By SARAH RAYMUNDO
It was 1964. The roots and consequences of the Cold War that began in the 50s were spiralling out of control. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the Anti-Subversion Law that was crafted in 1957 to fight the ideology of Marxism and the Communist movement became an object of dissent for freedom loving Filipinos. In the University of the Philippines, the rift between liberalism and religious sectarianism was pressing, especially to students who craved political engagement. The Student Cultural Association of UP (SCAUP, a play on the then dominant religious organization UPSCA) became an organized venue for the study of Marxism and the social conditions in the Philippines.
In the Marxist-Leninist tradition, SCAUP posed the problem of the masses: How can a political force come to be present among the enormous masses of Philippine society? For this crop of valiant young Marxist scholars, the urgent question was “how are we supposed to establish relations with this huge mass of exploited and oppressed mass of people?” It was a problem of reflexivity, and therefore of ethics. They were trying to find a philosophical ground for the political, and found one. In retrospect, the founding of this organization which would later expand on a national scale, beyond the exclusive prestige of the University of the Philippines, was a praxiological framing of youth in order to inform an understanding of the processes of revolution in a semi-feudal, semi-colonial setting. It combined the revolutionary principles of 19th and 20th century world revolutions—the urgency and leading role of the workers movement and the political emancipation of colonized people.
The need for a movement of this kind on a national scale was realized upon the establishment of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth) on November 30, 1964.
KM, since then, has been the comprehensive youth organization not only for university-based students but as well as for the youth among the peasants, workers, professionals and women.
The call for a Second Great Propaganda Movement to continue the unfinished revolution of Andres Bonifacio is an objective of SCAUP that has been reinforced by KM to this day. The presence of KM in Philippine politics signifies the organized existence of a communist bloc in the country against all odds. But there are modern (read: capitalist) ideals of youth that are hegemonic and appear to be more desirable than one that paves the way for a communist future.
Nowadays, the whole concept of youth is framed within well guarded divides—local and global, public and private, personal and political, success and failure, resistance and containment. These divides broadly frame notions and actual lived experience of youth in relation to geopolitics of nations. Framing youth according to these binarisms is necessary for societies to dance to the beat of the contemporary global capitalist system. Therefore to be part of this segment of the population called youth is to be a target of discipline of the current global consensus for capitalism and American representative democracy.
There is no use in denying the fact that majority of the young people in the University do entertain philistine dreams such as owning a car, purchasing a condo or some such manicured space, clinching a bloated bank account a few years after graduation. These contracted aspirations result from specific agendas around neoliberal globalization that greatly affect young people’s aspirations and sense of social grievance. In a sense, people especially the young are not the sole authors of their dreams. But there is definitely something important in asserting the fact that once exposed to the politicizing and organizing capacity of the national democratic movement in the country, young people do seriously consider the determining role of the masses in history-making, and for one great moment refuse a life abandoned to the nihilism of global capitalism. Such is the moment of the political.
In Alain Badiou’s words, “the political is a trajectory toward someone different.” The Newly sworn-in members of KM are asked for a nom de guerre, a name that uses as one fights. The new name is not assumed solely for security reasons. The politicized youth embraces a political trajectory toward becoming someone else, and hence the need for another name. With a new name comes a new pair of eyes that dare to stare at the eyes of truth. Throughout the Philippines, lives and bodies are exposed to the fantasies of neoliberal freedom and destruction. In economic enclaves such as export processing zones, plantations, mining fields, etc., David Harvey’s observation applies: accumulation based upon predation, fraud, and violence did not only belong the early phase of capitalism, it is still happening! As the integrity of the nation-state in its current form as a client state is totally diminished by bureaucrat capitalists and their shady dealings with bourgeois compradors and mobile foreign capital, the laboring masses are positioned not against their abusive employers. They are forced to imagine a huge number of reserve flexible labor only to be reminded of their disposability and therefore ensure their consent to the current state of things in the workplace.
There are some lessons that this writer’s membership to the Kabataang Makbayan nearly 20 years ago remember well. Stillness is an illusion. Growth may be proven by the clean models of economists. But the same economic growth must be demystified in the dirty hands of sociologists. Enforced neoliberal adjustment underlies the main conflicts in the present world (and not the so-called clash between Christianity and Islam). Globalization is administered by the global north and stimulated further by supraregional trading blocs. And this is none other than economic universalism backed up by military coercion. Each president of the land and even the president of America, whoever they may be, must be stripped naked until the victory of the people’s war for national liberation.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Impeiralist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.
*Kabataang Makabayan/Patriotic Youth