MANILA, Philippines — Over 150,000 people flocked to the 40th Manila International Book Fair held in the huge Mall of Asia shopping complex Sept. 11–15. This was larger than last year. Over 100 publishers and distributors, mainly from the Philippines, set up at the event, including the two main national book chains.
There were novels, religious and educational titles, reference books, and political literature, as well as children’s books and comics. Many titles were in English, which is taught here starting in kindergarten.
The growing instability of the capitalist world order, including rising tensions between Beijing and Washington in the Pacific — as well as the political and economic crisis in the Philippines itself — were a lively topic of discussion at the Pathfinder booth.
Pathfinder also had a booth last year which was well received. Books by revolutionary leaders, in their own words, cover the class struggle and building a revolutionary party in the U.S., the Americas, Cuba, Africa and Asia, and the world. These include titles by Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin; by Fidel Castro, Malcolm X and Thomas Sankara, who led a revolution in Burkina Faso; and on women’s emancipation. The booth was staffed by volunteers from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and the Philippines.
“I have waited a whole year to get this book,” said Cerise Guerrero, a high school teacher, as she purchased History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky. Since it was sold out when she visited the booth last year, she took a day off work the first morning of the fair to make sure she got it this time. She also got five other titles and a subscription to the Militant newspaper.
Several students came into the Pathfinder stall looking for answers because they had read Animal Farm by George Orwell as part of their high school studies. The novel satirizes the Stalinist degeneration of the Russian Revolution. Despite the decline of Stalinist forces in the Philippines, the Maoist variant of Stalinism remains active here.
Like many others, three high school students were glad to see Pathfinder’s titles on women’s liberation. They bought six books, including Feminism and the Marxist Movement by Mary-Alice Waters, and Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women by Joseph Hansen, Evelyn Reed and Waters. These were among the top selling titles at the fair. Abortion and divorce for women remain illegal in the Philippines.
Event discusses capitalist ‘learning’
Two books published by Pathfinder Press were presented at an event here drawing almost 50 people Sept. 14. The titles were Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege, and Learning Under Capitalism, by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S., and Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos, and Yolanda Ferrer, three leaders of the Cuban Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women.
Speaking on the panel were Jonald T. Bagasina, a high school teacher and former president of the Student Council at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP); Maria Miel Laurinaria, from the Philippines-Cuba Cultural and Friendship Association and Janet Roth from the Communist League in New Zealand. The meeting was conducted in English, which is commonly spoken here.
Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? “is about how class relations are not exclusive to the workforce,” Bagasina told the meeting, “but are embedded throughout capitalist society, including in the education system.” The book’s presentation of how it is class relations that determine the dynamics of every society provokes interest. Sixty-five copies were sold during the fair and on local campuses.
“Education is presented as formal schooling,” Bagasina said. “Without it they say, you are uneducated. But learning should be for everyone for a lifetime.” He urged the students present, including some from his classes, to use what they have learned to help advance the struggles of working people.
Gains for Cuban Women
Laurinaria introduced the book Women in Cuba. “This book is about the Cuban Revolution and through these three women leaders we also learn how the revolution changed the social standing of women in Cuba,” she said. “This began before the 1959 victory, with Fidel Castro and the Cuban communists in the July 26 Movement, who led the struggle in Cuba and understood the central place of women in the revolution.”
“As class and national conflicts intensify,” Janet Roth explained, “working people need these books published by Pathfinder Press to help arm us for the battles we will be engaged in.” She said that as socialist workers use them in their work “we find a growing openness and interest among working people, regardless of where they were born or where they live.”
“The working class,” she said, “is the only class capable of leading a revolution to end capitalist rule.”
“The meeting was eye-opening,” Jamil, a 19-year-old student, told the Militant. He had learned of the meeting while visiting the booth the previous day. It connected him with “issues of world politics, especially with regard to women and the working class.”
Interest among youth
Supporters of Pathfinder were invited by students from PUP to set up a table at their campus Sept. 18. Over 100 books and three subscriptions to the Militant were sold as students and others swamped the table.
One of them was Diana Taala, a teacher, who bought three books and a Militant subscription, after already having gotten a dozen Pathfinder titles at the book fair. Taala said she is interested in working-class history and politics, “because here in the Philippines they are always filtering what books and news we can read. They want us to be passive. But we need to know what happened before.”
The previous week a similar table was set up at the University of the Philippines where some 40 books and three Militant subscriptions were sold.
Over 500 books and 37 Militant subscriptions were sold at the book fair itself.