Sunday, August 14, 2016


By Julia Camagong
Special Representative to Latin America
International League of Peoples' Struggle

As special representative of the International League of Peoples' Struggle, I wish to interview you both as the Chairperson of the ILPS International Coordinating Committee and as the outstanding leader of the Philippine national liberation movement, no less than the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.

1. The Philippines and Cuba belong to two different continents and are thousands of miles from each other. But there is a certain closeness between the Cuban and Filipino peoples. How do you describe it?

JMS: There is a strong sense of solidarity and empathy between the Filipino and Cuban peoples because they have suffered under Spanish colonialism and US imperialism and struggled against these two foreign powers. They admire each other's revolutionary struggles and victories. The Filipino people are inspired by the great victory of the Cuban people in liberating themselves from US imperialism and local reactionary classes of big compradors and landlords represented by the Batista regime.

I presume that there are a considerable number of Cubans with Filipino ancestry because many Filipinos were brought in to work in the tobacco industry, the “tabacaleros”. There were so many Filipinos that the Pinar del Rio Province in Cuba was formerly called "Nueva Filipinas" in the 18th and 19th century. The Cubans called them "Chinos de Manila".

Currently, the closeness of the Filipino and Cuban peoples is manifested by the Philippine-Cuban Friendship in the Philippines. From year to year, there are solidarity activities in the Philippines and cultural exchanges between Cuba and the Philippines. Since the struggle of the Filipino people against Marcos fascist dictatorship intensified in the first half of the 1980s, the Cuban embassy has shown sympathy and support for BAYAN and other organizations in the national democratic movement of the people.

2. It can be said that the historical experiences and destinies of the Cubans and Filipinos are intertwined. Can you explain further?

Spanish colonialism imposed on the Philippines and Cuba similar patterns of theocratic rule, feudal economy and medieval culture. It used the encomienda system, slavery and forced labor and feudal tributes to lay the foundation of feudalism in both countries. Both the Cuban and the Filipino people were able to liberate themselves from Spanish colonial rule.

But the US intervened. As a rising modern imperialist power, the US defeated Spanish colonialism in the American-Spanish war of 1898 and grabbed Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to impose US colonial rule under the Paris Treaty of December 1898. Since then the Filipino and Cuban peoples have been bound by a common desire to fight and defeat US imperialism and its puppets. The Filipino people can learn a lot from the Cuban people in liberating themselves from US domination and maintaining their national independence and social system.

3. In your personal experience, how did the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro first attract your attention and interest? How did your interest grow subsequently?

JMS: While Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolutionaries were still in the Sierra Maestra, their revolutionary struggle caught the attention of the world and of course the student organization to which I belonged in the University of the Philippines. Our organization was engaged in forming study circles for the purpose of resuming the unfinished Philippine revolution for national and social liberation against foreign and feudal domination.

Thus, we were attracted to the revolutionary struggle of the Cuban people led by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and other young people like us.

We celebrated the victory of the Cuban revolution in 1959. We did so with meetings and publishing articles about the Cuban revolution in the Philippine Collegian, the student publication. We were further excited by the end of feudal ownership of the haciendas and the dramatic nationalization of the United Fruit and other US enterprises in the US. We admired and we were inspired by the revolutionary actions taken against US imperialism and the local reactionaries.

We were among the most enthusiastic in attending the film showings at the Cuban embassy in Manila in 1961. The more the US ranted against the Cuban revolution, the more we supported the just cause of the Cuban revolution. We were outraged when the Philippine authorities, under US orders, closed down the Cuban embassy.

4. Can you narrate and evaluate how the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro fought and won the revolution against the Batista regime. How did they carry out the social revolution after the seizure of political power?

JMS: The attack on the Moncada barracks was an important initiative by the Cuban revolutionaries to signal the necessity and start of the armed revolution. But it was the guerrilla warfare in Sierra Maestra that broke the back of the Batista regime. 5000 troops of the regime were defeated there. We can say that the Cuban revolutionaries used the countryside to mobilize the peasants and farm workers and have the room of maneuver for building the revolutionary army. At the same time, the urban based mass movement was growing and developing. Thus, it became possible to bring down the Batista regime with a combination of a successful rural-based guerrilla warfare and the urban based mass uprising which welcomed the forces of Castro to Havana.

After the seizure of political power, the Cuban revolutionaries wanted to carry the social revolution through to the end. Thus, they decided to carry out a socialist revolution. For a certain period, Communist cadres were trained for this purpose. The Cuban Communist Party was established as the advanced detachment of the working class to lead the Cuban people along the line of socialist revolution. Internal preparations had to be made for the seizure of US enterprises. The violent reaction of the US was anticipated. To augment the Cuban revolution the Cuban CP raised the banner of proletarian internationalism and established close relations with socialist countries, including China and the Soviet Union.

5. What was your reaction when the US tried to overthrow the Cuban revolutionary government with the use of an invasionary force at the Bay of Pigs and assassination plots against Fidel Castro? And what did you think of the Soviet emplacement of nuclear weapons in Cuba?

JMS: It was despicable and outrageous for the US government to have organized the invasionary force that landed at the Bay of Pigs and to have plotted several times the assassination of Comrade Fidel Castro. We launched protest mass actions and publications against the US acts of intervention and aggression against Cuba and the Cuban people.

On the whole, the emplacement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba helped to deter any full scale attack on Cuba by the US. Even when Khrushchev withdrew the nuclear weapons, the US still could not make any full-scale aggression or use nuclear weapons against Cuba because the US was bound by agreement not to threaten Cuba with nuclear weapons and was strongly reminded that the US military base in Turkey was also vulnerable to Soviet retaliation.

6. In retrospect, what do you think of the break-up of Cuba-China relations in the 1960s and the subsequent developments?

JMS: I was immediately saddened when I first learned about it. There was an issue about rice. And subsequently a range of ideological and political issues arose. But the Filipino communists refrained from siding with the Chinese side against the Cuban side although we sided with the Chinese Communist Party against the Soviet party. We maintained our high respect for the Cuban party, people and revolution and refrained from any pronouncements against them.

7. What do you think of Che Guevara?

JMS: Comrade Che Guevara was an outstanding proletarian revolutionary fighter and was a selfless revolutionary martyr. He exerted heroic efforts to promote the world proletarian revolution and advance the national liberation movements, especially in Latin America and Africa. I admire his revolutionary spirit and deeds. These inspire the Filipino revolutionaries.

8. What do you think of Cuban support for the African national liberation movements in the 1970s?

JMS: I have appreciated highly the support of Cuban revolutionaries to the national liberation movements in Africa in the 1970s. The Cuban comrades acted in the spirit of proletarian internationalism by helping the African people liberate themselves from colonialism and by breaking the capability of the South African reactionary army to engage in aggression and thus causing the apartheid regime to ultimately weaken and seek a compromise with the African National Congress.

9. What do you think of Cuban relations with China and Russia in current times?

JMS: Cuba can benefit from diplomatic and trade relations with China and Russia. The two latter countries can also benefit from the relations. They are formidable countries that can countervail the worst economic impositions and aggressive acts of US imperialism and its NATO allies. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS economic bloc, in which Russia and China are major partners, are counters to US imperialist hegemony.

10. What do you like most about Cuba in socio-economic and political terms?

JMS: I admire most the determination and militancy of the Cuban government and people in asserting, defending and promoting national independence and in working and aspiring for socialism. They have made great political, social, economic and cultural achievements despite the so many decades of economic blockade and acts of aggression unleashed by US imperialism.

11. Are there relations between Cuban and Philippine revolutionary organizations?

JMS: According to their respective publications, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have relations with the Cuban Communist Party and other revolutionary forces of the Cuban people.

12. In recent years, have you been involved in any movement to support the Cuban people?

JMS: Of course, I have stood in solidarity with the Cuban people on major issues in defense of their national independence and social system. The International League of Peoples' Struggle of which I am the Chairperson has supported the anti-imperialist and democratic positions of Cuba. I have attended meetings and spoken for the freedom of the Cuba 5. I have been therefore very happy with the complete freedom of all 5. They were all released ultimately because of the broad solidarity support demanding their release.

13. Within the context of the ILPS, what is most significant about the Cuban revolution?

I have always said that the Cuban revolution is outstanding and unique. It was a socialist revolution that arose not as the direct consequence of a world war, different from Russia where the revolution occurred during WWI and China and other countries where socialist revolutions emerged as a result of WWII. If the Cuban people can make revolution only 90 miles away from the beast, why cannot peoples elsewhere in the world? The Cuban revolution is an inspiration to the people everywhere, not just Latin America or Africa. When the revolutionary will of the people is asserted and the correct line, strategy and tactics are adopted, the revolution can advance and succeed in many parts of the world.

14. What do you think of the normalization of the relations between the US and Cuba? Do you think that Cuba can stand its ground in the negotiations with US to complete the lifting of the embargo? And also do you think that Cuba will be able to manage the entry of US companies, their technology and their own ideas of modernization or even subversion in more blatant language.

JMS: The normalization of diplomatic and trade relations between the US and Cuba is welcome. Such relations should exist between countries, irrespective of their respective ideology or social system. I believe that Cuba can stand its ground in negotiations with the US. It has the principles and the revolutionary experience to uphold Cuban national independence and work out the normalization of diplomatic and trade relations. The Cuban president Raul Castro is highly principled and competent. He enjoys the support of the Cuban people and Fidel Castro.

With revolutionary principles and with the 59 years of combating and countering US aggression, embargo, electronic propaganda and subversion, the Cuban government and people should be able to stay vigilant and adopt the policies and measures to control and direct the entry of US companies and technology, counter imperialist ideas of modernization and prevent the subversion and destruction of their national independence and socialist aspirations.

15. Should not the US give up Guantanamo and what should be done to pressure the US to give it up?

JMS: Certainly, the US should give up its military base in Guantanamo. The Cuban people and Cuban government should demand the dismantling of that military base in Guantanamo. The US is holding Guantanamo in violation of Cuban sovereignty and territorial integrity. The people of the world should support the Cuban people in this regard.

It is not too difficult for the US to give up Guantanamo. The British gave up Hong Kong. The US gave up Taiwan in principle under the one-China policy. Under pressure from the Filipino people, even the Philippine puppet government was able to reduce the perpetual lease agreement covering US military bases and reservations to only 25 years in 1966. The US also gave up its military bases in Thailand soon after the Vietnam War. The Filipino people were able to remove the US military bases in 1991. The Cuban people can certainly do the same.

16. Have you ever been to Cuba? When and under what circumstances? If so, what places did you visit?

JMS: Yes, Julie and I were in Cuba in 1988. We came from Nicaragua to observe the progress of the Sandinista revolution. We met leaders of government, trade unions, women, youth and other sectors of Cuba society. We visited many places in and around Havana and went as far as the vicinity of the US military base in Guantanamo.

17. You are known to be able to sing? Do you know any Cuban song from memory? Can you sing it.?

JMS: I can sing Guantanamera both in the Spanish original and my Tagalog translation of it. I can sing both versions now, especially if you join me. I have a CD recording of the song.

18. Why do you like Guantanamera much that you have memorized it and you sing it even on CD?

JMS: I like Guantanamera because the lyrics written by Cuban revolutionary patriot Jose Marti are beautiful in a lyrical and metaphorical way and is full of revolutionary meaning. And the rhythmic music is very lively. You can dance to it. Now, let us sing


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