Building Mass Movements

Philippine Countryside by Tala Roque

At six, Tala Roque has barely been to the countryside.


(January 1978)


By Mila D. Aguilar

a.k.a. Clarita Roja



[NOTE:  This essay appeared in Talamdan, a revolutionary journal initiated by Clarita Roja, nom de guerre of Mila D. Aguilar, while she was Chair of the Mindanao United Front Commission.  It was also circulated nationally, and fell into enemy hands as well as the laps of social democratic and other forces fighting the Marcos dictatorship.  The efforts of Clarita Roja in broadening revolutionary mass movements in the urban areas included holding seminars for underground, legal and semi-legal workers all over Mindanao in the years between 1977 and 1979, when she left to become Chair of the National United Front Commission.  These methods, and the principles she set forth, were duplicated by those who took over her position in Mindanao and added unto a bigger program of urban warfare, resulting in the renowned Nicaragdao of the early 80s.  In other parts of the country, especially in Manila, the use of the same principles, without the armed component, resulted, much later, in what has become known as EDSA I.


Two other essays of Clarita Roja appeared in the Talamdan that she spearheaded and nurtured.  One was “Building the Regional United Front Commission in Mindanao (as revised by the Regional Executive Committee), September 1977 issue; while the other was “Strengthen the Party Committee System,” which appeared in December, 1975.]



At this particular stage in the struggle when the principal task in the countryside is to wage military operations in order to strengthen the people’s army and political-organizational work is still at the level of small-scale core-building and Party-building, the principal urban task of broadening and deepening the revolutionary mass movements in the region from the urban areas gains special importance, it being the powerful political support to the armed struggle in the countryside and the best exercise so far in people’s power that can serve to temper the revolutionary masses.

The great importance of generating mass movements from the urban areas necessitates a mass movement within the Party itself in understanding the processes that make possible such movements.

This article seeks to explain the fundamental attitudes and skills necessary for the successful generation of revolutionary mass movements in the region from the urban areas.

In the next sections we will discuss the question of correct attitudes and the need for organizational and propaganda skills, treating attitudes as the inspiration, organization as the foundation and propaganda as the leading factor in the revolutionary mass movements.


A Question of Attitudes

The question of grasping revolutionary mass movements is first of all a question of attitudes.  No matter how refined our skills are, without the correct attitudes towards the masses we can never have movements that are truly revolutionary and en masse.

“The masses and the masses alone are the makers of history.”  This quotation expresses the sum total of the basic attitudes we should have towards the masses.  But it is one thing to mouth a quotation, and another thing to practice it.

What do we mean by “the masses”? Fundamentally, we mean the basic masses, which are composed of the workers who comprise 20 percent of the population, and the peasants who comprise 70 percent.  Together, these two classes, comprising as the do fully 90 percent of the population, and being as they are the most oppresses and exploited in Philippine society, cannot but be the ones who will relentlessly pursue social change in its most revolutionary sense.  The class standing of the basic masses imbues them with the will and the daring to be real makers of history.


Since we believe in this, the great majority of our organized forces are in practice with the workers and peasants, learning from them and arousing, mobilizing and organizing them until such a time that the great majority of our organized forces do in actuality come from the ranks of the workers and peasants.


This is what we fundamentally mean by the quotation.  However, we cannot discount the fact that when we say “the masses,” we also mean the broad masses of our people.  This includes not only the basic masses principally but also secondarily, the middle sectors, which are composed of the petty bourgeoisie who comprise six percent of the population, and the national bourgeoisie who comprise three percent.  The middle sectors, being in their own ways also exploited and oppressed, and comprising as they do a relatively substantial portion of the population (nine percent), cannot but take part in the drive for social change.  The oppressive situation the middle sectors find themselves in and their identification with the basic masse imbue them with the vision and the drive to be active participants in the making of history.


Since we believe in this, then a relatively substantial portion of our organized forces are working with the middle sectors, encouraging them to learn from the basic masses and arousing, mobilizing and organizing them to participate actively in the struggle of the basic masses.

But these are not all we mean by the quotation.

When we speak of attitudes, we speak not only of collective attitudes but also of individual attitudes, the sum total of which make up our collective attitudes.  Unless our individual attitudes are correct, the efforts to gear our forces towards the mobilization and organization of the broad masses will become lame. This speaks of most of the individual attitudes of those who are in a leading position.

What we are pointing at is the relationship of the individual, especially one in a leading position, to his collective and lower units.  This relationship is the microcosm, the smaller expression, of the relationship between our organized forces as a whole and the broad masses of our people. Since this microcosm is expressive of its macrocosm, unless it is set aright, the bigger relationship will inevitably suffer, no matter how much we declare that “the masses and the masses alone are the makers of history”.

Concretely, what we have to struggle against are individualism and idealism. which bring in their train impatience and pessimism.  Individualism immediately negates the possibility of one’s working together with many others, while idealism imposes standards that are not within the present capacity of most to reach.  The person who bears these weaknesses loses his patience at the slightest sign of incapacity in others and begins to draw a gloomy picture of them, their tasks and their future in the movement.

Individualism and idealism are even more concretely expressed in the attitudes “I can do it alone” and “I can do everything best”.  In current usage, these two attitudes go by the name “bilib sa sarili”.

If “I can do it alone” and “I can do everything best”, then there is absolutely no need for mass movements, for the masses have merely to rely on the profound wisdom and extraordinary talents of a few bright men and women.  If  “I can do it alone” and “I can do everything best”, then there is no need to delegate responsibilities to many collectives, for all responsibilities can then be borne separately by a few geniuses.

Since these cannot happen in actual fact, people who think they “can do it alone” or “do everything best” also turn out to be the most impatient and pessimistic people we can find.

In order to have fully mass movements, what we have to struggle for are dialectical materialism and collectivism, which being in their train revolutionary optimism, patience and humility.  Dialectical materialism is the recognition of objective facts and the spiral process of change; the recognition of the need for collectively in work arises our of the recognition of the objective fact that the best work come out of many heads and hands working as one; the spirit of collectivism is therefore one concrete expression of the dialectical materialist outlook.

With the dialectical materialist outlook and the collective spirit, we can proceed to arouse, mobilize and organize more and more people and eventually, the masses in their millions, because we will then have the revolutionary humility to recognize that each of us has capacities or weaknesses that others can make up for as well as strengths that others do not have; the patience to start from present conditions and levels, no matter how low; and the optimism to be certain that, though the road be long and tortuous, the future of the revolution is indeed very bright.

Fostering the individual attitudes of revolutionary optimism, patience, and humility in all Party members and especially in those in leading positions, we can develop the ability to rely on and delegate responsibilities to our collectives and lower units.  The bigger our organized forces, the greater numbers of the broad masses can be aroused, mobilized and organized in turn. This is the way revolutionary mass movements grow, starting, as we have said, with our correct attitudes.


A Question of Organizational Skills

Developing the revolutionary mass movement is not only a matter of correct attitudes.  It is also a matter of organizational skills. While correct attitudes are a good beginning, organization is the basic factor in developing any type of movement.

The relationship between attitudes and organization is one between a cornerstone for a projected structure and its foundation, respectively.  While we must be good at laying cornerstones, we must be even better at building foundations, for these constitute the grounds on which our structure will rise or fall.  In other words, while we must be good at correcting attitudes, we must be even better at building our organized forces, for these constitute the grounds on which revolutionary mass movements will grow or crumble.

This is why we place such importance on organizational skills, and why we devote time for discussing style and methods of organizing.

In developing the revolutionary mass movements, we rely on the three types of organized forces:  the Party, national democratic groups, and antifascist organizations.  To be able to grasp fully the question of skills, we must first know the qualitative and quantitative differences between the three and the dialectical relationship of each to the others.

Broadly speaking, the relationship between the three types of organized forces is one of concentric circles, with the Party at the core, national democratic groups enveloping it and the antifascist organizations surrounding these in turn:


These concentric circles are expressive of our efforts to have the Party, or more accurately Party committees, always at the center of antifascist activities, leading these activities without being clearly visible to the enemy.  National democratic activists or cells partake of this leading role to some extent.

The fact that we draw the relationship in terms of concentric circles, however, should not delude us into thinking hat the level of organization within the Party is just as loose as the level of organization of national democratic cells or antifascist groups.

There are three basic differences between the three aggrupations mentioned above:

First, there are differences in the quality of their constituency.

a.  Unlike national democrats and antifascists, Party members and cadres are imbued with the proletarian standpoint, materialist viewpoint and dialectical method.

Having internalized the proletarian standpoint, Party members incessantly strive for wholehearted and boundless service to the people, which means subordinating selfish personal interests to the interests of the Party, the masses and the revolution. Believing in the materialist viewpoint, Party members fight to attain not only a change in the present society, but that society may reach the stage of communism.  Using the dialectical method, Party members are capable of charting the strategy of the revolution, as well as the necessary tactics at every stage and phase of it.

b.  National democrats partake of these qualities to some extent. Basically, they believe in the principle of serving the people.  But they may still consciously hold on to some personal interests which do not directly harm the interests of the masses.  They also recognize in various degrees the leading role of the Party, but their main aim is the establishment of a people’s democratic government, communism being as yet a vague ideal to them.  Moreover, some of them also study dialectics and use it in varying degrees.

c.  In comparison to the first two, the antifascists are also the most varied.  They range from anti-Marcos to anti-US-Marcos elements; some are also anti-feudal; and they include in their ranks some who are anti-Communists due to sheer ignorance or strong self-interests.  They usually know only that there is something wrong with the situation but are groping as to what to replace it with.

Second, there is a big difference in the quality of organization of the three aggrupations.

a.  The ideology (meaning standpoint, viewpoint and method) borne by Party members is one reason we say that the Party is “the force at the core leading our cause forward”.  But again, this formulation should not mislead us into thinking that the Party is composed of so many members each operating separately from the others, “coordinating” with each other only for purposes of “sharing”.  If we thought this way then we would not be talking of the Party as a force.

The main reason why we regard the Communist Party as “the force at the core leading our cause forward” is that the very ideology it espouses imbues its members with the iron discipline that makes them capable of accepting the bounds of a tightly-knit organization.  When we talk of the Party as a force, then, we are talking of it as a tightly-knit organization.

This means an organization wherein the flow of centralism from the higher to the lower organs is distinctly clear. It means an organization where the principle of democratic centralism in both its vertical (between higher and lower units) and horizontal (within committees) aspects is practiced in thoroughgoing manner.

Thus, when we speak of the Party organization, we mean a systematically-aligned machinery that can harness a tremendous force because is its composed of strong, durable parts, each with its own functions but working as one.

b.  Compared to the Party, national democratic groups are less organized.  The main reason for this is the quality of their constituency:  since national democrats usually hold on to some personal interests, whether this be plain individualism or career or wealth, it is difficult for them to hold together for a long time the groups they have formed.  Also, the great majority of those who remain national democrats for a long time come from the ranks of the middle sector (the broad masses usually find it easier to accept Party discipline even if they start with simple antifascism) and therefore invariably bring with them the limited perspective of the classes to which they belong.

In terms of organization, therefore, national democratic groups have at most a oneness of vision that gives them a strong measure of solidarity.   These can be organized for relatively short periods of time into cells for purposes of study and limited tasking of cores for purposes of giving antifascist organizations, programs, projects or teach-ins a progressive directions -- or into large organizations with a mass character.

Though they are less organized than the Party, however, the totality of the contribution of so many temporary national democratic cells, cores or mass organizations to the revolution is not something to be belittled.  Moreover, as individual activists, many national democrats acquire such revolutionary devotion and/or organizational and propaganda skills that we have come to regard them as non-Party cadres, if in any even they do not become candidate members.

c.  Of the three aggrupations, the antifascists are the most loosely organized, being the most heterogeneous.  But it is this very heterogeneity that makes legally possible their composition into large mass organizations and their active participation in mass struggle of various types and shades.  Moreover, while they are loosely organized, their sheer numbers certainly make of them enough of a force to be indispensable to any revolutionary mass movement.

Third, there is a difference in their relative size.

a.  Of the three, the Party is the smallest in terms of numbers, for the simple reason that in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society, the process of ideological consolidation takes a fairly long time.

In any temporary legal grouping or mass action, we also keep to a minimum Party composition, principally for purposes of wider participation among the broad masses.  Even in the projected people’s democratic movement, we will employ the three-thirds system, only one third being composed of Party members, another of poor and lower-middle peasants and workers and the other third of progressive elements within the middle sectors.  This does not mean that we do not expand the Party.  On the contrary, we use every possible means to enlarge it, for in enlarging it we also make possible wider participation among the broad masses in the national democratic and antifascist fronts.

b.  As for the national democratic activists, they are often at least twice as large as our Party force.  Since the period of national democratic involvement is the best preparation of the middle sectors as well as elements among the basic masses for Party discipline, we should continually enlarge the number of national democrats even as we enlarge the Party.

c.  Compared to the above two, the size of the antifascist forces is not only twice, but four, five, or even ten times larger than the second. This number grows as an increasing portion of the population gets fed up with the martial law regime and become involved in mass struggles against fascism, feudalism and imperialism.


HAVING DISCUSSED THE DIFFERENCES between the three types of organized forces, we can now see more clearly the dialectical relationship between them.

In the days of “man-to man propaganda” and “p.o.t. [propaganda-organizing team] building”, we used to see the problems of organization in terms of rungs or gradations, as of one person at a time climbing up the political ladder, first becoming an antifascist and slowly, mostly through endless study sessions and a few technical tasks, becoming a national democrat, then a candidate-candidate member (or a “cm plus” or “cm minus”), later a candidate member, and finally a Party member.

This way of thinking negated the possibility, indeed necessity , of mass struggles, and their dialectical relationship with the growth of out organized forces.

When we see the problem in terms of three concentric circles, we start to think of organization as large numbers of people moving, developing and expanding through common points of unity.

With the Party committee or system of committees at the very center of mass activities, leading these activities and giving them correct direction with the help of national democratic activists and groups, it becomes possible to increase the ranks of organized anti-fascists several-fold, as well as to deepen the antifascist struggle, giving it an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist perspective.  With the consciousness of the antifascist forces raised and their ranks considerably expanded, it becomes possible to choose from them scores of reliable individuals who can be turned into national democratic activists and/or sworn into the Party.  The enlargement of one circle therefore depends on the enlargement of the others.  This is the dialectical relationship between the three types of organized forces.

Seen from the perspective of this dialectical relationship, the regional call for rapid Party expansion gains new light.  It corrects the misimpression that rapid Party expansion can take place outside of or without mass struggles, or that all of our present crop of national democratic activists are to be forced into becoming candidate-members of the Party.

With regard to the second misimpression, we could say that it is best to maintain a crop of national democrats at least twice as large as the Party force, for two reasons:  first, this period is the best preparation of the middle sectors, as well as some elements among the basic masses for Party discipline; and second, national democratic groups and activists are our most effective links with the antifascist organization and often make the best mass leaders.

Throughout the region and in practically every locality within it, we can find a sufficient crop of national democrats.  Where there are no Party committees yet, these comprise our most likely source of ready candidate and full Party members.  Swearing in the most advanced national democrats to the Party will be our first stage in rapid Party expansion.  These new members can then be formed into a functional Party committee or system of committees, and can thereby proceed to give select antifascist activities a correct direction with the help of remaining national democrats. As the mass struggles in the locality proceed from a low point to a high point, we can continue to harvest new national democrats and Party members, first in fives, then in tens, then in twenties or more.  These successive harvests will constitute the next stage in our rapid Party expansion.


BUT THE PROBLEM OF ORGANIZATION is not completely solved with a knowledge of the dialectical relationship between our organized forces and mass struggles.  These remains the problem of organizational skills and styles and methods of organizing.

In our study of this problem, we will tackle five relationships in the realm of organizational methods. These are:  1) the relationship between the advanced, the middle and the backward;  2) the relationship between concentration and dispersal;  3) the relationship between study and tasking;  4) the relationship between general policy and particular guidance; and 5) the relationship between higher and lower organs.

1.  Let us start with the most common problems encountered by Party committees in the urban areas of the region.  This is the problem of expanding into an area where there are no Party committees yet.  The very first thing to do in this case is to determine the advanced, the middle and the backward elements.

By advanced elements we mean those who accept the leadership of the Party, have positive attitudes towards the masses and/or mass political activity, and see the need for radical changes in the system.  These are the national democrats or those who believe in national democracy but do not yet have consolidated ideas about it.

By the middle elements we mean those who accept the existence of the Party but have a few fears about it, have mixed feelings about the masses and/or mass political activity, and feel the need for some kind of change, though they do not exactly know where this change could lead.  These elements are usually anti-imperialist and anti-feudal aside from being antifascist.

By the backward elements we mean those who are against the Party due to ignorance or self-interest, are distrustful of the masses and/or fear mass political activity, and would prefer not to take part in radical social change.  Among these elements, there are many against Marcos and martial law.

These distinctions are applicable to both the middle forces and the basic masses.  Upon determining them, the role of the Party committee in charge of the are is to raise the most reliable and disciplined among the advanced elements to candidate or full membership and to immediately form these into a functional Party committee, with one of the members of the committee in charge of becoming a member of the newly formed unit until such a time that the unit has acquired enough bearing.

The role of the newly-formed Party committee in its turn is to encourage the remaining advanced elements as a group or as individuals to raise the consciousness of the middle elements. With increased mass political activity in the area, more middle elements can be drawn into the mass struggle, thus exerting an indirect influence on the backward elements, whose views are more often than not changed merely by what they see and hear.

This is the correct organizational relationship in our work among the advanced, the middle and the backward elements.  It should check our hitherto unsystematic method of Party members or teams of whatever rank “following up” in a “man-to-man” style the three types of elements all at the same time, giving all equal weight.

2.  This does not mean, however, that Party committees are to rigidly confine their attention to advanced elements only, or to absolutely work only with ready-made groups, having done away with the “man-to-man” style.

There are many cases in which advanced elements cease to be advanced and are overtaken after a time by the more enthusiastic and daring in the middle ranks.  This fact dictates upon us the proper use of the correct relationship between concentration and dispersal, treating the former as principal and the latter as secondary.

While this principle is useful at any stage and type of organizational work, here we take it to mean relative concentration of the attention, time and efforts of a newly-formed committee in developing those that have been identified as advanced elements, while not neglecting to give a small part of its time to continued contact with some middle elements and a few backward elements, preferably in the presence of the advanced elements being developed.

Thus, a committee has twenty different contacts, five of whom, after sufficient investigation, turn out to be advanced elements, ten middle, and five backward, the committee should concentrate most of its attention on providing the five advanced with group experiences that will raise their political consciousness and draw them nearer to the Party, but should at the same time continue their links with some of the ten elements and talk to a few of the backward elements from time to time, together with some of the five advanced being developed.

This method of work, aside from taking into consideration the law of uneven development, provides the advanced elements with practical pointers in dealing with others and at the same time provides Party members in the committee with a continuous appraisal of the world outside the Party.

The principle of concentration and dispersal is also applicable to the methods of work within the committee itself.  We have encountered many instances of newly formed committees in one small area that meet only once a month or so due to the wrong notion that “while no work has been done there is nothing to talk about and therefore we must let things develop spontaneously”.  Such a notion is against the very principle of Party leadership and must be thoroughly smashed.

At the first stages of building a committee, there is a much greater need for concentration rather than dispersal.  The purpose of this is to achieve a “unity of will, purposed, planning and programming”.   Such a goal can be arrived at through creative means:  working together, constant assessment meetings and criticism and self-criticism sessions, functional collective study sessions that are designed to resolve current committee problems, and even informal get-togethers.

During these stages, dispersal for purposes of expansion is also skillfully interlaced with the periods of concentration, but with much less stress.  At a time when the committee has gained a relatively high degree of cohesiveness, increasing stress on dispersal could be systematically scheduled.  Such is the process of building a committee.

There is a third application of the principle of concentration and dispersal.  This is at a stage when a system of committees have been built, and the particular organ to which these belong is already in the process of deploying its cadres to expansion areas.

At this stage the principle of concentration and dispersal particularly means having a center of gravity within which the center of leadership moves.  The center of gravity is where a relative concentration of cadres in terms of numbers and quality is found.  Here again dispersal is secondary, but not neglected.

On the one hand, in deploying its cadres to expansion areas, the center of leadership must make sure that the cadres it sends our of the gravitational center have enough of a bearing collectively to be able to build a secondary center of leadership.

We stress the word “collectively” to correct the practice of deploying one lone cadre to far-off areas where he could not hope to form around him any strong collective for a very long period of time.  This practice leads to inevitable degeneration of the cadre concerned.

We also stress the phrase “secondary center of leadership” to correct the practice of identifying target expansion areas left and right, and trying to fill all of them up at almost the same time and with equal weight, even during the stage when the principal gravitational center is just beginning to develop.  This error arises from the misimpression that the word “secondary” means several places or things; in other words, several secondaries. When we say “secondary”, we mean only one secondary; the rest arise out of or await the development of either the principal or this secondary.

On the other hand, not so many quality cadres should be sent out of the center of gravity that after a time only a concentration in terms of numbers is left, and the so-called center of gravity ceases to be one.  When this happens, the center of leadership is also in danger of ceasing to be a center.

In clarifying the third meaning of the principle of concentration and dispersal, we hope to check two wrong tendencies:  the first, particular to the region, is the tendency of over-dispersal; for example, deploying cadres equally to as many as six “priority” areas, or deploying only one cadre to a far-off place without due regard for the proper balance between his bearing and his collective life.  The opposite tendency of over-concentration we mention here only as a matter of warning, as the particularity of the region has up to now ruled against it: that of over-concentrating the best and most cadres in one center of gravity for too long a time, at the expense of the development of other areas.

3.  Tackling the relationship between study and tasking, we go back to the stage of building a committee and its lower units.  Her we want to correct two opposite tendencies:  the tendency to be overly task-oriented, at the expense of collective study; and the tendency to engage in too much collective study, to the extent of withholding disposition of the proper tasks.

At the beginning stages of building a committee, we can say that study should be principal and tasking secondary.  This does not mean, however, that we should withhold giving tasks for a certain length of time. As soon as a Party committee is formed, tasks can and should be immediately disposed.

At this stage in our regional Party history when we have corrected our political line in the urban areas, the quality of both study and practice take on a new light.  Since the tasks that we now assume are not generally of a technical nature anymore, when we assign tasks, we can assign them with broader strokes, applicable for relatively longer periods of time. Thus, we generally do not talk anymore in terms like “We need this particular amount of clothes and money at this particular date” but more in the tone “Our task is to give this program this direction.”

Such being the case, study in general can cease to be far-removed from the present reality in which a committee is placed, for it can be geared to the broader strokes of our tasking.  We say “can”, because any study of even the slightest concept in the world will become abstract and floating as along as it is not consciously linked with the present practical problems of the committee members.

To prevent abstractions let us clarify what we mean by “study”.

The purpose of our study is to achieve a “unity of will, purpose, planning and programming”.  The members of the new committee having come from different backgrounds, unification of their ideas and knowledge is necessary for them to gain a high degree of cohesiveness.  Functional study designed to resolve current problems, as has been previously mentioned, is one of the means of building a committee; this is why study should be principal at the beginning stages of a newly-formed committee.

This clarification should correct the trend of going through a long and ponderous Party course first before sitting down to study current practical questions.  Though a curriculum for the urban areas has not yet been drawn up, we can for now suggest a broad priority study list.

Basic Courses:

* A general mass course (or national democratic mass course).  This consists of a shortened discussion of the three basic problems; the program, strategy and tactics for a people’s democratic revolution, including the 10-point program of the National Democratic Front; and Philippine history.

This course should take only half a day, at the most two days.

*  A primary course (or Party course).  This consists of the Five Golden Rays (for new candidate members). or the seven basic attitudes (for Party members with at least six months’ experience in revolutionary work); viewpoint (historical materialism); method (dialectical); Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party (Party history); and the Party Constitution.

Required readings:

In addition, we require all Party units in the urban areas of the region to discuss thoroughly the following articles:

* Strengthen the Party Committee System

* Party Situation and Policies

* Specific Characteristics of our People’s War

* Our Urgent Tasks

* Building a Regional United Front Commission

* Grasp the Principle of Revolutionary Mass Movements

Mentioning our basic courses and required readings in the above order does not mean that we rigidly follow its prescribed sequence.  There are instances in which a Party unit may find it more practical and concrete to discuss the article on the Party committee system before discussing Party history.  It is the responsibility of advanced Party members to determine the most practical sequence of each unit’s educational requirements.  However, all Party members are expected to have taken up all the above in the course of one year of Party membership.

4.  We go now to a relationship that is just as relevant to a bigger organization as it is to a beginning committee.  This is the relationship between general policy and particular guidance.  In discussing it, we hope to correct two common errors:  that of giving too particular guidance to lower units or less advanced comrades on small specific points and forgetting to formulate or discuss with them general policies, so much so that the latter immediately lose their bearing as soon as they are left alone; and that of handing over to lower units or less advanced comrades only general policies, not taking into account specific points within these policies that the latter may not comprehend.

The first error more often committed by those who lack a firm theoretical foundation in Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought; the second by those who lack revolutionary practice.  Due to our regional Party history, the first error is currently the more common of the two.

The correct combination is to formulate the necessary general policies and discuss them thoroughly with lower units or less advanced comrades, at the same time knowing the latter’s specific situation enough to judge in what spheres they need particular guidance.

For example, we issue a general policy on strengthening the Party committee system.  In order to ensure that this policy is carried out, the duty of all responsible comrades is to discuss it thoroughly with their lower units, from its theoretical implications to the style and methods of work within a committee.  This is what we mean by general policy.

At the same time, responsible comrades must investigate what specific points lower units are finding a difficult time to carry out, and give ample time to helping these units get over their difficulties.  This is what we mean by particular guidance.

Let us clarify further what we mean by the word “guidance”.  Among comrades with an intellectual background who have been assigned to committees, there is a general tendency to act like “p.o.’s” (political officers) or to look upon their work as “giving guidance” (“kailangan pang gabayan and mga iyan”).

This “p.o. mentality” fosters a feeling of condescension on the part of the comrade with an intellectual background and a feeling of inferiority on the part of other committee members, thus hampering the very process of strengthening the committee.  We must firmly combat this mentality, a carry-over of the petty bourgeois illusion of intellectual superiority.  The responsibility of comrades assigned to committees is to integrate with these committees and learn to bring out as well as receive collective decisions, not to reign over them.

5.  The last relationship we will discuss is that between higher and lower units or organs.  We will divide our discussion into two parts:  the first regarding timeliness of forming lower units and the second regarding the flow of centralism from the higher to the lower organs.

In devoting space to the first, we hope to correct the error of arbitrarily putting new Party elements into “sections” or “committees” even if these have no way of functioning as real sections or committees.  This is an error in box-filling.  As a result, we create only a lot of ghost committees, and the organizational structure with secondary levels that we had wished to put up becomes nothing but a couple of unorgnized individual Party members revolving around the “standing committee”, followed up “man-to-man” style.

Thus, where our wish was to create this structure:



What we end up with is this:


The question in this case becomes one of the timeliness of forming lower units.  The comrades who set up the above diagram were so eager to have “sections” that they created them immediately without taking into account that, since there are still very few Party members in the area, one member of the “standing committee: has to sit in on two sections at the same time (X and Y), another “section” is composed of only two members, and moreover, one member of X section even has to sit in on Y section at the same time!

When there are few existing candidate or full Party members in an area, the best thing to do is to put together anywhere from five to seven (or even eight) of them in the same committee for a time, as circumstances permit, making sure that each prospective section or committee has a fair representation.  Applying the principle of concentration and dispersal, this enlarged committee should be able to achieve two things, usually in a span of three to five months: one, a unity of will, purpose, planning and programming, and two, a fairly good amount of Party expansion.

When these two requisites have been achieved, then it is time to set up lower units, with the most advanced members of the enlarged committee heading the sections or secondary committees, and these latter composed not only of two members but at least three, without duplication of functions.

At such a time, the enlarged committee can be broken up and a real standing or executive committee can be elected in its place.  This is composed of at least five members, most if not all of whom hold one section or committee each.  This is an important requirement since the standing or executive committee is a policy-making body, and a committee which is not fairly representative of its components will not be able to make good policies.

At a time when the organization has grown big enough in terms of membership and/or territory that certain everyday questions cannot anymore be handled by constant meetings of all five members of the executive committee, a secretariat is formed.  The secretariat is composed of the three leading members of the executive committee (the secretary and two deputies). Being a more wieldy body, it settles day-to-day matters in lieu of the presence of the other members of the executive committee.

These are the structures we normally establish and the methods by which we systematically establish them.

Knowing now the basic differences between an enlarged committee, a standing or executive committee, and a secretariat and its lower units, let us go to the flow of centralism from the higher to the lower organs.

Previously, concerned as we have been to correct the practice of one man monopolizing affairs, we have stressed the need for collective decision within committees.  Such a stress has successfully stopped the tendency of over-centralization in a few leaders.

In checking a principal tendency, however, we never forget to deal with its opposite, its undercurrent. For this undercurrent, if allowed to spread, can later become the primary disease.

With regard to one-man monopoly of affairs, the common reaction is to develop a strain of ultra-democracy. One symptom is the neglect or denial, tacit or otherwise, of the flow of centralism from the higher to the lower organs; others are individual manifestations of rebellion or passivity. If such symptom are not diagnosed well, the tendency will be for the strain to grow bigger and develop into a feverish tinge of anarchy.  And the slightest fever of anarchism is not permissible in a Party organization.

It is timely to stress, therefore, that centralism has two aspects: one aspect is collective decision, which we are already learning to practice; the other is vertical flow of centralism which we have yet to internalize.  The second entails the establishment of a clear flow of centralism from the higher to the lower organs, and the recognition and proper use of these lines by all.

Thus, in the region as a whole, we have a Regional Committee (RC), which as an enlarged committee meets at least once a year on questions of political line.  Since this is too big a body to meet often, it elects a Regional Executive Committee (REC) which it vests with the power to make policies in lieu of RC meetings.

But since the REC is still not wieldy enough to meet too often on smaller questions, it has within it a Regional Secretariat (Rsec) that decides on day-to-day matters in lieu of the presence of the REC.

In cases of extreme emergency where even the RSec could not be called together, the regional secretary has both the right and the duty to issue a decision.  All regional organs are directly under the Rsec.

This chain is duplicated in every territorial and sectoral organ in the region, except in those cases of enlarged committees wherein the size of membership and area of coverage do yet warrant its existence.  Local sectoral organs operating within the same territory should receive their centralism from a higher local body; otherwise, their different plans will tend to clash with one another.


OUR DISCUSSION of the problem of organization has been rather long.  Notice, too, that in dealing with it our attention has been focused in large part on the problem of Party organization.

This is because, as we have said earlier, organization is the foundation on which our revolutionary mass movements will rise or crumble.  To extend the analogy, the Party organization is the steel reinforcement that firms up this foundation.  If we use low-quality steel or a poorly-designed framework, no amount of cement will serve to strengthen our foundation, and certainly, no great building can arise from it.

In other words, if our Party organization is shaky, any number of advanced and middle elements around it will not be able to give rise to a sustained, vigorous, revolutionary and mass movement.

To shift to another analogy, mastering the five organizational relationships discussed above is like mastering the dynamic mechanism of a second-hand truck.  If we master and are able to repair all its interrelated parts, we are sure to have a smoother-running, more powerful vehicle. But if we know only a little of the whole mechanism that makes it run, we can at most expect a few kilometers’ ride and plenty of stops after that.

In other words, as soon as we have mastered the five organizational relationships discussed above, we will be able to set in motion an unstoppable revolutionary mass movement.  But so long as we fail to grasp most of them, we can only manage to push small, sporadic movements that run in spurts.


A Question of Propaganda Skills

Developing revolutionary mass movements, however, is not only a matter of organizational methods.  It is also a matter of propaganda skills. While organization is the foundation, propaganda is the leading factor in any type of movement.

The relationship between organization and propaganda is one between a foundation and the machines that facilitate construction, respectively.  While a foundation constitutes the grounds on which a structure will rise or fall, machines speed up the process of building not only the structure, but also its foundation.

We must be good not only at building foundations and structures but also at operating the machines that facilitate their construction.  We must be good not only at maintaining and developing our organized forces, but a wielding the weapon of propaganda well.

First of all, what do we mean by propaganda?

By propaganda we mean not only those in written form.  Propaganda encompasses all forms and methods we use to broadcast and popularize a political line or an ideological stand.  These include oral propaganda in the form of teach-ins, speeches, group discussion, dissemination by word-of-mouth; audio-visual propaganda in the form of plays, movies, rallies, mass actions; visual propaganda in the form of painting, drawings, graffiti; and many more.

Let us analyze our definition further.  We say that propaganda broadcasts and popularizes.  This means to say that it attempts to reach a certain number of people. This is its quantitative aspect.

What does propaganda broadcast and popularize?  Propaganda broadcasts and popularizes a political line or an ideological stand.  This means that it embodies a certain political or ideological level.  This is its quantitative aspect.

These two aspects, the quantitative and the qualitative, determine the scale of our effective propaganda.

Applying this definition, we can cite four levels of propaganda:

* The lowest level is the antifascist level, which merely opens the eyes of the broad masses to the evils of the fascist dictatorship.

*  The next is the level wherein we start to link the antifascist struggle to the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles, thereby giving a fuller picture of the situation in the country today.

* The third is the national democratic level, whereby we popularize the need for a people's democratic revolution and our alternative to the present rotten system.

*  The fourth is the ideological level, whereby we spread the standpoint, viewpoint and method of the Party and the proletariat.

We always adjust the quantity and quality of our propaganda to our estimate of the organized forces at hand. Thus, if in our estimate there are few existing antifascists, we should increase the reach of our first-level propaganda, directing these to the unawakened masses.  If by our count there are already half a million staunch antifascists, we should heighten our second- or third level propaganda, directing these at the estimated half a million.  If we already have a thousand national democrats, we should increase the volume of our fourth-level propaganda, programming it to constantly reach this thousand.

Such constant quantitative adjustments of our propaganda work imply that we should develop what Comrade Mao Tsetung calls “a head for figures”.

They also demonstrate the role of propaganda as the leading factor in the revolutionary mass movement.


TAKING THIS definition into account, the dialectical relationship between organization and propaganda becomes clearer.

The scale of our effective propaganda depends upon the level of our organizational strength.  The growth of our organizational strength depends upon the scale of our effective propaganda.

Let us clarify these points further.

In the article “Building a Regional United Front Commission...”, we cited as wrong the trend in the period between September 1972 and end of 1973 of “carrying over the pre-martial law activist style of leafleteering, peryodikit, etc. at a time when the level of organized forces in each city could be counted with the fingers of one hand”.

We made it a pint to stress the phrase “with the fingers of one hand” to describe the level of our organized strength at that time, contraposing it with the propaganda methods of leafleteering, peryodikit, and the like, the audience of which is fairly unlimited and uncontrolled.  For certainly, leafleteering and peryodikit are not in themselves incorrect, being once more effective in such areas as Metro Manila, where our organized forces have already grown to several hundreds.

We always make it a point to adjust our propaganda to our organizational capacity.  This is what we mean when we say that the scale of our effective propaganda depends upon the level of our organizational strength.

In the “Building” article also, we made mention of the twin concepts of “man-to-man propaganda” and “p.o.t. building” and how, together with the “cloak and dagger” line in political work, they served as brakes to the rapid growth of our organized forces.

The exact opposite of the previous “activist” style of work, the “cloak and dagger” line together with the twin concepts limited the scope of our effective propaganda so much that it virtually denied rapid organizational expansion at a time when conditions were ripe.

The broader the range of our propaganda, the bigger our organization can become.  This is what we mean when we say that the growth of our organizational strength depends upon the scale of our propaganda.

In short, organization and propaganda are closely intertwined, one’s development depending upon the other. Propaganda must be just the right amount of steps ahead of organization, just enough to allow our organized forces to consolidate its gains.

Of course, there will always remain a certain percentage at every level of propaganda that cannot be immediately consolidated.  This percentage should not be too high, however, and should decrease as the level of propaganda heightens.

We could call such a percentage our comfortable margin for temporary non-consolidation.  Using the present number of our organized forces at a given level as our base figure, we could fix the following margins:

*  For first-level propaganda (antifascist propaganda), 1000 percent.

Thus if the present number of our organized antifascists is 20,000, the comfortable margin for the antifascist propaganda that we wage would be 200,000.  This means that 200,000 direct recipients of antifascist propaganda do not have to be immediately organized, while the rest should be.

The percentage of those who could be consolidated depends on the capacity of existing organized forces.  If the majority of these are inexperienced, we could at most expect a rate of growth of 100 percent.  If our organized forces are tried and tested, we could expect as much as 200 percent to be immediately consolidated after launching a series of antifascist propaganda.

*  For second-level propaganda) propaganda linking the antifascist with the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles), 500 percent.

Thus if the present number of our unconsolidated national democrats is 2,000, the comfortable margin for the second-level propaganda that we wage would be 10,000.  This means that 10,000 direct recipients of second-level propaganda do not have to be immediately organized, while the rest should be.

Again, the percentage of those which could be immediately consolidated depends upon the capacity of existing organized forces.  Since this figure will vary from time to time, we do not fix a percentage for consolidation.

*  For third-level propaganda (national democratic propaganda), 200 percent.

Thus, if the present number of our consolidated national democrats is 1,000, the comfortable margin for the national democratic propaganda that we wage would be 2,000.  This means that 2,000 direct recipients of national democratic propaganda do not have to be immediately consolidated, while the rest should be.

*  For fourth-level propaganda (Party propaganda), 100 percent.

 Thus if the present number of our Party membership is 500, the comfortable margin for the Party propaganda that we wage outside of our organized Party forces would be 500.  This means that 500 direct recipients of Party propaganda do not have to be immediately consolidated, while the rest should be.

As the political and ideological level rises, our expectations with regard to the ability to consolidate becomes greater.  Thus we would expect consolidated national democrats and especially Party members to be able to achieve greater percentages of consolidation -- as high as 500 percent -- although such a percentage would also depend on the maturity of these organized forces.

The margins for temporary non-consolidation cited above are necessary in the sense that they become the reserves from which our organized forces can draw at any time.  We must remember that not all people act immediately; sometimes it takes years before a person who once participated in a mass action finally decides to take up a cause.  If we review the histories of many of our sympathizers today, we will discover that most of them took part in some unsustained action or discussion in some nearly-forgotten past, which today propels them to extend their aid to us. A constant, sustained barrage of all levels of propaganda multiplies the number of such people, as well as deepens their commitment to the revolution.

The importance of correct proportions cannot be overstressed.  On the one hand, if our propaganda is too far ahead, our organized forces will not be able to cope with the needed consolidation work even as the enemy is already warned of our revolutionary activities.  For example, if we wage third-level propaganda with 5000 percent margin for non-consolidation, we merely engage in a waste of resources, unnecessarily exposing our organized forces at the same time.  This is what happened in the period between September 1972 and end of 1973.

On the other hand, if our propaganda work is too slow, our organized forces will have little expansion and consolidation tasks to do, and the enemy can easily wreck our organization. For example, if the antifascist propaganda we wage is only 50 percent more than our total Party forces, it means we can grow only a maximum of 50 percent, or more likely, five percent. This is similar to what happened in the days of “man-to-man propaganda” and “p.o.t. building”.

The skill of determining the correct combination between our organized forces and the level of our propaganda work is similar to the skill of combining the legal with the illegal struggle.  It is mainly through the legal struggle that we can wage our most effective propaganda work, while is mainly through the illegal struggle that we consolidate our gains. However, propaganda work also has its illegal aspect (e.g., underground papers), while organizational work has its legal aspect (e.g., the process of building legal mass organizations).

Once our organized forces have grown because of our corresponding propaganda work -- that is, once the number of candidate members of the Party, national democrats and active antifascists have considerably increased   -- we can also increase the scale of our propaganda in terms of heightening, deepening and broadening the antifascist struggle, linking it with the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal struggles and popularizing the national democratic alternative as well as the proletarian standpoint, viewpoint and method.

This is why we have made it a point to stress rapid Party expansion as one of the first steps to take in areas where we are just starting revolutionary mass movements.  With a sufficient core of Party members at hand, we can launch a corresponding amount of propaganda work, at first on a small scale.  Response to our propaganda work nets us additional Party members, national democrats and active antifascists.  These additions in turn spell a corresponding increase in the scale of our propaganda.  And so on.


HOW DO WE carry out propaganda work? Propaganda takes a thousand different forms and could be done in a thousand different ways.  But the key to discovering possible forms of propaganda is one word, and this is creativity.  Starting with any material, any vehicle we have on hand, we can launch any manner of propaganda work.

But of course, aside from creativity, propaganda work also entails system.  Grasping the relationship between organizational and propaganda in terms of structures is one system.  Grasping the correct combination of the legal and the illegal struggle is another.  We have already discussed the above.  Let us now go to the third system in propaganda work.  This is the method of applying the correct blend of two types of propaganda according to scope:  broad spectrum propaganda and topical propaganda.

We usually begin a mass movement with broad spectrum propaganda:  that is, propaganda that attacks a broad range of issues, often national in scope.  Our most common starting level is a crystallization of the antifascist resentments of the broad masses.  Included in this range of propaganda are such issues as soaring prices, low wages and fake referenda.

The forms broad spectrum propaganda takes can be as varied as our creativity and objective conditions permit.  Suffice it to say that at this stage of our propaganda work, our target audience is relatively inactive, merely receiving their information in timed-release doses.

Note that we use the phrase “relatively inactive”.  In certain cases, some numbers can be actively mobilized on the bases of broad spectrum issues like fake referenda; however, these cases are more of a sporadic nature and are not the general rule.  This is why we say that at this stage our target audience is relatively inactive.

At the moment our broad spectrum propaganda is limited to the first two antifascist levels.  However, using the correct combination of the legal and illegal struggle, we have already reached tens of thousands on these two levels.  Our problem is to consolidate at least a fraction of these by raising their consciousness to the third and fourth levels.

As our organized forces grow and as our audience slowly gets over its fears of government reprisal, we add doses of topical propaganda to our previous broad spectrum approach. This simply means that we narrow down the issues to those which directly and presently affect the target audience. Thus, in factories, topical issues would be low wages and the right to strike; in urban poor communities, the problem of land; in schools, the tuition fee hikes.

As we shift to topical propaganda, the need for agitational and mobilization skills sharpens.  Such skills may be written, oral or in other forms.  A few of such skilled people made possible the mobilization of as many as 60,000 during the First Quarter Storm, and it will be the same kind of people multiplied many times over that will generate the small and big storms to come.

Not everyone has the gift of being able to agitate and mobilize thousands.  But as a skill it can be developed.  And the capacity to harness natural agitators and mobilizers is a skill in itself.

Another necessary factor for generating topical propaganda is detailed social investigation of particular localities. For without specific knowledge of the principal problems of the masses in an area, no amount of agitation and mobilization skills will move them to concerted mass action.

Detailed social investigation also reveals the extent of the demands that the masses can make.  We always make sure that the demands made by the masses can be methods, and adjust our propaganda accordingly.   In so doing, we ensure the step-by-step victory of the masses and encourage them to achieve still greater victories.

In determining the correct political line for each particular struggle of the broad masses, whether it be in the factories, communities or schools, we apply the principle of waging struggles “on just grounds, to our advantage and with restraint”.

This means that we always make it a point to make just and fair demands (on just grounds), wage struggles that will redound to political if not economic gains (to our advantage), and answer the enemy’s blows tit-for-tat, without overstepping the enemy’s own bounds at a particular time (with restraint).

A third factor accompanying topical propaganda is the method of turning the propaganda movement into a mass movement.  This means two things: first, harnessing the creativity of many in discovering all possible forms of propaganda; and second, imparting the skills we already have at hand to the masses that are being politicized.

The matter of imparting skills to the masses means that we do not only present a play to the masses; we also teach them how to make it.  We do not only write manifestoes, news items or analytical articles; we also teach them how to write them.  We do not only conduct social investigation of the lives of the masses, we also teach them how to do it themselves.

The teaching of propaganda skills is most timely when it supplements topical propaganda, for it is at this point when the target audience is already politicized enough as well as active enough to make good use of the skills we teach.

In generating topical propaganda, we make possible the active mobilization of the masses, for here are issues that directly and presently affect them.  As the target audience gets engaged in lower forms of mass action, their consciousness is raised. and we are and to enlist to the cause more new Party members and national democratic activists.  The consciousness of the target audience having been sufficiently raised and our organized forces having sufficiently increased, higher forms of mass protest actions begin to break out.

Mass actions, strikes, boycott movements and the like represent a relatively high stage in our propaganda work.  If active participation in such vehicles of protest involve hundreds, it means previous forms of propaganda have reached these numbers, whether directly or indirectly, and scores have already been drawn into the Party and various antifascist or national democratic mass organizations.

Once the topical propaganda we have generated has resulted in several mass actions in specific localities, we raise the issue once again to the broad spectrum scope, thereby giving rise to higher and wider forms of mass actions.

As our second round of broad spectrum propaganda reaches more and more localities, we make possible general protest actions on such issues as martial law.  As general protest actions increase, we raise issues higher still, until, in coordination with the armed struggle in the countryside, we can launch a series of general strikes on the eve of the seizure of power.

Such is the strategic view of urban revolutionary mass movements.

At the present time, we have not yet reached the stage when we could generate sustained and vigorous mass actions in the region.  We have given rise to a few isolated mass actions from time to time, but we have not generated sufficient force to create a chain of mass protest actions in a planned and programmatic way.  Why is this so?

This is so because our total organized forces have generated in the main a large amount of broad spectrum propaganda without having backed this up with enough topical propaganda.  In the few localities where topical propaganda has sprung up, we have not yet sufficiently harnessed the broad spectrum approach.

In generating a sustained and vigorous revolutionary mass movement, we must always remember that the masses act on two counts:  because they see that an issue affects them directly, and because they know that this issue is related to bigger issues that also affect them.  A correct blend of topical and broad spectrum propaganda encourages the masses to act on both counts and to act in a sustained and vigorous way.


THERE IS a lot to be done.  Spreading the correct attitudes toward the masses, we can widen considerably the numbers of those who participate in the revolutionary mass movement.  Grasping the five organizational relationships, we can create a well-oiled Party machinery.  Knowing the correct combination of organization and propaganda and the legal and illegal struggle, we can heighten, broaden and deepen our propaganda work. Applying the correct blend of topical and broad spectrum propaganda, we can agitate the people to sustained and vigorous action.  Turning the propaganda movement into a mass propaganda movement, we can unleash the creativity of the masses in discovering all possible forms of propaganda.

These are the principles of revolutionary mass movements.  Grasping these principles, we can draw the broad masses into active participation in the revolutionary struggle and speed up the process of building our organized forces.  In this way, we multiply endlessly the chain of mass protest, generating movements that are truly revolutionary and en masse, thereby hastening the entire revolutionary process.

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