Paper presented at Imperialism and Resistance
Forum organized by ILPS Netherlands Chapter
Amsterdam, 06 June 2014*
By Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle
I wish to discuss with you how US imperialism has imposed itself on the Filipino people and violated their national sovereignty and thwarted their aspirations for democracy, social justice and development since 1898 by military, political, economic and cultural means.
In this connection, I wish to discuss first how monopoly capitalism or modern imperialism arose as the final stage in the development of capitalism and how the era of imperialism began. Monopoly capitalism is parasitic, decaying and moribund, opening more widely than before the possibility of socialism. In being imperialist, it is emphatically violent and aggressive in repressing revolution and in acquiring economic and political territory abroad.
As early as the middle of the 19th century, from 1848 to 1868, England showed at least two major characteristics of imperialism: its possession of vast colonies and its industrial monopoly by which it could draw monopoly profits or superprofits. It was the first among the capitalist countries in which free competition capitalism developed into monopoly capitalism as the dominant force in the economy.
However, it would be in the last three decades of the 19th century that several countries, including the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia, would see the development of free competition capitalism to monopoly capitalism. Altogether with England, they manifested the five features of imperialism. The fifth feature, which is the completed division of the world by the capitalist powers, directly set the stage for imperialist wars:
- the dominance of capitalist monopolies in the economy;
- the merger of industrial and bank capital and the emergence of the finance oligarchy;
- the greater importance of the export of surplus capital than the export of surplus commodities as the means to obtain superprofits;
- the alliances and counter-alliances of cartels, syndicates and trusts on an international scale;
- the completion of the division of the world by the great capitalist powers, covering underdeveloped or less developed countries or areas as economic territory (sources of cheap raw materials and cheap labor, captive markets and fields of investment) and as political territory (colonies, semi-colonies, protectorates, dependent countries and spheres of influence).
For a monopoly capitalist power, a certain country or area abroad becomes a more reliable economic territory when it is also a political territory acquired through military intervention or aggression. The newcomers in the colonial game like the US had to engage in acts of aggression in their emergence as imperialists. In comparison to the Western imperialist powers, Russia and Japan had developed monopoly capitalism to a lesser extent but aggressive use of military power enabled them to acquire territories from which to extract monopoly profits.
Then as now, the capitalist powers try to amicably divide the world market among themselves, until their economic competition and political rivalry break out into wars. The completion of the division of the world among the capitalist powers towards the end of the 19th century laid the ground for the violent struggle among them for the redivision of the world. Latecomers in the colonial game upset the balance of forces and pushed the outbreak of wars.
Thus, the era of modern imperialism was inaugurated by wars and took final shape in the period of 1898 to 1914. The Spanish-American War (1898), the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and the economic crisis in Europe in 1900 were the chief historical landmarks in the new era. Lenin categorically stated that the era of imperialism did not begin earlier than 1898 to 1900 and that neither Marx nor Engels lived long enough to see it.
I. Perpetuated US Aggression
The US fully assumed the character of an imperialist power, on the basis of monopoly capitalism, when it deliberately provoked the Spanish-American War of 1898 in order to seize the colonies of Spain: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. In connection with said war, the US pretended to make friends with the Emilio Aguinaldo junta in Hongkong, and actually brought Aguinaldo back to the Philippines on an American cutter to proclaim Philippine independence (under the “protection” of the US) and to resume the national war of independence against Spain.
The Filipino people succeeded in liberating themselves nationwide and were about to seize Intramuros, the walled citadel of the Spanish colonizers. But the US interfered with the deployment of Filipino troops for the purpose and maneuvered to prepare for the landing of more US troops. Behind the back of their supposed Filipino allies, the US interveners arranged with the Spanish side a mock battle on 13 August 1898 to justify the surrender of the latter to the former. It was done on the day after Spain and the US signed an armistice agreement ending the Spanish-American War.
The US and Spain forged the Treaty of Paris on 10 December 1898 in which Spain sold the Philippines to the US for the amount of US$ 20 million. On 21 December 1898, US President McKinley issued the Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation to manifest the US plan to colonize the Philippines. The US started to unleash a war of aggression against the Filipino people on 4 February 1899. This has come to be known as the Filipino-American War.
The US used superior military force and extreme barbarity of more than 126,000 troops to conquer the nation of 7,000,000 people. It ruthlessly carried out massacres, the torture of captives, the reconcentration of population, “scorched earth” tactics, and food blockades. From 1899 to 1902, it killed more than 700,000, or 10% of the Filipino people, directly through its brutal operations and indirectly through consequent famines and epidemics. Likewise, it proceeded to kill 800,000 Filipinos up to 1916.
To keep the Philippines as a colony, the US established military bases at various strategic points. It organized the so-called Philippine Scouts as puppet troops and subsequently converted them into the Philippine Constabulary. As a result of relentless demands of the Filipino people for national independence, the US decided as early as 1935 to make the Philippines a semi-colony in 1946 after a ten-year transition period under the so-called Commonwealth government.
The National Defense Act of 1936 was this government´s first legislative act, making the puppet constabulary the First Regular Army under the direct supervision of the US Army´s Philippine Department. Commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon made US Army General Douglas MacArthur the Field Marshal of the puppet army. The US formed, indoctrinated, equipped and trained the puppet army. On the eve of World War II, it placed this puppet army within the frame of the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).
When World War II broke out in 1941, the Japanese fascists defeated the US army in Bataan and occupied the Philippines up to 1945. To recover the Philippines as a colony, the US coordinated with the USAFFE guerrillas. Before the grant of nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946, the US imposed on the puppet Filipino leaders the Treaty of General Relations which ensured the continuance of US military bases and the property rights of US citizens and corporations. This treaty even required in advance that the diplomatic relations of the Philippines would be subject to approval by the US.
After the Philippines became a semi-colony, the US perpetuated its successful aggression and continued to control the Philippine state militarily. It obtained a military assistance agreement to make the Philippine armed services dependent on US planning, training, intelligence and equipment; and a military bases agreement for US military forces to stay in the Philippines for another 99 years. It also bound the Philippines to a mutual defense pact and a US controlled regional security pact, the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).
Because of its military power over the Philippines, the US has been able to dominate the Philippine economy and politics, and intervene at will in Philippine affairs since 1946. It manipulated the outcome of presidential elections in favor of the candidate most compliant with and servile to US interests in the Philippines and in the region.
It instigated the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1972 in a futile attempt to suppress the revolutionary mass movement that had emerged and developed since 1961 because of the wanton extraction of superprofits by US corporation, bureaucratic corruption, and the exhaustion of the land frontier.
The Filipino people were outraged that the fascist regime could persist for so long, from 1972 to 1986, because of US military and economic assistance to it. They were also incensed by the direct and indirect consequences of US planes, ships and troops operating in and around the US bases. Thus, after the downfall of Marcos, the framers of the 1987 constitution enjoyed overwhelming popular support and took courage in adopting provisions that banned foreign military bases, troops, facilities, and nuclear weapons from the Philippines. This ban was indeed the fruit of the people’s revolutionary struggle against the fallen US-instigated dictatorship.
The military bases agreement with the US was terminated in 1991 by the Philippine Senate, with the open and strong support of the national democratic movement. But since then, the US has resorted to all sorts of maneuvers to circumvent the constitutional ban on foreign military bases, by invoking the US-RP mutual defense pact. It has used the Balikatan joint US-Philippine military exercises and interoperability trainings as pretexts for the forward stations and rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines.
It has been able to obtain the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement to allow the entry and stationing of US military forces anywhere in the Philippines, for any duration of time. It has used 9-11 and the so-called US global war on terror to justify US military presence and intervention in the Philippines. It has also expanded the pretexts for such Intervention. These include humanitarian aid, medical mission, civic action, disaster-related aid for rescue, relief and rehabilitation; and so on.
The latest pretext of the US for further entrenching itself militarily in the Philippines is to make a strategic pivot to Asia-Pacific region and to protect the country from a putative Chinese aggression, in view of the overreaching claims of China over 90% of the South China Sea, and encroaching on 90% of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines and on 100% of the extended continental shelf (ECS) of the Philippines. Thus, with the servile collaboration of the Aquino regime, the US has been able to obtain the so-called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
This agreement allows the US to establish military bases in an indefinite number of so-called Agreed Areas, fortified at Philippine expense, paying no rent, enjoying perimeter security from puppet troops free of charge, barring Philippine authorities from knowing things and activities inside the US military enclaves or bases, and allowing US air planes and ships to come and go, with the Philippine authorities barred by the US military from knowing whether such vessels carry nuclear, chemical, bacteriological, and other weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the agreement requires the Armed Forces of the Philippines to provide or facilitate access by US forces to any place whatsoever in Philippine territory that the US decides.
Despite the treason and obsequiousness of the Aquino regime in acceding to EDCA, US President Obama in his recent visit to Manila clearly declared that the US is neutral over the Philippine-China maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea, and that US policy is not to counter or contain China. In fact, the US has a dual policy of cooperation and contention with China and makes its decisions according to US national interest. At any rate, the US has far more interest in relations with China than in those with the Philippines. The people should be alert to the possibility that the US and China could agree to jointly explore and exploit the oil, gas and other natural resources in the EEZ and ECS of the Philippines.
In the face of the perpetuated aggression of US imperialism in the Philippines, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces have adopted the line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. They are waging a civil war against the semi-colonial political system. At the same time, they condemn the escalating military intervention of the US in favor of the puppet regime. They are therefore prepared to wage a war of national liberation should the US unleash a full-scale war of aggression. They are not afraid of such possibility but prepare against it. They consider it an opportunity to realize justice for the heroes martyred by US imperialism, and for the suffering of the millions of people as a consequence of the direct and indirect rule of US imperialism.
II. Continuing Economic Plunder
The US had a strategic motive and objective for seizing and making the Philippine its colony. This was connected with the expressed desire of the US to expand the international market for its manufactures, to turn the Pacific Ocean into an “American lake” for the purpose, and to have a base for launching efforts to get a share of China in the frenzy of the capitalist powers to establish spheres of influence.
The US floated bonds in Wall Street to finance its war of aggression in the Philippines. Ultimately, it made the Filipino people pay for their own military conquest through taxation. But the biggest gain for US imperialism came from the extraction of superprofits from the colonial exchange of US manufactures and Philippine raw materials, as well as from the direct and indirect US investments in the Philippines. In the process, the US imperialists turned the Philippine economy from feudal to semi-feudal.
US imperialism did not have to eliminate feudalism. It merely superimposed the imperialist mode of exploitation to change the total complexion of the social economy to semi-feudal. In an attempt to appease the people’s hatred of the landed estates owned by the foreign religious orders, the US colonial government expropriated some of them for redistribution to the peasants. But the peasants could not afford to complete payments for the redistribution price. The land eventually fell into the hands of the landlord class.
The US colonial government lifted the feudal restrictions on the physical movement of peasants. This enabled peasants to open land in frontier areas or to seek jobs in urban areas, public works and mines. Bureaucrats and landlords enticed peasants to make their homesteads in frontier areas. But ultimately, they claimed and registered the land as their own. Merchant usurers also followed the peasants into frontier areas and eventually became landlords.
The US colonial rule differed significantly from that of the Spanish by taking superprofits from a far greater flow of manufactured imports and raw material exports, from the chronic need to take loans to cover trade deficits and new schemes of overconsumption, and from the far greater inflow of direct foreign investments. The US opened the mines, expanded the plantations for raw-material export production, and established a few factories manufacturing consumer products from locally available raw materials. The roads, bridges, ports, and other means of transport and communications were improved for the growing domestic and foreign trade. The system of public and private schools was developed to produce the professionals and technicians for the expanded bureaucracy and business enterprises.
In the semi-feudal economy and society, the joint class rule of the big compradors and landlords (one per cent of the population) arose, and replaced the singular dominance of the landlord class in the feudal period of previous centuries. The intermediate social strata of middle bourgeois and urban petty bourgeoisie expanded and would ultimately come to one and eight per cent, respectively. From a few percentage points, the working class grew to 15%. The peasants descended from a feudal high of about 90% to its current semi-feudal level of about 75%.
The US economic domination of the Philippines was interrupted by the Japanese invasion and occupation during World War II. Japan’s imperialist character and war of aggression prevented it from making credible its slogan of “Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere”. The Japanese aggressors wrought havoc and destruction on the lives, communities and properties of Filipinos. In the course of recapturing the Philippines, especially in its haste to oust the Japanese through massive bombardment, the US added to and aggravated the destruction of lives and properties. US war damage payments were made mainly to the US corporations for reestablishing US economic domination of the Philippines.
The US did not only retain the property rights of US corporations and citizens through the Treaty of General Relations before the grant of nominal independence to the Philippines in 1946 but also imposed on the supposedly independent Philippine state the so-called Parity Amendment in the Philippine Constitution. This amendment allowed US corporations and citizens to have the same rights as Filipinos in owning public utilities and exploiting natural resources. Furthermore, the US extracted from the Philippines the privilege of operating all kinds of businesses without restriction.
A civil war broke out in the Philippines between the reactionary forces of foreign and feudal domination and the revolutionary forces of national liberation and democracy in 1948. The demand for national industrialization and land reform became so strong that the reactionary authorities had to fake land reform in the form of land resettlement programs and token expropriation of landed estates, as well as to feign national industrialization in the form of import-substitution manufacturing which was in fact reassembly and repackaging operations dependent on licensing, financing, technical and marketing agreements with US corporations.
The Philippine economy went from bad to worse when the Marcos regime went on a spending and borrowing spree to build infrastructure and conspicuous tourist facilities, and opted for the so-called export-oriented manufacturing in export-processing zones and for the export of labor in the absence of real industrial development for generating local employment. Export-oriented manufacturing is a far worse kind of pseudo-industrialization than the import-substitution manufacturing. It overprices the imported components and underprices the exported semi-manufactures. Workers are mostly categorized as casuals, apprentices or learners. They are paid substandard wages and are deprived of job security. Their trade union and other democratic rights are curtailed.
To this day, export-oriented manufacturing is misrepresented as industrial development. It has been greatly set back by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the global financial meltdown of 2007-08. The reassembly and export of semi-conductors and other products have plunged. What has become glossier than export-oriented manufacturing is the bubble in office and residential towers and upscale tourist enclaves, which is now about to pop because of the growing flight of portfolio investments. All regimes since the time of the puppet president Fidel V. Ramos have gone into a mad frenzy of opening the entire country to foreign mining companies that ruin agriculture and the environment, preempt future industrialization, and take mineral ores out of the country without paying the commensurate taxes.
Philippine economic policy has always been dictated by US imperialism. In the time of Marcos, the World Bank was active in pushing a Keynesian policy of undertaking public works to promote raw-material production and the colonial exchange of raw material exports and manufactured imports, thereby diverting resources and foreign loans from what should be a line of national industrialization. The first Aquino regime drew the Philippines further away from national industrialization by following the US-dictated policy of neoliberalism, and carrying out trade liberalization at the expense of both local industry and even agriculture. The Ramos regime followed up the anti-industrialization policy by channelling huge resources and foreign loans to upscale private construction and tourist facilities.
Altogether the post-Marcos regimes have been bound to exporting raw materials and labor, and have been trapped within the frame of the imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization under the so-called Washington Consensus of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank (especially its private investment arm International Finance Corporation) and the World Trade Organization (including its predecessor, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).The US has used these multilateral agencies to push the liberalization of trade and investments, privatization of public assets, deregulation of social and environmental protection, and the denationalization of such underdeveloped economies as the Philippines. Like their imperialist masters, the puppet regimes in the Philippines have clung to the neoliberal policy because it suits their greed, they believe that they can always shift the burden of crisis to the people, and they still have to see a more powerful revolutionary mass movement to challenge them.
Under the general auspices of the WTO and the proliferation of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements with the US and other imperialist powers, the Philippines is prevented from upholding economic sovereignty, conserving its national patrimony for the benefit of the Filipino people, and undertaking national industrialization and land reform. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, and the ASEAN Economic Community are frameworks for binding the Philippines to the imperialist system of plunder and particularly to its neoliberal policy of unbridled monopoly capitalist greed.
In the face of the continuing plunder of the Philippines by US imperialism, enjoying the collaboration of the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces are committed to fighting for national liberation and democracy, realizing social justice, conserving the national patrimony, and carrying out a program of development through national industrialization and land reform. They can end the underdevelopment of the Philippines only by destroying the exploitative system of big compradors and landlords subservient to US imperialism and thereby releasing the patriotic and progressive forces to undertake genuine development and achieve social justice.
III. Unrelenting Puppetry of Officials
Even while it carried out its war of aggression against the Filipino people, the US sought to entice leaders of the Philippine revolutionary government to surrender. This caused a split within the Aguinaldo Cabinet, between the revolutionary members like Apolinario Mabini and Antonio Luna and the capitulationists like Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Pedro Paterno and Felipe Buencamino. But the revolutionary mass movement was too strong to be derailed by the capitulationists, who were ridiculed as asimilistas and Sajonistas.
The US aggressors carried out a brutal war of conquest to serve the interests of US monopoly capitalism. But hypocritically they declared that they came to the Philippines to “civilize” and “Christianize” the people, after more than three centuries of Spanish colonial rule and Roman Catholic proselytization. They also claimed to have no interest in possessing the Philippines but in teaching democracy and self-government to the Filipinos, despite the success of the Filipinos in exercising democracy by building a revolutionary government and army, and defeating Spanish colonialism.
They touted Jeffersonian democracy to embellish modern imperialism. With this, they were confident of being able to coopt the bourgeois liberals leading the Philippine revolution. The Filipino bourgeois liberals derived their political enlightenment from the study of bourgeois liberalism in Europe. They did not arise as the offshoot of a manufacturing bourgeoisie as in Europe. In fact, they were children of landlords, colonial bureaucrats and merchants.
The US calculated that it could rely on a growing number of political collaborators by developing the semi-feudal economy of the big compradors and landlords, using the educational system and the pensionado system of sending native scholars to US universities to promote a pro-US colonial mentality and expanding the bureaucracy and businesses to accommodate those produced by the schools.
After his capture in 1901, President Aguinaldo was threatened with death and coaxed by his US captors to issue a Peace Manifesto calling on the revolutionary forces to surrender. The leaders who turned against the revolution were given positions at various levels of the US colonial government and were encouraged to form in 1901 the Partido Federal, to serve the colonial regime and to help it to discourage and suppress the revolutionary resistance of the people.
Those who continued to wage revolutionary resistance were subjected to a series of draconian laws and were made to suffer torture and death by hanging and other means. Even after several years from the formal end of the Filipino-American War, the US issued in 1907 the Flag Law prohibiting the Filipino people from displaying the Philippine flag. They continued to be subjected to massacres, arbitrary detention and torture, food blockades, and reconcentration.
When the US calculated that it had sufficiently broken the armed revolutionary movement and trained a large corps of puppet politicians and professionals, it allowed the Nacionalista Party to exist and call for immediate, absolute, and complete national independence. The Nacionalista Party was a reformist party, committed to demanding national independence only by legal and peaceful means, and sending missions to Washington to plead for an eventual grant of independence.
Consequent to the inspiration of the victorious Great October Revolution in 1917 and the dire colonial and social conditions, the modern trade union movement which started in 1902 became relatively stronger and became the basis for the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands in 1930. The US immediately tried to suppress this party by trumping up charges of sedition against the leaders. When the Great Depression worsened social conditions in the Philippines in the 1930s and the danger of fascism was running high, the rise of the broad anti-fascist Popular Front paved the way for the release of communist leaders from prisons and internal exile.
By 1935, the US was ready to establish the Commonwealth government as a transition to a semi-colonial status for the Philippines. It approved the Philippine Constitution as framed by Filipino politicians and promised the grant of national independence by 1946. The Japanese imperialists and fascists invaded and occupied the Philippines from 1941 to 1945, and pretended to be even more generous than US imperialism by swiftly granting nominal independence to a puppet Philippine republic. In the course of the inter-imperialist war, the Communist Party was able to build the People’s Army Against Japan (Hukbalahap), local organs of political power, and a powerful mass movement that confiscated land from the landlords.
During World War II, the US kept a Commonwealth government in exile in Washington and directed from Australia the Filipino guerrilla forces, which swore loyalty to the US Army Forces in the Far East. It was able to recover the Philippines in 1945 and grant national independence in 1946 to a group of Filipino puppets headed by Manuel Roxas who had broken away from the Nacionalista Party and formed the Liberal Party. Thus, the Philippines became a semi-colony run by puppets who served US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.
The US and the local exploiting classes provoked the revolutionary resistance of the people by making impositions on them in violation of national independence and the national patrimony – by nullifying land reform and other social gains made by the anti-Japan revolutionary movement, and by carrying out brutal campaigns of military suppression. The backbone of the armed revolutionary movement was broken in the early 1950s. But it succeeded in calling attention to the dire semi-colonial and semi-feudal conditions, and the need for a democratic revolution led by the working class.
It seemed as if the phoney democracy of the big comprador-landlord oligarchs could go on forever as a game of musical chairs between the Nacionalista and Liberal parties, with each party trying to replace the other in periodic elections that they monopolized. The two parties were a duopoly patterned after that of the Republican and Democratic parties in US. But the chronic crisis of Philippine society kept on worsening, exposing the inability of every regime to solve the crisis, pointing to the need for a revolution, but also tempting a president like Ferdinand E. Marcos to carry out a counterrevolution.
The Communist Party of the Philippines was reestablished in 1968 as the advanced detachment of the working class under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought (or Maoism). It rectified the errors and shortcomings of the previous revolutionary movement. It put forward the general line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. It considered the peasantry as the main force of the revolution in combination with the proletariat. The basic worker-peasant alliance linked itself with the urban petty bourgeoisie as a revolutionary force, and further with the middle bourgeoisie against the joint class dictatorship of the big compradors and landlords.
Upon the instigation of the US, Marcos launched a fascist dictatorship under the pretext of “saving the republic and building a new society” in 1972. He sought to destroy the armed revolutionary movements of the Filipino and Moro people. He succeeded only to inflame the resistance of the broad masses of the people. Eventually, the people totally discredited, isolated, and overthrew the fascist regime. Even his US imperialist master turned against him when it became indubitably clear that he was more of a liability than an asset. Fearing that the revolutionary forces could grow strong enough to overthrow the entire ruling system, the US and the local exploiting classes decided to junk Marcos and go back to the old track of pseudo-democratic regimes.
The pseudo-democratic regimes, from that of Corazon C. Aquino to her son Benigno Aquino III, have proven to be utterly servile to US imperialism, exploitative and oppressive, corrupt, and brutal. They have imposed on the Filipino people the policies of neocolonialism and neoliberalism, and have inflicted extremely terrible suffering on the people. A multiplicity of reactionary parties has not proven any better than the duopoly of the Nacionalista and Liberal parties, or the one-party rule of Marcos. Bureaucrat capitalism has grown worse since the Marcos dictatorship. Thus, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces have become ever more determined to overthrow the entire ruling system and consequently end US domination in order to fully realize national and social liberation.
IV. Persistence of Colonial Mentality
From the very start of its colonial rule in the Philippines, US imperialism was determined to dominate and control the Filipino people culturally, aside from militarily, economically and politically. It sought to capture the hearts and minds of the people by misrepresenting itself as beneficent and altruistic, and making the people forget about the extreme brutality of the US war of aggression through political propaganda and through the educational and cultural system. Thus, it dramatized the arrival of hundreds of American teachers on the ship Thomas and the conversion of some US troops to school teachers in pacified areas.
The US imperialists misrepresented themselves as far more gentle and kind than Spanish colonialists whom they demonized. And yet they cleverly forged a compromise between their own cultural imperialism and the feudalism of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. The US controlled the expanding public school system and allowed the church and its religious orders to control in the main the private educational system. It propagated a conservative and pro-imperialist kind of liberalism, while the religio-sectarian schools continued religious instruction and accepted the new colonial dispensation. It suppressed the expression of patriotism and anti-imperialism by political and mass leaders, by journalists, creative writers, artists and teachers.
A pro-US kind of colonial mentality supplanted the previous pro-Spanish kind, among those educated in the schools under the US colonial regime. The US colonial authorities established the pensionado system, providing scholarships to bright students for higher studies in various fields in the US. When the pensionados returned, they propagated their adulation of the US and were assured of promotions in the educational system, bureaucracy, business and professions. The supplantation of Spanish by English as the principal medium in the schools and in government guaranteed the predominance of a pro-US colonial mentality.
But such colonial mentality could never obliterate the patriotism and revolutionary aspirations of the Filipino people. In so many ways, the people demanded national independence and democracy, and condemned the US colonial regime. Formations of the working people and the intelligentsia persevered in upholding and propagating patriotic and progressive ideas and sentiments. They were reinforced and revitalized by the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands which was avowedly guided by Marxism-Leninism, and which demanded a national, scientific and mass culture.
The influences of the Great October Revolution and the revolutionary movements in China, Spain, Germany, US, and elsewhere reached the Philippines, especially when the Great Depression worsened and fascist and anti-fascist movements arose in various parts of the world. The US colonial authorities tried to combine anti-communism with colonial mentality to discourage the patriotic and progressive forces. But they failed because the economic and social crisis was worsening, and the threat of fascism moved the people towards the struggle for national independence, democratic rights and social justice.
During their occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945, the Japanese imperialists tried to ape the US imperialists in using the schools, mass media, puppet organizations such as the KALIBAPI, the Japanese language, and other cultural vehicles to impose on the people the most colonial aspect of their culture, including their fascist ideas and practices that carried markedly feudal vestiges, even their body language (e.g. deep bowing to show respect or submission). They aroused patriotic anger among the Filipino people. Many Filipinos did not send their children to the Japanese-controlled public schools to keep them away from Japanese indoctrination.
After their reconquest of the Philippines in 1946, the US imperialists misrepresented themselves as liberators of the Filipino people, even as they were clearly reestablishing their military, economic, political and cultural dominance. They showed signs of wishing to postpone the grant of nominal independence, unless their unjust impositions were accepted. They were confronted by the old merger party of the Communist and Socialist parties that had led the People’s Army Against Japan, and by a broad Democratic Alliance of patriotic and progressive forces that demanded national independence and resisted the imperialist impositions.
From the US grant of nominal independence in 1946, when the Philippine ruling system became semi-colonial, the US tried to perpetuate a pro-US colonial mentality among the Filipinos and combined it with anti-communism. It used the dominant political parties, the schools, the mass media, the churches, the movies, pop music and stage entertainment to tout the US as the defender of democracy or distract the people from the cause of national and social liberation in the Philippines and from the advancing forces of national liberation and socialism abroad.
The political ideas and sentiments generated by the duopoly of the Liberal and Nacionalista parties were pro-imperialist and reactionary. The higher political and educational authorities directed the school administrators and teachers to adopt the curricula and syllabi that they had approved. The US granted scholarships under the Fulbright and Smith-Mundt programs to maintain its influence in key universities and the entire educational system. It also used conferences, seminars and travel grants to promote pro-imperialist and anti-communist ideas and sentiments among academics, journalists, creative writers, artists, trade unionists, and other people.
The Central Intelligence Agency became most notorious, through its front foundations (Asia Foundation, PEN, and Congress for Cultural Freedom), in funding and manipulating cultural organizations and activities along the pro-imperialist and anti-communist line as a major part of the US-instigated Cold War. The reactionary authorities in state and religious schools were also notorious in trying to prevent the study of the works of the intellectual and political leaders of the old democratic revolution, and oppose the speeches and writings of contemporary anti-imperialists like Claro Mayo Recto.
When the advocates and mass organizations that espoused the new democratic revolution grew in strength in the 1960s and early 1970s, the US foreign aid and educational agencies and private US foundations like those of Ford and Rockefeller intensified their interference in the educational and cultural field in the Philippines. After declaring martial law in 1972, Marcos established draconian control over mass media and cultural channels, and deepened the propaganda of his fascist dictatorship through the educational system with its censored curricula and syllabi. The fascist regime and the US also started to use the World Bank to fund so-called reforms to align education to US policies.
The post-Marcos regimes have propagated anti-national and anti-democratic ideas and sentiments along the neocolonial and neoliberal line. US cultural imperialism has become even more pronounced. While one regime after another has increasingly channelled public funds to foreign debt servicing, bureaucratic corruption, and military campaigns of suppression, all have reduced appropriations for state colleges and universities in order to press them to raise tuition fees and seek assistance from the private sector, especially US and foreign entities.
The US and other imperialist governmental agencies and private foundations fund and direct nongovernmental or so-called civil society organizations to subvert educational and cultural institutions and attack the cultural, educational and other works of the people’s national democratic movement. US agencies like the Agency of International Development, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US Institute of Peace, and the like, are well known for funding groups for subverting and attacking the endeavors and aspirations of the Filipino people for national and social liberation.
More than ever, the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces demand and struggle for a national, scientific and mass culture and education. The cadres and mass activists are propagating this patriotic and progressive type of culture and education, and contributing creatively to its advance even in the schools and other cultural institutions of the ruling system. But certainly they are most effective in the mass movement, in the people’s army, and in the areas governed by the people’s democratic government.
V. Perspective of the Filipino People in the New Democratic Revolution
The Filipino people and their revolutionary forces persevere in the struggle for national liberation and democracy under the leadership of the working class and its advanced detachment, the Communist Party of the Philippines. It is precisely through the revolutionary struggle that they build their strength to overthrow the ruling system and to establish a people’s democratic state system. They are prepared to fight US imperialism as it escalates its military intervention and proceeds to a full scale war of aggression.
Both US imperialism and the ruling system of big compradors and landlords cannot persist forever in the Philippines. By their own unbridled greed and terrorism under the auspices of neocolonialism and neoliberalism, they increasingly expose their unjust character and bankruptcy, and drive the people to intensify their struggle for national and social liberation. After winning the new democratic revolution, the Filipino people can proceed to the socialist stage of the Philippine revolution.
The betrayal of socialism by the modern revisionists since the late 1950s, culminating in their full restoration of capitalism in their respective countries from 1989 to 1991, led to the full sway of neocolonialism in the underdeveloped countries and neoliberalism in the entire world capitalist system. Since 2007-2008 when the US and other imperialist powers were hit hard by an economic and financial crisis comparable to that of the Great Depression, the conditions of exploitation and oppression have worsened as if without end; but have at the same time driven the broad masses of the people to wage resistance.
US imperialism has undermined its position as the sole superpower by becoming overdrawn to high-tech military production and wars of aggression, by making China a major partner in neoliberal globalization, by relying on cheap Chinese labor to produce consumer goods, by undercutting manufacturing and employment in the US, by accelerating the financialization of the US economy, and by becoming a debtor to China, Japan, and a host of other countries. The full entry of China and Russia into the ranks of big capitalist powers has not strengthened the world capitalist system but has made it more cramped and more prone to the intensification of inter-imperialist contradictions.
Up to the first decade of the 21st century, China and Russia have been acquiescent to the US engaging in wars of aggression, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. But subsequently, they have become wary of US expansionism and have formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to countervail the growing aggressiveness of the US and NATO. They have also promoted the BRICS as an economic bloc to serve as counterfoil to US arrogance in economic, trade and financial matters. The inter-imperialist contradictions are still apparently far from breaking out into direct or indirect war between any of the big capitalist powers, notwithstanding their involvement in civil strife, such as those in Syria and Ukraine.
In East Asia, China has moved on from being known as the sponsor of the Chinese comprador big bourgeoisie collaborating with US and other multinational firms in sweatshop operations and private construction to being a rising industrial capitalist power, involving the nationalist collaboration of both state and private monopoly capitalism. But China is still avoiding being called a full imperialist power that uses aggression to grab both economic and political territory. Even in UN peacekeeping missions, it prefers to contribute police advisers rather than military troops.
In maritime disputes over the South China Sea, China is conspicuously overreaching and potentially violent. But so far it has not engaged in any act of aggression for the purpose of subjugating any country. The submission by the Philippines of its maritime dispute with China to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea is a peaceful act and could be a peaceful way of resolving the said maritime dispute and similar disputes. A situation in which China can always insist on indisputable sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea is more fraught with violence.
The reactionary Aquino regime has boasted that the US will protect the Philippines from China and has allowed the US to have military bases, troops, facilities, war materiel (tanks, warships and attack planes) and even nuclear weapons on Philippine territory under the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, in flagrant violation of the 1987 constitution. In fact, the US has declared neutrality between the Philippines and China over their maritime dispute. It is deliberately maintaining a dual policy of cooperation and contention towards China. It is mindful that it has far more economic, trade, financial, and security interests in China than in he Philippines. Even the Aquino ruling clique has lucrative relations with Chinese mining, construction, export-processing, and marketing firms.
In the meantime, the long running provocative thrust of the neoconservative policy to make the US dominant in the entire 21st century, and use a broad spectrum approach to put down any imperialist rival and the more recent provocations of the US pivot to Asia against China and the US-EU-NATO expansion into the Ukraine against Russia, have pushed China and Russia to sign on 21 May 2014 a 30-year US$400 billion natural gas agreement. This agreement solidifies the alliance of China and Russia against the hegemonic schemes of the US. It is at the center of the most pertinent economic, financial, and trade agreements, and is concomitant to a greatly increased security alliance and cooperation between the two giant neighbors. The struggle for a redivision of the world among the great capitalist powers is steadily developing before the huge earthquakes break out to serve as prelude to the unprecedented rise of the anti-imperialist and socialist movements.
The Filipino people and the revolutionary forces have to grasp the complexity of the world capitalist system today and study how to avail of opportunities presented by inter-imperialist contradictions as did the Bolsheviks, when there was no preceding socialist country to aid them. They must resolutely raise the level of their revolutionary consciousness and fighting capabilities. They must be determined to win the people’s democratic revolution and proceed to the socialist revolution. They must be prepared to confront and counter the No. 1 imperialist enemy at every stage.
They can be confident that the turmoil of the world capitalist system, wracked by protracted, intensifying and widening crisis, is the eve of renewed anti-imperialist and proletarian revolutions on a global scale. They must rely primarily on themselves in waging revolution as they have done successfully for so long, intensify the efforts to win the solidarity and support of other peoples and revolutionary movements, and take advantage of the worsening global crisis, inter-imperialist contradictions, and the rise and spread of anti-imperialist and proletarian revolutions on a global scale.
“Imperialism and Resistance” forum organized by the ILPS Netherlands Chapter, in cooperation with the Eritrese Vereniging Amsterdam en Omgeving – EVAO. Speaking at the forum were Prof. Sison; Antonio Carmona Báez of the solidarity group Friends of Venezuela; Ali Al, political scientist and Iraq correspondent; and Meseret Bahlbi of the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ). Photos by Ilena Saturay.