Congreso Obrero de Filipinas The Congreso de Obrero de Filipinas (COF) continued to expose and condemn the American Federation of labor, its racial policies and its attempts to subvert the Philippine trade union movement and subordinate it to the U.S. colonial government. The COF vigorously advocated the independence of the Philippines from U.S. imperialism.
In the era of imperialism, the COF was not free from splitters. In order to pursue their pro-imperialist tendencies and their U.S. style of political muckraking, Vicente Sotto, Ramon Diokno and Lope K. Santos formed a faction and split away to form the Asemblea Obrera in 1917. In order to pursue his program of company unionism, Joaquin Balmori also split away in the same year and formed the Federacion del Trabajo de Filipinas. Balmori advocated that labor unions should charge no membership dues and should receive financial support from management. His federation even made a resolution against strikes and so-called subversive ideas.
In the meantime, in the strongest single labor organization of the period, the UIF, a reorganization was made on March 1, 1918, in which Crisanto Evangelista was elected president. The period was marked by an atmosphere of militancy in the trade union movement as the October Revolution ushered in the first proletarian state.
In the entire trade union movement, the emergence of the young Crisanto Evangelista as a leader marked a new era. Upon his assumption as UIF president, he created a committee, composed of Hermenegildo Cruz, Pablo Lucas and himself, to make a labor survey in the various printing establishments and to draft a general petition to be presented simultaneously to all managements. A campaign for a strike fund was immediately launched in preparation for a general walkout if the petition was rejected. The press capitalists were so impressed with the determination and unity of their workers that they submitted to the demands which included wage hikes ranging from 100 to 500 percent. As a result of this successful campaign, the prestige and leadership of Crisanto Evangelista rose.
President Quezon, in an attempt to undermine the proven strength of the UIF, appointed Evangelista as a member of the Philippine Independence Mission to the United States in 1919. The mission though gave Evangelista the chance to meet and evaluate the various American labor leaders and organizations. He noted the reactionary and racial policies of the American Federation of Labor led by Samuel Gompers. He also came across more materials on scientific socialism and he was positively influenced by the widespread enthusiasm of the workers to launch a Third International.
Maintaining a high political consciousness over its daily economic struggle, the UIF, under the energetic leadership of Crisanto Evangelista, struck for the cause of national freedom and integrity in 1920 against all the American-owned and American-controlled newspapers which had suddenly waged a press campaign to forestall the movement for national independence and denigrate the Filipino people as incompetent for self-government and, therefore, deserving of further U.S. imperialist “tutelage.” In 1922, Evangelista established the Partido Obrero (Workers’ Party), the precursor of the Communist Party of the Philippines. On May 1, 1927, the COF elected Francisco Varona president and Crisanto Evangelista secretary. On this day, it decided to affiliate with the Red International of Labor Unions. This was the culmination of Filipino labor participation in the Canton Conference of 1925, and in the conferences where the Filipino representatives discussed with the representatives of other national labor organizations (especially those from the East), shared their experiences in economic and political struggle and arrived at the conclusion that since they all faced Western imperialism they needed to band together in equality and in coordination against the common enemy.
In 1928, a more extensive contact of Filipino labor leaders with the international labor movement occurred. The leaders of COF, headed by Crisanto Evangelista, attended conferences in Shanghai, Moscow and Berlin. This development frightened the U.S. colonial government and it instructed its agents to make trouble in the COF. U.S. imperialism was afraid that the Filipino proletariat would derive greater strength by coordinating its efforts with the international labor movement.
On May 1, 1929, the COF split into the yellow faction led by Ruperto Cristobal and the red faction led by Crisanto Evangelista. The former packed the meeting hall with his own men and the latter had no alternative but to bolt. In this manner, the COF became inutile and a more militant and more progressive labor federation, Katipunan ng mga Anak Pawis, arose in June 1929. At the close of the third decade, Crisanto Evangelista emerged as the most outstanding leader in the trade union movement, extending his influence to Visayas and Mindanao by maintaining fraternal relations with the Federacion Obrero de Filipinas of Jose Maria Nava.