Youth On The March
by Jose Maria Sison
(Published in the Philippines Free Press, November 2, 1968)
A NATION that does not continuously renew itself through
progressive-minded and militant youth cannot possibly advance. A world of
timid and apathetic youth will merely feed all the regimes of injustice
and exploitation with a constant flow of manpower for exploited labor and
cannon fodder for unjust wars. Even a revolutionary society, say, a
socialist one, would stagnate and be thereafter corrupted if the process
of renewal and of continuous revolution is neglected or deliberately held
It is in the very nature of the world and of history that while there are
youth who question and fight the outdated order, striving to build a new
system or reach a new stage of development in which they stand to gain.
The problem of succession through the youth is common to both
reactionaries and revolutionaries. The reactionaries strive to preserve an
educational and cultural system that molds the thinking and behavior
patterns of the youth in a conservative way. The true revolutionaries work
to make all parts of their superstructure correspond to the mode of
existence of their society. Just as reactionaries zealously try to
preserve a heritage of exploitation, the true revolutionaries look after
their successors in the march towards greater social progress.
The youth are divisible into two conflicting sides of history, each side
trying to influence the apathetics in the middle sections of the political
spectrum. It is necessary to recognize that the youth, more than their
elders, are more receptive to what is new and progressive.
This receptiveness is sharply seen in crises, when the old ruling classes
and the old authorities no longer can rule the old way and resist change.
As the crisis ripens, a youthful movement and leadership inevitably
emerges with the new ideology, the new political program and the new
course of action. No matter what social class ascends to replace the old
ruling class, it relies on the ever expanding adherence of the youth to
what is new and progressive. Even the youth in self-satisfied centers of
learning in the Establishment raise the banner of change.
We are living today in a world of crises, marked by rapid emergence of the
new and rabid resistance of the old. Never has the world been so shaken as
now. The forces of socialism and national liberation are striking down the
ramparts of imperialism and local reactionary power with global sweep. We
are in the midst of radical choice.
We are in a world where old verities and old structures are the target of
angry yet positive, critical but constructive, mass actions of the youth
and the people.
"To rebel is justified!" is the battle cry of the youth of China. There
the youth came to be known the world over as the Red Guards. Millions
mobilized all over China and, because of our proximity to China, we could
almost hear the sound of their marches. Supported by the masses, they
brought down the bourgeois academic authorities (reactionary teachers and
administrators) and demanded a change in the educational system. Again,
together with the masses, the Red Guards gathered enough strength to
topple down degenerate government and party officials taking the
Where but in their own schools did the Red Guards start their great
proletarian cultural revolution? They saw their schools reflecting society
incorrectly. They acted to rectify the irresponsiveness of schools and
school authorities to the needs and demands of workers and peasants. At
the University of Peking, the whole earth-shaking phenomenon called the
great proletarian cultural revolution started with big posters denouncing
the highly-placed miscreants.
From the confines of academic walls, the youth took to the streets to
muster support from the masses of the people. Soon, because of the
relationship between school and society, the masses saw the point of the
ReD Guards. The Chinese youth became, in the May 4th Movement, a vanguard
force of enlightenment, arousing not only their own new generation but the
broad masses of the people. They could have been easily pushed back by the
reactionaries but for the overwhelming support of the masses who
themselves fully participated in the most extensive democracy and mass
learning ever witnessed by mankind.
What the Red Guards did in China also transpired in France, United States,
West Germany, Italy, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico. The youth form a
progressive force and subsequently strive to merge with the masses on the
basis of basic popular demands against U.S. imperialism and the various
stripes of local reactionaries.
The seizure of entire universities as Columbia University, the Sorbonne
and many others in Latin America and Western Europe is similar to the
seizure of Chinese universities by the Chinese youth.
In France, the youth seized the university and then took the streets in
the Latin Quarter. All this was followed by something more extensive and
more profound as the general strike of French workers and farmers which
still haunts De Gaulle's regime. A few tens of thousands of youth started
what subsequently embraced more than ten millions workers and farmers,
frightening the reactionaries and compelling them to unleash the violence
of the state. The French youth became truly strong politically with the
support given them by the masses of workers and farmers.
Let us compare the progressive actions of militant youth with those much
ballyhooed in the Western press as exemplary models of youth rebellion.
In Eastern Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia and Poland, the
ultra-revisionist youth press for rapid liberalization, which means a
faster return of capitalism and collaborative relation with the United
States and West Germany.
In Asia, we are witness to youth movements which helped overthrow certain
regimes, Syngman Rhee's in South Korea and Sukarno's in Indonesia. These
youth actions differ radically from what transpired in China. In the
former, the existing corrupt state was retained and the old problems of
exploitation and bureaucratic corruption aggravated. The change was not
actually made by the youth, together with the masses, but by the
reactionary army which always tries to preserve the old state. In Korea,
General Park Chung Hee merely took advantage of youth unrest against
Syngman Rhee and seized power by coup d' etat over the heads of the
masses. In Indonesia, the same thing happened with Generals Nasution and
Suharto replacing Sukarno. The previous character of the state did not
Summarizing all these phenomena, we can state that the youth can be
revolutionary only if supported by the masses in effecting a basic
transformation of the state. Separated from the struggle of the masses,
the youth only lead themselves into spasms of anarchy, a situation easily
taken advantage of by reactionary army officers and other kinds of palace
It is worthwhile to differentiate revolutionary youth from
counter-revolutionary youth. If there were youth attracted to the swastika
of Hitler's Jungen, there were also youth who joined partisan movements
all over Europe, who fought fascism and triumphed in the end over the
German war machine. If there are youth enlisted in the armed forces of the
United States on missions of genocide in Vietnam, there are more American
youth in the anti-imperialist, anti-war and anti-draft movement. There are
also the rebellious black youth in the ghettoes. The young hoodlums
backstopped by the reactionary armies of Indonesia, South Korea and other
client states of the U.S. who go into rampages against progressives and
democrats of their own countries, are counterpointed by the revolutionary
youth who join the masses fighting against established system of
exploitation and suppression.
We see the revolutionary courage and heroism of Vietnamese youth fighting
American aggression in their country. The People's Liberation Armed Forces
of South Vietnam are youthful faces.
The Filipino youth have had their own share of revolutionary struggles -
against the Spanish colonialists, against the American imperialists,
against the Japanese fascists. A revolutionary civil war has once occurred
within the living memory of many of today's youth; constantly threatening
imperialists and landlords, it pins its hopes on the youth.
Youth is the best fighting age. This is not meant to exclude progressive
adults from the ranks of revolutionaries: after all, no matter how old
they may be, they are still young in spirit because of revolutionary
experience and continuing revolutionary commitment.
Both old and young are subsumed by classes, drawn into the contention of
classes and nations, with the young grasping earliest the new and
It is the youth in the tradition of the Philippine revolution, of Andres
Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto and Gregorio del Pilar we are most concerned
with. They shed their blood on the battle field against foreign tyrants
and their local minions. With the Philippines increasingly in crisis, we
expect more youth to take the uncompromising road of revolt against social
injustices. After a long lull in the countryside and in the cities, we can
observe the stirrings of a resurgent national democratic movement in the
womb of a mis-shapen semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. The youth of
the city, especially students and young workers, are rising in dissent.
Young peasants are goading their elders; the youth are astir in Cotabato,
Negros, Quezon, Pampanga, in many places. The youth are the vanguard of
It is in this respect that Kabataang Makabayan, the national democratic
youth organization with the most profoundly articulate program and the
most widespread membership in the Philippines today, has called itself the
Second Propaganda Movement, apart from the connotation and the denotation
that it is striving to solve old problems. It is a movement that prepares
public opinion for the advance and triumph of working people under the
radiant banner of proletarian leadership. It seeks to arouse and mobilize
the masses towards the achievement of a national democracy that is new and
progressive within the context of the most radical advances made by
mankind and the working class. It seeks to project the ideological and
political principles that can provide scientific direction to social
With Kabataang Makabayan in the vanguard, the Filipino youth are striving
for progress and social justice. They have demonstrated a militance
comparable to the youth of other lands and those in previous stages of our
national history. They have manifested a profound understanding of basic
problems and of the day's issues.
With Kabataang Makabayan in the vanguard, there have been demonstrations
of such depth and magnitude never before witnessed, protesting iniquities
in our social and political system. There have been demonstrations
spearheaded by KM on the murder of Filipinos in U.S. military bases, the
Parity Amendment and the Laurel-Langley Agreement, the Vietnam war, the
Retail Trade Nationalization Law and many others.
The historic actions of October 23rd and 24th of 1966 are still fresh in
the minds of the youth; these exposed the Manila Summit and caught the
U.S. President and a big complement of Asian puppets together. There have
been workers', students' and teachers' strikes participated in by
Kabataang Makabayan. All the time the character of the bourgeois state is
displayed before the unarmed protestants.
In schools all over the country, especially in the University of the
Philippines, there is a growing ferment manifested often by student
action. In the working class movement, the young workers are reassuming
leadership. In the countryside, the youth are more articulate and critical
of the old problem of feudalism than the officials of the barrio council
and community development projects of the reactionaries.
Alone, demonstrations, speeches and leaflets cannot bring about the
fundamental change of basic governmental policies but they certainly
arouse the masses and even goad certain sections of the urban petty
bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie to question the basic tenets of
the neo-colonial regime. They also discourage blatant abuses by the
Whatever its detractors say, the Kabataang Makabayan on the basis of
present objective conditions has become a milestone in the long march of
national democratic revolution. Is there any Philippine youth organization
now, comparable in strength and achievement in the national democratic
movement? The KM has made certain achievements that can no longer be
disregarded by history. Prof. Teodoro A. Agoncillo has taken note of these
in his History of the Filipino People. Its merits lie not only in its acts
of democratic protest, in militating the people, but also in its more
quiet acts of spreading the tenets of national democracy in urban and
A whole range of challenges to the Filipino youth are contained in the
national democratic program of action of the Kabataang Makabayan. This
program defines the conditions and tasks of the Filipino youth. As we
protest, we affirm the direction we are taking.
In the political field, we want to arouse and mobilize the Filipino youth
as a powerful coordinate of the masses led by the working class in the
great movement to realize the national democratic revolution. We are
committed to assisting the development of a powerful mass movement and a
working class leadership that can transform the character of the present
state and rid ourselves of the malignant rule of the comprador
bourgeoisie, the landlords and the corrupt government officials.
In the economic field, we seek national industrialization independent of
the foreign monopolies on the basis of an agrarian revolution that
liberates the peasants from feudal and semi- feudal oppression. We
envision a just and prosperous society that is made possible only by the
most intense and most effective political struggles of workers and
peasants. We do not seek crumbs from the well-laden table of the almighty
few but we seek general economic conditions that will not foster class
In the cultural field, we demand the national democratic re- orientation
of our educational system, mass media and other parts of the social
superstructure. We reject the colonial-feudal and bourgeois-imperialist
culture that restrain the advance of the exploited masses and all other
progressive sectors of the population. At a time when the youth are
corrupted by a backward and decadent culture, we urge the rising Filipino
youth, a fresh force,to overthrow such regressive and anti-popular culture
and make possible a new and progressive one responsive to the aspirations
of the nation and the masses.
In the field of social welfare and mass work, we seek the improvement of
the working and living conditions of the masses of workers, peasants,
fishermen and all semi-proletariat. The youth must help them develop the
political strength that can guarantee whatever economic gains have been
made. They must take the mass line, that is, rouse them on the basis of
their own concrete demands and rely on their massive efforts to contend
with the exploiters. They must help heighten the political consciousness
of the masses in the course of participating in their economic struggle.
In the field of national security, we demand the abolition of the
country's dependence on foreign military bases and dictation. We base our
concept of national security on the sovereign democratic powers of the
masses. If the masses can succeed in freeing themselves from U.S.
imperialist control and from their local exploiters, it will be impossible
for another foreign power to subject them to another successful
aggression. The mythical possibility of another foreign aggression is no
justification for the reality of a perpetuated aggression against the
nation and the masses by U.S. imperialism and local exploiting classes.
Our well-entrenched enemy keeps saying our friends are our enemies in
order to present himself as our friend.
In the field of foreign policy, we seek an independent diplomacy and
trade, a broadening of the present state of our foreign relations and a
rejection of the stultifying "special relations" with the U.S. government,
U.S. imperialism has so much control over our national life that the
simpletons and deliberate liars in our midst keep spreading that we rally
merely on foreign policy issues when the fact is that there are perfectly
domestic issues even as a foreign power is the target of our opposition.
That is because such a foreign power is well-entrenched in our politics,
economy, culture and security system; this is all-round domination by the
imperialists on the basis of the semi-feudal debility of the country.
The tasks of the national-democratic movement, the entire Filipino youth,
and the Kabataang Makabayan are clear. In schools, farms, factories and
communities, new cells of change are multiplying before the sweep of the
Second Propaganda Movement.
The unfulfilled aspirations of the nation and the masses throb in the
hearts and minds of the young. This generation strives to recoup the
failures of the past and girds for the triumphs of the future. As the
progressive youth movement and the Kabataang Makabayan struggle for
fundamental changes, they will be defamed by the overt and covert enemies
of national democracy but they will triumph in the end.
Only through militant struggle can the best in youth shall emerge. Only
through the struggle can become more evident the constant replenishment of
the fighting forces by the ceaseless flow of new blood.