STUDENT POWER?


(First published in Eastern Horizon, a progressive Hongkong
magazine.)

This is one of the protest action took place during the infamous "First Quarter Storm".

BEFORE WE GO far into a discussion of the ideology and goals of
the rising student rebel movement in the Philippines, let us
first examine the term student power which is nowadays commonly
used in the bourgeois mass media and also among the varied
circles of the New Left so-called.

It appears that the common notion of student power is that
students all by themselves can develop their own power
independent of other social forces outside of school walls and
also that all by themselves they can hit the streets to make and
unmake governments. There is the idea being suggested that the
students can be an independent power that can effect even
revolutionary changes. Those who have contempt for the masses or
who deliberately wish to separate the students from the masses
and national mass organizations insist that students should no
longer be the object of interest of "outsiders".

If the meaning of the term student power be limited to mere
autonomism, then we need to raise serious disagreement in the
light of an analysis of the social status of students. Students
who truly stand for revolutionary change should always strive for
integration with larger and even more dynamic social force, that
is to say, the exploited masses of the people.

The students, or more precisely the college and high school
students, cannot be relied upon to carry the sole or the main
burden in a revolutionary transformation of our present semi-
colonial and semi-feudal society. They are a very small portion
of Philippine society, though they are an important and numerous
part of the influential petty bourgeoisie.

The social basis of college and high school students is the petty
bourgeoisie, though a little minority of them come from
exploiting classes. By virtue of their social position and of the
fact that the existing educational system is semi-colonial and
semi-feudal, students are at the first instance captives of
imperialist and feudalistic ideas and values. The petty bourgeois
is principally concerned with his selfish ambition of pursuing a
career within the established system and he is so indoctrinated
and trained by the educational system as to re-enforce
intellectually and technically the present social system.

But in time of developing social crisis, the students largely
supported by their petty bourgeois parents cam easily become
agitated when the meager and fixed incomes of their parents can
hardly suffice to keep them enrolled in school, with the proper
board and lodging or with enough allowances. They are also
agitated as they watch an ever increasing number of graduates
fail to get jobs or have ample opportunity in the system. At this
time, they are beginning by force of social circumstances to use
freely their perception and intellect to analyze their own
situation and social reality at large. This is the time when they
feel sharply the restrictive and exploitative character of the
social system. This is the time when they recognize the
educational system to be a mere mirror-reflector and rationalizer
of economic and political inequities that is failing to yield
them enough concessions as before. This is the time when they
begin to speak of the alienation of the educational system from
the actual needs and aspirations of their own and of the masses
of the people.

In time of social crisis, the exploiting classes lose the
allegiance of students. The students increasingly associate
themselves with the exploited classes. They make common cause
with those whose condition they are in danger of falling into.
What is considered the "independent-mindedness" of the urban
petty bourgeoisie (the much-vaunted intelligent middle class)
shifts from an allegiance to the exploiting classes to an
allegiance to the exploited masses. At the same time, the
exploited masses of the people welcome them in a common cause and
in a common struggle.

The Current Student Rebel Movement

It is no surprise that at the present time, when the whole
society is in crisis, when the government is becoming more and
more bankrupt and the masses of the people are groaning under the
weight of exploitation, a wave of student strikes rises in the
Philippines. There are protests involving questions ranging from
the suppression of the student's right to speak out on national
issues and join mass actions to the excessive hike of tuition and
miscellaneous fees. The students are also uniting with their
teachers against the exploitative practices of school
administrations. Together they raise political and economic
demands.

By virtue of its comprehensive grasp of the growing crisis in the
national and international situation, Kabataang Makabayan has
been able to anticipate and plan the development of the national
student protest movement in the Philippines. As early as the
first semester of the academic year 1967-68, its local chapters
with the special attention of its national officers had already
launched a number of strikes in some schools in the provinces and
a general strike almost occurred in the University of the
Philippines on the issue of further Americanization. On November
30, 1967, at its Second National Congress, the KM included in its
Programme of Action the following:

Among the students, the activists of Kabataang Makabayan should
fight for concrete measures that will benefit them. At the same
time, they are responsible for giving a national-democratic
direction to the efforts of students to improve their study and
living conditions.

The Kabataang Makabayan should develop a national student protest
movement against the rising cost of education and living. It
should stand against the willingness of the government to allow
the public school system to be stifled and to deteriorate in
favour of private schools which are, as a matter of course,
motivated by commercialism.

The current student rebel movement has been most vigorous in
schools where there are strong KM chapters. These student
chapters have lent all the support they can to the local student
reform movements to such an extent that the reactionary academic
authorities and President Marcos have been compelled to attack
student strikers as "outsiders" and "subversives" to confuse the
issues. Mountain of leaflets for every school have been
distributed falsely in the name of Kabataang Makabayan in order
to malign it and in order to confuse the students.

The scope and intensity of the students strikes is unprecedented
in the entire history of the Philippines. It might appear that
they are a phenomenon entirely different from the long series of
student and youth demonstrations that started as early as March
14, 1961, when a student front spearheaded by the Student
Cultural Association of the U.P. demonstrated with the force of
4,000 students against the witch-hunt undertaken by the Committee
on Un-Filipino Activities (CUFA).

All these student mass actions are interrelated and continuous.
The inter-connection and continuity do not lie only in the
popularization of direct democratic action but also in the
substantial demands raised. Student strikes and demonstrations
have developed because of the evil features of a system that is
semi-colonial and semi-feudal, because of conditions that
adversely affect the students themselves. The anti-CUFA
demonstration of 1961 was ostensibly in defence of academic
freedom and autonomy of the state university but in reality it
was already a defence of the right of teachers and students to
speak for the cause of national democracy. From then on, student
activism arose with the banner of national democracy and
continued to develop without let-up inside and outside the state
university.

There were smaller demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of
Cuba, against Malaysia and against imperialist nuclear black-mail
until October 2, 1964, when the students conjoined with workers
in demonstrating massively against parity rights and the American
military bases in front of the U.S. embassy and Malaca¤ang. On
November 30, 1964, Kabataang Makabayan was formed to consolidate
the students and young workers that had participated in the
militant demonstration of October 2, 1964, and that had come
under the threat of fixed bayonets.

On January 25, 1965, Kabataang Makabayan, together with other
mass organizations, was already in a position to launch a 20,000-
strong demonstration of students, workers and peasants on a wide
range of issues involving our country's basic problems of U.S.
imperialism and feudalism.

Then came the series of demonstrations against the Vietnam Bill
which would require a suffering country like the Philippines to
help U.S. imperialism aggress further against the Vietnamese
people. These reached a climacteric point on October 23 and 24,
1966, when the Manila Summit was held as an attempt of Lyndon B.
Johnson to round up its Asian puppets for more aggressive action
against the Vietnamese people. The just anger of youth became
expressed in this demonstration even as the most brutal police
action was employed against them in a pocket-size and mild
version of Vietnam at the Manila Hotel.

On the question of Malaysia last year, the most wide-spread youth
demonstration all over the country was credited to chapters of
Kabataang Makabayan. Especially the most militant action at the
British embassy and U.S. embassy was adduced to Kabataang
Makabayan by quarters merely interested in expanding the
Philippine territory to Sabah while keeping silent on the U.S.
military bases under our very noses. Kabataang Makabayan has
always made it clear that it is simply against Malaysia as a
handiwork of Anglo-American imperialism.

There have been other demonstrations like those against the oil
monopolies on the matter of implementing the retail trade
nationalization law, against the U.S. military bases for the
killing of Filipino youth and so on and so forth. There has also
been KM participation in strikes conducted in local factories and
other places.

In all significant protest actions held previous to the current
student rebel movement, we can never fail to show their relation
to the growing socio-economic crisis of the Philippines due
basically to its out-moded and semi-colonial and semi-feudal
status.

Struggle for National Democracy

We have always advocated the achievement of real national
democracy as the goal of our struggle. The present struggle of
the students have as its principal goal the achievement of
national democracy. A comprehensive presentation of this general
goal is the Programme of Action of Kabataang Makabayan. All other
goals flow from this single goal. Students should band together
and fight vigorously to end foreign and feudal exploitation that
constricts their opportunities and those of the whole nation.

As the national democratic struggle is a broad struggle,
embracing the workers, peasants and other sectors of the
population, the students should always relate their own struggle
to that of the entire people, mainly the struggle of the
exploited masses of workers and peasants.

Being a minority social group which is even detached from the
actual process of production, the students are in no position to
make possible revolutionary and lasting changes without their
integration with the struggle of the masses of workers and
peasants.

All serious efforts should, therefore, be undertaken in order to
transform the present student rebel movement into a cultural
revolution of a national democratic orientation. We have dared
say before that it is veritably already an incipient cultural
revolution. Its beginnings are already forceful enough to make
the first Propaganda Movement look like a dinner party.

The Second Propaganda Movement that we have been advocating is
essentially a cultural revolution of a national democratic
orientation. It is the phase of creating the public opinion
necessary for a comprehensive national democratic revolution. The
struggle for national democracy cannot be successfully won
without this cultural revolution.

In this cultural revolution, the students play an important role.
The ranks of students now are more sizable than ever before in
the whole history of the Philippines and they have the special
characteristic of mobility. As the students emanate from various
parts of the country and of a province, once they grasp the ideas
of the struggle for national democracy, they can fan out widely
to broadcast these ideas of revolutionary change even if only
during their vacation periods or after their graduation or when
they choose to work full time for the revolutionary mass movement
and merge with the masses in a no-nonsense manner. Many students
are dropping out of school for economic reasons; it would be a
good thing for these economic drop-outs to engage in a political
struggle that seeks to improve their lot and that of the people.

It is the further goal of the cultural revolution to have the
ideas of national democratic revolution transformed into a
material force. In making the cultural revolution, we launch mass
protest actions like strikes and demonstrations, we hold
conferences, seminars,lectures, teach-ins, and other fora, and we
publish rebel newspapers, pamphlets and leaflets and we speak out
without end for national democracy in classrooms, in the streets,
over the radio and everywhere else. But our further goal is
always to impel mass mobilization. Our campaign for mass
revolutionary education immediately creates the most tangible
reality by mobilizing right away the masses of the people.

The students and youth play a vanguard role in the cultural
revolution, as the Red Guards in their own high stage of cultural
revolution, as the 10,000 French students that aroused more than
10 million French workers, as the Vietnamese youth through armed
propaganda units and cultural organizations. But the ultimate
goal for the students and youth that are truly committed to the
national democratic revolution is always to merge with the masses
of the people as they constantly remould their own thinking and
discard their petty bourgeois or individualistic prejudices and
predilections.


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