FRIDAY, the other day, was the first day of December. For the family two years ago, what a day to begin the month of joy with. That was the day my wife died from massive cerebral hemorrhage, leaving us all in grief. At the final ritual prior to her cremation, I asked in tears why was it so that those you love are the ones that must go.
But that was two years ago. I had not quite gotten over the romance of yore: that tremendous yearning to stay forever in the present. As if life is not for changing, for instance, a breakaway from all that has been unpleasant in the past in order to move on to a pleasing future.
Among those who came to express condolences during the wake for Beth were old comrades in the revolutionary movement, each reminiscing on the days of rage and nights of discontent of the First Quarter Storm – each one wishing those days had not gone yet.
I, too, up to that day of my wife’s passing, continued to hope to still achieve the ideals bannered by the revolution.
But that was two years ago. That was not even yet the period of the presidential elections when Vice President Jojo Binay, the counsel for the Katipunan ng mga Makabayang Obrero (Kamao) ng Makabayan Pulishing Corp., a labor union of which I was president in 1971, at least for me offered the potential of achieving the FQS dreams. A lot of water has gone under the bridges of revolution since then, and with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte appearing to successfully strike up a balance between democratic United States and socialist China, I have increasingly undergone a radical revision of a world outlook imbibed, nurtured with passion and pursued doggedly well into my years as a septuagenarian.
Right now, I believe I have gone all wrong.
My utterly poor beginnings had me hankering, if but vaguely, for a life better than having mostly camote roots for meals, taken with boiled camote tops for soup. That desire took on a more concrete form in an idea of social justice ingrained during my eventual studies in Manila beginning in the mid-1950s, and that idea underwent apparent crystallization with my involvement in the workers strike movement beginning with the organizing of the Kamao, as cited above.
Sison’s impractical strategy
The idea of the class struggle was in vogue in the movement, made particularly appealing with its proclamation of the proletariat as the vanguard class in the entire national democratic movement. The leading role of the working class in revolutionizing Philippine society was largely diluted by the Jose Maria Sison’s strategy of protracted people’s war which, though recognizing the workers as the leading class in the revolution, ordained that the peasantry was the main class in pushing the revolution toward achieving socialism. Sison declared that the main content of the revolution was agrarian. Thus his prescribed conduct of the Philippine revolution was “encircling the cities through the countryside” – without much regard for the archipelagic nature of the Philippine terrain which renders such strategy impractical, if not downright stupid. In a territory consisting of 7,000 islands (plus 100 during low tide, says Miss International Charlene Gonzales), where is that singular countryside through which you can surround the 65 cities existing already in the 1970s?
In the 1920s, when the Communist Party of China began its revolution, China was a singular great land mass but for a few small islands, which were under foreign occupation anyway, like Hong Kong, Amoy, Formosa, and Macau. The China mainland was so large, and so partitioned still among warring feudal lords, that it was beyond the capacity of the then infant Kuomintang government led by Chiang Kai-shek to rule over completely. It was for this reason of terrain that without having to distract from the brilliant strategies employed by Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, the historic Long March succeeded in escaping the encirclement campaign by the Kuomintang against the Chinese communists in 1934-1935. After consolidating its forces in Shaanxi province, the Red Army of the Communist Party of China, had gotten out of the reaches of the Kuomintang, building what Mao Zedong called Armed Independent Regimes by which the Red Army launched its counter-encirclement campaign called “surrounding the cities through the countryside.” That counter-encirclement campaign paid off in 1949 when, winning a bloody civil war that lasted for five years after the end of World War 2, the Red Army entered Shanghai in what victorious military generals would call “a walk in the park.” Chiang Kai-shek fled to Formosa to keep his Kuomintang government going still anyhow, relatively unperturbed by the communist takeover of mainland China.
Deviating from Sison line
Realizing the futility of that strategy in the Philippine revolution, I clung tight to the proletarian strategy of seizing political power through means implied endemic in the strike movement launched by the National Trade Union Bureau (NTUB) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines helmed by Noli Collantes, aka Banero. This was already a drastic rupture from the Sison line of protracted people’s war. I was secretary general of the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng mga Manggagawa (Kasama), legal personality of the NTUB, and as such exercised oversight functions in the conduct of the workers strike movement. But I stayed subordinated to the NTUB.
But even before martial law was declared in 1972, Banero was already having a falling-out with the CPP central leadership over the issue of the vanguard role of the workers in the revolutionary movement. As a consequence, the workers strike movement fell under the baton of the regional party committees instead of the NTUB. In 1983, when Noli Collantes had returned to the “fold of the law,” resuming his studies at the University of Santo Tomas, he was fatally shot while on his way to school.
For my criticism of the Jose Maria Sison line—particularly pointing out that his class analysis of Philippine society as contained in his book, Philippine Society and Revolution, was a verbatim copycat of Mao Zedong’s analysis of Chinese society in the 1930s—I was isolated from my party group when it was ordered to go CS (countryside) upon the declaration of martial law in 1972.
Still and all, I persevered on the revolutionary track, doing my own organizing, with emphasis on the workers as the truly vanguard class in the social transformation to socialism and communism. In any case, that was how I saw Marx’s preaching had to be pursued. Only when my organizing had progressed to such an extent that those I organized were already asking for arms and I just did not have any to provide did I realize that you really can’t go start a revolution without arms.
In a way, I thought I was Andres Bonifacio during that time Dr. Pio Valenzuela reported to him about his mission to get the approval of Dr. Jose Rizal for the impending outbreak of the 1896 revolt. Bonifacio had gotten wind of a shipment of arms from Japan intended for the Philippine uprising, and for the purpose of having Rizal’s permission for him to acquire those arms, Bonifacio had sent Valenzuela to Dapitan where Rizal had been exiled back in 1892. But Rizal demanded that Antonio Luna be made leader of the revolution. At that demand, Bonifacio fumed: “Putanginang Rizal. Sino ang me sabi sa kanya na kailangan ang armas upang magrebolusyon?”
Bonifacio did not get Rizal’s arms but still and all he led the Katipunan in a historic rising against Spain—using only bolos and bamboo lances.
Would I do the same?
(To be continued)