Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interview With A Revolutionary Filipino Filmmaker (Part Four)

Receiving support from his former lead actor Lito Lapid in 1998
This is the concluding part of my interview with Mauro Gia Samonte. In part one he talked us through his introduction to working class politics as a young man. Part two took us on a journey into a political struggle charged with the constant threat of violence, and part three brought us up to date, with Mauro's analysis of the contemporary Philippines. But at the age of seventy, what ambitions remain?

What are your personal hopes for the future? 
Truly they are too personal indeed. To live long enough to see my darling granddaughter through to college. Gia, the child, is turning only seven this August. So that’s a whole lot of livin’ to do. And as you can glean from the conduct of my past lifetime, beneath every minute of strictly private living, there always is something happening that pushes on and on that most cherished dream we caught once upon a time in our youth and had not let go again since then. To the extent that the best service you can do to the proletariat is championing people’s causes and reaching out to like-minded guys like you the world over through the internet, still I’d continue feeling greatly fulfilled.

Another personal hope is the publication into a book of my novel Shoes of the Traveller, currently running in my blog The Traveller. If I get enough audience, especially in Europe and the US, I intend to make it into a film intended for international audience as well. If it turns out to be the last movie I’ll ever make, then I should be glad that I shall have left something worthwhile before going.

And what are your political hopes?
It is the same, then as now, that one single hope of seeing in my lifetime workers in the Philippines having a real good grab at political power. What worldly possessions I have, I have staked in this – the land, the house, my kids and my grandchildren, their future. Though I’ve got children talented enough to have gained fortune along bourgeois lines, I have not honed them on this, since it is a sin to be bourgeois.

The land I acquired with my earnings from movie making, I never got to be titled, since what’s the use titling a property which would be part of the communal domain eventually anyway. The 625-square-meter house I built on it would seem to be too big for my family’s domicile, but certainly not for the housing and conference requirements of the Party Central Committee, the Politburo and the General Command of the People’s Army.

Imagine how big a loss it has been for me when the Sison Reaffirm campaign brought about my isolation from the Party all for pushing what I thought and believed to be the correct proletarian revolutionary line. I had always stood by the dictum in the Communist Manifesto that the duty of every communist is to organize the proletariat into a class, overthrow bourgeois supremacy and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Philippine proletariat had been already organized way back in the early 1900s when they took the frontlines in combating American aggression and in 1930 formed themselves into the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) under the leadership of  Crisanto Evangelista. When in line with the American strategy War Plan Orange the US abandoned the Philippines during World War II to focus on the European theatre, the PKP with its army, the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Army Against Japan, acronym: HUK), took the brunt of battle against the Japanese invaders. When MacArthur made his famous return to the Philippines in 1945, the PKP was exercising sovereignty over the whole of Central Luzon and could be well on the way to liberating the rest of the country, since the Japanese were frantically retreating to the hinterlands.

The point in all this is that as far as organizing the Philippine proletariat into a class is concerned, it had been a done deal from the time of the American occupation, and what was next to be done according to the communist strategy is to overthrow bourgeois supremacy. This, too, had almost been done with the liberation of Central Luzon from the Japanese invaders, except that the Americans came and turned their guns on the PKP, thus aborting that overthrow.

At any rate, at issue when Sison pretended to the leadership of the proletarian revolutionary struggle beginning from the late sixties: What is “overthrow bourgeois supremacy”? The Sison line said it is a protracted people’s war at the end of which is the establishment of national democracy, whatever that meant.

I campaigned, albeit in my lonesome, that, the Philippine bourgeoisie having been well in place at political power since 1946, “overthrow bourgeois supremacy” means power grab in the existing bourgeois political order; it does not mean launching armed socialist revolution but rather a proletarian power grab of bourgeois political power; such was the power grab executed by the Bolsheviks when through the simple expedience of arresting the Kerensky cabinet, they seized the bourgeois political power in Russia, only after which did they make the socialist proclamation: “All power to the soviets!”

Fidel Castro was not fighting for socialism when he warred with the Batista dictatorship, he was fighting for the downfall of Batista, not for the crushing of bourgeois power. Only after he had overthrown Batista did Castro proclaim the establishment of a socialist regime in Cuba. Overthrowing bourgeois supremacy means grabbing bourgeois political power. Establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat comes relatively easy after that; in the case of the Bolsheviks and Castro, it had been almost just the formality of proclaiming it.

In the case of Sison, his was a muddle-headed way of revolting against the Marcos dictatorship which effected not really a call for his downfall but for the establishment, already, of socialism. It was fitting a square peg into a round hole; they don’t fit. Hence while the Castro revolt and that of the Bolsheviks took only months to achieve victory, the Sison uprising has been raging over the past four decades and is counting, living quite up to its name of being “protracted”.

No armed struggle has ever won against a non-autocratic bourgeois system. And even under bourgeois authoritarianism, bourgeois political power is grabbed by the proletariat from within, only after which may it be transformed into proletarian political power, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, in the final analysis, the bourgeois state is not overthrown in order to bring about the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat; only bourgeois supremacy is overthrown, with the new proletarian rule transforming the bourgeois state into the proletarian state.

With the bourgeois rule in the Philippines having been placed on the road to consolidation through the democratic elections of 1992, I finally conceded the restoration of the democratic rule of the bourgeoisie in the country, hence recognized the need to carry on the proletarian struggle within that bourgeois rule. That was what social conditions dictated, and inasmuch as nobody in the Sison national democratic movement would put any premium on this idea, I was pitiably alone when I put the theory into practice.

Spending what little earnings I had from making movies, I ran for mayor of Antipolo in 1995, intending to implement a program of government which I loved to call socialism in one municipality. I laid it out during the campaign that if this program, for being truly pro-people, would be adopted by the other municipalities in the province, then it would be like I were governor of the province; if adopted by all the provinces of the country, then it would be like I were president of the Philippines. Thus by turning one municipality socialist, you effect the establishment of a socialist Philippines.

Of course I never lost sight of the repressive character of the bourgeois state as inhered in laws, so that to my socialist programs, the bourgeois rule would react accordingly. That certainly is given, but the point is that after having tasted what good government really is, the people would object to a taking of that kind of government way from them. Once the powers that be do move to take away that government from the people, autocracy would be back in place and armed struggle would again be the rule of the day. With the big difference, that this time around the people would be very well informed by virtue of direct practice.

What I failed to consider in this political adventure are the imperatives of Philippine electoral process where elective posts, down from the lowliest barrio chairmen all the way up to majors, governors, congressmen, senators and the very President of the land, are up for grab by the highest bidders. Twice I ran for mayor, twice I lost. And my finances had been so depleted that I could no longer run for the third time. For sometime, I had been wont to call myself stupid for having ever attempted those political practice.

But was there any other way? How do you liberate the workers except by wielding political power, but how do you wield political power where the armed struggle had been rendered inutile? By engaging in the electoral process. There is nothing much we can do about the corruption of that process. It is inherent in the bourgeois system. The thing to do is, while living by that corruption for the time being, overcome it thereby putting it to good use for the proletariat. So now to your question, if I succeed in getting my book published and succeed in turning it into a movie and the movie makes good, I’ll use the money to give my electoral adventure one more try – and hope to win the next time around. Unless you’ve got better ideas. I’m listening.

Mauro blogs at KAMAO Punch, and tweets @mauro_gia.
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