Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas

The Philippine Left Milieu


Written by: Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas;
Published: 2022
Source: Text retrieved on January 04, 2022 from (defunct link);
Markup: Simoun Magsalin;
Copyright: No specific copyrights. Provided freely by the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa–Pilipinas.

The Philippine left milieu has had its share of schisms and struggles. From the standpoint of the national political sphere, it has maintained its relevance and has been ever-present in the news, though dominated by the Maoist-led faction. This has led most people to believe that the Philippine “Left” is synonymous with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). That is why there is a need for internal and external clarification where the Party is situated in the whole milieu in order for us to better explicate our role in revolutionizing Philippine society. This short paper seeks to soberly present to new and prospective members alike the different actions of the left operating within the Philippines. Most of the historical accounts, as well as ideologies presented are admittedly versimplified in this paper, as this is merely meant to be an introduction that would hopefully spark interest in further reading for those who seek more details and nuance.

Brief History of the Philippine Communist Left

Leftist ideology in the Philippines can be traced back more than one hundred years ago which rooted in the trade union movement. This is evident in that Isabelo Delos Reyes is regarded as both the father of Philippine Labor Movement and Filipino Socialism. After his imprisonment in Bilibid and eventual exile in Spain due to involvement with Bonifacio’s Katipunan and Rizal’s La Liga Filipina, Delos Reyes returned to the Philippines in 1901 and immediately founded the Nacionalista Party with Pedro Paterno and Pascual Poblete, and the Iglesia Filipina Indipendiente with Gregorio Aglipay On November 1901, guided by the works of Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin and Errico Malatesta, Delos Reyes also founded the first Filipino trade union Union de Impresores de Filipinas (UIF), and immediately in 1902, Delos Reyes also founded Union Obrera Democratica (UOD) with Hermenegildo Cruz and Dominador Gomez, which became the first Filipino Labor Federation composed of printers, tabaqueros, tailors, sculptors, seamen, and cooks. At its peak in 1903, UOD numbered to around 20,000 members. Around 1903, Delos Reyes and Gomez were both imprisoned and turned over the leadership of UOD to the moderate Lope K. Santos, which renamed it as the Union del Trabajo de Filipinas. Santos was the one who wrote Banaag at Sikat, largely considered as the first socialist-oriented book in the Philippines which expounded principles of socialism and seek labor reforms from the government. The book was later made an inspiration for the assembly of the 1932 Partido Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PSP), founded by Pedro Abad-Santos. Out of the split with the Nacionalista Party in 1924 came the Partido Obrero de Filipinas, which was headed by Crisanto Evangelista, Domingo Ponce and Cirilo Bognot. It was an openly Marxist Labor Party. This later formed the core of the first openly communist party (Marxist-Leninist) in the Philippines in the name of Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas which was founded on August 26, 1930 and formalized on November 7, 1930 (both the anniversary of the Cry of Pugad Lawin and the Russian Revolution, respectively). It is said that Evangelista was then influenced by the Indonesian communist Tan Malaka, when the latter was undercover (under the pseudonym Elias Fientes) in the Philippines starting 1925. Evangelista and his core group were also the leading figures in Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF) – the leading Labor Federation during those times – and its later split to Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis sa Pilipinas (KAP), owing to internal struggles with the conservatives.

The newly formed PKP1930 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. The PKP1930 was accepted into the COMINTERN in 1935. On November 7, 1938, Evangelista’s PKP and Abad Santos’ PSP gathered in the Manila Grand Opera House and merged and called themselves as the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas. They also elected the following as their officers: Crisanto Evangelista as president, Pedro Abad Santos as vice president and Guillermo Capadocia as secretary-general. During the 1940’s municipal elections, the newly merged PKP1930 won six (6) mayors in Luzon. During World War II, the PKP1930 joined the armed resistance against the fascist Japanese invasion and formed the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP) under the leadership of Luis Taruc and Vicente Lava in 1942. After the successful campaign against the fascists, the PKP1930 formed the Congress of Labor Organizations (CLO) in 1945 and joined the 1946 national elections within the Democratic Alliance (left political party), endorsing the presidency of Sergio Osmena, who lost against Manuel Roxas from the Nacionalista Party (later splintered to form the Liberal Party). The six (6) congressmen who won from the Democratic Alliance (including Taruc and Jesus Lava) were prevented by Roxas from taking their oath of office due to allegations of fraud and violence in the elections. This precipitated the waging of the armed resistance of the PKP1930 against the Philippine government from 1948 to 1954, and converted the HUKBALAHAP to the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB).

At the height of the Vietnam War in 1964, PKP1930 members Jose Maria Sison and Nilo Tayag founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM). Enamored with the Chinese Revolution’s experience, Sison later on founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on December 26, 1968, with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its ideological framework. He and other radical youth that time criticized the failure of leadership of PKP1930. The newly formed CPP adopted the Protracted People’s War (PPW) as its main strategy to wrestle state power and to promote National Democracy. That is why in March 29, 1969, the CPP formed the New People’s Army (NPA) with the remnants of the HMB led by Bernabe Buscayno. Later in 1973, the CPP leadership, led by Satur Ocampo, would also form the National Democratic Front (NDF), supposed to be the United Front of different sectors in Philippine society.

The birth of Sison’s CPP came at a time of great political crisis, as it has landed smack at the start of the Marcos dictatorship. The turbulent political climate during those times proved to be favorable for radicalization, most notably from the highly educated youth/student sector in the National Capital Region which led series of protests in 1970 dubbed as the First Quarter Storm (FQS). These FQS veterans became the backbone of the CPP and were deployed in the countryside to organize rural communities and to recruit for the NPA. At its height, the NPA is said to be composed of around 25,000 active guerilla fighters scattered all over the country, with the CPP having around 30,000 active members. In an interview, Sison even dubbed Marcos as the “greatest recruiter for the NPA”, presumably because the oppressive climate brought by the dictatorship fanned the flames of radicalization.

By the 1980’s, the CPP was mired with paranoia, fearing that its’ ranks have been infiltrated by military spies and “deep-penetration agents”. It implemented its infamous “witch-hunts” in the name of Kampanyang Ahos, government estimates of which reached more than 600 cadres being murdered or forcefully isappeared, and Operation Impil during the Cory Aquino presidency claiming around 120 casualties. However, the internal rift of the regional and national committees started during the 1978 elections, where the Manila-Rizal Committee’s decision to support the Senatorial candidacy of Ninoy Aquino was overruled by the Central Committee’s boycott stance. This internal rift was further exacerbated by the “tactical blunder” the CPP Central Committee committed during the 1986 EDSA revolution, which they also boycotted – to the dismay of the Manila-Rizal Committee.

This internal rift culminated in 1992, when Sison (who was based in Netherlands during that time) released his infamous “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Carry the Revolution Forward” through his nom de guerre, Armando Liwanag. Sison basically summed up the past experiences of the CPP- mostly during the times he was in prison (1977-1986) – and criticized the regularization of the NPA units, “left and right opportunism”, military adventurism, and incorrect urban insurrectionist line which allegedly proliferated during his hiatus. He also called to reaffirm the basic principles of the primacy of the armed struggle, the strategy of PPW, and the semi-feudal semi-colonial thesis of the Philippine political economy. Those who agreed with Sison were dubbed as “Reaffirmists” (RA), and those who disagreed were called “Rejectionists” (RJ). The RJ’s consists of the majority of the party cadres, but most of the NPA units were retained with the RA’s, save for the Visayas and the Alex Boncayao Brigade. Whole island committees, including the largest Manila-Rizal committee (Popoy Lagman and Nilo Dela Cruz), Negros and Panay Committee (Art Tabara), Central and Western Mindanao committee (Ike), National Peasant Secretariat and the United Front commission (Manjettte Lopez) were among those who rejected Sison’s document – far more in numbers that those who were retained with the CPP. The Central Luzon committee joined the RA’s at first, but also broke off with the CPP in 1997 to form the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines (MLPP), but still retained the semi-feudal semi-colonial thesis and the primacy of the armed struggle in their ideology. For this purpose, they formed the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbo ng Bayan (RHB) as its armed wing.

The MR, VisCom and the Central and Western Mindanao regional committees will later merge to form the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa –Pilipinas (RPM-P) in 1998, and establish the Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) as its armed wing. The RPMP has jettisoned the PPW strategy and the semi-feudal semi-colonial thesis and elected Art Tabara as party chairman. The Mindanao committees bolted out of the RPM-P on 2003 and formed the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa – Mindanao (RPM-M), which is now affiliated with the Trotskyist 4th International. Later in 2007, Veronica Tabara and Stephen Paduano of the Negros committee were also expelled, but they retained the name of RPMP-RPA-ABB, which has recently concluded their peace talks with the GRP in 2020. Nilo Dela Cruz and his supporters were also expelled in 2011.

Popoy Lagman on the other hand formed his own party, the Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino (PMP) also around 1998, but later on merged with the Partido Proletaryo Demokratiko (PPD) of the United Front commission and called themselves PMP-Pinagsanib. The PMP-Pinagsanib later on split into two, with both groups retaining the name of PMP (Partido Manggagawa and Sanlakas). Some elements from the Manila-Rizal region (mostly from Malabon, Valenzuela, Manila) also reassembled themselves and formed the Partido Marxista-Leninista ng Pilipinas (PMLP, also known as “Bloke”). Some of the RJ’s also joined Akbayan Party in 1998 with the so-called democratic socialists, including those from Pandayan and Dodong Nemenzo’s BISIG.

Philippine Left Political Map: A Working List

NDMOS Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Political Org
Gabriela Women
League of Filipino Students (LFS) Youth
Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Trade Unions
Anakbayan Community Youth
Anakpawis Urban Poor
National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) Lawyers
Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement
 of Government Employees (COURAGE)
AMIHAN Peasant Women
Alay Sining Artists
KALIKASAN Environment
Kabataan Youth
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Teachers
Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) Urban Poor
KATRIBU Indigenous People
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Peasant
Karapatan Human Rights
Panday Sining Artists
NDF Moro Resistance Liberation Organization (MRLO) Moros
Kabataang Makabayan (KM) Youth
Revolutionary Council of Trade Unions (RCTU) Trade Unionists
Pambansang Katipunan ng Magbubukid (PKM) Peasants
Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MAKIBAKA) Women
Christians for National Liberation (CNL) Church
Katipunan ng Gurong Makabayan (KAGUMA) Teachers
Makabayang Samahan Pangkalusugan (MASAPA) Health Workers
Liga ng Agham Para sa Bayan (LAB) Scientists
Lupon ng Manananggol para sa Bayan (LUMABAN) Lawyers
Artista at Manunulat para sa Sambayanan (ARMAS) Artists
Makabayang Kawaning Pilipino (MKP) Government
Revolutionary Organization of Overseas Filipinos
 and their Families (COMPATRIOTS)
Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) Cordilleran
PMP Sanlakas Political Org
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) Trade Unions
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) Political Org
Oriang Women
Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) Youth
Alyansa ng Magsasaka sa Amulung (AMA) Peasants
Zone One Tondo Organization (ZOTO) Urban Poor
Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod (KPML) Urban Poor
Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) Environment
People 4 Power Coalition (P4P) Energy Sector
Partido Manggagawa Political Org
Bandilang Itim Anarchism
PKP1930 Marxism-Leninism
Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas Democratic Socialism
Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa
Democratic Socialism
AKBAYAN Democratic Socialism

Their Politics and Ours

Most of the left blocs in the Philippines have varying nuances on stances and issues of national and international concern. But to have a cursory understanding of the similarities and differences between each other, we will only be examining three (3) basic categories:

  1. Ideology
  2. Assessment of Philippine Political Economy
  3. Strategy and Tactics

I. Ideology

The 19th and 20th century’s global left movement has been a major divide among the reds and the blacks – of Marxism and Anarchism – with the reds rallying behind Karl Marx, and the blacks behind Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin (among others). Both, including Marx, were members of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), or more prominently called the First International. Although both ideologies adhere to socialism/communism, there are main disagreements on how to get to socialism/communism and the strategies that must be utilized to bring it about. Marx’ strategy was inspired mostly due to the events that transpired in 1870-1871 during the Paris Commune – an insurrectionary commune.

Marxism Anarchism
Inherently Authoritarian Anti-Authoritarian / Libertarian
Dictatorship of the Proletariat (DoTP)
as an intermediate strategy
No DOTP / Anti-State / Anti-hierarchy
Programmatic Demands Spontaneity
Centralized economy Decentralized economy
Creation of Working-class Organs Abolition of Institutions

It should be stressed that Marxists’ main argument against anarchism is that it is “utopian”, as clearly demonstrated in Engel’s work Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Anarchists, on the other hand, lament Marxism’s inherently authoritarian (see, Bakunin’s What is Authority and Engel’s On Authority) and statist positions. This conflict between the reds and blacks sowed the dissolution of the First International in 1872, to which the German diplomat Otto Von Bismarck said “Crowned heads, wealth and privilege may well tremble should ever again the Black and Red unite!”. In 1889, picking up on the remnants of the First International, excluding the anarchists and trade unions, socialist and labour parties from 22 countries formed the Second International. The anarchists, on the other hand, formed the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) much later in 1905. Either way, this is but a preliminary on the basics of both Marxism and Anarchism, which has both branched immensely upon the advent of the 20th century, some of the notable strands include:

Marxism Marxism-Leninism
Left Communism (Orthodox Marxism)
Communization Theory
Analytical Marxism
Frankfurt School
Post-Marxism / Neo-Marxism
Anarchism Anarcho-Syndicalism
Insurrectionary Anarchism Egoism

One of the major, if not the most notable, development of the 20th century is the Russian Revolution of 1917 led by Marxist thinker Vladimir Lenin. This historical event put to the test the political and economic theories of Marxism in restructuring society. However, the establishment of the USSR created a power-struggle within the ruling Bolsheviks, the main actors of which are Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Stalin retained control over the USSR and established Marxism-Leninism (some call it Stalinism) as the official state ideology and was central to the creation of the COMINTERN or the Third International. Trotsky, on the other hand, was exiled from Russia and established his own communist international, called the Fourth International (which has now disintegrated into a myriad of other Trotskyist Internationals).

The 1949 victory of the Chinese Revolution was likewise guided by Marxism-Leninism, and added Maoism as a development in its theories, as official state ideology. However, the relationship between the USSR and China eventually deteriorated, and culminated with the Sino-Soviet split of 1961, where Mao denounced as revisionist the de-Stalinization and international peaceful coexistence policy (with the West) by Nikita Krushchev.

The Philippines’ left movement, as with any of the global left movement in the 20th century, was heavily influenced by the 1917 Russian Revolution. Most traditional left parties, like the PKP1930, has adopted the official state ideology of the USSR – Marxism Leninism. Sison’s CPP, on the other hand, has adopted the official state ideology of the Chinese Communist Party – Marxism-LeninismMaoism, or simply, Maoism.

The RPM-P, MLPP, PMLP, and both PMPs come from the Marxist-Leninist tradition, while the RPMM is aligned with the Trotskyist Fourth International. Some blocs inside Sanlakas’ PMP also comes from the Trotskyist tradition.

Marxism-Leninism Maoism Trotskyism
Socialism in One Country Socialism in One Country International Socialism
Insurrectionary Protracted People's War Insurrectionary
National Democratic Stage National Democratic Stage Socialist Reconstruction
Minimum Programme, Two Tactics War Strategy Maximum Programme
Focus on Proletarians Focus on Peasants Focus on Proletarians

Even before the 1992 schism of the CPP, social democracy and democratic socialism strands in the left has already existed. However, the 1992 schism has attracted some lose elements of the RJ’s to both these ideologies, most prominently to the Akbayan Party. Both of these ideologies have overlapping concepts and principles with liberalism, and are considered “center-left” or “left of center” in the political spectrum. Their main difference with the above Marxist-Leninist, Maoist and Trotskyist ideologies is that they denounce the use of violence and authoritarianism in their political program and that their main strategy is through the ballot box / elections.

Democratic Socialism Social Democracy Liberalism
Capitalism must be replaced with Socialism Capitalism can be reformed Capitalism is good
Public control/ownership of the means of production Social safety nets and strong institutions Social safety nets and strong institutions
Wealth redistribution through public ownership Wealth redistribution though taxation Sanctity of private property
Regulated Trade Regulated Trade Free Trade
Socialist Economy Mixed Economy Capitalist Economy
Strong State Strong State Weak State

The Scandinavian economies, including Germany and England, are largely regarded as Social Democratic economies, while the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) of Bernie Sanders prominence, the Syriza Party in Greece, and those inside the Progressive International and Socialist International regard themselves as Democratic Socialists.

II. Assessment of Philippine Political Economy

The 1992 CPP schism is centered around two major disagreements: Assessment of the Philippine Political Economy and on matters of strategy. The RA’s and the MLPP retain Sison’s assessment that the Philippines is semi-feudal and semi-colonial, while the RJ’s, socdems and demsocs maintain that the Philippine political economy is already capitalist in nature.

The semi-feudal semi-colonial thesis outlines three (3) problems in the Philippines, mainly imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism. The semi-colonial character of the Philippines is said to be principally determined by US imperialism, with the US control on the economy and military as its primary “evidence” of this colonial status. The semifeudal character of Philippine society is said to be principally determined by the “impingement of U.S. monopoly capitalism on the old feudal mode of production” and the subordination of the latter to the former. Sison further posits that the old feudal mode of production still covers more extensive areas than capitalist farms, and proudly states that “domestic feudalism is the social base of U.S. imperialism”. It is in this assessment that the RA’s and the MLPP are unique among the left political spectrum – since all others mentioned above are in chorus in viewing the Philippine political economy as capitalist.

The rejectionists, through Popoy Lagman (See Lagman’s “Counter Theses”), countered that the semi-feudal semi-colonial thesis is merely Sison’s alibi to justify his fixation on protracted people’s war – a classic case of “putting the cart ahead of the horse”. Lagman asserts that “semi-feudalism” is merely a “mode of expression”, rather than a “mode of production”. He also asserts that the “semi-colonial” question is not a socio-economic category but a political-democratic question. It does not refer to relations of production or a mode of production but to a relationship between imperialism and political democracy.

The RPM-P, for its part, views the Philippines as a capitalist state dominated by US imperialism. Everywhere in the country, commodity production and exchange, whether in the domestic or world context, and based on immutable laws of the capitalist development, took its logical course and gained complete hegemony, sweeping aside remnants of the feudal and semi-feudal order. Everywhere, the market, commodity, commerce and industry, consumerism, money, wage labor, competition and the drive for profit (big or small), ruled and became not just the mode of production for material existence, but the mode of everyday life itself, holding sway even in the socio-economic landscape of the ancestral domains of the lumad tribes, wherever these may be. The process unfolded, as human labor became the main commodity in the market. The bondage to the soil and to the landlord, the self-contained natural economy and individual production not associated with money and market or with social production, which is in one way or the other characteristic of the feudal system, were swept aside historically, forever. The landlord class of Spanish and Chinese ancestry had long evolved into capitalists themselves, starting from the establishment of the hacienda system in the country centuries ago and combined with the new entrepreneurial capitalist class, who became the ruling bourgeois class of the present. Many of them constitute the finance oligarchy consistent with the highest stage of capitalism of the present period.

III. Strategy and Tactics

Questions on revolutionary strategy also became central to the 1992 CPP schism. The RA’s have reaffirmed the People’s Democratic Revolution (PDR) through the strategy of the Protracted People’s War (PPW) by “encircling the cities from the countryside”. The RA’s branded the RJ’s as revisionists, counter-revolutionaries, urban insurrectionists and military adventurists because of their rejection of these “basic” principles.

Because of their assessment of the Philippine political economy and their adoption of the PDR trategy, the RA’s view the nationalist/patriotic sector of the bourgeoisie as progressive. For this purpose, they are actively building a “United Front” with the Philippine national bourgeoisie to wrest power away from the landlords, bureaucrat capitalists and imperialists. True to their Maoist dogmatism, they hail the peasantry as the “primary force” of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) with “socialist perspective”. The NPA is also a “peasant army”, supposedly led by the vanguard of workers which is embodied in the CPP cabal. After the NDR has been won through the People’s War (digmang bayan), the CPP said they would start its national industrialization programme towards socialist construction.

Though initially adopting insurrection as a viable strategy, the RPM-P does not hold any specific strategy to be set in stone. Questions of strategy and tactics though must be definite enough to give directions to Party programs, but fluid and flexible enough to adapt to a changing political economic climate. Unlike others in the RJ bloc, the RPM-P does not discount the possibility of an armed uprising to protect the gains of the working-class movement from the inevitable violent assault of capital and its state. The Party also believes that violence is most likely inevitable to punctuate our transition into a full-scale socialist revolution. For this purpose, the RPM-P is unique among the RJ bloc in that it is the only one left that is actively building its defense forces.

The RPM-P also believes that the PDR is obsolete and passe because the bourgeois republican liberal democracy has long been won, established and ruled by the bourgeoisie themselves. It has no material and political ground upon which to stand, even flimsily. True enough, Lenin advocated for a United Front in the pre-1917 Russia to struggle for democracy precisely because they were under an autocratic, monarchial rule of the Tsar. Where is our Tsar, King, autocrat or monarch which serves as the main basis of the bourgeois democratic revolution and which stands in the way of a socialist revolution? Immediately after the February 1917 democratic revolution, is it not true that the Bolsheviks immediately orchestrated the October 1917 Russian socialist revolution? Is the Philippines not a full-blown bourgeois republican liberal democracy? What is more liberal that this liberal democracy of ours? What is more bourgeois than our present bourgeois rule? Why would the working-class movement ally itself with the ruling class – the national bourgeoisie? During Lenin’s Russia, the national bourgeoisie are not the ruling class, but the Tsar. Is this not a result of a dogmatic application of Leninist principles?

For the other RJ blocs who are not building their defense forces, the socdems and demsocs, the only logical conclusion is that they plan to seize power through the ballot box. As for the anarchists, their opposition towards the Marxist DoTP and any form of state or hierarchy limits their strategic flexibility. Prevalent mostly in a small section of the petite-bourgeoisie and educated youth, most are engaged in small mutual aid projects and criticizing the left movement from a distance.

For the RPM-P, the basic tactic and/or marching line of a vanguard party in the present context, therefore, is to organize and make class conscious the greatest number of proletarians possible, wherever they are, under the banner of socialism, so that when the favorable objective and subjective conditions already exist, it can wage a proletarian revolution for the seizure of political power from the bourgeoisie, and thenceforth, commence the transition towards socialism.