FILIPINO HERO GAT ANDRES BONIFACIO, SOCIALIST
by Greg Bituin Jr. of KPML-BMP-Sanlakas
(This paper was distributed at the Socialist Conference held on November 27-28, 2010 at UP, with 15 foreign delegates and about 60 Filipinos)
We Filipinos celebrates through mobilization the birthday of plebeian hero Gat Andres Bonifacio. We do it with big rally as symbol of protest to the rotten system that plagues our nation. But we do not celebrate in the same scale the birthday or death anniversary of national hero Gat Jose Rizal, more so with another hero Gat Emilio Aguinaldo, who became president of the Philippines. Why is this so?
Bonifacio was one of the founder and later the supreme leader of the KKK (Kataas-taasan, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan), in short, Katipunan, which was conceived on July 7, 1892. It aimed for the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Philippine Revolution on August 1896, which is considered the Birth of the Nation. He did not finished his formal education, but Bonifacio was self-educated. As a wide reader, he read books about the French Revolution, biographies of the Presidents of the United States, the colonial penal and civil codes, and novels such as Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Eugène Sue's Le Juif errant and José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
Unlike Rizal, who some historians say, is an “American-sponsored” hero and an elite, Bonifacio came from the working class background. Gat Andres is a symbol of the struggle of the working people. At the young age, he gave up his studies to work full time to support his brothers and sisters. At first he was a bodegero (warehouse keeper) in a mosaic tile factory in Manila. Then he got a job as a clerk. After that he became an agent for the English firm of J. M. Fleming & Company in Binondo. After five years, Bonifacio left the Fleming company and joined a German firm named Carlos Fressel & Company.
Some historians proudly proclaimed Bonifacio as a socialist. American James Le Roy, one of the authority during the Filipino-American war, wrote in 1907: “Andres Bonifacio, an employee of a foreign business house in Manila, was the leading spirit of the Katipunan; gathering his ideas of modern reform from reading Spanish treatises on the French revolution, he had imbibed also a notion that the methods of the mob in Paris where those best adapted to secure amelioration for the Filipinos. His ideas where those of a socialist, and of a socialist of the French revolution type, and he thought them applicable to an undeveloped tropical country, where the pressure of industrial competition is almost unknown, and where with the slightest reasonable exertion, starvation may be dismissed from thought.”
Le Roy may refer to the “methods of the mob in Paris” as the Paris Commune of 1871, which Karl Marx acknowledged as “the finally discovered political form under which the economic emancipation of labour could take place”.
Rizal and Aguinaldo, for many Filipinos are symbols of elite and the status quo. Rizal came from a rich family in Laguna, while Aguinaldo, as general of the revolution, ordered the salvaging (summary execution) of Bonifacio and his brother Procopio. Bonifacio and his brother were ‘salvaged’ (killed) by Aguinaldo’s men headed by Major Lazaro Macapagal on May 10, 1897.
Five years after Bonifacio's death, the first workers union in the Philippines, the Union Obrera Democratica, was established in 1902 by Isabelo Delos Reyes. Then, the first Filipino socialist novel Banaag at Sikat by Lope K. Santos was published in 1906.
Bonifacio’s essays and poetry reflects, not just love of country, but most of all the well-being of fellow individuals, whether they are Filipinos or foreigners. The internationalism of the Kartilya (Charter) of Katipunan, is a testament to this. The Kartilya discusses the vision of Katipunan.
One of the verse in Kartilya, which depicts a socialist thinking, says: “All persons are equal, regardless of the color of their skin. While one could have more schooling, wealth, or beauty than another, all that does not make one more human than anybody else."
On August 1896, Katipunan’s revolution became the highlight of the birth of the nation. The Kartilya ng Katipunan served as guidebook for new members of the organization, which laid out the group’s rules and principles. The first edition of the Kartilya was written by Emilio Jacinto.
WORKING CLASS MOBILIZATION EVERY NOVEMBER 30
Every year, the Filipino working class commemorate the birthday of Bonifacio. This we cannot say to Aguinaldo, although also a hero, for he represents the elite. Rizal, on the other hand, was remembered only by the elite in government, but the people did not mobilize themselves for this day for Rizal is considered part of the elite.
Let us join our comrades on November 30 in a big mobilization in Manila and pay our respect to many working class heroes represented by Bonifacio.