A WALK BACK INTO KM’ S MEMORY LANE: Lessons and Challenges
Roland G. Simbulan
Professor in Development Studies and Public Management, University of the Philippines
(Keynote address before the MayPagAsa Youth Nationalism Summit, Toyoda-Asian Center Auditorium, U.P. Diliman, November 24, 2014)
I join you in your jubilation in commemorating the 50th founding anniversary of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) whose founding in November 30, 1964, was inspired by Andres Bonifacio, founder and leader of the Katipunan, which led the first national revolution in Asia. We were the first national revolution in Asia against a Western power. According to the Chinese historian Chen Yan De of Xiamen University, People’s Republic of China, the Philippine Revolution of 1896 played an inspiring role in the awakening of the whole of Asia, particularly to the Chinese revolutionaries led by Dr. Sun Yat Sen. The Katipunan was led by the country’s revolutionary youth: Emilio Jacinto joined the Katipunan at 18, and Andres Bonifacio was only 31 when he co-founded the Katipunan as a revolutionary secret-society.
Thus, on the occasion of the Kabataang Makabayan’s 50th founding anniversary, I give my warm greetings and solidarity to the youth of today – the inheritors of the militant tradition of the Katipunan and its successor, the Kabataang Makabayan. I became a member of KM in 1969 when I was still studying at the Ateneo de Manila High School. In fact, the first chapter of the KM at the Ateneo was organized at the Ateneo High School in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Later, during the First Quarter Storm, I became the General Secretary (GenSec) for the KM’s Coordinating Body-3 which covered the Marikina-Rizal area’s community and school chapters.
The KM or Kabataang Makabayan was founded on November 30, 1964 as a youth organization committed “to fight imperialism and feudalism”, at the YMCA in Manila, located in the area that is now the SM Manila Mall. Just a few days before the founding Congress, a pre-Congress was held by 50 activists at the Rooftop of Moonwalk Restaurant in Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong. The founding congress was actually attended by a gathering of activists from at least four schools in MetroManila. It followed the November 24, 1964 anti-Vietnam War rally in front of the U.S. Embassy which was dispersed with truncheons and teargas by the police and where Edberto Villegas, one of KM’s founding members, was briefly held in police custody.
Present during the founding congress of the Kabataan Makabayan on Nov. 30, 1964 were student activists and professors mostly from Lyceum, the University of the Philippines, University of the East and the Philippine Marine School (now the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy). The KM founding was really intentionally timed with Andres Bonifacio’s birthday, on Nov. 30 for his revolutionary ideals and life as a proletarian leader in our country’s struggle for independence was after all, the inspiration of the Kabataang Makabayan.
During the founding congress, the nationalist Senator Lorenzo M. Tanada one of the main speakers, was made adviser and honorary chairman of the Kabataang Makabayan, while Jose Ma. Sison was elected KM’s national chairman. The first KM secretary general was Mr. Charlie del Rosario. Among those who were elected to the first national council of KM in 1964 included Arthur Garcia, Perfecto Tera Jr., Charlie del Rosario, Jose Ma. Sison, Jose David Lapuz, Ricardo Valmonte, Jose Luneta, Prospero Palma, Angelo de los Reyes, Nilo Tayag, Ibarra Malonzo, Maximo Lim, Alfonso Fajardo, Jorge Arago, Rodolfo del Rosario and Eduardo Pescador. Also present during the founding Congress were Juliet de Lima-Sison, Luzvimindo David, Bani Lansang, Edberto Villegas, Monico Atienza, Nur Misuari (who represented Bagong Asya – an affiliate organization of KM), writer Petronilo Daroy, Ignacio Lacsina (then the secretary general of the National Association of Trade Unions or NATU), among others.
Three days after its founding Congress, the KM held its first demonstration towards the American Embassy, where an estimated 15,000 torch-bearing demonstrators (according to the estimates of Manila Chronicle) were led by KM chairman Jose Ma. Sison to denounce American economic imperialism and the killing of Filipinos in American bases. The demonstration was unique because 31 black coffins symbolizing the 31 Filipinos killed by U.S. military guards and soldiers from the American bases, were carried atop a sea of human heads carrying torches. KM’s first and historic demonstration was also attended by widows and children of those Filipinos killed in American bases came all the way from Pampanga led by then Councilor Carlos Sandico.
The first KM address and headquarters was at the apartment rented by Jose Ma. Sison at # 120 Retiro St., Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City. KM would eventually move its national headquarters in the late 60s at a rooftop apartment of a four-storey building along Quezon Avenue, which made it more accessible. The organization established two publications: the Kalayaan (named after the short-lived newspaper of the Katipunan), and Progressive Review, which was to be the theoretical journal of the Kabataang Makabayan and other progressive forces. At its peak in the early 70s during the First Quarter Storm, the KM was able to organize 150 well-consolidated community and school chapters nation-wide. The first KM community chapters which were also to become the biggest chapters were in Tondo – gravitating around barrio Magsaysay, the urban poor communities of Sta. Mesa and the Tatalon community in Quezon City. From these communities, the KM organized and developed not only urban poor activists, but also worker and peasant activists who would later in turn organize chapters in factories or go back to their rural provinces to organize morechapters. During the mid-60s up to the First Quarter Storm, the KM trained and developed cadre-type activists and leaders as a mass organization of youth and students. It was a “cadre organization” that even its rank and file members had a reputation for being ideologically deep and with strong organizing skills, who could mobilize hundreds and even thousands of people. During the First Quarter Storm, because of its disciplined ranks and organizational prowess, the Kabataang Makabayan mobilized some of the largest demonstrations from its school and community chapters. KM cadres were known to have organized a few factory chapters including peasant communities.
The founding of the Kabataang Makabayan on Nov. 30, 1964 was inspired, according to its first “Program of Kabataang Makabayan” by the Filipino youth who led the 1896 Revolution (Kabataang Makabayan Handbook, Documents of the First National Congress on Bonifacio Day, Nov. 30, 1964) to wit:
” Kabataang Makabayan is inspired and guided by the patriotism of the Filipino youth who first formulated the terms of our nationhood in the Propaganda Movement and organized the Philippine Revolution of 1896 in order to express and realize in full the national and social aspirations of the Filipino people oppressed by foreign tyranny….Kabataang Makabayan is, therefore, committed to the resumption and completion of the Philippine Revolution which has been frustrated by a new type of colonialism, American imperialism. ”
May I also join past and present Filipino youth, patriots and nationalists in drawing inspiration from the life and writings of Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio symbolizes the spirit, the daring, the active involvement of the youth and the common people in the shaping of our national destiny. We are not lacking in heroes and martyrs who can serve as role models for our youth. Even our young soldiers have their role model in the person of the anti-imperialist Filipino general, General Gregorio del Pilar who died fighting the first U.S. visiting forces on our soil.
There are four major lessons that we can learn from the colorful and militant history of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the inheritor of the tradition of the Katipunan’s revolutionary youth:
1. REACH OUT TO ORGANIZE AND MOBILIZE A WIDE VARIETY OF PEOPLE.
Remember that even revolutionary politics means being able to involve and reach out to the unpoliticized and unorganized. Do not preach merely to the converted. The KM was a socialist organization in its ideology meaning it had a socialist perspective. But even socialists must also be nationalists who work tirelessly to preserve and expand the democratic space so that civil, political, economic, social and national rights and sovereignty are realized in concrete through the struggle of the people themselves. Thus, aside from a comprehensive critique of imperialism, class, and other macro-structures and institutions, we should engage in micro-engagement at our schools, in the community, at the workplace, in local politics for any struggle to have meaning and sustainability in the everyday lives of the people.
This is a sustainable way of educating the people and equipping them with skills to ultimately govern themselves. Our conduct today and what we practice, is the future society that we are building. As the Indian nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
2. NEVER FORGET THAT SOCIALISM AND SOCIAL LIBERATION ARE THE STRATEGIC GOALS OF NATIONALISM AND ANTI-IMPERIALISM.
Nationalism as an ideology should galvanize the Filipino people towards liberation from the forces of imperialism, as this is a necessary stage to social liberation and a future and just social order that belongs to the working people. We should never disown or deny that Marxism is our cohesive theoretical and methodological framework of our social movement. Thus, we should use every opportunity to explain its essence to the people. This framework tells us that the process for social change must be firmly anchored on our knowledge of our history, if we as a people are to acquire a sense of nationhood. It also means knowing our reality with its particularities in order to avoid dogmatic generalizations based on foreign models. My Facebook political view states that I am an “anti-imperialist and socialist.”
Are we Communists? My answer to those who use this red-baiting form of attack is to say that, “I do not yet deserve the honor of being a true Communist who is completely selfless in word and deed.” Karl Marx is one of the most admired and influential intellectuals of the 20th century whose works not only changed the world, but his writings contributed significantly to the critical and humanistic intellectual tradition.
3. STRIVE FOR THE BROADEST LEFT UNITY.
We cannot win without the broadest united front of progressive and anti-imperialist forces. Strive on strengthening, rebuilding and uniting the anti-imperialist forces. There are many issues that transcend generations, classes, politics and even ideologies. Every opening must be made to unify the fragmented progressive and anti-imperialist forces. We can broad our ranks by defending creatively the nationalist provisions of the Constitution which the neoliberals and foreign capital would like to amend through charter change so that they can complete the opening of the country to transnational capital. There are also the issues of the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and neoliberal globalization around which we can mobilize the broadest Left unity and broadest support from the Filipino people who have to be painstakingly awakened around nationalist and social liberation issues and objectives. In short, one has to act dialectically if one’s political goals are to be served.
4. MAKE THE BEST OF WHAT YOU HAVE IN TERMS OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS.
Dare to love and dare to struggle to make our country and society a better world. Enrich your relationship with other human beings and with society at large, so that you will use the knowledge and skills that you have acquired from your formal education in the service of our people rather than for narrow and selfish interests. Strive to develop excellence but use your academic and professional excellence to make our nation’s struggles your very own. Be ambitious for our country. Be part of the conscience of the nation: Fight for the nation, so that it can complete its sovereignty.
During the First Quarter Storm, the slogan of the student movement led by the Kabataang Makabayan which became some sort of a battle cry was, MAKIBAKA, HUWAG MATAKOT! (Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win!).
To end my Keynote address, I would like to end by quoting from another national hero, Apolinario Mabini one of the Philippine Revolution’s greatest intellectuals who commemorates his 150th birth anniversary this year (July 22):
“It matters not whether we die in the end or at the midst of a long and difficult journey, the coming generations when passing over our tombs shall shed us tears of love and gratitude, and not of bitter reproach.” Also, Mabini wrote:
“Our country, the Philippines, is the only paradise that God has given us in this life; the only patrimony of our race; the only inheritance from our ancestors; and the only future for our posterity; because of it, we have life, love and interest, happiness and honor….Its independence is our freedom; its progress our perfection; its dignity our glory and immortality.”
Thank you and Mabuhay!