Struggle for national democracy


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By Jose Maria Sison
I am deeply pleased that this third edition of Struggle for National Democracy is being published in response to the demand of young activists of the national-democratic movement and in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Kabataang Makabayan of which I was the founding chairman on November 30, 1964 and in which I served as chairman until I went underground in 1968.
This book is mainly a compilation of my speeches and essays in the years 1964-68 while I was chairman of Kabataang Makabayan, vice-chairman / general secretary of the Socialist Party of the Philippines and general secretary of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism.
Like the second edition, the third edition includes messages addressed to the national-democratic organizations which burgeoned as a result of the First Quarter Storm of 1970.
This book is a historical record of the legal struggle for national liberation and democracy against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. It was the principal legal study material in discussion groups and schools of national democracy which educated the youth cadres and militants from 1967 through the First Quarter Storm of 1970 to the declaration of martial law in 1972.
This book was the direct precursor of Philippine Society and Revolution. As a matter of fact, the two books were like partners in the education of cadres and mass activists in the course of the First Quarter Storm of 1970.

For the simple and undeniable reason that the basic semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions and problems of the Filipino people have persisted, there is the need to read and study this book not only because of its historical value but also because of the continuing validity and relevance of its basic ideas.

Since the ‘60s, the basic problems of foreign monopoly-capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism have been deepened and aggravated by the 20-year rule of Marcos and by the succeeding regimes of Aquino and Ramos.
The people’s immediate demand for national liberation and democracy, for national industrialization and genuine land reform and for a national, scientific and mass culture and the people’s aspirations for socialism remain as valid and as necessary as ever before.
I am thankful to the publisher of the third edition for assuring me that Struggle for National Democracy is worthy of reading and study not only because of its lasting and relevant content but also because of its persuasive popular style.
I am thankful also to Kabataang Makabayan, the League of Filipino Students, the Institute of Alternative Studies and other organizations as well as concerned individuals for urging the publisher to bring out the third edition and giving the assurance that it shall be well disseminated.
Jose Maria Sison

Struggle for National Democracy, the collection of essays and speeches of Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Kabataang Makabayan, remains as valid today—if not indeed more so—as when it first came out in 1967. After the First Quarter Storm of 1970, when the national-democratic struggle picked up considerable momentum, Sison’s book became one of the most significant points of reference for the surging movement against the three main enemies of Philippine society: US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

Recognizing the importance of Struggle for National Democracy, and the fact that the book has since been out of print, the Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation decided to reprint the book. In the process, the Foundation collated other essays and speeches of Sison for inclusion in this new edition.

Significant among the additions are “Student Power?” (first published in Eastern Horizon, a progressive Hong Kong magazine), which delineates the orientation that should properly guide the student movement in the Philippines; “Youth on the March” (published in the Philippines Free Press on November 2, 1968), which clarifies the actions, direction and perspective of the progressive youth movement in our country and elsewhere in the world; “Sophism of the Christian Social Movement,” which exposes and analyzes the negative characteristics and tendencies of the CSM and its “moderate” affiliates; “Land Reform and National Democracy,” which lays bare the bankruptcy of the state-inspired land reform program in the face of the demand for a thoroughgoing agrarian revolution; and Sison’s messages to the Movement for a Democratic Philippines, the Kabataang Makabayan, Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan, the League of Editors for a Democratic Society, Nagkakaisang Progresibong Artista-Arkitekto, Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan, and Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan—all made after the First Quarter Storm of 1970. The Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation undertook this reprinting in coordination with the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, essentially in pursuance of one of the Foundation’s objectives: to help advance the national-democratic struggle—a lifetime preoccupation of the late Amado V. Hernandez, poet laureate, proletarian leader and patriot in whose memory the Foundation has been organized.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines mainly handled the editorial aspect of the project. The CEGP based its editing of the articles on revised texts sent to the CEGP national office by mail. It may be pertinent to mention here that in the last few years of his life, Ka Amado was closely associated with Jose Maria Sison, then national chairman of Kabataang Makabayan, the pioneer youth organization in the national-democratic struggle. Ka Amado unselfishly provided the counsel and wisdom of age and experience to Sison’s youthful aggressiveness, national-democratic ideas and program of action. Subsequent events have proved these ideas and program of action correct in the context of concrete Philippine conditions. The Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation takes pride in making Struggle for National Democracy available again to all supporters and students of the national-democratic movement.



Amado V. Hernandez Memorial Foundation

30 November 1971

The problems that the Filipinos faced in the backwash of the last world war, particularly after regaining their political independence on 4 July 1946, have persisted to this day with little or no prospect of being solved within the immediate future. These problems, mostly economic and social in nature, have been discussed rather timidly by some public officials and by the academic community. In the context of present-day society, in which conformism is the supreme virtue, any critical exposition of those problems, especially as they affect Philippine-American relations, is labeled communistic and, therefore, subversive of the established order. Only a few courageous souls, led by the late Senators Claro M. Recto and Jose P. Laurel, ventured into forbidden ground. Today, less than ten years after the death of Recto and Laurel, the youths and not their elders have taken issue with the defenders of the status quo and have, as a consequence, suffered harassment and insults from the professional anti-communists and witchhunters. Jose Maria Sison is the most harassed and maligned youth today, but he refuses to be cowed into silence by those who, having power in their hands and heads, have chosen to play the roles of Capitan Tiago and Senor Pasta of Rizal’s novels.

Jose Maria Sison’s collection of essays and speeches, Struggle for National Democracy, boldly delineates the crucial problems of Filipinos today. These problems are seen as historical problems which have evolved from the national experience that has its roots deep in colonialism and feudalism. The thread that runs through the essays and speeches takes the form of a demand for national liberation and democracy—a painful admission that the Philippines is still very much a colony wrapped in a veneer of democracy. As such, the book is both a criticism and a plea: a grave criticism of inadequacy in all lines of endeavor and a passionate plea for the establishment of a real and working democracy in which the people, the masses of the people and not only the privileged few, would enjoy the blessings of a free and abundant life. Consequently, Sison is starting what may be termed the Second Propaganda Movement. He states clearly the basic strategy and tactics to be employed by the Filipino people in their struggle to destroy the traditional evils of feudalism and neocolonialism, the two institutions which have given the poverty-stricken masses in Philippine history the reason to resort to arms in the fulfillment of their dream to live like human beings. To Sison, as to all Filipino nationalists, the prerequisite to the success of those strategy and tactics is the development of a robust nationalism.

Much of Sison’s effectiveness derives not only from his broad, progressive outlook, but also from his analytical method, his grasp of the historical significance of events and movements, and more importantly, from his direct involvement in political mass actions. He is General Secretary of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN), today the most advanced and sophisticated assemblage of nationalists from all segments of Filipino society; the National Chairman of Kabataang Makabayan, the most progres- sive and militant youth organization; and the Vice President of the Lapiang Manggagawa, the only political organization of the working class and its sympathizers.
Struggle for National Democracy is bound to influence the actions and thinking of the Filipino youths who have not yet sold their freedom to think and act like men. It is the distillation of the ideas, sentiments, and aspirations of the new breed of Filipinos who have made nationalism their rallying cry and a powerful weapon in the battle against feudalism and neocolonialism and their attendant evils. One may disagree violently with Sison on some points, particularly if one has a colonial mentality, but no one can question the sincerity, integrity, and courage of this young man who would rather suffer abuse and harassment than receive crumbs from some benighted neocolonialists and their hirelings who pose as benefactors.

At a dinner given a few years ago at the home of Dr. Sotero H. Laurel, President of the Lyceum of the Philippines, which is a bulwark of liberalism, a high official of the American Embassy in Manila remarked, over a glass of whiskey and soda, that Jose Maria Sison was my student at the University of the Philippines. I felt that the remark was intended to be a disguised criticism of my nationalist orientation, considering that Sison was then leading student demonstrations against certain abusive Americans in the Philippines. I smiled broadly. The American official probably did not know why.

I was flattered.

Professor and Chairman

Department of History

University of the Philippines

Quezon City, 23 April 1967
x x x Itinuturo ng katwiran ang tayo’y umasa sa ating sarili at huwag antayin sa iba ang ating kabuhayan. Itinuturo ng katwiran ang tayo’y maglakas na maihapag ang naghaharing kasamaan sa ating bayan.
Panahon na ngayon x x x dapat nating ipakilala na tayo’y may sariling pagdaramdam, may puri, may hiya at pagdadamayan. Ngayon ay panahong dapat simulan ang pagsisiwalat ng mga mahal at dakilang aral na magwawasak sa masinsing tabing na bumubulag sa ating kaisipan; panahon na ngayong dapat makilala ng mga Pilipino ang pinagbuhatan ng kanilang mga kahirapan. x x x
Kaya, mga kababayan, ating idilat ang bulag na kaisipan at kusang igugol sa kagalingan ang ating lakas sa tunay at lubos na pag-asa na magtagumpay sa nilalayong kaginhawahan ng bayang tinubuan.

—Andres Bonifacio

No more propitious day than this can be chosen to found Kabataang Makabayan. Today is the 101st birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, a great hero from the proletariat, who in the vigor of his youth led the secret society of Katipunan and mobilized the patriotic forces that generated the Philippine Revolution of 1896—the revolution which smashed Spanish colonialism throughout the archipelago.

Andres Bonifacio was the disciplined revolutionary activist who sought and found in revolution the only process that could give full expression to the national and social aspirations of our people which had so long been suppressed by a foreign power prettified by the soft and evasive terms of liberal reformers.

Andres Bonifacio was the uncompromising leader who was not only inspired by the cogitations and formulations of the Propaganda Movement, but was also ready to act in concert with his people in armed struggle against tyranny the moment peaceful and legal struggle reached the white wall of futility.
Thus, Andres Bonifacio today stands as a model of revolutionary militancy among the Filipino youth and among the advocates of national democracy. His revolutionary courage is a beacon to us all. If Kabataang Makabayan succeeds in its patriotic mission, one important requirement it shall have met is to be imbued with the revolutionary courage of Andres Bonifacio, the courage that gives life and force to the principles that we now uphold in this epoch.
We recall the memory of Andres Bonifacio not only because we happen to meet on this day but more because we understand his continuing historical relevance to our present situation. We perceive the leading role of his class in this epoch during which our national efforts at basic industrialization and overthrowing feudalism are constantly frustrated by U.S. imperialism and its local reactionary allies.
We remember that, after the death of Bonifacio, the revolutionary initiative of the peasants and the workers in the Katipunan and the anti-colonial struggle in general was undermined and debilitated by the liberal compromises made by the ilustrado leadership. The compromises came one after the other: the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, Aguinaldo’s trust in Yankee confidence-men in Hong Kong, the bourgeois-landlord upper hand in the Malolos Congress, and the ultimate surrender of the ilustrados and collaboration with the U.S. imperialist regime.

Though we are aggrieved by the fact that the Philippine Revolution has been interrupted and that U.S. imperialism has grabbed the triumph of revolution from our hands, we must take a scientific view of our national history. We recognize such objective historical conditions as that no matter how sharply anti-colonial and anti-clerical were the ilustrados they did not yet have the ability to comprehend fully modern imperialism; that the working class was still in the embryo stage of its development; that the peasants in the provinces were misled by the equivocating demagoguery of both native landlords and liberals; and that U.S. imperialism was not only superior in industrial might but also well-versed in a liberal jargon which could easily deceive the newly-emergent Filipino bourgeoisie.

U.S. imperialism came to the Philippines and succeeded in imposing its sovereignty upon our people by military violence and by liberal guile. Whereas our people were already capable of crushing Spanish colonialism within the archipelago, they were still incapable of crushing a new type of colonialism, the imperialism of the United States of America.
Dr. Jose Rizal himself in his essay, “The Philippines A Century Hence,” had predicted that the United States of America would come to conquer us. It was a necessity for a capitalist system, reaching its final stage of development—monopoly capital—to seek colonies for its sources of raw materials and a dumping ground for surplus products and surplus capital and to pass on to other peoples the exploitation and disequilibrium that would otherwise be suffered by its own people alone.
Rizal saw the United States of America as a covetous and expansionist power, no different from Great Britain, Germany, France, Czarist Russia and Japan.
It was out to rob the world, especially the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. A newly-risen imperialist power with its ultra-national capitalist objectives, the United States would be determined to take over the colonial possessions of a decrepit Spanish power in Latin America, in the Pacific and in the Philippines.
The Philippines was especially important to the imperialist planners of the United States as it could very well serve as the staging area for the U.S. venture to participate with the other Western powers in the despoliation of China. Until now, the Philippines serves as a staging area for U.S. imperialism to attack and subvert Southeast Asia and the rest of Asia.

By all means, therefore, as a matter of “manifest destiny,” the United States would beguile the credulous Emilio Aguinaldo in a maneuver to capture Manila and arrange the Treaty of Paris whereby Spanish colonialism ceded the Philippines to U.S. imperialism upon the payment of $20 million. This provoked the Filipino people into a war where 250,000 Filipino lives were snuffed out as the cost of trusting imperialism.

U.S. imperialism is deceptive and violent. The violence it unleashed against our people was justified in terms of Christianity and democracy. U.S. imperialism wanted to “Christianize” the Philippines after 350 years of Spanish clerical rule and to teach us “democracy” even after it had crushed the national-democratic movement which was tested in the fire of the revolution of 1896 and bore the first Philippine republic.
After suppressing the first Philippine Republic through the most brutal military operations, the U.S. government started to employ semantical cover for its scheme of domination and put up such hypocritical slogans as “benevolent assimilation” and “education for self-government” to justify its unwanted presence. During a full decade of the most damnable suppression of any public expression of nationalism and bribery of the native bourgeoisie, U.S. imperialism started to glamorize certain political figures as “nationalists.” These were the nationalists who compromised and accepted the U.S.-imposed limitation that they go to Washington and beg for Philippine independence. The Americans conveniently used these figures to prove their self-proclaimed benevolence and to steal the fire from the revolutionary anti-imperialists who preferred to take to the hills and prepare for a more meaningful struggle for national independence.
Until now, the Americans try to misrepresent Filipino nationalism. They would rather have what they call “positive” nationalism—a positive force in the “special relationship” between the Philippines and the United States. Compromise with U.S. imperialism is what is called positive nationalism.

There is only one nationalism that we appreciate. It is that which refers to the national-democratic revolution, the Philippine Revolution, whose main tasks now are the liquidation of imperialism and feudalism to achieve full national freedom and democratic reforms.

The Filipino nation has been formed through struggle against Spanish colonialism and, soon after, U.S. imperialism. As U.S. imperialism triumphed by brute force in the Filipino-American War, it must be vanquished by the resumption of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. There can be no genuine national democracy in the Philippines without U.S. imperialism being done away with first.
Imperialist propaganda constantly attempts to impugn Filipino nationalism and communism together. The communist bogey has always been raised with the view of frightening our people. But, little do the reactionary propagandists realize that through their own efforts the people are getting to know that it is the imperialist strategy to destroy communists first to destroy the nationalists. In the strategic thinking of the U.S. imperialists, which has been tested in their counterrevolutionary practices in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the most relentless anti-imperialists—whether communists or left-wing nationalists—must first be destroyed for any imperialist scheme of exploitation to succeed.

Thus, in the Philippines, we have seen the communists become the main target of massive attacks against civil liberties by the U.S. colonial government in 1931, by the Japanese after their successful landing in 1942, and again by the U.S. imperialists in their attempt after the Pacific War to recapture us. If we study closely the ratification of the Bell Trade Act and the Parity Amendment, we will discover that the communists had first to be harassed, imprisoned, assassinated and provoked before the bourgeois nationalist leaders in the Nacionalista Party and in the Democratic Alliance could be discouraged and would compromise.

What the U.S. imperialists and their local cohorts, the compradors and big landlords, do not want to happen is the alliance of all anti-imperialists, as has often happened in Asian countries, with fatal effectiveness against imperialism.

With the continuing triumph of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines and the stability of its control, it is the chief task of the Filipino youth to resume and complete the unfinished revolution under the banner of national democracy, to expose and oppose the national and social iniquities caused by U.S. imperialism and its local reactionary allies.
If the Filipino youth should relent in this task, then their people shall continue to suffer the direct impositions of U.S. imperialism as well as feudalism, which the former protects for its own selfish profit.
The youth today face two basic problems: U.S. imperialism and feudalism. These two are the principal causes of poverty, unemployment, inadequate education, ill health, crime and immorality which afflict the entire nation and the youth. The youth do not only suffer with their people the iniquities of U.S. imperialism and feudalism but are also the first ones to suffer them.
It is the task of the Filipino youth to study carefully the large confrontation of forces between U.S. imperialism and feudalism on one side and national democracy on the other side. To know the nature of this contradiction of forces is to know the dynamism and internal motion of our semi-colonial and semi-feudal society.
For the youth to know so much is for them to act more effectively and cooperate more thoroughly on the side of progress in the historical process of change.

Kabataang Makabayan, in its historic role as the vanguard organization of Filipino youth, should know the balance of forces between imperialism and feudalism on the one hand and national democracy on the other. On the side of U.S. imperialism are the compradors and the big landlords. On the side of national democracy are the broad masses of our people, composed of the working class and the peasantry to which the vast majority of the Filipino youth today belong; the petty bourgeoisie, composed of small property-owners, students, intellectuals and professionals; and the national bourgeoisie, composed of Filipino entrepreneurs and traders.

From the present scheme of social classes, we can derive a new and powerful combination of youth—the students, young professionals, labor youth and the peasant youth. Above all, the Filipino youth should integrate themselves with the masses in order to achieve victory in the fight for national freedom and democracy.
Kabataang Makabayan, as the vanguard organization of the Filipino youth, should assist in the achievement of an invincible unity of all national classes and forces to push further the struggle for national and social liberation in all fields—economic, political, cultural, military—against the leading enemy, U.S. imperialism, and against the persistent and pervasive main enemy, landlordism. Both have frustrated the national-democratic aspirations of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and have made the suffering and exploitation of our people more complex and more severe.
This generation of Filipino youth is lucky to be at this point in history when U.S. imperialism is fast weakening at all significant levels of conflict: that between capitalism and socialism; that between the capitalist class and the working class; and that between imperialism and national independence movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Even as the Philippines today is the scene of frantic U.S. imperialist readjustment and it appears that U.S. imperialism would succeed in controlling the country more thoroughly by destroying our national industrial base and by shifting it back to a plantation economy dominated by the U.S. agrocorporations, the Filipino youth would find it easier than they expect to overthrow U.S. imperialism provided they are inspired and guided by the new national-democratic objectives of the Philippine Revolution.

The October 2 demonstration against U.S. imperialism in front of the U.S. embassy and Malacanang Palace, whose participants and sympathizers Kabataang Makabayan should now consolidate, has already manifested the rising wave of national democracy among our people. Such a mass action has shown to us the changing balance of forces in our country.
The objective national and worldwide conditions favor a national-democratic movement of the Filipino youth. It is high time for the Filipino youth to raise and carry forward the red banner of Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan, with the new emblem of the worker-peasant alliance. #

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