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Tasks and Prospects of the Filipino Youth
By Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Kabataang Makabayan
Chairman, International Network for Philippine Studies

Delivered at the Youth Study Conference
Philippine Christian University Auditorium
Manila, 27 August 2004

Dear Fellow Activists,

First, let me thank the organizers for inviting me to speak at this study conference. I appreciate your organization of this conference and your use of my articles as study material.

I thank the earlier speakers for laying the ground for my topic and making my task easier. It is logical and appropriate that I speak on the tasks and prospects of the Filipino youth, after the presentation of the history of the Filipino youth movement and the current worsening crisis in the world and in the Philippines.


The Filipino youth have always played a crucial role in the Filipino people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy. They are in the forefront, whenever the national and social crisis becomes intolerably acute and the revolutionary mass movement surges. They are the spearhead and cutting edge of the broad masses of the people.

The historical record shows that young men and women in their late teens, twenties and thirties predominate in the leadership and membership of the revolutionary army and other patriotic forces against Spanish colonialism, against US imperialism, against Japanese fascism and against the US and puppet regimes in the Philippines.

They are also predominant among the marchers and rallyists at the peaks of the legal democratic mass movement, such as the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the mass uprising that toppled the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986 and once again in a similar uprising that toppled the corrupt Estrada regime in 2001.

The armed revolutionary movement and the legal democratic movement can succeed only when they attract the young men and women in great numbers along the national democratic line and avail of their resoluteness, their fearless dedication, their militancy and their irrepressible vigor.

Right now, a severe crisis of the world capitalist system confronts the Filipino youth. The accelerated overconcentration of capital in the US under “free market” globalization has resulted in the current economic and financial crisis. This drives the foreign monopoly capitalists to intensify oppression and exploitation of the people. The US and other imperialist powers devise all kinds of measures to extract superprofits, to grab the natural and social wealth of the Filipino people and to keep the Philippines captive with growing trade deficits and mounting debt burden.

Worst of all, US imperialism practices grandscale terrorism. This includes wars of aggression, the use weapons of mass destruction for blackmail, military blockades and military intervention and the repression of the people in the US and abroad.

The US policy of global terrorism is related to the Bush policy of seeking to stimulate the US economy through military production and wars, to control of the sources and supply routes of oil and gas and to expand US sources of cheap raw materials, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence.

The semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system of big compradors and landlords is in an unprecedentedly grave crisis due to its internal weaknesses and the impositions of imperialism. Philippine raw material and semi-manufacture exports are all in oversupply in the global market. Foreign manufactures and agricultural products from abroad are dumped on our country under the policy of “free market” globalization.

All forms of foreign and local borrowing have been abused and exhausted. The Macapagal-Arroyo regime itself is forced to admit that an economic and financial crisis besets the country. It offers as solution the imposition of a heavier tax burden and austerity measures on the common people in order to collect money to pay for debt service, provide spoils for the corrupt high bureaucrats and satisfy the military and police forces..

Unemployment is massive and the incomes of the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata are pressed down. And yet the regime allows the rapid depreciation of the peso, increases the tax burden, cuts back on government spending for education, health and other social services and allows private monopolies in water, electricity, transport and other public utilities to charge exorbitant fees.

Because of its servility to US imperialism, the Macapagal-Arroyo regime can offer nothing to the Filipino people but further political and moral humiliation, social and economic hardship, bureaucratic corruption and repression. Both the US and the puppet regime collaborate in using the slogan of anti-terrorism in order to continue their reign of unbridled greed and terror.

The Tasks of the Filipino Youth

To get your bearings, know what to do and find your way from one victory to another in this crisis-ridden world and country, you must first of all undertake political education along the general line of completing the Filipino people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.

The minimum requirement is that you understand the national democratic program of action and the preamble in the constitution of the youth organization to which you belong, such as the comprehensive Anakbayan or the more specific League of Filipino Students. The basic line that you must grasp is the need of the Filipino people and youth to uphold and realize national sovereignty and the substance of democracy, especially for the working people--the peasants and the workers.

You can always widen and deepen your political education. You can have studies on Philippine society and revolution in a concentrated way in two or three days or in a weekly series of study meetings in your organizational unit. But the textbook or study manual that you use will always be limited by its conciseness and date of publication.

You must go beyond the textbook or study manual and try to read and study reference materials on Philippine history and circumstances done by patriotic and progressive authors. Not everyone of us can be so scholarly as to read so many books or write one. But we must be able to ask questions from more knowledgeable comrades, discuss with them and learn how to explain issues.

All of us must take seriously the social investigations we need to conduct in order to know the needs and demands of people in our line of work and thereby learn to organize the people.

We have enough Philippine reading materials to start with in studying the history, basic problems and national democratic struggle of the Filipino people. But as soon as possible you should try to comprehend modern imperialism. We must fight this scourge on humanity and extirpate it through the struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism.

Further on, you need to study and learn how neocolonialism has coopted national independence and how revisionism has betrayed socialism to be able to combat both evils. You cannot stand firm for the national democratic and socialist stages of the Philippine revolution if you cannot criticize and repudiate neocolonial cooptation and revisionist betrayal.

Those who wish to attain the highest level of anti-imperialist political education must undertake theoretical education in dialectical materialism, historical materialism, political economy of capitalism and socialism and revolutionary strategy and tactics through a review of the revolutionary struggle of the world proletariat. But of course, in your mass organization, it suffices that your mass membership grows rapidly on an adequate understanding of the national democratic line.

There is no point at all in having political education if you do not organize among the masses of Filipino youth. Having political education is not a form of conceit for merely proving yourselves above the ordinary. It is the guide for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the youth in ever increasing numbers.

I appreciate Anakbayan as a comprehensive youth organization pursuing the national democratic line of struggle in the tradition of Kabataang Makabayan. You must have members that come from the working class, the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeois ranks of students, professionals and businessmen. Anakbayan must have chapters in the schools, factories, urban poor communities, farms, offices, transport lines and elsewhere appropriate and possible.

The League of Filipino Students and other student organizations taking the national democratic line have been relatively small although very influential among the students. But I am glad to hear that the LFS is already meeting some success in increasing the number of its chapters and expanding its membership in colleges and departments. I am also happy to hear that LFS chapters are now being organized among high school students.

It is absolutely necessary to have solid youth organizations that keep on expanding. The bigger these organizations are, so many times bigger will be the unorganized masses that they would be able to draw for mass campaigns and mobilizations to protest against bad policies and practices and make demands for the benefit of the youth and the people.

You have witnessed how the organized youth numbering a few thousands were able to rally tens of thousands in the mass uprising to overthrow Estrada in 2001. If you wish to accomplish something even bigger, like overthrowing or changing the basic character of the ruling system, you need a bigger number of organized youth that can rally millions of the Filipino youth.

It is not enough for youth organizations to thrive and grow bigger. You must link up with the organizations of the workers, peasants, fishermen, urban poor, women, professionals and the religious. The youth are an important and effective factor in the struggle for national liberation and democracy. But they cannot win the struggle all by themselves.

At any rate, history has shown that the Filipino youth excel in legal protests and armed revolution. This was true in the time of the Philippine revolution of 1896 and this is still true currently in the new democratic revolution. The youth have the advantage of being receptive to revolutionary ideas, sensitive to injustices, energetic in the mass movement and ready to do what needs to be done not only for the benefit of the youth but also for the entire people.

Prospects of the Filipino Youth

Together with the rest of the people under the leadership of the working class and with the peasantry as the main force, the Filipino youth can forge their own future through the revolutionary struggle for national liberation and democracy against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of the big comprador and landlords.

You must aim for the completion of the new democratic stage of the Philippine revolution. Upon the basic completion of this stage through the seizure of political power, you can start socialist revolution and construction. The people’s democratic government of the workers and peasants is the direct replacement of the anti-national and anti-democratic government of the big compradors and landlords servile to US imperialism. It is the gateway to socialism.

In considering the current strength and future of the revolutionary forces of the Filipino people, you must recognize that they have been able to defeat major types of opportunism and win victory in a rectification movement. They have been able to counter the imperialist ideological and political offensive following the disintegration of the revisionist regimes. They have been able to criticize and condemn revisionist betrayal and neocolonial cooptation. They stand resolutely and militantly against “free market” globatization and the global terrorist campaign of the US.

I am aware that an increasing number of young people have gone to the countryside in order to join the people’s army and work among the peasant masses. They participate in various lines of work within the people’s army, including educational and cultural work, production and military training and combat, They conduct social investigation and mass work. They help to build organs of political power and mass organizations and undertake land reform and other mass campaigns.

They take part in the wave upon wave advance of the armed revolution. They are currently building a new democratic system in various parts of the country. Thus, it is correct to say that a people’s democratic government now exists in the countryside even as the reactionary government is still operating from Manila and other cities. The people are preparing the ultimate nationwide victory of the revolution.

The revolution does not take solely the form of armed struggle even as this is the principal and decisive form of struggle for smashing the political power of the oppressors and establishing the new democratic power of the workers and peasants. The interplay of the armed and legal forms of struggle advances the revolutionary cause in an all-round way.

The daily legal mass struggles on basic longrunning issues as well as on the burning issues of the day serve to educate and temper the broad masses of the people. The issues become clarified and the demands are raised. It is good if the actions of the patriotic and progressive legal forces result in pushing the reactionary state to adopt certain reforms. It is as well fine if the reactionaries move to frustrate the people’s demands for basic reforms and in effect incite the people to wage armed revolution.

In representation of the revolutionary forces and the people, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is engaged in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. This is a form of struggle in which the revolutionary forces can clarify the issues and proclaim the demands of the people even if it does not lead to any amount of basic reforms or to a truce and alliance of the GRP and NDFP against a common enemy.

Patriotic and progressive parties vie for elective positions in the reactionary government. But they can manage to get only a few seats because the cards are stacked against them. The reactionaries control the rules, the coercive apparatuses, the media, finance and other aspects of the electoral process. With further effort and popular support, the patriotic and progressive parties can gain more seats. But they will never get enough seats to enable them to change the ruling system because the ruling reactionaries are ever ready to react violently against any threat to their political power.

Violence comes not only from the local reactionaries but also from their US imperialist master, which is now on a rampage. The US is sabotaging the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and is escalating its military intervention under the pretext of anti-terrorism. It intends to superimpose a war of aggression against the Filipino people on the current civil war between the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces.

So long as US imperialism continues to dominate the world and the Philippines, the Filipino youth and the rest of the people have no choice but to prepare against the worst, like a US war of aggression. Only thus can we hope for the best, which is winning the new democratic stage and proceeding to the socialist stage of the Philippine revolution. So long as the imperialists and the local reactionaries continue to exploit and oppress them, the people have no choice but to persevere in revolutionary struggle for national liberation, democracy and socialism.###

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