On “More Than A Red Warrior” (Arnold Borja Jaramillo: Beloved Son of Abra). 2015. Luchie Maranan ed. Philippines: Family and friends of AJ Jaramillo. 351pp.
Genuine recognition of revolution entails a concrete consideration of the human condition. One aspect of which is how people live and die as revolutionaries. This book bears witness to the Philippine revolution, which is easily cast against the language of peace and order prescribed by a government that functions mainly for the protection of the rich and powerful in society. More Than A Red Warrior shakes the reader out of the hidden mechanisms of family, profession, ambition, even love. The habits cultivated in these relations more often than not, compels many of us to seek occasional spontaneity, regulated adventure, relative comfort, and stability above all.
More Than A Red Warrior— an earnest and thoughtful contribution to the literature of freedom— highlights revolutionary labor. In AJ’s letters, as well as in his comrades’ notions of work are effortlessly rattled. We would find no romanticism for revolution here. Revolution is work in the era of capitalist time, making this very moment a time for revolution.
In his numerous letters, Ka Ambas talks about the nature of his job, his workload, and the urgencies therein. What is truly striking about the publication of these letters is the opportunity to see what we would have normally lost sight of: the very crucial importance of the non-commodity nature of revolutionary labor.
For someone who is gainfully employed and shares a communist view of the world, the non-commodity nature of revolutionary labor is arguably one of the most unsettling and humbling achievement in the history of human relations so far. It is an unspoken principle mediating between and among revolutionaries and their families, friends, and a whole society that normalizes the sale and exploitation of human labor.
The non-commodity nature of labor is a situation that defines the lives of revolutionaries who work full time for the struggle for national liberation toward socialism. It poses a challenge to our expectations from full time revolutionaries and provides a better understanding of revolutionary capacities, which include but are not limited to the following:
1) the revolutionary’s capacity to surmount difficulties;
2) the collective ability of revolutionaries to adapt to their position as producer of enabling conditions for people to contribute to significant change in the deeper texture of Philippine economy and politics;
3) their capacity to expand and consolidate democratic interest groups into a mass movement whose bid for change are both structural and redistributive;
4) the ability to offer something concrete for big dreams like democracy to come to life without reducing the same into personal liberty and a minimized opportunity to enjoy hints of social welfare;
5) the capacity to win the confidence and love of the people whom full time revolutionaries serve.
More Than A Red Warrior shows that the non-commodity nature of labor—perhaps the most humane aspiration there is—is already here. And it shapes the life-making of full time revolutionaries and red fighters. And if only for this reason, is it not our duty and honor to cherish the New Peoples Army and our full time comrades?
The red fighter who stood by Ka Ambas in his last moments finds herself writing his commander’s children the concluding lines in what this book now labels as “The lone survivor’s account of the Guingguinabang incident:”
“Your father was, no chismis, Abra’s man. There is so much of Abramin him and Abra has so much of him. When the time comes when you get to visit the place, hug the people tight—they loved your father in a way no one among us can love him. They loved him because he was one of them, fought for them, lived his life like them so that they could change their lives for the better. When he died, some houses closed some rooms permanently; “ni Ambas laeng daytan,” kuna da (That is only for Ambas). These were the rooms used for office work when he had to write. The Tinggians believed that the barrios are forever positively haunted by his spirit. In a way, it’s true. Umiiyak ang mga matatanda, bata, babae, lalake. Like us naulila sila (302-303).”
Now more than ever, we see the fatal impact of neoliberal market systems vis a vis contemporary colonialism on the lives of peasants caught in the commercialization of agriculture, specifically where this involves large agribusiness production, large-scale mining and logging. These business ventures have resulted in extra-judicial killings, militarization of indigenous communities, and all sorts of human rights violations.
The national democratic revolution, guided by the party of the proletariat understands that contemporary colonialism must be confronted and destroyed. There are perhaps two ways of reading the current crisis along the lines of sorting out long-standing problems.
One reading would be a liberal defense of so-called democratic institutions believing they can exist and function independent of the interests of the ruling elites who dominate them. The other view would be a reading asserted by the oppressed and exploited who have been politicized and organized by a movement that goes beyond movementism. It is a movement that aims to organize the people into a solid force that would smash and seize the state apparatus and implement a program for the re-organization of society.
These two readings are not irreconcilable. They may converge in ways that are productive of organized resistance depending on the well-informed and empowered analyses of the party of the proletariat. In whichever ways they might converge, the point is not just to arouse and mobilize only to end up going to court to explore empty constitutional promises.
Before us is a work of labor that was created beyond the logics of market forces. Before us is perhaps the most difficult book one can ever read. It will not be a smooth and uninterrupted transition from the beginning to page 345. It is a struggle to read this book. Yet is is arguably a great testimony of our age, one that is defined by the necessity to turn crowds or masses of people into a party of the proletarian revolution. This book is not only about the life and death of a communist cadre. “What is to be done” is here.
One does not have to share a communist view of the world to join the families and friends of the Lacub martyrs in their campaign for justice. The violations of International Humanitarian Law and peace agreements by Philippine state security forces in the brutal killings of the victims of the Lacub massacre are undeniable. These violations are an insult to and diminish the importance of revolutionary labor. No law in this country allows anybody to kill a criminal, an insurgent, a revolutionary.
While consensus on the issue of revolutionary violence is not likely at this point, it is not even the purpose for this book’s publication, it is my hope that readers of More Than A Warrior will find empowerment in refusing the willful forgetting of the Lacub massacre imposed by the insidious mechanisms of the daily grind.
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.