Keynote Speech (English Text) for the Cultural Conference 2016 in Bacolod City on September 16, 2016
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
Fellow cultural workers, compatriots and friends,
I am highly honored and deeply pleased to be invited as your keynote speaker in your Cultural Conference 2016. I thank the organizers, Concerned Artists of the Philippines and Sinagbayan for inviting me. And I congratulate the organizers and all participants for their accomplishments in cultural work and creative output.
In 1966, I delivered a speech on the need for a cultural revolution in the Philippines. I showed how the Propaganda Movement and the revolutionary issuances of the Katipunan and the Philippine revolutionary government overcame the Spanish cultural domination that had preconditioned the minds of the colonized people.
The Filipino revolutionaries of 1896 put forward a culture that was national, liberal democratic and pro-poor against what had been colonial, religio-sectarian, obscurantist, medievalistic and unconcerned about the dispossession and poverty of the Filipino people. They had to wage a cultural revolution that denounced colonial and feudal injustices and put forward a national and democratic line in order to prevail over more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule.
The revolutionary demands for national independence and free economic development beyond the sway of colonial plunder would not have gained ground and enabled the victory of the Philippine revolution without the cultural revolution to win the hearts and minds and inspire the people to fight for their national liberation running ahead of the armed forces of the revolution..
US Military Force and Liberal Democratic Deception
Even as the Jacobinist essence of the French Revolution had strong influence on the Filipino revolutionaries, from Andres Bonifacio through Apolinario Mabini to General Antonio Luna, they could not overcome the combined brutal use of superior military force and the deceptive liberal democratic language of the US, a newly-emergent modern imperialist power.
To deceive the leaders of the revolutionary government like Emilio Aguinaldo, Felipe Buencamino, Pedro Paterno and the like, the US aggressors and their emissaries paid lip service to patriotic and liberal democratic ideas. Even when they slaughtered the Filipino people by the hundreds of thousands, they always took pause to assure them that they did not intend to colonize the Philippines.
They pitched their imperialist propaganda mainly to the native liberal bourgeoisie in a bid to recruit more puppets.The Hearst newspaper chain drummed up the duty of the US aggressors to colonize the Filipino people, to train them for self-government and to grant them independence in due time. After all, the objectives of US imperialism was to secure fields of investment, cheap sources of labor and raw materials, a market and strategic base in the Pacific for participating in the plunder of China.
Like the Spaniards for more than three centuries of colonial dominance in the Philippines, the US knew the importance of cultivating the colonial mentality among the colonized people. The best way to promote colonial mentality is to use the language of the colonizer as the principal medium of governance, education, arts and literature and mass communications.
US imperialism surpassed Spanish colonialism in the speed, sweep and depth of US propaganda and education in English. It established the public school system. It mobilized the US troops and teachers from the US to serve as public school teachers. It brought in the Protestant missionaries to serve as teachers in the hinterlands. Early on it created the pensionado system to train Filipino government officials in the US.
It developed all levels of education to train the personnel for the bureaucracy, businesses and the professions. It was a colonial power determined to change the feudal system into a semifeudal one before the outbreak of World War II. It put up some manufacturing, using local raw materials. It developed the mining industry and increased the mechanization of plantations for export. It improved the system of transport and communications.
In promoting a colonial mentality in the English language, a conservative kind of liberal democracy and the supposed primacy of the free market, US imperialism availed not only of the educational system but also the churches, mass media and entertainment, especially Hollywood films, radio broadcasts and pop music since before World War II and the avalanche of US produced television programs and glossy magazines laced with consumerist advertising and ultra-reactionary values after World War II.
After the US grant of nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, the political system may be described as semicolonial, no longer under direct colonial rule of the US but under an indirect one through unequal treaties, agreements and arrangements that have lopsidedly favored the US. The top dogs of government were no longer the American colonial officials but the political agents and trained bureaucrats of the big compradors and landlords.
To keep the economy semifeudal, the US also relies on these local exploiting classes to make the Philippines dependent on the export of raw materials and import manufactures, to beg for loans and foreign investments to keep consumption and foreign trade going and to undercut any popular demand for genuine economic development of the Philippines. The strong demand for national industrialization in the 1950s and 1960s was derailed by the US and local oligarchs by opting for the so-called import-substitution industries which resulted in some reassembly and repackaging plants.
The US enhanced its cultural influence over the Philippines in many ways. It used scholarships and travel grants to win over the brightest of Filipino students, teachers, writers and artists, journalists to the point of view of US imperialism. US military bases were not just launching pads of attacks against neighboring countries but also to prettify its aggression by encouraging Filipinos to serve in the US armed forces and to enjoy PX goods.
In addition to its own direct cultural conduits such as the USIS and ostensively philanthropic foundations, it used the mass media, the schools and churches as tools of the Cold War in order to justify continuing US dominance over the Philippines and discredit as communist or pro-communist any thinking or work critical of US dominance and assertive of national independence.
Challenging the Semicolonial and Semifeudal Rule with a Cultural Revolution
It was in 1966 when we called for a national, scientific and mass culture in order to resist the semicolonial and semifeudal system of oppression and exploitation. We wanted to arouse, organize and mobilize the students, teachers and other professionals, the writers and artists, journalists and all cultural workers and activists to rally to the call for a national, scientific and mass culture and get rid of the colonial mentality, obscurantism and anti-people bias that block the way to full national independence, democracy, development, social justice and all round progress.
Since 1966 the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions have become aggravated and deepened. The educational and cultural system that has promoted it has become even more powerful. The Marcos regime had a knack for using outstanding issues with the US as bargaining tools in his scheme to establish a dictatorship. He assured the US that it could continue to have military bases in the Philippines. He also assured the US corporations of the ways to circumvent nationality restrictions in the ownership of land, exploitation of natural resources, operation of public utilities and other businesses.
His most important objective was to change the 1936 constitution through the constitutional convention of 1971 to suit his imperialist maters and his own fascist dictatorial ambitions. In the process, he used and outwitted the clerico-fascists who had long advocated constitutional amendments as the supposed way forward for the nation.
When he declared martial law in September 1972, he justified his brazen power grab and open terrorist rule with an immense array of fascist philosophy and myth-making. Martial rule conjured a false sense of public acceptance by creating a media monopoly and using it to harp on such deceptive slogans as “build the new society” “constitutional authoritarianism,” “discipline” and
“revolution from the center”.
The Filipino people resisted the US-backed Marcos dictatorial regime through a broad anti-fascist and anti-imperialist mass movement, with the national-democratic revolutionary forces at the forefront. They fought back through various forms of armed and legal, underground and open struggles. In every arena of struggle, used all available means of propaganda and agitation to break the Marcos media monopoly and push the cultural revolution forward.
While in power, Marcos sought to favor his upstart group of bureaucrat capitalists and cronies to come on top of the old cream of the super-rich big compradors and landlords. He overborrowed from abroad to engage in graft-ridden infrastructure projects. He passed off as industrialization the import-dependent construction projects.
Subsequently, he put forward export-oriented manufacturing as the way to industrialize. This employed less people and involved even less processing of imported components than the import-substitution enterprises. With employment opportunities ever dwindling, Marcos adopted the policy of exporting cheap labor. All these would persist when the US instigated the big policy shift to economic neoliberalism. The Marcos regime completely ignored the demand of the third world for a new international economic order and even the requirements for an economy to become a newly-industrialized one like Taiwan and South Korea.
The neoliberal economic policy regime subdued all the pseudo-democratic regimes after Marcos. The global forces of anti-imperialism and socialism took a strategic retreat when the revisionist-ruled regimes and the Soviet Union disintegrated and gave way completely to the full and open restoration of capitalism. Consequently, the US and its imperialist allies gleefully spread the ideological and political offensive with the line that there is no alternative to capitalism. They pushed the neoliberal economic offensive and unleashed a series of aggressive wars in the Balkans, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa.
Since 1966 the national democratic movement in the Philippines has steadily pursued the people’s resistance to the persistent and aggravated semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and demanded a national, scientific and mass culture. It has aroused increasingly larger mass participants and audiences. It has created cultural formations on a multisectoral and sectoral basis. There is no major organization of any kind without a cultural troupe. Cultural work has been a key factor in strengthening the various types of mass organizations and has been responsible for the militant participation of the people in mass mobilizations.
In this regard, I have written a quite extensive paper entitled, “Revolutionary Literature and Art in the Philippines from the 1960s to the Present,” which I delivered in abridged form as my speech at the Alternative Classroom Learning Experience (ACLE) Program at the University of the Philippines Diliman on October 15, 2015.
Continuing Need for the Cultural Revolution
The is continuing need to wage the cultural revolution because the chronic crisis of the ruling system continues to worsen and there is the need to pursue the all-round people’s democratic revolution continues. The need to continue the cultural revolution is underscored by unprecedented opportunities for advancing the revolutionary cause on the scale of the Philippines and by the fact that the neoliberal economic policy regime is unraveling and the aggressive wars the US has unleashed in many countries of the world have become quagmires for US imperialism.
We must have a national culture that unites the people with a national language and a common cultural heritage and yet cherishes the local languages and diverse ethnic cultures. We have a rich national history of revolutionary struggles against Western colonizers and against foreign and local fascists..
Without a high sense of patriotism, we would only worship foreign cultures, neglect our own and lose the desire to learn from ourselves and from others for building the nation. We need to respect our own products, be proud of being able to create or manufacture them and not have awe and taste only for the imported products.
We must have a scientific culture. We must recognize the necessary role of science and technology to secure our own national independence, promote democracy and realize social and economic development. We must put into play science and technology and the broad range of professional knowledge and skills in realizing national industrialization in the country.
We must mobilize the working class as the most productive and progressive force in the country. We must avail of the knowledge and skills of scientists, engineers, technologists and professionals in the natural and social sciences. We can avail of the international solidarity and a broad range of foreign sources of science and technology.
We must have a mass culture. Always the main point is to serve the people, especially the toiling masses of workers and peasants who are oppressed and exploited in our country. Their full participation is needed in asserting national independence, in exercising their democratic rights and developing the economy. Their working and living conditions must always be improved as a result of their own work.
They and their children must have full access to social services, especially education, health and housing. Increasingly, education for the masses must also include their full access to other vehicles of information and culture such as the conventional and digital mass media, which must be democratized rather than just serve the elite and middle classes. The aim is to realize their social liberation of the toiling masses of workers and peasants in their millions.
At the moment, we are engaged in a peace process in which the leadership of the GRP assures us of the opportunities for obtaining social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms under conditions of truce and cooperation. Le us see what we can obtain in terms of gaining national independence, democracy, social justice, development and all-round progress.
There is a definite series of tests to prove whether the current peace negotiations is the way to obtain those reforms that are significant enough to enable a just and lasting peace.That the GRP finds it necessary to negotiate seriously with the NDFP is a testimony to the principled and excellent way that the Communist Party of the Philippines has led the people’s democratic revolution.
We can hope to build a new democratic society in the Philippines only if the working class can play its leading role through a revolutionary party by carrying out ideological, political and organizational tasks. At best, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism provides the ideological framework and the program for a people’s democratic revolution and for a national, scientific and mass culture. This revolutionary ideology emphasizes the international character of the working class, and links the new-democratic culture being generated by the Filipino people to the much richer treasure-house of socialist, anti-imperialist, and progressive cultures in other parts of the world.
A new democratic society should prepare the way for a bright and happy socialist future in the Philippines. There is no way to reach socialism but to take ever major opportunity to advance the national and democratic rights of the Filipino people against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. We need to prevail over these monsters in order to lay the ground for the advance to socialism. In the process, we must continue to wield the weapon of the cultural revolution as it helps consolidate and enhance the victories of the Filipino people at every stage and prepares them for still greater advances and victories in the future.