The Need For A Cultural Revolution
Jose Maria Sison
September 30, 1966
To have a scientific view of culture as we should, we need to understand first of all that culture is a superstructure that rests upon a material basis.
The ideas, institutions and all cultural patterns are dependent on the material mode of existence of a society. These change as all societies are subject to change. There is no permanent society or culture.
The cultural balance, pattern or synthesis that exists in a society at a given historical stage is nothing but the unity of opposites — the unity of opposite cultural forces. This unity is always a temporary balance subject to the dynamism of opposites. The progressive force always outgrows and breaks the old framework which the reactionary force always tries to preserve.
Just as revolution is inevitable in politico-economic relations, revolution is inevitable in culture. A cultural revolution, as a matter of fact, is a necessary aspect of the politico-economic revolution.
In the history of mankind, it can easily be seen that even before the full development of the politico-economic power of an ascendant social class, a cultural revolution provides it with the thoughts and motives that serve as the effective guide to action and further action. A rising class achieves what we call its class consciousness before it actually establishes its own state power and replaces the old state power and its vestiges.
Long before the liberal revolution of Europe dealt the most effective political blows against feudal power in the 17th and 18th century, a cultural revolution took shape in the Renaissance which asserted secular thinking and freedom of thought. The men of the Renaissance questioned the clerical hegemony over culture and learning and they clarified the ideals and values that were still to become truly dominant later when the unity of church and state was to be broken and replaced by the modern bourgeois state. The successful revolution of the bourgeoisie in the West was prepared and guided by a cultural revolution.
In our country, there had to be a propaganda movement—the assertion of new ideas and values—before there developed the actual beginnings of the Philippine revolution that fell under the class leadership of the ilustrados or the liberal bourgeoisie that surrounded Aguinaldo. In this Propaganda Movement, Dr. Jose Rizal made patriotic annotations on Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas with the view of demonstrating that before the coming of Spanish colonialism there was an indigenous culture that the indios could be proud of. This was clearly an anticolonial attempt not only to show up the racial arrogance of those who belittled our people but also to develop an awareness of a national culture.
Not to be carried away by chauvinism, Dr. Jose Rizal further presented the crisis of colonial culture in the Philippines and the prospects of a national culture in terms of the liberal ideas and values of Europe which he believed could be applied in the concrete experience of his people, in as much as there was already the emergence of the ilustrados like Crisostomo Ibarra and businessmen like Capitan Tiago.
The two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibustirismo, and his essays, the “Indolence of the Filipinos” and “The Philippines A Century Hence,” were written in furtherance of a national democratic cultural revolution. It was a revolution in the sense that it contraposed national culture to the colonial culture of which the friars were the chief defenders. It was in this same spirit that the participants of the Propaganda Movement wrote as Marcelo H. del Pilar did, orated as Graciano Lopez Jaena did and painted as Juan Luna did.
All of them exposed the exploitation and brutalization of our people, thus paving the way for the clear call for separation from Spain by the Katipunan. The Katipunan, which was a vigorously separatist movement and which served as the nucleus of a new national political community carried forward into revolutionary action the aspiration for a national democratic culture, integrating democratic concepts with the indigenous conditions.
From Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto to Apolinario Mabini and Antonio Luna, the fire of cultural revolution rose higher and higher and shone with the political ideas that guided the Philippine Revolution of 1896. What came to be considered our national culture in the beginning was the integration of modern political ideas and indigenous conditions. The emergence of that national culture was essentially a political phenomenon; a national culture arose in direct and necessary opposition to the colonial and clerical culture which exploited and brutalized our people. An awareness of national culture spread among the Filipino people as fast as national sentiment and consciousness spread among them. The political awareness of a national community reintegrated the cultural patterns in the provinces, surpassing both the barangay culture of pre-Hispanic times and the feudal Christian culture under Spanish domination. The desire for a modern national democratic society opposed the feudal society developed by the conquistadores from the rule of the rajahs and the datus who submitted themselves as local puppets of the foreign dispensation.
Our people’s aspiration for national democracy and for a modern culture of the same cast were, unfortunately, frustrated by the coming of US imperialism.
Taking advantage of the naivete and compromising character of our ilustrado or liberal bourgeois leaders, the US imperialists easily insinuated themselves into our country by pretending to give aid to our efforts to free our motherland. After all, did not the patriots of the Propaganda Movement praise so much the ideas of Jefferson, the American Declaration of Independence and the American struggle against British colonialism?
Alas, little was it realized that the American revolution, which we still remember today for its national democratic ideals, had taken the path of monopoly capitalist development and had become an imperialist power greedy for colonies in Asia and Latin America. Though it shouted loud its slogans of bringing democracy and Christianity to the Philippines, as required by a supposed divine mandate received by President McKinley in his dream, it came to suppress the First Philippine Republic and the Malolos Constitution which embodied our people’s national democratic aspirations.
As efficiently as the Spaniards were in suppressing the rich cultural achievements of our ancestors, the US imperialists went about their work of brutally suppressing any manifestation of patriotism by the Filipino people. Today, despite the current horror of the US imperialist war of aggression in Vietnam, many still have the illusion that the US imperialists are smart, subtle and smooth operators. But what is more cruel and crude than the mass murder of more than 1.5 million Filipinos to achieve US imperialist conquest of the Philippines, as was done in the Filipino-American War of 1899-1913?
What is more rude and inconsiderate than the all-out imperialist attempt during the first decade of this century to censor and suppress newspapers, drama, poetry, and other cultural efforts which manifested Filipino patriotism and national democratic aspirations?
The mere display of the Philippine flag was enough ground for a Filipino to be punished for sedition.
Until today, many of our youth and elders are deprived of the memory of the national democratic struggle of our people. They have been made to forget. How is this possible even if there seems to be no more open coercion to prevent us from reviewing our national history?
The history of mankind shows that state power and any appearance of stability in any class society are sustained by the force of arms and other coercive means. However, in so far as forgetting one’s history is concerned, control of the means of cultural development is necessary to get such a result. A state, such as one that is imperialist, does not only have the instruments for coercion but also the instruments for persuasion.
The first decisive step taken by the US government in order to develop its cultural and educational control over the Philippines was to impose the English language as the medium of instruction and as the official language. On the national scale, a foreign language became the first language in government and business. English merely replaced Spanish as the vehicle of the foreign power dominating us. A foreign language may widen our cultural horizons, opening our eyes to those parts of the world expressed by that language. But if such a foreign language is forced on our people as has been the case with Spanish and English consecutively, it undermines and destroys the sense of national and social purpose that should be inculcated. Within our nation this foreign language divides the educated and wealthy from the masses. It is not only a measure of class discrimination but also one of national subjugation. It means a cultural constriction represented a long time ago by a Doña Victorina.
The two most significant results of the adoption of English as the first language in the practice of the educated are: first, learning and the professions are alienated from the masses and only serve the ruling class in the incessant class struggle; and second, the Filipino people are actually cut off from other peoples of the world and become victimized by imperialist propaganda.
Some persons might argue that the US government had really intended to spread English among the masses by establishing the public school system. They might, with extreme nostalgia, recall the coming of the Thomasites and what had developed from their work; they might recall how American teachers taught their language better than many Filipino English teachers do today. Foolishly, they are liable to find justification in this for the Peace Corps and other cultural devices meant to perpetuate US imperialist cultural influence among the people.
Those favoring the dominance of imperialist culture at the expense of our developing national culture are treading treasonous grounds. It is already well exposed by history that the public school system has served essentially as a brainwashing machine for cleansing the people’s minds of their national democratic aspirations. The colonially-tutored children came to know more about Washington and Lincoln than about Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. The national democratic concepts of our national heroes were forgotten and only innocuous anecdotes were told about them.
US imperialism became in their eyes the liberator and not the conqueror and oppressor of the people in fact. US imperialism has found more use in our learning of English than we would have found for ourselves if we developed our own national language. We have about three generations of Filipinos spewed by the imperialist brainwashing machine. The general run of these Filipinos have an intellectual orientation, habits, and consumption attitudes subordinated to the so-called American way of life.
In self-criticism, let us accept how much so many of us have become acculturized to US imperialism. To propose that we embark on a genuine program of national industrialization and agrarian revolution is to become extremely “subversive.” We are eyed with suspicion by some just because we had dared to challenge the colonial character of the economy and, therefore, of the prevailing politics.
We must propose the Filipinization of schools, the press, radio and other media which are decisive in the conditioning of minds because in the hands of foreigners, these constitute direct foreign political power and intervention in our national affairs. These media of education and information immediately direct public opinion and, as it has been since the coming of US imperialism, they have served to keep permanent our cultural as well as our political bondage.
The cultural aggression of US imperialism in our country continues unabated. It takes various forms. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has a decisive say on educational policies at the highest governmental level. Textbook production and procurement are directed by it in the Department of Education. Multifarious projects designed to execute directly US foreign cultural policy are actually supported by the counterpart peso fund which we provide. To a great extent, the Philippine government is actually subsidizing USIS and other forms of “clasped hands” propaganda.
In a strategic place like the University of the Philippines (UP), General Carlos P. Romulo continues to open the door to foreign grants from such foundations as Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation. He has sought loans from foreign financing institutions like the World Bank for the purpose of his so-called five-year development program. The naive teacher, student and administrator in my Alma Mater might think that Romulo is doing a fine job for us. But actually, he is doing a fine job for the cause of a cultural imperialism which is in the service of US monopoly capitalism.
We have examined closely the present proliferation of institutes and research projects in the UP which are meant only to accommodate the cultural agents of the US government, both American and Filipino. We have examined closely how much US imperialist advice and actual direction has affected and will affect the curricula and materials for study. We have to examine closely what is the whole idea behind the USD 6 million World Bank loan to the UP.
How, for instance, is this related to present plans and operations of Esso fertilizer, International Harvester, United Fruit and others? We should inquire more critically into the increasing physical presence of US imperialist personnel in the UP. The US government plans every step it takes in consideration of the monopoly interests it must represent in its foreign policy. Unlike the Philippine government, the US government takes its action in the cultural field on the basis of national interests.
The pensionado mentality among our brighter students, teachers and professors have become so instilled that to promote their career it is a “must” for them to take one American scholarship grant or another. We must be critical of their mentality and we must pursue a new cultural revolution that should put in order the values of those who have fallen prey to this mentality . They go to the United States only to learn concepts and cases that do not apply on the concrete experience of our people. Their thinking is completely alienated from the masses and at most they become self-seeking careerists.
There is a worse kind of Filipino professional than the one who finally returns to his country. He is either a doctor, a nurse or some other professional who prefers to stay in the United States as a permanent resident or who tries to become an American citizen. This type of fellow is a subtle betrayer of his country and, in the most extreme cases, a loud-mouthed vilifier of the Filipino people. He goes to a foreign land for higher pay and that is all he is interested in. He does not realize how much social investment has been put into his public schooling from the elementary level and up, and he refuses to serve the people whose taxes have paid for his education. We criticize him but we must as well condemn the government that allows him to desert and that fails to inspire him to work for the people.
While there is an apparent exodus of our bright young men and women to the United States and other lands under the direction of the US, the US government ironically sends the Peace Corps and encourages all sorts of projects (many of which are CIA-directed) intending to send young American men and women abroad. Whereas these young Americans are going to our countryside guided by the foreign policy of their government, our bright young men and women are abandoning the countryside to crowd each other out in the city or to take flight entirely from their country. We refer to the Peace Corps here as a challenge to our youth.
These agents of a foreign government are here to perpetuate their government’s longstanding policies and cultural influence. They are agents of renewed US imperialist efforts to aggravate their cultural control; thus, they are described as the new Thomasites. The presence of US imperialist agents of one sort or another in our countryside poses a threat to the development of a national democratic movement among us. Beyond their role of showing pictures of New York and Washington to impressionable children is the counter-insurgency rationale behind their organization.
While these sweet boys and girls in the Peace Corps are now immediately creating goodwill (which is a euphemism for political influence) and performing intelligence functions, these same sweet boys and girls can always come back with new orders from their government. This counterinsurgency aspect and psywar and intelligence value of the Peace Corps are what makes it subversive to the interest of a national democratic movement.
The Filipino youth should go to the countryside to learn from the people and to arouse them for the national democratic revolution.