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Message to the founding congress of Unyon Ng Mga Manggagawa Sa Agrikultura (Union of Farm Workers)

By Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International League of People’s Struggle
Chairperson, International Network for Philippine Studies
January 20, 2005

(Translated from the Pilipino original)

I am deeply pleased to know that many labor leaders and activists and farm workers from plantations and haciendas from all over the country are gathered here today to found the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA, Union of Farm workers). Warmest patriotic greetings to all of you!

It is fine that, in founding the UMA as a labour centre, you already have definite member organizations, unions and federations of farm workers and workers in haciendas and plantations like the United Luisita Workers Union, National Federation of Sugar Workers and those in Leyte, Bukidnon, Cebu and Panay.

I am in solidarity with you in your objective to found the UMA, to unite, broaden and intensify the struggle of the farm workers for genuine land reform and national industrialization and to advance the struggle for national freedom and democracy.

You must fight for the rights and welfare that are possible in the current period while advancing the long term objectives that should be fulfilled to win the democratic revolution.

Land reform is the main content of this revolution. Through it, the peasantry and farm workers will be able to liberate themselves. Their role is decisive in this struggle.

The traditional farm workers are the poor and lower middle peasants whose income from the land that they till is insufficient and who must sell their labour power to the traditional landlords and to the rich and middle peasants (especially in lands planted to rice, corn, coconuts, vegetables, tobacco, etc.) and in haciendas and plantations producing for export and with some modern machinery (sugar, pineapple, banana, etc.)

The majority of the farm workers are traditional. They constitute no less than 95 percent of all farm workers. They still make use of traditional implements like the bolo when they work in the traditional and modern haciendas and plantations. Included in this category are the sacadas or tabaseros and other casual and seasonal farm workers.

The truly modern farm workers are those who operate modern machinery like tractors and vehicles for hauling and those who become regular workers in the mills and warehouses. They comprise only 5 percent of all farm workers according to available data.

In general, the means and relations of production in agriculture in the semifeudal economy are backward. The big compradors and hacenderos refuse to use harvester combines because there is a huge surplus of farm workers that they can hire very cheaply. They are also afraid that the armed revolution may quickly advance if farm workers lose their jobs and cannot be absorbed by industry. But independent of the will of the exploiting classes, the crisis of the system continues to worsen. The number of farm workers continues to grow but there are less jobs available to them.

It is correct to identify the problem as the landlessness among 75 percent of the peasantry and the need for land reform and national industrialization as the solution. Land reform is necessary to break up the landlords’ monopoly of the land and distribute the land to the peasants. National industrialization is also necessary to create the jobs for the surplus population in agriculture.

All the “land reform programs” touted by each regime of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system are bogus and tokenistic. Under the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the value of the land which the farmer had to pay in installments was arbitrarily raised. Ultimately, only two percent were able to complete their payments. Under the subsequent Aquino regime, the forms of deception and abuse increased even more, especially with the so-called principle of voluntary offer of the landlord to sell land or stocks in agricultural corporations.

The regimes that followed those of Marcos and Aquino no longer made any pretense at implementing land reform. The claim was that land reform had already been accomplished through the CARP and that which was now needed were production incentives and a market. During the time of Ramos, widespread conversion and re-concentration of the lands that were being amortized or supposedly awarded to the peasants was started.

President Ramos together with then senator Arroyo connived to push forward the so-called “free market globalization”. The Philippines was laid prostrate to the dumping of agricultural products from other countries. This resulted in the ruin of agricultural production in the Philippines. Domestic staples have become in been cut down. Production of sugar and other export products was squeezed resulting in the closure of many mills.

In every single instance, the burden of the crisis is shifted to the peasants and farm workers. This crisis is also being used by the imperialist owners of plantations, compradors and landlords as a pretext to fire farm workers, bust their unions and unleash other oppressive actions. The Macapagal-Arroyo regime always works against the rights and interests of the farm workers and further intensifies the exploitation and oppression that leads to many violent campaigns by the military, police, paramilitary and private goons.

The determination of UMA to arouse, organize and mobilize the farm workers in haciendas and plantations and the workers in the related mills is important. At this time of severe crisis of the world capitalist system and the local ruling system, we see the massive firing of farm workers, inhuman wage cuts, union busting through various means and the wiping out of the rights and welfare gained by the toiling masses through long history of struggle.

The founding of UMA is timely. You must fight for the rights and immediate interests of the farm workers. You must defend them from the exploitative and oppressive onslaught of the imperialists and their local cohorts, the big compradors, landlords and rotten bureaucrats. Advance the struggle firmly and militantly and accumulate victories. Use the method and rhythm of expansion and consolidation. Muster your independent strength in UMA but be good at using the policy and tactics of united front. Frustrate the provocations and violence of the enemy and also guard against extreme Left or Right tendencies.

Pay attention to the farm workers in the large haciendas owned by the biggest comprador-landlords and imperialist corporations. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on the other hand takes care of the mass of peasants, including the traditional farm workers outside of the large haciendas and plantations. It is necessary and desirable for UMA and KMP, Pamalakaya, KMU, and all the toiling masses and the Filipino people to work together.

It is only proper for you to consistently campaign for land reform and national industrialization in all legal forms of struggle. You must also advance the struggle for national freedom and democracy because we need national and democratic power to carry out the completion of land reform, national industrialization and other reforms that we all desire.

It is vital to arouse, organize and mobilize the masses of farm workers in a militant but legal way. If the imperialists and local reactionaries suppress the legal struggle of UMA, they will only push the masses of farm workers to take up arms and wage revolution to carry out the new democratic revolution.

I admire your steadfastness and courage because you are determined to establish UMA and engage in legal struggle even as only recently the farm workers who were peacefully striking and rallying in front of Hacienda Luisita, including children, women and old people, were fired upon and massacred. It is but right that we are not cowed and are even more determined to fight for the rights of the farm workers and the Filipino people.

Long live the Union of Farm Workers!
Reap more victories in the struggle!
Long live the toiling masses and the Filipino people!

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