Philippines labour launches socialist centre


By Reihana Mohideen MANILA — Around 20,000 workers representing some 300 factory-based unions attended the first regular congress of the socialist labour centre BMP (Solidarity of Filipino Workers), held here on February 21. Elected unanimously by the congress as the new chairperson of the BMP was Filemon "Ka Popoy" Lagman, the alleged head of the Manila-Rizal region of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which split away from the Stalinist-dominated CPP in 1993. The BMP was formed as a result of this split when the bulk of the trade union base of the party in the region broke away from the Stalinist-dominated trade union federation KMU (May First Movement). The congress received widespread media coverage. One of the its first decisions was to launch a series of strike actions (based predominantly in Metro Manila) starting on February 25, against the recent increases in oil prices and the increase in the consumption tax (VAT). The congress also called from a 100 peso across-the-board daily wage increase and tax relief and reform favouring lower income earners. These campaigns are to culminate with a targeted mobilisation of half a million on May Day. The BMP, however, does not see itself simply as a trade union organisation. The program documents adopted by the congress describe the BMP as a socialist labour centre which unites the most class-conscious sections of the working class. Thus it also brings together organisations from the urban poor sector and the women's and student movements. The 35 member National Council of the BMP has leading members of these organisations elected to it. The socialist character of the BMP and its "multi-sectoral" character were a strong theme at the congress. A number of resolutions on these areas of work, such as a commitment to mobilise members around International Women's Day actions, were also adopted by the congress. Delegates from other regions were elected to the National Council, reflecting the BMP's intention to go on an "aggressive nationwide organising" campaign. The congress also decided to set up a school on socialist studies for its members, to establish a regular newspaper and conduct a daily radio program. An increase in dues to the organisation was also decided on to get these projects started.
[Reihana Mohideen attended the congress as a representative of the Democratic Socialist Party.]

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