A history of trade unionism in the Philippines

Workers demonstrate in the Philippines
Workers demonstrate in the Philippines

A detailed account of the history of the workers' movement in the Philippines, by the International Communist Current. We disagree with the articles references to decadence theory, however reproduce it for its detailed historical information.

Submitted by Steven. on June 12, 2017

Introduction and early history

The creation of the world market is capitalism’s great historical achievement. For the first time in history, the whole of humanity has been brought together in a single network of commerce and industry; for the first time in history also, the revolutionary class is a worldwide class. This means that the historical evolution of any country is no longer determined by local or even by regional conditions, but fundamentally by the overall development of world capitalism.

That said, the local and national forms that this development takes are always strongly influenced by the specific history that predates capitalism, and by geography. The case of the Philippines is no exception to this general rule, and to understand the development of Filipino unionism we must therefore understand something of Filipino history.

Geographically, the Philippines is a vast archipelago of over 7000 islands, of which some 2000 are inhabited.1 Prior to the beginning of colonization by Spain from 1521 onwards, the archipelago – unsurprisingly – was not united in a single political or even cultural entity. To this day, some 150 languages and dialects are spoken in the Philippines and at least 20% of the population does not speak the national language (Filipino, a derivative of Tagalog which is spoken by 29% of the population).

Situated on the eastern flank of the South China Sea, with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia as its immediate maritime neighbors, the archipelago was integrated as much as 2000 years ago into a vast trading network which brought Indian, Chinese, and even Persian influences to the islands: Islam in particular made its appearance from 1200 CE onwards and remains dominant in the southern island of Mindanao.

Despite the emergence of various kingdoms (whose rulers often took the Indian title of "rajah") and sultanates, the majority of the archipelago was divided into fiefdoms of varying sizes known as barangays: the word continues to designate the Philippines' smallest administrative unit. The barangays' rulers – the datus – owed their position in part to their membership of an aristocratic caste, but also and largely to their own personal power. Rulers could lose power or prestige, or even be overthrown if they failed to live up to their promises.

Spanish colonialism profoundly modified this traditional social structure: the fluid system of barangays and power based on personal prestige and tribute was transformed into one based on land ownership and debt servitude. Power was divided between Spanish overlords placed in authority over encomiendas (settlements created for the purposes of tax collection), local chiefs whose authority was guaranteed by the Spanish in exchange for cooperation with the colonial power, and the Catholic Church, which became a major landowner in its own right: "dependency and indebtedness characterized this multifaceted relationship [between rulers and ruled]. At best it gave way to a paternalistic relationship, at worst it created an exploitative set up".2 It could be argued that this form of political domination based on a mixture of wealth, family connections, personal prestige and the ability to mobilize groups of supporters, has simply mutated with the arrival of capitalism and survives to this day in the form of domination of the Filipino bourgeoisie, strongly marked by clientelism.

Spanish colonization during the 16th century was by no means a mere extension to the Philippines of the feudal social structure which still largely dominated Spain itself. On the contrary, the driving force behind Spanish and Portuguese expansion to the Far East was the desire of the merchant classes, and of the crown which stood to profit from the undertaking, to break into the immensely lucrative spice trade with the East, and to shatter the monopoly exercised by Ottoman, Arab, and to an extent Venetian merchants. By tying the Philippines into a Spanish imperial economy that already existed on the other side of the Pacific, colonization extended the world market of an emerging capitalism from Europe all the way to China, where an embryonic monetary and capitalist economy was already developing under the Ming dynasty. By the beginning of the 17th century, Manila was thus – together with Macao under Portuguese rule – one of the main points of contact between Europe and Asia, and the lynch-pin of trade between Asia and the Americas. Silver was in huge demand by Chinese merchants, and "When the Manila galleon established the link across the Pacific with New Spain, Chinese junks rushed to meet it. Goods were traded in Manila solely for Mexican silver, to a volume of around a million pesos every year".3 From the outset, Filipino workers were involved in this worldwide commercial network: "European ships of the 'country trade' were worked, even in the early days of the Portuguese, by mixed crews with a majority of local sailors. Even ships from the Philippines employed 'few Spaniards, many Malays, Hindus, and Filipino mestizos'".4

Another important factor in Filipino history is the role of religion, and especially of the Catholic Church, introduced by the Spanish colonizers as a justification of their rule and a means of eliminating rival religions which could serve as a rallying point for opposition to the colonial power.

In Europe, ever since its establishment as an official state religion by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE, the Catholic Church in particular has had to accommodate a constant contradiction between the biblical ideal of poverty and service to the poor,5 and the material reality of the Church's enormous wealth and social position as temporal overlord. In general, the Catholic Church tried to incorporate the ideal of poverty into its own structures of power and wealth, for example through the creation of monastic orders like the Cistercians or the Franciscans. In the Philippines, this contradiction was given an added twist by the fact that "It was not even until the 19th century that select members of the Chinese mestizo ["mixed blood"] and Filipino illustrado [ie educated] class were for the first time admitted into the priesthood".6 As a result of these material and ideological contradictions, the Church in the Philippines included both corrupt and ruthless exploiters of Filipino labor (especially on the monastic estates, which by the end of the 19th century owned some 171,000 hectares of prime agricultural land7), and courageous and dedicated defenders of the rights of the labouring population (after the 1872 Cavite revolt, for example, three priests – Fathers Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora – were garrotted to death for their supposed part in the conspiracy).

Conflict within the Catholic Church between Filipino nationalism and attempts to defend the poor on the one hand, and the Church's role as landlord and defender of the colonial power on the other, led in 1902 to the creation of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente with the Catholic priest Gregorio Aglipay as its first "Obispo Maximo" (see below). Paradoxically, this came just as the Catholic Church's role as defender of the colonial power ended with Spain's eviction from the Philippines by the United States.

Our very brief consideration of some important features of the history of the Philippines prior to the 20th century would be incomplete without a look at its geography. The Philippines' position in the South China Sea has always been, and continues to be, crucial, both commercially and militarily. For the Spaniards, as we have seen, the Philippines were the commercial gateway to China, and this was even more true for the USA. In the first decades of the 20th century, the increasing importance of China as a region of competition and conflict between rival imperialist powers, and the rise of Japan as a formidable industrial power in its own right,8 increased the military significance of the Philippines: their defense played an important part in slowing the Japanese advance towards Australia in World War II, and their reconquest by the American army was a key moment in Japan's military defeat. Following World War II, the Philippines served as a rear base for the American military effort in Vietnam, and the US naval base at Subic Bay remained one of the US' key military installations throughout the Cold War,9 until its closure in 1992 by the Filipino government. The closure was of short duration: increasing fears of Chinese expansionism led to the signature in 1999 of a "Visiting Forces Agreement" which allowed US ships to use Subic Bay during the joint US-Filipino Balikatan military exercises, and to a reported 2012 agreement for a permanent US military presence in the base.

The 19th century: capitalism, nationalism, and the workers' movement

Despite the backwardness of the Spanish economy, and the weakness of the Spanish bourgeoisie, the 19th century saw an ever-tighter integration of the Filipino economy into the world capitalist market. The low-volume, high-value trade of the Manila galleon with the Americas was replaced by farming for cash crops, notably logging, tobacco and sugar. Simultaneously, and as a direct consequence, there emerged a new ruling stratum of wealthy landowners and merchants including in particular Chinese mestizos linked to the trading families of Fukien and Kwantung, and members of what became known as the principalia: leading Filipino or Spanish mestizo families who had successfully accumulated landed wealth, but who were also often linked to their share-cropping tenants by family or tribal ties. These wealthy families often sent their children to Spain for their education, thus encouraging the development of a Spanish language but specifically Filipino culture borne by Filipino intellectuals known as illustrados. The development of this intellectual class, linked to an emerging bourgeoisie and strongly imbued with radical democratic ideals, found expression in 1888 with the creation of the journal La Solidaridad and what became known as the Propaganda Movement. It is striking that La Solidaridad was founded only forty years after the national revolutions of 1848 in Europe, and that its nationalist democratic program is broadly similar to that of Hungarian, Polish, and even Irish nationalists of the same epoch: far from being hopelessly mired in feudal backwardness, the Filipino bourgeoisie followed the same path trodden by its European counterparts only a few decades earlier.

It is therefore unsurprising that the birth of the Filipino labor movement should have many features in common with the movement in Europe, although a lack of documentation makes its beginnings difficult to follow.

The earliest seeds of the labor movement were formed in the 1850s. These were secret organizations for mutual aid and benefits of workers, similar in aim to the Friendly Societies formed by workers in Britain. Among the earliest were the Gremio de Obrero de Sampaloc, the Gremio de Escultores del Barrio Sta.Cruz, the Gremio de Carpinteros and the Gremio de Impresores y Litograficos. The Filipino labor movement can even claim to be one of the oldest in Asia.

The working class in the Philippines appeared at a time of the zenith of world capitalism, the stage of expanding imperialism. Furthermore, it appeared at a time of the victorious bourgeois revolution in Spain itself. In other words, it appeared on the ruins of feudalism on a world scale and in Spain in particular. The feudal remnants are only remnants, nothing more.

The first recorded mass working class action was conducted by members of the Gremios de Impresores in 1872 when they walked out of a government printing press in San Fernando, Pampanga on account of abuse and maltreatment by Spanish foremen and to demand better terms and conditions of work and higher wages.

The emerging Filipino workers' movement suffered not only from the relatively less developed condition of Filipino industry, but perhaps still more from their geographical isolation from the proletariat's European core. Marx in the Manifesto describes the ease with which, thanks to the railways, European workers could organize, travel, and develop their political culture. But the enormous distances involved made this less an option for Filipino workers, and this inevitably meant that the 19th century workers' movement was strongly influenced by an illustrado leadership.

These first mass actions coincided with the proletarian struggles in Europe that culminated in the first attempt of the class to seize power in Paris, France in 1871, although there is no evidence that the Filipino movement was directly aware of the momentous events of the Commune.

Since at that time the Philippine proletariat was still regrouping and learning to struggle as a class, the early workers' struggles were closely connected to Filipino nationalism, to the struggle for independent nationhood, and against colonialism. And one of the prime movers of this sense of nationalism was the Filipino clergy who were discriminated against by the Spanish-controlled Catholic Church. This is why both religion and nationalism had great influence on the early proletarian movement – an influence which survives to this day. This is an expression of the way that the consciousness of the revolutionary class lags behind the changes of objective conditions.

The close ties between unionism, nationalism, and religion, which have severely handicapped the ability of the Filipino workers to develop a revolutionary class consciousness, are exemplified by Isabelo delos Reyes, often considered the founding father of Filipino unionism. Born in 1864, delos Reyes was an illustrado nationalist journalist (in 1889 he founded El Ilocano, said to be the first newspaper written solely in a Filipino language) who was exiled to Spain in 1897 for his nationalist activities. While in Spain – such are the strange contradictions to which capitalism could give rise in those days – he was employed as Consejero del Ministerio del Ultramar (Counsellor of the Ministry for the Colonies) while at the same time taking in the influence of the radical and revolutionary thinkers of the age: on his return to the Philippines he brought with him books by Marx, Engels, Proudhon, Bakunin and other European anarchists and socialists, as well as literary works. While in Spain he wrote articles attacking the United States and its war to strip Spain of its colonies (see below), which is doubtless one of the reasons that the Spanish government allowed him to return to the Philippines in 1901.10

In February 1902, delos Reyes, together with the print union leader Herminigildo Cruz, Dominador Gomez and Lope Santos brought together more than 85 unions to found the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD), the first labor federation in the country. Its members included unions of printers, lithographers, cigar makers, tailors, mechanics, and others in various trades and occupations. At least some of these unions were apparently organized along industrial lines similar to the International Workers of the World (IWW).

In the same year, delos Reyes played a key role in founding the Philippine Independent Church11 together with the Catholic priest Gregorio Aglipay, who became the church’s first “Obispo Maximo”.12

1896-1901: nationalist revolution and imperialist war

In 1892, the rise of Filipino nationalism led to the formation of the gradualist Liga Filipina by the novelist Jose Rizal, and of the Katipunan ("The worshipful association of the sons of the people") by Andres Bonifacio, an admirer of Rizal who hoped to draw the latter into an active involvement in agitation for independence. By 1896, the Katipunan had grown to be a substantial force with between 100,000 and 400,000 members, and was strong enough to launch a nationalist revolt against Spain under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo. This first attempt ended in a negotiated stalemate which left Spain in control, but Aguinaldo and his cadres free to continue organising from their exile in Hong Kong.

It was in this context that in 1898 the United States declared war on Spain following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana harbor (Cuba belonging to Spain at the time).13 This war allowed the US to carry off a land grab on the Philippines, which had obviously been prepared in advance and which combined brutality and hypocrisy to a truly startling degree.14

At the beginning of the war, the US presented itself as the champion of Filipino independence. The American naval commander Commodore Dewey organised Aguinaldo's return to the Philippines: the war with Spain came to an end in 1898 with American troops in Manila, while the Filipino nationalists controlled most of the rest of the country and had already declared a Filipino Republic with its provisional capital in Malolos and Aguinaldo as President. The peace was of short duration: in February 1899, US troops in Manila provoked the outbreak of a new war, this time against the fledgling Filipino Republic, which was to end in 1902 after the defeat of the Filipino army by a vastly superior American force, and a protracted and brutal guerilla campaign that left 22,000 Filipino soldiers and more than 500,000 civilians dead. The Philippines was thus given a taste of the delights of "civilisation" and "democracy": in just three years, the USA killed more Filipinos that the Spaniards had done in 300.15

All the more remarkable, in this context, is the third recorded strike of March 1899 by the printers union led by Herminigildo Cruz, demanding increased wages and an end to the abuses of a press superintendent. The mass action was directed at the management of the nationalist government’s printing press in Malolos, Bulacan, where the La Independencia was printed. Editor and General Antonio Luna intervened and arranged for a 25% pay raise to workers.

We can appreciate the symbolism of this strike, at the turn of the century, being directed not against the old or new colonial power but against the rising national democratic bourgeoisie that was supposed to be a "reliable ally" of the workers' movement. Filipino labor was confronted from the outset by national government, nationalist movements, and brutal repression by the colonial power.

1898-1930s: Under US colonial power

Given its own anti-imperialist ideology (which for America meant the opposition to the fully colonial structures set up by the old European empires, especially the British), the USA could hardly transform the Philippines into a colony in the old style. Hence alongside US military occupation under the authority of an American Governor-General, the 1902 Philippine Bill adopted by the US Congress provided for the creation of an elected legislature: the first elections were held in 1907 and led to a resounding victory for the Nacionalista Party.16

The American ruling class was united in its desire to preserve its commercial, industrial, and military strategic interests in the Philippines, but was divided on how best to do so: by continual direct rule and military occupation, or through nominal independence, with client status ensured by treaties and the maintenance of US military bases in the country. By 1934, following the election of Roosevelt's Democrat "New Deal" administration in 1933, the second option was chosen and the Tidings-McDuffie Act of that year created the Philippine Commonwealth, which was to become fully independent after a ten-year transition period. Manuel Quezon was elected as the first President of the Philippines under the Act, in 1935.

Returning to August 1902 and the beginning of the American occupation, when Isabelo delos Reyes was arrested and imprisoned for charges of sedition and rebellion, Dominador Gomez took over and changed the name of UOD to Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas (UODF). But Gomez was also arrested for sedition and illegal association in 1903 after thousands of workers marched on May 1, 1903 demanding national independence.

Gomez articulated the orientation of Philippine unionism in a speech delivered as leader of the Union Obrera Democratica:

The banner of UOD is dynamic nationalism against any form of imperialism, against oppression.”

And on May 1, 1903, in a workers rally of Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas Gomez declared:

We are not against capitalists (…) What we are against is the practice of the capitalists robbing the workers of the product of their sweat by not giving what is due to them…17

If the nationalist unions were not against capitalism, then neither was the American colonial regime against trades unions as such, provided that they were tightly controlled by the state, and inspired by the most conservative forces of the workers’ movement in the United States. This two-pronged strategy led to the entry of the American Federation of Labor led by Samuel Gompers into the Philippines, where it gave support to the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas (UTF), set up by Lope K. Santos.18

At the same time, the Bureau of Labor (BOL) was set up (June 10, 1908) to organize the legalization and regulation of trade unionism throughout the country. The Bureau, under the Department of Commerce and Police, was tasked to regulate and provide information on the labor force and market, and to settle disputes between labor and employers. The US also gave the go-ahead for the Philippine Assembly to recognize May 1st as a national holiday, to appease the class anger of the workers.

The US attempt to control the union movement was not completely successful, and some unions continued to have close ties to the nationalist cause. This was notably the case with the Union de Impresores de Filipinas (UIF) which participated in the UODF; when the UODF was dissolved in 1903 and reorganised as the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF), the UIF's president Crisanto Evangelista went on to play a leading role in the new federation. As a leader of COF, he was included in the Independence Mission sent to the USA in 1919 along with the then rising leader of the Nacionalista Party, Manuel Quezon. While in the US, Evangelista was ignored by the AFL, but did attend a convention of the International Workers of the World.19

The Philippines thus entered the last phase of capitalism’s ascendant period with a development of workers’ struggles taking the union form, but with the first signs of the unions’ integration into the state apparatus. Given the Philippines' relative isolation from the heart of world capitalism, it does not seem to have been immediately affected either by World War I, or by the betrayal of the Social Democracy (which had no presence in the country) and its consequences.

The labor movement continued to gain strength and experience in the legal battle and strikes became common. There were stoppages in many cigarette factories, at the harbor in Iloilo, in Negros logging companies and in the sugar mills of Negros, Pampanga and Laguna. There were also strikes on the railroads, at the copra factory of Franklin Baker, at the Manila Gas Company, in the rice mills of Nueva Ecija, and in the embroidery firms of Manila. In addition, Filipino workers who were working abroad at this time also participated in workers’ struggles in their country of emigration, thus showing that they are part of an international class.20

Despite its growing strength and militancy, the Filipino labor movement remained unable to establish its own political identity distinct and separate from the bourgeois forces of colonial politics. As we have just seen, the union movement remained politically dominated either by radical anti-American nationalism, or by US imperialism in the form of the AFL. One can perhaps draw an analogy with the situation in Britain at the turn of the 20th century where, in different circumstances and for different reasons, the workers' movement had no distinct mass political expression of its own, and remained substantially under the influence of the Liberal Party.

Whereas in Europe and the US, the union question was posed starkly in 1914 by the unions' betrayal of the workers in war,21 in the Philippines it was only posed gradually and as a result of the unions' inability to disentangle themselves either from bourgeois nationalism or from imperialism.

Formation of the Communist Party and integration into the Communist International

The Russian revolution of 1917 aroused immense hope and enthusiasm amongst workers all over the world: the Philippines was no exception.

In 1922, with Evangelista and Antonio Ora at the helm, the Progressive Workers' Party (also known as the Partido Obrero) was formed. Contacts with labor movements of other countries were intensive. The classic works of Marx and Engels found their way to the Philippines. Through the Workers’ Party, the COF became a member of the Pacific Secretariat of Trade Unions set up by the Red International of Labor Unions,22 and in 1924, Crisanto Evangelista was elected its president. The RILU invited the radical union leaders of the Philippines to its Pacific Conferences held in Canton, China on June 18-24, 1924, and in 1928 Evangelista represented the COF at both the 4th RILU Congress and the 6th Comintern Congress in Moscow.

After the Canton Conference, the American and Chinese communists were in regular communication with the radical nationalist unions in the Philippines.

Conflict between pro- and anti-Moscow tendencies within the COF led to a split in 1929 when Evangelista's grouping left, to form the following year the Proletarian Congress of the Philippines: Katipunan ng mga Anak-Pawis ng Pilipinas, or KAP. The KAP also formed the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, or PKP), founded in 193023 and whose existence was announced publicly to a mass meeting of some 6000 workers in Tondo, Manila.24

While there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Evangelista and his comrades, the impetus of the movement in the Philippines towards proletarian internationalism was derailed by two factors: first, neither the movement as a whole nor its key leaders had really broken with the national perspective with which they had entered political activity; second, and perhaps more importantly, the Communist International even in 1922 had begun the process of degeneration which was to transform it from the centre of world revolution to a mere tool in the service of the Russian state's imperialist interests. As we have already shown in relation to Turkey,25 the isolation of the revolution and the increasing consolidation of the capitalist powers led the Russian state to subject the political activity of the communist parties in Eastern countries to the demands of the USSR's alliances with bourgeois nationalist movements or even bourgeois governments.26 Significantly, 1922 – the year the Partido Obrero was founded – was also the year of the Congress of the Toilers of the East, held in Moscow and attended by representatives of both the Chinese CP and Sun Yat-sen's bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang, which was followed by the CI's insistance that the CCP should enter the Kuomintang. The massacre of the Shanghai workers by the Kuomintang in 1927 was the last gasp of the revolutionary upsurge that had begun ten years earlier in Russia, and by 1928 the counter-revolutionary process was completed with the adoption of Stalin's slogan of "Socialism in one country".

As the Comintern degenerated, the tendency was increasingly to put responsibility for the activity of the Communist parties in the colonies under the authority of the parties in the corresponding imperialist power, so that for example Algeria came under the responsibility of the French CP. This fitted perfectly with the general movement towards integration of the USSR – and therefore of the Comintern – into the system of imperialist alliances, since it meant that the orientation of the activity of militants in the colonies would be determined above all by the USSR's alliances or rivalry with the colonial power rather than by the needs or the possibilities of the class struggle internationally or locally. The Philippines was no exception: in April 1925, the Comintern's first resolution on the Philippines gave the American CP the responsibility of supporting both the national liberation movement, and the formation of a Communist Party.27 This corresponded to Russian policy in the Far East, which was to work with the local bourgeoisie (China being the classic case) in order to weaken the encirclement of Russia by other imperialist powers.28 This position was to change, as we shall see, with the rise of Japan to threaten Russia.

The formation of the PKP thus created, not an independent working class party, but on the contrary a basically nationalist organization under the domination of Russian imperialism.

In May 1, 1931, The Quezon government tried to suppress the organized forces of PKP. The military dispersed the marching workers in Caloocan with water cannons and attacked a worker’s meeting held by the laborers. Evangelista was arrested and accused of sedition, rebellion and illegal assembly.

American military authorities raided the KAP (Association of the Toilers) Congress. Several KAP leaders were arrested and the Court of First Instance declared the PKP and the KAP illegal. The Supreme Court upheld the decision.

The nationalist Filipino bourgeoisie once again showed its fangs against the working class. The “anti-American” Quezon allied with its “enemy” to suppress the working class. While the US ruling class still feared the USSR as an expression of a “communist threat”, the USSR was already integrated into the world wide system of imperialist conflicts and alliances: in reality, the repression of the PKP thus had nothing to do with socialism but on the contrary, the intensification of the rivalry between two imperialist powers – the USA and the Stalinist USSR.

Hand in hand with the iron fist of the bourgeoisie went regulation and control of the unions. In December 1933, the Department of Labor (DOL) was established. In succeeding years, many laws were enacted to integrate the unions to the state.

During the 1930s, three federations – influencing over 300 affiliated and independent unions – dominated the labor scene with the launching of the President Quezon’s Social Justice Program. There were the Collective Labor Movement (CLM), Confederated Workers Alliance (CWA), and National Federation of Labor (NFL); the CWA and the NFL were right-wing organizations which had emerged after the 1929 split in the COF, the NFL in particular being led by Ruperto Cristobal, the private secretary of the Secretary of Labor in the Quezon government. The CLM's leaders,29 on the contrary were all identified with pro-USSR "socialism".30 The CLM was the biggest labor center uniting 76 unions, but it did not prosper as a formal organization because personal and ideological conflicts prevented its transformation into a coherent organization.

In a period when it is no longer possible for workers to gain meaningful reforms within the capitalist system, and where every mass movement of the class immediately comes up against the repressive forces of the state, trade unions are inevitably integrated into the capitalist state apparatus and take on the characteristics of bourgeois organizations.31

Like the Filipino bourgeoisie, trade unionism in the Philippines in the decadent stage of capitalism is riddled with internal rivalries. It has no capacity to unify even its organized forces because unions are divided between imperialist rivalries. This is the lesson of 20th century history which so many obstinately refuse to learn.

In every workers' struggle the unions tied the class struggle into union and nationalist struggles. Thus, workers’ demands become demands to defend the unions and the “right to organize unions” and for national independence from US imperialism.

The “Popular Front” and World War II

By the mid-1930s, the world situation was changing: the rise of Nazi Germany and militaristic Japanese imperialism led the USSR to seek an accommodation with the "democratic" powers against the emerging fascist bloc. As a result, the policy of the American CP towards Roosevelt changed from opposition to support in the 1936 US elections, and the PKP was now urged to support the "democratic camp". The first step was the formation of a "popular front": “On September 20, 1936 the PKP Central Committee issued a manifesto entitled, “Forward for the Formation of the Popular Front”. It called for an alliance of all labor, peasant and middle class organizations and political and social groups who were in opposition to the policies of the Commonwealth government, particularly the Quezon-Osmeña coalition and were willing to work for better social conditions and absolute national independence. It announced as the aim of the Popular Front “to save the Filipino people from the danger of imperialist war, dictatorship and fascism, to improve the conditions of the masses and obtain independence””.32

As James Allen, the American CP's emissary to the Philippines, wrote "By June of 1937, I was conveying to my correspondents anxiety over the ominous state of affairs and particularly concern about Japan's aggressive intentions in Southeast Asia. To safeguard the cause of independence, I suggested, the Philippines would need to place itself on the anti-fascist side and also recognize that the United States was the major power in the Pacific able to confront the Japanese military-fascists".33 The American CP also advocated a switch to supporting the government of Manuel Quezon.

As a result, when Allen made a second visit to the Philippines in 1938 it was with the blessing of Roosevelt's New Deal government. He encountered a changed political situation. Evangelista, who had lived in semi-clandestinity since the banning of the PKP, was allowed to go to Moscow for medical treatment and received by Quezon in Malacanang (the presidential palace) before his departure. Allen was given an official invitation by Quezon, and the PKP was once again legalised. A 1938 PKP convention was held in public, with invited representatives from the Quezon government and the Kuomintang: the PKP could hardly hope for more official endorsement from the nationalist ruling class!

Together with his changed attitude to the PKP, Quezon also relaxed restrictions on workers' demonstrations, and in June 3, 1939, Commonwealth Act. No. 444 or the Eight-Hour Workday Law was enacted. What in the 19th century had been an object of workers' struggle, was offered as a gift on the eve of World War II, not as a result of a strong independent workers movement but to dragoon the Filipino workers for the 2nd imperialist war. As we know, the Philippine Commonwealth Government was allied with American imperialism.

World War II and Japanese occupation

The policy of bringing the PKP into the "democratic camp" of US imperialism was to pay off as soon as the war began. The Japanese bombardment of Pearl Harbor was quickly followed by that of the Philippines in December 1941. The PKP immediately decided to begin organising a guerilla movement, and informed the Quezon government and US administration of its "pledge of all-out support to national unity around an anti-Japanese United Front and of loyalty to the existing government, declaring that 'All people and all strata of the population must organize, secretly if necessary, to assist the Philippine and American government to resist Japan' (…) Over 50,000 workers and peasants were organized by the PKP and put at the disposal of the US Corps of Engineers".34 This United Front policy was the same as that followed by Stalin in Europe, and by Mao in China.

Despite this the speed of the Japanese invasion caught the PKP by surprise and its entire top leadership was captured in January 1942 when the Japanese troops entered Manila. This included Crisanto Evangelista, who was tortured and killed. This led, in March, the formation of a fullscale guerilla movement, the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon ("People's army against Japan"), better known as the Hukbalahap or just "the Huks".35

We do not propose here to go into the history of the Japanese occupation, during which the Hubalahap was undoubtedly the most effective fighting force on the American side in the occupied areas.

After World War II

Even before the end of World War II in Asia, the USA “used nuclear weapons against Japan in August 1945, even as that country sent out feelers for a negotiated surrender36 principally as a warning to Russian imperialism that the US had both the will and the means to prevent any extension of Russian influence in the East.

With the end of the war, US imperialism was the world's dominant imperialist power,37 and immediately began to prepare for a confrontation with the other major victor of the war and new imperialist superpower – Russia.

Naturally, the USSR resisted this policy of "containment". As a result, the years following the war were marked by a whole series of proxy wars as the USA (sometimes with its allies Britain and France) and the USSR tested each other's positions: in Greece, in Vietnam, in Korea, in Malaysia – and in the Philippines. This is why – predictably – the USA and its Filipino puppets set out to destroy the (pro-USSR) Hukbalahap immediately after the war.

The PKP's betrayal of proletarian internationalism by supporting the American war effort was paid for in blood by the Filipino workers and peasants. Its cadres and mass sympathizers were suppressed and arrested (many were killed) by the forces led by the democratic USA following the defeat of Japanese imperialism in the Philippines.38

Thus began the intense and armed rivalries between the two imperialist powers in Philippine soil using national liberation in post-war confrontations. In March 1945, the labor movement under the influence of Russian imperialism was reconstituted as the Committee of Labor Organizations and later organized as the Congress of Labor Organizations (CLO), the first national labor center.39 The CLO fought for the rights of the working class within the legal framework of Filipino capitalism, but was essentially a nationalist organization aiming at “genuine” national independence on the “socialist” (ie state capitalist) model as the way of the future.

Since in decadent capitalism national independence is impossible and the “independence” of the Philippines was just part of the American imperialist policy to contain the expansionism of Stalinist Soviet imperialism.40 To prevent the nationalist Filipino bourgeoisie to change master, US imperialism made a smart move: Grant political independence to its colony.

On the other hand, imperialist powers realized also after two world wars that the colonies are no longer beneficial to them unlike in the 19th century. These colonies “could no longer serve as the basis for the enlarged reproduction of global capital, having themselves become capitalist, that they lost their importance for the major imperialisms (in fact it was the more backward colonial powers like Portugal which clung most tenaciously to their colonies).41

On 4th July 1946, the Philippines gained its formal independence from the United States:42 the latter however continued to maintain a powerful and growing military presence, with Subic Bay and Clark Air Base becoming the US' largest installations in the Far East or indeed the world: the Philippines was now in the front line of the confrontation between the USA and the USSR in Asia. The US also maintained a substantial industrial and commercial presence in the country, certain sectors of the US bourgeoisie being closely allied to Filipino industrialists.

Quezon having died in exile during the war, a period of parliamentary rivalry began between parties whose politics were indistinguishable and who were differentiated only by personal allegiances and rivalries. Nor was collaboration with the Japanese quisling government considered an obstacle to participation in power either by the Filipino bourgeoisie or their American mentors. From the outset, the political life of the Filipino bourgeoisie has been marked by violence, fraud, and corruption.43

This characteristic of political life is not of course unique to the Philippines. It is a general feature of life under decadent capitalism, that countries which did not develop a national unity during capitalism's rise, and which moreover are economically under-developed, have great difficulty in creating a unified ruling class. In many cases, as we have pointed out elsewhere, the only really united body in the state is the army, which explains why the army or even outright military dictatorship, has been the only force able to give some political stability to the ruling class.

Apart from the Marcos dictatorship, which lasted for 21 years from 1965 to 1986, the Filipino bourgeoisie has exercised its political domination through an apparently democratic system, where power is in fact divided between ruling clans who fight for domination on an electoral battleground. To give just one particularly violent example, in the 2009 elections 21 politicians and journalists were abducted and murdered on the island of Mindanao. According to the BBC's Asia analyst "Every election period features assassinations of rivals, particularly in provincial areas where the forces of law and order are often tightly connected to local clans. Every local politician has some form of personal security which, in some areas, balloons to private armies of scores or hundreds of well-armed, unregulated gunmen".44

Given that the "labor movement" was never able to shake itself free from its roots in nationalism, it comes as no surprise that in the Philippines, it merely mirrors the clientelism and factionalism of the wealthier fractions of the ruling class. In 1986, Rolando Olalia (later murdered) declared that "about 85% of today's supposed leaders of the working class are engaged in racketeering".45 As leader himself of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU, see below), Olalia presumably knew what he was talking about.

The PKP and the Huks at first thought they could make a deal with the ruling parties to participate in normal political life, and even worked in coalition with the Democratic Alliance and the Nacionalista Party.46 On the face of it this was not unreasonable, since these parties were essentially nationalist and posed no threat to the continued domination of capitalism or of the bourgeoisie. Moreover – and ironically given future events – the American OSS47 had supported not only the Huks during the war with Japan, but also Mao's regime in China and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. Indeed the Vietminh nationalists were initially helped into power by the OSS, against the returning French colonizers. However, the independence of the Philippines was an illusion, not so much because of continued American military occupation as because the division of the world into two rival imperialist blocs meant that political life in any country was determined by its position within the system of the blocs. In 1950, General Douglas MacArthur as commander of the US occupying forces in Japan, and Dean Acheson as Secretary of State, "defined the new American 'defensive perimeter' in the Pacific as running along a line connecting the Aleutians, Japan, Okinawa, the Ryukyus, and the Philippines".48 This was a public declaration that the Philippines, like Japan, was firmly within the US sphere of interest and that for the USA, it was no more acceptable to see the PKP in power in the Philippines than it would have been to let the Italian CP into government in Italy.

The Huks therefore found themselves increasingly under aggressive military pressure, and it was decided to continue the guerilla war by reorganizing the movement as the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB, People's Liberation Army) which acted as the military arm of the Communist Party. The Americans tried to stop the rebellion and destroy the peasant organizations by developing agrarian services and support projects, alongside military aid to the government. The Americans and the government launched operations in Central Luzon and Manila. Many HMB leaders were captured while others, including Luis Taruc, surrendered. By 1955 the military defeat was complete, and Jesus Lava ordered the HMB to disband. Thousands of lives and properties had been sacrificed in these inter-imperialist armed confrontations.

At the same time, “Economic assistance was supplemented by a policy of fostering pro-Western (i.e. pro-Washington) institutions and organizations, creating anti-Communist trade unions and political organizations, with American Federation of Labor (AFL) operatives working hand in glove with the CIA49 like the Federation of Free Workers (FFW)50 to counter the PKP-led CLO.

The militant workers organized by CLO were dragged into the “war for national liberation” waged by the HMB. Basically, the unions were used as cannon-fodder in the imperialist rivalries as they were fought out between the USSR and the USA in the post-war period. The suppression of pro-USSR unions and establishing pro-USA unions was part of the consolidation of US imperialist control in the Philippines.

On April 1951, President Quirino banned the CLO after declaring it a communist organization with ties to the Huk armed movement. Its leader, Amado Hernandez51, was arrested and charged with rebellion and murder. He was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment, but finally acquitted by the High Court.

As the workers’ resistance against the attacks of capitalism and against the suppression by the state intensified, the government tried to regulate these by enacting the Industrial Peace Act (Republic Act No. 875) in 1953. This promoted collective bargaining and guaranteed the right to organize in unions. It also introduced mediation and conciliation as new modes of dispute settlement. This act was supported and funded by US imperialism and bourgeois institutions.52

Collective bargaining imprisons the workers in the bureaucracy of union organizations and diverts their struggles into fights for government mediation and conciliation. With these maneuvers of the capitalist state, the unions from Right to Left called it a “victory” for the workers’ struggle. The result is intense rivalries between different union federations for collective bargaining rights that deepen the division within the Filipino working class: the number of unionized workers increased, and the more they were unionized the more they were divided.53

With the Philippines under the unambiguous domination of the United States, remnants of the banned communist party set up the Workers’ Party54 (Lapiang Manggagawa) in 1963 with some of the country's major labor federations.

On the other hand, unions led by the Philippine Labor Center (PLC) of Democrito Mendoza pushed the one-union-one industry system.55 Because of this, union rivalries and workers’ division further intensifies. PLC itself split into factions leading to the creation of Pinagbuklod na Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP) led by Roberto S. Oca Sr. and the Philippine Congress of Trade Unions (PHILCONTU) led by Mendoza.

Marcos and Maoism

The Marcos dictatorship

It is particularly striking that the rise and fall of the Marcos dictatorship was roughly contemporaneous with the rise of Maoism and its integration into the mechanisms of Filipino politics. These two apparently opposing currents were to a large extent determined by the broader conditions of inter-imperialist conflict in South-East Asia: the war in Vietnam, and the rivalry between the USSR and China.

We do not have the space here to give a full account of the Marcos dictatorship, however some indicators are necessary if we are to understand the evolution of Filipino unionism and politics during the 1970s and 1980s.

It is said that during the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt remarked of the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza: “He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard”, and this epithet perfectly summarizes the US bourgeoisie’s attitude to the plethora of vicious military dictatorships that it has supported over the years.56 American willingness to sponsor these dictatorships – not least, of course, that of Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam – which did so much to discredit US claims to defend “democracy” around the world, can be explained essentially by two factors.

The first, was the context of the Cold War with the USSR. The USSR’s efforts to gain footholds within the underdeveloped countries of the American bloc by sponsoring trades unions, “leftist”, “pro-peasant” movements meant that the USA tended to supported their opponents on the right, in other words the military and the wealthy élite.

In addition, the economic interests of the wealthy élite tended to coincide with those of their American counterparts in ways that could sometimes be very explicit: the CIA coup which overthrew the Guatemalan regime in 1954, for example, also allowed the American United Fruit Co to recover land that had been nationalized by the elected government. Countries outside the capitalist heartlands in effect found themselves in an impossible contradiction. On the one hand, the fraction of the bourgeoisie which best understood and expressed the needs of an independent national capital in the decadent period necessarily tended to adopt the policies of a left-wing, nationalist state capitalism which inevitably drew them towards the “Russian model”; as the old European colonial regimes dismantled their empires during the 1950s and 1960s, these left-wing regimes were also the best placed to canalize, absorb, and profit from the accompanying rise of nationalist sentiment allied to radical social protest.57 On the other hand, the United States evidently could not permit its client states to install governments which threatened to adopt a “Soviet” model which would tend to draw them into the Russian bloc. Given the weakness of the national capitals and therefore the lack of a well-established bourgeois class, the US inevitably was forced to rely on the corrupt local elites and the army to maintain its power over its clients.

Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled as president from 1965 until he was overthrown by the “People Power Revolution” in 1986, is a perfect expression of this situation. At first sight, Marcos was nothing more than the usual corrupt politician of the Filipino elite: he had been suspected of involvement in the assassination of a political rival shortly after the war, and came to power by switching parties shortly before the presidential elections. His second term electoral victory in 1969 was achieved thanks to massive fraud and bribery.58 His third term, and continuation in office, was ensured by the equally fraudulent declaration of martial law in 1972.

But 1965 was also the year that the US Army began its direct involvement in the Vietnam war. This meant a build-up of US bases in the Philippines. To ensure stability in the country hosting these critical military installations, the US government was ready to pay handsomely, with the result that the Marcos regime was awash with cash that it could use to bribe its opponents, and to maintain a military dictatorship.

In the period prior to 1972, the rising militancy of the Filipino workers was easily dragged into inter-factional struggles of the ruling class led by the unions. The workers were hoodwinked by bourgeois nationalist slogans like those of the Maoist CPP: "Tunay, Palaban, Makabayan" (Genuine, Militant and Nationalist Trade Unionism).

Marcos thus declared martial law not against a rising independent Filipino working class movement but on the contrary because the movement had been temporarily defeated by the triumph of the counter-revolutionary ideology of Maoism within the militant workers movement in the 60’s. The bourgeois theory of “protracted people’s war” dragged the workers onto the terrain of its class enemy.

Corruption is endemic in the Filipino ruling class, but Marcos took it to new heights, using government power to take over for his own and his family’s benefit, profitable companies and land holdings. As a result, by the beginning of the 1980s Marcos not only faced the growing anger of the workers engaged in the wave of struggles that swept across the world in the wake of the massive French strike movement of May 1968, he had also forfeited the support of the wealthy elite.59

Maoism in the Philippines

When Mao Zedong's new regime came to power in China, its leaders were well aware that a ruined country in a world dominated by two great power blocs had no choice but to "lean to one side", to use Mao's expression. The US' support for the Kuomintang regime in Taiwan, and its intense suspicion of "communism" meant that China had no choice but to "lean" to the USSR. But although Stalin's USSR provided economic help and expertise to rebuild the shattered Chinese economy, including military assistance during the Korean War, the two sides never really trusted each other, especially since Stalin forced Mao to accept the "independence" (in reality a Russian tutelage) of Outer Mongolia.

When Khruschev took over the leadership of the USSR following Stalin's death in 1953, his efforts to find some kind of stable understanding with the USA led to increasing (and not unfounded) suspicion on the Chinese side, that they were about to be abandoned by the Russians. The rift between the two countries found concrete expression in the withdrawal of Russian technical experts in 1960, and in 1969 their armies clashed bloodily along the Ussuri River.60

China therefore embarked on a policy of asserting its own claim to leadership of the "anti-imperialist" movement of "national liberation" around the world, partly as a means of building up its own prestige against the USSR's claims to be the "bastion of socialism", and partly to prevent the creation of a stable anti-Chinese bloc in South-East Asia (the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation had been formed in 1954 for precisely that purpose).

Given this orientation, it is hardly surprising that the new generation of student youth that emerged during the 1960s, radicalised by the first renewed onset of the capitalist crisis and by the Vietnam War, should turn to China and to Maoist nationalism for inspiration. Hence in the Philippines the young university professor José Maria Sison founded, in 1964, the Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) movement to oppose the Vietnam War and in 1968 he effectively infiltrated the almost moribund PKP and set up an alternative Central Committee with his idealistic student activists. From this time on the PKP becomes the pro-China, nationalist Communist Party of the Philippines.

Thus, Maoism, the counter-revolutionary ideology of the bourgeois Left spread in the Philippines from the germs of the petty-bourgeois student activism using nationalism and anti-imperialism. Once again, with the open crisis of world capitalism following the post-World War II boom, nationalism had been used as bait to chain the new generation of Filipino revolutionaries to support for nationalism. From then on until now, national freedom and democracy and anti-US imperialism have been the battle cry of the militant Filipino workers.

Whereas in the period leading up to World War II and in its immediate aftermath, the labor movement in the Philippines had divided workers between two great rival imperialisms, with China's increasing assertion of its independence from the USSR, they were subjected to a three-way split between the two world imperialisms and the newly assertive regional power of China.61

China’s support for Sison’s CPP has to be seen in the context of China’s own imperialist interests, and it was to be shortlived. By the end of the 1960s, Mao’s rift with Moscow was already leading towards military confrontation, as Russian troops built up on China’s northern border. China badly needed new and powerful friends against the Russian threat: the way was open to Nixon’s visit in 1972, which in effect was to bring the Vietnam war to a conclusion with China switching camps from Russia to the USA.

The class struggle revives

Insofar as he had a political program, Marco aimed at strengthening his regime by entangling workers’ class action in a forest of legal restrictions which would tie the workers to the state through the unions. In May 1974, the Labor Code was enacted with the promulgation of PD 442. This overhauled the labor relations framework in the country and introduced a restructuring plan to govern the one-union-one industry system. It created the National Labor Relations Commission to replace the Court of Industrial Relations.

This did not stop a resurgence of class struggle during the 1970s.

The first great wave of strikes that hit Metro Manila after Martial Law made strikes illegal came in late 1975, and was triggered by the workers from La Tondeña, a distillery factory against capitalist attacks and against the barbarism of the state.

The workers’ defiance of the state’s ban on strikes was a combative action aimed at taking their fate into their own hands. But this was prevented by the mentality of unionism.

The strike in La Tondeña was triggered by the issue of regularization. The workers who staged the strike were contractuals working for many years in the company. However, the regular workers had a union and a collective bargaining agreement with the management. This divided the workers between regular and contractual and seasonal.

The La Tondeña struggle did not really win its demands for regularization, but instead, through the instigation of unionization, fell into the trap of union recognition and collective bargaining as contractual workers.62

Worse, the union’s “victory” further divided the workers between regulars and contractuals and so weakened workers’ unity and resistance: “Meanwhile, the regular employees’ union feels that the regularization demand is a threat to the permanency of the positions held by regulars (…) This attitude was obvious to their indifference to the KMM [contractuals'] activities, particularly during the strike…".63

Nevertheless, the La Tondeña strike served as an inspiration to other workers by popularising the idea that united, we can defy the repressive laws of the state.

During the 1980s political and economic labor unrest in the Philippines intensified. Even the export processing zones where the government had tried to suppress strikes were experiencing waves of strikes, particularly the Bataan Export Processing Zone.64 The Filipino workers again showed their solidarity with their international class, many workers following attentively and drawing inspiration from the struggles in Poland. But unfortunately, the Maoists profited from the workers' efforts in struggle to establish the Kilusang Mayo Uno65 (KMU) as a labor center under the domination of the CPP.

However, these labor alliances were mainly composed of unions from different labor federations that were united against the Marcos dictatorship. Initiated by the Maoist KMU, but supported by the “pro-Moscow” unions affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions. Ultimately, many of these alliances were transformed into Maoist unions. The non-unionized workers who organized themselves to struggle were later converted into unions under the KMU as part of “consolidating” the workers.

The KMU was established by Felixberto Olalia of the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU), Cipriano Malonzo of NFL, and Crispin Beltran of PANALO. As a labor center on capitalism's left wing, it advocated “genuine, militant and nationalist unionism” supporting the CPP's guerilla struggle. The inter-connection between the unions, the CPP and its guerrilla war, and the "bourgeois opposition",66 is illustrated by the case of Alex Boncayao, a union leader attracted to Maoism, who ran as assemblyman under the coalition with the bourgeois opposition during 1979-80; defeated in the elections, he went to the countryside and died as a guerrilla.

The suppression of strikes was evident between 1973 and 1975, as there were no actual strikes recorded. From 1976 through 1980, the number of strikes decreased to an average of 48 per year. From 1981 to 1985, the yearly average was 245. In 1986, there were 581 recorded strikes; the highest in country’s history with 3.6 million man-days lost in which 21% of these strikes were wildcat or without legal notices as prescribed by capitalist law.

There were several factors that explained this dramatic increase: the worsening international economic condition, the resurgence of international working class movement initiated by the Polish workers, the growing dissatisfaction of the people against the Marcos administration, and other factors inside the Philippines which were under the effects of renewed crisis of decadent capitalism in 1980s.

The inability of the Marcos regime to suppress the rise in workers’ struggles coincided with a change in the international situation. From 1980 onwards, China's attitude towards its Philippine client, the Maoist CPP, also changed. Following Mao Zedong's death in 1976, a new leadership under Deng Ziaoping ousted Mao's successor Hua Guofeng and eliminated the "Gang of Four" which had opposed any opening to the West. Deng intended to open the country to foreign capital and trade in order to gain access to the foreign technology necessary for the country’s economic survival, which necessarily meant normalizing relations with its neighbors. This led to China cutting off relations with Sison's party.67

Upon the failure of the Maoist CPP to import arms from China for its protracted “people’s war”, its “communist” guru Sison called for a united front with the anti-Marcos factions of the ruling class against the dictator. Thus, the “anti-fascist” united front was formed under the leadership of the Maoist CPP with the battle cry of “overthrow the fascist dictatorship”.

In 1983, Benigno Aquino, the popular figure of the anti-Marcos bourgeois opposition was assassinated by Marcos' henchmen. Workers' resistance succumbed to the inter-classist movement led by the maoist KMU. Thousands of workers participated in inter-classist protest actions drowned in the "Filipino people oppressed by Marcos dictatorship”.

Any attempt by the Marcos regime to suppress and control the strike wave ended in futility because the militant workers did not heed to these laws.68 In October 1983, workers of the US Military Bases went on strike. Although this was led by the union it demonstrated the readiness of Filipino workers to defend their welfare and interests.

In the "People Power Revolution" in 1986 that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the Filipino workers actively participated not as an independent class movement but as atomized citizens.

As with the “anti-fascist popular front” during World War II, the Filipino proletariat, thanks to the Stalinist tactics of the maoist CPP, was once again disarmed in 1986 and caught up in the conflict between different factions of the national capital. The democratic bourgeois faction of Corazon Aquino which had been brought to power by the "People Power Revolution" unleashed attacks against the proletariat and even against the left factions which had previously supported her. The democratic Aquino regime undertook total war against the anti-US faction of the bourgeoisie led by the Maoist CPP.

Democratic Philippines and the Counter-Revolutionary Role of Unionism

Upon Corazon Aquino's arrival in power, unions in the Philippines fragmented into many labor centers and federations each defending its own bailiwick against its rivals. One reason for this is that democracy was re-established in the country and the unifying factor of opposition to the Marcos regime no longer existed. Once again, the mystification of democracy effectively disarmed the working class.69

After the fall of Marcos the Filipino workers continued to struggle against the attacks of capital.70 But these struggles were imprisoned in the framework of leftism, and legal trade unionism.

In August 1987, Filipino workers launched a general strike against an oil price hike. Unions under the Labor Advisory Coordination Council (LACC) and TUCP led this general strike asking the Aquino government to take control of the oil industry. In 1988, Filipino workers were again in the forefront of struggles asking for a legislated Php10.00 – Php 15.00 wage increase and demanded a Php1.00 – Php1.50 oil price reduction. In March 29, more than 500,000 workers joined the general strike led by LACC to demand a Php30.00 wage increase. The wave of protest and the sensation of workers' strength even led to a strike by women working in bars serving US troops from Subic Bay, who were being forced into degrading "boxing displays" by the bars owners.

In September 17-21, 1988 thousands of school teachers led by ACT71 and MPSTA72 went on strike due to unpaid allowances. Classes were completely paralyzed, prompting Education Secretary Cariño to dismiss and suspend 3,000 teachers. This struggle was “led” by the CPP. Instead of generalizing the struggle of the teachers, CPP isolated it, leading to its failure. This took place as the workers’ movement in general was on the wane.

These struggles led by the unions ended in defeat. Prices of oil products were only decreased by 0.50 centavos and the government did not heed the legislated wage increase but instead created a law R.A. No. 6727, or Wage Rationalization Act. This law contained the last legislated wage increase under the Aquino administration and created the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Boards (RTWPB), which divided the workers by region in their struggles for wage increases, leaving them at the mercy of government, management and union representatives to decide any wage increase.

The years 1987-1988 were the last expression of the generalization of workers’ struggles. Attempts of the militant workers to generalize their struggles were marred by union sabotage of sectoral and industry by industry struggles of the unions.

Since the government successfully integrated the unions into its structure, it created more laws to appease and control the labor movement through the unions. As the union leaders were committed to participating in elections73, the workers' participation in militant struggles waned. The numbers taking part in “people’s strikes” spearheaded by the Maoists dwindled considerably. They were launched in some regions where the Maoists still had a considerable mass base.

As the militant mobilizations led by the ultra-leftists dwindled, the state also accelerated its integration of the union leaders to parliamentarism and legalized activity. In January 1993, under the Ramos administration, sectoral representatives for labor74 were appointed to the Ninth Congress.75 From then on, the so-called “communists” in the left of capital followed the road of parliamentarism.

In 1992, the CPP was marked by splits because of the vanguardism and absolutism of its leadership. Its regional organization in National Capital Region (NCR), led by Filemon Lagman declared autonomy and started to reorient towards “Marxism-Leninism” against Maoism.76 After the split, the Lagman group seized control of the KMU-NCR and transformed it into the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP).

As in the past, the leftists tried to unify the different unions to make their presence felt as a bargaining power within the state apparatus. In September 1993, three major federations (NFL, NAFLU and UWP) announced their disaffiliation from KMU due to ideological infighting within the organization. These federations became the core of the National Confederation of Labor of the Philippines (NCLP). In October of the same year, the Labor Alliance for Wage Increase of P35 (LAWIN 35) was formed to spearhead the call for a Php35 hourly wage increase for the private sector and a Php2,000 across-the-board salary hike for public sector employees. This campaign was supposed to usher in a new era in labor cooperation as LMLC, TUCP, FFW, BMP, KATIPUNAN, NFL, NAFLU, TUPAS, and CIU joined forces. But these alliances did not last.

The last attempt at union unification was the Katipunan ng mga Pangulo ng Unyon sa Pilipinas (KPUP) or Brotherhood of Union Presidents of the Philippines set up by the group of Filemon ‘Popoy’ Lagman. But this also failed since the different union federations did not want their rivals entering their own unions.

In February 1998, the Social Accord for Industrial Harmony and Stability was signed by representatives from the LACC, TUCP, ECOP, PCCI, DOLE and DTI. This accord was in essence the same as the Social Justice Program promoted by Manuel Quezon in the 1930s. Once again, the unions are to be found acting as accomplices of the state to imprison the consciousness of the class.

In May 1998, Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected as the 13th President of the Philippine Republic. He was dubbed as the “president of the masses”.

In May 2000, the Labor Solidarity Movement (LSM) was launched in a massive rally at the Araneta Coliseum with a clear anti-Erap (Estrada) stance. It was composed of four national labor centers namely: Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), the Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and the National Confederation of Labor (NCL). They claimed to constitute about 60% of the organized labor. LSM’s "impeachment or resign position" followed its early analysis and judgment on the Estrada administration and it promptly allied itself with the Kongreso ng Mamamayang Pilipino 2 (KOMPIL 2), a coalition of the anti-Estrada "bourgeois opposition". In reply, the pro-Estrada faction formed its own Labor Reform Bloc (LRB) under the leadership of Roberto Oca, Jr., who is a childhood friend of Erap and Attorney Roberto Padilla, a vice-president of TUCP and the brother of Congressman Roy Padilla of LAMP. Two labor representatives known for their left-wing politics from the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) also signed. Even the NAFLU - the former KMU union that formed the NCL - joined this new formation.

This only showed how the unions work as appendages of the different factions of the ruling class in their internecine power struggles.

In January 2001, an inter-classist “People Power” movement ousted Joseph Estrada as president and brought Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to power as the 14th President of the Republic of the Philippines.

Once again the workers had been led by the unions and the Leftists to support a faction of the ruling class.

In May 1, 2001, Estrada supporters, mostly urban poor led a violent attack on Malacanang Palace. The uprising was labeled as a “poor man’s revolt” due to the mobilization of many die-hard Erap supporters from the lower income bracket of the society. It was crushed by the state led by Gloria Arroyo.

This was an indication how the non-proletarian exploited strata – the urban poor and informal sector – in the absence of a strong and independent working class movement can be used by the bourgeoisie in its own interests.

In May 2001, the second party-list elections saw the failure again of “labor” parties to win a seat in the House of Representatives. Nine parties based on a working-class electorate joined this round and the highest ranking party within the labor sector in Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), a “Marxist-leninist” front of the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino of late Filemon Lagma. Labor leader Crispin Beltran of KMU won a party list Representative under the Bayan Muna Party. This completed the absorption of the ultra-left maoist organizations into “classical” bourgeois parliamentary politics. The “victory” of the Leftist labor leaders in the bourgeois parliament only increased their opportunistic appetites.


Over and over again, the Filipino workers have demonstrated their unbreakable courage and their ability to organize in their own defense. They have taken part in every wave and phase of struggles of their international class.

Filipino workers have been forced to emigrate all over the world, and have taken part directly in the class struggle world wide.77 This has the potentiel to contribute a precious experience to the rest of their class.

Yet for all their courage and their combativeness, the workers in the Philippines remain mired in the morass of bourgeois politics, used and abused by an ever-changing, bewildering kaleidoscope of unions, "socialist", "communist", and "worker" parties whose only interest is their struggle for petty advantage in the endless factional warfare of the Filipino ruling class.

As we have tried to show in this article, if workers in the Philippines have been unable, in the final analysis, to assert their own independent organization as a class, outside the structure of the state and all its factions, whether of the "bourgeois" or the "workers'" opposition, this is fundamentally for two inter-related reasons: first, their inability to break with nationalism, and second their belief that revolutionary opposition to capital can only be national and nationalist.

The mentality of militant, nationalist unionism is still very strong in the minds of Filipino workers. For these workers, only unions with a “revolutionary” leadership could defeat capitalism. Furthermore, this militant unionist line entraps the workers behind the prison walls of nationalism, parliamentarism, guerilla warfare, democracy and reformism.

We have aimed here to highlight some of the many historical factors responsible for this situation:

1. The experience of colonization; first by Spain from the 1500s to late 1800s and then by American capitalism from 1900s up to 1940s (with a short interregnum under Japanese rule during World War II). Thus, nationalism (ie, anti-foreign domination) is very strong even among militant workers.

2. The Filipino bourgeoisie together with their foreign patrons effectively utilize unions by dividing them between “purely economistic”, nationalist, radicals and moderate; dividing the workers and putting the “radicals” in the opposition so as to sow false hope that there are “bad” and “good” unions, “pro-worker” and “anti-worker” unions.

The generally anti-union sentiment of the capitalists in the Philippines strongly contributed to the illusion that unions are really pro-worker and that their constant betrayals are just a problem of “good” and “bad” leadership.

3. The effectiveness of bourgeois propaganda that Stalinism and Maoism are “communist” ideologies. This propaganda has never been refuted for more than 80 years. And lately, those leftist organizations that claim to be “anti-Stalinism” and “anti-Maoism”, instead of giving clarification only spew more confusion since their behavior is identical to the Stalinists and Maoists before them.

These factors are exacerbated by the decomposition of decadent capitalism since the end of the 1980s. The sabotage of the Leftists created demoralization and pushed many workers to submissiveness and a loss in self-confidence, the fertile ground for the penetration of bourgeois ideology of “every man for himself” and “one against all” within the working class.

4. In more than 100 years history of unionism, the state adapted the “militancy” of unions by making laws regulating and controlling them. After the unions effectively sabotage the struggles, the state made suppressive laws restricting the struggles. When the workers showed “uncontrollable” militance, the state “liberalizes” its laws so that the unions could again imprison the class in their structure.

The workers will never be strong until they learn to stand alone, outside and inevitably against the whole capitalist class, whether left or right, whether private capitalist or state capitalist. And when the union bosses come, yet again, to dragoon them into another futile struggle on behalf of this or that senator or presidential hopeful, then let the Filipino workers remember these words of the great 19th century French revolutionary Auguste Blanqui, that still echo to us down the years: "Those proletarians who allow themselves to be amused by ridiculous street demonstrations, by the planting of liberty trees, by the grand words of lawyers, will be met first with priestly blessings, then with insults, and finally with bullets, and with famine and poverty always".


  • 2Wilfredo Fabros, The Church and its social involvement in the Philippines, 1930-72, cited in Kathleen Nadeau, History of the Philippines.

  • 3Fernand Braudel, Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe – XVIIIe siècle, Vol 1, Editions Livre de Poche, p515. According to a contemporary observer, Father Sebastian Maurique, cited by Braudel, the Chinese "would go down to hell to find new merchandise to exchange for the reales they so passionately desire. They go so far as to say, in their pidgin Spanish, 'plata sa sangre' [silver is blood]".

  • 4 Braudel, op.cit., Vool 3, p612.

  • 5In one Bible story, a rich young man asks how to enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus replies "give all your worldly goods to the poor and follow me", adding that "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God".

  • 6 Kathleen Nadeau, History of the Philippines, Greenwood Press, 2008, Kindle edition, location 605.

  • 7Nadeau, op.cit., loc 705

  • 9Subic Bay and the nearby Clark Air Force Base were the United States' two largest military installations abroad.

  • 10See Ildefonso Runes, The First Three Filipino Marxists. Delos Reyes' concept of radicalism was more influenced by bourgeois nationalism and religious radicalism than by the socialist thinkers.

  • 11The Independent church at first adopted a curious form of "materialist" Christianity. According to the American CP emissary James Allen, who knew Aglipay, "The altars I have seen bear the inscription: 'Bible and Science, Love and Liberty'. In the sermons and discourses of the Obispo Maximo and in the official literature of his church the supernatural, the miracles, and myths in the Bible and in the Roman dogma have been eliminated. 'The advance of scientific truth', the head bishop holds, 'rendered the old dogmas obsolete'". The ideas of Jesus were seen as a "mixture of holiness and subversion". According to Aglipay, "we relegate the miracles to the category of 'candid creations of popular imagination'. We have produced instead a real Jesus, patriot, iconoclast, reformer, defender of the oppressed and lover of mankind". The church today continues to criticise government corruption, but it has long since abandoned its embrace of science and condemnation of miracles.

  • 12Returning to the Philippines early in 1901, delos Reyes campaigned relentlessly for the establishment of a Filipino Church. In July in the same year, he founded the first labor union in Philippines: Union Obrera Democratica (Democratic Labor Union). Its founding is significant, for it gave a broad basis to the religious movement to which the masses were favorably disposed." (Teodoro Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People.)

  • 13The USS Maine's explosion has never been satisfactorily explained. However, the US government's immediate use of the opportunity to declare war, and its evident preparedness for the same, lends credence to the suspicion that the explosion was deliberately engineered as a pretext to start the war.

  • 14For a brief appreciation of US imperial expansion, see this article from an ICC internal debate on economics: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/2009/136/war-economy

  • 15Here is Arthur MacArthur, military governor of Manila in 1898, on the eve of the massacre: "The future of the Philippine Islands is now in the hands of the American people, and the Paris Treaty commits the free and Franchised Filipinos to the guiding hand and the liberalizing influences, the generous sympathies, the uplifting agitation, not of their American masters, but of their American emancipation. No imperial designs lurk in the American mind. They are alien to American sentiment, thought, and purpose. Our priceless principles undergo no change under a tropical sun. They go with a fiat: 'Why read ye not the changeless truth, the free can conquer but to save'" (quoted in Robert Harvey, American Shogun).

  • 16Since all politicians had to subscribe to full independence if they hoped to be elected, ideological differences between them were minimal. According to the historian Renato Constantino (cited by Nadeau, op.cit.), "affiliation was based on affinities of blood, friendship, and regionalism, as well as on personal expedience. Under these circumstances, patronage was vital to the retention of a personal following, a fact which induced the party leaders time and again to barter the country's long-term interests for short-term bonuses for the party of power".

  • 17Dante Guevarra, History of the Philippine Labor Movement, 1995.

  • 18Lope K. Santos had already in 1908 organized a union among the workers of the Katabusan Cigar and Cigarette Factory, which was also the country’s first workers’ cooperative.

  • 19James S Allen, The Philippine Left on the eve of World War II, MEP Publications, 1985 and 1993. The IWW was a revolutionary syndicalist union, strongly internationalist and opposed to the reformism of the more established unions in the United States. It attempted to organise outside the USA and, strikingly, was the only union in the USA at the time to fight race discrimination uncompromisingly, organising white and negro workers in the same union branches. The IWW maintained an internationalist position during World War I and was crushed by state repression as a result. See the two articles on the IWW published in our series on revolutionary syndicalism. According to Jose Ma. Sison, Impact of the Communist International on the Founding and Development of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Evangelista at this point was actually a member of the Nacionalista Party.

  • 20An example of this was the participation of Filipino sugar workers in the strikes in Hawaii from 1920-34.

  • 22The Red International of Labor Unions (RILU, also known by its Russian abbreviation Profintern) which was organized in 1921 and the Peasants’ International (or Krestintern) in 1923 were the vehicles for the Russian state to enter the territory of its rival enemy. Subsequently, subsidiary offices of these were established in China in order to cover the Far East and Pacific area. See Jose Ma. Sison, op.cit.

  • 23The exact date, significantly, was 26th August, anniversary of Andres Bonifacio's “Cry of Balintawak” that launched the national liberation guerrilla war against Spain.

  • 24Allen, op.cit., p26

  • 26As we have pointed out in the article on Turkey, the communists on the spot were often clearer, in its early days, of the catastrophic effects of these policies than the Comintern leadership, Lenin included. This was true for China, for example, where in July 1921 the First Congress of the Chinese CP "adopted a resolution declaring that the new party should 'stand up on behalf of the proletariat, and should allow no relationship with the other parties or groups'" (see Carrère d'Encausse and Schram, Marxism in Asia, Penguin Press 1969, p51).

  • 27Jose Ma. Sison, op.cit. Sison took over the Communist Party of the Philippines from 1968 and turned it into a Maoist nationalist organization: his historical assessment of events is thus to be treated with a good deal of caution.

  • 28This led to some strange positions being adopted notably with regard to Turkey and Germany. For example, in 1922 Ts'ai Ho-sen, an intimate friend of Mao Zedong, could write about Turkey "General Kemal, a great man endowed with a great revolutionary spirit, led his nationalist party and started an insurrection in Ankara (…) [The Turkish people's] nationalist party has already led them along the path of great victories! We admire them, and even more than that we want to imitate their great example" (Kemal Ataturk's army went on to carry out the ethnic cleansing of the Greek population in Turkey, ruthlessly suppress workers' struggles, and massacre the militants of the Communist Party). In 1923, after the French occupation of the Ruhr, an article by Kao Chün-yü could describe Germany as a "small and weak country", going on to say that "these acts of France prompt us all – the popular masses of China and not only the workers – to side with Germany, which is oppressed like us" (Carrère d'Encausse and Schram, op.cit., pp216-218).

  • 29Crisanto Evangelista, Jose Nava, Jacinto Manahan, Pedro Abad Santos, Juan Feleo and Mateo Castillo

  • 30Kenneth K Kurihara, Labor in the Philippine economy, Stanford University Press, 1945, p70.

  • 32Jose Ma. Sison, op.cit.

  • 33James Allen, op.cit., p60

  • 34William J Pomeroy, The Philippines: colonialism, collaboration, and resistance!, International Publishers Co, 1992, p124

  • 35Labor activities were suppressed during the Japanese occupation but the communists under the leadership of the scientist Vicente Lava were prepared. They channeled their efforts into guerilla resistance activities against the Japanese Imperial Army. Under the Hukbalahap, they established a merger with the socialist/nationalists (Abad Santos and Luis Taruc) and allied with the conservative Filipino dynastic and middle class elites (led by Quezon) and the American colonial administration (led by McArthur).” Jorge V. Sibal, A Century of the Philippine Labor Movement

  • 37ICC, History of US Foreign Policy Since WW II.

  • 38When, on February 5 [1945], the American entered Manila in force they promptly disarmed the Huk squadrons that had entered the city ahead of them….the Huks in Obando and Maykawayan, Bulakan, were also disarmed for no reason at all. Further dignity was heaped upon the Huks when Squadron 77, while passing through Malolos on their way to Pampanga was… seized, thrown to jail, and shot to death with the knowledge of American MP’s". Teodoro A. Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, p. 449.

  • 39The organization was led by Felixberto Olalia, Guillermo Capadocha, Amado Hernandez and Cipriano Cid, CLO’s first president.

  • 40The doctrine was called “containment,” and it was designed to resist the further spread of Russia imperialism’s tentacles in Europe and the Near East. (ICC, History of US Foreign Policy since WW II)

  • 41ICC, History of US Foreign Policy since WW II

  • 42Later, the “independence day” of the Philippines was changed to June 12 and July 4 was named “Filipino-American Friendship Day” to make it appear that Philippine “independence” was not given by American imperialism.

  • 43The 1949 election, held after the death of President Manuel Roxas, were typical. Vice-President Quirino who had succeeded Roxas, was opposed by Jose Laurel, who had accused Roxas of collaboration with the Japanese but who had himself been the president of the Japanese-sponsored republic during the war. The election was marked by the violence and fraud.

  • 45Lois A West, Militant Labor in the Philippines, Temple University Press, 1997, p37.

  • 46William J Pomeroy, op.cit., p174.

  • 47Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA.

  • 48Jonathan D. Spence, The Search for Modern China, Norton, 1999, p502.

  • 49ICC, History of US Foreign Policy since WW II

  • 50Federation of Free Workers (FFW, 1950) was inspired mainly by the teachings of the Catholic encyclicals through Fr. Walter Hogan, S.J. and organised by young Ateneans headed by Juan C. Tan. (Asper, 2002) Jorge V. Sibal, A Century of the Philippine Labor Movement

  • 51Amado Hernandez was a nationalist petty-bourgeois intellectual who became the CLO president in 1947 and a member of the Stalinist PKP. According to his biography: “When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, Amado joined the resistance movement and became an intelligence operative of the Marking and Anderson guerrilla outfit whose operations covered Hagonoy, Bulacan, and the mountain fastnesses of the Sierra Madre.” The Filipino bourgeoisie made him “two-time awardee in the Commonwealth Literary Contest; four-time winner of the Palanca Literary Memorial Awards; winner of four consecutive years of journalism awards in the NPC-ESSO sponsored contest.” (source: "Amado V. Hernandez (1903-1970)", Filipinos in History, National Historical Institute, 1989.)

  • 52To support the collective bargaining system in the Philippines and Asia, the Asian Labor Education Center (ALEC) of the University of the Philippines (now called UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations or UP SOLAIR) was set up in May 1954 by the National Economic Council (NEC) and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA), forerunners of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the US Agency for International Development (US AID) respectively. See Jorge V. Sibal, op.cit.

  • 53The number of unions increased three-fold from 1953 to 1956 and collective bargaining agreements concluded increased by four times. From 1953 to 1966, the number of unions registered increased from 836 to 2,522. (Jorge V. Sibal, op.cit.)

  • 54Worker’s Party was organised to field candidates for elections in Manila. Their candidates lost which once again showed the lack of solidarity in labor through a unified labor vote. (Jorge V. Sibal, A Century of the Philippine Labor Movement)

  • 55This concept of one federation-one industry was patterned after the US system. (Jorge V. Sibal, A Century of the Philippine Labor Movement)

  • 56A far from exhaustive list can serve to illustrate the point: the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, the CIA-sponsored coups against elected governments in Guatemala (1954), Iran (1953), etc.

  • 57One example is that of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime in Egypt, established by a military coup, and which not only looked to the USSR for inspiration but turned to the Russian bloc for material and military support against Israel and the United States.

  • 58According to Nadeau, he spent $50 million of government money in a campaign that was “the most fraudulent in local history”.

  • 59This is analogous to the situation in Iran, where the Shah’s kleptomaniac rule turned the whole of Iranian society, even including its wealthy elite, against him, leaving him bereft of any political support against the uprising that brought Khomeini to power.

  • 61To try to avoid confusion, from this point on the Maoist “Communist Party of the Philippines” is called the CPP, while the pro-Moscow rump is called the PKP-1930. The PKP-1930 survived the martial law era as pro-government supporters, after being pardoned by Marcos. They supported the government in its land reform program, including its so-called “Land Collectivisation”, and the “Democratic Revolution from the centre” envisioned by Marcos. The Maoist faction, led by Jose Maria Sison (comfortably installed in exile in the Netherlands), to this day maintains a guerrilla force of several thousand essentially in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. The PHP-1930 has survived as a minor party engaged in parliamentary activity; it publishes Ang Komunista, and is organized mainly in Metro Manila. In the late 1980s, when the Maoist CPP was courting the Gorbachov regime in USSR, the USSR’s first condition for a “fraternal” relation with the Maoist CPP was that the former integrate with the PKP-1930.

  • 62After the “victorious” strike, only 300 out of 1,200 contractuals (total workforce is 1,400) underwent the process of regularization and in the end, only 80 were subjected to yearly “non-rotation basis, ie, they would not be subjected to the regular lay-offs as the other casuals” (Linda A. Kapunan, ‘La Tondeña strike of 1976’, Philippine Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol II no. 2, 2nd semester, 1979-80).

  • 64June 5-7, 1981 - The first general strike after Martial Law was held in the Bataan Export Processing Zone, leading to the formation of Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Bataan - Bataan Labor Alliance (AMBA-BALA).

  • 65KMU - May First Movement, a maoist CPP led labor center

  • 66In the Philippines, the term "bourgeois opposition" is used to refer to opposition groups which do not claim to be "socialist", "communist", or in any way connected to the workers' movement. The ruling faction can become a “bourgeois opposition” when it is out of power, and vice versa.

  • 68In May 1982, BP 130 was promulgated restricting trade union rights and freedoms. It prohibited strikes in industries “affecting the national interest”. It also required a two-thirds vote before a union may stage a strike. It stipulated that law enforcement agencies could assist in ensuring the compliance of return-to-work orders or injunctions. In August of the same year, BP 227 was enacted. This was later popularly known as the Free Ingress-Egress Law that allowed management to enter company premises and to bring in or out all company equipment, materials or goods during a strike.

  • 69Efren Aranzamendez, FFW Vice-President, broke away from FFW and formed his own federation called the Confederation of Free Workers (CFW). Pinag-isang Diwang Manggagawang Pilipino (PDMP) was organized by the PTGWO-Oca Wing, PSSLU (led by Tony Diaz) and PLAC (led by Jack Tamayo).

  • 70In 1986, the Philippines experienced over 580 strikes nationally, the highest ever recorded.

  • 71ACT – Association of Concerned Teachers

  • 72MPSTA – Manila Public School Teachers Association

  • 73March 18, 1992, the first election-based coalition called the Kongreso ng Malayang Manggagawang Pilipino (KMMP) was formed by Antonio Diaz of PDMP and Jesus Diamonon, formerly of TUCP, to the presidential bid of the big capitalist Eduardo Cojuangco, of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. Another election-based alliance called the Manggagawang Kaisa ni Salonga-Pimentel (MAKISAPI) was launched by about 400 trade union leaders. Only Ernesto Herrera of TUCP made it to the Senate out of five senatorial candidates from labor. The others who failed to make it to the Senate were Ruben Torres, Israel Bocobo, Bonifacio Tupaz and Amado Inciong. Crispin Beltran of KMU also run for senator in 1987.

  • 74The Filipino electoral system includes parliamentary representation of different “sectors” of the population: peasants, industrial workers, etc.

  • 75Alejandro Villaviza, Zoilo dela Cruz and Andres Dinglasan of TUCP composed the first batch. They were later joined by Ramon Jabar and Ernesto Verceles of FFW, Temistocles Dejon of TUCP and Paterno Menzon of ILAW-LACC. The group of Popoy Lagman fielded “communist” candidates in the party-list election in 1998 and the Maoists followed in the coming years.

  • 77For example, in October 2007 Filipino nurses were part of the biggest nurses' strike in California in nearly a decade, reports Philippine News. More than 5,000 registered nurses went on strike in fifteen mostly San Francisco Bay Area hospitals operated by the Sutter Health Corporation. (New America Media, October 12, 2007)


taken from www.internationalism.org



7 years ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalist on June 14, 2017

My compa is sa filipina. A reasonable article, of course from an ICC bend. Informative nevertheless