Students of Philippine affairs owe much to William Pomeroy. As the leading chronicler of the Huk movement he has provided us with firsthand information about a struggle which otherwise would have remained largely the preserve of counter-insurgency theorists. As Pomeroy notes in his communication, he was for many years intimately connected with the Huk movement as an active participant. In numerous books and articlesfootnote1, written both during and since his period of active involvement, he has reported at length on aspects of the movement I could only touch upon in my article, which, indeed, did not address itself primarily to the question of the post-war Left. My account was of necessity a schematic and to some degree impressionistic one, which is all the more reason why Pomeroy’s comments are most welcome, as they provide useful amplification and detail on a number of points. Pomeroy also highlights a number of areas of continued controversy about the Huk movement and for this reason too his comments are useful and welcome. While issues concerning post-war Huk strategy and tactics are ultimately questions which the Filipino comrades will have to answer for themselves and to their own satisfaction, I would like to respond to some of the observations Pomeroy has made.

I must start by saying that I am somewhat puzzled by the nature of Pomeroy’s critique, as on a number of important issues he seems to be taking exception not only to my interpretation of events, but to his own previously held positions as well. A case in point concerns our first area of disagreement, stemming from the questions I raised about the efficacy of the united front policy pursued by the pkp during the war. Pometoy contends that I misunderstood the nature of the anti-fascist alliance, which was the policy pursued not only by the pkp in the Philippines, but by left-wing forces elsewhere in Europe and Asia. But the point was not whether or not this was the policy, of course it was. The question I raised was whether the movement in the Philippines was well served by the adoption of this policy. I commented that in my view the Huks were a bit confused in their attitude toward the us both during and immediately after the war. In my view this was directly attributable to the problems connected with the united front strategy.

What was, in fact, the nature of the united front in the Philippines? It appears, according to Pomeroy’s own earlier accounts of the period, that the Huks pursued the anti-fascist alliance even when their ostensible allies were doing their best to wipe them out. During the war, he noted, MacArthur and the American Command ‘ . . . were obviously alarmed at the growth of the Huk and the manner in which we organized the people. Now with the Huk expanding . . . MacArthur’s headquarters called upon the usaffe . . . [us-directed guerrillas] . . . to fight; not, however, to fight the enemy, but to fight the Hukbalahap.’ The wartime guerrilla movement, according to Pomeroy, was a threat ‘to both the American imperialists and the feudal landlords . . . and had to be liquidated. The United anti-Japanese struggle for which we had such high hopes at the beginning of our resistance was now being shattered . . . ’footnote2 (emphasis added).

Nevertheless, the pkp continued with the united front strategy. ‘We met this tendency . . . [to be liquidated] . . . by intensifying our appeals for a united struggle . . . ’footnote3. Despite MacArthur’s hostile attitude, Pomeroy further observed, ‘Throughout the war we had nothing but praise for the Americans, and had done everything possible to bring about a pro-American feeling . . . We had always referred to the Americans as our allies and had sincerely believed that under the leadership of Roosevelt the American nation would help usher in a new era of world peace and democracy.’footnote4

Pomeroy now implies that because the Filipino people welcomed the American re-occupying forces as liberators there was little else the pkp could do under the circumstances but echo the popular sentiments of the day. But this has elements of a circular argument since the pkp was promoting this attitude, indeed, doing ‘everything possible’ to bring it about. Were there alternatives? What would have happened if the Huks had begun to question the intent of the re-occupying forces which were out to liquidate them? Pomeroy himself recognized the problem when he wrote:‘ . . . the nature of the anti-fascist alliance in the country created a tendency of illusion even among the Huk masses in regarding the American army as an ally, and left the movement insufficiently prepared to deal with a returning colonial force.’footnote5 On another occasion Pomeroy wrote: ‘In Iwahig . . . [prison] . . . Gy and I examined our work and our mistakes over the past three years. One mistake, we felt, had been the failure to emphasize sufficiently our expansion work, which, properly pressed, might have mobilized far wider sections of our people. More important, however, in our estimation, had been our failure to emphasize and to clarify the true meaning of imperialism to the people. We had neglected to point out that imperialism was the same whether Japanese, American, British or Dutch. In so doing we had narrowed down and weakened the basic issue of World War II . . . ’footnote6 (emphasis added). One result of this failure was the inability of the Huks to defend themselves during the spring and summer of 1945. Huks were rounded up and disarmed at gunpoint by the American forces. Huk leaders were jailed and Huk gains in the countryside were swept away. How did the Huks react? ‘The Hukbalahap disbanded immediately following the end of the war and the soldiers returned to their homes.’footnote7 Pomeroy now says that the Huks were ‘kept intact in many ways’ and I presume they were, but what are we to make of the following? ‘ . . . As part of our peaceful legal struggle we decided to apply for back pay . . . [from us military authorities] . . . Actually we proved drastically short-sighted in so trustingly submitting a roster of Huk names. Later it was used as a blacklist to persecute and to murder our comrades.’footnote8 Were conditions such that there were no potential alternatives to these policies? Pomeroy gives us a hint of the possibilities. ‘At the end of the war . . . [comprador and ruling elements] . . . were in a weakened and discredited position. The anti-Japanese and anti-collaborator feeling was so high that it threatened to sweep away the whole framework of imperialist control. The threat was felt to be greater because of the existence of the militant and well-organized Hukbalahap.’footnote9

I find it difficult not to feel that this was a period of lost opportunities for the Philippine left, nor do I share Pomeroy’s view that the issue was defined simply in terms of whether the Huks were prepared to take on 400,000 American troops. It would be interesting to learn and perhaps Pomeroy could tell us—if alternative policies to the united front were ever discussed and on what grounds they were rejected.

Pomeroy’s second point of contention concerns my statement that, after the war, pkp policy did not include armed insurrection and that the Huks were willing to work within a reformist perspective in the hopes that concessions could be realized in negotiation with the Philippine Government. This, he says, is ‘all quite untrue’, that the pkp negotiated merely as a means of ‘exposing the nature of a neocolonial regime’ and that pkp policy was one of ‘negotiation from strength through the steady build-up of Huk armed forces.’ However, this is not the impression one gains from an article Pomeroy wrote several years ago: ‘The basic programme that was put forth at this time and for three and a half years to follow . . . [i.e. from mid-1946 until January, 1950] . . . was for a democratic peace. The demands within this framework were simply to stop Constabulary and civilian guard raids, to remove fascist-minded military officers from Central Luzon, and to enforce agrarian reform laws. Huks with arms offered to have them registered by the government. There was no call for the people to overthrow the government. The programme in fact was merely an appeal for the peasant organizations to be allowed to live under the existing government, the Constitution and the laws of the land.’footnote10 (Emphasis added).