Commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas

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The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the party of the Filipino proletariat, joins all Filipino workers and toiling masses in commemorating today the 120th anniversary of the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas (UODF). The UODF is the first labor federation in the Philippines, precursor of militant trade unionism and center of worker’s anti-imperialist struggle.

The UODF emerged at the heels of the Filipino people’s struggle against Spanish colonialism and amid rising resistance to US imperialist colonial occupation. It was established by 140 trade unionists mainly from Luzon. It was led by Isabelo delos Reyes, veteran labor activist and anti-colonial fighter. They were inspired by the Marxist slogan “The emancipation of the working class must be the task of the workers themselves” of the First International.

Through the UODF, the incipient Filipino working class—workers from printing presses, cigarette factories, tailors, shoe makers, carpenters, sculptors, barbers and others—wielded great power to fight and lead the struggle to advance the welfare and interests of workers and the people’s aspiration for national freedom from imperialism. A few months after its establishment, the UODF organized a mass demonstration on July 4, 1902 with 50,000 people demanding national independence.

A few weeks later, the UODF called for a general strike to denounce the refusal of the colonial government to heed the demand for wage increases amid rising prices and worsening socioeconomic conditions. Workers mounted strikes and walk out protests in Manila and nearby provinces. As a result of their militant struggle, workers wages in a number of factories were raised.

To counter the growth and militance of the UODF, the US colonial regime resorted to surveillance and repression. A few weeks after the general strike, Delos Reyes was arrested, charged and convicted of sedition and rebellion and compelled to resign from the UODF. To consolidate its ranks, the UODF leadership immediately replaced Delos Reyes and elected Dr. Dominador Gomez as its new head. Delos Reyes would eventually found the Philippine Independent Church and concentrate on religious activities with a patriotic orientation.

Despite repression under the Taft colonial regime, the UODF continued to grow in strength and expanded to 150 unions in 1903 from 33 in 1902. Despite being prevented by the Taft government, the UODF led a demonstration on May 1, 1903, the first celebration of May Day in the Philippines. It was participated in by 100,000 workers demanding an end to US imperialist rule.

After leading the massive anti-imperialist demonstration, the UODF was subjected to further suppression and crackdown. A few days after, agents of the colonial state raided the home of Gomez and arrested him on charges of sedition and illegal association. He was sentenced to hard labor. As in the case of Delos Reyes, Gomez was offered acquittal on the condition that he quit his leadership of the UODF. His resignation from the UODF preceded the disaffiliation of unions and eventual disintegration of the labor federation.

The US imperialists through its agents in the American Federation of Labor subsequently carried out efforts to weaken the militant and anti-imperialist labor movement in the Philippines. It promoted the bourgeois-liberal concept of the unity of labor and capital, and sought to draw away trade union activities from political objectives.

The seeds of militant and patriotic trade unionism sown by the UODF will, however, continue to sprout and take root among Filipino workers and toiling masses. Amid national and social oppression, Filipino workers continued to build their unions and labor centers to advance the welfare of workers and the people’s aspirations for national freedom.

A decade later, the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas was founded on May 1, 1913. On March 1, 1918, it elected Crisanto Evangelista who would later lead it to the militant and patriotic path. Evangelista would later establish links with the Communist International and found the Partido Obrero in 1925. Together with other Filipino working class leaders who had the opportunity of studying in the Communist University for the Toilers of the East, Evangelista established the Communist Party of the Philippine Islands (CPPI) which was formally declared on November 7, 1930. Despite weaknesses, shortcomings and errors, the CPPI achieved important victories in leading the struggles of Filipino workers and toiling people for democracy and national liberation.

It would take the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines under the ideological guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in December 26, 1968 to raise the capacity of the working class to lead the new democratic revolution in the Philippines to new levels. With the scientific world outlook of the proletariat, the CPP promulgated the program for a people’s democratic revolution that aims to end the semicolonial and semifeudal system, establish people’s democracy and carry out socialist revolution and construction.

Under the leadership of the CPP, the Filipino working class has succeeded in putting itself at the vanguard of the national democratic revolution, has established the basic alliance of workers and peasants by building the New People’s Army and waging agrarian revolution, and the broad united front of patriotic and progressive forces under the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The Filipino working class is leading the broad masses in armed struggle and other forms of resistance.

Under the current and past reactionary puppet regimes, the working class has faced heightened repression to weaken their unions and organizations and take away their capacity to defend and advance their interests. The reactionary state is employing the worst forms of intimidation, coercion and armed suppression to force workers to disaffiliate from their militant and patriotic unions.

On the occasion of the UODF’s 120th anniversary, the Party calls on all Filipino workers and proletarian revolutionaries to draw inspiration and lessons from more than one century of workers’ economic and political struggles, in order to continue to lead the people’s democratic revolution to new heights and help advance the cause of the international proletariat.

Celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas!

Long live the militant and patriotic workers movement!

Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!

Advance the people’s democratic revolution and the world proletarian revolution!

Commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas