By JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson Emeritus, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
PART I On State Power and Fascism
In every exploitative society that has arisen in the history of humankind, such as slavery, feudalism and capitalism, there is a ruling class which owns the principal means of production and which runs the state as an instrument of violence to compel the exploited class to perform its productive role and suppress any resistance to the ruling system.
The slave masters owned the slaves and exploited them as beasts of burden and had the power of life-and-death over them. And they also kept in subordination the intermediary social strata, such so-called freemen, the lower state functionaries, the scribes, the artisans and traders. Bourgeois academic pedants like to describe the chief rulers of the slave states and empires as either unmitigated or enlightened tyrants or despots.
After the expansion of agricultural land by slaves in slave society, the feudal lords arose to dispense with the unwieldy system of rationing to the slaves and develop a more manageable system of exploiting serfs and administering vast feudal estates. Slaves could easily run away from the expanded landed estates or even rise in rebellion. The feudal states, monarchies and empires were built.
The feudal states had as chief rulers the feudal kings and emperors on top of the vast mass of serfs and the intermediate social strata like the lower state functionaries, the clerisy, the artisans, the pre-industrial manufacturers and traders. Again the bourgeois academic pedants also like to distinguish the unmitigated and enlightened among the chief rulers.
By the time that the French Revolution came in 1789, the industrial bourgeoisie and proletariat had arisen to challenge the absolute monarchy and the entire feudal aristocracy and cooperate with the liberal democratic intelligentsia and other middle social strata in raising the rags of the serfs and urban plebeians as the flag of democratic revolution for liberty, equality and fraternity.
The bourgeoisie decried the tyranny of the mob when the so-called French Terror occurred. Napoleon Bonaparte rode on the Thermidorean reaction to crown himself as emperor and was widely described in his own time as a dictator, tyrant and despot even as he claimed to propagate liberal democracy beyond the bounds of France.
The capitalist industrial revolution developed even faster in England in the 19th century, developing from free competition capitalism in the first half of the century to monopoly capitalism in the second half. This time Marx and Engels were around to describe the industrial bourgeoisie as the basic exploiting class and the industrial proletariat as the basic exploited class in capitalist society.
And in their Communist Manifesto they condemned the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie as the target of the industrial proletariat in its historic mission to establish its own class dictatorship as the requisite for ensuring the emancipation of all other exploited classes, democracy for the people and building socialism .
While the concept of state as class dictatorship of a certain ruling class was made clear by Marx and Engels, political writers of whatever class stand point could single out the individual chief rulers of capitalist states as dictators, tyrants and despots when they were held liable for the most oppressive policies and actions involving the abuse of authority and use of reactionary violence.
In his time, Lenin referred to the Tsar as the tyrant and to the whole system of Tsarism and Russian imperialism (a military-feudal type of imperialism rewarding military officers with land grants) as tyranny and despotism or as the open rule of terror in contrast to the pretenses of the system for bourgeois liberal reforms after the 1905 revolution.
But of course, in his great work, State and Revolution, he referred to the bourgeois state as the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and as the target of revolutionary overthrow by the proletariat in order to establish the class dictatorship of the proletariat, otherwise called the socialist state or workers’ state.
Now, we finally come to the term fascism. All sorts of bourgeois academic pedants have tried to confuse its particular and general characteristics. The most particular characteristic of fascism is that it is derived from the fascio, the bundle of iron rods with a hatchet in the middle. This is the symbol of the Roman empire and suggests the chauvinism, militarism and irredentism among other characteristics of Italian fascism.
But in terms of class analysis for determining the essential and general character of Italian fascism, we must consider it as a movement that started in 1915, tried at first to gather mass support by using slogans of nationalism and socialism but eventually became a tool of the big bourgeoisie and landlords as Mussolini used the fascist Blackshirts to break up strikes and protests of Italian workers and peasants in the aftermath of World War I.
The fascist March on Rome convinced the Italian king to put Mussolini in power in 1922. Since then, Il Duce (the Leader) became the paragon of Hitler for becoming Il Fuehrer (the Leader) in Germany and he also used the slogans of nationalism and socialism (thus National Socialism) to try to mislead and gain mass support the German workers and peasants.
But Hitler proved his loyalty to the monopoly bourgeoisie by using his Brownshirts to attack the Communists and the strikes and protests of German workers and peasants. The German monopoly capitalists were disappointed with the social democrats for failing to stabilize the Weimar Republic and decided to favor the Nazis. Thus, the Nazis came to power in through the electoral victories in 1933. Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany.
There are definitely characteristics in common between the Italian fascists and German Nazis such as being political instruments of the monopoly bourgeoisie, rabid anti-communism, state terrorism, militarism, leader worship, the clamor for rebirth from decadence, chauvinism, racism, irredentism and the like. And in the 1930s more fascist regimes would arise in several countries like Portugal, Spain and Japan.
These would be generically called fascist regimes, without ignoring their particularities. They were confronted by the anti-fascist Popular Front launched by the Communist International. Ultimately, World War II would break out between the Axis Powers (which were fascist powers) and the Allied Powers. In whichever country the Axis Powers invaded and occupied, they established a fascist puppet regime of the local big bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes. Spanish and Portuguese fascism persisted after World War II because they did no participate in it.
In the Philippines before World War II, the Spanish big compradors headed by Andres Soriano founded in 1936 the Philippine Falange as a fascist party and as a branch of its Spanish original. But it disintegrated when Soriano applied for and was granted Filipino citizenship and joined the Quezon government in exile in order to avoid confiscation of his assets upon his estimate that Allied Powers would defeat the Axis Powers.
Among the Filipinos, Benigno Ramos was a bourgeois nationalist who had led the Sakdalista movement and used this as the base for forming in 1938 the Ganap Party which hoped for the national independence of the Philippines with the help of Japan against the US. After the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, the Filipino puppet president Jose Laurel initiated the formation of the Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI, Association for Service to the New Philippines) as a fascist Filipino political party that served as the sole party of state.
It was patterned after Japan’s governing Imperial Rule Assistance Association. Benigno S. Aquino became the director general.
The Ganap Party became merged with the Kalibapi and in the main lost its identity. But many members of the Ganap party formed in 1944 the Makabayang Katipunan ng mga Pilipino (Makapili, Patriotic Association of Filipinos) to serve as adjunct of and give military aid to the Imperial Japanese Army. The Makapili gained nationwide notoriety as spies, guards orderlies and executioners in the service of Japanese fascism. Mariano Marcos, the father of Ferdinand Marcos, was chief propaganda officer for the Ilocos region within the Kalibapi and Makapili framework.
PART II On Fascism After World War II
Among the Allied Powers, the Soviet Union proved to be the most decisive in defeating fascism in Europe and on a global scale. The Communist Party of China and its Red Army also defeated Japanese fascism. And in the other Asian countries invaded by the Japanese fascists, national liberation movements emerged under the leadership of communists (as in China and Vietnam). The colonial powers were compelled to recognize the national independence of certain countries or grant nominal independence as in the Philippines.
Up to 1956 the rise of several socialist countries and the national liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America indicated that the world proletarian revolution would advance at a faster rate than ever before. But modern revisionism would arise in the Soviet Union to undermine the socialist cause and restore capitalism in the long run.
The US emerged as the strongest and richest imperialist power after World War II after profiting greatly from war production. It planned immediately and launched in 1948 the Cold War against the Soviet Union and the global campaigns of anti-communism and neocolonialism to counter the increase of socialist countries and the vigorous national liberation movements.
In the course of the Cold War, US imperialism presented itself as the champion of free enterprise and liberal democracy. Masquerading as such, it put itself and the system of monopoly capitalism in the middle as golden mean in a political spectrum between communism and fascism as the extremes of radicalism or authoritarianism. But in fact monopoly capitalism is in the middle of the line desperately covering the class dictatorship of the monopoly bourgeoisie with the mantle of liberal democracy and alwaysprone to avail of social democracy or fascism as political tools.
Among the bourgeois ideologues and propagandists assisting the official corps of the US, British and other imperialist powers in the Cold War were the Trotskyites and revisionists who caricatured socialism, democratic centralism and the collective leadership in the Soviet Union as the totalitarianism of a single person (Stalin) or a single party (the Communist Party). The American sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset put monopoly capitalism in the middle as the golden mean between the so-called radicalisms of communism and fascism.
So did the Frankfurt school put monopoly capitalism or imperialism between the so-called authoritarianisms of fascism and communism. The Austrian school maligned socialism as the road to serfdom and combined with the Chicago school to advocate the neoliberal policy of unbridled greed and make it the official policy of the US and world capitalist system from the start of the 1980s.
The French subjectivists who flip-flopped from existentialism to structuralism and then to poststructuralism and postmodernism have something to do with confusing the self-indulgent petty bourgeois intellectuals about socialism and undermining Marxism-Leninism but shed little or no direct light on the phenomenon of fascism.
While officially mouthing the slogans of free enterprise and liberal democracy, US imperialism unleashed wars of aggression and built hundreds of overseas military bases even as the military overspending would aggravate the capitalist crisis of overproduction that followed the reconstruction of other imperialist powers and caused the problem of stagflation in the US in the mid-1970s.
The US intervened in China and supported the Jiang Kai-shek regime against the Chinese people until its defeat in 1949. This regime was a joint class dictatorship of the comprador big bourgeoisie, landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists. It proclaimed itself as bourgeois nationalist in opposition to the Communist Party and was a fascist dictatorship in relation to the Chinese people even as it was a craven puppet of US imperialism.
The US failed to stop the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949. But it soon launched a full-scale war of aggression against Korea from 1951 to 1953 and was stalemated by the resistance of the Korean people led by the Korean Workers Party and the Chinese volunteers directed by the Chinese Communist Party. Eventually the Park Chung Hee fascist dictatorship arose in South Korea on the basis of the big comprador bourgeoisie, landlord class and the bureaucrat capitalists. It was bourgeois nationalist against communists and against the people but was a puppet to US imperialism.
The US proceeded to launch a war of aggression against Vietnam and the rest of Indochina from 1965 to 1975 and met its first great defeat in its entire history. In this period, the US sponsored and propped up the fascist dictatorships of Nguyen van Thieu in Vietnam and Lon Nol in Cambodia on the basis of the class alliance of the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. But before it could be defeated in Vietnam, the US plotted and succeeded at destroying the Communist Party of Indonesia in 1965 through massacres. It installed the Suharto military fascist regime which ruled Indonesia until 1989.
In waging its campaign of anti-communism, the US used not only wars of aggression and Rightist military coups and massacres in Asia, Africa and Latin America to install fascist dictatorships on the basis of the alliance of the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. The superpower conflict between the US and the Soviet Union did not result in any direct war between the two but only proxy wars because of the nuclear stalemate and the danger of mutually assured destruction.
But the US relied on the revisionist degeneration and capitalist restoration within the Soviet Union, the costly errors of Brezhnevite social imperialism and playing off China and the Soviet Union. Up to the first five years of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, 1966 to 1971, China and the Chinese Communist Party appeared to counteract modern revisionism and capitalist restoration effectively.
But the clique of Chinese revisionists headed by Deng Xiaoping regained ground, overthrew the proletariat and restored capitalism in China from October 1976 onwards. The Chinese capitalist roaders proclaimed their frenzied restoration of capitalism and integration with the US and the world capitalist system as “socialism with Chinese characteristics” (a paraphrase of the Hitlerite national socialism) and ceased to advocate proletarian internationalism.
Upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US became the sole superpower and proceeded to expand the NATO to the borders of Russia and wage wars of aggression on a wide scale in the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia. It gained more confidence to give concessions to China, such as further outsourcing of manufacturing, foreign investments, trade and technology transfer. Thus, both state and private monopoly capitalism developed rapidly in China.
But the addition of two more imperialist powers to the old circle of imperialist powers has resulted in the unprecedented aggravation of the crisis of overproduction and inter-imperialist contradictions. When the economic and financial crash came in 2008, the US still praised China for its economic growth rate but eventually became bothered by the economic and military rise of China as the so-called Great Recession became a global depression, extending to the second decade of the century.
Since then, the US has regarded China as chief political rival and economic competitor and is worried to death that its strategic decline has continued and has resulted in its loss of sole superpower status. But the US has only itself to blame for giving concessions to China and for wasting trillions of dollars under the neoconservative policy of endless wars of aggression supposedly to gain new economic territory and ensure US dominance in the 21st century.
The contradictions between the US and China have taken center stage in the world even as all inter-imperialist contradictions between the two new imperialist powers (China and Russia) and the traditional imperialist powers (US, Europe, Japan and so on) are escalating. The proletariat and people of the world are suffering rapidly worsening conditions of oppression and exploitation and are waging anti-imperialist and democratic mass struggles.
The worsening crisis of the world capitalist system, global warming caused by monopoly capitalism and persistent threats of the extinction of mankind with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction are driving the people to wage resistance. Two conflicting trends are running. The imperialist powers persist in using neoliberalism, state terrorism and wars of aggression against the people. And the proletariat and people have no choice but to wage revolution. Once more inter-imperialist contradictions are providing favorable conditions for the resurgence of the world proletarian revolution.
Under conditions of no direct war among imperialist powers from the end of World War II to the present, the US has unleashed wars of aggression causing the destruction of 25 to 30 millions and extensive social infrastructure in many underdeveloped countries. It has also created and used anti-communist jijadist groups among Islamic fundamentalists only to eventually call them terrorists and attack them.
It has extended the term “terrorism” to cover and vilify revolutionary movements fighting tyrannical and oppressive states and undermine the principle of people’s sovereignty and the laws of belligerency in civil wars. The ruling big bourgeoisie in former socialist countries follow the US example of vilifying its political opponents as “terrorists”. This is reminiscent of Hitler’s bad-mouthing communists as “terrorists” while in fact he was carrying state terrorism or the rule of open terror.
Part III On Fascism in the Philippines
Mariano Marcos, the father of Ferdinand Marcos, was the top leader of the Kalibapi and chief puppet of Japanese fascism for the entire Ilocos region during World War II. He was captured, tried and executed by anti-Japanese Filipino guerrillas in the vicinity of San Fernando, La Union towards the end of the war. During that time, the son Ferdinand was living with his first wife Carmen Ortega in the same area and doing business with the Japanese imperial army. He was regarded as a defector and traitor but the guerrillas were not able to capture him.
He worshipped his traitor father so much that when he became president Marcos named so many roads, bridges and buildings after him. It is obvious that he admired and emulated the bourgeois nationalism and fascist methods of the Japanese invaders even as he could easily adjust to the return of US imperialism to dominate the Philippines. He even tried to collect from the US war back pay by inventing a so-called Maharlika guerrilla regiment. But US military officers and Filipinos in the guerrilla movement exposed him as a liar.
In preparing himself for election as president, Marcos the congressman and senator became a political agent of the big comprador-landlord class and accumulated assets as a bureaucrat capitalist. In running for the presidency in 1965, Marcos used bourgeois nationalists like Blas Ople to write against the blatantly pro-US incumbent president Macapagal. When he became president, he made it a point to become his own defense secretary and declare his intention to beef up the reactionary armed forces.
He continued to pose as nationalist as he demanded the reduction of US tenure in its Philippine military bases to 25 years and the increase of military grants and loans. But in October 1966 he exposed himself as an unmitigated puppet of US imperialism when he supported the US war of aggression against Vietnam and took pride in US President Johnson’s touting him as his right-hand man in Asia.
During his first term of office as president from 1965 to 1969, he made sure that he had a personal grip on the reactionary armed forces, whose personnel came from the Ilocos region to the extent of 60 per cent. And he began to undertake huge infrastructure projects by exhausting Japanese war reparations and using foreign loans in order to impress the people that he was engaged in “economic development” while at the same time he was stealing heavily from the projects.
During his second term as president from 1969 onward, the US sued for peace negotiations with the Vietnam Socialist Republic and the South Vietnam National Liberation Front after the Tet offensive and downing of thousands of US planes. Marcos took advantage of Nixon’s issuance of his “Asian doctrine” of emboldening Asian reactionary governments to strengthen their armed forces and become more anti-communist and fascist.
This instigated Marcos to aim for a fascist dictatorship in the Philippines. He prated about the social volcano about to erupt in the Philippines and about making the Filipino nation great again with a bigger army and iron-fist leadership. He ordered a number of massacres to stress his point. But he unwittingly drove the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces to wage the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war.
Coldbloodedly, he prepared for imposing fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people in 1972. He ordered the grenade attack on the Liberal Party meeting at Plaza Miranda and other false flag operations and blamed these on the Communist Party of the Philippines in order to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and to declare nationwide martial law in 1972 under the pretext of “saving the republic” and “building a new society”.
He pretended to be doing a liberal democratic revolution. But he grabbed all powers, executive, judicial and legislative and highjacked the constitutional convention in order to give himself dictatorial powers. He used military, police and paramilitary forces to intimidate and suppress violently all institutions, organizations and individuals critical of or opposed to his fascist regime.
The Marcos fascist dictatorship ran for fourteen years from 1972 to 1986. That was because there was yet no formidable revolutionary people’s army to cut the dictatorship short. What finished it off was the convergence on it by the persevering political struggles of the broad masses of the people, the united front of patriotic and democratic forces, the rapid growth of the armed revolutionary movement and the junking done by the US, the Catholic Church and conservative forces as a result of the outrageous murder of Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983.
But the fall of the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986 was followed by pseudo-democratic regimes (from Corazon Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte) that sought to preserve the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and launched campaigns of military suppression against the revolutionary movement despite short periods of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. From 1957 to 1992, the Anti-Subversion Law was the special law against communists. After its repeal in 1992 and replacement by an anti-rebellion law with the penalty of reclusion perpetua, the regimes shifted their favorite anticommunist cussword from “subversive” to “terrorist” in line with US imperialist usage.
The worst of the post-Marcos regimes is the current one of Rodrigo Duterte who publicly pretended at first to wish becoming the first Left and socialist president and negotiating a just peace with the armed revolutionary movement. But within the first year of his rule in 2016 to 2017, he unleashed an all-out war against the people and the revolutionary movement.
He terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations on November 23, 2017 and designated the revolutionary forces of the people as terrorist on December 5, 2017. He created the National Task Force-Elcac as an anti-communist and fascist force in 2018. He took advantage of the Covid 19 pandemic to railroad the so-called Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a law of state terrorism in the name of anti-terrorism and to accelerate the plunder of public funds, including those intended for the victims of the pandemic and those thrown out of their jobs and other means o livelihood.
The Duterte regime may be described as fascist, representing the class interests of the comprador big bourgeoisie, the landlord class and bureaucrat capitalists and acting in the service of US, Chinese and other foreign monopoly capitalist powers. Duterte is trying to extend his power through the rigging of the 2022 elections in favor of the Marcos-Duterte tandem even as he still keeps in his hands martial law powers and the law on state terrorism which allows him to red-tag and order the abduction, torture, detention and murder of any of the social activists, critics and political opponents.
Whichever regime shall succeed that of Duterte will have to reckon with the unprecedentedly grave crisis of the domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system, the overwhelming desire of the people for revolutionary change and the nationwide growth of the Communist Party of the Philippines and other revolutionary forces in the last 53 years. The next regime can either take the road of fascism already started by the Duterte regime or resume peace negotiations with the revolutionary forces to address the roots of the armed conflict with basic social, economic and political reforms
The Duterte regime has been aptly described as traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal and plundering. But can it be described as a full-fledged fascist dictatorship? Definitely, it has as basis for fascist dictatorship the class alliance of the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. But it has not yet constitutionally and absolutely concentrated all government powers on Duterte as fascist dictator even as he has dominant influence over Congress and the judiciary. His kind of nationalism is merely invoking the “whole of nation” approach in his anti-communist campaign of military suppression, even as he is brazenly a traitor trying to serve both the now conflicting imperialist powers, the US and China.
In the sense that anyone can be called fascist or fascistic for holding ideas, attitudes, plans and goals of such character, the Duterte regime may be described as fascist or fascistic for having aimed for fascist dictatorship and for having acquired certain major instruments of fascist dictatorship, such as the dominant influence over Congress and the Supreme Court, the canine loyalty of the reactionary armed forces and police and the enactment of the law of state terrorism.
But so far he has not carried out his previous threats to proclaim a “revolutionary government” and to change the Constitution to a fascist one. As of now the regime cannot be described as having become a full fascist dictatorship. It is still fascistoid resembling fascism or on the way to bringing about a full-fledged fascist dictatorship like that of Marcos.
Let me reiterate here certain conclusions which I made in an interview with Prof. Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong of the Department of Philosophy, University of the Philippines-Cebu, regarding fascism.
In my study of fascist movements and fascist regimes that arose before and after World War II, I have observed the following elements in their character and conduct:
1. The fascist parties, groups and movements are ideologically and politically anti-communist and seek and get support from the big bourgeoisie (be it the industrial and financial big bourgeoisie in imperialist countries or the comprador big bourgeoisie and bureaucrat capitalists in underdeveloped countries).
2. They use xenophobic, chauvinist and racist slogans and target certain racial and ethnolinguistic minorities as the enemy to blame for the suffering and grievances of the people and deflect attention from the exploiting classes.
3. They use the biases of the politically backward section of the masses in order to create the base for their “mass movement”. From this base, they try to influence and win over the middle section of the masses; and try to counter and ferret out communists and other revolutionary forces from the advanced section of the masses.
4. They collaborate with the big bourgeoisie and with the armed apparatuses of the reactionary state in breaking up demonstrations of democratic forces, assaulting workers’ strikes and attacking the persons and properties of people who are communist or progressive in their stand or who belong to any minority deemed as enemy and target of hatred.
5. They ascend to absolute power through elections by taking up the grievances of the people and at the same time enjoying the support of the big bourgeoisie. They can also take power through a military coup against a discredited and weak civilian government. When in power by any degree, they can stage a series of false flag operations to scapegoat the communists and to justify the adoption and implementation of fascist laws.
6. They use the open rule of terror (fascist laws and actions) to suppress any criticism of or opposition to the fascist regime through the adoption and enforcement of laws that comprehensively and profoundly dissolve and violate the basic democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of the people which have been defined and guaranteed by the liberal democratic or socialist constitution.
All the above elements in varying forms and degrees of gravity have characterized the fascist movements and regimes that are employed and supported by the big bourgeoisie upon the failure of conservative, social democratic, liberal democratic and other reformist parties, institutions and movements to contain and appease the exploited classes and counter the rise of the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the mass movement that it leads.