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PSR: The Semifeudal Alibi for Protracted War


Metro Manila - Rizal Regional Committee
Communist Party of the Philippines
February 21, 1994

Philippine society, according to Sison, is semicolonial and semifeudal. But
the question arises: What precisely is the prevailing mode of production in
Philippine society? Is it capitalist or feudal? Is it a combination of both? Or neither
of the two? Meaning, the "semicolonial, semifeudal" characterization itself is the
subject of our analysis of the prevailing mode of production in Philippine society.

There is no dispute, insofar as this "semicolonial and semifeudal"
characterization is but a description, an expression of the peculiar features of the
socio-economic evolution of Philippine society. It is an expedient formulation that
highlights the immediate political tasks of the peoples struggle, the elimination of
all feudal remnants and the struggle for national self-determination, all within the
bourgeois bounds of the democratic revolution.

We can even describe our society as a mongrel economy for it is a
mixture of the worst features of two opposing modes of production. Or we can
diagnose it as a mongoloid economy, afflicted by an abnormality in its fetal stage
of development.

But whatever description we make, still, we must classify this
"semicolonial, semifeudal" social specimen according to whatever social order it
properly belongs, attach its correct scientific name, identify its mode of existence,
its mode of production. Political expediency must not in any way become an
excuse to obscure or evade the necessity for a theoretically precise definition
and understanding of the basic process of our social and economic evolution.
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Nor must this analysis become simply an alibi for a preconceived strategy of
revolution.

Although claiming to be a faithful follower of Marxist political economy,
Sison prefers however, to replace the precise and clear Marxist categorization of
a mode of production by the vague and diffuse term "semicolonial and
semifeudal" and hence surreptitiously evades and disguises the basic process in
the economic development of the Philippines, keeping incognito its real mode of
existence.

Lenin, more than once, described Russian society as semifeudal, and
even barbaric, because of the widespread survivals of serfdom and the autocratic
rule of Tsarism. But these peculiar features of Russian society did not prevent
him from going deeper and penetrating into the very core of the question in an
attempt to understand the basic process determining the socio-economic
evolution of Russian society. And his essential conclusion was, the mode of
production of Russian society was basically bourgeois and capitalist, despite,
and through all, its medieval features and stages of transition.

But for Sison, he is fully contented, and very proud of himself, with his
"semicolonial and semifeudal" sketch of Philippine society, emphasizing every
line and feature in bold strokes , and for the past 25 years, has vehemently
insisted that this is the only way Philippine society should be drawn.

He has given his semicolonial and semifeudal "analysis" of Philippine
society a life of its own, its own theoretical rationalization. He makes the
impression that he has concatenated it into a distinct mode of production, into an
economic category, even raised it to the level of a "basic principle" of Marxism-
Leninism that should be "reaffirmed" in the decade of the 1990s up to the new
century by every Filipino proletarian revolutionary.

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Ask any comrade "faithful" to the Party line what the prevailing mode of
production in the country is, and his ready reply will be: "Philippine society is
neither feudal nor capitalist but semicolonial and semifeudal." This is our prevai-
ling understanding of the mode of production dominant in Philippine society. But
is this the "official Party line"?

Let us review the "Party Bible" Sisons Philippine Society and
Revolution to ascertain what truly is his analysis of the prevailing mode of
production.

Semifeudalism: A Mode of Expression Not a Mode of Production

In the PSR, Sison completely evades a categorical presentation of the
question. However, by an integral analysis of all his "theoretical" assertions, one
can get a clear picture of how Sison defines the mode of production in Philippine
society.

Sison begins with the assertion that Philippine society is semicolonial and
semifeudal. And "this status is determined by US imperialism, feudalism and
bureaucrat capitalism."

These are three "determining" factors of what Sison calls the "status" of
Philippine society. If by the word "status" Sison is referring to the "mode of
production", he does not clarify. But this word has no status in Marxist
terminology unless qualified.

He then explains first why Philippine society is semicolonial and then
proceeds to explain why it is semifeudal. In both explanation, he pinpoints US
imperialism as the principal determinant.

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In discussing Philippine mode of production, we will put aside the
"semicolonial" characterization. No Marxist in his right mind will insist that this
"semicolonial" status of the Philippines is a categorization of a mode of
production. The "semi-colonial" question is not a socio-economic category but a
political-democratic question. It does not refer to relations of production or a
mode of production but to a relationship between imperialism and political
democracy.

Thus if we delete or ignore this "semicolonial" aspect, what is left of
Sisons description of the mode of production dominant in Philippine society?

The prevailing mode of production in the Philippines is semifeudal! Hence,
Metro Manila, the national industrial center, is semifeudal? The urban centers of
the Philippines where more than 48% of the population reside is semifeudal?

Sisons fanatics might protest: semifeudalism refers primarily to the
countryside. If that is so, then how do they describe the economy in the cities
semicolonial? The countryside as semifeudal, the cities as semicolonial! Stupid.

But of course this is ridiculous. Even Sison cannot deny (though he
obscures and evades it) that Metro Manila and the urban centers are basically
capitalist in their mode of production. The point, however, is not to dichotomize
Philippine society into "town and country" but to understand its socio-economic
evolution, its basic process of development in its integral whole, in its internal
relations, in its dialectical inner movement.

Here lies precisely, the inadequacy of the "semifeudal and semicolonial"
explanation of the Philippine mode of production and the absurdity of evading the
bourgeois, capitalist basic process undergoing and unfolding in Philippine society
despite all the distortions, all the obstacles, all the complexities, all the
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abnormalities in its development due primarily to non-economic means and
factors.

But we are running ahead of Sison. Let us see how Sison defines and
explains Philippine society, its mode of production and its basic process vis-a-vis
his "semifeudal" analysis.

According to Sison: "The semifeudal character of Philippine society is
principally determined by the impingement of US monopoly capitalism on the old
feudal mode of production and the subordination of the latter to the former."

So from feudal, the Philippines becomes semifeudal through an imperialist
"impingement"! And feudalism becomes a "subordinate" of monopoly capitalism,
a "concubine" of Uncle Sam. "East" meets "West", and their offspring is
"semifeudalism" a new mode of production in the era of monopoly capitalism,
the product of the imperialist sperm being embedded in the feudal womb.

For Sison, the principal determinant of the "semifeudal" mode of
production in Philippine society (if he considers it a "mode of production") is US
monopoly capitalism!

So, imperialism is a carrier of a new form of production relations called
"semifeudalism"! (It appears that Sison is either ignorant or innocent of what
determines a mode of production based on Marxist historical materialism and
political economy, or he just doesnt care.)

So what is this "impingement of US monopoly capitalism on the old feudal
mode of production" and "the subordination of the latter to the former"?

How did he explain this "impingement" and "subordination" resulting in the
"semifeudal character of Philippine society"?
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According to Sison: "The concrete result of the intertwining of foreign
monopoly capitalism and domestic feudalism is the erosion and dissolution of a
natural economy of self-sufficiency in favor of a commodity economy"

From "impingement" to "intertwining". Sison is really a "master of words".
No wonder, he is a consummate revolutionary phrase-monger! But then again,
what is the "concrete result" of this "intertwining" of imperialism and feudalism? In
his exact words: "the erosion and dissolution of a natural economy of self-
sufficiency in favor of a commodity economy."

But this is the destruction, the elimination, the abolition of feudalism (self-
sufficient natural economy) and the establishment, the laying of the foundation,
the dawning of capitalism (commodity economy). So it is imperialism that is
liquidating feudalism! So this imperialist "impingement" and its "intertwining" with
feudalism erodes and dissolves feudal natural economy in favor of capitalist
commodity economy.

Is this what Sison implies? Definitely not! This is not so, because, being
dictated by foreign monopoly capitalism,"this commodity economy is used to
restrict the growth of national capitalism and force owner-cultivators and
handicraftsmen into bankruptcy." And he adds that this commodity economy
dictated by imperialism is "used to keep large masses of people in feudal
bondage and at the same time create a relative surplus of population, a huge
reserve army of labor, that keeps the labor market cheap."

So this commodity economy is used by imperialism to (1) restrict the
growth of national capitalism, (2) force owner-cultivators and handicraftsmen into
bankruptcy, (3) keep large masses of people in feudal bondage, and (4) create a
surplus population and a huge reserve labor army that keeps the labor market
cheap.
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After saying that through imperialist "impingement" and its "intertwining"
with feudalism, natural economy, i.e., feudalism, is eroded and dissolved, and
commodity economy, i.e., capitalism, is established he is now saying, that on
the contrary, this is not so!Sison should be dragged by the ears and told to
review his political economy.

What is this rubbish about imperialism using "commodity economy to
restrict the growth of national capitalism?" Commodity economy is the vehicle of
capitalism and it cannot grow and develop other than through commodity
economy. How then can commodity economy be used to restrict the growth of
local capitalism when in fact, (1) it objectively destroys feudal natural economy
which is the actual obstacle to capitalist development and, (2) it is the vehicle, the
impetus for capitalist growth and the undermining of feudalism as a system. It is
monopoly capitalism as imperialism, not commodity economy, that restricts or is
being "used" to restrict the growth of local capitalism. Obviously, Sison is not only
ignorant of the internal laws of development of capitalism. He also does not
understand imperialism and how it restricts local capi-talism.

Sisons ignorance of capitalist laws is fully exposed by his second point
by the way he laments the fact that commodity economy is being used to "force
owner-cultivators and handicraftsmen into bankruptcy"! What does Sison expects
from capitalism, from commodity economy? Prosperity for the owner-cultivators?
Prosperity for the handicraftsmen? Sison is an overt imperialist-hater but a covert
capitalist-lover. Commodity economy "dictated" or not by imperialism will
result and must result in the growing bankruptcy of the mass of owner-cultivators
and handicraftsmen, and this bankruptcy is the surest indication of the
dominance of commodity economy, and it just cannot be otherwise.

And Sisons fourth point commodity economy being used to "create a
relative surplus of population, a huge reserve army of labor, that keeps the local
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labor market cheap" confirms Sisons "innocence" of capitalist laws but he,
nevertheless, stands "convicted" before the bar of Marxism-Leninism. Again,
what should we expect from commodity economy, except Marxs forecast of "the
growth of the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation" of
the toiling people, the growth of a "huge army of reserve labor" used and
maintained by the bourgeoisie "like a whip" against the proletariat.

Indeed, Sison is advocating a "new" theory that run against the grain of
the basic ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin. And this is conclusively confirmed by
his third point: imperialist dictated commodity economy "is used to keep large
masses of people in feudal bondage"! The "master of rhetoric" is now engaged in
paradox.

Commodity production for feudal bondage, using the vehicle of capitalism
for the preservation of the old feudal mode this is Sisons "semifeudal theory".
This is how Sison rendered more profound Maos "semifeudal" description of
China, and even Lenins description of Russia, for the latter preceded the former
in the use of this term in describing their respective societies.

How does imperialism use "commodity production" to "keep large masses
of people in feudal bondage"? Sison has no direct, categorical explanation. He
just insinuates. In his immediately succeeding sentences, he says: "In Philippine
agriculture, the old feudal mode persists side by side with capitalist farming
chiefly for the production of a few export crops needed by the United States and
other capitalist countries. As a matter of fact, the old feudal mode of production
still covers more extensive areas than capitalist farms."

But where is the connection? How is commodity economy, which has
replaced feudal natural economy, used to preserve feudal bondage? If this
seems to be a contradiction in doctrine, at least, it should be proven that this is
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contradiction in real life. But for Sison, to exist "side by side" is a profound
connection! Ones living "side by side" with another is already a connection!

From his theories of "impingement" and "intertwining", he now introduces
his "side by side" theory which is less glamorous rhetorically. But he will promptly
recover his technocratic elegance by the theory of "interactive and symbiotic
relationship".

At least, Sison has clarified what he refers to as "commodity economy"
being dictated and used by US imperialism. But what he is actually referring to is
only the actual production of particular commodities, i.e., export crops needed by
the US and other capitalist countries. He is not really speaking of commodity
economy as an economic system but only of the actual planting of bananas, of
particular crops for export!

This "production of a few export crops" is actually the one being referred
to by Sison as the factor restricting the growth of national capitalism. But
because of his penchant for fancy formulations, plus the fact that he does not
know what he is saying, he recklessly calls it "commodity economy" being used
to "restrict" local capitalism, etc.

Sison will not and can not explain how "commodity economy" as a system
of production "restricts" capitalism and "preserves" feudalism because he is
simply describing how imperialism "restricts" capitalist farming to the production
of a few export crops while existing "side by side" with the old feudal mode of
production.

Just read his next sentences: "Feudalism has been encouraged and
retained by US imperialism to perpetuate the poverty of the broad masses of the
people, subjugate the most numerous class which is the peasantry and
manipulate local backwardness for the purpose of having cheap labor and cheap
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raw materials from the country. It is in this sense that domestic feudalism is the
social base of US imperialism."

See, no more "commodity economy" being used to "restrict" local
capitalism and "preserve" domestic feudalism. Instead, he just distracts us with
his prattle and chatter and surprises us with another profound assertion:
"feudalism is the social base of US imperialism"!

But before we tackle this "social base" theory, let us pause and reflect on
all that had been said, what then is "semifeudalism" or where is "semifeudalism"?

Sison began his explanation of "semifeudalism" with his theories of
impingement and intertwining which resulted in the "erosion and dissolution of
natural economy in favor of commodity production."

From here, one is tempted to interpret Sisons "semifeudalism" as the
growth of capitalism in agriculture from the old feudal mode, but an abnormal,
artificial growth, not following the usual process, because

(1) it is the result of imperialist "impingement", hence, a local capitalism
dependent on and distorted by the domination of monopoly capital, and

(2) this intertwining of imperialism and feudalism will result in the
preservation of feudal remnants, hence, the slower, agonizing growth of local
capitalism.

PSR: The Semifeudal Alibi for Protracted War