The Working Class and Its Freedom With the suppression of the Philippine Revolution and its betrayal, the Filipino masses found themselves prevented at every turn by American power from pursuing their collective interest. The Filipino peasantry realized that they had not only been frustrated by U.S. imperialism in their struggle for national liberation but also in their struggle for land reform and social justice. The Filipino working class, still at its rudimentary stage, was also frustrated. The true leaders of the revolutionary government met one fatal setback after another as opportunists took the upper hand in the struggle for national liberation. Because the peasantry was the backbone of the revolution, U.S. imperialism delivered to it the most paralyzing blows and whatever political organization was achieved among the masses by cadres of the revolution was scuttled by the marching hordes of U.S. imperialism.
Immediately after the suppression of the peasants in the countryside in the Filipino-American War, the workers in the city started to transform the gremios into modern trade unions and directly founded in 1901 the first trade union, the Union de Impresores de Filipinas—significantly, the union of printers, which became the base of such labor leaders as Isabelo de los Reyes and Crisanto Evangelista. When the trade unions federated themselves into the Union Obrera Democratica in early 1902 and held the first labor congress in the Philippines, guided by the Marxist principle that “the emancipation of the workers must be achieved by the workers themselves”—the proletarian battlecry throughout the world—all the military and intelligence personnel and facilities of U.S. imperialism became focused upon the leaders. The Union Obrera Democratica suffered an early death a few months after the conviction and incarceration of Isabelo de los Reyes on trumped-up charges and on false witness by a paid agent. The attempt of Dr. Dominador Gomez to resurrect the same federation failed, with him suffering the same fate of incarceration. De los Reyes and Gomez suffered incarceration for their leadership in mass demonstrations of workers in the interest of the working class and for their militant anti-imperialist stand. Subsequently, De los Reyes and Gomez themselves became absorbed by reactionary politics.
Seeing that the Filipino workers could not be restrained from organizing themselves, Governor Taft imported the American Federation of Labor in 1903 to see to it that a federation, the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas of Lope K. Santos, be organized along the traditional lines of U.S. yellow trade unionism and be disciplined under the anti-labor principle that “labor should not go into politics.” Thus, not only frontal but fifth column attacks against the Filipino working class were employed by the U.S. imperialist regime to curtail the class freedom of the workers and their civil liberties. It was essential, as it is still essential, to the forces of imperialist reaction, that the working class should never become a political force in the land. The American Federation of Labor doctrine of non-politics for labor and subservience to imperialist politics, however, did not gain ground among the workers as much as it was expected despite the fat imperialist subsidies given to labor crooks.
A labor congress on May 1, 1913 was held under the leadership of Hermenegildo Cruz and founded the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas. In the meantime, Crisanto Evangelista rose as leader of the premier trade union of the time, the Union de Impresores de Filipinas, and in 1918 became its president. In 1922, he established the Workers’ Party—the first of its kind in the Philippines. In the 1929 convention of the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas, the federation polarized into a group of “reds” and a group of “yellows.” The group of reds, led by Crisanto Evangelista, bolted out with the overwhelming majority of the trade unions and formed the Katipunan ng mga Anak Pawis. The group of yellows and Yankee agents became isolated from the working-class movement. In 1930, as the dominant number of organized workers struggled to have a bigger role in our political life, they founded the Communist Party in concert with the peasantry organized under the Katipunang Pambansang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas. A few months later in 1931, even as the left movement in the United States and throughout the West was becoming stronger with the Depression and the need to counteract fascism, the U.S. imperialist regime, consistently fearing the political potential of the Filipino working class and the peasantry together, moved to illegalize the Communist Party and imprison and banish its leaders from the masses.
Nevertheless, while the Communist Party was in hibernation, so to speak, Pedro Abad Santos organized the peasantry in Central Luzon under the Aguman Ding Maldang Talapagobra and soon after launched the Socialist Party. Under the regime of Franklin D. Roosevelt when the Popular Front was needed to counteract the fascism of Japan, Germany and Italy, the Commonwealth government released its communist prisoners and allowed them to work again as a legal political party. In 1938, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party merged to form one political party. In struggling against Japanese fascism throughout World War II, this political party proved its worth to the Filipino people and became very strong.
After World War II, the attitude of U.S. imperialism to the Communist Party changed and the merest suspicion of attachment to it proved to be dangerous and fatal to anybody. The period of 1945 and 1952 proved fatal to communist lives and civil liberties. The imperialist attempt to isolate and provoke suspected communist leaders was only part of a campaign to reinstitute U.S. power in the Philippines. The U.S. authorities feared the Communists as the most uncompromising anti-imperialists.
As has been proven in the Philippines and elsewhere throughout the world where U.S. imperialism has succeeded in perpetuating its vested interest, the suppression of Communists easily results in suppression of nationalists and of democrats of whatever shade and class. The logic of this statement can easily be found in the dialectics of the imperialist suppression of the Democratic Alliance, the Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magsasaka, the Congress of Labor Organizations and the Civil Liberties Union, advocates of nationalism and civil liberties. After the war, it became the policy of the U.S. government to destroy any individual or organization which stood in the path of its campaign to reestablish U.S. power in the Philippines through the Bell Trade Act and the Parity Amendment, the Military Bases Agreement, the Military Assistance Pact and the Quirino-Foster Agreement. Through its local agents in all branches of the government, U.S. imperialism had no compunction in ordering the massacre of an entire squadron of guerrilla fighters which escorted U.S. troops from Central Luzon to Manila, the murder of the national chairman of the Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magsasaka and the general secretary of the Congress of Labor Organizations, and the ouster of the Democratic Alliance members from the Philippine Congress, whose number would have been sufficient to prevent the treasonous ratification of the Parity Amendment and the passage of the Bell Bill. Under these conditions, after defeating the democratic will of the sovereign people and the suppression of the freedom of expression and assembly, the organized peasantry and the workers together with the progressive intelligentsia and those businessmen who stood to suffer from free trade, were provoked into civil strife.
Those organizations which were suppressed in the second half of the ‘forties to the ‘fifties were the victims of an anti-national and anti-democratic foreign aggressor and its domestic tools. On May 10, 1964, after more than a decade of waiting for the courts to decide, the leaders of the Congress of Labor Organizations were read the decision of the Supreme Court acquitting them of the charge of rebellion and conspiracy against the Philippine state. This “vindication” has in a way exposed the extreme character of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the massive attacks against the life and civil liberties through the sona, the assassinations and bombardments which were conducted against our poor masses. Amado V. Hernandez and other labor leaders languished for years in prison only to be acquitted later. Can the Congress of Labor Organizations be easily resuscitated now to enjoy once more the Bill of Rights of the Constitution? Can the progressive workers and peasants recover from their losses and use the Bill of Rights to their advantage now after more than a decade of terror and chicanery by the CIA agents, clerics and crooks who tried to run down and own all the labor unions and peasant unions in the country and who also tried to thwart all possibility of the progressive recovery of our masses by means of the Anti-Subversion Law which is meant to perpetuate the suppression of our civil liberties?
In this country and at this stage of our development, we should never think that one class or one leader alone can achieve our national liberation. Let us think of and work for the solidarity of anti-imperialist and anti-feudal classes, groups, and individuals for the common objective of winning national freedom and democracy from that single power which dictates upon us, which exploits us and which acts as the master of the compradors, landlords and corrupt officials in our exploited society. Let us endeavor to work for a broad united front in the national-democratic movement. Let the patriotic businessmen, the students, the workers, the professionals and the peasants unite into an invincible force against U.S. imperialism and feudalism. Let the vast majority of our people—the peasantry and the working class—be the massive base of our democracy. Let a new type of leadership, that of the proletariat, emerge to show us the correct path.
We have been provided with the illusion that there is freedom of expression and assembly in this country, which is supposedly sufficient to voice out and work for the interests of the masses of our people. But if we look closely at the platforms of all those political parties which present political candidates in the false drama of neocolonial politics, we find that patronage and bribery are the real concerns of their decrepit and narrow type of leadership. We find the common devotion to a “free enterprise” monopolized by U.S. imperialism.