Solidarity and sharing lessons
Solidarity and sharing lessons
From KM to AB-Toronto:
Message to Anakbayan Toronto on its 10th Anniversary
delivered on November 26, 2022, Toronto
By Hermie Garcia
Kabataang Makabayan, ca. 1960s, 1970s and martial law era
Congratulations on a major milestone you have reached today.
While you are summing up your 10 years of struggle in Anakbayan Toronto, let me share with you some very important lessons from our generation of activists in the years of late 1960s and early1970s that culminated in the First Quarter Storm of 1970, and up to the martial law period.
As a backgrounder, that period (FQS) was characterized by massive mobilizations in the Philippines, in the Greater Manila Area and the major cities and provinces in the country. We were mobilizing from 50,000 to almost 100,000 strong protest rallies almost every week on issues about the basic interests of the people like poverty, unemployment, low wages, landlessness of the peasants (the majority of the population), colonial education, national sovereignty, corruption in government, control of national and local governments by political dynasties and government subservience to U.S. interests.
Under these conditions, the mass movements for change gained strength and resulted in educating and mobilizing larger and larger sectors of the population.
State repression intensified. Harassments, arrests, trumped-up court charges. Red-tagging, torture, “salvaging” (now called extrajudicial killings) became commonplace. Then martial law was imposed in September 1972 and the rest is now history.
Fourteen years later in February 1986, the Marcos dictatorship was overthrown by an unarmed urban uprising of an angry people. Throughout those decades, from the late 1960s to 1970s to mid-80s, the youth activists were at the forefront as leaders, propagandists, organizers of workers, peasants, students and community groups, professional groups, writers, cultural workers, business people, doctors, and other sectors.
What are the lessons for the youth activists?
1. Unity with the exploited working masses is very important. The working class, the peasants, the the small and progressive business people, the low and middle income classes, the student youth, the indigenous peoples, the Muslim and other indigenous movements for autonomy, and others. Support their demands and conduct joint campaigns with them. Their issues and demands are intertwined with those of the youth and students. The youth are not a class by themselves. The youth belong to these classes and sectors. You cannot separate or isolate the youth issues with those of the majority of the population.
2. Integrate with the masses. Not just raise their issues, integrate with them, if possible live with them, know their everyday lives and help them articulate and fight for their interests. In the process, learn first hand, what it takes to live their lives and how real everyday issues affect their lives and how to alleviate them in the short run and the long run. Know their aspirations and dreams and relate and elevate them to the national and social levels. Understand deeply how the national democratic program your organization is pushing is the answer to their basic problems.
3. Deeply study ideologies, political persuasions, the history of the Philippines and other countries, particularly in times of intense oppression and and repression and how the people responded to tyranny. Study colonialism, imperialism, the revolutions and movements for change in recent history. There’s too much to learn from the experiences of many countries and how these movements and actual victories and defeats are interrelated. The revolutions of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the world. How did they win and how did others fail?
What are the lessons from the Philippine Revolution of 1898, from the resistance against American imperialism that followed it? What happened to the Russian Revolution of 1917? The Chinese Revolution of 1949? The Cuban Revolution of 1959? The Vietnamese Revolution of 1975? The anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements in Latin America of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s? Why did socialist China become capitalist China? Why did the Soviet Union collapse in 1989 and Russia now ruled by Putin, one of the richest men in the world? Yes, there is too much to study and learn from. But not repeating the mistakes of history will have to come from understanding history and not only by study but by actually participating in changing the direction of history. In other words, by theory and practice. You cannot be an armchair activist, you have to be there in the middle of the action, in the trenches, with the masses, experiencing the actual struggle, making mistakes and gaining victories. You cannot learn how to swim by reading books. You have to be in the water. You cannot learn how to drive by learning the latest technology in cars. You have to drive a car and be on the road and risk getting into an accident.
These were some of our lessons from the activism of the 1970s and later on during martial law when we were in the underground and under detention. When we experienced arrest, torture and prolonged detention, we realized this was the real thing. When our friends, classmates, comrades and members of our family were being tortured, “salvaged” and charged with ridiculous cases, we realized fighting for change, for justice, for democracy and freedom and serving the people involved a life-and-death struggle. It was no longer in the realm of raising issues and taking the right stand, or engaging in part-time activism or evading arrest. It was a matter of life and death. At the same time, because of the heroism of the overwhelming majority of those who fought beside us and those who came before us, and of our leaders, their sacrifices and steadfastness, we gained victories and helped in making the people support our cause because they also realized that it’s only by joining together with the activists that their causes, their demands and interests can be served.
These heroes and their sacrifices are now honored in Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes), in articles and books, in films and stage plays, songs and poetry, paintings, murals in schools and most importantly, in the collective memory of our people.
There are still many gains and victories we have to win, but with organizations like yours continuing the struggle for justice and democracy, for progressive change and for national and social liberation, our generation of activists can rest assured we will achieve the ultimate victory and it was worth all the sacrifices and the pain of taking on the struggles of our time. The important thing is the journey. If we remain steadfast and just soldier on, we will reach our destination, if not in our time, in your time or your children’s time. It is a life worth living and lived in the most meaningful way. The peoples of the world are with us and history is on our side.
Maraming salamat. Tuloy ang laban. Makibaka, Huwag Matakot!
From an activist of Kabataang Makabayan, circa 1960s, 1970s and martial law era