Currently, in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, the government armed forces have deployed up to sixty percent of its assets, approximately fifty battalions (55,000 soldiers), to contain two insurgencies, one against the Muslims with whom there is a standing truce and peace talks and another against the Maoist New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which have conducted a 47-year guerilla war that is still ongoing. The indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao, locally known as Lumads, live in the hinterlands where counter-insurgency operations of the armed forces are occurring, thus ancestral lands are heavily militarized.
A main feature of the government’s counter-insurgency operations is the accusation that the IPs support the New People’s Army (NPA) or are actually combatants of the NPA. The army units allege that the NPA indoctrinates the IPs to resist the entry of extractive industries, such as mining, logging, plantations, etc, the accusation being that the schools organized and operated by the IPs are communist NPA schools. Thus, the IP leaders have been arrested on trumped-up charges, IP schools are being closed, school buildings are being burned to the ground, IPs are killed either as collateral damage or as accused combatants, human rights workers are harassed or killed. The perpetrators of these crimes are either official military units or paramilitary units, conscripted from the IP ranks by the military, setting the IPs to fight each other. Unsurprisingly, the Philippine government denies all these charges from the “Left,” despite findings to the contrary by local and international human rights investigations, including those of the UN.
Just how true is it that the “reds” are egging on the Lumad IPs of Mindanao to resist mining, logging, plantations, etc? Here’s my IMHO take on this accusation:
Like other indigenous peoples in many parts of the globe, the Lumads of Mindanao consider the communal ownership of ancestral lands as a key feature of their cultural identity. No Lumad had to go through the nose-bleeding ardor of reading Marx’s Capital I, II, and III to get informed that embracing the idea of private property dooms their survival, impoverishes their imagination, separates them from nature and each other. Thus, many Lumad leaders consider the introduction of land titling (signifying private property ownership) a very troublesome development, as pushed by the Philippines’ National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples, by way of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (see Dee Ayroso’s excellent report, The Bastardization of the Bagani, 9/19/2015, Bulatlat dot com).
IMO, it is relevant to note that Marx, before his death in 1883, was just beginning to appreciate the empirical significance of still-living communalist indigenous peoples (such as the Iroquois, a main subject of his last major work, the Ethnological Notebooks), in finding new paths of resistance to colonialism and capitalism. In reading Lewis Henry Morgan’s Ancient Society, Marx was quite impressed by the Iroquois’ egalitarian way of life, personal dignity and sense of independence, leading him to speculate that indigenous peoples have a lot to contribute to humanity’s emancipation. I believe many Filipinos who witnessed the Manilakbayan (the IPs’ protest caravan) participants’ resolve to confront their oppressors are quite impressed, as well.
The IPs inspired Marx, not the other way around. The plea to “spare the Lumad IPs from Marxist slogans” is simply pointless, IMO.