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Youth On The March

Youth On The March

by Jose Maria Sison
(Published in the Philippines Free Press, November 2, 1968)

A NATION that does not continuously renew itself through progressive-minded and militant youth cannot possibly advance. A world of timid and apathetic youth will merely feed all the regimes of injustice and exploitation with a constant flow of manpower for exploited labor and cannon fodder for unjust wars. Even a revolutionary society, say, a socialist one, would stagnate and be thereafter corrupted if the process of renewal and of continuous revolution is neglected or deliberately held back.

It is in the very nature of the world and of history that while there are youth who question and fight the outdated order, striving to build a new system or reach a new stage of development in which they stand to gain.

The problem of succession through the youth is common to both reactionaries and revolutionaries. The reactionaries strive to preserve an educational and cultural system that molds the thinking and behavior patterns of the youth in a conservative way. The true revolutionaries work to make all parts of their superstructure correspond to the mode of existence of their society. Just as reactionaries zealously try to preserve a heritage of exploitation, the true revolutionaries look after their successors in the march towards greater social progress.

The youth are divisible into two conflicting sides of history, each side trying to influence the apathetics in the middle sections of the political spectrum. It is necessary to recognize that the youth, more than their elders, are more receptive to what is new and progressive.

This receptiveness is sharply seen in crises, when the old ruling classes and the old authorities no longer can rule the old way and resist change. As the crisis ripens, a youthful movement and leadership inevitably emerges with the new ideology, the new political program and the new course of action. No matter what social class ascends to replace the old ruling class, it relies on the ever expanding adherence of the youth to what is new and progressive. Even the youth in self-satisfied centers of learning in the Establishment raise the banner of change.

We are living today in a world of crises, marked by rapid emergence of the new and rabid resistance of the old. Never has the world been so shaken as now. The forces of socialism and national liberation are striking down the ramparts of imperialism and local reactionary power with global sweep. We are in the midst of radical choice.

We are in a world where old verities and old structures are the target of angry yet positive, critical but constructive, mass actions of the youth and the people.

“To rebel is justified!” is the battle cry of the youth of China. There the youth came to be known the world over as the Red Guards. Millions mobilized all over China and, because of our proximity to China, we could almost hear the sound of their marches. Supported by the masses, they brought down the bourgeois academic authorities (reactionary teachers and administrators) and demanded a change in the educational system. Again, together with the masses, the Red Guards gathered enough strength to topple down degenerate government and party officials taking the capitalist road.

Where but in their own schools did the Red Guards start their great proletarian cultural revolution? They saw their schools reflecting society incorrectly. They acted to rectify the irresponsiveness of schools and school authorities to the needs and demands of workers and peasants. At the University of Peking, the whole earth-shaking phenomenon called the great proletarian Cultural Revolution started with big posters denouncing the highly-placed miscreants.

From the confines of academic walls, the youth took to the streets to muster support from the masses of the people. Soon, because of the relationship between school and society, the masses saw the point of the ReD Guards. The Chinese youth became, in the May 4th Movement, a vanguard force of enlightenment, arousing not only their own new generation but the broad masses of the people. They could have been easily pushed back by the reactionaries but for the overwhelming support of the masses who themselves fully participated in the most extensive democracy and mass learning ever witnessed by mankind.

What the Red Guards did in China also transpired in France, United States, West Germany, Italy, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico. The youth form a progressive force and subsequently strive to merge with the masses on the basis of basic popular demands against U.S. imperialism and the various stripes of local reactionaries.

The seizure of entire universities as Columbia University, the Sorbonne and many others in Latin America and Western Europe is similar to the seizure of Chinese universities by the Chinese youth.

In France, the youth seized the university and then took the streets in the Latin Quarter. All this was followed by something more extensive and more profound as the general strike of French workers and farmers which still haunts De Gaulle’s regime. A few tens of thousands of youth started what subsequently embraced more than ten millions workers and farmers, frightening the reactionaries and compelling them to unleash the violence of the state. The French youth became truly strong politically with the support given them by the masses of workers and farmers.

Let us compare the progressive actions of militant youth with those much ballyhooed in the Western press as exemplary models of youth rebellion.

In Eastern Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland, the ultra-revisionist youth press for rapid liberalization, which means a faster return of capitalism and collaborative relation with the United States and West Germany.

In Asia, we are witness to youth movements which helped overthrow certain regimes, Syngman Rhee’s in South Korea and Sukarno’s in Indonesia. These youth actions differ radically from what transpired in China. In the former, the existing corrupt state was retained and the old problems of exploitation and bureaucratic corruption aggravated. The change was not actually made by the youth, together with the masses, but by the reactionary army which always tries to preserve the old state. In Korea, General Park Chung Hee merely took advantage of youth unrest against Syngman Rhee and seized power by coup d’ etat over the heads of the masses. In Indonesia, the same thing happened with Generals Nasution and Suharto replacing Sukarno. The previous character of the state did not change.

Summarizing all these phenomena, we can state that the youth can be revolutionary only if supported by the masses in effecting a basic transformation of the state. Separated from the struggle of the masses, the youth only lead themselves into spasms of anarchy, a situation easily taken advantage of by reactionary army officers and other kinds of palace revolutionists.

It is worthwhile to differentiate revolutionary youth from counter-revolutionary youth. If there were youth attracted to the swastika of Hitler’s Jungen, there were also youth who joined partisan movements all over Europe, who fought fascism and triumphed in the end over the German war machine. If there are youth enlisted in the armed forces of the United States on missions of genocide in Vietnam, there are more American youth in the anti-imperialist, anti-war and anti-draft movement. There are also the rebellious black youth in the ghettoes. The young hoodlums backstopped by the reactionary armies of Indonesia, South Korea and other client states of the U.S. who go into rampages against progressives and democrats of their own countries, are counterpointed by the revolutionary youth who join the masses fighting against established system of exploitation and suppression.

We see the revolutionary courage and heroism of Vietnamese youth fighting American aggression in their country. The People’s Liberation Armed Forces of South Vietnam are youthful faces.

The Filipino youth have had their own share of revolutionary struggles – against the Spanish colonialists, against the American imperialists, against the Japanese fascists. A revolutionary civil war has once occurred within the living memory of many of today’s youth; constantly threatening imperialists and landlords, it pins its hopes on the youth.

Youth is the best fighting age. This is not meant to exclude progressive adults from the ranks of revolutionaries: after all, no matter how old they may be, they are still young in spirit because of revolutionary experience and continuing revolutionary commitment.

Both old and young are subsumed by classes, drawn into the contention of classes and nations, with the young grasping earliest the new and progressive.

It is the youth in the tradition of the Philippine revolution, of Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto and Gregorio del Pilar we are most concerned with. They shed their blood on the battle field against foreign tyrants and their local minions. With the Philippines increasingly in crisis, we expect more youth to take the uncompromising road of revolt against social injustices. After a long lull in the countryside and in the cities, we can observe the stirrings of a resurgent national democratic movement in the womb of a mis-shapen semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. The youth of the city, especially students and young workers, are rising in dissent. Young peasants are goading their elders; the youth are astir in Cotabato, Negros, Quezon, Pampanga, in many places. The youth are the vanguard of national reawakening.

It is in this respect that Kabataang Makabayan, the national democratic youth organization with the most profoundly articulate program and the most widespread membership in the Philippines today, has called itself the Second Propaganda Movement, apart from the connotation and the denotation that it is striving to solve old problems. It is a movement that prepares public opinion for the advance and triumph of working people under the radiant banner of proletarian leadership. It seeks to arouse and mobilize the masses towards the achievement of a national democracy that is new and progressive within the context of the most radical advances made by mankind and the working class. It seeks to project the ideological and political principles that can provide scientific direction to social revolution.

With Kabataang Makabayan in the vanguard, the Filipino youth are striving for progress and social justice. They have demonstrated a militance comparable to the youth of other lands and those in previous stages of our national history. They have manifested a profound understanding of basic problems and of the day’s issues.

With Kabataang Makabayan in the vanguard, there have been demonstrations of such depth and magnitude never before witnessed, protesting iniquities in our social and political system. There have been demonstrations spearheaded by KM on the murder of Filipinos in U.S. military bases, the Parity Amendment and the Laurel-Langley Agreement, the Vietnam war, the Retail Trade Nationalization Law and many others.

The historic actions of October 23rd and 24th of 1966 are still fresh in the minds of the youth; these exposed the Manila Summit and caught the U.S. President and a big complement of Asian puppets together. There have been workers’, students’ and teachers’ strikes participated in by Kabataang Makabayan. All the time the character of the bourgeois state is displayed before the unarmed protestants.

In schools all over the country, especially in the University of the Philippines, there is a growing ferment manifested often by student action. In the working class movement, the young workers are reassuming leadership. In the countryside, the youth are more articulate and critical of the old problem of feudalism than the officials of the barrio council and community development projects of the reactionaries.

Alone, demonstrations, speeches and leaflets cannot bring about the fundamental change of basic governmental policies but they certainly arouse the masses and even goad certain sections of the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie to question the basic tenets of the neo-colonial regime. They also discourage blatant abuses by the reactionaries.

Whatever its detractors say, the Kabataang Makabayan on the basis of present objective conditions has become a milestone in the long march of national democratic revolution. Is there any Philippine youth organization now, comparable in strength and achievement in the national democratic movement? The KM has made certain achievements that can no longer be disregarded by history. Prof. Teodoro A. Agoncillo has taken note of these in his History of the Filipino People. Its merits lie not only in its acts of democratic protest, in militating the people, but also in its more quiet acts of spreading the tenets of national democracy in urban and rural areas.

A whole range of challenges to the Filipino youth are contained in the national democratic program of action of the Kabataang Makabayan. This program defines the conditions and tasks of the Filipino youth. As we protest, we affirm the direction we are taking.

In the political field, we want to arouse and mobilize the Filipino youth as a powerful coordinate of the masses led by the working class in the great movement to realize the national democratic revolution. We are committed to assisting the development of a powerful mass movement and a working class leadership that can transform the character of the present state and rid ourselves of the malignant rule of the comprador bourgeoisie, the landlords and the corrupt government officials.

In the economic field, we seek national industrialization independent of the foreign monopolies on the basis of an agrarian revolution that liberates the peasants from feudal and semi- feudal oppression. We envision a just and prosperous society that is made possible only by the most intense and most effective political struggles of workers and peasants. We do not seek crumbs from the well-laden table of the almighty few but we seek general economic conditions that will not foster class exploitation.

In the cultural field, we demand the national democratic re- orientation of our educational system, mass media and other parts of the social superstructure. We reject the colonial-feudal and bourgeois-imperialist culture that restrain the advance of the exploited masses and all other progressive sectors of the population. At a time when the youth are corrupted by a backward and decadent culture, we urge the rising Filipino youth, a fresh force, to overthrow such regressive and anti-popular culture and make possible a new and progressive one responsive to the aspirations of the nation and the masses.

In the field of social welfare and mass work, we seek the improvement of the working and living conditions of the masses of workers, peasants, fishermen and all semi-proletariat. The youth must help them develop the political strength that can guarantee whatever economic gains have been made. They must take the mass line, that is, rouse them on the basis of their own concrete demands and rely on their massive efforts to contend with the exploiters. They must help heighten the political consciousness of the masses in the course of participating in their economic struggle.

In the field of national security, we demand the abolition of the country’s dependence on foreign military bases and dictation. We base our concept of national security on the sovereign democratic powers of the masses. If the masses can succeed in freeing themselves from U.S. imperialist control and from their local exploiters, it will be impossible for another foreign power to subject them to another successful aggression. The mythical possibility of another foreign aggression is no justification for the reality of a perpetuated aggression against the nation and the masses by U.S. imperialism and local exploiting classes. Our well-entrenched enemy keeps saying our friends are our enemies in order to present himself as our friend.

In the field of foreign policy, we seek an independent diplomacy and trade, a broadening of the present state of our foreign relations and a rejection of the stultifying “special relations” with the U.S. government, U.S. imperialism has so much control over our national life that the simpletons and deliberate liars in our midst keep spreading that we rally merely on foreign policy issues when the fact is that there are perfectly domestic issues even as a foreign power is the target of our opposition. That is because such a foreign power is well-entrenched in our politics, economy, culture and security system; this is all-round domination by the imperialists on the basis of the semi-feudal debility of the country.

The tasks of the national-democratic movement, the entire Filipino youth, and the Kabataang Makabayan are clear. In schools, farms, factories and communities, new cells of change are multiplying before the sweep of the Second Propaganda Movement.

The unfulfilled aspirations of the nation and the masses throb in the hearts and minds of the young. This generation strives to recoup the failures of the past and girds for the triumphs of the future. As the progressive youth movement and the Kabataang Makabayan struggle for fundamental changes, they will be defamed by the overt and covert enemies of national democracy but they will triumph in the end.

Only through militant struggle can the best in youth shall emerge. Only through the struggle can become more evident the constant replenishment of the fighting forces by the ceaseless flow of new blood.