Nature of Labor Organizations
For more than two decades, I have been involved in different capacities as a national officer of different labor organizations such as the NAFLU, NCL, KMU, BMP and PM. But for a greater part of that time, I was active in the leadership of the three labor organizations, namely in KMU as National Council Member and Secretary-General of its National Capital Region and Rizal (NCRR) Chapter (1987-92), in BMP as the Secretary-General from 1993 to1996, and in PM as National Chairperson, from 2001 to present.
The KMU and the BMP were in many ways in the same type of unionism – the revolutionary type, which orients the goal of trade unions towards the dismantling of capitalist domination and the establishment of a Marxist socialist state in society. They also exhibit a protective or defensive type of unionism which protects and defends the interest of workers against all effects of the economic system and abuses of some employers (Dejillas, 1994).
The BMP was organized in September 1993 as a consequence of the split that broke between KMU and more than 300 unions from the KMU-NCRR Chapter. While many had said that the split was influenced by the internal conflicts within the underground communist movement during that time, there were reasons however that the leaders of both groups said have triggered it. The reasons were the unresolved debate in the orientation and direction of workers’ struggle and the allegations of undemocratic tendencies of the KMU leadership.
The major difference between them was on what ideology or beliefs the workers and the trade unions should carry or stand with to guide them in their struggle against capitalist exploitation and establishment of a Marxist or workers’ state. The BMP believes that socialism should be inculcated in workers as their ideology while KMU believes that it should be an ideology of national democracy with a socialist perspective.
As such, differences arose in the way they formulated and espoused their agenda on the specific national question. For example, on the issue of land reform, KMU supports the “land-to-the- tiller” agenda of the farmers. The BMP on the other hand, while they are not opposed to the farmers struggling to own the land they till as an expression of their democratic demands, espouses “nationalization of the land” as their land reform agenda. It means that the land as property shall be owned by the state and its uses should be determined by the state.
Another is on the issue of the industrialization of the economy. The KMU espouses “national industrialization”, meaning the development of the local industries that are directly attached to the development of agriculture as supplier of raw materials. The BMP on the other hand, injects workers’ ownership or state control in the development of national industries.
Both the KMU and the BMP propagated and advanced their workers’ and trade union struggles and agenda not only in the confines of the workplace, but also on the streets and public places, inside the halls of Congress and even at the doorsteps of government offices and agencies including Malacañang.
Broader in constituency and with a wider arena of struggle to promote and defend workers’ interests compared with KMU and BMP is the Partido ng Manggagawa or PM. It is a political and electoral party of the workers established in February 12, 2001. PM recognizes the importance of the parliamentary struggle in the overall struggle of the Filipino working class. In engaging the parliamentary arena of struggle, PM aims to: a.) advance workers’ struggle for reforms inside and outside the parliament, b.) utilize the parliament as a vehicle for organizing the working masses and their struggle, c.) infiltrate the parliament and local government units with working-class leaders.
PM utilizes the halls of Congress as an instrument for comprehensive propaganda against the rotten social system and the capitalist state, thereby, exposing reformism and the futility of achieving social change through mere reforms. It also saw the opportunity of using local government positions for the expansion and consolidation of the party mass base in areas where there is a considerable concentration of workers.
PM’s agenda ranges from reforms to emancipation of workers from capitalist exploitation towards the establishment of a workers’ state. Its arena of struggle is wider compared to that of KMU and BMP. It participates in the electoral struggle to win electoral positions in the parliament and local government units and uses them to advance its agenda or platform.
Whatever the differences the KMU, BMP and PM have in their ideology or beliefs, orientation, and the scope or arena of struggle, my sincere belief however, is that these labor organizations are genuine institutions that workers can rely on. The Filipino working class can rely on these organizations for their particular interest as workers – the promotion and protection of their rights and welfare, and for their broader class interest – the emancipation against capitalist exploitation and the establishment of a worker or socialist state in society.