In his article on the background of the present dictatorship in the Philippines (New Left Review 78, March–April 1973) Jonathan Fast helps to illuminate some key features of the colonial and neo-colonial experience of Filipinos. However, in the interest of historical accuracy, I feel impelled to point out some grave misimpressions that Fast has of both the Huk liberation struggle against Japanese occupation in the Second World War and the Huk armed struggle for liberation that took place after the war, from 1946 to 1956. Either through lack of knowledge or disregard of the facts, he has made assumptions that have a bearing on how the Filipino people are to contend with the fresh problems of liberation now imposed upon them.
My own knowledge of the Huk movement is based on extensive personal association with it. During the Second World War, as a us soldier in the anti-Japanese Philippine campaigns, I came to know that movement and its wartime activities at very close range. Immediately after the war, I returned to the Philippines and became an active participant in the Huk movement and in the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (pkp) that led it, from early 1947 to 1962. Consequently, I am intimately
To begin with, on pp. 80–1, Fast refers to the wartime anti-fascist alliance, in which the pkp and the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Army Against Japan) fought on the same generalized side as did the us forces, as ‘loyalty to one colonial master as against another’. At another point he refers to it as ‘the line of class collaboration at that time dominating the communist movement’. Fast, it is evident, quite misunderstands the nature of the world-wide anti-fascist alliance, in the course of which the pkp and the Huks pursued a line identical to that of all the left-wing guerrilla forces from Asia across to Western Europe, including the Chinese Red Army and the cpc, the Vietnamese movement led by Ho Chi Minh, the Malayan Communists, and others, all of which worked in co-ordination with us and British forces against the common fascist enemy, but, like the pkp, preserved the independence of their own movements. Nothing would have aided a triumph of Nazi and Japanese fascism more than if left-wing forces everywhere had fought the armies of the us, Britain and others as well as the fascist armies. Logically extended, Fast’s viewpoint would claim that the British Left betrayed the British working class by fighting Hitler and fought for the interests of the British, American and French ruling classes when it did so.
At the same time, the author depicts revolution as occurring in the Philippines when it didn’t exist. He says that during the Japanese occupation, in the Huk-controlled areas of Central Luzon, ‘haciendas were broken up and land distributed among the peasants’. This did not happen. In fact, it never happened at any stage of the Huk struggle, during or after the war. The actual wartime policy is recorded in Born of the People, which, although the biography of Luis Taruc who later became a renegade, is still the only authentic history of the earlier Huk movement: ‘Our united front policy operated in the economic as well as in the political field. Peasant-landlord co-ordinating committees ironed out differences over the harvest. The harvests of collaborators and puppets were simply confiscated, but the harvest of the anti-Japanese proprietors was dealt with on the basis of equality in the struggle. Under our rice control agency such landlords were given a share of the harvest commensurate with the size of the family, the financial condition, and quite often, an extra amount for business purposes.’ A policy of land seizure and distribution at that time would have alienated many Filipinos and turned them away from anti-fascist resistance and into the arms of the Japanese.
Fast then comes to the incredible conclusion that the pkp-Huk movement ‘capitulated’ at the end of the war because it participated in the election of 1946 and did not immediately conduct an armed insurrection against us forces. He totally ignores the situation in the Philippines at the time. The Huks then had bases in barely five out of the 52 Philippine provinces, comprising but a portion of one of the many islands making up the country. A combat-experienced and -ready American army of at least 400,000 men was positioned in the Philippines, principally on the island of Luzon, and to the overwhelming majority of Filipinos they were ‘liberators’ who had driven out the
Subsequently, in his pages dealing with the post-war Huk national liberation struggle, Fast makes innumerable errors of fact that in sum cast wholesale discredit on the entire pkp-led struggle. On page 83 he begins by saying that ‘from 1945 until the end of the decade . . . the policy of the pkp at this time did not include armed insurrection and its hope was that basic reforms could be realized by negotiating with the Roxas Administration’. This is all quite untrue. The Huk movement never surrendered its arms, at the end of the war or any other time; arms were retained with the expectation of using them in inevitable armed struggle. No ‘hopes’ were ever placed in the Roxas Government; negotiations, under the slogan of ‘a democratic peace’, were a means of exposing the nature of a neo-colonial regime to an unaware people. The Huk guerrilla organization was kept intact in many ways after Japan surrendered: many remained ‘outside’ in permanent armed units that fought both landlord-recruited ‘civilian guards’ and the government ‘military police’, Huk bivouacs and supply dumps were maintained in readiness for any eventuality, and those members engaged in legal mass work (such as peasant unions) kept together in a Hukbalahap Veterans’ Organization and retained hidden arms.
While still a soldier in 1945, I was enabled to visit Huk encampments through pkp assistance and was acquainted with the movement’s policy of acquisition of arms, by every possible means, from us troops. The election campaign of 1946, in which well-known pkp leaders ran and were elected to Congress, was conducted in Central Luzon literally with guns in hand, with frequent bloody encounters with us-directed suppressive units. Policy toward the Roxas Government, and the Quirino Government that succeeded it in early 1948 on the death of Roxas, was one of ‘negotiation from strength’ through a steady build-up of Huk armed forces, with full-scale armed struggle always considered as an eventuality.