Mutual aid? Or social change?
Questioning and assessing Rizal's La Liga Filipina
and its goals leading to revolutionary consciousness
and social reconstruction
"The future belongs to dare the impossible", these are the opening words of a site made by a motley group of youngsters this writer had visited months ago. It is quite idealistic to say and think about facing the impossibility especially nowadays repression and poverty, as well as creating certain solutions that perhaps tending to lessen, if not eradicate poverty in the Philippines.
Also quite ridiculous, thinking that a motley group of youngsters reading Hitler's and trying hard to become like him tending to vent such overtly idealistic sentiment (and perhaps making contradictory ideas) in a society that needs social action and realistic approach to problems in fulfillment of its goals, facing the impossible lies concrete, long-lasting solutions that requires heeding the needs of the masses and making a condensed idea that may lead to a solution ending their ire and to usher a society that is worth promising to the people.
So was the La Liga Filipina in its attempt in putting practise to their goals. Recalling on how Jose Rizal, in his journeys around the world, somehow includes a series of reading, research, and assessment of certain ideas and views all for a plan in his beloved Philippines. That somehow made his idea includes creating cooperatives and mutual aid associations like the organisation he've created.
The idea of Mutual Aid, or "Samahang Abuluyan" was somehow an idea conceived during the Spanish regime, that the Gremios for instance acted not just as a guild, but a mutual aid association of workers whose priority is support for its fellowmen including those of supporting a town fiesta with their patron; it's just that the idea of mutual aid, using ordinary people's perspective emphasises cash credit especially to a poor member of its organisation.
That somehow some Ilustrados had an interest in joining all for the sake of maintaining interests same as middle and lower class Filipinos during that time, in a way that Rizal's objective is to unite the people, create a common cause all to counter the slander of the hispanic race as well as to provide opportunities that includes livelihood, and a degree of social security as A product of cooperativism.
In fact, despite its so-called productive goals, it can be radical to think of, that most rather tend to act pessimistically in thinking about radical change such as Ilustrados who prefer running after their affairs instead of committing themselves to the greater cause such as independence and livelihood, remembering Señor Pasta who rather trying hard to stay away in social affairs despite yearning to support them.
But on the other hand, in treating La Liga Filipina as a mere mutual aid association that benefits the Ilustrados and the common tao, it was quite possible for others not to think of it merely as a mutual aid group as what others trying to; to think that most of them had even read Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, the use of mutual aid was perhaps a front for a greater one such as preparing conditions for independence like what Bonifacio did for the Katipunan.
And yet the reluctance of the Ilustrado majority rather chose to exaggerate Rizal's idealism as reduced to support for one another in pursuit of creating an identity the way Rizal tend to foster cultural nationalism and reduce popular sentiment like independence into a mere goal of making Philippines a province of Spain with a seat in the Cortes; obviously, the idea of Rizal was similar to Gandhi's: he once supported home rule, yet he end up favouring independence using his own methods that was different from Netaji Bose's.
However, aside from Mutual Aid, Rizal also wanted cooperatives to be the backbone of an independent economy; and it was quite thinking that European thought in the 19th century stresses social change such as St. Simon, Fourier, Owen, and perhaps, even Karl Marx whose works became popular and controversial in his time became influences, basis in promoting cooperativism in a form of his pet organisation. In reading the objectives of the La Liga Filipina, it stated that the organisation insists "Mutual protection in every want and necessity" as well as "Encouragement of instruction, agriculture, and commerce" by setting up cooperatives and the means of creating mass based orientation such as the use of sciences and arts to combat superstition. Obviously such ideas were nearly anathema to Spanish rule especially modern Philosophy that was "inimical to religion and order."
Coincidentally, this writer somehow recalled how Sun Yat-Sen tend to introduce cooperativism and promoting commerce as part of his "three people's principles", similar to Rizal's aspirations involving economic-related issues, it is quite thinking that Sun tries to institutionalise his idea of livelihood by means of equalisation of land rights as well as the creation of state owned and supported enterprises that end into private hands and corrupt military men, in fact the concept may be understood as social welfare as well. Especially that in a growing society requires a industrial economy and equality of land holdings for the peasants both Rizal and Sun envisioned.
Such aspirations vested from the people resulted to these attempts such as an economic-related one, it was just that certain opportunists turned the matter into something that they would become their future interest. Yes, the rise of oligarchs came from opportunistic Ilustrados using the Reformist movements and the revolution as its means to gather power and prestige as well as wealth; hence, intensifying corruption as one of the problems the Philippines tries to solve upon. In fact, ideas such as Cooperativism, mutual aid, social credit, or any other economic-related idea are reduced to a mere rhetoric or paper plans as most treated public service as a lucrative business, remember the Cabeza de Barangays whose privilege includes business, their prestige as crown-appointed chieftains affect their livelihood as well; especially that one of their privileges is collecting taxes, tributes, exempted from mandatory labor, that in other words may call these practises created out of prestige as corruptive.
Of course, these practises inimical to National development also turns out to be inimical to social change as well. That as reforms are being left merely in sheets of paper, of treating aspirations as mere rhetoric, these became impossible and illusory sadly to say; regardless of mere contributions such as artesian wells made by Magsaysay or the roads made by Marcos, it rather emphasise the desperate attempts of a statesman trying to curry favour from the people by calling Government projects as "theirs" yet failed to seriously undertook serious matter such as the land problem, industrialisation and dependent on foreign aid.
Take the Land Bank of the Philippines for example,
originally created to financially support the Land Reform program is somehow one example of Rizal's idea of putting mutual aid into practise, by means of loans for the peasants in supporting the said program, however, on the other hand, to think that after a having a code made by Macapagal, a presidential decree from Marcos, as well as two Agrarian Reform laws made during the Aquino and Arroyo administration and an existing department, the issue remains unsolved as landlords continue to dominate as well as foreign owned plantations. It is also hypocritical, that since the Philippines had been under land reform how come multinational companies like Del Monte or Dole retained their plantations in Mindanao the way landlords control their vast tracts of land in Central Luzon and Visayas? Yet the pineapples and cavendish bananas are expensive to be bought domestically or even reluctant in utilising Sugar to various uses other than molasses, rhum, table sugar, alcohol and vinegar? And speaking of farmers, does Landbank support for their farming needs in midst of the massive influx of foreign goods and expensive prices of commodities? What kind of reform is that then so to think of, is it limited for a convenience-seeking economic opportunity on the premise of productivity or fostering social change in developing rural communities?
After all, in digging deeper the so-called goals, ideals, and aspirations of the La Liga Filipina and other succeeding organisations create a question of emphasising mutual aid or fostering social or revolutionary change. Mutual aid, in an instance idealistically foster social change but it turns out to be far from it especially in regards to vested interests controlling, to think that the majority amongst the Ilustrados rather think about themselves and treat the affair itself as a wine and tapas gathering, that was different to the common tao who thinks about the idea of mutual aid as means of upliftment alongside hard work, and through it may foster social change being common tao themselves.
To think that one of the intelligentsia, Apolinario Mabini even speaks of Social Justice that includes assailing the landed gentry over their arable properties that created an ire with Pedro Paterno and the hypocritical Filipino aristocracy; as according to Jose Maria Sison's "Land Reform and National Democracy":
"Apolinario Mabini, in his Ordenanzas de la Revolucion, a collection of directives for the successful conduct of the revolution, expressed in clear terms the abolition of feudalism as a national objective:
Rule 21. All usurpations of properties made by the Spanish government and the religious corporations will not be recognized by the revolution, this being a movement representing the aspirations of the Filipino people, true owners of the above properties.
The Philippine revolution of 1896 could have been the instrument of the peasant masses for redeeming the lands taken away from them by their feudal exploiters through more than 300 years of colonial rule."
Making the idea and action involving mutual aid, livelihood and others vested in the La Liga Filipina turns out to be the use of collective action of the people especially the common tao against the social ills including those of its own aristocracy; and as expected some tend to exaggerate the idea of these as conditions for social harmony yet in a system brought by Spain means repression and a desire for liberty that created Bolivar's Gran Colombia and Francia's Paraguay; and the ilustrados fear for reprisal from the common tao made them think that supporting groups like La Liga Filipina, Katipunan, even the Gobierno Revolucionario in Malolos would keep them away from the ire of the people and retain its prestige by posing themselves as patriots in front of the majority whose idea of Philippine Revolution was about owning land to till and food to feed aside from lower taxes (instead of "no taxes") for the common tao and abolishing mandatory unpaid labor.
In an assessment, it is quite thinking that the idea behind Rizal's La Liga Filipina as well as mutual aid may questioned whether as bringers of social change or maintaining social order such those of then existing Gremios.
As the former tends to be interpreted after that Filipinos especially the Indios, wished for better living amongst themselves and for self reliance with the support of its fellowmen, organisations such as the Gremios, with the La Liga Filipina at its head and guide would laid something that in peacetime would serve as its pillars and ramparts of a growing Filipino society after independence.
While the latter, however, tends to cater the idea of the Ilustrados of keeping their interests as they curry popular support for their goals in a manner how Rizal himself toyed with the idea of making Philippines a part of Spain with a seat in the cortes before toying the idea of independence by reformist and perhaps, putschist means (in a manner how he made El Filibusterismo with Simoun, the former Reformist Crisostomo Ibarra turned a practitioner of the propaganda of the deed);
That scenario somehow related to the scene from the 7th chapter of El Filibusterismo on how Simoun opposed what Basilio hath insisted, as he said:
“Are they unwilling that you be assimilated with the Spanish people? Good enough! Distinguish yourselves then by revealing yourselves in your own character, try to lay the foundations of the Philippine fatherland! Do they deny you hope? Good! Don’t depend on them, depend upon yourselves and work!”
in fact, the use of reformism amongst the Ilustrados during the Propaganda movement and its latter groups in the Philippines that also involves the use of mutual aid were as inspired by the Gremios as well as their sojourn in Europe that includes influences from Liberal and Utopian Socialist thought; but then these people involved were rather a number, as most, as Rizal stated are fond of gambling and vices as evidenced in his sojourn in Spain. Obviously, who cares about their homeland if they enjoy themselves? Using their perspective as Bourgeois "Intellectuals" so to think of, especially that the majority had distaste for politics and treating organisations like the Propaganda Movement and others as a wine and tapas event.
That made this writer think it was all in their backgrounds that made Agoncillo and Salazar think that the common tao's Kalayaan at pagkakapantay-pantay and the Ilustrado's Libertad y Igualidad are different in its nature regardless of its similarity in meaning.