. After the CPP was legalized again in 1937 due to public pressure, the CPP and SPP merged in 1938.
During this time however, two revisionist family cliques, the Lavas and the Tarucs, started to exert more and more influence over the party. During World War 2, while the Philippines were occupied by the Japanese fascists, these two families saw to it that the armed resistance spearheaded by the People’s Army Against Japan never exceeded resistance against the occupiers and developed into a broader armed struggle against imperialism and semi-feudalism (that is, when medieval conditions dominated by landlords exploiting poor peasants exist parallel to a country being oppressed by foreign capitalist powers too). The CPP’s youth organization, Patriotic Youth, writes on this: „Even with regards to armed struggle, the leadership of the merger party with Vicente Lava as general secretary adopted the line of “retreat for defense,” a policy of reducing guerrilla units into impotent teams of three to five persons and avoiding armed combat with the enemy. This line was proclaimed after the Japanese fascist troops attacked the main base of the Hukbalahap at the foot of a small vulnerable mountain, Mount Arayat in the middle of the Central Luzon plains. However, the people’s army made significant strides in armed struggle mainly because several platoon-size and company-size units disregarded the policy and spontaneously fought the enemy; and because finally in September 1944 a Party conference declared the ‘retreat for defense’ policy erroneous. But soon after, the US military forces landed to reoccupy the Philippines and arm their puppets.”3 After the war ended, the Lava and Taruc clique went completely mask-off: They went after every high party post, they tried to dissolve the party as the leading body of the revolution and the people’s army as its arms, they sought cooperation with the USA who held economic power again, they tried to get amnesty for the party’s armed fight against Japan etc. etc. After decades of mistakes, mismanagements and open sabotages of especially the Lava family amidst the continued oppression of the Philippines by mainly the USA, it was time for drastic change. This change came in 1968:
„On December 26, 1968, the proletarian revolutionary cadres led by Amado Guerrero reestablished the Communist Party of the Philippines under the guidance of the theory of Marxism-Leninism and along the general line of national democratic revolution. The reestablishment of the Party was exceedingly timely. The chronic crisis of the ruling system was rapidly worsening. The socio-economic crisis aggravated and the political crisis was increasingly characterized by violence among the reactionary factions. National industrialization was blocked; even the repackaging and reassembly plants could no longer be tolerated by the United States. At the same time, there was exhaustion of the land frontier for spontaneous peasant resettlement as the principal way out for the ever increasing surplus labor. Violent strife was incipient among the reactionary political factions as they competed to gain influence in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to form small private armies. The Marcos ruling clique was determined to hold on to power by taking the initiative in using counterrevolutionary violence under the guise of anticommunism. The tendency toward fascism was on the rise. The subjective forces [i.e. communists, revolutionaries and active masses – our remark] were resurgent and had steadily grown in strength in the preceding decade through the emergence of fresh proletarian cadres, painstaking mass work and comprehensive and militant legal mass movement. Such pseudorevolutionaries as the Lavas and Tarucs were obstacles to the growth of the revolutionary mass movement. But their negative examples became the target of criticism, were repudiated and served to firm up the resolve of the proletarian cadres and the broad mass movement to take the correct revolutionary path. The causes and factors for the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines were mainly and essentially internal to the Philippines. However, under the aegis of proletarian internationalism, the Party took the firm and militant stand of uniting with all forces participating in or supporting armed movements for national liberation and democracy in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines: „Brief Review of the History of the Communist Party of the Philippines”, 26.12.1988
Fascism was indeed on the rise. Ferdinand Marcos, who would go on to rule the Philippines until 1988 when a party-led mass movement ousted him, was intensifying his country-selling and repression of the people. During his election campaign of 1969, Marcos spent $50 million worth in debt-funded infrastructure, triggering a Balance of Payments crisis, meaning the state couldn’t even pay for its most basic imports anymore. The Marcos administration ran to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for help, and the IMF offered a debt restructuring deal. New policies, including a greater emphasis on exports and the relaxation of controls of the Philippine peso, were put in place. The peso was allowed to float to a lower market value, resulting in drastic inflation. Out of these circumstances arose the First Quarter Storm, the first big leap in the Philippine revolutionary movement since the CPPh’s founding. The Patriotic Youth (Kabataang Makabayan) writes:
„The gigantic mass protests in FQS of 1970 were unprecedented in scale and intensity, They were the culmination of the long series of smaller mass protests launched by the youth from 1961 onwards and carried out even more militantly and more widely since 1964 under the leadership of the comprehensive [communist – our remark] youth organization, Kabataang Makabayan.
Marcos had just won his reelection by spending a colossal amount of public money in the 1969 presidential elections and was widely denounced for the resultant soaring of the prices of basic commodities. Reacting to protest mass actions in December 1969, he threatened to declare martial by way of intimidating the opposition and the people.
But he would concur with the reformists, including the clerico-fascists who called themselves social-democrats, that charter change was necessary to prevent the social volcano from erupting. He had the ulterior motive of imposing a fascist dictatorship on the people by initially using transitory provisions of a new constitution.
On January 26, 1970 in front of Congress, 10,000 student demonstrators came from the Catholic schools under a reformist leadership. The bigger KM contingent, consisting of students and workers, joined them. Marcos made the mistake of ordering the attack on the demonstrators after a cardboard coffin was thrown at him by a small group headed by the radio broadcaster, Roger Arienda.
The police brutality inflicted casualties on the student demonstrators. But it served to ignite the series of mass protests, which ranged in size from 50,000 to 150,000, from January to March 1970 in the national capital region. These spread to other universities, colleges and high schools on a nationwide scale.
As a result of its previous work in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the youth in the sixties, the KM was able to spearhead the FQS of 1970 as it grew and developed. At the same time, the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP) sought to build a broad united front to oppose the US-Marcos regime.
The FQS gave birth to so many youth activists and so many youth groups. The organizers and speakers of the main political organizations and cultural groups played a key role in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the youth. They generated thousands of young activists who advanced the national democratic movement in schools, urban communities, factories and farms.
The FQS became a cultural revolution, as Prop-ED teams, schools for national democracy and cultural groups of creative writers and artists proliferated and became active. Revolutionary literature flourished. The marches and rallies were always enlivened by artistic murals and performances.
Many of those who joined Kabataang Makabayan, the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan and various cultural groups in the course of the FQS eventually became proletarian revolutionaries and joined the Communist Party of the Philippines. They were determined to carry out the people’s democratic revolution through people’s war in response to Marcos’ threat and preparations for fascist dictatorship.
By the time that Marcos suspended the writ of habeas corpus on August 21, 1971 and then proclaimed martial law on September 22, 1972, there was already a large corps of educated youth and workers determined to wage the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war.”Kabataang Makabayan: „Celebrate the FQS of 1970, honor and emulate the heroic activist youth”, 26.01.2020
As we can see, history is full of ups and downs, and the ruling exploiters are only too eager to keep us focused on the downs and get depressed, provide fake ups and give us false hope (such as through elections) or try to have us mistake ups for downs (mainly through piles upon piles of anti-communist propaganda mainly directed against the early Soviet Union in school). A lot of people, upon being told about the people’s war in India of example, express confusion over having never heard about this glorious perspective before. Of course most of us haven’t: Genuine good news is poison for the capitalists’ oppressive plans and mechanisms! But the tendency towards revolution and a world in the hands of working people is nevertheless growing globally.
Something to also take out of this report is how every time a revolutionary party is formed or reformed, it has to do so by fiercely attacking and exposing every person and organization that is faking it and throwing around revolutionary words for personal (and in essence capitalist) benefit. All these revisionist parties and groups also bear a huge amount of the blame when it comes to people generally being hopeless about the future of the world. So many times, we have been betrayed, oppressed and shot at by bearers of red flags that never had any right to hold them in the first place. For example, if you speak to people from Yugoslavia about revolution and that communists are the best at them, their mind jumps to Tito and they won’t get interested, but apathetic, angry or scared. That’s another why spreading the news of the people’s wars going on and why they are important for all of us is essential in these grim times; there’s no better contrast to a fake revolution than an actual one.
The vast majority of people in India certainly didn’t see the Naxalbari coming and were caught completely off-guard. Revolutionary struggle can vanish for years or even for decades, but when it comes back, it does so with a “bang!”. This day came in India, it came in the Philippines, it has come in Burma and it will certainly come in this country too one day. It’s our task as people who want revolution to give our all to ensure that this moment comes sooner than later. As a combat song from the former people’s war in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s says: “We are the initiators!”
1We reject the conventional name “Myanmar”, as this name was chosen by the fascist ruling clique of Burma of the past. As the PLA puts it: “In each historical epoch, the feudal monarchs named our country „Myanmar“ (or Burma), such as „The 1st Burmese Empire“ of King Anawrahta, „The 2nd Burmese Empire“ of King Bayinnaung and „The 3rd Burmese Empire“ of King Alaungpaya. These names came from the victorious conquests of the feudal monarchs over the lands of other ethnic groups (for example; the invasion and annexation of Thaton Kingdom of Mon people by Anawrahta‘s Pagan Kingdom). In other words, „Myanmar“ stands for the imperialist empires of the Burmese feudal monarchies. Hence, through the ages, the word „Myanmar“ was coined to signify their unjust conquests and the triumphs. This is why „Myanmar“ as a name of the country will only stands for the triumphs of the Burmese chauvinism.” (from “Manifesto of the People’s Liberation Army”)
2Even though Mahatma Gandhi is hailed today as India’s liberator and a role model to follow, the only reason he occupies this status is because he was ready to collaborate with the British while still having some mass support. His party, the Indian National Council, and ideology of “non-violence” and the protected the colonizer forces from mass action, split the mass movement for independence and is used today to completely cover up the true leaders of the Indian independence struggle such as Bhagat Singh, who had no reservations for using revolutionary violence to liberate India whatsoever.
3Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines: „Brief Review of the History of the Communist Party of the Philippines”, 26.12.1988