Struggle for national democracy


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National Democracy and Civil Liberties
Every activist of the national-democratic movement knows the important relationship between his struggle for national sovereignty and civil liberties. When he is deprived of civil liberties, his basic rights of expression and assembly, or is hampered in his pursuit of national democracy, there is a political power in the status quo which refuses to afford him those civil liberties. Necessarily this political power becomes the object of criticism of the movement to which he belongs. The political situation where activists unfailingly discover that they do not have as much freedom as they thought they had, exists in the Philippines today.
For us to understand the relationship between the struggle for national sovereignty and civil liberties, we must understand the structure of political relations and of political power in a given society. We need to consider the fact of classes and organized groups within our national society and within which conscious individuals exist and operate. These classes and organized groups mediate or bridge without exception the individual with the nation. The freedom of these classes and organizations within Philippine society and within which Filipinos necessarily find themselves must be fully taken into account if a fruitful study is to be made of the two distinct levels of national freedom and individual freedom.
The struggle for national sovereignty and civil liberties made a compound in modern bourgeois democracy, particularly in its early pre-monopoly stage. We would say that modern democracy as it evolved in Europe implied essentially the principle of popular sovereignty and the actual force of a national state dominated by the national bourgeoisie. In the bourgeois-democratic attack against the feudal order in Europe, it was necessary to define and build the national state before the Bill of Rights could be enjoyed even if only by the bourgeoisie at the expense later of the spontaneous masses inveigled by the populist and libertarian slogans of the bourgeois revolution against the theo-autocracies of feudalism.
In the Philippines, it is particularly important to assert that only after national sovereignty has been fully secured and incorporated into a genuinely free national state will civil liberties be truly enjoyed by the people. It was precisely the function of the Philippine Revolution at the outset to attack a feudal system developed in the archipelago and establish a republican government and a national state. It is historically clear that the main objective of the Philippine Revolution has been to establish a national sovereignty which is not only anti-feudal, as in the West but which is also anti-colonial and anti-imperialist. By being anti-colonial in acting against Spanish colonialism and being anti-imperialist in acting against U.S. imperialism, the Philippine Revolution carried heavier burdens than the national anti-feudal revolutions of Europe and made it starkly clear that alien sovereignty in the Philippines must first be eliminated before national freedom and individual freedom successively can be possible.
The tasks of the Philippine Revolution have been the national integration of its internal elements and national liberation from Spanish colonialism and subsequently U.S. imperialism. What follows, after national liberation, is the consolidation of revolutionary gains by the very same instruments and forces which have made national liberation possible and which enforce the national state. The Philippine Revolution of 1896 would have resulted in a Philippine state, self-determined and with free-willed international relations, had it been successful in successively overthrowing Spanish colonial power and in preventing the brutal victory of U.S. imperialism.
U.S. imperialism frustrated the establishment of a Philippine state and government that could have truly granted civil liberties to its citizens subject only to the balance of power among internal patriotic classes and organizations within the state and in accordance with the terms of the Malolos Constitution. U.S. imperialism employed the essential force of a well-established state, that is, military and coercive means, against the Filipino people who desired the establishment of their own sovereign power and national state. It was U.S. aggression, dictated by monopoly-capitalist expansionism, which set back the Filipino struggle for sovereignty and national statehood in the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902.
After the frontal clashes between the Philippine revolutionary army and the imperialist army of the U.S. government, when the so-called pacification campaign was supposed to have been finished, in the field of combat in favor of imperialism, the latter engaged in the most thorough military police work to curtail the civil liberties of the Filipino people. The suppression of what could have been a full-fledged Filipino democracy with its own national sovereignty, resulted likewise in the suppression of its particular components, individual freedom or civil liberties, as the most ignominious censorship laws, sedition laws and so-called brigandage laws were promulgated to prevent any opposition to the imperialist imposition of U.S. sovereignty over our people. Within the first decade of this century, our people were prohibited from displaying their own flag, were prohibited from reading literature with patriotic undertones or overtones, were prohibited from holding or attending meetings and public functions that did not fly the U.S. flag, were prohibited from organizing themselves into groups that suggested in any degree the desire for national independence. Instead of bringing democracy, as pro-U.S. slogans insist, U.S. imperialism came to kill national democracy in the Philippines.
The violent impositions of U.S. imperialism on our people, who were already asserting their right to self-determination, confirms the definition of the bourgeois state as essentially the institutionalization of violence or coercive force for the purpose of exploitation. The rule of law that followed our conquest by imperialism cannot be correctly viewed without paying due attention to the coercive means that the United States employed to extract from our people its imperialist privileges and to establish in our country its system of making superprofits. The enjoyment of individual freedom and class freedom of a certain kind and extent became possible only with the consent and tolerance of the ruling power.
This was the essence of such euphemistic imperialist slogans as “benevolent assimilation” and “tutelage for self-government,” which were raised to whitewash the brutal truth, in McKinley’s Instructions and in the Jones Law.
Even before the completion of the pacification drive against the revolutionary forces and the defeat of Filipino democracy, U.S. imperialism set out to take advantage of the class divisions in Philippine society. In waging national suppression, class suppression and class collaboration, U.S. imperialism used the technique of divide-and-rule. Even as the U.S. could militarily maintain strategic control of the Philippines, it needed internal collaborators in the administration of the colonial system and to restrain the revolutionary temper of the masses. These collaborators could be persons but at best they were political groups and social classes which are objectively more stable than individuals. Thus, U.S. imperialism thought it wise to accommodate the liberal bourgeoisie, the ilustrado class, as its class collaborator. The ilustrado class was immediately granted its freedom, its right of colonial expression and assembly. Its members were allowed to organize the Federalista Party, whose main plank was the annexation of the Philippine islands to the United States of America. Affiliation to this party was a sure ticket for a comfortable office in the imperialist regime. The ilustrado class selfishly alienated itself from the peasant masses and the germinal proletariat. From the narrow liberal point of view, which could easily accept the system of individual rewards and punishments in an imperialist-dominated society, the cream of Filipino ilustrados distinguished themselves by turning their family landholdings to their personal advantage, by participating in the colonial exchange of agricultural raw material exports and manufactured imports and by deriving the most spoils from their choice government positions.
The only concession that the Filipino masses got from U.S. imperialism, more as a consequence of the impact of the Philippine Revolution than of imperialist benevolence, was the establishment of a public school system which the Filipino reformists of the Propaganda Movement had already demanded from the old type of colonialism without much success. U.S. imperialism, with its capitalist-industrial base, was in a better position to afford these reforms or concessions for propaganda, for controlling the minds of Filipino children and youth, for creating local appetite for U.S. commodities and for developing a more extensive system of neocolonial clerks capable of filling up the administrative and technical requirements of imperialist domination.

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