(This article is a contribution by Party members in the Bicol region to Ang Bayan’s (AB) series featuring outstanding experiences on Party branch building in various fields of revolutionary work. AB’s editors encourage all Party committees to contribute to this series by submitting their stories.)
Building a party branch, first and foremost, is ideological building—this was proven by the Party branch in FX. A vigorous theoretical educational campaign along with efforts to concretely apply its lessons is key to building the confidence of cadres in leading the comprehensive revolutionary work of a Party branch.
Residents of barrio FX were first organized under the national democratic revolution in 1974 by cadres from Sorsogon. The following year, the organizing committee, local party branch and a people’s militia unit were formally established in the barrio. FX is considered as one of the most consolidated barrios in the province. The Party branch in FX has been through various calamities caused by successive “counter-insurgency” campaigns of the reactionary state.
As with others, the branch in FX experienced both advances and retreats. By adhering to major historical lessons, the Party advanced and gained further strength in FX. Among these lessons is the significance of mounting a vigorous educational campaign in building a Party branch.
In a letter to a comrade, Ka Liz, secretary of the FX branch, said that “…presently, we are set to formally establish a barrio revolutionary committee. This should have been done a long time ago, but raising of the level of mass organizations has been slow despite having a Party branch and full-fledged mass organizations. Among the factors that have resulted in this are the sluggishness in conducting educational discussions in the past and the lack of trained instructors.”
Identifying these major factors and weaknesses, the branch and the regional Party committee collaborated in conducting an educational campaign in the barrio. This resulted in a higher rate of completion of Basic and Intermediate Party Courses (BPC and IPC). All members of the executive committee (EC) of the FX branch completed the IPC. Meanwhile, 48% and 92% of the total membership of the branch completed the IPC and BPC respectively.
The branch achieved these victories through an efficient instruction machinery. There are now ten BPC and two IPC instructors. The provincial Party committee also issued a policy exhorting all local branch secretaries to serve as instructors and spearhead the education work in their respective branches. While the FX branch can already mobilize its own BPC machinery, it now also preparing to complete all requisites needed in establishing its own IPC machinery. Ka Jing, one of the head instructors in FX, said that they used to find it hard to launch their own Party education campaigns especially BPC, but through constant practice, teaching became easier for them.
“We initially consult the EC of the branch in preparation for educational discussions. Meanwhile, the people’s militia ensures the security of the barrio. Studies are often conducted in residents’ houses. The schedule for the educational discussion is also flexible because the venue is just within the barrio and is accessible to resident-instructors. It can either be a seminar-type or staggered, depending on the availability of the students,” said Ka Jing. BPC is often subdivided into two sessions with three days each. This resolved previous concerns of mothers with small children who cannot join long discussions in far venues. Even the youth who go to school are given a chance to study BPC because studies can also be conducted during weekends.
Because studies are systematically and flexibly conducted, majority of the Party membership were able to graduate from the formal courses. Food for educational sessions are funded through the funds of the branch from contributions of its members and donations from beneficiaries of the agrarian revolution. It is also important to ensure that all educational inputs are complete, including the library of all texts and handouts needed in the discussions. To efficiently conduct the discussions, the branch uses a computer and projector.
Achieving a relatively higher level of ideological consolidation, the branch was able to overcome past problems. Among these are the passivity of the branch and the failure of its members to deliver most of their tasks when the unit of the people’s army operating within the area is far away. Experience has taught the LPB in FX that ensuring the vigorous delivery of ideological tasks is key to building its cadres’ confidence in delivering other political and organizational tasks. Aside from completing the said formal courses, the branch also regularly conducts collective plannings, assessments and criticism and self-criticism (CSC) sessions.
Ka Liz added that, “because of our efficient and lively collective work, we are also able to methodically tackle our organizational tasks. Whenever there are tasks, the EC convenes for a meeting and subsequently presents the ideological, political and organizational plan to all branch members systematically. An objective and agenda are specified in every meeting to ensure direction and smooth flow.
Regular CSC is also a vital organizational tool. No one is perfect, and we may make mistakes in conducting our organizational tasks. That is why we need to learn how to accept criticism and correct our errors. Through this, we prevail over our individual and collective weaknesses.”
Because of relentless enemy operations, there were times when mass organizations were pacified in FX. But because of the strength and determination of the branch, it was able to reestablish these organizations. An example of this was when the area was heavily militarized under the Arroyo regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II. After a few years, the branch was able to reestablish the mass organizations of three sectors—that of the peasants, youth and women. The branch also has the capability to supervise the elections within organizations. Because of the strength gained by the Party and after completing the requisites, the barrio revolutionary committee in FX was formally established.
Under the leadership of the branch, mass campaigns are vigorously launched in FX. On many occassion, the Party was able to mobilize its residents to voice their demands and concerns not only on their local issues but even on national issues. When the local guerilla unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) was established, the branch was among the first to deploy elements from their own people’s militia unit. The FX branch is conscious of its tasks to recruit full time Red fighters. Tempered in their longstanding struggle, FX is neither shakened by military offensives nor dread of the enemy’s psywar. Recognizing the need to expand in adjacent barrios that are behind, local cadres of FX has struck deep roots even beyond their barrio. Some cadres of FX are now members of the subsection committee which covers the cluster where the barrio is at.
The experience of FX proved the significance of the ideological work of the Party in all levels. This particular experience has paved the direction of other territorial Party organs in delivering their major consolidation tasks at the basic level.