Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — Issue #14: Radical Left Carousel

Martial law: but what kind?

The architecture for police-state rule in the Philippines had been written by US imperialism, which wrote martial law into the constitution of its former colony and wrote trial by jury out. Numerous prior presidents, including Macapagal and Garcia and Quirino, had all indicated that they would employ these clauses and declare martial law.

Why did Marcos succeed where they had failed? His success rested upon context of social crisis that led to the rise of global authoritarianism, and a universal sentiment among the elite that they could no longer afford the trappings of democracy. If I could use an analogy: the implementation of dictatorship by Ferdinand Marcos was like a game of musical chairs or, as we call it in the Philippines, Trip to Jerusalem. All of the ruling elite were engaged in a game circling Malacañang, knowing that when the music stopped, when martial law was imposed, whoever was seated in the presidential palace would be dictator.

Martial law as others imagined it

“This is a coup d’etat!” I exclaimed.

We were gathered in the office of Senator Roy the day after Senator Aquino’s arrest. Senator Pelaez had just returned from Malacañan where he obtained a copy of the proclamation (№1081) of martial law and General Orders №1, under which President Marcos announced that he “shall govern the nation and direct the operation of the entire Government, including all its agencies and instrumentalities” in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“This is a coup d’etat by AFP Commander-in-Chief Marcos of the Philippine Government,” I repeated.

Probing the radicals’ intramurals

Mao, meanwhile, went a very different way. Confronting the threat of a possible Soviet invasion in the wake of the crushing of the Prague Spring and the declaration of the Brezhnev doctrine that the Soviet Union would interfere with the affairs of any socialist country that threatened Soviet interests, Mao crushed the Cultural Revolution, ostracized Lin Biao, reached out to Kissinger and Nixon and established ties with US imperialism, with Washington.

Mao then turned to countries around the world and, like the Soviet Union, established relations with dictators. He embraced Marcos and Pinochet. Salvador Allende was tied to the Communist Party of Chile, which was oriented to Moscow, and when Pinochet crushed the Communist Party and the Chilean working class, the Communist Party of China immediately welcomed Pinochet.

Marcos used martial law to carry out the repression of the working population on an industrial scale, crushing the social unrest of the time. When Marcos visited Beijing to establish trade and diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, Mao issued a public statement that the CCP would not interfere in the “domestic affairs” of the Philippines.

Sison proclaimed that Mao’s opening of relations with Marcos was a “diplomatic victory for the People’s Republic of China and a victory for the Philippine revolutionary struggle.” The word “lies” is inadequate to encapsulate this argument.

It is impossible to defend human rights, not simply within these organizations, but on the basis of their political line. The CPP and its allied organizations do not represent a force defending democracy. That is my historical summation.

The party was responsible for purges within its own ranks that killed 1,000 of its own members. It also recruited child soldiers, producing comics and reading primers, so that they could recruit children as young as ten and eleven years old to the New People’s Army in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Those who are interested in defending human rights need to look elsewhere. This is not that I don’t defend the human rights of the CPP and its front organizations. I read an explicit defense of them against the violence of the state at the beginning of this lecture. My point is otherwise. If you are interested in defending democracy, preventing the rise of dictatorship and defending human rights, these are not the social forces that you should be looking to.

My final appeal is to all scholars and to broad public who have listened to this lecture. The rhetoric of Sison and company, with his bald-faced assertion of “outright lies,” his violent vulgarities — he told me that I should “wallow in my own saliva” — and his circulation of doctored images — these are the tactics of the far-right. The language of the CPP is indistinguishable from the Diehard Duterte Supporters, the DDS, on Facebook. You could do a little online quiz, “Who said it: Joma Sison or a DDS troll?” You’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

The CPP has no interest in defending historical truth. I would like to conclude by quoting what Trotsky said about the Stalinists in this regard. “With every zig and zag they are compelled to revamp history all over again.”

The Stalinists allied with Macapagal, but then declared that he was reactionary and they buried the evidence of ever having supported him. They allied with Marcos, but then, of course, he was reactionary. This pattern has repeated again and again. They allied with Cory Aquino, but then she was reactionary. They allied with Duterte, but now declare him a fascist, and they denounce me as a “paid CIA agent” for bringing up the evidence of their own history.

“The lie serves, therefore,” Trotsky continues, “as the fundamental ideological cement of the bureaucracy.” It’s what holds the whole thing together.

“The more irreconcilable becomes the contradiction between the bureaucracy and the people, all the ruder becomes the lie [I think we’re witnessing that now], all the more brazenly is it converted into criminal falsification and judicial frame-up.”

Don’t rely on what’s being said at present. Find the contemporary written record. It is the only thing that we can be certain is accurate. Check it for yourself, review the evidence for yourself. This applies not just to my own field but to scholarship in general. We are in a period where historical truth, the very idea of truth, is under assault, and where authoritarian figures are rising to power the world over on the basis of outrageous lies.

Marcos, the Huks, and the Kremlin

Ferdinand Marcos secretly worked with a communist party, the PKP, to conduct informal diplomacy with Moscow. The PKP aided Marcos in his 1972 imposition of dictatorship and entered the martial law cabinet.

While Marcos publicly denounced the “Communist threat,” and used it as his pretext for martial, he employed leading members of the Stalinist PKP in his government and they wrote the justifications for his dictatorship.

The article is not a significant revision of the history of the martial law regime, it also calls for a reexamination of cold war historiography. Why did Marcos, the anticommunist and close ally of the United States, ally with the PKP and conduct secret diplomacy the USSR?

It was certainly bound up with the Sino-Soviet split. The details, however, are fascinating and previously undocumented. The roles of Teodosio Lansang, Ruben Torres, Merlin Magallona, Haydee Yorac, and so on. I have a new article out in *History and Anthropology*! It details for the first time the close ties between the Marcos regime and the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP).

Again, you might want to read it first. The PKP cadre were being employed by Marcos on salary as early as 1966. These salaried Marcos officials oversaw bombings in Manila, conducted international diplomacy, and murdered scores of their own cadre.

Tales of splittists and revisionists

Learn more about Joseph Scalice

Additional Readings

Thank you!

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