The Gift of the Filipino People To the World: Ka Joma

Black Like Mao
5 min readDec 17, 2022

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Artwork by Renan Ortiz

On December 17, 2022, Comrade Jose Maria Sison passed into eternity. This humble professor and people’s scholar who got sick of his people catching hell passed away after two weeks in the hospital. With him went one of the last living links to the days of the Cultural Revolution, the furthest that humanity has advanced thus far to universal peace and plenty with the working class as master, the era the experiences from which came to bring us Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

I have three constant and major political and ideological influences. First place undoubtedly goes to El-Hajj Malik-El Shabazz, known to the people as Malcolm X. Then comes Mao Zedong, then Ka Joma. These three individuals and their speeches, writings, and life experiences have shaped my own life in unfathomable ways. They’ve helped teach me how to live, how to struggle, how to fight back against the ever so tempting drugs of nihilism and selfishness. The main draw is that they were all born into peoples torn apart and abused by imperialism. The Filipino and New Afrikan people in particular share a bond born in blood and a common enemy. David Fagen was a New Afrikan soldier in the United States Army of occupation during the war waged by this country against that people, the first war that it fought as a rising imperialist power. In 1899, Fagen deserted and became a commander in the Philippine Revolutionary Army, sickened by the racist abuse suffered by his fellow New Afrikan soldiers which was also applied to the Filipino people, to the extent that both were referred to by the racial slur that starts with N. He is remembered to this day as a hero in the Philippines. As a Black person in the diseased heart of a dying empire, my heart and mind remains firmly with any people who fight back against exploitation and oppression.

In studying Ka Joma’s work, we see a serious man, a humble man, and a man with a deep love of his people and his land. He also had a sense of humor and an accessibility that is in contrast to the ever so serious front put up by many American comrades, to whom it seems laughter is revisionism. This spirit is also shared by Malcolm and Mao. He was never referred to as a fourth sword, an eagle, great leader, supreme servant of the people or any such terms, but simply as Ka Joma. His work and life spoke for itself, he needed no title. This is why it felt to many Communists that we lost a dear friend upon hearing of his death, because he was real, devoid of pretension or arrogance. A lesson we all can learn from.

Ka Joma committed what Amilcar Cabral called “class suicide”, refusing the temptations of an easy life as an academic resting on the laurels of his wealthy and influential family. He threw in his lot with the peasants and workers, living among them and as one of them. During his university days he studied revolution, and eventually came to help make it. An ideological and political warrior par excellence with little capacity to suffer fools, he and his colleagues painstakingly reconstructed bonds broken by the revisionists and built a mass base for the eventual reconstitution of the Communist Party of the Philippines in 1968, and the New People’s Army in 1969, bravely continuing even after the revisionists plotted and attempted to assassinate him. He survived cruel torture after being captured by the Marcos fascists in 1977, continuing to write poetry and theoretical work, never snitching, and upon release continued to advocate and work for revolution until the Aquino government cancelled his passport in the late 1980s, leaving him stuck as an exile in the Netherlands. Even then, he continued to serve his people. This struggle spirit and determination typifies the spirit of the proletariat, the spirit of Communists, and the spirit of the Filipino people, and deeply resonates with the experience of my own New Afrikan nation who, through grit and determination, survived the trials of slavery, Jim Crow, and all kinds of other depredations and outrages by this fascist country which has never been ours. Once again we see that all proletarians and oppressed nations are brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world.

Ka Joma spread the spirit of proletarian internationalism by founding the International League of People’s Struggle, an anti-imperialist front which unites progressive activists and anti-imperialists from all over the world. He also continued to educate Communists, sharing from his vast treasury of personal experience in struggle from the fight against the old revisionists, to the foundation of the Party and Army, to the First Quarter Storm, to the Martial Law era and beyond. His writings, poems, and personal example inspired a whole new generation of Maoists, myself included. Stand for Socialism Against Modern Revisionism, Rectify Errors and Rebuild the Party, Philippine Society and Revolution, and his primer on Marxism-Leninism are essential works for all Communists to study, along with documents and books produced by the Party he played a major role in founding.

The passing of Ka Joma undoubtedly leaves a hole in the hearts of all Communists around the world. My initial reaction was dismissal, as death rumors routinely appeared about him, spread by the Filipino government, but after it was confirmed by the CC, my reaction was simply “oh, fuck”. It hurts to lose a teacher who taught you so much, a living link with the revolutionary past, especially when you live in the imperial core where there is no Communist Party yet, and bourgeois decadence, nihilism, reformism, and all other temptations and distractions call Communists away from the struggle at every day, hour and second. Yet, he left us innumerable gifts. His initiative left the Filipino workers and peasants their Party and their Army. For every new Maoist in the US or Canada or UK or other imperialist country who asks, “Can we win? Is it worth it?”, his life and work offers a resounding Yes! For anybody who is depressed, or downhearted, or overwhelmed, his writings, poems, and experience is water in the desert. I and all Communists the world over owe a firm red salute to the Filipino people and their struggle for sharing Ka Joma with us.

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