December 2004  

Over a Dozen Hacienda Luisita Strikers and Their Children Killed

Massacre of Sugar Plantation Workers
in the Philippines

Protesters at Hacienda Luisita, Philippines, November 2004.

Protesters at Hacienda Luisita in front of banner of the Ambala peasant organization. 
Photo: Manila Indymedia

Mobilize the Working Class to Avenge the Martyrs and Win Strike!

In the afternoon of November 16, Filipino police and army units carried out a brutal massacre of striking sugar plantation workers at Hacienda Luisita, located in Tarlac province in central Luzon, north of Manila. After a stand-off with the strikers the day before, some 1,000 cops and troops were sent to the hacienda headquarters, accompanied by two armored personnel carriers, fire trucks and water cannons. After launching a volley of tear gas grenades, Army riflemen fired point-blank into the picketers’ front lines using live ammunition. A 60-calibre machine gun was also used. Truncheon wielding police chased migrant workers into their barracks and later combed the ten barangays (villages) where hacienda workers live. “Soldiers were allegedly ‘zoning’ Barangay Motrico, dragging men out of their homes and lining them up to be arrested,” the Philippines Daily Inquirer (17 November) reported. Dead bodies were found scattered all around the main gate and the barracks. A total of 14 people were reported killed, including two children suffocated by the tear gas, and some 200 injured, over 30 with gunshot wounds. A total of 133 strikers and their supporters were arrested.

The Hacienda Luisita massacre is the worst slaughter of Filipino workers in recent years. It underlines the fraud of bourgeois “democracy,” which rains death on the exploited and oppressed fighting for their rights. It is all the more significant because the police and army attack was ordered directly from the central government, by Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, and was carried out on behalf of the Cojuangco family, prominent landowners including former president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. The current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, responded to the mass killing with empty platitudes and “prayers.” Spokesmen for the Hacienda justified the bloodbath as a “legitimate exercise of state power,” saying the work stoppage was “illegal and left-inspired.” Plantation workers had gone on strike November 6 demanding the reinstatement of some 327 unionists, including nine union leaders, fired ten days earlier by the management of the hacienda and the sugar mill (Central Azucarera de Tarlac, CAT). As thousands of strikers and their supporters occupied the facilities, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) declared it was assuming jurisdiction for the dispute and ordered in three military battalions to take down the picket lines and disperse the strikers.

Hacienda Luisita tries to sell itself as luxurious modern resort, complete with covered tennis courts, swimming pool with Jacuzzi, a championship golf course, business park and “simple yet elegant” hotel, “your hacienda home.” Yet this “fusion of agriculture and industry” is based on the superexploitation of workers who live a miserable existence enforced by an age-old system of “landlordism and state terrorism,” as the magazine Bulatlat (21 November) put it. The Philippine Army’s Camp Aquino, headquarters of the Northern Luzon Command, is located just across the MacArthur Highway from the plantation. When Corazon Aquino was president in January 1987, 13 members of a left-wing peasant group were killed by Marines at the Mendiola Bridge in Manila as thousands marched on the Malacañang presidential palace demanding land reform. The 1987 march was led by agricultural workers from Hacienda Luisita. Later, 17 farmers including women and children were massacred by Marines in nearby Nueva Ecija province on “suspicion” that they were guerrillas of the Maoist-led New People’s Army. Now Arroyo, whose husband’s family owns plantations in the sugar island of Negros Oriental, has her first crop of martyrs.

Strikers at Hacienda Luisita flee for safety from police and troops, November 16 (left).
Workers carry off body of murdered comrade.
Video shots courtesy of SIPAT, via Bulatlat.

But faced with the murderous attack of the bourgeoisie, the response of the reformist left, both Stalinists and social democrats, has been to appeal to the capitalist rulers for “democracy. On November 18, the BMP (Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino – Filipino Workers Solidarity) staged a “sympathy noise barrage” calling on the Congress, that corrupt den of bourgeois politicians, to carry out an “independent and impartial investigation” of the Luisita Massacre. On November 30, the BMP and allied PM (Partido ng Manggagawa – Labor Party) occupied the DOLE calling for resignation of Labor Secretary Sto. Tomas while the House of Representatives held a hearing on the massacre. Representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela party lists also sponsored the call for a Congressional investigation. But no “investigation” by the political instrument of the ruling class will be “impartial” or “independent,” much less win the strikers’ demands and avenge their dead. Reflecting this focus on pressuring the bourgeoisie, ULWU unionists linked to the Bayan Stalinist/popular-frontist coalition turned back representatives of the Trotskyist Rebolusyonaryong Grupo ng mga Komunista (RGK) who traveled to Tarlac to show their solidarity with the Luisita strikers.

In the face of an anti-Communist campaign labeling the strikers guerrillas, the CPP denied that the National People’s Army was present at Hacienda Luisita. The fact that there were no casualties among the police and army is proof enough of this. But although the strikers had exercised proletarian power by seizing the plantation and sugar mill, the CPP/NPA calls for “land to the tiller,” i.e., for a bourgeois-democratic land reform to turn agricultural workers into smallholding peasants rather than fight for workers revolution. Tarlac was a center of peasant insurgency at the time of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) or the People's Liberation Army, led by the Stalinist Communist Party of the Philippines (PKP) during the late 1940s and 1950s. At one point Huk guerrillas reached the outskirts of Manila. But they were ultimately defeated, not merely by military superiority of the U.S.-backed forces, but because the imperialists (through Colonel Edward Lansdale) and their puppets (notably war minister Ramon Magsaysay) stole the guerrillas’ thunder with a counterinsurgency land reform.

Appealing to the Arroyo government or to the den of corruption of the Philippine Congress for a fair investigation will be no more successful than earlier campaigns for compensation of the victims of the Mendiola massacre. Destruction of the hacienda system of large landholdings will not be accomplished by begging the capitalist rulers to break up their profitable estates and hand land titles over to the impoverished peasantry. That is a program for more Mendiola and Luisita massacres, and for swindles like the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), by which landowners like the Cojuangcos managed to hold on to their ill-gotten estates through frauds like the bogus “stock distribution option,” creating the fiction that the employees were part “owners” of Hacienda Luisita. Trotskyists fight not for the bourgeois-democratic demand of agrarian reform but for agrarian revolution, for the peasants to seize the lands while agricultural and refinery workers take over the plantations and mills in conjunction with revolutionary struggle by the urban proletariat.

The response to this new act of capitalist barbarism must be a mobilization of the entire Filipino working class. Such massacres can galvanize mass discontent, as occurred in Russia following the 9 January 1905 slaughter of workers led by the priest and police agent Father Gapon who sought to petition the tsar with their grievances, leading to the 1905 Revolution. A few years later, the 1912 killing of strikers in the Lena River gold fields in eastern Siberia provoked mass demonstrations of up to half a million workers in Moscow and St. Petersburg, setting the stage for the workers upsurge of early 1914 which was cut short by the outbreak of World War I, but then reappeared in 1917 and brought down the tsarist autocracy through workers revolution. They key, in Russia a century ago and in the Philippines today, is to forge a revolutionary leadership, a Bolshevik workers party, that can unite poor peasants, urban slum dwellers, national minorities and oppressed peoples and all other oppressed sectors behind the power of the proletariat.

We print below a statement on the Hacienda Luisita Massacre by the Rebolusyonaryong Grupo ng mga Komunista (RGK), which sympathizes with the League for the Fourth International.

Statement of the
Rebolusyonaryong Grupo ng mga Komunista

After the Hacienda Luisita Massacre –
Filipino Workers: Defend Sugar Strikers!

The Rebolusyonaryong Grupo ng mga Komunista calls on the workers, peasants, women and youth organizations to unite in actively defending the picket lines of the striking Hacienda Luisita workers! We also urge the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) and the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) to welcome any support – be it morally, financially, and physical support – that other workers, peasant, urban poor, women and youth organizations extend regardless of organizational affiliation or tendency. The brutal and bloody dispersal in the picket lines at Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Cojuangco family of former president Cory Aquino, is an injury to our class brothers and sisters! We Trotskyists say: an injury to one is an injury to all! The working class should mobilize throughout the Philippines to demand immediate withdrawal of the police and army, and to win the just demands of the Hacienda Luisita strikers.

The abominable act against the strikers committed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on November 16, killing 14 including 2 children (due to suffocation), should be indignantly protested through solidarity strikes by workers not only in the province of Tarlac but also in the whole sugar industry – where workers belonging to the Central Azucarera de Bais (CAB) in Bais City in Negros Oriental are also on strike – and especially against companies owned by the Cojuangcos, like the Philippine Long Distance Telephone company and San Miguel Brewery, here in Metro Manila. Militants should fight for such solidarity strikes of workers and employees to encompass all mass workers organizations, regardless of political tendency, not only from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May 1st Movement) affiliated unions (allied with the popular-frontist BAYAN coalition1, the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP – Solidarity of Filipino Workers) allied with the SANLAKAS front2, and the National Federation of Labor (NFL) – to which the CAB Employees Union (CABEU) belongs.

Particularly in the present context, where Filipino workers are under full-scale attack by the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, backed by the Bush regime in the U.S., the sugar workers’ strike must not be isolated. The enormous power of the organized working class must be mobilized urgently in support of the striking workers in Luisita and Bais! The fight of the Luisita and Bais workers must be taken up by the working-class movement rather than seeking salvation through the intervention of the bourgeois state – Arroyo, the bourgeois congress and the Department of Labor and Employment.

Urgently posed is the question of the continued militarization of Hacienda Luisita where at almost every major intersection there are military and security checkpoints. The working-class movement must demand the withdrawal of all military, police and anti-worker armed groups – in and out of uniforms – like the dreaded “Yellow Army,” the anti-communist private militia of Danding Cojuangco3. There should be active defense of the picket lines by the CATLU, ULWU and CABEU unions in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Bais by setting up defense guards against scab operations. Unions of all tendencies as well as peasant, urban poor, women and youth organizations can contribute to this effort, which could inspire workers throughout the country. Build militant mass picket lines that nobody dares cross!

Solidarity with the striking workers of Hacienda Luisita! Extend the picket lines to the heartland of the Cojuangco empire! For solidarity strike action in Metro Manila and throughout the sugar industry!

In the face of the bloody attack on Luisita and the strike of the workers in Bais, we warn that the workers movement should not rely on state intervention. It was the bourgeois state’s intervention through its Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), under a union-busting “Assumption of Jurisdiction” provision that resulted in the Luisita Massacre. Calling for the resignation of the secretary of labor, Patricia Santo Tomas, and the intervention of the capitalist and landlord dominated Congress, as the popular-frontist BAYAN and the reformist social-democratic AKBAYAN (Citizens Action Party) are doing, will only go to waste. The superexploitation of urban and rural workers, enforced by army and police guns, is not a matter of some particularly rapacious capitalists but the very essence of Filipino capitalism. BAYAN and AKBAYAN only sows dangerous illusions that the bourgeois state can be reformed through its popular-front program that ties the working class to the bourgeoisie. Look at what happened to EDSA 1 and EDSA 24! The program of popular frontism of such groups as BAYAN, SANLAKAS and AKBAYAN serves as the left cover of the bourgeoisie in the maintenance of its domination, exploitation and oppression on the Filipino working masses!

Meanwhile, the SANLAKAS-allied Labor Party (PM – Partido ng Manggagawa) list calls to review the strike law and form an “independent” body to investigate the incident is nothing but hot air. It is clear as daylight that the blood-drenched AFP and PNP have been carrying out this kind of atrocities against the working class, women, and youth organizations forever! Among the many crimes of the AFP and the PNP are the war against the Moro peoples, the bombings of innocent civilians in Muslim and Christian areas (as exposed by the anti-communist military rebel group, Magdalo). The AFP and the PNP are the armed fist of the capitalist and landlord class along with its prisons, courts and laws! Launching noise barrage, and condemnation rallies and confrontational/dramatic rallies will not change this capitalist system, its state, and the whole bourgeois class.

Banner of CATLU union says: “Enough! We Are Hungry.” Photo: Dabet Castañeda/Bulatlat

Because of its limitation as a simple party list, PM beforehand has already limited itself to fighting only “within the bounds of the law.” Yet the so-called “law of the land” was pieced together by the landlords and capitalists to suit their interest. Look at what happened last November 16. It is “the law” in the form of the “Assumption of Jurisdiction” by the DOLE that led to the army and police firing on the Hacienda Luisita workers! It will take a proletarian revolution which installs the working class as the ruling class, expropriating the capitalist and the landlords, to put an end to such massacres. The establishment of a revolutionary workers state that seeks to extend the socialist revolution into the imperialist centers is necessary in order to finally sweep away the rule and dominance of the bourgeoisie, its state including its oppressive courts and prisons, its leeching bureaucracy, and its armed forces and police soaked in the blood of the working people!

What is needed is a class-struggle leadership and program that above all teaches the working class and all of the oppressed to break from the control and influence of the bourgeoisie, its state, and its left covers. The working class must fight for its revolutionary political independence from this corroding influence and from the illusionary popular-front programs peddled by various “mainstream” (i.e., reformist) left groups to be able to move forward consciously towards fighting not only for economic demands but also for proletarian revolution. That will take a genuine revolutionary-internationalist workers party that carries out the program of permanent revolution as the Bolsheviks did in 1917 in Russia. This is what the RGK is fighting to build.

–Rebolusyonaryong Grupo ng mga Komunista, 5 December 2004

To contact the RGK, write to rgk7@hotmail.com

1Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN – New Patriotic Alliance), whose acronym spells “people” in Pilipino, was founded during the Marcos dictatorship. Following the popular-front program of the Stalinists in the 1930s, it seeks to build a nationalist “democratic front” including members of the bourgeois opposition. Bayan is regularly accused by the AFP of being a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) of José Maria Sison, its National People’s Army (NPA) and the underground National Democratic Front (NDF).

2Sandigan ng Lakas at Demokrasya ng Sambayanan (SANLAKAS – Upholder of People’s Power and Democracy) was led by Filemon (“Popoy”) Lagman, founder of the BMP union federation and former head of the Manila committee of the CPP, who was assassinated in February 2001. Lagman also founded the Filipino Workers Party (PMP -- Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino).

3Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco was a crony of ousted President Joseph Ejercito Estrada (and brother of former president Cory Cojuangco Aquino) who was given control of the San Miguel Brewery by Estrada.

4EDSA 1 and 2 refer to the so-called “people’s power” mobilizations on the Epifania dos Santos ring road around Manila near the AFP’s Camp Aguinaldo. In EDSA 1, this was the focus of the 1986 revolt against dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which installed Cory Cojuangco Aquino as a front for General Fidel Ramos and then defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile. EDSA II refers to the January 2001 ouster of President Estrada, charged with corruption (!), by means of mass demonstrations mass mobilizations which was originally instigated by the left, and then taken over by key sectors of the bourgeoisie, particularly the influential Makati Business Club and the Catholic Church led by Jaime Cardinal Sin, which considered the former movie star weak and erratic, and installed Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in his place.

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com