Newsfeatures“A RADICAL NECESSITY”

“A RADICAL NECESSITY”

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By Charlie Samuya Veric

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I am honored to be with you tonight to speak briefly as an academic upon the invitation of Professor Jose Maria Sison, whom I congratulate on the publication of his latest book, Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution.1

In an interview that came out last year in the Sunday issue of the Philippine Star, Wilson Lee Flores had asked Sison how he wanted Philippine history to remember him and his legacy. “I would like to be remembered,” Sison responded, “as the activist and articulator of the Filipino people’s struggle and aspirations for national independence, genuine democracy, national industrialization and land reform, social justice, a patriotic and progressive culture and international solidarity for peace and development.”2

Sison’s words reveal two important lessons that we will do well to remember.

First, he sees himself as the articulator of the aspirations of the Filipino people for a life that is just, free, and meaningful. The book that we are launching tonight, an addition to a long and growing collection of his works, is a testament to such an idea. Perhaps it can be said that no other living political thinker has meditated on the historical destiny of the Filipino people in the homeland and the diaspora as much as Sison. His thought, in this sense, represents an important cultural archive that creates a radical future for Filipinos everywhere.

Second, Sison imagines himself as the articulator of international solidarity, one that creates the condition for a genuine and perpetual peace to exist. In “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party,” a touchstone in the development of his political thought, Sison would emphasize the “policy of the international united front” as early as 1966.3

This internationalist spirit is responsible for reconnecting me today to Sison’s ideas. I had read him as a student at UP in the late 1990s, but never did I expect to get reunited with his thought as a doctoral student at Yale at the height of the Great Recession in the US. As a member of the Yale Working Group on Globalization and Culture, a cultural studies laboratory whose intellectual roots go back to the heyday of the New Left in the UK, I decided to write about Sison, hoping to compare his political thought with those of Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire.4 In this essay, which was published later in an academic journal, I argued that their writings in the 1960s constituted a world-system of decolonizing thought that made it possible for the proverbial wretched of the earth to imagine the planet as their city to come.

Surprisingly, finding the connection in Fanon, Freire, and Sison’s political thoughts proved to be easy. In many ways, Yale as a place made it possible for me to see what connected the Filipino intellectual to his two more famous contemporaries, even if the latter might not have known the former at all.

Let me say why.

In the heart of Yale campus, a mighty flagpole stands as a memorial to Augustus Canfield Ledyard, an American who fell on Negros Island in 1899.5 Take a few steps into Woolsey Hall, a neo-classical building built in 1901 with frescoed ceilings, and there you will find the names of the dead in what the memorial conveniently calls the Philippine Insurrection. In the auditorium where orchestras would play, one of the seats had been made extra large to hold the weight of the “big man on campus,” William Howard Taft, who was appointed as the Governor General of the Philippines.

These monuments, the cenotaph outside Woolsey Hall states, are dedicated to the “Memory of the MEN of YALE who, true to Her Traditions, gave THEIR LIVES that FREEDOM might not perish from the Earth.”

Not far from the cenotaph in whose shadow I used to sit in springtime, the words of Nelson Mandela, barely visible, are etched in granite walls framing the Beinecke Library, stating: “Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.”

I want to think that the freedom that Mandela cites refers less to the aspirations of Yale’s fallen sons who took up, willingly or not, the white man’s burden. Mandela’s words, it seems to me, relates more to the aborted freedom of the nameless Filipinos who fell 8,483 miles from New Haven so that a more perfect freedom might flourish on this earth.

To connect the unremembered dead on Negros Island to Mandela’s unfinished struggle is to stand, if I may say so, for international solidarity. To make this imaginative leap is to think internationally.

We are grateful to Professor Jose Maria Sison for continuing to remind us of internationalism’s radical necessity.

20 July 2013

 

1 Jose Maria Sison, Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution. Hague and Manila: International Network for Philippine Studies and Aklat ng Bayan, 2013.

2 Wilson Lee Flores. “Joma Sison on Ninoy, Marcos, Cory, P-Noy, Ara Mina, and Lino Brocka: An Interview with Jose Maria Sison.” Philippine Star. 19 August 2012.

3 Jose Maria Sison, “Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party.” In Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution. Initially drafted by Sison in 1966, the document was later ratified by the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968.

4 Charlie Samuya Veric, “Third World Project, or, How Poco Failed.” Social Text 1.114 (2013): 1-20.

5 Elsewhere, I have written about these memorials to forgetting. See Charlie Samuya Veric, “Going to Yale.” Kritika Kultura 7 (2006): 90-92. Available online at http://kritikakultura.ateneo.net/images/pdf/kk7/going.pdf.

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