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The Second Congress of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Mindanao) – An Eyewitness Report

9 October 2010

Introduction: an historical note

by Pierre ROUSSET

The Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Mindanao) (Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa-Mindanao or RPM-M) – was founded in 2001. But it is the product of a history which goes back a decade earlier, to the crisis of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP, Maoist) in 1992-1993. This crisis resulted in a whole series of splits, involving particularly commissions dealing with sectors of the party’s work and territorial, regional party structures. In the South of the archipelago, this was the case with the Central Mindanao Region or CMR.

Let us go a little further back in time. In September 1987, the Communist Party reorganized its forces in Mindanao, creating five regions, including the CMR. The particularity of this region was to be responsible for work towards the Moros and Lumads – solidarity between the “three peoples” of the southernmost big island of the archipelago. Three communities do indeed live side by side in Mindanao. The “majority nationality”, made up of the descendants of Christian settlers who had come in the framework of a recent process of “internal” colonization: during the twentieth century, the Filipino government pushed inhabitants from the North and South of the archipelago (often peasants) to migrate and settle in Mindanao. The Moros: Muslim populations which were converted to Islam before the Spanish (and Christian) colonization in the sixteenth century. The Lumads: mountain tribes, indigenous peoples, which were not Islamized.

The process of “internal” colonization and the arrival of big corporations (transnational and Filipino) has created many economic, social and territorial conflicts which can easily take an inter-clan (within a community) or inter-community form. The historical resistance of the Moros gave rise to important armed movements: the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), then the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The resistance of the Lumad tribes, on the other hand, remained localised, not unified.

The principal territorial bases of the CMR (and today of the RPM-M) are in the provinces of Lanao (Northern and Southern), part of Misamis Oriental, North Cotabato and Maguindanao. They include urban centres like Iligan and Marawi. But its networks extended everywhere where there are Moro or Lumad populations, to Sultan Kudarat, to Zamboanga and the southernmost islands. Further afield, the CMR also had the responsibility for work towards the Moro and Lumad communities established in the Visayas (in the centre of the archipelago) and in Manila.

Within the Filipino Left, the experiment of the CMR is thus extremely particular, located in the principal zone of military conflicts of the archipelago, in constant contact with the MILF, with a limited implantation in the Moro milieu but much more important among the Lumad mountain tribes in its provincial bastions, even though many of its members belong to the “majority nationality”.

After the split in 1993, the CMR went well beyond its original borders. Wanting to take part in the constitution of a new revolutionary organization on the level of the archipelago, it founded the Revolutionary Workers’ Party by fusing with other structures produced by the crisis of the CPP, in the Visayas and in Manila. Unfortunately, this attempt fell through, giving rise on the one hand to a RWP (RPM-P) “Philippines” and on the other to the RWP “Mindanao” (RPM-M).

Since then, the RPM-M has extended its implantation in Mindanao, in particular towards the East, to Davao, but it has not succeeded, for the moment, in consolidating an organization in the capital (Manila-Quezon City), in Luzon in the North or in the Visayas in the centre of the archipelago. The RPM-M remains a formation with a very “Mindanoan” identity. More generally, all the Filipino revolutionary parties resulting from the crisis of the CPP have a very unequal implantation according to regions or social sectors.

The flag of the RPM-M. The three stars (one is hidden by the weapons) symbolise the three people of Mindanao as well as the three main regions of the Philippines (Luzon, the Visayas, Mindanao and the far south).

Although its members are often engaged in legal activities, the RPM-M remains a clandestine organization. All the older cadres of the RPM-M were members of the Maoist party. In the same way, its politico-military cadres of the Revolutionary People’s Army (RPA) came from the New People’s Army (NPA) of the CPP. But since 1993, many members have joined the RPM-M who never belonged to the Maoist movement.

The rejuvenation of the RPM-M is striking.

The RPM-M has joined the Fourth International, of which it is the Filipino section.

Pierre Rousset

A congress in a guerilla base

Report from the Congress


Get up: 3 a.m. Departure: 3.30. Stop for coffee: 4.15 in a village at the foot of the mountains. Then a night march to reach Camp Usman where the Second Congress of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Mindanao), (RPM-M) is to be held.

At least that was the plan.

In fact, the car which was supposed to be for us had to urgently take a woman to the hospital. At 2 o’clock in the morning, we had to look for a new vehicle. It was pretty much a wreck. It no longer had any headlights. We drove at dead of night with, to light our way, a flashlight held out of the window of the front door. It was a big first for me! So of course we arrived late, with the dawn, and we could not fully benefit from the protection of the night to reach the guerrilla camp. Time pressed and we no longer had the right to the promised coffee!

Read the complete report at the Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières website

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