By Jose Maria Sison
International Network for Philippine Studies
August 8, 1993
I am grateful for the honor of being invited to speak on the subject of national and social liberation in Asia in your literary conference.
In the contemporary world, there are great sufferings and struggles of the peoples of Asia due to the ever worsening global crisis of monopoly capitalism and the rampage of reactionary monsters in various countries. There is an abundance of the raw material for reflection and distillation by creative writers in order to make a new wave of great revolutionary literature in the various forms.
The time constraint does not permit me to discuss extensively the past and current state of the art in Asian literature. But I think that I can make a modestly worthwhile contribution to your conference if I try to clarify the social reality and common problems that confront the people of Asia.
We cannot write any significance work of literature in any form if we do not grasp the socioeconomic, political and cultural realities and the great contradictions in society. We need to know and understand the facts of life, especially at this time when dramatic changes are occurring in the entire world and we are moving from an old period of revolutionary struggle to a new one.
A work of literature draws its content from real life. It is an abbreviated form of life. The constant challenge to the literary author is to create and concentrate so much life into the space limited by the literary form. In acquiring a life of its own, its organic unity, a work of literature must be able to integrate the universal with the particular, the typical with the unique.
The creative writer has to comprehend what are the contradictions, the struggles and tensions in real life and has to make a choice between the progressive and reactionary stand. No one can escape the choice of taking a stand between being proletarian and bourgeois in the era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution. For whom does the writer write? The choice has to be made between serving the people, especially the workers and peasants on the one hand and their oppressors and exploiters on the other.
No one can operate in the realm of culture, particularly in the field of art and literature, without a sense of the socioeconomic and political realities. Even the most absurd or the most nonsensical fancies and fantasies of the unremoulded petty-bourgeois writers spell their typical egotistic role which is subservient to the big bourgeoisie and the reactionaries.
I presume that I speak before literary colleagues and friends who have a comprehensive view of society and yet take a stand partisan to the proletariat, all the working people and the oppressed nations and peoples. There is no other way to be progressive or revolutionary.
After I discuss the sufferings and struggles of the peoples of Asia, I shall proceed to discuss those of the Filipino people because I know them better than any other people in Asia. I do so with the recognition of the fact that the Filipino people have a lot in common with other Asian peoples in terms of situation, suffering and struggles.
The Situation, Sufferings and Struggles
of the Peoples of Asia
The overwhelming majority of the peoples in Asia have a common historical background of colonial and feudal subjugation and humiliation and are still living under agrarian semicolonial and semifeudal conditions. They suffer and struggle for national and social liberation within societies that are in chronic crisis and are now reeling from the unprecedented global crisis of monopoly capitalism. This is true in East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.
The neocolonialism practised by the imperialist powers has brought about the continuous state of depression and the further degradation of societies in most Asian countries since the 1970s. The client states of neocolonialism have betrayed the people's aspirations for political and economic independence by becoming more corrupt, more servile and more dependent on foreign loans and foreign direct investments that favor the import of finished products and the production of cheap raw materials for export.
The prices of the raw-material exports of Asian countries have been consistently driven down by the overcapacity in the production of these, the stifling of national industrialization and by the substitution or lesser use of this type of exports by the industrial capitalist countries due to the rapid adoption of high technology in both industrial and agricultural production.
Thus, the neocolonial client-states in Asia have become more dependent on foreign loans to cover their trade deficits, to maintain their operations and waste resources on military forces and the overconsumption of a privileged few. But since the end of the 1970s, the general tendency of the international money lenders has been to hold back on new loans and to earn more from the debt service on the accumulated debt in most Asian countries.
In the 1980s, the foreign loans went more freely into China and India, for the purpose of economic subversion and converting these countries, together with the Soviet Union, into neocolonial appendages of the economic superpowers. Now in the 1990s, the whole of Asia has to face the general tendency of the three centers of world capitalism (United States, Japan and Western Europe) to retrench and consolidate themselves economically and financially in their own homegrounds and regions as they are buffeted by oceans of bad debts and by the unfolding of their domestic economic and social crisis.
Under these conditions, the neocolonial states in Asia have nowhere to go but plunge from one level of socioeconomic and political degeneration to another. The worst manifestations of the social crisis are the rampage of bureaucratic corruption, fascism and militarism, chauvinism and ethnic centrism and religious fundamentalism.
The peoples of Asia now suffer unprecedentedly intolerable oppression and exploitation in the course of the worsening world crisis of capitalism and the crisis of the domestic ruling systems. The ground is fertile for the gradual resurgence and eventually rapid advance of the revolutionary struggle of the people for national and social liberation.
In describing the Asia situation, I have started by referring to the general condition of most Asia countries, which in common are bereft of basic industrial and are economically backward and underdeveloped. But Asia includes countries with different levels of socioeconomic development. In all these countries, there is an intensification of oppression and exploitation.
They are all in the web of monopoly capitalism and the global crisis of overproduction. This crisis is generated by high technology, by the cutthroat competition among the three centers of world capitalism, by the new investments of the winning supermonopolies that kill jobs with higher technology and by the long-running depression of most third world countries and the former Soviet bloc countries since the 1970s.
In this global context, the bubble economy of industrial capitalist Japan has burst. The attempt of the United States to wrest back fields of investments and markets and at the same time compel the other centers of capitalism to share military costs in order to reverse or delay U.S. strategic decline is causing serious economic crisis in Japan and is inducing the growth of nationalism and militarism.
The peoples of Asia can expect more oppression and exploitation, as a result of the drive of Japan, together with the United States and Western Europe to increase superprofits. The proletariat and people in the underdeveloped countries as well as those of Japan are stirring to resist the further degradation of their lives and the growing dangers of Japanese military adventurism, now licensed by such arrogant catchphrases as "U.N. peacekeeping", "multilateral force" and "regional security".
China has taken the road of capitalism, assumed the status of a neocolonial society and gone into social polarization, resulting in social turmoil such as that seen in 1989. Recent reports point to the widespread peasant unrest due to levies and exactions reminiscent of the days of Guomindang rule. These are in addition to reports about unrest among the workers, the unemployed and the middle social strata in the urban areas.
Conditions are now similar to those in prerevolutionary times, when the bureaucrat capitalists, big compradors and landlords were always becoming richer and the broad masses of the people were always becoming poorer. The gloss in the Chinese economy is dependent on the pleasure of the United States concerning the most favored nation treatment as well as on the accommodation of Japanese monopoly capitalism while large parts of China are falling into levels of refeudalization and underdevelopment similar to most of Asia.
The export-oriented industries of the coastal areas of China are in the same bracket as those of Taiwan, South Korea, Hongkong and Singapore. Altogether they have created a glut of consumer goods which can no longer be absorbed as much as before by the overconsuming US and other industrial capitalist countries. The conditions of prolonged recession and even depression in these countries have resulted in underconsumption and social tensions and have induced the reemergence of nationalist, fascist and racist currents.
In the years to come, there will be a sharpening of struggle between those who wish to retain the socialist facade of Chinese bureaucrat capitalism and those who wish to establish an undisguised bourgeois state, as in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. At the same time, there will be a sharpening of the class struggle between the forces of revolution and those of counterrevolution.
In Northeast Asia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is exerting every effort to defend the cause of national independence and socialism and is under heavy political, economic and military pressures. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam is weighed down by problems of its specific history, including Soviet revisionist influence, and by its current drive to follow the example of Deng's China.
In the Philippines, the revolutionary forces and the people are resolutely waging people's war. They are determined to carry aloft the flaming torch of revolutionary armed struggle as a matter of patriotic and internationalist duty, especially at this time when the people of the world have just moved into a new period of revolutionary struggle. In Cambodia, the armed struggle for national liberation and democracy is still continuing notwithstanding the truce settlement arranged by the United Nations.
In Indonesia, there is a high potential for the upsurge of the legal democratic movement and the development of people's war. In Burma, Malaysia and Thailand, objective conditions are favorable for the eventual resurgence of the revolutionary forces.
In South Asia, the semicolonial and semifeudal societies are prevalent and are in grave crisis. In India, which used to boast of basic industries under the ownership of the national bourgeoisie, there has been a process of further neocolonization and compradorization, undermining the national industry and keeping the country under the dominance of the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class.
Under the greatly deteriorated conditions of South Asia, there is a ceaseless drive of the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries to promote all sorts of ethnic and communal violence, religious fundamentalism and ethno-linguistic strife to deflect the attention of the people. In Sri Lanka, there is a protracted armed conflict between forces driven by ethnic and religious motivations.
But there are persevering revolutionary forces that can ultimately lead the people on the road of armed revolution. South Asia, especially India, is one part of the world where the epic of protracted peoples' war comparable to that of China can be carried out.
In Central Asia, the new world disorder is exacting a heavy toll. The former Soviet republics are in violent turmoil. They are afflicted by the ravages of Soviet neocolonialism and by ethnic and religious conflicts. In Afghanistan, the savagery of ethnic conflicts continues among armed Islamic contingents.
In West Asia, the oil-producing countries (except the states with small populations but with large oil production) are afflicted by grave socioeconomic crisis due to the global glut in oil production and misallocation of the oil income of the 1970s. The Gulf war of 1991 was the outcome of severe contradictions between Iraq and other oil producers as well as with the imperialist countries.
The secular states are either being replaced or threatened by Islamic fundamentalism. The forces that opposed Western imperialism but depended on Soviet social-imperialism are now in disarray. The hope of the people for national and social revolution can be realized upon the discredit and exhaustion of bourgeois nationalism and religious fundamentalism.
The longrunning depression of the overwhelming majority of Asian countries is recoiling upon the centers of capitalism. In turn, the aggravated global crisis of capitalism inflicts further suffering on the people of Asia. The downward spiral is going on. All kinds of reactionary monsters are on a rampage as never before and continue to be manipulated by the neocolonial powers in order to divide and subjugate the people. But the very deterioration of the neocolonial states and societies provide the ground for the eventual resurgence of the revolutionary forces under proletarian leadership.
The Revolutionary Struggle of the Filipino People
Let me now focus on the Philippines as a typical victim of neocolonialism and as a country in which the people are engaged in a revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation against foreign monopoly capitalism and domestic reaction.
The Filipino people won victory against Spanish colonialism in 1898. It must be noted that they were ahead of the other colonized peoples in Asia in winning victory in the old democratic revolution against old-type colonialism. Unfortunately, the United States intervened and launched a war of aggression in 1899 to conquer the Philippines and convert it into its own colony under the aegis of modern imperialism.
Under direct colonial rule of US imperialism, the Philippines shifted from a feudal to a semifeudal society, chiefly dominated by a domestic comprador big bourgeoisie in the cities in collaboration with the more widespread landlord class in the countryside. In 1946 the United States adopted indirect colonial rule, granted nominal independence to the Philippines and turned over the national administration to the politicians of the local exploiting classes. Thus, the Philippines became a neocolony of the US in both political and economic terms.
As a neocolony, the country was again ahead of so many other colonized peoples of Asia, gaining formal independence in the aftermath of World War II, when the wave of national liberation and socialism became unprecedentedly strong. The neocolonization of the Philippines was also ahead of the general application of neocolonialism by the US and other capitalist powers on the third world and the Soviet bloc countries.
What has become of the Philippines is a clear and continuous demonstration of the evils of neocolonialism. The Filipino people are suffering from aggravated underdevelopment, rapid extraction of superprofits and debt service payments, bureaucratic corruption, the ever-growing trade deficits, breakdown of production and social services, accumulated unemployment beyond 50 percent and impoverishment and malnutrition of the 80 percent of the people below the poverty line.
To suppress the legal democratic movement and revolutionary armed struggle, the reactionary government is carrying out a brutal total war policy. But the campaigns of suppression and deception succeed only in further inciting the people to take the road of armed revolution. Among the reactionaries themselves, there are violent contradictions because of the shrinking ground for their mutual accommodation within their own system.
As soon as the Philippines became a semicolony or neocolony, the revolutionary forces which had been born out of World War II were compelled to wage armed struggle. However, this was suppressed successfully by the US and its local puppets from the late 1950s onward. But notwithstanding all repressive measures carried out in the 1950s, the legal anti-imperialist and antifeudal movement resurged in the 1960s.
Ultimately, the revolutionary party of the proletariat, the Communist Party of the Philippines, was able to rebuild itself in 1968 and rectify previous errors and resume the revolutionary armed struggle in 1969 along the general line of people's democratic revolution against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes.
In the world era of modern imperialism and proletarian revolution, the class leadership of the Philippine revolution cannot be but that of the proletariat. In a semicolonial and semifeudal country, it is also necessary that the peasantry which is the majority class be the main force of the antifeudal democratic revolution as well as that of the revolutionary armed struggle. The worker-peasant alliance is the foundation of the broad united front against the enemies of the revolution.
If we know our Marxist-Leninist theory of state and revolution, there can be no national and social liberation without the revolutionary overthrow of the big bourgeoisie and other reactionaries. This liberation cannot be achieved through an indefinite series of reforms and elections within the political and legal system of the big compradors and landlords.
In the Philippines, all forms of struggle are being waged—political, military, economic and cultural. Each of these has a distinct character. But all of them complement and help each other in advancing the revolutionary cause. The politico-military and socio-economic forms of struggles progressively interact with the cultural forms of struggle.
The political form of struggle involves the legal and illegal. It would have been impossible to launch the revolutionary armed struggle in the Philippines had it not been for the legal struggle in the entire decade of the 1960s. In the course of people's war, the legal struggle has always been coordinated with the illegal struggle.
The revolutionary armed struggle is the highest form of political struggle because it answers the central question of revolution, which is the seizure of political power. Social revolution is impossible without the prior overthrow of the ruling exploiting classes.
Thus, the Filipino people and the revolutionary forces are waging a protracted people's war. This is a politico-military form of struggle to empower the proletariat and the rest of the people. In the course of the people's war, the revolutionary party of the proletariat, the legal and illegal mass organizations, the alliances and the organs of political power are built. Even as the reactionaries are still well entrenched in the cities, the people's government can be built in the countryside where the people can build and accumulate their revolutionary strength.
The struggle for social and economic reforms is waged not only within the constraints of the political and legal framework of the big compradors and landlords, in which such reforms always come too late and too little. Far more significant and far more decisively, the social and economic reforms are being achieved in the guerrilla fronts and other areas where the revolutionary party of the proletariat, the mass movement, the people's army and the organs of political power are carrying them out.
At the moment, land reform which involves land rent reduction, elimination of usury, improving of prices of farm products, raising of farm wages and promoting agricultural and sideline occupation is being well undertaken in the guerrilla fronts. Wages for nonagricultural workers are also being raised where the strength of the labor unions is directed by the Communist Party of the Philippines and enhanced by the presence of the New People's Army.
The cultural form of struggle is being vigorously waged. The general line of cultural work is to promote a national, scientific and mass culture. At the core of this are the cultural cadres who take a proletarian revolutionary stand, viewpoint and method.
In the Philippines, it is difficult or impossible for the enemy to stop the open and legal mass campaigns of political education and artistic and literary creations and presentations along a progressive and patriotic line. There are of course the great risks for the cultural cadres in the urban areas but they persevere and enjoy the support of the broad masses of the people. It is in the guerrilla fronts where the literary and artistic works are presented most freely and in the fullest revolutionary terms.
In Philippine revolutionary literature, traditional and modern, national, local and foreign forms and techniques are utilized. The point is to take up the revolutionary subject matter and present the workers, peasants and the Red fighters as the heroes. The oppression and exploitation of the people is concretely depicted but the revolutionary determination, the militant struggles and bright future of the people are also concretely unfolded.
Comprehensively and profoundly, Philippine revolutionary literature involves the continuity of the Filipino people's struggle for national and social liberation from the period of the old democratic revolution to the new democratic one. The creative writers, artistic performers and all other cultural workers in the revolutionary movement are conscious of carrying out a democratic cultural revolution of a new type.
They hope that in the future they shall also be able to carry out a socialist cultural revolution in order to further revolutionize the superstructure and make sure that the socialist revolution will continue in the Philippines without let-up until the people of the world defeat imperialism and make communism possible.
In view of the degeneration and restoration of capitalism in previous socialist societies, they are actively aware of the fact that when the bourgeoisie and other reactionaries are defeated politically and economically in a certain country the initial ground for their comeback is in the sphere of culture. In fact, the old and new agents of oppression and exploitation bank on the millennia of greed and superstition as well as on the influence of the international bourgeoisie in order to be able to undermine and destroy the socialist revolution.
In this conference I take this opportunity to call your attention to the 100th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong on December 26. It is pertinent for me to refer you to Mao's "Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art" as well as to all his teachings regarding the new democratic revolution, socialist revolution and construction and the theory and practice of continuing revolution under proletarian dictatorship in order to consolidate socialism, combat revisionism and prevent the restoration of capitalism in socialist society.
If we wish to have the most comprehensive and profound understanding of the situation in Asia and the world and our role as creative writers, we cannot dispense with the teachings of the great communist Mao Zedong on literature and society.
If we stop short of grasping those teachings, then we cannot have the clarity and effectiveness of the correct line and we cannot take full advantage of the new period of revolutionary struggle. This is a period when the bipolar world of the two superpowers is gone, when neocolonialism is getting exhausted, when the bankruptcy of modern revisionism is fully demonstrated and when the escalating oppression and exploitation of the people compels the reemergence of the proletarian revolutionary forces and the resurgence of the revolutionary movement at a new and higher level in all the continents at the same time.