Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Communist Twilight: A Die-Hard's View after Years in Jungles and Jails Filipino Communist Leader Is Still a Believer - a Letter from Manila

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Communist Twilight: A Die-Hard's View after Years in Jungles and Jails Filipino Communist Leader Is Still a Believer - a Letter from Manila

Article excerpt

FROM one old communist to another, Jesus Lava says he thinks Mikhail Gorbachev was right.

What went wrong for the head of the former Soviet Union was timing, says a former leader of Philippine communists.

"There should be no conflict between communism and democracy," says Mr. Lava, a theoretician of a movement that has become Southeast Asia's last remaining communist insurgency. "The basic orientation of Gorbachev is correct. The basic openness of democracy is long overdue. His error in implementing glasnost and democracy was its suddenness."

After a lifetime spent in jungles and jails for the cause of communism, Lava insists he remains a true believer. Yet, with communism collapsed or shaken worldwide, the 77-year-old physician who once master-minded armed uprising says reform, not hard-line entrenchment, is the only hope for survival.

Today, from a homey bungalow in a modest Manila neighborhood, Lava, a lanky, intense man with a ready smile and legendary temper, muses on what went wrong. The Soviet Union, once communism's most formidable empire, has disintegrated.

China remains a pariah after the 1989 devastation of Tiananmen Square. And the Philippine movement is splintered and under pressure. "I think the cause of communism has been set back for a century," he admits. Communism's crisis stems from many mistakes, the worst being the internal resistance to democracy, he says. Take China's aging communists, for example.

"While I deplore violence, their position to keep their hold on power was right in a way," he says, blaming the Tiananmen massacre on leadership errors. "They should immediately start democratization within the party but introduce it gradually."

Lava's conversion from insurgency to peaceful politics was at the heart of the bitter split among Filipino communists in 1968 and his own resignation from the party three years ago, he says.

In a clash of personality and ideology, Lava broke with Jose Maria Sison, founder of the faction that continues guerrilla warfare in the Philippines. …

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