“No Marx or Lenin”
In 1921, an official holiday to mark the birthday of the Philippine revolutionary supremo Andres Bonifacio was celebrated in the Philippines for the first time; it came a generation after his execution. As labour leader Hermenegildo Cruz was to later recall, the day before the new holiday his school-aged children asked him, “Sino ba iyan si Bonifacio? -- Who is that [man] Bonifacio?”
The pioneer labour organizer and nationalist writer was stunned. “Wari ako’y natubigan -- I felt like I had been doused.” After he recovered, he began to tell his children about Bonifacio and the Katipunan:
Sa maiikling pangungusap, ay aking ipinatanto sa mga anak ko ang buong kabuhayan ni Andres Bonifacio at ang sanhi’t katwiran kung bakit siya’y ibinubunyi ng ating lahi’t Pamahalaan. Akin ding ipinakilala sa kanila ang mga aral ng “Katipunan”; at isinaysay ang kapakinabangang natamo ng Bayang Pilipino sa paghihimagsik na pinamatnugatan ng kapisanang yaong itinatag at pinanguluhan ni Andres Bonifacio. [Cruz 1922: 9]That teaching moment led Cruz to write Kartilyang Makabayan or Patriotic Primer, a revealing catechism (it follows a question-and-
In simple words, I made my children understand the whole life story of Andres Bonifacio and the roots and reasons why he was being honoured by our race and government. I also introduced to them the principles of the Katipunan; and narrated the benefits gained by the Philippine nation through the revolution directed by that society founded and headed by Andres Bonifacio.
answer format) about Bonifacio and the Katipunan “na nagturo at nagakay sa Bayang Pilipino sa Paghihimagsik laban sa kapangyarihang dayo -- which taught and guided the Philippine nation in the Revolution against foreign powers,” as the latter half of the volume’s kilometric subtitle put it.
The Kartilyang Makabayan is revealing not only for what it suggests about Cruz’s own biography (the dig at foreign powers seems to me calculated; Cruz was director of the Bureau of Labour in the American regime at the time he wrote the book), but also and mainly because it catches the evolution of the labour movement’s understanding of Rizal a quarter-century after his execution. The same labour movement was the hydraulic force behind the elevation of Bonifacio into the national pantheon, and much later would help catapult the nationalist school of history-writing to ascendancy. At its peak, that school would portray Rizal as deeply compromised and ultimately undeserving of his preeminent place in Philippine history. But in the 1920s, midway through the American period, the country’s workers continued to see Rizal as the epitome of the heroic. Rizal, in a word, remained the benchmark. Despite some of his own arguments in the primer, Cruz subscribed to the same view too.
Kartilyang Makabayan is a testament to Bonifacio’s greatness, and while it does without documentation or often even the courtesy of attribution, the primer does not seem to strain after effect. ln a few instances, the contemporary reader with access to more information might think that Cruz has tried to stretch the point, but all told, the primer is that rare thing, the reasonable paean, the measured praise.
Its principal objective can be glimpsed in Question No. 11.
Ano’t idinadakila ng Bayang Pilipino si Andres Bonifacio at siya’y ipinalalagay na dakilang Bayani sa piling ni Rizal? Sapagka’t siya ang nagtayo at nahalal na pangulo ng “Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan,” na pinagkautangan ng Bayang Pilipino ng kabayanihan sa pagusig sa kanyang ikalalaya. “May-pagasa” ang sagisag niya na “nangyari” bago siya mamatay. [Cruz 1922; 13]
Why does the Philippine nation honour Andres Bonifacio and seek to place him as a noble hero beside Rizal? Because he founded and was elected head of the Highest, Most Honourable Society of the Sons of the People [the Katipunan], to whom the Philippine nation owes the heroism of its struggle to be free. "There-is-hope" was his pseudonym, which "happened" before he died
To honour Bonifacio in full is to place him "sa piling ni Rizal," which means not only "on the side of," but "in the same rank as," Rizal. In 1922, the year Cruz published his primer, that meant accomplishing two tasks: locate Bonifacio in the Rizal story, and then distance the supremo of the Katipunan from the martyr of Bagumbayan.
Cruz traces the founding of the Katipunan to Rizal's arrest after his return from Hong Kong. "Nang maalaman ito ni Andres Bonifacio ay nagalab ang kanyang loob -- When Andres Bonifacio came to know of it, his heart was inflamed." He then gathered Ladislao Diwa, Valentin Diaz, Ildefonso Laurel, and Deodato Arellano (other accounts include other names) in a house on Azcarraga street, and together they founded the Katipunan (14).
Cruz attributes the Katipunan's sluggish growth in its early years to Bonifacio's deferential decision to give way to Rizal's Liga.
Nang mga sumusunod na buwan ng pagkakatatag ay di nagpamalas ng kanyang pagsulong, pagkat ang nais ni Bonifacio ay huwag makapinsala sa pagpapalaganap ng Liga Filipina na itinatag ni Rizal at mga litaw na kababayan, karamihan ay mason, bago sumilang ang "Katipunan." In my view, this is the single weakest item in the entire primer; plainly put, it does not make sense. Why start a revolutionary organization and then wait for another group to succeed? lt seems to me the
In the months following its founding, it [the Katipunan] did not show any progress, because it was Bonifacio's wish not to impede the growth of the Liga Filipina, which Rizal and other prominent countrymen, many of them Masons, founded before the Katipunan was born.
attempt to locate Bonifacio in the Rizal saga is at its most apparent here. But even the esteemed Teodoro M. Kalaw, in his 1925 classic The Philippine Revolution, makes the same irrational assertion (1969: 12; also 307).
Cruz also details the attempt of the Katipunan to consult Rizal about the planned revolution, which Rizal rejected as inopportune; and its attempt to free Rizal from the Spanish cruiser where he was detained, which Rizal rejected as unnecessary (Cruz 1922: 32; 42). These moments are recapitulated at the end of the book, which lists dates mentioned in the telling. Thus, the list includes Dr Pio Valenzuela's consultation with Rizal in May 1896, and Rizal’s return to Manila from his Dapitan exile in August 1896, and Emilio Jacinto’s attempt, on the same day, to convince Rizal to escape.
1896. - Buwan ng Mayo, sinugo ni Bonifacio si Dr Valenzuela kay Rizal ....
1896. - Ika-5 ng Agosto, paglunsad ni Rizal sa Maynila buhat sa Dapitan1896. - Ika-5 ng Agosto, tinangka ng mga “Katipanan” na iligtas si Rizal. 
What makes this select chronology interesting to the contemporary reader is that it is very selective indeed. lt leaves out the date of Rizal's execution. ln fact, in the entire primer, there is only one passing mention of the killing of Rizal -- and only as one of many Masons executed by the Spanish colonial government.
Here we see Cruz at work on the second task, of distancing Bonifacio from Rizal. The primer is Bonifacio’s narrative, and in the book crucial distinctions between the two are made.
The contrast between Bonifacio’s conviction that the time for an armed revolt had come and Rizal's punctilious regard for peaceful means is sharpened by several anecdotes, embodied in the answers to
the questions in Cruz’s catechism. Indeed, a survey of the questions themselves is already telling. No. 34: “In other words, the Masons and the wealthy Filipinos were not in agreement with the Katipunan?” No. 36: “What did the Masons do to Bonifacio and the Katipunan?” No. 37: “Was Rizal in agreement with the revolution started by the Katipunan?” No. 39: “What did Bonifacio do in the face of the opposition of Rizal and others to the revolution?” (Cruz 1922: 29-34)
The contrast between the methodical patience of the wealthy and the ready fatalism of the poor is also heightened, with Cruz’s waxing eloquent in defence of the poor’s come-what-may attitude.
...ang mga dukha, manggagawa, mga maralita, na mga hamak na taong bayan, dito sa atin at saan pa man, ay kapag niyakap ang isang gawain at napagkilalang kailangang gawin sa ikasasunod ng isang dakilang layunin, ay di na nagtutumigil ng pagiisip at karakaraka'y ginagampanan sa pamamagitan ng salitang “Bahala na!". Ang “bahala” nang ito, ay makikita natin na siyang nagligtas sa bayaning pilipino ng mga panahong yaon at naghatid sa atin sa tagumpay. One more thing. After describing the three grades of Katipunan membership -- Katipunan,1; Kawal, Bayani -- Cruz explains the password for the third and highest level in these terms: “'Rizal’ ang hudyat na salita, bilang pagtutol sa walang katwirang pagkakabilango sa kanya -- ‘Rizal’ was the password, in protest against his unjust imprisonment” (23). This seems to be standard, even boilerplate, praise of Rizal and his role in the national awakening; on closer look, however, its narrowness of purpose suggests a much more limited role for Rizal. ln Cruz’s view, the password is not an expression of the
...the poor, workers, the destitute, the lowly people, here [in the Philippines] and wherever else, when they embrace a deed they realize needs to be done to meet a noble objective, do not tarry in thought and act immediately, by means of the words “Bahala na [Come what may] I” We will see that this “bahala” is what saved the Filipino people in those times and led us to victory.
Katipunan’s deepest ideology as shaped in large part by Rizal, but merely a symbolic protest, against a specific injustice. Cruz’s phrasing even makes it sound merely tactical.
But despite all this, Cruz -- organizer of one of the first labour strikes during the revolutionary era, co-founder of the first labor federation in the Philippines, first president of the biggest labour group of the period, and lifelong nationalist and rabble-rousing orator2; -- still shared the common assumption of his time and of the labour movement he helped shape, that Rizal was the heroic standard. This sense breaks the surface of the primer every now and then, but it emerges for all to see in the last question of Cruz’s catechism.
Ngunit ang lalong pinakamahalaga, bukod sa palatuntunan at mga aral ng “Katipunan" at ang “Katungkulang gagawin ng mga Anag [sic] ng Bayan,” ay ang “Huling Paalam” ni Rizal, na kanyang isinatagalog sa gitna ng pagdadagundong ng Paghihimagsik, na siyang inaawit ng ating mga kawal ng sila’y nakikipaglaban sa Kastila. [Cruz 1922: 58; with Bonifacio’s translation following on 59-61]lf we compare this assertion with the landmark study by Bienvenido Lumbera on Tagalog poetry, completed in 1966 but first published only in 1986, we can gauge how far the nationalist school that emerged out of the labour movement begun by lsabelo de los Reyes and Hermenegildo Cruz and their allies had succeeded in placing Bonifacio in the pantheon of heroes: in this reckoning, he had quite literally displaced Rizal.
But the most important [of Bonifacio’s writings, aside from the program and the principles of the Katipunan, and his “Duties of the Sons of the People,” is the “Mi Ultimo Adios” of Rizal, which he translated into Tagalog in the middle of the tumult of the Revolution, and which our soldiers sang as they fought the Spaniards.
Lumbera’s study has a classic postscript on “Poetry and the Revolution (1882-1898)," which privileges the poetic achievement, if not quite the poetic genius, of Bonifacio (Lumbera 1986: 138-149).
This reading, however, is marked by a curious absence: Nowhere is
Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios,” surely the most consequential poem in Philippine history, even mentioned. (There are two brief references to Rizal, unrelated to revolutionary poetry.) To be sure, the poem was written in Spanish, and the scope of the groundbreaking study was poetry in Tagalog. But wouldn’t Bonifacio’s widely available translation have qualified it for discussion?
The translation is not without complications. Some historians have argued that in fact it was not Bonifacio who translated the poem, but the writer-revolutionary Diego Mojica; the first printing of the translation only carried Bonifacio’s name (Medina 2001: 91). For our purposes, however, it does not really matter. Bonifacio and his closest allies made a concerted effort to establish the Katipunan supremo as the translator. The revolutionary general Santiago Alvarez, for instance, narrated the circumstances in which Bonifacio was said to have received a copy of the poem from Rizal’s own sister, brother, and widow (Alvarez 1992: 306-307; his memoirs were first published in 1927). In other words, Bonifacio thought Rizal’s farewell poem was both potent and important enough to be translated without delay, and that it was good for him to be seen as translating it.
For an ardent nationalist like Lumbera to scant the poem in a survey of revolutionary poetry -- the kind that rebel troops would read or remember in the trenches, as Cruz suggested -- can only mean that by the 1960s, the re-visioning of Philippine history begun by labour organizers and developed in full by nationalist historians like Teodoro Agoncillo was complete. Rizal had been ousted.
“A REVOLUTIONARY VETERAN WHO KNEW HIM told me that the father of the revolution, Andres Bonifacio, was an indigenous Indonesian from Tondo on the outskirts of Manila.”
No one else but the Indonesian Marxist revolutionary Tan Malaka could have written that warmly assertive, wonderfully complicated recollection-cum-description (Tan Malaka 1991: 118). He had spent a couple of years in the Philippines between July 1925 and August
1927. (To be more precise, the “chief Comintern representative for Southeast Asia” had based himself in the Philippines between those dates, partly for health reasons). During his stay, he had befriended both high officials (including Senate President Manuel Quezon, the highest-ranking Filipino in the American colonial government) and ordinary citizens; and met Emilio Aguinaldo and other veterans of the Philippine revolution (it had only been a quarter-century since Aguinaldo’s surrender). Above all, he had immersed himself in the working-class movement (Saulo 1990: 11-12).
It is this rootedness in the Philippine labour movement, from which the first communist organizers in the country emerged, that gives colour and life to Sutan Ibrahim gelar Datuk Tan Malaka’s description of Philippine society in his 1948 autobiography Dari Pendjara ke Pendjara. (I am using Helen Jarvis’s English translation, From Jail to Jail, published in 1991.)
Tan Malaka calls his pages on the Philippines a mere “lightning sketch” (Tan Malaka 1991: 117), an incomplete portrait “drawn from my impressions of some twenty years ago, when l was fortunate enough to obtain information from young and old. But it is clear that the picture does not have its finishing touch, has many weaknesses, and could be improved here and there” (133). lt is precisely those “weaknesses,” however, that recommend Tan Malaka’s chapter on the Philippines to the modern reader. By this I mean his selection of Philippine historical facts, which strike us now as very much a reflection, a palimpsest, of the time.
In one of her many generous footnotes, Jarvis quotes a comment from a letter of the Filipino scholar Reynaldo Ileto that allows us to make better sense of Tan Malaka’s insights, thus: “The comments on Rizal and Bonifacio [Day] tell us a bit about Tan Malaka’s informants. To my knowledge, to the peasantry Bonifacio does not signify a more radical stance than Rizal. ‘Courage’ and ‘struggle’ can equally be represented in a quiet, penetrating manner. It was labour organizers from the first decade of this [twentieth] century on who saw Bonifacio and his raised bolo (equivalent of the clenched fist) as a fitting
representation of the working class struggle. Just as Americans were reshaping Rizal, the radical nationalists were reshaping Bonifacio” (Tan Malaka 1991: 258).
The interesting thing about Tan Malaka’s description of Bonifacio, then, is not the inclusion of the Philippines in an expansive understanding of Indonesia, but what he says before and after he calls Bonifacio Indonesian. To be sure, the way he begins the chapter on the Philippines may give the Filipino reader an attack of vertigo: “What were the Philippines like after 450 years of separation from South Indonesia? This is the obvious question to arise in the heart of a lover of history who confronts the history of the whole of Indonesia” (117). As Jarvis notes, Tan Malaka is indulging his concept of Indonesia as “including the whole Malay or Indonesian archipelago,” which fell into disunion only after European colonisers arrived in the sixteenth century (246).
It is difficult to imagine any veteran of the Revolution describing Bonifacio as “an indigenous Indonesian from Tondo on the outskirts of Manila” -- the Indonesian label must have been Tan Malaka’s own gloss. But the location of Tondo, the working-class district outside the city of Manila with which Tan Malaka would have been familiar, and the description of Bonifacio as indigenous, that is to say, not mestizo, were part of the Bonifacio narrative even while the Katipunan supremo was still alive. He was a non-mestizo from Tondo.
But in Tan Malaka’s telling these indices of identity become freighted with extra meaning. In contrast with the Netherlands Indies in which he grew up, in the Philippines the mestizo was a term of approval, not insult. “Up to the time I was there (1927) the mestizos were not a class apart, distrusted and hated by the indigenous Filipino. On the contrary, the word “mestizo” was not pejorative, but a symbol of a privileged group in Filipino society” (119). This Minangkabau (West Sumatran) native had reached the same, initial conclusion as the “Indo” E. F. E. Douwes Dekker. To him, however, mestizo pre-eminence in Philippine society was not
something to be emulated. “We can say that the higher we go on the political, social, economic, and cultural ladder, the more we see of yellow and even white skin .... [But] The high position held by the mestizos was a result of the political revolution in the Philippines, which, viewed even from the political angle, let alone the economic one, was a failure” (118).
A result of the political revolution: For Tan Malaka, the divide between the mestizo and the indigenous was not merely a matter of skin colour or body type, or even of unequal power relations, but ultimately of revolutionary credentials.
“Almost 100 per cent of the Veterano, the former revolutionary fighters of 1898-1901 who struggled first against the Spanish and then against the Americans, consisted of indigenous Indonesians,” he notes. He identifies Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, “the famous minister of foreign affairs, Mabini,” and Rizal, “the father of the Philippines,” as “all indigenous lndonesians who had little if any mixed blood.” ln sum, the Revolution “was a revolution of the workers and peasants under the leadership of a truly revolutionary section of the intelligentsia” (118).
ln contrast, “it was in the main they [the Spanish mestizos and Chinese mestizos) who were used by American imperialism to ‘develop the Philippines.' Thus, nearly all Philippine administrative offices were staffed by mestizos who became American subjects and willingly cooperated with American imperialism” (119).
And again: “Since they shared language and religion and action during the revolution, it is not surprising that the mestizos in the time of American imperialism entered the administrative offices and even the legislature without opposition from the common people” (120).
The reference to Tondo, repeated twice more in the chapter, together with mentions of Bonifacio’s interrupted schooling and his status as a “lowly clerk” (123) -- all this is meant to draw attention to Bonifacio’s working-class origins. ln fact, some historians have
disputed this plebeian portrait of the supremo (Richardson and Fast 1979, especially 67-74; Richardson 2007). Bonifacio was no mere clerk in a store, but a worker with increasing responsibilities at a British and then a German firm, in an era when foreign (especially British) enterprises dominated Philippine commerce (Richardson and Fast 1979: 51-52). John Foreman, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, noted that, “In Manila, the fathers of many of the half-castes and pure natives who at this day figure as men of position and standing, commenced their careers as messengers, warehouse-keepers, clerks, etc., of the foreign houses” (Foreman 1985: 258).
Richardson’s excellent website on the Katipunan contains many papers that convincingly demonstrate the falsity of the sweeping generalization of the secret society as composed of “the unlettered masses” (Agoncillo 2002: 111). His “Notes on the Katipunan in Manila 1892-96,” for instance, draws on Katipunan documents in Spanish military archives to draw a profile of over 200 men (and some women) active in the revolutionary organisation.3
But by the 1920s the “reshaping” of Bonifacio was well under way, and Tan Malaka’s account reflects the influence of the working-class movement engaged in that earnest enterprise.
On Rizal, Tan Malaka is nothing if not sympathetic. Despite a diligent attempt to “place” Rizal in the revolutionary struggle and point to his limitations, the Indonesian revolutionary evinces genuine admiration for the Filipino propagandist. It may be that his years in the Philippines, and especially the overwhelming support he received from Filipinos when the American colonial government sought to deport him in 1927, may have suffused his account with the glow of remembered good will, but Rudolf Mrazek’s review of the Jarvis translation suggests that this warmth, this quality of fellow-feeling we sense, truly marks the man.4
He is not above trading in the gossip that Rizal’s last years gave rise to, the kind we’ve seen printed in American and Dutch and Chinese and Dutch East Indies newspapers.
When he was in exile in Dapitan, Mindanao, he was visited by the French consul in Hong Kong, accompanied by his daughter. The consul had an eye disease which many different doctors had failed to cure. He had been unable to see for some time and had to be led everywhere by his daughter. In Dapitan his eyesight was restored, but he lost his only child. His daughter became the admirer and lover of the quiet, exiled doctor and, on receiving her father’s permission, became his life-long companion, joining the guerrilla struggle after her husband had been executed. This is a popular tale in the Philippines. [Tan Malaka 1991: 122]But he also describes Rizal’s international reputation. He lists his familiar qualities: his medical career, his scientific research, his civic spirit, his gift for languages, his art. And he insightfully summarizes Rizal’s work as a writer in terms of both prophecy and legacy. “As a writer of two novels, Noli me tangere and El filibusterismo, he is regarded as a prophet of the revolution by his people, but as a deadly enemy by the priestly caste. The poem he wrote only hours before his execution is still regarded as a priceless inheritance by the appreciative masses” (122).
Not least, Tan Malaka sees a direct connection between Rizal’s work and the revolution. “Inseparable from this revolution,” he writes, “is the name ‘La Liga Filipina’ (the Philippine League) and that of its founder, Dr Jose Rizal” (121). He makes the connection explicit by promoting Bonifacio to “secretary” of the Liga (instead of mere member), and describes Rizal’s short-lived association as Bonifacio’s “school for learning about organization” (124). He is careful to write, after narrating Bonifacio’s well-known outburst over Rizal’s rejection of the revolution, that: “His remark did not imply loss of respect and love for the person he regarded as his teacher in everything, as we shall see later in this story” (124-125).
At six pages, all told, Tan Malaka’s account of Rizal's story makes up the longest section in the 22-page chapter.
I do not know if Tan Malaka ever met Hermenegildo Cruz; I cannot find any reference to any encounter. (According to McInerney
2007, at about the time Cruz completed the writing of Kartilyang Makabayan, Tan Malaka was still in Moscow, attending meetings of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.)
And yet it is evident that, in Manila, the Indonesian exile moved in the same milieu as Cruz: he was, for instance, a close collaborator of Crisanto Evangelista, the labour organizer who would found the first communist party in the Philippines, but who had also served with Cruz in the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (the Workers’ Congress of the Philippines, for a long time the largest labour group in the country). Tan Malaka’s links with Filipino labour leaders were forged even before he stepped foot in the Philippines; a delegation of workers’ representatives from the Philippines, meeting Tan Malaka in Canton (present-day Guangzhou), was so moved by his “sad plight” that they invited the “sincere nationalist” to take refuge from Dutch spies by relocating to Manila (Saulo 1990: 11).
Like Cruz, Tan Malaka held views on Rizal that were both admiring and critical. Tellingly, he compares Rizal to Dr Sutomo, “the late Pak Tom.” In Indonesian history, the moderate Sutomo is credited, among others, with the founding of Budi Utomo, from which date Sukarno traces the start of the national awakening; Tan Malaka thought Sukarno’s views on history were fundamentally in error, however, and it is no surprise that Budi Utomo gets short shrift in Tan Malaka’s account. The comparison with Sutomo is only to emphasise Rizal’s reformist agenda. “To begin with, La Liga Filipina, founded by Dr Rizal in 1894 [sic] after his return from Europe, was a Party of Reforms and cooperation” (Tan Malaka 1991: 121; emphasis in the original).
After worrying the comparison, Tan Malaka works his way to a final judgment on Rizal. It is severe, but not harsh:
“But measured on the revolutionary scale, Dr Rizal was no Marx or Lenin, nor even comparable to his colleague on the banks of the Pearl River, Dr Sun Yat-sen. A man of great intellect in many fields, a writer able to penetrate the consciousness of the masses, he
nevertheless did not turn his powers to the situation, character, aims, and forces of the revolutionary movement. For Dr Rizal, independence was contingent on the number of intellectuals and literates in the Philippines, on the strength of the colony’s industry, agriculture, and trade, and above all on the arms held by the masses for the seizure of power. lt was beyond his ken that the dynamic of the revolution could give rise to unimagined forces, could confront arms superior in number and power, and could generate a real spirit everywhere, provided that the force of the masses had previously been gauged, awakened, and coordinated by an honest, aware, and disciplined leadership. His lack of contact with the masses (caused partly by the fact that he was always watched carefully by the government and the Spanish priests) means that experience did not open his eyes to these possibilities. Dr Rizal remained an intellectual in relative isolation from the masses.” [Tan Malaka 1991: 123]In other words, Rizal was no revolutionary. His rejection of Bonifacio’s planned revolution, and the offer to lead it, is his true measure. With the practiced hand of a revolutionary organiser, Tan Malaka picks apart Rizal’s “most important objection to the plan the masses’ lack of arms”:
In fact, this weakness is one shared by all rebellious oppressed nations and classes from the time of Moses to the present day, including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the present Indonesian revolution of 17 August 1945. There has never been an oppressed and exploited nation or caste whose arms have exceeded or even equalled those of the caste that oppressed it. You do not have to have an intellect of international calibre to see this. lf a nation or caste could equal, let alone exceed, its enemy in possession of arms then it would not be oppressed. Neither equality nor superiority can be attained before the revolution, but only during or after it, if it is a real social and economic or national revolution organized in a disciplined fashion. [Tan Malaka 1991: 124]l find all this very interesting, not because he (illogically) equates Rizal’s concern about a lack of arms with “equality” or “superiority”
in weaponry, but because Tan Malaka has been accused of exactly the same thing: rejecting an armed uprising for lack of preparation. In fact, the last five pages of the chapter on the Philippines detail his reasons why the so-called Prambanan decision of the Partai Komunis Indonesia in December 1925 to launch an armed insurrection the following year was fatally premature.5
He enumerates the reasons in schematic fashion (Tan Malaka 1991: 134):
1. It was taken hurriedly, without careful consideration.Except for the reference to the Comintern and to communist strategy and tactics, this list tallies closely enough with Rizal’s own reasons for calling Bonifacio’s planned revolution “foolhardy.”
2. It resulted from provocation by our enemies and did not correspond to our own strength.
3. It could not be defended either to the masses or to the Comintern.
4. It did not correspond to communist strategy and tactics, that is, mass action.
5. It would result in great harm being done to the movement in Indonesia.
There are several versions of the meeting in Dapitan between Rizal and Bonifacio’s emissary, Pio Valenzuela (like Rizal also a medical doctor). If we use Rizal’s own testimony during his trial, and force-fit his recollection of the answer he gave Valenzuela into the same schema, we get this:
“The prisoner told him that it was hardly the time to embark on such foolhardy ventures,I do not wish to belabour the point, but the case can be made that Rizal’s reading of the political situation when Valenzuela consulted
1. as there was no unity among the various classes of Filipinos,
2. nor did they have arms,
3. nor ships,
4. nor education,
5. nor any of the other requirements for a resistance movement.” [De la Costa 1996: 93]
him in May 1896 and when the Revolution broke out the following August corresponds to all but one of Tan Malaka’s indicators of a premature uprising. His second and third reasons agree with Tan Malaka’s first and second (that the discovery of the Katipunan precipitated the revolt only sharpened Rizal's worries about the lack of arms and materiel). His first coincides in part with Tan Malaka’s third (one reason for the lack of unity was precisely the lack of agreement on the how and why of revolution). And his fourth and fifth align with Tan Malaka’s last: Without adequate preparation, including instruction that will make the people “worthy of such liberties” (De la Costa 1996: 118), a spontaneous rising or a protracted guerrilla war would only result in great harm to the cause.
The one exception is the “communist” reliance on the motive force of mass action, something that Rizal, it must be conceded, evidently did not understand. His view of political change, contained within the limits of the controversial manifesto of 15 December 1896, placed the burden of history on a people’s leaders, not the people themselves. “I have also written (and my words have been repeated by others) that reforms, if they are to bear fruit, must come from above, for reforms that come from below are upheavals both violent and transitory” (De la Costa 1996: 118-119).
Tan Malaka was surely right, when he described Rizal as living in “relative isolation” from the very people he had stirred into thought and action; Rizal did not seem to be aware, for instance, of the existence of Aguinaldo and the rebel leadership in Cavite, the province whose resistance weakened the Spanish colonial government the most. Tan Malaka may have been right too, when he described Rizal as lacking the revolutionary imagination: “It was beyond his ken that the dynamic of the revolution could give rise to unimagined forces...” By revolution, of course, he meant a social upheaval, class-based and unavoidably violent, and understood in Marxist terms.
For Rizal the true revolution was moral. But then he was no Marx, or Lenin.
BY THE LATE 1920s, the labour sector in the Philippines was languishing in the shadow of a looming split. Leaders of the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas workers’ federation had been busy with work of a different nature. “Federation officials became more involved in political activities than in strengthening the federation’s organizational structure,” Melinda Tria Kerkvliet writes in a summing up of the pre-war era (1992: 111), and this political involvement began to peak at the end of the decade. The leaders’ politics, however, did not converge.
A former believer in the Nacionalista Party and its campaign for independence, Evangelista had converted to a less gradualist faith and started a third labour party in 1925, together with Antonino de Oa (it was Ora’s third attempt). The date, 30 November, Bonifacio Day, was chosen for its working-class significance. “The June election results that year may have convinced them of the futility of working within the framework of the traditional political parties,” Kerkvliet notes (73). “It is also possible that Tan Malaka, an Indonesian nationalist and communist who was then in Manila, inspired them to form a political party advocating a different ideology.” (In one of her many brimming footnotes, Kerkvliet references Jim Richardson’s argument for Tan Malaka’s direct influence on the Partido Obrero.)
In the account of Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the Partido Obrero was a way station on the communist road:
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 (COP) . 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 COP, to distinguish themselves from the yellow labor leaders. But the Partido Obrero was not yet a Marxist vanguard of the working class. [Sison 2006]
The division of the labour sector into “reds” and “yellows,” “revolutionary” and “reformist,” “progressive” and “reactionary,” sharpened. (The language would prove to be extraordinarily influential; today the same pairs of opposites are still in heavy use in Philippine political discourse -- and in Rizal studies.) Other labour leaders (the yellows) sought to strengthen their ties to Quezon and the dominant Nacionalista political party. Evangelista and his associates (the reds) severed theirs.
ln 1927, Evangelista as COP secretary presented a proposal to reinvigorate the federation, including a plan to change the ideological orientation of the labour group from class collaboration to class struggle. Soon after, Evangelista and Jacinto Manahan came under the spell of Soviet Russia, travelling there in 1928. The following year, a contentious annual convention of the COP and manipulated election results led Evangelista’s faction to bolt and form the country’s third labour federation, the Katipunan ng Mga Anak-Pawis sa Pilipinas (generally better known in English as the Proletarian Labor Congress ofthe Philippines). And on 7 November 1930, on the 13th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Republic, KAP leaders launched the Partido Komunista sa Pilipinas, or PKP (Kerkvliet 1992: 73-79).
I do not wish to overemphasize the communist role in the evolution of the Philippine labour movement. Kerkvliet makes the case for a more nuanced appreciation of the communist movement’s contributions to the critical sector (110-113). But the first revision of the image and understanding of Rizal emerged in the first three decades of the twentieth century, through the increasing radicalisation of the labour sector.
Rizal was still in the front rank of the country’s heroes; he continued to be seen as revolutionary, not merely reformist; but he was no longer the primary hero. Bonifacio shared that honour with him.
The pages of Ang Manggagawa (The Worker), a monthly publication that billed itself as “tagapagtanggol ng katwiran at
karapatan ng mga Anak-Pawis -- defender of the justice and rights of the Sons of Sweat” (that is, the proletariat), reflect this image of Rizal.
The title had served as a forum for the debates that had riven the labour sector, and the 30 December 1929 issue was no exception. It gave generous play, for instance, to Manahan’s stories written (glowingly) from his second visit to Russia. But the cover of the magazine was devoted to a Tagalog version of Rizal’s letter to his countrymen, written from Hong Kong in the expectation that he was returning to certain death in the Philippines. And one of the paper’s editorials argued that the working class had a special responsibility to continue what Rizal had started:
Sa hanay nang mga unang magigiting na anak ng ating bayan, si Dr. Rizal, sa larangan ng kanyang mga gawaing mapanghimagsik laban sa isang pamahalaan at sa isang religiyong mapangalipin, ay siyang unang naghandog ng buhay upang ang dugong titigis sa kanyang kamahalmahalang katawa’y maging hudyat ng isang mainapoy at kakilakilabot na himagsikan. Ang bagay na ito’y natupad gaya ng pagkaputi ng katakotakot na buhay. Sa pagtupad ng mga anak ng bayan sa kanyang Dakilang Halimbawa, ang himagsikang ibinangon ni Andres Bonifacio'y ipinagpatuloy hanggang sa sumapit sa dalawang yugto (sa Kastila’t Amerikano), at humangga sa dati ring kalagayan, sa kalagayang alipin din ng kapwa bayan. 
In the ranks of the first courageous sons of our nation, Dr. Rizal, in view of his revolutionary works against a government and a religion that was oppressive, was the first to offer his life so that the blood that would flow from his revered body will become the sign of a fiery and terrible revolution. This [sacrifice] was achieved, like the fearsome taking of so many lives. Through the sons of the people following his Noble Example, the revolution raised by Andres Bonifacio was continued until the second act (against the Spaniards and Americans), and ended up in the same situation as before, a situation [where we remain] oppressed by both countries.
Indeed, it was not only Rizal who was seen as exemplary. Even the first Philippine Republic, in later years the subject of so much
nationalist scorn, was held up as a noble ideal: “ikaw lamang ang tanging magpapasiya sa paraang dapat gawin upang manumbalik ang naglahong larawan nang Republika sa Malolos -- only you [the worker] will decide on what must be done to recover the vanished portrait of the Republic at Malolos.
1. Agoncillo’s standard text, The Revolt of the Masses, labelled the first grade, more reasonably, as Katipon -- member. lsabelo de los Reyes’ “The Religion of the Katipunan,” published in 1901, gave the first grade the name of Katipuri, or pioneers. In both texts, however, the second and third grades are the same as in Cruz’s account: Kawal -- soldier and Bayani -- patriot (Agoncillo 2002: 52-53; De los Reyes 2002: 243-244). Agoncillo, however, found no use for Cruz’s 1922 primer; it isn’t cited in his text.
2. Ileto has an unusual portrait of Cruz as militant public speaker (in Ileto 1998: 135-163), unusual in that other references to Cruz (for instance, Saulo 1990: 6; Sibal 2004: 30; and especially the very useful Kerkvliet (1992) are about his pioneering work in labour organizing, first as union leader and then eventually as the second director of the labour bureau. Talambuhay ni Hermenegildo Cruz (1955), published by Alejandro de Iesus, compiles several biographical accounts, notably including that by Lope K. Santos.
3. “Most commonly and typically, therefore, the Katipunan activists were clerks, employees, agents, tobacco workers, printers and service personnel. They were indubitably proletarians in the Marxist sense, because they did not own any means of production and had to sell their labour in order to earn a living. Nevertheless, it is clear that Isabelo de los Reyes, Teodoro Agoncillo and others were wrong to classify them as collectively belonging to ‘the lowest stratum of society’. Their wages or salaries were either around or above the median for the city in the mid-1890s. Clerks were generally paid about 25 pesos a month, but those who reached senior positions, as did Roman Basa (Bonifacio’s predecessor as KKK president) at the Comandancia de Marina, earned over twice that amount. Dependientes and personeros would mostly earn between 15 and 20 pesos monthly, and the wages of skilled workers in the tobacco and printing industries were in much the same range. Andres Bonifacio was paid 20 pesos a month for his labours as a bodeguero, and supplemented his income by making stylish walking canes and paper fans and by employing his talent for calligraphy". Lower-paid occupations, by contrast, are conspicuously absent, or at least
under-represented, in the cohort. Only one KKK activist in the city is listed as a labourer (jornalero), and yet labourers comprised one sixth of Manila’s working population. There is not a single servant, nor a single sailor, launderer, seamstress or coachman, and yet these modes of employment each occupied thousands. These were the people who truly had to scrape by on the most meagre wages, and these were the people, together with the unfortunates who had no regular means of livelihood, who truly belonged to ‘the lowest stratum.' Women who worked as seamstresses or lavanderas made as little as 20 centavos a day, equivalent to about 5 pesos a month. Servants, male as well as female, got between 5 and 10 pesos monthly. Labourers got about 10. Sailors and coachmen were slightly better off, earning perhaps 12 pesos a month, but even that was less than half the “standard salary of an escribiente” (Richardson 2007).
I am greatly indebted to Jim Richardson for pointing me in the right direction. The website is available at <http://kasaysayan-kkk.info>.
4. Mrazek called Tan Malaka’s autobiography “the warmest statement by and about Indonesia during the first fifty years of the twentieth century, and maybe the warmest statement by and about the Asian revolution during the same period” (Mrazek 1992: 65). This fellow-feeling embraced not only Filipinos but the Chinese too, among whom Tan Malaka lived for many years. Anderson notes: “In reading his autobiography one is struck by how warm Tan Malaka’s personal relationships with Chinese of virtually all social classes were” (Anderson 1972: 274). The W-word again.
5. The uprisings in West Java in November 1926 and West Sumatra in January 1927 were catastrophic failures. Consulting The Communist Uprisings of 1926-27 in Indonesia: Key Documents, by Harry J. Benda and Ruth T. McVey, was somewhat outside the scope of my research, but I have profited from Audrey Kahin’s reappraisal of one uprising (Kahin 1996: 19-36) as well as the treatment of Tan Malaka’s dissent in Kahin (1952: 80-85) and Anderson (1972: 272-273). I have also learned from consulting Ingleson (1979: 31-32) and Shiraishi (1990: 336-338).
*Cruz, Hermenegildo. Kartilyang Makabayan: Mga Tanong at Sagot Ukol kay Andres Bonifacio at sa Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan na Nagturo at Nagakay sa Bayang Pilipino sa Paghihimagsik Laban sa Kapangyarihang Dayo. Manila: Lupong Tagaganap ng Araw ng Bonifacio, 1922.
**Tan Malaka. From Jail to Jail, Vol 1. Translated by Helen Jarvis. Ohio University Press, 1991.