By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Communist Party of the Philippines
5 May 2006
I. Background on the Philippine Working Class
In the second half of the 19th century, a germinal modern industrial proletariat emerged in the colonial and feudal Philippines under Spain. The machines for modern industry and commerce were imported. The workers were in rail transport, shipyards, communications, power generation, construction, warehouses, printing, tobacco processing, brewery, cordage, tobacco processing, sugar refining, leather processing and the like. The formation of the Union de Litografos y Impresores de Filipinas (the union of printers) and then the labor federation, Union Obrero Democratica (UOD) in 1902 signified a progression from the gremios or guilds of artisans and wage-earners of the previous century to modern trade unionism.
The Filipino founder of the UOD, Isabelo Reyes, had returned to the Philippines in late 1901 after having been imprisoned in Barcelona from 1897 onwards for anti-colonial activities but later released by the Spanish authorities to do some anti-US propaganda campaign in Europe from 1898 onwards. He was knowledgeable about the various social and political movements and trends in Europe and brought home radical literature, including some works of Marx. But he was most influenced by petty bourgeois nationalism and anarcho-syndicalism. He considered the formation of the trade union movement as the way to build the nationalist movement against the new colonial power, the US.
As a modern imperialist power, the US aimed at developing a semi-feudal economy in the Philippines, absorbing surplus goods and surplus capital from the US but limited to producing more agricultural and mineral raw materials for unequal trade with the US. It did not industrialize the Philippines, although it increased the proportion of the modern proletariat by about 10 per cent as a result of the improvement of transport and communications, the opening of mines, establishment of modern plantations, increased private and public construction, metal fabrication and increased production of pharmaceuticals, beverages, home-use products, textile, leather products and so on. The proportion of the peasantry decreased by some 10 to 15 per cent but the basic agrarian character of the economy remained. The peasant decrease meant the increase of the working class and urban petty bourgeoisie.
More than the yellow trade union leaders who merely followed the baton of the company bosses, the patriotic and progressive trade union leaders were aware of the radical and trade unionist currents abroad, especially in Europe and the US. They had notions of socialism as the way to end exploitation and to bring about the benefits of material progress to the working people after the realization of national independence. But they were at best well-versed in the ideas of nationalism and liberalism in the tradition of the French revolution. Although no Marxist study circles existed in the Philippines in 1917, the most advanced labor leaders and many workers heard and welcomed the earth-shaking salvoes of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Crisanto Evangelista, the prospective founder of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (CPPI) still belonged to the Nacionalista Party when he was included in the Independence Mission to Washington as representative of Philippine labor in 1919. He had extensive discussions about the Bolshevik revolution with the leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). But there is no historical evidence that he had any serious meeting with the members of the left wing of the Socialist Party of America who were then engaged in forming the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party of America, the earliest antecedents of the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA).
In most of the 1920s, Evangelista and other progressive leaders of the working class movement preoccupied themselves with striving to unite the trade unions and labor federations in the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF) . It was only in 1925 that they established the Partido Obrero (Workers’ Party) on the basis of the trade union movement and the peasant movement. It became the occasion for the patriotic and progressive labor leaders, who were in the majority in the COF, to distinguish themselves from the yellow labor leaders. But the Partido Obrero was not yet a Marxist vanguard of the working class.
Filipinos love to congratulate themselves for having carried out the first bourgeois-democratic revolution in Asia. The Philippine Revolution of 1896 was indeed well ahead of the Chinese revolution of 1911, the Indonesian uprising of 1926 against Dutch colonialism, Indian independence and so on. But certainly the Filipinos have to salute the Indonesians for having established the Communist Party of Indonesia in 1920 and the Chinese, the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, much ahead of the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands in 1930. Like all other communist parties, the CPPI came into being upon the congruence and interaction of objective conditions and subjective factors.
II. The Communist International vis-à-vis the Philippines
The Third International or the Communist International (Comintern) was established by its First Congress in Moscow on 2-6 March 1919. It brought together 52 delegates of 36 communist and socialist parties, organizations and groups. It was the logical and necessary consequence of the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, which made Russia the center of the world proletarian revolution. It was in clear repudiation of the bankrupt opportunist and revisionist line of the Second International, which had turned the social democrats into social-chauvinist and social-pacifist subalterns of imperialism in capitalist exploitation, colonialism and waging aggressive war.
The program of the Comintern optimistically declared that the imperialist system was breaking down and that there was ferment in the colonies, among the former dependent small nations, insurrections of the proletariat, victorious proletarian revolutions in some countries, dissolution of imperialist armies, complete incapacity of the ruling classes to guide the destinies of the people. It pointed out that the chaos could only be overcome by the largest class, the productive class. It expected the working class to create genuine order–a communist order–by destroying the rule of capital, making war impossible, abolishing state frontiers, changing the entire world into one cooperative community, and realizing the brotherhood and freedom of the peoples.
The great Lenin challenged the delegates to the Congress of Communist Organizations of the Peoples of the East in Baku on November 22, 1919: “You are representatives of communist organizations and communist parties of various Eastern peoples. I must say that the Russian Bolsheviks succeeded in forcing a breach in the old imperialism, in undertaking the exceedingly difficult, but also exceedingly noble, task of blazing new paths of revolution, whereas you the representatives of the working people of the East have before you a task that is still greater and newer. … The period of awakening of the East in the contemporary revolution is being succeeded by a period in which all the Eastern peoples will participate in deciding the destiny of the whole world, so as not to be simply an object of the enrichment of others. The peoples of the East are becoming alive to the need for practical action, for every nation to take part in shaping the destiny of all mankind.”
In his “Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions” for the Second Congress of the Comintern on June 5, 1920, Lenin declared: “…the Communist International’s entire policy on the national and colonial questions should rest primarily on a closer union of the proletarians and the working masses of all nations and countries for a joint revolutionary struggle to overthrow the landowners and the bourgeoisie. This union alone will guarantee victory over capitalism, without which the abolition of national oppression and inequality is impossible.”
Lenin further wrote, “With regard to the more backward states and nations, in which feudal or patriarchal-peasant relations predominate, it is particularly important to bear in mind: first, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries, and that the duty of rendering the most active assistance rests primarily with the workers of the country the backward nation is colonially or financially dependent on”.
In the “Theses on the National and Colonial Questions” it adopted in July_1920 during its Second Congress, the Comintern proclaimed: “All communist parties must support by action the national-revolutionary movements in colonial countries. The form which this support should take should be discussed with the communist party of the country in question, if there is one. This obligation refers in the first place to the active support of the workers in that country on which the backward nation is financially, or as a colony, dependent.” The Program of the Comintern would subsequently include the following: “The Communist Parties in the imperialist countries must render systematic aid to the colonial revolutionary movement, and to the movement of oppressed nationalities generally.”
In its 5th Plenum in April 1925, the Comintern approved its first resolution on the Philippines. This urged the American communists to support the liberation movement in the Philippines and to encourage the formation of a Communist Party from the revolutionized trade union and peasant movement as well as that of a national-revolutionary mass party from all groups actively campaigning for national independence. Through the Communist Party of the USA (then known as the Workers Communist Party up to 1930), the Comintern would take the task of encouraging and assisting the organization of the communist party in the Philippines.
The Filipino workers themselves would have to organize their own party, taking into account objective conditions and subjective capabilities. Since its Second Congress in 1920, the Comintern had adopted terms of admission which required that all decisions of the Comintern are binding on all affiliated parties but at the same time enjoined itself and its Executive Committee to take into account the diversity of conditions in which the various parties have to fight and work and to adopt decisions binding only on matters in which such decisions were possible.
III. Initial Contacts with the Comintern and American Communists
The Comintern established a number of revolutionary organizations of working people. These included the Red International of Labor Unions (or RILU or its Russian abbreviation Profintern) which was organized in 1921 and the Peasants’ International (or Krestintern) in 1923. Subsequently, subsidiary offices of these were established in China in order to cover the Far East and Pacific area.
Under the auspices of the RILU, the Conference of the Pacific (Oriental) Transport Workers was held in Canton, China on June 18-24, 1924. Five Filipino delegates were able to attend. To enable them to attend, the American Communist named Alfred Wagenknecht (otherwise known by his alternate names as William Elliot or Mateus Girunas) brought the invitation to the Philippines, made a survey of the labor organizations and arranged the trip of the chosen delegates who accompanied him to Canton.
The delegates were: Domingo Ponce and Jose Hilario of the Legionarios del Trabajo, Eliseo Alampay of the Manjla Railroad Transportation Workers’ Union, Jose Salazar of the International Mariners’ Union of the Philippines and Eugenio Enorme of the Nuevo Gremio de Marinos Mercantes. They were able to meet and discuss with labor leaders from China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Australia, USA, England, France and USSR.
They were also able to bring home a resolution of the conference calling for the immediate independence of the Philippines from US colonial rule and another resolution urging the Asian workers and peasants to organize unions and struggle against imperialism and the local exploiters. Upon their return home, they were at first enthusiastic and formed a “Bolshevik secretariat” to issue a secret periodical. But in a short while, they lost their enthusiasm and not one among them would later join the communist movement.
At any rate, the communication links with Comintern organizations, the flow of publications from the Communist International and consultations with visiting American, Chinese and Indonesian communists had begun and eventually helped to stimulate a leftward trend in the Philippine labor movement, amidst the worsening social conditions and upsurge of anti-imperialist and class struggles. In 1924 the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF) elected Francisco Varona as president and Crisanto Evangelista as secretary. In 1925 Evangelista became the secretary of the COF-based Partido Obrero and led it to adopt the Left position of waging anti-imperialist and class struggle but still seeking to reform the existing social system and peacefully demanding independence. This was not yet a Marxist Leninist position.
From 1924 to 1928, cadres of the CPUSA (known up to 1925 as the Workers Party of America and then as the Workers Communist Party), who were linked to the China-based RILU Pan-Pacific branch, visited the Philippines and interacted with Filipino labor leaders. They included Harrison George (who represented the union of the US railroad workers) and Earl Browder before he became the secretary of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat (PPTUS). They represented the CPUSA-led US Trade Union Educational League (TUEL) in the RILU’s Pan-Pacific branch, located at different times in Canton, Hankow and Shanghai.
A Pan-Pacific Trade Union Conference was held by the RILU on May 20-26,1927. Invitations were sent to Philippine trade unions and labor federations. But no Philippine delegation was able to attend. A permanent Pan Pacific Trade Union Secretariat (PPTUS) was established. On behalf of American workers, Harrison George pushed a resolution expressing solidarity with the workers and peasants in the Philippines and support for their struggles for national freedom and emancipation from exploitation.
In its 15th convention on June 30 to July 1, 1927, the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas declared its adherence to the PPTUS and pledged efforts towards the realization of the Program adopted in the Hankow conference. The COF and the Kalipunang Pambansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KPMP, National Federation of Peasants of the Philippines) affiliated with the PPTUS. The KPMP also started to communicate with the Peasants’ International (Krestintern).
IV. Evangelista Visit to Moscow and Filipino Workers as Students
In March 1928 the RILU invited Crisanto Evangelista and Cirilo Bognot of the COF to attend the 4th congress of RILU in Moscow. At the same time, the Peasant International also invited Jacinto Manahan of the KPMP to attend its conference. They passed through Shanghai in February to consult with Earl Browder and other PPTUS cadres. Evangelista and Manahan stayed for three months in Moscow. They had lengthy discussions with the Political Secretariat of the Comintern on the question of organizing the vanguard working class party in the Philippines.
The Secretariat adopted a resolution on April 20, 1928, “The Main Tasks of the Communists in the Philippines”. It put forward the following: “the primary and necessary condition for the establishment of a communist party is the formation of an initiating communist group that has educated itself in the revolutionary spirit of Marxism-Leninism, that has studied the principal lessons of the experiences of the international communist movement, that has learned how to apply that experience to the particular conditions of the working class movement in the Philippines, and that can undertake to transform gradually the Labor Party (Partido Obrero) into a party of the masses, into an effective communist party.”
Evangelista proposed the sending of Filipino workers to study in Moscow in April 1928. He visited the Communist University of the Toilers of the East and talked with the director and educational coordinators of the Profintern and Krestintern. Earlier in October 1927, after his visit to the Philippines in September, Harrison George had already recommended that the Comintern invite six Filipinos every year to study in Moscow at the communist university.
Upon his return to the Philippines, Evangelista arranged for three young workers to study in Moscow. These were Dominador G. Galvez, a leader of the union in Ang Tibay slipper factory; and Liborio Natividad and Ambrosio Candido who were officers of cigar-making unions. They left for Shanghai on August 20, 1928 and reached Moscow on October 2, 1928 after a grueling trip via Dairen, Harbin and Manzhouli on the Chinese-Soviet border and the Trans-Siberian Railway.
They studied at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. This was a special secondary school for students from Asia, preliminary to admission to the higher institute Lenin School. The schoolmates of the Filipinos were from China, Indochina, Mongolia, Korea, India, Indonesia and the autonomous Soviet Asian republics in the Caucasus and Siberia. The biggest number of non-Soviet students were the Chinese.
The subjects in the university included dialectical and historical materialism, political economy, world history, history of the labor movement, natural sciences, physics and mathematics. They had rudimentary military training and educational tours. Their teachers were English speaking Soviet professors and an American communist cadre in the Comintern, Eugene Dennis, who gave lectures on trade unionism. He would later travel to the Philippines under the name of Tim Ryan.
Galvez finished the full course of three years and joined the KOMSOMOL or Young Communist League of the USSR. The American communist cadre Sam Darcy assigned to the Comintern gave him briefings on Party work. Upon his return to the Philippines in November 1931, Galvez became active in the work of Party education. Natividad who finished only two years of the course, had returned earlier to the Philippines and had become a delegate to the First Congress of the CPP on May 30, 1931.
In June 1929 two more Filipino workers were sent to Moscow to study at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. They were Emilio Maclang, a peasant organizer of the KPMP, and Pascual Bambao from the Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis ng Pilipinas (KAP, Proletarian Labor Congress of the Philippines). The former finished the three-year course and stayed on for one more year to translate texts and documents into the Philippine national language. Upon return to the Philippines in 1933, he would be chosen as the head of the second line of leadership. He became the underground secretary of the CPP as soon as the open leaders of the CPP were imprisoned and banished.
American communist cadres appeared prominently as the most helpful to the Filipino cadres in the formation of the CPPI. But comrades of other nationalities, especially the Chinese were also helpful, especially because they had their own labor and youth organizations in the Philippines. The Philippine branch of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was established in the early 1920s, much ahead of the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (CPPI). Comrade C who led the aforesaid branch was a longtime close comrade of Crisanto Evangelista in the trade union movement. The Young Communist League of the CCP was formed in 1926. It was otherwise known as the Hoa Chiao Chung Kung Hue (Overseas Chinese Communist Union).
This was led by Co Sing Liat, who together with two other Chinese comrades (Ko Keng Seng and Sun Ping) later became a member of the first Central Committee of the CPPI in 1930. The Chinese communists organized the Philippine Chinese Labor Federation (PCLF). The PCLF had close ties with the COF and the Partido Obrero. In October 1929 the Chinese Communist Party and the Young Communist League decided that the Chinese communists should assist the efforts of Partido Obrero in forming the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (PCCI). At the same time, the contacts of the PCLF with the Profintern were coursed through the leadership of the Partido Obrero. When the PPTUS transferred from China to Vladivostok, the PCLF continued to receive Chinese language publications through Partido Obrero.
V. The Foundation of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands
In the year before the establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (CPPI), the Great Depression engulfed the world capitalist system. The economic and social conditions deteriorated rapidly. The toiling masses of workers and peasants were restive. Workers’ strikes and peasant uprisings spread. There was widespread clamor for national independence against the US colonial regime and class struggle intensified against the local comprador big bourgeois and the landlord classes. The objective conditions were rife for establishing the CPPI.
Twenty-seven out of the 35 labor federations and associations in the COF broke away to form the Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis ng Pilipinas (KAP, Proletarian Labor Congress of the Philippines). The KAP and the Kalipunang Pambansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KPMP, National Federation of Peasants in the Philippines) became the organized mass base of the prospective CPPI. The PPTUS recognized the KAP as the legitimate representative of the organized workers in the Philippines. The CPUSA-led Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) reserved a seat in its National Executive Committee for a KAP representative by way of honoring the KAP.
After the formation of the KAP, the Committee for a Vanguard Workers’ Party was set up in order to recruit the initial communist members. By June 1930, there were 96 of them. Fifty per cent were industrial workers, 25% peasants and 25% handicraft workers and office clerks. Most were recruited from the KAP unions. At about this time, 60 Chinese communists from the PCLF and YCL were ready to join the CPPI but retained their autonomous all-Chinese nuclei.
A convention organized the party on August 26, 1930 and elected the First Central Committee, with 35 members. The Political Bureau was composed of Crisanto Evangelista, Antonino D. Ora, Jacinto G. Manahan, Juan N. Feleo, Felix Caguin Urbano Arcega and the Chinese “Comrade C”. It elected Evangelista as general secretary and Antonino D. Ora as chairman. Subsequently, the party was formally launched at a public rally on November 7, 1930, to mark the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. During the rally, 3000 of the 6000 attending masses of workers and peasants filled up the forms to apply for party membership.
Among the aims of the CPP were the following: to struggle for the immediate, complete and absolute independence of the Philippines, to fight for the overthrow of American imperialism that dominates the Philippines, to struggle against the exploitation of the masses and to defend their liberties, to struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system, to strengthen the unity of the labor movement and in particular the unity of the workers and peasants; to struggle against reformism and opportunism in the labor movement, to establish a Soviet or communist form of government under the authority and direction of the masses; and to unite with the revolutionary movement internationally, including the Soviet Union and liberation movements in the colonies.
Unlike other communist parties in East Asia, the CPPI was established legally and openly, despite its proclaimed aim of overthrowing US imperialism and the capitalist system. It was therefore vulnerable to illegalization a few months after its establishment. The US colonial authorities conducted close surveillance on and disrupted the legal mass actions of the newly-founded party in 1931. They made a mass arrest of the leaders of the CPPI and the delegates to the First Congress of the Party. They filed charges of sedition and illegal association against the party leaders, who were subsequently sentenced to imprisonment and exile in 1933 after a series of court appeals.
VI. Weaknesses of the Newly-Founded Party
Soon after the founding of the CPPI, the Comintern sent the American communist Eugene Dennis (Tim Ryan) to the Philippines in order to inquire into and report on the Party’s situation and make recommendations. He reported that the CPPI had considerably broad influence and that its crystallization was of tremendous significance to the workers and peasants and to the revolutionary movement as a whole and laid the basis for the rapid development of the national liberation movement under proletarian class leadership. But he also found out that the party was lagging far seriously behind in the development of the strike movement among the workers (with only a few of the strikes led by the CPPI) and in organizing the growing mass discontent of the peasantry.
He pointed to the serious deficiency of the CPPI in building its work from below and in leading the workers and peasants in struggles based on their day-to-day needs and demands. He observed that there was a tendency to work from the top and not through mass work from below. The founding of the party was not preceded by mass work and discussions leading to the election of delegates from communist groups within the KAP, KPMP and other organizations. He commented that the CPPI functioned mainly as a propaganda organization and not yet as a fighting force of the workers and peasants. The fight against reformist union leaders was not organized in the shops but was waged in mass meetings and through leaflets outside shops. At the same time, there was a dearth of instructional materials and publications to propagate Marxism-Leninism and apply this on Philippine history and circumstances.
Party work among the peasantry was even worse, according to Eugene Dennis. The KPMP was detached from everyday life and struggles of the peasantry. It had failed to build peasant committees as organs for waging struggles and strikes against tenant rents and taxes and for mobilizing peasants to stop evictions. He noticed the tendency to rely on legal battles in the courts and to solicit the support of local politicians in the bourgeois parties. He also observed that no effective organizing of youth or women was taking place. There was political and organizational confusion caused by failure to distinguish the CPPI, the KAP, the KPMP and the Anti-Imperialist League.
Following the recommendations of Dennis in his “The Present Situation in the Philippines and the Immediate Tasks of the Communist Party,” the Comintern advised the CPPI to hold the First Party Congress within six months and to make intensive preparations for it at lower levels of the party, including discussion of a draft program. The party was warned that its legal existence would be of short duration because US finance capital was preparing to suppress the party. It was therefore advised to build an underground apparatus that was not isolated from the masses but still linked to them through mass organizations and mass struggles.
The CPPI took the Comintern advice and held its First Congress on May 30, 1931. The 400 delegates were very representative of the toiling masses. The resolutions tackled the political and organizational problems in line with Comintern recommendations. The spirit of proletarian internationalism was manifested by resolutions in solidarity with the Chinese workers and in support of the Soviet Union and by decisions strengthening ties between KAP and the PPTUS as well as with the Trade Union Unity League led by the CPUSA. The Congress passed a resolution formally applying for affiliation to the Comintern.
The CPPI received a reply dated September 7, 1931, with the following content:
“The Executive Committee of the Communist International greets the formation of the CPPI and approves the decision of the 1st Congress of the CPPI in May 1931 to request affiliation to the CI. This decision will be presented to the 7th World Congress of the CI for confirmation.
“The establishment of a new sector of the CI in the Philippines reflects the rapid growth of the national revolutionary movement in the colonial countries. Moreover, it marks an historical turning point in the development of the Philippine revolution away from the treacherous path of national reformism and on to the road of organized revolutionary struggle under the banner of the Communist Party, the vanguard of the working class. It indicates the developing revolutionary upsurge in the Philippines and the political awakening of the Filipino proletariat and peasant masses. It expresses their determination to fight for a revolutionary way out of the capitalist crisis, for the complete and immediate emancipation of the Philippines from the rule of American imperialism and its native lackeys, and for the establishment of a workers’ and peasants’ government
The organized crystallization of the Communist movement in the Philippine Islands and its affiliation to the CI-the leader of the world organized revolution-further signifies coordination of the national liberation movement in the Philippines with the revolutionary struggle in other colonial and semi-colonial countries and with the proletarian movement in the Soviet Union and in the capitalist countries, particularly in the United States; and represents the surest guarantee for the victorious carrying through of the anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution in the Philippines. Simultaneously, it strengthens the international fighting front of the workers and peasants and colonial slaves the world over, and expresses their growing confidence to struggle under the leadership of the CI which alone is able to help and guide them to victory in their fight for final liberation from the yoke of imperialism.”
VII. Underground Years of the CPPI, 1933 to 1937
The CPPI did not pursue the whole line of anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution in order to overthrow the enemy and establish a government of the workers and peasants, as indicated by the Comintern and exemplified by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the case of China, the CCP under the leadership of Comrade Mao Zedong carried out revolutionary armed struggle in order to pursue the anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution. By doing so, it was able to realize the effective basic alliance of the working class and peasantry and bring about the gigantic force of the peasantry in support of the national democratic revolution under the leadership of the working class.
The CPPI made statements for overthrowing US imperialism, the entire bourgeosie and landlord class and attaining what the working class had achieved in Russua. But such statements were merely rhetorical. The CPPI did not fully recognize US colonial rule and the chronic crisis of the semifeudal economy as favorable conditions for armed revolution. Also, it did not not see any form of armed revolution but the short discontinuous outbursts of uprisings which could easily be quelled by the colonial authorities. It had practically no idea about the strategic line of protracted people’s war under conditions of chronic crisis in a colonial or semi-colonial and semifeudal kind of society.
With regard to anti-imperialism, the CPPI competed with the Nacionalista Party and other bourgeois parties in verbal demands for immediate, complete and absolute national independence within the legal and political processes of the US colonial system. It did not do any analysis of the local bourgeoisie and thus could engage only in generalized anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist rhetoric. Lacking an analysis of the local bourgeoisie, it had the sectarian tendency to close the door to the urban petty bourgeois (especially the intelligentsia) who were willing to remould themselves into proletarian revolutionaries. It failed to distinguish the middle bourgeoisie from the comprador big bourgeoisie. It denounced the populist and pro-Japan Sakdalista party as adventurist for advocating and carrying out armed insurrection against the US colonial rule. But it used its denunciations of this party to justify the foreclosure of revolutionary armed struggle.
With regard to the question of agrarian revolution, the CPPI had no comprehensive grasp of how to carry it out by integrating armed struggle, land reform and mass work and doing so within the framework of the national democratic revolution. It praised for a short while the Tayug peasant uprising against the feudal system and practices. But subsequently in the entire decade of the 1930s, it sweepingly denounced as anarchist and adventurist all the armed peasant revolts which occurred in various provinces of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. It rejected these to justify avoidance of agrarian revolution. It regarded the communist Teodoro Asedillo as a renegade for trying in 1934 to wage an anti-imperialist and anti-feudal armed struggle in the province of Laguna. It also held the Socialist Party and the Aguman deng Maldeng Tagapagobra (League of Toiling Masses) accountable for the spontaneous burning of sugarcane fields and killing of abusive landlords and accused them of being adventurist and even terrorist.
Immediately after the US colonial authorities cracked down on it in 1931, the CPPI membership of 2000 abruptly shrank to only a few hundreds. It was a membership with a generally low level of ideological and political consciousness and with no experience and organizational preparation against repression. The CPPI leadership had not yet applied Marxism-Leninism comprehensively and profoundly on Philippine history and circumstances in order to define the character of Philippine society and the corresponding stage of the Philippine revolution, the friends and enemies of the revolution, the strategy and tactics, basic tasks and perspective of the revolution.
After serving their prison sentences, the CPPI leaders were banished to different provinces in the Philippines. They could have easily escaped their banishment and pursued the line of anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution. But they did not. They preferred to be where they were banished, although they continued their links with the CPPI underground. As second line leader, Emilio Maclang who had studied in Moscow under the auspices of the Comintern took the place of Evangelista from 1933 to 1935. He could not stem the weakening of the CPPI organization. Rufino Tumanda replaced him as general secretary from 1935 to 1938. He had been a Filipino member of the CPUSA and had founded the Filipino Anti-Imperialist League in Brooklyn. He carried the endorsement of the CPUSA on a bilateral basis and within the Comintern framework. He could not stop the shrinkage of the CPPI membership to only 197 in 1938.
Although the party membership remained small, the active party members within the KAP and the KPMP had wide influence in Manila factories and certain Central Luzon towns, respectively. Also, the CPPI-led League for the Defense of Democracy had increasing influence among the urban petty bourgeois, especially the intelligentsia. Its core included a few university-based intellectuals as well as Filipino members of the CPUSA (Dr. Vicente Lava was a prominent example) who returned to the Philippines.
The Popular Front was formed in 1936 as an anti-fascist united front. It gave the underground CPPI a relatively wider room for maneuver. But it became too expansive as to include the Sakdalista Party and the National Socialist Party of Emilio Aguinaldo, became preoccupied with electoral struggles against the ruling Nacionalista party and had difficulty in drawing attention to fascism in Japan, Germany, Italy and Spain until 1938.
Despite being underground, the CPPI could dispatch its delegation to the exceedingly important 7th World Congress of the Comintern in 1934, with the assistance of the CPUSA. The delegation consisted of Lazaro Cruz, Martin Bautista and Ramon Espiritu. Because the congress was postponed to 1935, they had the opportunity to study for a year at the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. The 7th Comintern Congress of 1935 laid stress on developing a broad anti-fascist and anti-war united front of communist and noncommmunist forces and targeting fascist powers as the gravest dangers to humanity. The congress also approved the 1931 CPPI application for Comintern membership although conditionally due to the inability of the CPPI to station a leading cadre in the Moscow headquarters. Lazaro Cruz stayed for a few more months in Moscow to learn staff work at the Comintern headquarters.
A batch of five Filipino students went to Moscow in 1935 via China and the Trans-Siberian Railway. They were Felipe Sevilla of the tobacco worker’s union, Godofredo R. Mallari of the KPMP, Pablo Antonio of the KPMP, Primitivo Arroyo of the dockworkers’ union and Fermin Rodillas from a cigarette factory. They were escorted by CPUSA cadre Isabelle Auerbach, wife of the writer Sol Auerbach, otherwise well-known by his pen-name James S. Allen. The Filipinos were able to return in 1937 and 1938 via Western Europe and the United States. Further attempts of the CPPI to send Filipinos to Moscow through China and the Trans-Siberian Railway failed in 1936 and 1937 because of the full-scale war of aggression of Japan against China.
The CPPI had a highly creditable record of proletarian internationalism from the beginning. It supported the revolutionary movements of the Indonesian, Chinese, Indochinese, Malayan, Indian and other peoples against the colonial powers and their puppets. Filipino-Chinese communists belonging to the CPPI either supported the Chinese revolution from the Philippines or went to China to join the CCP and the people’s army. Filipino members of both the CPPI and the CPUSA joined the Abraham Lincoln Battalion to fight on the side of the Spanish republicans against the fascist forces of Franco in the Spanish civil war.
VIII. Legalization of the CPPI and Merger Party of the CP and SP
The CPUSA directed James S. Allen (Sol Auerbach) in 1936 to go to the Philippines to promote among the Filipino communists the implementation of the anti-fascist popular front line of the 7th World Congress of the Comintern. It also mandated him to work for the release of the imprisoned and exiled CPPI leaders and the legalization of the CPPI and explore the merger of the CPPI and the Socialist Party led by Pedro Abad Santos. Allen travelled to the Philippines as a correspondent of the prestigious liberal US magazine, The Nation. He and his wife Isabelle Auerbach stayed in the country from August to November 1936.
They knew very well the underground CPPI general secretary Rufino Tumanda, who had been a CPUSA member in New York City. He arranged their meetings with Crisanto Evangelista, Guillermo Capadocia and Mariano Balgos in their places of exile. He eventually organized a conference of 25 central cadres for briefing James S. Allen and consulting with him about the situation, views and plans of the CPPI. He was also able to consult and develop close relations with Pedro Abad Santos, chairman of the Socialist Party, the Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay of the Philippine Independent Church and personalities in intellectual circles.
On September 20, 1936 the CPPI 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”.
A conference was held in October 1936 to organize the Popular Front. But the CPPI leadership did not yet comprehend fully the nature of the united front and the anti-fascist purpose of the Popular Front. It allowed the entry of a hodgepodge of organizations from Left to Right, including pro-Japan and pro-fascist organizations. The wrong notion was held in common that the Popular Front was mainly for electoral purposes to oppose President Quezon as an authoritarian and as a betrayer of the cause of national independence and to demand immediate separation from the US. The objective of opposing fascism and war from the direction of Japan and other fascist powers was unclear to CPPI cadres for at least two years and was also beclouded by the view that Japan was a threat to the Philippines only because of the US colonial rule.
On November 23, 1936 James Allen had a day-long interview with President Quezon on a wide range of issues, such as democracy, the fascist threat, social unrest, social justice and independence. He took the opportunity to urge Quezon to release the communist leaders in order to strengthen national unity against the growing threat of aggression from Japanese fascism.
Quezon was noncommittal about the release of the communist leaders. But on New Year’s Day of 1937, he used his presidential powers to release them through conditional pardon. The CPPI leaders at first refused to accept the terms of release. But on October 16, 1937, they agreed to be released. Upon the request of the CPUSA, Quezon permitted Crisanto Evangelista to get medical treatment for tuberculosis in the Soviet Union, where he stayed for more than a year.
Against the reality of US colonial rule, the CPPI Central Executive Committee issued a statement on September 7, 1937 declaring that the immediate recognition of Philippine independence would save the Philippines from possible invasion by Japan. The statement prompted James S. Allen to write a long letter to Socialist Party chairman Pedro Abad Santos to explain that the demand for immediate independence or US agreement to such a demand would be precisely the invitation to invasion by Japan. The letter was published in the Philippines Herald dated November 1, 1937. It served clear notice to the CPPI to direct its fire against the threat from Japanese fascism. Much earlier in 1936, in view of the impending Japanese attack on Indochina, the Communist Party of Indochina had withdrawn the demand for independence from France upon the advice of the French Communist Party within the Comintern frame.
On August 18, 1938 James S. Allen was back in the Philippines to be present for consultations in the preparation and holding of important gatherings of the CPPI. The CPPI Central Committee held a meeting on August 28-30, 1938 to discuss and approve the two documents, “Memorandum on the Chief Tasks of the CPPI” and “Independence, Democracy and Peace”. The memorandum declared that the central task of the CPPI was to organize a national democratic front against Japanese militarist fascism as the main obstacle to the establishment of an independent democratic Republic of the Philippines and to ensure its security. It was decided that the CPPI disassociate itself from pro-Japanese and terrorist elements, to carry out the immediate and most urgent task of ensuring legality for itself and to convene in the near future an open Congress.
On October 29-31, 1938 the Third Congress of the CPPI was held, with the theme: For a National Democratic Front Against Reaction and Japanese Aggression, For Security, Democracy, Peace and Freedom! It marked the surfacing of the CPI from the underground to legality. The CPPI accepted the Commonwealth government, its constitution and the US promise of independence to be granted in 1946. The congress also served to merge the CPPI and the Socialist Party to become the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It approved a new party constitution and elected a new Central Committee, which in turn elected the Political Bureau. The highest party officials were Crisanto Evangelista as Chairman, Pedro Abad Santos as Vice Chairman and Guillermo Capadocia as General Secretary.
The threat of Japanese invasion was strongly discerned in the Philippines from 1938 onwards. Japanese economic interests and pro-Japanese politicians, businessmen and organizations had become exceedingly conspicuous and alarming. Japanese aggression in China and against Indochina served as a forewarning to all Asian peoples. The Chinese residents in the Philippines were active in campaigning for support for China against Japanese fascism. The Spanish Civil War was also strongly felt in the Philippines as the Spanish superrich (Roxas, Soriano, Ayala, Zobel and Ortigas families) and the Spanish-dominated Dominican and other religious orders provocatively sided with the Franco falangistas and as the progressive forces and the people opposed them.
In less than two months before the Japanese invasion on December 8, 1941, the CPPI Central Committee called on its organized masses to prepare for armed resistance and appointed a second line of leadership headed by Dr. Vicente Lava to assume the leadership in case the first line of leadership would be eliminated by the Japanese invaders. Indeed, Chairman Evangelista, Vice Chairman Pedro Abad Santos and General Secretary Capadocia were soon captured in Manila by the Japanese fascists.
The People’s Army Against Japan (Hukbalahap) was founded only on March 29, 1942 and the plan for building the Barrio United Defense Corps was also laid out belatedly. The principal leaders of the CPPI did not heed much earlier urgings of Comrade C and other Chinese comrades in the Philippines to build the people’s army and incorporate the Chinese fighters, whose units would come to be known as the Wa Chi. It would be the in the course of fighting the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945 that the CPP would be able to develop armed revolutionary strength, carry out land reform, expand the mass base and establish local organs of political power.
The CPUSA disaffiliated from the Comintern in 1940 after the Voorhis Act was adopted by the US government, requiring the CPUSA to register with the office of the US Attorney General as a foreign agent of the Soviet Union seeking to overthrow the US government. The CPP thereby lost its connection with the Comintern. On May 15, 1943, the Comintern adopted a resolution to dissolve itself because of the raging war conditions.
The final words of the resolution are the following: The Presidium of the Executive Committee of the Communist International being unable in the conditions of the world war to call a congress of the Communist International:
(1) The Communist International, as the directing centre of the international working class movement, is to be dissolved.
(2) The sections of the Communist International are to be freed from the obligations of its rules and regulations and from the decisions of the congresses of the Communist International.
(3) The Presidium calls on all supporters of the Communist International to concentrate their energies on whole-hearted support for and active participation in the war of liberation waged by the peoples and states of the anti-Hitlerite coalition for the speediest defeat of the enemy of the working class-German fascism and its associates and vassals.
In summary, the Comintern had a relationship with the CPPI at its conception and birthing and during its childhood from 1930 to 1941 and together with the CPUSA had a significant measure of impact on it. It is interesting to study how such impact has been favorable and unfavorable to the development of a Philippine revolutionary party of the proletariat not only within the period of 1930 to 1941 but also in succeeding periods. This article can make only a starting frame of reference and to point to noteworthy historical data and objective conditions as well as subjective responsibilities mainly on the part of CPPI and its cadres under the leadership of Crisanto Evangelista.
The Comintern and the CPUSA had far reaching influence on the CPP long after it lost contact with them at the outbreak of World War II in the Asia-Pacific region. The influences are positive and negative. Among the positive were the inspiration to wage armed resistance against the forces of fascism, carry out an anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution and build the revolutionary strength of the proletariat and entire people under the leadership of the communist party. Among the negative were the opportunist and revisionist influence of the Earl Browder leadership of the CPUSA in the CPP’s acceptance of US colonial rule and the Commonwealth government, the Rightist tendency in the “retreat for defense” policy of the Vicente Lava leadership, and in welcoming the return of US imperialism and the “peace and democracy” slogan after World War II.
The founders of the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands were themselves responsible for failing to take advantage of the conditions favorable to anti-imperialist and agrarian revolution, especially the conditions for agrarian revolution from the 1920s onwards. They consistently followed the line of legalism and reformism on the peasant question and opposed the peasant revolts as adventurist and anarchist, without finding out how the proletarian party could lead the agrarian revolution. They were therefore unable to develop the peasant masses as the main support for the new democratic revolution led by the working class.
Until today, the Communist Party of the Philippines-1930, which is the revisionist successor of the CPPI, hews to the line of legalism and reformism on the peasant question and denounces the Communist Party of the Philippines as “adventurist” or even as “terrorist” in carrying out the armed revolution. The revisionist line regarding the peasant question was reinforced after World War II by the Titoite and Khrushovite line that land reform is unnecessary because socialist industrialization is supposed to solve the land problem automatically and economistically by mechanizing agriculture and dissolving the peasantry.
When the CPUSA through James S. Allen pushed the anti-fascist line of the Popular Front from 1936, with the obvious cooperation of the US and Commonwealth governments onwards, the CPPI had no revolutionary peasant mass base and people’s army for maintaining initiative and independence. It was necessary to prepare against the forthcoming invasion and occupation by fascist Japan. But it would have been much better if the CPPI had developed a revolutionary peasant mass base and people’s army in the period before World War II.
The CPPI would have shifted more easily the direction of its main blow from the US colonial rule to fascist Japan during the late 1930s. It would have been able to build a far larger people’s army and liberated more regions during the resistance against the Japanese occupation. Thus, it would have been able to fight far more effectively against the return of US colonial rule and the Commonwealth government. Instead, it accepted the framework of welcoming back US imperialism and letting it grant sham independence to its Filipino puppets in 1946.
In the case of China, Comrade Mao Zedong had always been grateful to Comrade Stalin declaring as advantageous to the Chinese revolution the continuous fact of armed struggle due mainly to agrarian revolution. The Comintern held a similar position. Comrade Mao commended the Comintern for having done great service to the Chinese revolution and world proletarian revolution. But what he strongly criticized were the undue interferences. These were made by Wang Ming and others who did so in the name of the Comintern, with regard to strategy and tactics. The interlopers were responsible for gross errors that damaged the people’s army in the Chingkang mountains and that made the Long March necessary. According to Comrade Mao, at the dissolution of the Comintern in 1943, the Comintern had ceased to interfere in the Chinese revolution since 1935.
When the definitive break between the Filipino revisionists and Marxist-Leninists occurred in 1967, the former boasted of having the longest running cadres from the 1930s. In fact, the veterans who sided with the revisionists had entered the Party in 1935 and thereafter and had been under the heavy influence of the tradition of legalism and reformism with regard to the peasant question as well as Browderite reformism and opportunism with regard to US imperialism and the reactionary state. They easily fell for the modern revisionism centered in the Soviet Union from 1956 onwards.
The Marxist-Leninists who encouraged or worked for the reestablishment of the CPP since 1966 staunchly supported the essential revolutionary content of the First Great Rectification Movement that focused on the errors of the old merger party, from 1938 to 1962. They included the most senior veterans of the old party, like the two surviving Filipino members of the First Central Committee of the CPPI (Comrades Lucio Pilapil and Max Gutierrez) and outstanding cadres in subsequent periods. The reestablishment of the CPP was also enthusiastically supported by Comrade C, who had been a member of the First Central Committee and Political Bureau of the CPPI and who became a high official in the Higher Party School of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
In the 1960s the author had the privilege of meeting most of the surviving CPPI/CPP cadres who had been involved in one way or another in relations with the Comintern and the CPUSA. As a CPP cadre, he worked then for the revival of the old CPP (merger of the CP and SP) from 1962 onwards and later for the reestablishment of the CPP on the theoretical foundation of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought from 1966 onwards. He also had the opportunity to meet even some of those who had dropped out of the CPPI or CPP but who had some direct knowledge of relations with the Comintern and the CPUSA when he advised Antonio S. Araneta, Jr. for his doctoral dissertation on communism in the Philippines in Oxford University. ###
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