ON STUDENT ACTIVISM

Full Text of Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS) by Dempsey Reyes, which serves as basis for Manila Times report of August 21, 2019 on Sison’s views on student activism.

1. What do you think has been the difference between student activism in the past and present?

JMS: The struggle for national independence and democracy against Spanish colonialism emerged because of the student activism of Jose Rizal, Emilio Jacinto and many others in the late 19th century. 

The new democratic revolution for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people is a resumption of the unfinished Philippine revolution started by Andres Bonifacio. It has been sustained with the major and vital participation of student activists from the 20th to the 21st century.

We, the student activists of the late 1950s and the 1960s, were conscious of continuing the struggle for national liberation and democracy and overcoming the anti-democratic crackdown by the US and its Filipino puppets in the early 1950s on the patriotic and progressive forces in the Philippines.

The current student activists are similar to their precedessors in being patriotic and progressive. The differences from the past arise from their being able to take advantage of the revolutionary legacy bequeathed to them and from being confronted by new challenges from foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.

2. In the past, has there been red-tagging already among student activist groups?

Yes, certainly. Immediately after we established the Student Cultural Association of the University of the Philippines (SCAUP) in 1959, we were soon assailed by the anti-communist witch hunt instigated by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA). 

We the student activists then were not cowed or silenced by the red-tagging and anti-communist tirade, which invoked the 1957 Anti-Subversion Law. But we became more inspired to fight back and to assert and exercise our democratic rights. We stood for the national and democratic rights of the student masses and the Filipino people.

The Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities (CAFA) headed by Rep. Leonardo Perez tried to witch-hunt, frighten and silence the progressive facculty members and students of the UP as a result of their progressive publications. I was one of those targeted for organizing the SCAUP and for writing “Requiem for Lumumba” in praise of the Congolese leader and in comdemnation of the CIA which instigated his murder.

The anti-communist witch hunt by the CAFA failed to intimidate us but it merely succeeded in rousing the students and faculy members to rise up in protest. The SCAUP organized a broad alliance of campus organizations in order to uphold and defend academic freedom. Thus, we were able to mobilize 5000 students to rally in front of Congress on March 15, 1961. A major part of the demonstrators poured into the hearing hall of the CAFA and literally scuttled its hearings.

3. Would you say that despite all that has been happening now with the red-tagging and conduct of probe on NPA recruitment supposedly because of student activism, do you think student activism will be impacted?

JMS: Student activism will not be silenced or die because of the current red-tagging and anti-communist witch-hunt by all branches of government under the Duterte tyrannical rule and its Executive Order No. 70. It is ludicrous that student activists are being persecuted merely because of the ultra-reactionary fear that they are being recruited to the NPA.

The student activists and student masses are defying the attempts to intimidate and suppress them and intensifying their efforts to inform and educate themselves on social ills and issues, organizing themselves and mobilizing themselves. The campaign to persecute and deprive them of their democratic rights is driving them to fight back.

It is not student activism that is the cause of many students and other people joining the NPA. The cause of the rising of the broad legal democratic movement as well as the armed revolution is the persistence of the rotten semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and the aggravation of basic social problems by the tyrannical, traitorous, murderous, plundering and swindling regime of Duterte.

4. For you, should student activism continue?

JMS: Of course, student activism should continue. In the first place, it is unstoppable and is needed by the students themselves and the entire Filipino people. The students activists and the student masses must struggle for better conditions and a brighter future by opposing the rotten ruling system dominated by imperialism and ruled by the brutal and corrupt politicians of the big compradors and landlords.

It is not the fault of student activism that there are oppressive and exploitative conditions that they must criticize, repudiate and overcome. It is the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation that are driving more students activists to join the armed revolution. Thus, the tyrannical Duterte regime is now known as the best recruiter of the NPA.

(AP Photo / Aaron Favila)