During the Philippine Commonwealth
Labor Unions and Early Influence
Isabelo de los Reyes, ilustrado, and considered to be father of Filipino Socialism
Communist documents, such as the official history of the PKP as written by Jose Lava, make references to Andres Bonifacio as a direct inspiration to the communist revolution, thus painting the communist movement as a continuation of the "unfinished revolution" started by the Katipunan. Sources claim that Isabelo de los Reyes, an ilustrado, can be considered to be one of the first Filipino labor leaders. de los Reyes founded the Unión Obrera Democrática (UOD), considered the first modern trade federation in the country. He was influenced by Francisco Ferrer, an anarcho-syndicalist he met during a stay in Montjuïc prison in Barcelona, Spain. In 1901, de los Reyes brought back to the Philippines what can be considered the first batch of socialist literature, consisting of writings by Proudhon, Bakunin, Malatesta and other leftists of the period.
It was from labor unions that the first socialist and communist groups emerged. The earliest known labor union in the Philippines was the Union de Litografos y Impresores de Filipinas (ULIF), headed by Hermenegildo Cruz and formed in 1902. That same year, lithographers from the Carmelo and Bauermann publishing house approached de los Reyes to seek advice. Cruz and de los Reyes formed the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD), along with its official organ, La Redencion del Obrero. The UOD was succeeded by Dr. Jose Maria Dominador Gomez after three months, who rechristened it the Union Obrero Democratica de Filipinas (UODF). On May 1, 1903, Gomez and the UODF led a labor demonstration to Malacanang, marking the first observance of Labor Day in the Philippines. Gomez was arrested by the end of the month, but was eventually acquitted in the Supreme Court. He ultimately resigned as head of the UODF shortly after, and the UODF was dissolved.
A certificate of membership (Katibayan ng Kaanib
) to the UIF (circa 1918)
With the UODF defunct, a new labor federation known as the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas (UTF) was founded in October 1903. Lope K. Santos became its first president. The UTF was formed with the assistance of Edward Rosenberg, a special commissioner sent by the American Federation of Labor in an effort by the colonial government to steer organized labor along less controversial paths. During this time, Santos and Hermenegildo Cruz gave evening classes in what was known as a "School of Socialism" in Quiapo. Students of these classes included Crisanto Evangelista, among others. However, the UODF re-emerged in 1908, as a result of dissatisfaction in the UTF's moderate policies as well as partisan politics.
In 1908, Hermenegildo Cruz reorganized the Gremio de Tipografos, Litografos y Encuadernadores into the Union de Impresores de Filipinas (UIF), along with four of his former students in the School of Socialism: Arturo Soriano, Melanio de Jesus, Felipe Mendoza, and Crisanto Evangelista. Evangelista was one of the leading trade union leaders of the time, having first come from UOD and the UODF. Compared to the two previous unions, which were nationalist unions in nature, the UIF was more socialist, adopting the slogan: "The emancipation of the workers must be achieved by the workers themselves."
On May 1, 1913, the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF) was founded, with Cruz as its first President. The UODF and the UTF were both dissolved, and the COF became the country's foremost labor center until 1929. The COF also organized its organ, Tambuli. Cruz was replaced a few years later by Francisco Varona, a newspaperman. The COF heeded the AFL's advice that politics should be excluded from labor affairs, and took a politically neutral stance.
Rural Movements in Central Luzon
Pedro Abad Santos, founder of the Socialist Party of the Philippines
While the labor movement gained traction in the urban center of Manila, other peasant groups were being formed in the countryside. Most of these groups were found in Central Luzon, and were focused more on millenarianism than in organized labor. At the turn of the century, societies like the Guardia de Honor based in Pangasinan, and the Santa Iglesia in Central Luzon organized masses of peasants under religious pretext and the promise of a great upheaval of society. These groups also drew from the Katipunan ethos, with the peasant notion of freedom being freedom from landowners and hacenderos, and ultimately ownership of their own land. The colonial government also encouraged this notion of the "peasant proprietor", noting that the central problem to be addressed by American agrarian policy was the concentration of land and power in the hands of local autocrats.
In 1917, Manuel Palomares founded the Pagkakaisa ng Magsasaka in Matungaw, Bulacan. In 1919, Jacinto Manahan founded the Union de Aparceros de Filipinas. Manahan was a member of the COF who had a keen interest in the concerns of the peasantry. The union expanded its activities in 1922 and was renamed the Condereacion de Aparceros y Obreros Agricolas de Filipinas. In 1925, the name was changed to the Kalipunang Pambansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KPMP, National Union of Filipino Peasants), which became of the largest and most influential peasant labor groups during the inter-war period, and became the precursor to the post-war Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid (National Peasants' Union). Members of the KPMP such as Manahan, Juan Feleo, and Casto Alejandrino, went on to become influential members to the Filipino communist movement.
KPMP hegemony was challenged however by the Kapatirang Magsasaka, formed by Teodoro Sandiko as a way to combat the political influence of the Nacionalista Party through the KPMP. At its height the Kapatiran had over 120,000 members, making it much larger than the 20,000-strong KPMP. The Kapatiran, along with organizations such as the Anak Pawis, were noted to be more radical than the KPMP, often implicitly advocating violence.
In 1932, Pedro Abad Santos independently formed the Socialist Party of the Philippines (SPP) in Central Luzon. The next year, Abad Santos founded the Aguman ding Maldang Talapagobra (AMT, Union of the Toiling Masses). The AMT and the KPMP were both highly important in the peasant revolts and reforms of the 1930s, although neither group was formally socialist or communist. Members of both of these groups also formed a large section of the Hukbalahap.
The Partido Obrero de Filipinas
Increasing dissatisfaction with Governor-General Leonard Wood's policies with regards to independence and the outrage over the Fairfield Bill led to the formation of other political parties meant to challenge the dominant Nacionalista and Democrata parties. In 1922, Antonio Ora founded the Partido Obrero de Filipinas, without much success. Two years later, he would re-establish the party and run in the July 1925 elections. Although they did not win any seats, their relative success attracted the attention of Evangelista and Manahan, who headed the UIF and the KPMP, respectively. Evangelista, in 1924, was also the COF's national secretary.
On Bonifacio Day 1925, the Partido Obrero released a manifesto which stated that it had created:
a party of those who work and produce for the upliftment of human kind. ...It is not a party of social parasites... It urges the workers - those who work with brawn and brain - to take economic and political powers away from the capitalist class, and to abolish all class divisions and class rule.
It was during this time that Evangelista and others became acquainted with Harrison George, top ranking member of the Communist Party of the United States of America, and with Tan Malaka, co-founder of the Partai Komunis Indonesia. Malaka, at the time, was in exile, and played the role of an Indonesian nationalist. Malaka also met with other leftist leaning labor leaders such as Capadocia, Balgos, and Feleo, before being deported to Amoy (now Xiamen) on August 22, 1927.
Harrison George returned to the Philippines for a second visit in 1927. George was accompanied by Earl Browder, chief secretary of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat. Browder met with Evangelista and other labor leaders, resulting in the COF's decision to send Evangelista, Jacinto Manahan, and Cirlio Bognot to the Profintern conference in Moscow in March 1928. On their return Evangelista organized the first batch of Filipino pensionados to study in the University of Toilers of the East, in Moscow. Two more groups were sent in 1929 and 1930.
The Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas
November 7, 1935 issue of the KAP bulletin.
In 1928, the COF elected Hilario Barroga and Domingo Ponce as its president and secretary, respectively, while Antonio Ora was elected as its treasurer. Evangelista had plans for radical reorganization of the trade union movement, which would lay the groundwork for the communist movement in the Philippines. These plans were almost thwarted in 1928, but Evangelista chose to bide his time for the following year's conference.
Evanglista and his comrades, with valuable input from Harrison George and other American communists, began drafting a "Thesis" which called for measures such as the creation of unions based on industrial lines, the creation of a true workers' party, and so on. During this time, Tejada, Ponce, and other elements of the "conservative" bloc of the COF began plotting against Evangelista's "Left" faction. The thesis was allowed to pass to the 1929 May convention, where the conservative group allegedly used dummy labor delegates to ensure that the radical measure was blocked. Evangelista and his group walked out of the convention, and the COF was split. Twelve days later on May 12, 1929, a new labor federation known as the Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis sa Pilipinas (KAP) was formed, splitting the COF. On August 26 of the next year, a new political party was organized from members of the KAP, the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP, Communist Party of the Philippines). The party itself was formalized as an official entity on November 7 of the same year. These two dates correspond with the Cry of Pugad Lawin and the Russian Revolution, respectively, symbolically linking the PKP with the nationalist and the communist revolutions.
First Outlawing of the PKP
The newly formed PKP immediately set out with its propaganda effort. The PKP launched an aggressive organizational and propaganda drive among the peasants of Central Luzon and Manila, holding public meetings almost daily. In January 1931, the PKP opened its national headquarters in Quiapo, Manila, and also launched its official organ, the Titis (Spark), reminiscent of Lenin's Iskra.
Two major incidents in 1931 revealed the weakness of the PKP outside Manila: the peasant uprising in Tayug, Pangasinan and the Tanggulan incident, both of which were attributed to the communists. The PKP was criticized by a foreign critic for not taking advantage and coordinating with the peasant uprisings. The PKP, for their part, took credit for these revolts although the truth was that at the time they were weak organizationally. Most members, including Evangelista, believed that the root of the revolution should come from the urban centers, while people like Manahan, Feleo, Guillermo Capadocia, and Mateo del Castillo believed that a strong peasant base was important in achieving the communist revolution. At this time, the peasant-based KPMP was floundering as well.
All of these events contributed to the colonial government's growing unease with the PKP. On January 25, Antonio Ora died unexpectedly in an automobile accident in Nueva Ecija. His funeral was attended by 50,000 workers in Manila and 3,000 peasants in his hometown. Over the next few weeks top-ranking PKP leaders were arrested and charged with sedition, but were subsequently released on bail. Any requests for permits for their gatherings were also subsequently denied.
This all came to head when they were denied having their traditional Labor Day celebrations in Manila. The PKP instead transferred their celebration to Caloocan, under the auspices of the KAP. This permit, however, was also revoked hours before the start of the scheduled start of the parade. A contingent of the Philippine Constabulary, under Captain Rafael Jalandoni arrived to order Evangelista to cancel the parade. Evangelista instead raised his clenched fist and began an incendiary speech, before being arrested. The unarmed crowd was then forcibly dispersed in the face of arrests and drenching from fire hoses.
Based on these events, the Manila Court of First Instance, on September 14, 1931, passed a decision declaring both the PKP and KAP as illegal organization, and sentencing twenty communist leaders of eight years and one day of banishment to the provinces. Evangelista was additionally sentenced with six months' imprisonment and a fine of 400 pesos for sedition. The convicted communists brought an appeal to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the Manila CFI decision on October 26, 1932.
President Manuel L. Quezon
The American administration in the Philippines acknowledged and recognized that the convicted communists such as Evangelista, Manahan, Capadocia, and Balgos were leaders in their trades and their cooperation would have been most beneficial. These men were given offers for executive clemency but were adamant in their refusal. Manahan would be the first to ask for clemency in exchange for supporting government initiatives, partly due to ideological differences between him, Evangelista, and Feleo. He would then split from the PKP and the KPMP.
In 1936, James S. Allen, a high-ranking official of the CPUSA came to the Philippines to persuade Evangelista's group of accepting even a conditional pardon, under the argument that a United Front must be maintained against world fascism. Allen then went to Quezon to successfully request the release of the communist leaders on December 31, 1936. He returned in 1938 to secure an absolute pardon for the PKP leaders, which was granted on December 24 of that same year. Given their full political rights, they were now able to act and implement the Comintern's call for a united-front movement against fascism.
The PKP set about forming different groups to this end. The PKP also successfully managed a merger with Pedro Abad Santos' Socialist Party of the Philippines, an independently formed party based in Pampanga. This was similarly done with the aid of James S. Allen acting as an intermediary. The three top officers of the new PKP were Evangelista, Abad Santos and Capadocia, who were national chairman, vice-chairman, and general secretary, respectively.