Dr. Joseph Scalice discusses the significance of the fight against Stalinism with the members of Sri Lankan SEP

By Our correspondents
12 October 2020

On Sunday, October 4, historian Dr. Joseph Scalice spoke to an online aggregate of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) in Sri Lanka explaining the significance of his scholarship, which has exposed the support given by Philippine Stalinists to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and the rise to power of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. Scalice was invited by the Sri Lankan SEP to deliver a guest lecture to the meeting, which was also attended by the supporters of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) from India.

Scalice has come under attack by the Philippine Stalinists for his powerful August 26 lecture delivered at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, “First as Tragedy, second as Farce: Marcos, Duterte and the Communist Parties of the Philippines.” The World Socialist Web Site launched a campaign to defend Dr. Scalice and his scholarship against the slanderous attacks launched by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.

Welcoming Dr. Scalice, Deepal Jayasekara, the assistant secretary of the Sri Lankan SEP who chaired the meeting said he had done a great service to the international working class by meticulously investigating and exposing the role of the CPP. “Scalice’s detailed exposure of Sison and his CPP is very important for political education of members of SEP in Sri Lanka and our supporters in India in their political and theoretical struggle against Stalinists and Maoists in Sri Lanka and particularly in India,” he said.

Dr. Joseph Scalice

At the beginning of his lecture, Scalice thanked readers of the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), especially in India and Sri Lanka for providing statements for the ICFI’s campaign to defend his work against Stalinist slanders.

“After I delivered my lecture, Sison intensified his slander against me,” Scalice said. The intensity of Sison’s attack, he pointed out, was in part a response to the possibility that the exposure of the party’s role in 2016 threatened their current attempt to form an alliance with Vice President Leni Robredo’s Liberal Party against Duterte. Sison is appealing to sections of the military to intervene to oust the current president.

Scalice gave a brief outline of Philippine history. The Philippines had been a Spanish colony for 350 years. The Filipino people fought against colonial rule and formed the short-lived Philippine Republic in 1898 in the first anti-colonial revolution in Asia. Within one year, an American imperialist invasion broke up the newly-created republic and conquered the Philippines.

Inspired by the October Revolution of 1917, a Communist Party, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), was formed in the Philippines in 1930. Scalice explained how the newly-formed PKP came under the political control of Stalinism as a result of the domination of representatives from the Communist Party USA.

Scalice explained how his scholarship had documented the role that the PKP played in supporting the military dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. He explained that the CPP, which was formed in 1968 as a breakaway faction from the PKP, tied the mass opposition to the dictatorship to the interests of the bourgeois rivals of Marcos. The role played by these two Stalinist parties in the 1970s provides a historical parallel to the policies of CPP today. Scalice explained how the CPP, throughout its history, had politically subordinated the Philippine working class to the bourgeois political establishment.

Following Scalice’s lecture, participants raised a number of important questions enabling Scalice to deepen the discussion of the political role of Stalinists and Maoists and the contemporary significance of the historical struggle of the Trotskyist movement against Stalinism.

Responding to a question on the role of the Maoists in South Asia, Scalice outlined the evolution and impact of the Sino-Soviet split throughout Asia. He said that Maoism was a political variant of Stalinism that, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, promoted armed struggles in rural areas that diverted growing popular opposition into the countryside.

“The Maoist parties formed in the 1960s and 1970s shared this common orientation, including the movement known as Naxalism [in India]. It was at this time, however, that Mao Zedong began to turn to Washington as an ally in Beijing’s conflict with Moscow. Having lost their ties to China, Maoist parties around the world intensified their nationalist orientation and shifted further to the right.”

He continued: “As a result the Maoist parties even launched direct attacks on the working class.” Drawing parallels to the present reactionary role of Maoism, he said: “This historical evolution explains the support given by the CPP to the fascistic Duterte.”