Crisis of the Neocolonial State
By Jose Maria Sison
Third in a Series of Lectures
on Philippine Crisis and Revolution
April 22, 1986
The U.S. shifted from direct to indirect colonial rule over the
Philippines in 1946. This latter rule may be called semicolonial
or neocolonial. Due to the ceaseless demand of the Filipino
people for national independence, U.S. imperialism found it
necessary to rule the country through such exploiting classes as
the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class and their
political representatives up to the national level of the state.
This state is the highest and largest political and social
organization in the country. It encompasses the entire Philippine
society-each and every Filipino citizen. It claims to carry and
enforce the sovereign will of the Filipino people; transcend and
mediate the differences and conflicts of individuals, groups and
classes; and requires obedience from the people in the name of
law and order within Philippine territory.
The illusion is fostered a priori that the state is above classes
and for the national interest and general welfare. But in fact,
it is the coercive instrument of exploiting classes against the
exploited and, in the case of a semicolonial state, it is the
instrument of an imperialist power.
The formal availability of civil liberties and the existence of
suasive entities like a representative assembly, competing
political parties, mass organizations, mass media and the like
tend to obscure the class character of the state.
But in time of crisis and revolution, the character of the state
as an instrument of class coercion becomes conspicuous. The state
comes out naked as a set of coercive apparatuses like the army,
the police, the courts and prisons in the service of U.S.
imperialism and the local ruling classes.
Continuance of U.S. Domination
Before yielding nominal independence to the Philippines, the U.S.
made sure as early as 1945 in an agreement with President
Osmeña and in the 1946 Treaty of General Relations that it
would retain U.S. military bases in the Philippines in violation
of the Tydings-McDuffie Law and the 1935 Constitution, which
permitted only naval fueling stations.
Then the U.S.-R.P. Military Bases Agreement was extracted from
the Philippine neocolonial state in 1947. This agreement was
ratified by the Philippine Senate but never by the U.S. Senate.
And it has remained as an executive agreement between the U.S.
and Philippine presidents despite prolonged misrepresentation in
the press as a treaty until a few years ago.
The U.S. military bases have continued to violate the national
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines; to
exercise a coercive influence on every puppet regime in the
country; to exact heavy social costs from the people; to tie the
country to the imperialist schemes of the U.S. in Asia and
beyond; and to put the people under the threat of annihilation in
case of a nuclear war.
The U.S. military bases are a constant reminder of the U.S.
intervention and aggression starting in 1898, the humiliating and
bloody conquest of the people, and several decades of direct U.S.
colonial rule. These bases are the landmark of perpetuated U.S.
aggression and domination.
The U.S. military bases are tied in with U.S. military assistance
and the economic support fund to the Philippine government.
Dependent on foreign exchange which is constantly being drained
by trade payments, superprofit remittances and debt servicing,
this government falls easily for a compensation package in
connection with the U.S. military bases.
The U.S. has not only military bases of its own in the
Philippines but also tight control of the main component of the
Philippine neocolonial state, the Armed Forces of the
Philippines. As early as 1935, through Commonwealth Act No. 1,
called the National Defense Act, the U.S. secured full control of
the AFP in preparation for the conversion of the Philippine
colony to a semicolony.
The U.S. controls the AFP because the latter is dependent on it
for antipeople and anticommunist indoctrination, strategic
planning, strategic intelligence, officer training and military
supplies. The Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group exercises a
far greater influence on the AFP officers than the top
officialdom of the Philippine civil government does.
By their training and mentality, AFP officers are subservient to
the U.S. But the U.S. always recruits from among them
intelligence assets of the Central Intelligence Agency and the
Defense Intelligence Agency. Thus, the fascist dictator Marcos
could not do anything to reverse his downfall, despite his
carefully built system of patronage within the AFP, when the U.S.
finally decided to withdraw support from him.
The tradition of hewing to the U.S. line, which started with the
first Filipino mercenaries used by the U.S. to attack the
Filipino revolutionaries in the Filipino-American War, is well
entrenched in the AFP. The U.S. has been responsible for building
the AFP, from its original units to its current ones.
The AFP is the most dependable puppet organization of the U.S. in
the Philippines and the most antagonistic to the national and
democratic aspirations of the Filipino people. These aspirations
are always misconstrued as "communism" by the AFP. And
"democracy" is made to mean pro-imperialism,
anticommunism and service to the exploiting classes.
Big Comprador-Landlord Dictatorship
Distinct from being a coercive instrument of U.S. imperialism,
the Philippine neocolonial state is a joint class dictatorship of
the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. So long as
this state conforms to the demands of the U.S., the exploiting
classes use it to protect and promote their interests in the mode
of production and superstructure of the semicolonial and
So long as the exploited classes of workers and peasants do not
raise demands which openly conflict with the interests of the
exploiting classes, the neocolonial state appears as a benign
institution acting in the interest of the people.
But whenever the interest of the exploiting and exploited classes
clash, even only in particular situations involving a workers'
strike or a peasant demonstration, the fact easily emerges that
the coercive apparatuses of the state are in the service of the
exploiting classes. Under conditions of a crisis of a general
character, the coercive class character of the state becomes far
In coordination with or after failure of suasive means to deceive
and calm down the aggrieved toiling masses, the exploiting
classes can escalate the show and use of brute force from the
level of private army and civilian armed gangs through the local
police to any of the major services of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines: first the constabulary and then the Army and other
additional forces, like the navy and air force.
Because of built-in U.S. control of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines and conformity to U.S. interests, the exploiting
classes through their political representatives make sure that
the Armed Forces of the Philippines is their instrument by
adopting their own policies and ensuring that appointments and
promotions of officers are consonant with such policies.
There is, however, no indivisible unity among the reactionary
classes of big compradors and landlords. There are bitter
struggles for political supremacy and control of the state
between factions of the same reactionary classes.
In any exploitative society, the state is not only a general
protector of the exploiting classes, but is a specific shortcut
of the ascendant clique or faction of exploiters to
self-aggrandizement in the economy and entire society at the
expense of other factions and the entire people.
Under relatively normal conditions, the contending factions of
the ruling classes of big comprador-landlord politicians have
peaceably competed for political power through a two-party
system. The Nacionalista and Liberal parties were the two
dominant parties up to 1972.
Under conditions of a much-worsened economic crisis, the
political crisis of the ruling system also worsens to the point
of armed conflict among factions of the ruling classes. The
lessening of economic loot for the factions intensifies their
The economic crisis results in widespread social unrest and in
the rise of an armed revolutionary movement. The pressures of the
armed revolution tend to crack up the neocolonial state and
encourage the factions of the ruling classes to wage bitter
struggles against each other.
The first grave test for the neocolonial state came in 1949 when
amidst the serious economic crisis due to the depletion of
foreign exchange, the Quirino and Laurel factions of the ruling
Liberal Party and opposition Nacionalista Party intensified their
political struggle almost to the point of a civil war.
At the same time, the revolutionary movement of the toiling
masses led by the Communist Party of the Philippines was already
waging armed struggle against the neocolonial state. Soon after
the 1949 elections, characterized by fraud and terrorism, which
kept Quirino in the presidency, the Laurel faction was so enraged
that it agreed to ally itself in armed struggle with the people's
army. This faction, however, subsequently backed out.
To shore up the ruling system, the U.S. deliberately strengthened
the armed forces to fight the revolutionary forces, and built up
the political image of Magsaysay to override the Quirino and
Laurel factions. The newly beefed-up Armed Forces of the
Philippines, with 36 new battalions, was directed by U.S. agents
to give support to Magsaysay in his drive for the presidency in
1953, even as he transferred from the Liberal Party to the
It was not the gimmickry of Magsaysay and his CIA adviser Col.
Lansdale that beat the armed revolutionary movement; it was
mainly the self-defeating errors in ideology, politics,
organization and military strategy of the Lavaite leadership of
the revolutionary movement-errors which were taken advantage of
by the newly beefed-up Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Further Crisis of the Neocolonial State
After the backbone of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan was broken
from 1950 to 1952, the neocolonial state was able to revitalize
and refurbish itself through a program of controlling imports and
foreign exchange and favoring foreign-owned enterprises; and
through a program of rapidly expanding the public school system.
The revolutionary movement could have preserved its strength and
persevered in struggle. But the Lavaite leadership adopted one
policy after another leading to the almost complete annihilation
of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary
movement throughout the 1950s. By 1960, the remnants of the
Hukbong Mapagpalaya were no longer in any fruitful contact with
the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The establishment of Filipino-owned industries encouraged a wave
of economic nationalism and there was increasing demand for
comprehensive industrialization. The U.S. decided to hit back by
demanding full decontrol and also tried to extract a foreign
investments law from then President Macapagal, to perpetuate
parity rights under the new euphemism of "National
treatment" in anticipation of the 1974 termination of the
The moves of the U.S. to counter the anti-imperialist trend in
politics and the economy and the deleterious effects of full
decontrol generated a much stronger anti-imperialist mass
movement in the 60s. This movement included the workers,
peasants, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national
Both the working class and the national bourgeoisie were agitated
by the negative impact of full decontrol on local industries. The
peasantry began to stir because of their increasing misery and
demanded land reform, especially because the land frontier had
been exhausted for spontaneous resettlement by the landless
tillers towards the end of the 1960s.
The abrupt constriction of job opportunities for educated youth
turned into a major problem for the ruling system in the early
60s. The educational system continued to produce more and more
professionals and technicians with no assurance of employment.
Throughout the 60s, organizations and alliances of the working
class, peasantry, youth, teachers, other professionals and
businessmen, arose and grew in strength. They sought to arouse,
organize and mobilize the people along the line of the national
democratic revolution. The militant actions of the mass movement
were often physically attacked by the forces of the State.
On December 26, 1968, the Communist Party of the Philippines was
reestablished on the theoretical foundation of Marxism-Leninism,
adopted the general line of the people's democratic revolution
and declared armed struggle and the united front as its two main
weapons. On March 29, 1969, the New People's Army was established
under the CPP leadership to carry out armed struggle, agrarian
reform, and mass base-building in the countryside.
The CPP declared that the crisis of the ruling system was already
so grave that the ruling class could no longer rule in the old
way, that the people were desirous of a revolutionary change of
government and that the revolutionary party of the proletariat
was being established in order to lead the people.
In the 1969 presidential elections, Marcos expended huge amounts
of funds and perpetrated fraud and terrorism to get himself
reelected. When he made his state-of-the-nation address before
the Philippine Congress on January 25, 1970, a huge crowd of
youth and workers and other urban poor massed in front of
Congress to condemn his antinational and antidemocratic policies
and his sham reelection.
The demonstration was physically attacked and dispersed by the
police and the military. The demonstrators fought back. Thus
started the First Quarter Storm of 1970. Malacañang was
besieged by protesters on January 30, 1970 and the military
minions again attacked them, killing six students in the process.
More demonstrations and marches followed. The forces of the state
assaulted the demonstrators and marchers whenever they approached
the U.S. Embassy and Malacañang Palace.
The economic and financial crisis was admitted by the U.S.-Marcos
ruling clique as it undertook the devaluation of the peso and
adopted the floating rate system in February 1970. The political
crisis was dramatized by the ever-growing militant mass actions
from 1970 to 1972; the armed struggle initiated by the CPP and
NPA in Tarlac; anti-imperialist decisions of the Supreme Court on
the Quasha and Luzteveco cases; and the articulate
anti-imperialist voices in the Philippine Congress and
The Constitutional Convention was offered by the regime as a way
of allaying the violent contradictions in society. But in fact
Marcos had intended to bribe and capture it; and use it for
legitimizing a fascist dictatorship and prolonging his rule.
It is relevant to recall that when he assumed the presidency in
1966, Marcos appointed himself as secretary of national defense
and started to have a tight hold on the Armed Forces of the
Philippines by favoring, promoting and putting in command his
relatives, friends, and confreres from his region. When he
yielded the position as secretary of national defense to someone
from his region, a system of personal loyalty to him ran through
the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In August 1971, he masterminded the bombing of Plaza Miranda,
which almost wiped out the entire national leadership of the
opposition Liberal Party. He blamed this on the CPP and NPA, and
proclaimed the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
He would restore the writ of habeas corpus in January 1972, due
to overwhelming public pressure and the landslide victory of the
Liberal Party in the local and senatorial elections. But he had
had his dress rehearsal for the declaration of martial law and
the establishment of a full-blown fascist dictatorship under the
banner of anticommunism.
The Marcos Fascist Dictatorship
To lay the basis for his power grab, Marcos had continued
disrupting the legal democratic mass actions of the people and
had engineered a series of petty bombing incidents. He and his
closest military agents created all the trouble in order to blame
the Communists and make them the pretext for declaring martial
The autocratic ambitions of Marcos and the rapacity of his
bureaucrat capitalist clique coincided with the U.S. schemes of
hardening the Philippine neocolonial state in the face of U.S.
defeat in its war of aggression in Indochina and with the
worsening of the political and economic crisis of the ruling
The full emergence of the fascist dictatorial regime of the
U.S.-Marcos clique through the declaration of martial law and the
coup against the neocolonial republic on September 21, 1972
manifests beyond doubt that the semicolonial and semifeudal
system was dying and that the ruling class of big comprador and
landlords could no longer rule in the old way.
The bourgeois-democratic trappings of the joint class
dictatorship of the big compradors and landlords were scrapped.
An open rule of terror by a fascist autocracy was sprung on the
people by the ruling big comprador-landlord clique.
Supreme executive, legislative and judicial authority was grabbed
by Marcos. He interpreted the commander-in-chief provision in the
1935 Constitution as a licence for limitless authority and
autocratic law-making. He placed all elected local officials at
his mercy, padlocked Congress, assumed all judicial authority
over cases involving national security and public safety,
dictated on the constitutional convention, dissolved all the
legal political parties, took over the mass media, and did so
many other things in order to monopolize political power.
He effected the mass arrest of all his opponents and critics in
Congress, the constitutional convention, political parties, mass
organizations, mass media, universities, and so on. He expanded
and intensified bloody campaigns of suppression against the Moro
peoples and other Filipinos in the countryside.
The most important instrument of the fascist dictatorship was, of
course, the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It was rapidly
beefed-up and was given the lion's share in government
expenditures. The police was integrated with the Philippine
Constabulary, and paramilitary forces were organized at top speed
all over the country.
Marcos was able to tighten his control over the Armed Forces of
the Philippines by expanding the Presidential Security Command
and the National Intelligence and Security Authority under his
top hatchetman Gen. Fabian C. Ver, and by putting his close
relations, friends and provincemates or regionmates in command of
the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The U.S. encouraged Marcos to beef up, control and use the AFP
for so long as he served the interests of U.S. imperialism. He
rationalized U.S. domination by using the Red scare. He assured
the U.S. of perpetual and unhampered use of U.S. military bases.
He gave in to every demand of the U.S. multinational firms and
banks and the U.S.-controlled multilateral agencies like the IMF
and the World Bank.
In exchange, the U.S. increased bilateral military and economic
assistance and allowed the fascist regime to draw colossal
amounts of foreign loans. These foreign loans were directly for
pseudo-development projects like infrastructures, tourism
facilities and others, but were also indirectly for allowing the
release of more peso funds in the government budget for the rapid
As if to provide a solution to the armed revolution and to defeat
the people's army in the countryside, Marcos pretended to have a
land reform program as the cornerstone of a new society. But in
fact this did not mean the transfer of any significant amount of
land to the landless tillers, but rather to his close relatives,
business cronies, political associates, military officers, and to
foreign agricorporations. There was a massive land dispossession
of peasants, national minorities and even landlords who were his
The direct social base of fascism is bureaucrat capitalism. The
Marcos drive for absolute power vis-a-vis the Filipino people had
always been motivated by the desire to acquire private assets in
capital and land through the use of political power. And when his
autocracy reigned, his pillage and plunder of the country knew no
Even as he did away with bourgeois-democratic rights,
institutions and processes under the 1935 Constitution, Marcos
held such rigged voting exercises as citizens' assemblies,
referenda, plebiscites and elections. In each exercise, he sought
to further entrench himself in power, legitimize his fascist
regime, and deceive the people.
The undoing of the Marcos fascist dictatorship was due to the
increasing deterioration of the economy, characterized by the
aggravation of its agrarian and semifeudal character, depression
of raw material exports, excessive foreign borrowing and
unbridled bureaucratic corruption; the advance and growth in
strength of the armed revolutionary movement and the broad legal
democratic mass movement; the outrageous perpetration of
countless military atrocities and abuses, including the
assassination of Benigno Aquino, which revolted the people and
most of the reactionaries; and finally the junking done by the
U.S. and Catholic Church, the split in the ranks of the AFP, the
dramatic breakaway of Enrile and Ramos, and the people's uprising
from February 22 to 15, 1986.
The cost of the U.S.-inspired fascist dictatorship to the
Filipino people are extremely high. More than six million were
displaced from their homes and land. Some 150,000 people were
killed, and another 100,000 were injured in the course of AFP
military operations. Many were subjected to torture and summary
execution. At least 70,000 were arbitrarily detained for at least
one month. Hundreds of thousands were subjected to the
humiliation of taking an oath of allegiance to the regime and
being misrepresented as NPA and MNLF surrenderees.
And the cost to the ruling system are extremely high. The
political and economic crisis of the ruling system has become
deeper, more difficult to relieve, and more fatal. The
contradictions among the reactionaries are bound to become more
violent and disintegrative of the system. The revolutionary
movement has grown in strength and continues to advance. There is
no way out of the deterioration of the agrarian and semifeudal
economy and the foreign debt trap except through social
The Post-Marcos Situation
There is the illusion among the reactionaries that the ascendance
of the Aquino regime has preempted the rise of the revolutionary
What is being obscured is the fact that the Aquino regime has
assumed the burden of responsibility in coping with the grave
problems left by Marcos and with the ever-worsening political and
economic crisis of the ruling system due to foreign and feudal
Even the task of dismantling the structures of fascist
dictatorship and reestablishing the formal democratic rights is
not yet over.
Moreover, the Marcos forces are not yet completely out of
contention for power. These are far stronger than those who are
now in power. These have large assets inside and outside of the
country, armed followers inside and outside of the AFP, and
political agents and followers at every level.
In a relatively short time, upon the failure of the Aquino regime
to solve the problems besetting the country, the Marcos forces
are bound to expand and intensify their opposition to the Aquino
regime. The conflict between the Marcos and Aquino forces is now
more two-sided than when Marcos used to monopolize political
power and one-sidedly inflicted violence on his political rivals
and the revolutionary forces.
A battle royale is in the offing between the Aquino and Marcos
forces. This promises to be more violent and more disintegrative
of the ruling system, and this provides conditions for the
accelerated advance of the revolutionary movement.
We assume that Aquino as president can build her own bloc within
the AFP, and put it on top of the Enrile-Ramos-RAM bloc and the
The Marcos forces can utilize to their own advantage their own
bloc within the AFP for maneuvering against the Aquino bloc and
the Enrile-Ramos-RAM bloc, and playing off one bloc against the
other. The three blocks are in for a dangerous game under
conditions of an ever-worsening economic crisis.
Insofar as it remains within the parameters of foreign and
feudal domination, the Aquino regime is incapable of solving the
economic crisis. The nonsolution of this crisis, the growing
challenge of the Marcos forces, and the resistance of the
Enrile-Ramos-RAM bloc to the rise of the Aquino bloc within the
AFP, are likely to destabilize the Aquino regime.
The people's power that has been able to topple Marcos and
install Aquino as president is of an antifascist quality. To be
able to keep itself in power, the Aquino regime has to follow the
development of a people's power that is comprehensively
anti-imperialist, antifeudal, and antifascist, and link up with
people's power which is in constant development whether the
Aquino regime likes it or not.
Despite the fluctuation from an unabashed fascist tyranny to a
new reactionary regime with a liberal-democratic tendency, the
ruling system continues to be in the process of decline and
disintegration, and the revolutionary movement continues to build
and develop the people's democratic power.#