Read at the First National Congress of Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan,PAKSA, December 18-19 1971, Gonzales Hall, UP-diliman Quezon City
THE CONFERENCE THEME, "Literature and the Mass Line", is well chosen. It manifest the distinctive character of PAKSA as a progressive and patriotic organization of writers, critics, teachers and students of literature, truly determined to serve the people.
To Serve the People is the Single Most Important Task
The single most important task of cadres in the cultural field is to serve the people. As the great Lu Hsun put it in a couplet:
Fierce-browed, I cooly defy a thousand pointing fingers, Head-bowed, like a willing ox I serve the children.
To serve the people now is to perform a definite role on the revolutionary struggle for national democracy against U.S. imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The cultural revolution is a distinct yet integral part of the revolutionary mass movement. Without the preparation of public opinion, there can be no revolution. In the course of the national democratic revolution, cultural work is always necessary to heighten the fighting spirit of the revolutionary masses.
Chairman Mao teaches us, "Revolutionary culture is a powerful revolutionary weapon for the broad masses of the people. It prepares the ground ideologically before the revolution comes and is an important, indeed essential, fighting front in the general revolutionary front during the revolution."
Chairman Mao points out, "All our literature and art are for the masses of the people, and in the first place for the workers, peasants and soldiers; they are created for the workers, peasants and soldiers and are for their use."
Cadres in the cultural field are like commanders who lead cultural battalions - the masses in their thousands, tens of thousands and millions. The audience for revolutionary literary and art work is incalculable. A stage performance or an exhibit can be repeated so many times that it is extremely difficult to keep count of the audience. The printing capacity of a press may be limited but a good literary work nevertheless gets passed from hand to hand and discussed without end. If our cultural work truly serves the people, our readers and audience are inevitably aroused and become a tremendous force for the revolution. The theme of this congress thereby becomes a material force in the same manner that a battlecry does in the field of combat.
We must always remember that the people will not be aroused and mobilized unless the literary and artistic work is drawn from their lives, particularly from their needs and aspirations. We bring to a higher plane the actions and thinking of the revolutionary masses so as to inspire them further to destroy and triumph over the enemy. The heroes that emerge from our work should be the people themselves and their superlative representatives who are tempered in the crucible of the revolution. The revolutionary struggle should be the essence of the organic unity of a literary or artistic work.
Chairman Mao teaches us, "(Our purpose is) to ensure that literature and art fit well into the whole revolutionary machine as a component part, that they operate as powerful weapons for uniting and educating the people and for attacking and destroying the enemy, and that they help the people fight the enemy with one heart and one mind".
Inasmuch as culture is the reflection of economics and politics, literature and art are the finest and most sensitive ideological forms for summing up social reality. We can create revolutionary literature and art only by carefully and meticulously keeping to the revolutionary stand, viewpoint and method of that class which leads the broad masses of the people in the life-and-death struggle between progress and reaction.
It is a bounden duty for revolutionary men of culture to be partisan to the leading revolutionary class, the proletariat, and to oppose the reactionary classes, the big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. Chairman Mao teaches us, "In the world today all culture, all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached from or independent of politics. Proletarian literature and art are part of the whole proletarian revolutionary cause; they are, as Lenin said, cogs and wheels in the whole revolutionary machine."
Remould your Class Outlook and Give Full Play to Criticism
We live in a society that is semi-colonial and semi-feudal. It is inevitable that practically all our cadres in the cultural field have at one time or another been deeply influenced by bourgeois and feudal culture and they continue to be so influenced in varying degrees. The dominant frame of mind among those educated in the present cultural system is bourgeois. In the era of imperialism, particularly in this era when imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism is marching toward world victory, the bourgeois mind becomes so fantastic, regressive and desperate that it resorts to feudal mysticism in order to reinforce the most decadent influence of imperial culture and art.
As the revolutionary mass movement becomes stronger and stronger the reactionaries also deliberately allow the spread of social-democratic or revisionist literature in an attempt to infect our cadres with fears of revolutionary wars and nuclear weapons and with the philosophy of survival and capitulation.
It is the task of our cadres in the cultural field to keep on remoulding their class outlook. They must firmly combat all erroneous ideas and their own selfish tendencies with the lucid ideology of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism, and integrate themselves with the masses in the practical revolutionary movement. Chairman Mao teaches us, "Our literature and art workers must accomplish this task and shift their stand; they must gradually move their feet over to the side of the workers, peasants and soldiers, to the side of the proletariat, through the process of going into their very midst and into the thick of practical struggles and through the process of studying Marxism and society.
Only in this way can we have a literature and art that are truly for the workers, peasants and soldiers, a truly proletarian literature and art."
It is an important task to undertake study sessions and seminars. Thoroughly study Chairman Mao's "Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art" as a comprehensive programme; his three great works on the rectification movement which precede all other articles in the Philippine selection entitled On Party Building; and, of course, the_________ Philippine selection entitled On Culture. Get hold of literary models in the great proletarian revolutionary tradition of Gorky and Lu Hsun and those literary models popularized in the course of China's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Find out how past and contemporary literary and art works stand in the light of the world achievements of proletarian literature and art.
It is an important task to be in the midst of the revolutionary mass movement. In the course of participating in the revolutionary struggles of the workers and peasants, our cadres in the cultural field will gain knowledge that they can never gain from textbooks alone. To conduct social investigation in the course of practical struggles is to gather the best material for a truly significant literature and art. One cannot write of the workers, peasants and soldiers without knowing them intimately.
Among the cultural workers, there is always enough practical and concrete basis for study and for criticism and self-criticism. The literary and artistic work that are created by them are subject to analysis and criticism. These are always subject to improvement. While the most advanced should be good at uniting with the less advanced cultural workers, who are willing to unite with us on the general line of the national democratic revolution, it should always be the task of the former to persuade the latter to further remould their outlook. Persuasion is our principal method of struggle with them.
We have no fear of criticism because our end is always to serve the people and therefore we must always be ready to give them the best that we can. Among our comrades and our friends we must have that ox-like modesty that Lu Hsun found appropriate to picture in his couplet. To the enemy, however, we are fierce and we must not show the least sign of obsequiousness.
Chairman Mao teaches us:
"In literary and art criticism there are two criteria, the political and the artistic...
There is the political criterion and there is the artistic criterion; what is the relationship between the two? Politics cannot be equated with art, nor can a general world outlook be equated with a method of artistic creation and criticism. We deny not only that there is an abstract and absolutely unchangeable political criterion, but also that there is an abstract and absolutely unchangeable artistic criterion; each class in every class society has its own political and artistic criteria. But all classes in all class societies invariably put the political criterion first and the artistic criterion second... What we demand is the unity of politics and arts, the unity of content and form, the unity of revolutionary political content and the highest possible perfection in artistic form. Works of art which lack artistic quality have no force, however progressive they are politically. Therefore, we oppose both works of art with a wrong political viewpoint and the tendency towards the 'poster and slogan style' which is correct in political viewpoint but lacking in artistic power. On questions of literature and art we must carry on a struggle on two fronts."
It is not enough to undertake criticism and self-criticism only among fellow craftsmen. Though it is necessary for those who have an interest in the same field of work to have a union, cultural workers should avoid restricting themselves to the guild mentality of the petty bourgeoisie in medieval times. We should make it a task to encourage criticism of our works by the masses. After a cultural performance or art exhibit, we should invite the audience to submit their critical remarks and suggestions for improvement. In our publications, we should also regularly call for these. Even before a piece of literary or artistic work is put out, certain efforts can be made to consult the masses or their representatives.
To provide an example of self-criticism, I wish to take this opportunity to criticize and repudiate before this group of writers as well as before the general public (since this article is to be mimeographed at least) the entire collection, Brothers with the exception of only five or six poems. The bulk of the poems cannot pass the test of proletarian revolutionary criticism. Though the collection was compiled in 1961 as properly indicated, it is bound to create erroneous influence without this repudiation. I hope that with this repudiation I shall be able to write better poems.
Infuse Revolutionary Class Content into Various Forms of Literature
It is appropriate to refer to the various forms of literature inasmuch as this article is presented before a group of writers, critics, teachers and students of literature. In this regard, we must be conscious of the task of infusing revolutionary class content into the various forms of literature: the essay, fiction, drama and poetry.
The need for having something to say, a clear ideology and political line, is most obvious in the essay form. There is daily a big pile of articles that may be subsumed under this form. The sheer weight of these in terms of newsprint is truly oppressive, mostly testaments as they are to the false virtues of the enemy. It is in the essay form, however, that the revolutionary mass movement has most expressed itself. It is inevitable that this form will always serve as the most explicit weapon for assaulting the enemy and defending the people.
In fiction, the short story has for quite a long time been the most popular form among Filipino creative writers. The novel form is quite neglected obviously because it requires sustained writing, something that our writers seem not to be able to cope with because they have to copywrite for an advertising firm, clerk in a government office or commercial house, work in a metropolitan newspaper or magazine or teach in a university. Short or long, fiction should be employed by revolutionary writers to serve the people.
Of the various literary forms, drama is the most in demand in the
revolutionary mass movement today. The demand is stressed by the scarce quantity and low quality of the plays written for so long a period of time, and, more importantly, by the effectiveness of the drama in arousing and mobilizing the masses. This is a literary form that can be perceived and comprehended by the literate and non-literate masses when it is already staged. It is also a form by which local cultural groups can be most easily organized and by which local acting talents can be coordinated in great numbers. It is an exceedingly important task to write and produce revolutionary drama, one-act or full-length plays.
The zarzuela and comedia or moro-moro are traditional forms of drama that may be adopted by our revolutionary writers. Replace the mawkishness and class reconciliation in the zarzuela with the revolutionary spirit and proletarian standpoint; and foolish love songs with revolutionary songs. Replace the Christian chauvinism and the anti-Muslim line in the comedia or moro-moro with the tenets and values of a people's war waged by a people's army led
by the proletarian part; and the thunder and lightning of the medieval crusade with the thunder and lightning of people's war. Of course, it is necessary to give these traditional forms of drama the compactness of modern drama.
There are other indigenous forms which can be as effective as the drama in promoting revolution. These are the balagtasan, the duplo and that indigenous and yet so universal form, poetry that lends itself to singing. These can be performed to precede or serve as intermission numbers when a dramatic presentation is done. These can also be presented exclusively on their own account.
It is worthwhile to go into script-writing for the movies, radio-TV drama and the comics. It is difficult to get a revolutionary movie script filmed at the moment because of the technical and financial requirements. But it is relatively easier to turn out comics and to produce drama over the radio. The movies, radio drama and the comics can be turned into our weapons.
It is the overriding task of revolutionary writers to infuse revolutionary class content into the various forms of literature and to make the workers, peasants and revolutionary soldiers the heroes under the red flag of the proletariat.
There should be no more debate concerning what national language to use. We are all committed to using the language of the masses, the language that can be understood throughout the country. It is Pilipino. Enrich this developing language with proletarian revolutionary literature. We must recognize at the same time that the local languages are also the language of the masses and these must also be enriched with proletarian revolutionary literature rather than put aside in our thinking. Instead of ignoring or scorning regional writers for their inability to write in Pilipino, we should encourage them to write proletarian revolutionary literature in the languages they are used to writing in and also persuade them to learn Pilipino so that they can learn not only the language but also the proletarian revolutionary literature already achieved in it.
Popularize Literary Models and Thereby Promote the Upsurge of Revolutionary Literature
The national democratic cultural revolution, under the leadership of the proletariat, has advanced brilliantly. So many writers have come to the forefront in the revolutionary struggle in the cultural field. They have come forward with works into which they have infused revolutionary class content as best as they could.
It is of basic importance to analyze and sum up the concrete situation in the field of literature from one stage to another. The purpose is to improve current literary stock, choose the exemplary works for popularization and set the tasks for raising the quantity and quality of further literary output.
At this stage, it is important for revolutionary writers to band together and make a conscious effort to create and promote literary models. These models should prove that revolutionary class content can be heightened and at the same time aesthetic standards can be raised. We must debunk all arguments of the bourgeoisie that only its ideas and motions can satisfy the demands of the various forms of literature. The best way to do the debunking is to create and promote brilliant proletarian revolutionary literature.
It is our task to make these literary models reach the factories, farms, schools and everywhere else in the country. By doing this, we promote the upsurge of revolutionary literature in our country.
JOSE MA. SISON