Biyernes, Hulyo 3, 2009

A Maverick Proletariat

by Jose Torres Jr.
The Sunday Paper, Vol. 2, No. 17, Feb. 11-17, 2001

He lived a life of a revolutionary and died in a fashion almost always fated for someone like him. In his death, Filemon "Ka Popoy" Lagman, inspired by his native and seemingly uncontrollable "extreme militant tendencies" left behind a trail of ideological chaos that has thrown the Left in disarray.

His ideas definitely stirred not only the progressive sector, but the whole society itself. His style of presenting - and insisting - his ideas on those around him was invariably described as "convincing," "obnoxious" and "downright arrogant."

Ka Popoy has many images to different people that elicit a whole spectrum of emotions from admiration to disgust. It was a testament of the complexity of his character.

His allies say he is a big loss to the progressive movement. And even his critics admit that Lagman's "extreme militant tendencies" played a very important role in the development of the Filipino people's ideological consciousness.

Ricardo Reyes, vice president of the party-list Akbayan and former secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP), where Lagman once belonged, said the Philippine Left would have been different without Lagman.

With the death of Ka Popoy, the progressive movement has lost "a superb organizer and a very fertile mind" for developing the workers' movement from a worker's perspective, Reyes told The Sunday Paper. He said Lagman's dedication to the labor movement is his "distinct contribution."

With Lagman's brutal death in the hands of his assassins "the working class lost a very vocal and a very ardent advocate."

Here are some of Reyes thoughts about Popoy as told to The Sunday Paper:

"More than any activist coming from the ranks of the intellectuals in his generation, he is the most conscious about developing workers' lives. Popoy viewed the Philippine revolution and Philippine society from a framework very close to the Leninist thought; that's why he was able, and made it a point, to draw the line, and even to criticize all the postulates of the Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought."

"He expounded his thoughts through articles he wrote, although most of the time he did it through vocal, argumentative and very forceful debates. He will always be remembered for his positive and negative traits. Both the positive and negative in him, however, were striking."

"He was always criticized for rubbing people the wrong way and for his abrasiveness and his style of argumentation, which is to crush his opponent to defeat."

"He distinguished himself as an urban organizer. He seriously studied the urban movement as a whole and conceptualized strategies and tactics. In the '80s, he was very strong in pushing for insurrection within the general framework of the Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong ideology."

"As a leader, he exuded great quantities of a revolutionary, believing in what he was doing and exuding confidence. He exuded it in great quantities and was able to capture a large followings."

"He was also an intellectual and he always made it a point that his ideas were well-crafted ideologically and theoretically in order to agitate."

"He can be a very good agitator depending on the setting and circumstances. But mainly he was most distinguished as an agitator within the organization. He is not the crowd agitator type, but in committee meeting, he is one. Given more time, however, he might be able to develop the skills necessary of a street agitator."

"I have not yet seen anybody who comes quite close to his ability and passion. I hope there will be. I hope that persons should come from the working class, from the organic intellectuals among the working classes, from his followers."

"We had many differences. I was one among the few that he always see to it to distinguish himself from. We have very substantial differences in our approach to looking at the Philippine problems, strategies and even modes of organizing and interpersonal relationships. Maybe we had different upbringings as individuals and in the movement, so we have also differing choices."

"He was among the first in the CPP who really had a better appreciation of the legal parliamentary struggle, closer to its actual potential, although he was not original in pushing for the urban guerilla strategy. He was, however, the one who advocated the idea of the insurrectional potential of the urban masses and its insurrectional prospects. He has a keener appreciation for it."

"His lack of appreciation of the impact of the countryside and the Filipino feudal culture on the progressive movement was one of his weaknesses. Maybe it was because of his exposure and experiences."

"His other weakness is on how he looks at the mode of the Philippine economy. He underestimated the semi-feudal character of Philippine society. His favorite term is transition to capitalism. But I believe that experience teaches us that it is not a stage that would end in its logical conclusion of capitalism as Popoy wanted to believe in."

"He died a revolutionary to the end. When we left the CPP, we defined a revolutionary in its classical sense. A revolutionary is not only that who advocates armed struggle or follows a certain ideological line. A revolutionary is one who looks at the problem, and as he encounters more tools for understanding development believes in it and moves for a radical structuring of the empowerment process."

"A revolutionary is one who really breaks the structures of the disempowerment of the masses. Empowerment is not only about rights but also access to capital, land and even information. He continues to believe in the socialist dream before it was brought to a level of canons."

"We will miss Popoy because it's different if there's a Popoy in the movement. There's always somebody who questions and do something different. It's a different experience if there is one who plays a maverick role, that's Popoy."

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