Message-ID: <>
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 05:10:52 -0400
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Torvald Patterson <torvald@QUEERNET.ORG>
Subject: Philippines/Labor Unity Forum/Mark Johnson

Date: Wed, 2 Jun 1999 03:17:05 -0400
From: International Viewpoint <

Labor Unity Forum

By Mark Johnson, 2 June 1999

The second largest Philippine city, Cebu has avoided the worst excesses of sectarianism within the progressive and labour movement. The town's Labour Unity Front has regrouped many of the splinters of the Communist movement, as well as trade union leaders from the region's main sectors.

The success of the Labor Unity Front (LUF) is partly due to a lack of competition from more sectarian labour projects. The Communist Party-linked KMU union federation is marching towards oblivion in Cebu. Its unreconstructed Maoism was unable to attract more than a few hundred workers to its May Day contingent.

Groups which have copied the CP's sectarian and manipulative style have failed to take root in Cebu. The Cebu Labor Education Advocacy and Research Centre (CLEAR) recently disaffiliated from the Alliance for Progressive Labor, which wanted to fill the role of the KMU, and especially to control all overseas funding contacts, according to CLEAR director Pepe Gasapo. They wanted us to convene a forum of independent unions, but their main ambition was to recruit the union leaders to Bisig [a non-aligned socialist group] and establish hegemony over the labour movement.

For CLEAR, leadership in the labour movement can only come through years of union-building and leading disputes. Leadership is won every day. It isn't a matter of ‘capturing’ the leadership and manipulating the members.

According to Vic Abadesco of the Institute for Progressive Studies (IPS), the LUF is the country's strongest broad left alliance on labour questions. We'd like to extend this kind of alliance in other areas. But for the moment, we're struggling to keep LUF together. Old habits die hard, and the left groups are very suspicious of each other. But because it is independent of the various post-CPP currents, CLEAR is accepted and trusted as the central custodian of the ideals of labour unity.

A LUF seminar in May attracted widespread interest from union leaders in the private sector, including organisers in the local free trade zones. But the problem is the public sector. These workers see themselves as more of an elite group, complains Pepe Gasapo. They don't see why they should sit down with workers from the informal sector. Only the nurses union is convinced of the need to unite with the private and informal sectors.

On a brighter note, LUF has managed to integrate groups of workers from the informal economy. These groups face massive difficulties in organising, and lack even the smallest budget for their work. Although they can offer little practical solidarity to other workers at this point, their strategic importance is enormous.

LUF also participated in mobilisations against the Visiting Forces Agreement, which invites the USA to reopen its military bases in the Philippines. Participating groups recently resolved to accelerate their programme of seminars and coordinated interventions on key political questions, in the hope of reinforcing the organisation.

The underground Revolutionary Workers Party, the country's largest regroupment of anti-Maoist revolutionaries, believes that groups like LUF are the key to building a truly autonomous labour movement, in which communists can strive to lead by example and argument, rather than organisational manipulation.