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(en) Anarchism in the Philippines By ANA (pt)

Date Tue, 25 May 2021 09:30:55 +0300

In an interview, activists Jong Pairez and Bas Umali discuss alternatives to social organization that depart from the traditional - and often fragmented - left. ---- This is a slightly edited excerpt from Pangayaw and Decolonizing Resistance:Anarchism in the Philippines(PM Press, 2020) by Bas Umali and edited by Gabriel Kuhn. ---- Interview with Jong Pairez and Bas Umali ---- In the past decade, a remarkably strong anarchist movement appears to have developed in the Philippines. Can you give us a brief overview? ---- Jong Pairez:There have been many writings published recently about anarchism in the Philippines, most of which are reflections, as well as perspectives towards an alternative form of struggle and organization that departs from the traditions of the dominant left in the Philippines. I can mentionBas Umali's Archipelagic ConfederationandMarco Cuevas Hewitt's Sketches of an Archipelagic Poetics of Postcolonial Belonging . Both articles address the importance of diversity and the decentralized horizontal policy commonly overlooked by a left that is united with the government in order to build a unified nation-state. As Marco argues, "nationalism in this sense can even be considered a kind of 'internal imperialism'."

However, surprising theories are not always consistent in practice. What I mean is that a movement capable of transmitting an anarchist mentality within various sectors of Philippine society is still in its early stages. There are many gaps to accept and consider. But, on the other hand, I see deficiencies as a positive advantage for the emerging anarchist movement, because it gives us chances to experiment creatively and learn from mistakes.

Are there any historical movements in the Philippines whose politics have, from your perspective, anarchist dimensions?

Pairez:Compared to anarchist movements in Europe and East Asia, more especially in Japan, the Philippines has no history of modern anarchist traditions and struggles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the 19th century and during the height of the anti-colonial struggle against Spain and American imperialism in the early 20th century, all revolutionary groups were concerned with national liberation. But according to Benedict Anderson, the author ofUnder Three Flags , European anarchists had a major impact on Filipino intellectuals who were students in Madrid. One of them, José Rizal, wrote novels that were important to the history of the Philippine revolution. InEl Filibusterismo(1891), the protagonist is reminiscent of Ravachol, the French anarchist known for avenging oppressed workers by bombing targets of the authorities. Rizal symbolically equated this with the despair of the Filipino people and their desire to break free from colonialism.

But anarchist theories and praxis never proliferated at that time as a legitimate revolutionary alternative to colonialism in the Philippines. In Japan, anarchism sowed its seeds during the Meiji and Taisho periods, when Japanese anarchists became instruments in the struggle against war and the emperor, as well as in the construction of militant unions. There have been some of these developments in the Philippines, but there is obviously a contextual difference between the Japanese experience and the Filipino experience. So there is a history of anti-authoritarian struggle in the Philippines, but it is weak.

Some pacified Filipino natives, especially the disaffectedprincipalia(noble) class, envisioned a nation-state independent of their colonizers, but many indigenous brothers and sisters struggled to defend their egalitarian ways of life in the mountains and elsewhere in the archipelago. The quasi-religious uprisings in the history of the Philippines may be linked to anti-authoritarian struggles due to the desire to preserve autonomy.

Bas Umali:José Rizal's novel portrays the oppressive character of colonialism and suggests a solution to get rid of it. Where did he get the idea that the entire colonial elite could be wiped out by lighting nitroglycerin hidden in a lamp? Rizal's long stay in Europe alerted him to the "propaganda for action" of the anarchists. At the same time, his campaign for education as one of the main components of the struggle for freedom is similar to[Francisco]Ferrer and Spanish anarcho-syndicalism.

In 1901, Isabelo de los Reyes returned home from a cell in Montjuic prison in Spain to face the new enemy who disembarked from modern warships in Manila Bay. De los Reyes' picture of struggle was very different from the nationalists we know today as heroes. First, its object of criticism was imperialism. He organized the workers and the urban poor in Manila and attacked American corporations. He practiced what he learned from anarchist cellmates like Ramon Sempau. The Unión Obrera Democrática (UOD), which he co-founded, was the first workers' union in the archipelago. Direct actions through creative pickets and strikes launched by workers and communities, especially in Manila's Tondo district, have shaken the colonial government, its corporate partners and the local elite.

It seems that in much of your work you try to relate anarchist ideas to traditional forms of social organization in the Philippine islands. Can you tell us more about it?

Umali:In my opinion, since time immemorial, anarchism has been present in the archipelago; Primitive communities from coastal to flat areas flourished and used autonomous and decentralized political patterns that facilitated the proliferation of highly diverse cultures and lifestyles.

Primitive social organizations evolved until social stratifications were formed and became institutions. The archipelago has several tribes with their own identity, culture and socio-political organization. Before authoritarianism spread to the archipelago's revolutionary movement, direct action was practiced.

An example is the "Cavite riot" of February 20, 1872, when seven Spanish officers were killed in a riot at the Cavite shipyard. As a consequence, the Spanish authorities ordered the arrest of Creoles, mestizos, secular priests, merchants, lawyers and even some members of the colonial administration. To instill fear in people, a kangaroo trial was held and three secular priests were strangled in front of 40,000 people. Six months later, 1,200 workers went on strike, setting the first record in the archipelago's history. Many people were arrested, but the government was unable to identify a leader and eventually all were released. General Izquierdo apparently concluded that "the International spread its black wings to cast its nefarious shadow over the most remote lands".

How do traditional forms of social organization relate to the independence movement?

Umali: The Propaganda Movement was basically made up of the local educated elite. They adopted the so-called Enlightenment structure of Europe. Giant names in history such as Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, Emilio Jacinto, Andrés Bonifacio, Antonio Luna, Apolinario Mabini and Marcelo del Pilar were all committed to nationalism as a basis for uniting the oppressed people.

The elite successfully created the idea of a large-scale abstract community, integrating highly diverse cultures. The culmination of the Propaganda Movement's unrest was the establishment of the Katipunan organization that later formed the first government of the archipelago following the nationalist model of the West. Centralist, coercive and patriarchal institutions dominated social relations in the archipelago and undermined traditional themes of mutual cooperation and diversity. Slavery existed in the form of the pole system. Poverty and marginalization were introduced in communities that used to be prosperous and live in relative freedom.

Except for tribes and communities in the most remote areas, the entire archipelago has become part of the royal doctrine and the Spanish hierarchy.

What can you tell us about the current anarchist movement in the Philippines?

Umali: Currently, the broader non-hierarchical organization is limited to indigenous groups that effectively maintain traditional practices. Anti-authoritarian activism fell asleep after the UOD disintegrated. However, anarchy is quite strong in many places in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The resilience of indigenous communities is related to their autonomous traditions. Although they are obliged to coexist with the State, they do not feel part of it.

Anarchy and anti-authoritarianism began to regain some momentum on the punk scene during the early 1980s. Punk's anti-authoritarian policy initially began as a critique of the conventional character of Philippine society. Soon, the punk and hardcore scene began to exhibit anti-hierarchical policies and conscious anarchist propaganda. The movement attracted an increasing number of individuals, especially after the anti-World Trade Organization riots in Seattle initiated by the Black Bloc - the "propaganda for action" of our time.

Numerous collectives have since been formed in the National Capital Region (NCR), Davao, Cebu, Lucena and other cities. They carried out various activities, such as Food Not Bombs, community workshops, pickets, discussion forums, publications, concerts and graffiti.

Pairez: Since the turn of the 21st century, activist and collective groups that identify themselves as anarchists are in fact sprouting like wild mushrooms in the Philippines. But, as Bas says, his background lies in the punk phenomenon of the 1980s, not the anarchism of the 19th century. I would like to discuss this a little more, given its importance for the current anarchist movement in the country.

The punk subculture came to the Philippines as a result of the Philippine diaspora. The beginning can be attributed to wealthy Filipino teenagers who returned from Europe and the United States to the country in the late 1970s. They were often calledbalikbayan; balikmeans to return and bayanisthe motherland. Some of them brought punk rock, which was popularized by the radio program DZRJ-810 AM "Rock of Manila". At that time, President Ferdinand Marcos' military dictatorship was at its height. The media was controlled by the state, but some small radio stations managed to operate outside state sanctions. Music by names like Sex Pistols and The Clash surprised listeners in Manila, and the "Pinoy punk" scene was born.

After becoming popular, punk rock represented the dissatisfaction of Filipino youth with the conservative Filipino society. What at first seemed just another musical upheaval, of a very apolitical nature, later developed into a radical challenge to authority. The punk rock youth began to explore the do-it-yourself policy and anarchism that were associated with it.

Unfortunately, the golden age of the punk rock scene in the Philippines coincided with the decline of punk in the West, which had its spreading effects. The Filipino mass media began to embrace punk images and became central to new marketing strategies by multinational companies. The soft drink giant Pepsi started sponsoring punk band contests on Philippine TV. This was still during the Marcos dictatorship. Several years later, after the dictatorship was replaced by a democratic government under Corazon Aquino, the Philippine mass media spread a fear of satanic worship to discredit the punk scene, not least because it was a convenient way to cover up the Mendiola massacre.

When other musical genres, such as new wave, hip-hop and crossover, gained more influence, this created a division between punks and others. Even within the punk scene, fragmentation has become so violent that groups have often clashed over their musical preferences. It was a trend that echoed that of the Maoist left.

The left in the Philippines has always been characterized by severe internal struggles. Is this also a problem for the anarchist movement?

Pairez:The early 1990s are called the "Great Left Division" period due to the failure of the Philippine Communist Party to lead the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. The once strong and cohesive leftist movement was weakened by internal struggles among party cadres. There were even murders due to unresolved ideological differences on how to lead the popular uprising on Avenida Epifanio de los Santos[where most of the demonstrations took place during the Revolution of Popular Power].

Unfortunately, fragmentation is also among the flaws and errors of the emerging anarchist movement - petty claims about who is more anarchist than the other and so on. I hope that we can overcome this error by embracing our differences and being faithful to the idea of diversity. We must learn from the experiences of our indigenous brothers and sisters and leave the punkdom ghetto.


Translation> Da Vinci
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