Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Blood-Brothers: The Communist Party of the Philippines and the Partai Komunis Indonesia

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Blood-Brothers: The Communist Party of the Philippines and the Partai Komunis Indonesia

Article excerpt

"The thirty-five years history of the CPI is not a tranquil and peaceful one; it is a history which has gone through many turmoils and many dangers, many mistakes, and many sacrifices. But it is also a heroic history, a joyful history, a history with many lessons, a successful history."

- D. N. Aidit (1955)

Any complete history of radicalism in Southeast Asia must include the episodic but vital interactions between generations of Philippine and Indonesian Communists. It is a wellknown fact that Tan Malaka (1897-1949), former chairman of the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI, Communist Party of Indonesia, founded in 1920) and agent of the Eastern Bureau of the Comintern, spent some time in the 1920s in the Philippines, where he acquainted himself with Philippine history and society and reportedly developed warm friendships with political progressives such as Crisanto Evangelista (1888-1943), who founded the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP, Communist Party of the Philippines) in 1930. Tan Malaka's autobiography Dari Penjara ke Penjara (From jail to jail) (1948) and chief theoretical work Madilog: Materialisme, Dialektika dan Logika (Materialism, dialectics, and logic) (1943) contain richly detailed sections dealing specifically with the Philippines (see Guillermo 2017). In the early 1960s, not long after Tan Malaka's death, Jose Maria Sison (1939-), a Filipino activist and student of literature, initiated a new phase in Indonesian-Philippine Communist interactions which continued until the destruction of the PKI in the massacre of 1965 and the foundation of the Maoist-oriented Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968. It was around this time also that Sison shared a deep and comradely friendship with Bakri Ilyas (?-2003), a highly decorated PKI-affiliated former army officer who was a student at the University of the Philippines. This study seeks to shed light on this second episode.

In 1961 Sison's graduate scholarship and teaching fellowship at the Department of English, University of the Philippines, were abruptly terminated because of his increasingly militant political involvement. Later that year, at the age of 22, Sison decided to take up a scholarship in Indonesian language and literature in Jakarta through the Jajasan Siswa Lokantara.4 At the time, Indonesia under President Sukarno was a veritable mecca for Southeast Asian radical and nationalist intellectuals and was also the home of the PKI, the third largest Communist party in the world (Sison 2004, 13).

However, things did not go as smoothly as expected: Sison experienced problems obtaining a passport since he had been blacklisted as a "subversive" by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency. His uncle Sixto Brillantes, who was at the time the chairman of the Commission on Elections, had to personally request President Carlos Garcia to facilitate the issuance of his passport until it was eventually released late in 1961. In a portent of things to come, prior to his departure for Indonesia Sison was contacted by the pro-Soviet PKP. Jesus Lava, the Party's secretary-general, had apparently taken an interest in the young Sison's activities and early anti-imperialist writings and had sent his nephew Vicente Lava, Jr., to propose a meeting. However, it was only upon his return to the Philippines in late 1962 that Sison was finally able to meet with the Lavas (Sison 1989, 44; 2004, 13).

Six years later, he would found the breakaway Maoist CPP. Sison's stay in Indonesia was a formative period in his development as a Marxist:

In four months, I learned the Indonesian language well enough to be able to speak it fluently and translate the poems of the Indonesian national poet Chairil Anwar into English. I had time to read an enormous amount of Marxist-Leninist classics and current literature, which could then be easily and openly obtained in Indonesia. I also developed good relations with Indonesian comrades in the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and in the mass movement. …

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