Lecture to the New World Academy, Utrecht, The Netherlands
National democratic struggle and the people's trial of US imperialism and its puppets

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
November 15, 2013

Fellow artists and Friends,

Good afternoon! Thank you Maria Hlavajova of the Basis voor Actuele Kunst for the warm welcome and Jonas Staal of the New World Academy for the introduction to the program.

My task today is to talk about the national democratic struggle and the people's trial of US imperialism and its puppets in the Philippines. This is in connection with the title of this session, Towards a People's Culture, which centers on the critical role of arts and artists in the struggle for national liberation and democracy in the Philippines. I am pleased that Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines will focus on the conflict between cultural imperialism and people's culture.

I shall describe the political, socio-economic and cultural aspects of the national democratic struggle. Thus, I provide a broad context for the conflict of cultural imperialism and people's culture and the more direct discussion by the other speakers on art and specific forms of art, like the musical, graphics, the effigy and the “people's trial” as a theatrical model, in relation to the national democratic movement of the Philippines.

I shall also give my views on how art and literature are necessary and essential in “putting on trial” US imperialism and its puppets by exposing their crimes and bringing about the condemnation and judgement of the malefactors and their crimes. Thus, art and literature contribute decisively to arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses and to advancing from the symbolic trial to the real trial of the criminals in the drama of the revolutionary process.

In keeping with the theme of people's trial, I wish to present the coldblooded and systematic crimes of US imperialism and its puppets in oppressing and exploiting the people, the programmatic demands of the people for national and social liberation and the process of rendering justice. By taking up the Philippine case in a broad context, I hope to contribute to the development of a transnational “people's trial” as a major function of art against oppression and exploitation.

I. The National Democratic Struggle in the Philippines


The Filipino people have the distinction of being the first nation in the whole of Asia to carry out and win a revolutionary war of national independence against a Western colonial power. The Philippine revolution started in 1896 and triumphed over Spain in 1898. But after pretending to be friendly and helpful to the revolution, the US ignited the Filipino-American War in 1896 and carried out a war of aggression in order to destroy the Philippine republic and impose its own colonial rule over the Philippines.

The Philippine revolution of 1896 was anticolonial and antifeudal and had therefore a national democratic character. The bourgeois liberal intelligentsia (ilustrados) successfully provided the leadership to end Spanish colonial rule. But it failed to prevail over the newly risen modern imperialist power of the US, based on industrial monopoly capitalism, with superior military weapons and with the capacity to use the bourgeois liberal ideology to coopt the Filipino intelligentsia and deploy investments to extract superprofits..

The US carried out a barbaric war in order to defeat the Philippine republic. It killed a total of 1.5 million Filipinos out of a population of 7 million in the course of the officially designated Filipino-American War of 1899 to 1902 and further pacification campaigns up to 1914. It used a brutal strategy and tactics it had applied against the First Nation and Mexicans. It unleashed food blockades, forced relocations of entire communities and the extensive use of torture and extrajudicial killings.

The US forced the Filipino people to finance their own military conquest and subjugation. It floated war bonds in Wall Street and subsequently made the people pay for these through taxation. To extract superprofits, it made investments in the expansion of plantations, opening of mines, establishment of a few monopoly enterprises and acceleration of domestic and foreign trade. It generated a semifeudal type of social economy dependent on imported manufactures and raw material exports from a persistent feudal base.

It established an educational and cultural system that perpetuated colonial mentality but this time servile to the US instead of Spain. It superimposed bourgeois ideas and values on those feudal and religious ones previously propagated by the dominant Catholic church. It systematically used education and culture to breed a new and bigger corps of puppet politicians and to produce the professionals and clerks to serve the expanded bureaucracy and businesses.

The social structure that has arisen from the semifeudal economy includes the basic ruling classes of the comprador big bourgeois and landlords, who are fractions of one percent of the population. The intermediate social strata are the middle bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie which are around 1 percent and 8 percent, respectively. The basic exploited classes are the workers and peasants, which are around 15 and 75 percent respectively.

Since the early years of the 20th century, the trade union movement has developed among the workers. Since 1930 upon the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (CPPI), the revolutionary idea of the working class leading the people in the national democratic revolution and consequently the socialist revolution has acquired reality and taken roots in the Philippines.

As soon as it was established in 1930, the CPPI was suppressed by the US colonial regime.

It was allowed to operate legally under the auspices of the anti-fascist Popular Front in 1937.

It organized the People's Army Against Japan in 1942 after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. The opportunities and prospects for advancing the Philippine revolution were undermined by strategic errors of the CPPI leadership, swinging from Right opportunism (from 1942 to 1946) to “Left” opportunism (1948 to 1952) and again to Right opportunism (1954 to 1962).

In 1946 the US granted nominal independence to the Philippines. Since then, the political system has become semicolonial, no longer ruled directly by the US but indirectly through puppet politicians who are essentially bureaucrat capitalists and who serve the US as well as the interests of the big compradors amd landlords in the semifeudal economy. The US has retained its dominance and control over the economic, political, cultural and security system of the Philippines.

The Philippines was touted by the US as the show window of democracy (in fact a cesspool of neocolonialism and semifeudalism) because the duopoly of the Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party alternated in taking presidential power through periodic elections. But after getting himself reelected through fraud and terrorism in 1969, Marcos carried forward his scheme to impose a fascist dictatorship and carried it out through the proclamation of martial law in 1972.

While the socio-economic and political crisis of Philippine society was rapidly worsening in the latter half of the 1960s, the proletarian revolutionaries who were guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought separated from the old Communist Party in 1966. They criticised and repudiated the wrong line and strategic errors of the Lavaite leaders of that party since 1942.

They clarified the character of Philippine society as semicolonial and semifeudal and the corresponding character of the Philippine revolution as national and democratic under the leadership of the working class. The motive forces of the revolution are the workers, peasants and the urban petty bourgeoisie. The enemies are US imperialism, the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. The current stage of national democratic revolution through protracted people's war is directed towards reaching the stage of socialist revolution.

Accordingly, the Communist Party of the Philippines was established under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought on December 26, 1968. It founded the New People's Army on March 29, 1969. It initiated the formation of the National Democratic Front on April 24, 1973. In the progression of these events, the revolutionary cadres and the people fought the frenzied and violent preparations and imposition of the fascist dictatorship on the people.

The revolutionary advance of the CPP, NPA and NDF was the decisive factor in the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986. But since then, one regime after another has masqueraded as democratic and has oppressed and exploited the people for the benefit of US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.

The new democratic revolution through protracted people's war has therefore continued in order to fight for national liberation, democracy, social justice, development through land reform and national industrialization, a national, scientific and mass culture and international solidarity for peace and development. The revolutionary forces and people have gained strength through the people's war in the countryside and the legal mass movement in the urban areas.

II. Crimes of US Imperialism and its Puppets


For the purpose of the people in putting on trial US imperialism and its puppets, we must be aware of the comprehensive range of crimes that they are culpable for.

US imperialism must be held accountable. When we speak of US imperialism, we refer to the US federal state and its various agencies, the corporations and banks which are impelled by monopoly capitalism to engage in aggression and plunder.
  1. The genocidal killing of 1.5 million Filipinos amounting to 20 percent of the Philippine population of 7 million is a horrendous crime. It was the brutal way by which US imperialism violated the national sovereignty of the Filipino people and destroyed the Philippine republic.
  2. The direct colonial occupation of the Philippines from 1902 to 1946, except for the interregnum of Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, meant the oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people. The people were taxed by the colonial state to pay for the costs of US aggression and colonial occupation.
  3. The US monopoly capitalists extracted superprofits from the Philippine colony by plundering its natural resources, subjecting the workers to inhumanly low wages in public works and in US enterprises, promoting the unequal exchange of raw-material exports and manufactured imports and subjecting the country to debt peonage to US banks.
  4. The US used the Philippines as launching base for aggression against China and for getting a piece of the Chinese melon in the colonial game. This started the criminal use of US military bases in the Philippines for aggression against the neighboring countries of the Philippines, especially after World War II, against China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.
  5. The US engaged in cultural imperialism and perpetuated colonial mentality. It imposed on the people not only the English language but also pro-imperialist ideas and values that obscured the blood debts of the US and misrepresented the exploitation of the people as beneficial. It bent the feudal and medieval belief system of the dominant Catholic church to serve the interests of US monopoly capitalism.
  6. The US trained the bureaucrats, politicians and professionals to be servile to US imperialist power and to use the language of pro-imperialist liberal democracy to deceive the people. It was most responsible for promoting bureaucrat capitalism. It taught the children of the exploiting classes and the urban petty bourgeois to seek and hold power and amass private wealth through bureaucratic corruption.
  7. The US has fostered the comprador big bourgeoisie as its principal trading and financial agents in the country. This class is responsible for ensuring raw material production for export and for importing foreign manufactures and distributing them in the country. The US has also retained the landlord class for the purpose of controlling food production and agricultural production for export.
  8. When the US pretended to grant independence in the Philippines in 1946, it was sure of being able to rely on its puppets: the big compradors and landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. Since then it has retained control over the economy, the politics, the culture, security and diplomatic relations of the Philippines.
  9. The US is culpable for the semicolonial system of exploitation, underdevelopment and rampant poverty. The daily violence of exploitation has caused the untimely death of many more Filipinos than those 1.5 million killed from 1899 to 1913.
  10. To this day, the US provides arms, indoctrination, training and strategic planning to the military and police forces of the reactionary state and is culpable for military campaigns of suppression and the gross and systematic human rights violations. It has forces of military intervention in the Philippines and uses these to dominate the Philippines and threaten neighboring countries under the US pretext of a permanent war on terrorism and the US strategic policy of pivot to East Asia.

US imperialism maintains hegemony over the Philippines because it is assisted by the big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists. These reactionary puppets are complicit with the US in grave crimes against the Filipino people and they take their own initiatives to oppress and exploit the people.
  1. Puppetry to US imperialism is a grave crime against the people. It is treason. It is the betrayal and violation of the people's sovereignty and national independence in an all-round way. Traitors are subject to trial by the people.
  2. Bureaucratic corruption is a grave crime committed by the bureaucrat capitalists. They auction off the economic sovereignty, the national patrimony and business privileges to foreign monopoly corporations and big compradors. They impose a heavy tax and debt burden on the people and rob the national treasury through the pork barrel system.
  3. The big compradors based in the cities collaborate with and assist the foreign monopoly capitalists in undertaking super-exploitation and extracting superprofits through investments, trade and finance. In combination with US imperialism, they get the most out of the sweat and blood of the people.
  4. The landlords hold sway over the countryside and impose feudal and semifeudal forms of exploitation on the masses of peasants and farm workers. The despotic landlords wield political power and use the armed personnel of the state and private guards to suppress any form of resistance from the exploited.
  5. The rights of the workers are curtailed. The law of the reactionaries is slanted against the workers' right to form trade unions and exercise their democratic rights. Violence is easily employed by the proprietors and the state against the workers' trade unions and their strikes. Thus, the wage and living conditions of workers are always deteriorating.
  6. The puppet reactionary state engages in bogus land reform program to deceive the peasant masses and preserve landlordism in the Philippines. The landlords sell land to the state for the purpose of “land reform” only upon their volition and compensation at the current market price. Landlordism is rampant and so is landgrabbing for the purpose of unbridled mining, logging, plantation and real estate speculation.
  7. Every regime of the reactionary puppet state has a campaign plan for the suppression of peasants who demand land reform and the workers who fight for their trade union rights. The puppets receive arms and advice from their imperialist master for the purpose. The US and every puppet regime wantonly engage in human rights violations.
  8. The share of public education, health, housing and other social services is ever subject to diminution while the funds flow mainly to military expenditures, bureaucratic corruption and debt service.
  9. The right to self-determination of the national minorities and indigenous people is grievously violated. They are deprived of their right to ancestral domain and their land and other natural resources are grabbed from them by the local exploiting classes and by the mining, logging, plantation and real estate companies.
  10. The reactionary puppet state constantly invites the US military forces to further entrench themselves in the Philippines and provides facilities to them in violation of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. It also supports US imperialism in realizing its hegemony and strategic plans over the Asia-Pacific region.

III. The Process of Trying the Malefactors


Upholding, defending and promoting the people's culture is a crucial and necessary part of the comprehensive program for the people's democratic revolution in the Philippines. People's culture has a national, scientific and mass character.

By having a national character, it upholds national independence and serves the needs and aspirations of the nation. It cherishes and harmonizes all the regional and local cultures in the country. It learns from other countries but is not subservient to them or dependent on them. It contributes what it can to the advance of human civilization and international solidarity.

By being scientific in character, it is free from the shackles of medieval belief and superstition and at the same it respects the freedom of thought and belief. It adopts revolutionary ideas from the high road of human civilization. It seeks to modernize and develop society by benefiting from scientific and technological advances.

By having a mass character, it serves the rights and interests of the toiling masses of the people and not of the few who belong to the exploiting classes. The culture of the people is opposed to the culture of the exploiting few.

The arts are a great part of culture. They include architecture, sculpture, painting, creative writing, music, dance, theatre, photography and comics. All these art forms and their creations are not simply passive objects of appreciation or static reflectors of reality, they should be an active force for exposing and opposing the crimes of malevolent forces in society, for arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses and for making fundamental social change.

It is fine that we have with us in this session Walkie MiraƱa who can explain to us the role of the cultural worker as an an organizer of resistance and how the various art forms are concentrated in the theatre as a distinct form of art and done so with minimal costs but with maximum effect in activating the people against injustices and crimes. It is also fine that we have Lisa Ito who can explain to us the art of protest puppetry and how effigies of the malefactors are made and burned in an act of judgement and condemnation. We appreciate the New World Academy for inviting them and also for arranging the exhibition of the works of art that have been created to reflect and advance the national democratic struggle in the Philippines.

It will still take some time before the people's democratic revolution can overthrow the existing ruling system on a nationwide scale in the Philippines in order to put on trial the worst of criminals, mete out punishments to them and put to an end the root causes of oppression and exploitation. But while the juridical processes of the people's democratic state system are not yet available, except in the countryside where revolutionary organs of political power and people's courts have come into existence, the cultural process of putting on trial the criminals through the various art forms can run ahead and have influence and effects on a wide scale.

In reflecting social reality and exposing and opposing the crimes of oppression and exploitation, the various art forms metaphorically, symbolically or allegorically perform the various stages and functions of the criminal trial, such as preliminary investigation, indictment and the trial proper in which facts are established on the basis of evidence and testimonies and the application of law in the judgment. It is the moral court of public opinion rather than a court of law that is addressed in the people's trial of the malefactors. The people's trial can be further invigorated and reinforced by integrating or coordinating it with artistic works and performances.

The existing courts of the oppressors are theatrical in trying and deciding cases within the parameters of the unjust ruling system. The revolutionary people and forces in the Philippines have all the right to stage people's trials of US imperialism and local reactionaries in order to expose and oppose the real criminals and fight for justice. The people's trial has been demonstrated by Philippine organizations since a long time ago. During the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the mass meetings at public squares were referred to as people's tribunals. There have also been internationally well-known indoor trials like those of the Russell Tribunal since 1967 and the Permanent People's Tribunal since 1979.

The people's trial acquires moral authority and political weight 1. because the people themselves and their organizations establish it; 2. because it takes up serious issues which affect the life of an entire nation or the entire humankind but which are ignored or suppressed by the oppressive authorities and by their courts, 3. because it has for judges those respected for moral integrity, knowledge and a high sense of justice; 4. because it adopts the process of hearing out the conflicting sides, especially the long repressed aggrieved side; 5. because it applies the principles and standards provided by international law, especially the International Bill of Rights and International Humanitarian Law; and 6. because the people further legitimize the decisions by propagating and carrying them out.

The people's trial of US imperialism and puppets by the various art forms is meant to arouse, organize and mobilize the masses for the revolutionary movement to get rid of the oppressive and exploitative ruling system and establish a new system in accordance with the people's demands for national Independence, people's democracy and social justice, economic development through land reform and national industrialization, national, scientific and mass culture and international solidarity of peoples for peace and development.

The highest and most serious purpose of the cultural people's trial is to arouse, organize and mobilize the masses and consequently to replace the unjust ruling system. Thereafter, it is the people in a just system that exercise revolutionary power to end national and class oppression and exploitation and authorize and oversee the real juridical people's trial of the criminals.