Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison, KM Founding Chairman, On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the KM
30 November 2004
1. What internal and external events triggered the establishment of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM)?
JMS: In the Philippines during those times, there was an intense social crisis due to the new economic and financial crisis. The peso was rapidly devaluing due to the depletion of the dollar reserves under the policy of “decontrol”. There was the grave problem of high unemployment. Outside the country, the struggle against US imperialism in Asia, Africa, Latin America, especially in countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Congo and Cuba, was intensifying. Under such a situation, it was propitious and greatly necessary to establish an organization like the KM.
2. What preparations were made for the official founding of the KM?
JMS: As preparation for the founding of KM, we formed groups to study issues on the basis of the national democratic line. These study groups were formed in the University of the Philippines, Lyceum University, Manuel L, Quezon University and the Philippine College of Commerce; and in several unions of the National Association of Trade Unions which was then headed by Ignacio Lacsina. We also formed study groups in some barrios of MASAKA, especially in Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Laguna. We prepared and distributed the draft of the Constitution and Program of the KM. After the studies, the charter members were asked to register and the membership reached around 80.
3. Can you please narrate the events during the actual founding of the KM? Who participated and where was the founding?
JMS: Most of those who registered as charter members attended the founding. Their names are listed in the first published KM handbook. Senator Lorenzo M. Tanada was the keynote speaker. He was the one who suggested that the KM must have its own publication and that the publication should be called Kalayaan, which was the name of the publication edited by Emilio Jacinto, a comrade of Andres Bonifacio in the Katipunan. The founding congress was held at the YMCA Auditorium on Arroceros, Manila.
4. What were the main objectives for the establishment of KM?
JMS: First, the immediate objective was to have a comprehensive youth organization along the national democratic line against the US imperialists and the local big compradors and landlords; and second, to organize and reinvigorate the mass movement at a more rapid pace than what was imposed by former cadres who still had some trepidations due to the repression during the decade of the 50s.
5. Can you elaborate on the program of action of the KM?
JMS: Gosh, for me to elaborate it would to take so much time. But nevertheless I will give you an immediate reply. The program of action of the KM can be summed up in a few sentences. First, organize among the youth starting from the national and progressive classes and sectors of the society. Second, advance the national democratic line. Third, the youth must assist the working class in its role to lead the new democratic revolution of the Filipino people until the stage of socialist revolution. The role of the KM was indeed heavy with regards to assisting the working class as the leader in the Philippine revolution.
6. Can you relate some anecdotes regarding the organizing of KM, the launching of studies and the daily life of the activists during those times?
JMS: Well, this is my chance to tell stories that are both funny and sad. During the day of the founding, we were at once faced with one big problem. The YMCA administration refused to open the auditorium unless we paid half of the rent and cost of the food. I have to pawn my typewriter somewhere in Avenida Rizal so that we can advance the payment.
When the KM was established, we held office at the headquarters of the National Alliance of Trade Unions. But most of the work — such as administration, preparing for the rallies, demonstrations and other activities — was done in our house and our garage. Julie assisted me.
There were comrades who visited us and many of them became regular visitors. The flow of people coming to the house was constant and thick. Even when the KM had its own office, our home still served as our office. Our finances were spent to the very limits. Many people ate at the house daily. It was a good thing that we had free supply of rice from Ilocos. Later on, when the chapters of the KM increased, the well-off parents of activists started sending food to the headquarters.
The OD-ED team (composed of two people), this means the organization and education team, were fed well if the hosts knew in advance their arrival to undertake education and organizing of new chapters anywhere – schools, factories, urban or rural communities. The youth and even their parents were eager for the studies and for the formation of their organizations. Therefore, they took care of the OD-ED team.
7. How was the line struggle against the clerico-fascists carried out?
JMS: We presented the truth by explaining that they were using sanctimonious words to conceal the roots of oppression and exploitation. We also explained to the people how the clerico-fascists were undermining the democratic principle of separation of church and state. This was a fruit of the Philippine revolution that was valued and protected by the KM. And we know that even the Bible says “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” or among the Christians, “to Christ what is Christ’s.” That is the principle of separation of church and state.
8. Can you state lessons of the founding that must be given importance by the youth today especially in the formation of an organization?
JMS: It is important for former and new members to study the Program and Constitution of the KM, the book Struggle for National Democracy and other publications of the KM on burning issues. You know, the headquarters and the chapters of the KM were very much alive because short regular courses were taken under the schools for national democracy. In these schools for national democracy, they took up the burning issues of the times. Political and ideological education and the fulfillment of tasks and policies were means for consolidation. With regard to ideology, it is up to the groups or individuals how to undertake the studies of different ideas that were more advanced than the ideas of national democratic revolution. With the guidance of political education, on the general line of the national democratic revolution, the KM was able to expand its organization and develop members with the capacity to explain the KM program and further enlist new members.#