History and Anthropology (2021), forthcoming.

Cadre as Informal Diplomats

Ferdinand Marcos and the Soviet Bloc, 1965-1974

This article examines the historical example of Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who, from 1965 to 1974, engaged in secret and wide-ranging informal diplomacy with the Soviet bloc using the transnational connections of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) [Communist Party of the Philippines]

The PKP, while officially an illegal organization, had endorsed Marcos for president in 1965 and he had appointed some of its members to positions within his government as salaried “researchers.” The party was split along lines drawn by the Sino-Soviet dispute, and a rival party, the CPP, was formed in 1967, with ties to Beijing.

Marcos sought two things from the PKP: the secret negotiation of diplomatic and economic relations with Moscow, and the eventual support of the party for his imposition of dictatorship, giving martial law a progressive veneer. The economic ties with Moscow, negotiated by these secret channels, were meant to provide leverage for renegotiating the unequal economic terms of the Laurel-Langley agreement with Washington.

The PKP meanwhile sought Soviet funds to secure national industrialization and the military might of the Marcos dictatorship to suppress their rival, the CPP. Formal diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union were banned, however, and to initiate them would have required Marcos to go through the legislature, in the hands of the opposition party.

The informal network of the PKP, both its salaried ‘researchers’ and exiled representatives in Europe, allowed Marcos to circumvent the political limitations imposed by the legislature on his diplomacy. The informal network of the PKP provided Marcos with a domestic incentive as well, as the party endorsed Marcos’ dictatorship, ghostwriting his justification for martial law, and made support for his military rule a component of their constitution.