The Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG) or Union of Filipinos Socialists is an open, legal socialist organization that aims to establish FILIPINO SOCIALISM –a self-managing people’s socialism that is truly democratic and founded on the particular characteristic of Philippine context. BISIG is a member of Laban ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses) and works in solidarity with other political blocs, and social movements.BISIG works closely with movements of trade unions, peasants, urban poor, women, youth and students, and professionals , with NGOs, and with Akbayan! Citizens’ Action Party.
BISIG was formally founded in May 1986 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City wherein Dr. Francisco “Ka Dodong” Nemenzo was elected Founding Chair and Ronald Llamas as Secretary General.
BISIG members initially met as the Independent Caucus (IC) and gathered for the first time in anticipation of the 1985 BAYAN anti-dictatorship congress. The BAYAN Conference convened to weave a broad front organization from the disparate strands of the left’s separate organizational networks. The IC’s strongest initial point of unity was their common position midway between the two dominant left movements (the national democrats to the IC’s left and the social democrats to its right). When BAYAN congress broke down without establishing the hope for coalition, its two major camps went their separate ways, forming the ND-dominated BAYAN, and the SD BANDILA. Left in the newly opened void between the two, and compelled to action by the deepening national crisis, the Independent Caucus began to explore their internal basis of unity, and undertook a cooperation which developed into BISIG.
There were major subgroups that constituted BISIG’s founding membership in May 1986. Based in the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City and in Makati, the KAAKBAY featured prominent academicians, writers and other recently politicized professionals. They represented more middle-class and loosely organized constituencies. Three more organized formations, originally offshoots of established political movements, also joined the IC. The first of these, Kristiyanong Ugnayan para sa Sosyalismo (KRUS), wielded a cadre network with mass organizations under the banner of Christian Socialism. In the early 1980 the groups had left the social democratic Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), and eventually formed KRUS. Those who broke out realized that the PDSP’s emphasis on underground political work left them with neither a mass following nor a legal vehicle for political struggle. Simultaneously, they grew skeptical of social democracy, particularly given what they saw as its mixed success in Europe.
Second, some national democrats also came under BISIG influence. Before 1986, these tended to be individuals, particularly UP graduates who maintained ties with their old professors and regretted the failure of the BAYAN congress to achieve broader political unity. Some of them belong to labor groups.
Third, a group of former Huk and PKP members who left the party in the early 1970s also stood at BISIG’s founding core. The Manila-based group came to be known as KAKASA ’71, while the farmers’ association and leaders from Central Luzon, eventually adopted the name N.V. Scopes. In addition to these political networks, a more disparate and heterogeneous collection of community organizing groups and NGOs participated in the IC. Labor movements were also one of those who formed the muscles of BISIG by joining the Independent Caucus, like the National Union of Workers in Hotel. Restaurant and Alllied Industries (NUWHRAIN), and the Kilusang Andres Bonifacio-Kristiyanong Alyansa ng Makabayang Obrero (KAB-KAMAO), and some sections of the National Federation of Labor (NFL),
After one year of internal discussion among these different constituencies, the IC produced The Socialist Vision, which set forth BISIG’s program. At that time, no other organizations proudly bannered socialism than BISIG.
In its early years, BISIG started as a loose socialist organization. It was ‘loose’ in the sense that it was only composed of people who simply believe in socialism, and there were no strict organizational structure and membership processes. However, through the years of its critical engagement with the dynamics of the Philippine society, BISIG has become one of the leading socialist organizations in the country.
In 20 years, although many of the original founders of BISIG are gone, BISIG has grown swiftly through the years. From Central Luzon to Metro Manila, BISIG expanded all over the country and became instrumental in establishing alternative political parties, mass organizations and NGOs. Many of our people now head Akbayan. The various peoples organizations, peasant and fishers’ organizations, urban poor groups, trade unions and labor centers, students and youth organizations that are affiliated to BISIG were ideologically formed within the context of BISIG. BISIG treats its allied mass organizations, political parties and NGOs as partners in the struggle for socialism.
There were three objectives set upon the establishment of BISIG. First and foremost is forging a vision for Filipino socialism –Filipino in the sense that it was not just a copy of existing socialist systems but a kind of socialism that considers the particular history and social realities of the society which does not copy the analyses for example in China or Soviet Union. Instead, BISIG developed its own analysis of the Filipino society coming from the four traditions mentioned earlier. The result is precisely the document that became the founding document of the organization called “The Socialist Vision.”
The second objective of BISIG is to establish an alternative mass organization – one which is legal, open and a non-sectarian socialist organization. An organization that is not communist, not underground and not a vanguard party. An organization that does not run its affairs using the extreme sectarian traditions of many communist parties.
The third objective of BISIG is to form an above-ground organization with no underground component. BISIG’s analysis at that time is that an organization with a major underground or armed component will eventually make this component its center of gravity. As a result, the logic of the organization’s actions will always follow the needs of the underground component. The above ground expression will only become an auxiliary to the first logic of the underground component. Since beginning, the leaders of BISIG decided that it should be a secular organization; one which is not intimidated in relating with other political organizations. BISIG should engage other organizations and the Filipino society and not remain utopian in thinking.
In other words, the political organization is not waiting for the right revolutionary moments before it can exercise its revolutionary impulses. In other words, creating a socialist society does not happen in one dramatic moment but by working on it step by step. BISIG believes that a socialist society is not possible without first establishing a movement. BISIG’s initial objective on its first year was to establish the building blocks for a socialist society-the people as individuals, the people with steadfast hearts, minds and attitude are the foundations of a socialist society. BISIG must not wait to have a socialist society and wait for that socialist country to create a socialist person.
A socialist person is created in the process of creating the socialist country. BISIG should be able to create a revolutionary moment in every situation that it engages in –no matter how slow, how gradual the process may be.
The three objectives distinguish BISIG from the other left organizations that existed at that time.