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Jose Maria Sison: In Prison, Writing Poetry was My Way of Fighting, Preoccupying Myself and Keeping My Sanity


Jose Maria Sison: In Prison, Writing Poetry was My Way of Fighting, Preoccupying Myself and Keeping My Sanity
By Cat Sher on Friday, 9 March 2012 at 00:52
Jose Ma. Sison has been called many names, among them “terrorist” (by the government and military) and “patriot” (by his comrades and friends). But the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is undeniably a poet, with some of his poems even receiving citations abroad. Bulatlat.com posts the following interview of Sison conducted by De La Salle student concerning Sison’s poems.

BY GRACE B. SALITA*Posted by Bulatlat.com

The Movement

  1. Whom would you consider as most influential in your involvement with the concerns of the masses?

JMS: I observed closely the conditions of the peasants in my hometown and subsequently those of the workers in Manila. In the university, I studied the writings of the patriots in the old democratic revolution (Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Apolinario Mabini, etc.) up to the latest of the Filipino progressive anti-imperialists (Crisanto Evangelista, Claro Mayo Recto, Teodoro Agoncillo, Amado V. Hernandez, Renato Constantino, etc.). Then, I studied the great communists Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

I was also influenced by conversations with my father and my Grade IV social science teacher who had patriotic views, my pro-Huk barber when I was in high school, my progressive university teachers and elder friends, like Amado V. Hernandez, Teodoro Agoncillo and Dean Jose Lansang. Then I had close interaction with worker and peasant cadres in the sixties and participated in social investigation and mass work from the sixties onward.

My study of revolutionary literature, social investigation and mass work were the most influential in awakening and developing my interest in addressing the concerns of the oppressed and exploited masses and in seeking revolutionary change.

  1. Was there an event that led you to establish the breakaway group of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968?

JMS: I joined the old communist party (merger party of the communist and socialist parties) in December 1962. In 1965 a scion of the Lava family in the party leadership reacted strongly to the proposal for a review of party history and rectification of errors. In April 1967, I noticed certain members of the Lava family making organizational maneuvers (like demotions, reassignments and intrigues) against the proletarian revolutionaries, including myself.

The proletarian revolutionaries took a position against revisionism in the great debate within the international communist movement in the sixties. They stood for the criticism and rectification of major errors in the party. They stood for resuming the armed revolution as soon as possible. The Lava family and its followers took the opposite side. Thus, there was a parting of ways.

  1. How did your family react to the course your life has taken?

JMS: My father died in 1958. So my mother would be the only parent reacting to my development as a revolutionary against the ruling system. Continuously she admired me for my capabilities and achievements. But also continuously she regretted that I did not operate and rise within the confines of the system. She was a kind and religious woman who knew the big social problems but could not see the revolutionary way. She saw the feudal inheritance of the family as the product of the industry and intelligence of my great grandfather and grandfather.

My siblings have not interfered with my development as a revolutionary. They have respected my position. Some of them are even proud of me even as they do not share my views. Only one of them seriously debated with me in an attempt either to change my position or show that he had a superior position after getting his master’s degree in economics at Georgetown University in the early sixties.

Another sibling merely worried that the her husband’s high position in the banking world could be adversely affected if I visited them too often. But eventually after my release from prison in 1986 her husband would even introduce me to Jaime Zobel de Ayala for photographic sessions.

My wife Julie de Lima and our children are very supportive of me.

We wished to have our children with us when we were underground. I am sure that they also wished to be with us. But it was not possible. Had we been together, the difficulties, risks and adverse consequences to all would have multiplied. Separated, the parents could do their tasks for the movement and the children could go to school, without exposing the whereabouts of the parents.

  1. What qualifies an individual to be a member of the movement?

JMS: The first qualification of the individual is commitment to the cause of national liberation and democracy against U.S. imperialism and the local exploiting classes. Such an individual can join any of the suitable organizations of the national democratic movement (for workers, peasants, women, youth, professional, etc.). He or she must agree with the program of the organization and join its activities. The mass organizations are quite open.

Anyone who is at least 18 years old can also join the Communist Party by expressing adherence to its Constitution and Program and by undergoing trial work and further education. Usually, the prospective member is invited by the CPP after its cadres observe that he or she is an advanced element in the mass movement. Being advanced means being conscious of and being committed to the line of struggle for national liberation and democracy and being disciplined and militant.

  1. What was life like in the mountains when the conveniences available in the urban areas were not available? Did you find it difficult to adjust to that kind of life?

JMS: Up to the age of twelve, I went now and then with my grade school classmates, to the villages, climbed hills and mountains and walked through the forest in my hometown. But when I went to the mountains and forest again for extended periods in Central Luzon and then Cagayan Valley, since early 1969 (when I was already 30 years old), I certainly had difficulties adjusting to life in the countryside.

Such inconveniences as the inaccessibility of the stores or the lack of flush toilets are trifles in the context of the life-and-death struggle. You learn to adjust to the inconveniences or overcome them because of your revolutionary commitment and resolve to fight the enemy. I did not suffer any homesickness that usually tested the peasant recruit after three months but I was sometimes vexed and tested by delays in the arrival of things that I needed for work, like office supplies and reference materials.

  1. Based on your observation, what were the main reasons why the CPP-NPA significantly grew in number even during the Martial Law period when strict measures were implemented against your group by the Marcos government?

JMS: The ruling system was severely afflicted by crisis that disabled the big compradors and landlords from ruling in the old way. Thus, the Marcos ruling clique decided to impose the fascist dictatorship on the people. This rule of open terror exposed the rottenness and desperation of the rulers.

The intolerable oppression and exploitation moved the people to desire a revolutionary change of government. There was a revolutionary mood to begin with, as previously manifested by the strong mass protests in the period of 1969-72. There was a revolutionary party of the proletariat ready to lead the people and build the strength of all revolutionary forces, including the people’s army, mass organizations and organs of political power through armed revolution.

The conditions were extremely difficult during the first two years of the martial law period. But the ever worsening crisis conditions would eventually force the fascist regime to unravel. The superprofits drawn by the imperialists, the mounting foreign debt, the puppetry, corruption and cruelty of the regime outraged the people and incited them to fight back.

  1. When you were imprisoned in 1977, to whom/what would you ascribe the continuous growth of the movement?

JMS: I would ascribe the continuous growth of the movement to the strong ideological and political foundation laid down from 1969 to 1977, the correct conduct of struggle by the revolutionary leadership and masses at the lower levels of the movement in most places at most times, the rapidly worsening crisis conditions from 1979 onward and all the outrageous crimes of the regime, like the massacres and the assassination ofAquino, which pushed the people and revolutionary forces to resist the fascist regime.


  1. How were you able to evade arrest until 1977?

JMS: I relied on several layers of protection. Matters were sifted through the structure and processes of the Communist Party of Philippines, whose Central Committee I chaired then. The CPP was intimately linked to and supported by the people through the mass organizations and organs of political power. Wherever I was in the countryside, at least a platoon of the New People’s Army was assigned to look after my security. Wherever I did office work, I had a staff to assist me and look after my security.

I did not stay too long in any particular area. I had to move from one area to another within a guerrilla front. I also moved from one guerrilla front to another and from one region to another. The point is to shift even before the enemy could get a clear sign of my presence. Shifting involved good timing and other precautionary measures, which were possible because of the support of the people and the revolutionary mass organizations.

  1. You recounted the tortures you experienced in the poem “Fragments of A Nightmare.” Did you ever reach the point when you almost gave up? What gave you the will to fight and to live?

JMS: When such outright physical tortures, as punching and water cure, were applied on me, I thought of resisting continuously because my estimate was that I would simply become unconscious when my body could no longer bear the pain of torture. All the way I thought that it would be a shame to give up and betray others and myself because of the torture. I could and did also try to outwit the enemy. Of course, I was always conscious of the duty to stand for the people and the revolutionary movement.

The most difficult kind of torture that I underwent was the protracted one, with the psychological form of the torture being principal and the built-in physical one being secondary. Being chained to a cot and put in solitary confinement in a small cell and not knowing when my conditions would change meant terrible stress on my mind. I felt like tons of lead were falling on my brain every second, every minute, every hour, every day and every week.

But to keep my sanity and even sharpen my wits, I fought back by composing poems, reviewing and analyzing my experiences and thoughts and imagining plots of novels that I never got to writing. I had the will to fight because I was fighting not only for myself but for the people, especially the toiling masses of workers and peasants.

I considered prison and even my small cell an arena of the struggle for national liberation and democracy. I thought then it was my special task to show defiance to the U.S. imperialists and the Marcos fascist regime in order to rouse the people further to wage the armed revolution.

  1. Based on the same poem “Fragments of A Nightmare,” your wife and other members were arrested along with you. What were your immediate concerns given the situation that you were in solitary confinement and away from your wife and fellow members?

JMS: My immediate concerns included those about the possible torture and other harm that could be inflicted on my wife and the three friends who were arrested with us and about the implications and consequences of our arrest to the revolutionary movement. As soon as we were arrested, we were separated from each other. For all of us arrested, the psychological torture began when we were rushed to some waiting vehicles and the convoy speeded toward the south.

During the ride, I was thinking whether our captors would bring us all the way to Manila or kill us somewhere along the way in Central Luzon. At the same time, I estimated that Marcos and they were happy to have a live prize catch to show off. But under conditions of solitary confinement, especially during the first two years, I was concerned about my wife’s and my own life and physical integrity. But the determination to fight in the interest of the people always prevailed in my way of thinking.

  1. How long did this physical torture last? What made them stop (if they ever did)?

JMS: Solitary confinement is both physical and psychological but it is mainly psychological and is excruciatingly painful in a protracted way. The most difficult time for me was the first two years of solitary confinement, from November 1977 to November 1979. Then partial isolation came, with my wife allowed to visit in my cell weekly up to 1981.

When she was released in March 1982, I was back to solitary confinement for more than three years. After my counsel and I repeatedly exposed in court and to the press the fact that I was in solitary confinement, the Supreme Court decided in May 1985 to put me in a cell where I could have one or two cellmates.

  1. In your poem “Like a Giant, Like A Bird,” apart from the physical abuse, in what other ways did the “demons press their power” over what they referred to as an “ant” (prisoner)?

JMS: Army and constabulary officers from the rank of colonel upwards came in relays from 1977 to 1979 to my cell. They said that they came to interview me and then one of them, like Col. Miguel Aure or Gen. Greg Perez, would say that I could get out of my chains as soon as I would cooperate with them.

Colonels Galileo Kintanar and Virgilio Saldajeno came soon after the announcement of sham parliamentary elections in 1979 to urge me to publicly declare the intention to run for the interim batasang pambansa. I refused by saying, “How can I run for any office when I cannot even walk in this cell.” After that I did not get any military visitors for a long while.

After a brother of mine had a brief inconclusive conversation with Marcos in 1982, Marcos obviously directed a police general related to my family to send word to me that I could solve all my problems by accepting a position from him (Marcos). Through the intermediary, I said to the relative that I could outlast his master without getting any job from him.

  1. The prison cell’s comparison to “an arena of struggle” for me implies that the prisoner was not at all submissive to the evil schemes of the prison guards/military. This can also be proven in the verse “The courageous fight in prison/ Joins the irresistible tide/ Of the revolutionary struggle springing/ From the bosom of the motherland.” How did the fight for the cause continue in prison? How did you defend yourself against the abuse?

JMS: You are correct in saying that I was not submissive. I fought back. The prison cell is an “an arena of struggle.” The dimensions of the cell are quite small and stifling. But from this cell I could bring out articles and poems defying and fighting the powerful enemy and arousing or inspiring the people to fight more than I could. I wanted the people to realize that if a prisoner can fight back they are in a much better position to fight back and even to overthrow the foul regime.

I could do my own small share of fighting and link my struggle with that of the broad masses of the people and the revolutionary forces. In turn, learning of the gains and advances of the revolutionary mass movement inspired me to fight. The only way I could defend myself against the abuses was to expose and condemn them.

  1. In your poem “In the Dark Depths,” you used “gold” and “pearl” as metaphors for what a prisoner becomes after incarceration, while in “A Furnace,” the persona sees the prison cell as “…a seething furnace/ For tempering steel/ And purifying gold.” How did prison life bring out the best in you? What kind of person have you become after your imprisonment? What were some of your realizations while you were in prison and after you have been released?

JMS: Indeed, I use various metaphors to show the strength of character and palpable beauty that come from overcoming severe tests. While in prison, I learned to withstand and overcome severe stresses (from within or from without), including provocations and sheer boredom. You either break or become stronger under the conditions imposed on me. After the first two years of imprisonment, I was allowed to read books. All the way I had plenty of time to review and analyze my experience and thoughts. Thus, I matured further intellectually and politically even while I was in prison.

I became a better person and probably a better writer and teacher after I came out of prison. Even while I was in prison, I became more and more in touch with developments in the country and the world. I could get more and more information from outside of prison after Julie was released in 1982 and even more so after Marcos started to lose control in 1983 due to the economic crisis and assassination of Aquino. As soon as I was out of prison, I found myself fit for more vigorous intellectual and political activity.

  1. How difficult was it to be in prison while your members were at the forefront of the battles against the Marcos regime?

JMS: While in prison, I wished that I could do at least the several things that I had been able to do before imprisonment. Thus, it was difficult and painful to think that I could not be in the company of comrades and friends as they engaged in various forms of mass struggles against the Marcos fascist regime. At the same time, I was happy to learn that the legal democratic movement and the armed revolutionary movement were advancing in great strides.

  1. In what ways were you able to inspire your movement even though you were behind bars?

JMS: Through my appearances before the military commissions and the Supreme Court, the people came to know the tortures and other violations of human rights that I underwent. They also witnessed that I did not recognize the authority of the military commissions and the entire fascist dictatorship. I was able to send out letters, articles and poems that served to defy and fight the fascist regime. If someone in my situation could somehow fight the enemy, then the people and the revolutionary forces could do far more in the struggle. Thus, I inspired the revolutionary movement.

  1. You referred to Marxism as your “spiritual weapon.” What specific principles of Marxism helped you endure your struggles in prison?

JMS: I would like to point to all basic principles of Marxism. I had plenty of time to review them constantly, although without the help of texts of the classics. I was even able to write a primer on Marxism in prison. Until now, I have not gone back to polish the draft for publication.

But let me simply point to the law of the unity of opposites as the single most important scientific principle which guided me to recognize the social struggles in the Philippines, including the national struggle against imperialism and the class struggles against the exploiting classes, and to continue contributing what I could to the revolutionary advance of the entire Filipino nation and working people.

The law of unity of opposites tells me that there are objective crisis conditions that make the current semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions ripe for radical change. It also tells me that the subjective forces of the revolution must consciously contend with the counterrevolutionary forces and take the road of new-democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. From an old social formation, whose contradictory components are in relative equilibrium, the revolutionary forces overthrow the counterrevolutionary forces and establish a new social formation.


  1. Before your arrest in 1977, how was your arrangement with your family? Did you live away from them? If yes, your children were with whom? How were they educated given the fact that their father was wanted by the Marcos government?

JMS: When my wife and I went underground in 1968, we put our three children under the care of her parents. It was only during the summers of 1969, 1970 and 1971 that we had reunions with our children underground. We decided that they had to go abroad in 1971 with one of their aunts after the outgoing and incoming provincial commanders of the constabulary, one after the other, went to the grandparent guardians of our children to demand our whereabouts and to threaten the kidnapping of the children.

Our children stayed and studied abroad from 1971 to 1986. Julie and I did not see them for 15 years.

  1. To whom did you specifically dedicate the poem “Across Blue Waters?” What were the significant roles which your children played while you were in prison?

JMS: I dedicated the poem to my three children who were abroad. While we were in prison, my wife and I derived comfort from the knowledge that they were well taken care of and were studying. At the same time, like before, we were sad that they had to be separated from us and that they being children suffered more the burden of separation. In the poem, I try to comfort them and us their parents that we are in touch and joined in a common cause.

  1. In “To Jasm, My Captive Child,” my reading of it reveals that you had a child in prison. How difficult was it to nurture a child in such an environment? How were children of political prisoners treated by prison guards?

JMS: Our first three children were born in 1960, 1962 and l965. Jasm was born on December 6, 1981 at the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, where I was detained, specifically at the Maximum Security compound. He is our fourth child, coming 16 years after our third child. Julie and I cared for him in my cell from December 1981 to the end of March 1982 when he and Julie were released.

Our elder children did not have experience dealing with prison guards. And I do not have direct knowledge of the way prison guards treat the children of other political prisoners because I was put in isolation away from prison community of political prisoners.

  1. I am not so sure with this, but certain lines reveal that at the time of the poem’s writing, you were already sharing the prison cell with your wife (“And yet our joy is boundless./ We crowd this room with our love,/ Defy the arrogant walls/ And reach out to those who care.”). If this deduction is correct, at what point did they allow you to be joined in by your wife? Were they more lenient during the 80s?

JMS: Julie stayed with me in my cell in the later months of her pregnancy in 1981 and then, after the birth of Jasm, from December 1981 to the end of March 1982. Even in the 1970s, the fascist regime was already allowing conjugal visits to political prisoners, putting in the same cell spouses who are political prisoners and releasing the wife if she was a nursing mother or became pregnant. But these leniencies were not allowed to Julie and me, until after so long and after repeated complaints and campaigning by human rights organizations.

Literature and the Cause

  1. How important was protest literature during the Martial Law years, especially those written by members of the party?

JMS: Protest literature in English, Pilipino and various other Philippine languages were exceedingly important during the martial law years. The biggest amount of revolutionary literature, in the form of poetry, lyrics for songs, short stories, plays and some novels, was written by communists and revolutionary mass activists.

You can consult Bien Lumbrera, Monico Atienza, Gelacio Guillermo and Pete Lacaba about said literature. Gelacio Guillermo has the high distinction of being the principal compiler and editor of such literature.

The creative works were carried by national and regional underground publications of the revolutionary movement. In urban areas, poems were recited and performed in lightning mass actions and in large mass actions, especially from 1979 onwards. In all the years of martial rule, the revolutionaries produced and performed creative works in the guerrilla fronts.

  1. How effective was it in fighting the dictatorship?

JMS: The protest literature was very effective in fighting the dictatorship. Poems and lyrics of songs could circulate most easily. They were inspiring and they could circulate fast and nationwide, with the help of underground revolutionary organizations, including cultural organizations. They were so much easier to circulate than political tracts and much more easily understood by the masses. The enemy had no effective way of stopping these.

Without the protest literature, the revolutionary movement would have been drab and dull. But with protest literature, it became lively and militant. The protest literature was effective in spreading the revolutionary message because it could move instantly the hearts and minds of the people. The message reached the masses in a form that they could easily grasp.

  1. During the time of your imprisonment, was poetry writing allowed? If not, how were you able to write your poems? Where did you write and keep them?

JMS: From the beginning of my imprisonment, I simply could not be stopped from composing poems. I composed and recited poems even without pen and paper. It was my way of fighting, of preoccupying myself and of keeping my sanity. The military prison custodians had no way of stopping me.

When ball pens and pencils were made available to me after more than year, I was able to write down my poems that I had committed to memory. It was easy to keep the poems. I kept them in a lining of my cot or in my pocket until I could send them out through lawyers, visitors and co-accused. The poems are easy to keep and pass on because they are short, compared to other forms of literature.

  1. Did your poems reach the people? How?

JMS: I do not think that my poems in English instantly reached so many people in the Philippines, because they are in the English language and because they came out in publications of limited circulation. The works of Rizal in Spanish also had had to overcome such adverse circumstances. But even Tagalog or Pilipino has limited readers outside of the Tagalog region.

I also think that my poems reached the people ultimately not only through translations into various Philippine languages but also through the influence it gained over creative writers in English and various Philippine languages and through cultural activists of the mass movement in terms of content and style.

The readership of any serious literature will always be far less than the people aroused and mobilized by campaigners who have read that literature directly or who have learned the content from others. Jewels are stored in small boxes before they are brought out to sparkle for everyone.

  1. English protest writers during the Martial Law years were often criticized because of their use of a foreign language; therefore, preventing them from fully reaching out to the people (particularly the proletariat). What is your comment on this?

JMS: Manila-based Tagalog is the lingua franca of the entire country. I think that using this language rather than English or any other Philippine language can put one in touch instantly with the greatest number of people on a nationwide scale. Thus, I have learned to use it for conversations and public speaking. But I have not done creative writing with it and I envy those who can do so.

During martial law years, there were far more protest and revolutionary writers in Pilipino and in other Philippine languages than in English. And these writers were kind enough to tolerate the writers in English who were with them in the same protest movement and also in the movement to promote Pilipino as the national language and as the actual principal language in all transactions, educational, cultural, literary, economic, political and so on.

In fact, creative writers in English were still appreciated for being honed in the university or being published in the English-speaking world. Rizal and Recto were not castigated for writing in Spanish, except by a very few. They have been in the main appreciated for the content and style of their works.

Context of Other Poems

  1. In your poem “Defy the Reptile,” you said that “Men learn to bait the beast with toads/And then to set upon its securest lair.” What do the toads represent in your poem, which were used as “baits” for the “beast?” Can you please share some instances when the movement triumphed over Marcos and his men?

JMS: I wrote the poem to reflect through metaphor the many instances when the New People’s Army would deliberately make it known to the enemy that an enemy informer or a small enemy unit had been wiped out. Then, the NPA would wait to ambush the reaction force of the enemy. By baiting or luring in and beating the enemy, the NPA would accumulate strength and ultimately be able to set upon the beast in its securest lair.

The NPA started on March 29, 1969 with only 9 automatic rifles and some 26 single-shot rifles and handguns. Before Marcos fell, the NPA had accumulated thousands of high-powered rifles. These represented victories in so many battles or tactical offensives carried out by the NPA. Tactical offensives included ambushes, raids and arrest operations.

The armed revolutionary movement and the legal democratic movement led by the underground revolutionaries succeeded in isolating and weakening the Marcos fascist dictatorship and in ultimately causing the downfall of Marcos in 1986. The U.S. and Catholic Church would not have decided to promote Edsa I if it were not for their fear that the armed revolutionary movement would grow far stronger with Marcos staying longer in power.

The great political success of the revolutionary movement is evident in the expansion and consolidation of guerrilla fronts, organs of democratic political power and mass organizations. We can say that two kinds of state exist in the Philippines, one is the state of the workers, peasants and urban petty bourgeois based in the countryside and the other is that of the big comprador and landlords based in the cities.

  1. In the poem “The Woman and the Strange Eagle,” great difficulty is encountered by the woman and her company to be able to reach their destination. Since the government at that time was closely monitoring the movement of the party, what measures did your group employ to evade arrest? What do you think were the most significant contributions of women members during that time?

JMS: The poem is allegorical and metaphorical. It is suggestive of the Philippine archipelago and the difficulties of giving birth to a new life. The role of the woman is given the highest prominence in the poem.

The reactionary government or specifically its intelligence agencies could not monitor the entire Communist Party and revolutionary movement. From time to time, they could only watch a part and then take punitive action. On the whole, the movement was gaining in strength, despite rampant human rights violations by the enemy forces.

To prevent and evade arrests, the revolutionary forces had to carry out tactical offensives, use underground methods and do extensive mass work in order to expand and consolidate the people’s support for the revolution.

The women in the movement made significant contributions as much as the men. They were active in the revolutionary armed struggle, mass work, united front, cultural work and so many other fields of work. The Party adheres to gender equality and militates the women to realize equality through the struggle for national liberation and democracy. By this struggle, the women can increase their participation and also effect women’s liberation.

  1. In “Against the Monster on the Land,” you reiterated the importance of children in capturing and conquering the monster who has “gorged himself with flesh and blood.” How important is the youth in toppling an oppressive order? What specific roles did they play in your movement during the Marcos regime?

JMS: In the poem, the “children of soil” are the peasantry and are not literally children. Of course, the peasant masses (mainly poor and lower-middle peasants) are important in encircling and defeating the landlord class, which is the “monster on the land”. The poem is very evocative of physical resistance to the monster because indeed the New People’s Army recruits most of its Red fighters from the peasantry, which is most interested in the democratic revolution through genuine and thoroughgoing land reform.

The youth are important in toppling an oppressive order. They assumed so many roles in fighting the fascist dictatorship. They joined the New People’s Army to become Red fighters. They persevered in developing youth organizations in the urban and rural areas. They conducted mass protest actions. The overwhelming majority of the people who rose up and toppled Marcos were young people from the exploited classes.

  1. In “From a Burning Bush,” who/what are you referring to as the “three gods of exploitation?” What were the major offenses they committed against the people for you to regard them as such?

JMS: The “three gods of exploitation” are foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Please refer to Amado Guerrero’s Philippine Society and Revolution to comprehend more the nature, manifestations and major offenses of the “three gods” to the Filipino people.

Among the imperialist powers, the U.S. is chief in dominating and exploiting the Philippines as a semi-colony or neo-colony. It draws superprofits from the entire people in so many ways. The landlord class continues to exist and inflict feudal and semi-feudal exploitation on the majority part of the population, the peasantry. Of course, you can recognize what is bureaucrat capitalism among the high officials of the reactionary government. They make private gains for themselves, their families and cronies from their offices.

  1. Several of your poems express your confidence on what the farmers and workers can do in the advancement of your cause. How easy/difficult was it to convince them to join the fight against the dictatorship and imperialism which were the main causes of their oppression?

Given the tight measures of the government during this period, how did your group overcome the challenges and problems which accompanied the recruitment of members?

JMS: The revolutionary cause reflects and responds to the needs, demands and aspirations of the workers and peasants. The revolutionary cause is their cause. That’s why my poems express the confidence or optimism that the workers and peasants are the ones advancing their own cause and liberating themselves from fascist, imperialist and feudal domination.

It is not difficult to arouse, organize and mobilize the workers and peasants to the extent that revolutionary cadres and advanced mass activists can approach them. What makes mass work difficult and painstaking is that the imperialists and local reactionaries use violence and deception to prevent the workers and peasants from getting organized and to stand in the way of the revolutionary cadres and advanced mass activists.

To overcome the tight measures undertaken by the Marcos regime, the revolutionary forces had to wage various forms of struggle to isolate and weaken the regime. In the course of struggle, the revolutionary forces recruited their members. The revolutionary armed struggle was of decisive importance because it made possible the establishment of people’s government and defended the revolutionary gains of the people.

  1. In your poem “Rain and Sun on the Mountains,” you talk about the indispensable qualities of both gifts of nature, as well as the manner in which one complements the other to attain stability. However, you also mentioned the existence of storms and droughts in this poem. As the leader of the organization, what would you consider as the “storms” and “droughts” which got in the way of the movement’s plans? How did you handle and overcome them?

JMS: The “majesty of the mountain” (movement) prevails through rain and sun (ordinary difficulties) and even through storms and drought (extraordinary difficulties). The vicissitudes (storms and drought) that the movement must confront are the enemy’s campaigns of encirclement and suppression as well as major errors of “Left” opportunism and Right opportunism.

The revolutionary forces (CPP, NPA and NDFP) have overcome the enemy campaigns by persevering in the line of new democratic revolution through protracted people’s war, by waging extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever expanding and ever deepening mass bases and by developing several types of united front at the same time.

The revolutionary forces have criticized, repudiated and rectified such “Left” opportunist errors as making prevalent the purely military viewpoint and enlarging combat units of the NPA far beyond the capacity of the existing mass base to support; and such Right opportunist errors as systematically negating the need for revolutionary struggle as the main form of struggle and opting mainly or exclusively for legal forms of struggle.

  1. Your poems “Pearl” and “Gold” talk about the painful process a person has to go through for a particular goal to be reached. At what moments in your life have you considered yourself a “diver”/“miner” who successfully obtained the elusive “pearl”/“gold”? I noticed that you wrote these two poems on the same day (April 12, 1978). Was there a significant event which brought the writing of these poems about?

JMS: With the historical, material and moral support of the people and comrades, I have been a diver/miner who has successfully obtained pearl/gold. We have been able to integrate Marxism-Leninism with Philippine circumstances. We have been able to able to clarify and pursue the line of new democratic revolution.

We have been able to build the CPP, NPA, NDFP, the mass organizations of various types and the organs of political power. All these have arisen and developed through hard work, militant struggles and sacrifices.

I wanted to combine the two poems into one. I could not then and so I decided to write them separately. But I was aware all along that they were on the same theme, that they went into depths and that they were contrastive and complementary. I was in solitary confinement. I felt like being in the depths but I was determined to rise up with the pearl/gold from the depths.

  1. Your poem “The North Star Is Always There” praises the said star because it has served as a compass to your group due to its fixed position. Apart from this, does the north star have any other significance/reference which prompted you to write about it?

JMS: You are correct in pointing to the North Star as a compass for the revolutionary movement. The North Star stands for the ideological guidance provided by Marxism-Leninism and the general political line of new democratic revolution.

Even while I was in prison and literally out of sight for the people, the ideological and political leadership provided by the CPP was also like the North Star. I wrote the poem to assure the people that they continued to be guided by a set of revolutionary ideas beyond the reach and capacity of the imperialists and fascists to destroy.

  1. Can you give us a picture of how difficult it was to be a revolutionary during the Martial Law years which most probably prompted you to write about their heroism in poems such as “In Praise of Martyrs,” “Wisdom of A Comrade,” and “What Makes A Hero?”

JMS: To be merely suspected as a revolutionary by the intelligence agencies of the fascist dictatorship, you could be arrested for interrogation and torture, summary execution or indefinite detention. Tens of thousands of people were subjected to such brutalities in urban and rural areas. The martial law regime put millions of people under fire, maltreated and displaced them from their homes and land.

During the martial law period, you could easily lose your life, limb and liberty. The enemy forces could harm you with impunity. Thus, I was moved to write poems in order to shed light on martyrdom and heroism and to honor the martyrs and heroes. In my case, I constantly told myself to withstand the torture of solitary confinement and reminded myself of the martyrs and heroes who had suffered more.

  1. I have observed in my interviews and readings that most of the time, the cause takes precedence over other things (even their own families). To what can you attribute this way of thinking by most (if not all) of your members?

JMS: The revolutionary cause is not simply an abstraction or an insensate thing. It embraces the entire people, far more than one’s own family or self. To be a revolutionary, you are conscious of fighting for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people, including your own family and self.

As a revolutionary, you are expected to work hard, make sacrifices and be ready to give your life if necessary to uphold, defend and advance the revolutionary cause. Somehow your family suffers some risks and difficulties because you are a revolutionary. But the objective is to let the entire people become revolutionary and realize completely the new democratic revolution for the common good.

Comments on Issues

  1. Many attribute the fall of the dictatorship to the people’s strengthened clamor for democracy following the death of Benigno Aquino. What is your comment on the inclusion of Benigno Aquino in the list of the country’s national heroes? Are you in favor of this? Why?

JMS: The assassination of Aquino outraged the entire Filipino people. It swept away the long-running support of the U.S. and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords as well as “critical support” of the Catholic hierarchy to the Marcos regime. It contributed to and strengthened the constant clamor of the people for civil liberties and the long-running struggle of the people for national liberation and democracy, spearheaded by the revolutionary forces.

Benigno Aquino may be considered as a bourgeois national hero in the sense that he was fighting for civil liberties against the despotism of the Marcos fascist dictatorship. But definitely he is not a revolutionary national hero. He was for the preservation of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system of big compradors and landlords. He differed from Marcos in the sense that the latter was brazenly autocratic and fascist. Aquino was for the periodic election of president and for the legal bourgeois niceties.

  1. What is your view of the EDSA revolution?

JMS: EDSA revolution is a misnomer. It was not a revolution. It did not change the domestic socioeconmic and political system of the big compradors and landlords, a system subordinated to the world capitalist system. It sought and succeeded to preserve that system, replace the monopoly rule of Marcos and restore a system of rotating presidents among the oligarchs.

By the way, the process of overthrowing Marcos was not merely a matter of neutralizing the entire military and protecting such failed mutineers as RAM at EDSA. It was a long process of relentless struggle by the revolutionary forces and people. As I said before, the U.S. and Catholic church decided to drop Marcos in order to pre-empt the growing strength of the revolutionary movement and save the rotting system.

Again by the way, the people’s uprising at EDSA included BAYAN and other forces of the national democratic movement. And do not forget to mention that the KMU and LFS directly encircled Malacañang palace and that the U.S. had therefore to airlift Marcos by helicopter. BAYAN was responsible for all the big popular uprisings, in alliance with other opposition forces, in the provinces.

  1. What can you say about the succeeding administrations after Marcos? (i.e. Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo)

JMS: The regimes of Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo are fundamentally similar to the Marcos regime in the sense that they are all regimes of the ruling clique of big compradors and landlords. All are puppets to the U.S. and they are exploitative, corrupt, mendacious and repressive.

They have retained many of the fascist decrees of Marcos, so long as these satisfy the U.S. and the local exploiting classes at the expense of the people, especially the workers and peasants. The Marcos regime was frankly and openly fascist. The succeeding regimes have merely hung curtains to veil their brutality against the toiling masses of workers and peasants and against the revolutionary forces.

  1. Whenever there are news of attacks by the New People’s Army, they are blamed for the death of innocent individuals. Kindly comment on this.

JMS: During campaigns of encirclement and suppression, the regime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the CAFGU and other paramilitary forces murder people, loot and burn their homes. And then in the broadcast and print media they blame the NPA.

Every time the NPA makes a successful tactical offensive, the AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces go crazy, murder people in retaliation and then blame the NPA for the atrocities. Also, the CAFGU and similar paramilitary forces are always misrepresented as civilians whenever they are successfully targeted by the NPA.

  1. What is your comment on the inclusion of the New People’s Army in the list of terrorists?

JMS: The NPA is not a terrorist organization. It is a revolutionary organization of the people that adheres to the Bill of Fundamental Rights in the constitution of the people’s democratic government, the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols (especially Protocol I) and the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

There is the Hernandez doctrine of political offense even in the jurisprudence of GRP. The GRP can accuse the NPA of simple rebellion but not of terrorism, which does not exist in the penal code of the GRP. It is therefore treasonous and treacherous for the Arroyo regime to applaud the U.S. and other foreign governments for usurping jurisdiction over the NPA by listing it as terrorist and aiming to carry out punitive measures against it. Please consult the website: www.defendsison.be

  1. What is your comment on the defection of members, as well as the internal conflicts in the party, which was exposed in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (December 10, 1992 issue)?

JMS: By the law of contradiction, it is but natural that from time to time a revolutionary party of the proletariat is confronted by major errors and deviations and by the phenomenon of “Left” and Right opportunists as well as incorrigible opportunists who have become renegades betraying the revolutionary cause. The method of the CPP in solving such problems is the rectification movement, which is essentially an educational campaign to sum up experience, draw up lessons and clarify the revolutionary tasks.

It is impossible for me to answer comprehensively and profoundly your very big question within the limits and relative symmetry of this interview. I therefore suggest that you read and study the

1992 rectification documents of the CPP and the anniversary statements of the CPP and NPA from 1992 to the present. In this way, you can understand the nature, course and resounding success of the rectification movement. To begin, you must read at least the latest anniversary statements of the CPP, NPA and NDFP.

Had there been no rectification movement in 1992, the CPP and the revolutionary movement would have been destroyed by 1994 through internal ideological, political and organizational confusion and attacks from the outside by barefaced enemy forces and renegades.

But because of the rectification movement, the CPP has revitalized and further strengthened itself ideologically, politically and organizationally.

The CPP has put forward so many theoretical and political writings, integrating Marxism-Leninism-Maoism with the concrete practice of the Philippine revolution. It has raised the level of revolutionary consciousness of a great number of cadres and members, now in the tens of thousands.

It has led the New People’s Army in waging people’s war, developing 128 guerrilla fronts and building organs of political power and mass organizations. It has also promoted various types of alliances. It has inspired the growth of the urban-based legal democratic movement. It is far stronger than ever before.(img:253097431443711)


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