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Rizals Socio, Political and Economic Thought:

Thought of Change

A term paper to be submitted in

partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the subject
Socio-Political and Economic Thought

Submitted By:
MA Political Science 1

Submitted To:

Mr. Ferdinand Lawan

Social Studies 518

April 2016



Rizal is one of the leaning and important figures in our Philippine history. He was
indeed recognizing as our national hero, a renowned propagandist, and a symbolism of
Filipino nationalism. He was a key member of the Filipino Propaganda Movement which
is composed by intellect Filipinos that advocates political reforms of the Philippine
colony under Spanish rule. He wrote two important novels, the Noli Me Tangere and El
Filibusterisimo to open the eyes of the Filipino People to the grim truth of Spanish
tyranny. Due to his writings and the propaganda movement, he was executed by the
Spanish government for the conspiring of rebellion motivated in his writings. His death
sparks the Philippine Revolution against Spain and the quest of the Filipino people for

Prelude and Objectives

His political thought was influence by such critical junctures in our history. The
opening of Manila to the world trade was one. With the wide acceptance of laissezfaire doctrines in the later part of the 18th century, Spain relaxed its mercantilist
policies (Zaide G. F., 1957). This leads to opening and admission of foreign firms and
individuals aside from Spain to enter the Philippines. The opening of the Suez Canal
also made the travel between Philippines and Spain shorter. Exchange between trades
of goods expands and become faster, the exchange of ideas also spread. The influx of
ideas due to the world trade and the opening of the Suez Canal especially on political
thought influence Filipinos who were exposed to the academe. Spain experience ideals
of Liberalism during the period of Enlightenment in Europe. Basically the divine rights
of kings were challenged. In 1868, a revolution overthrew the autocratic monarchy of
Queen Isabella II of Spain, which was replaced by a civil and liberal government with
Republican principles led by Francisco Serrano.
However the monarchy was restored at the 1874 restoration (Foreman, 1906).
Here in the Philippines, one major event is the 1872 Cavite Mutiny where military
personnel rise up for their beliefs due against tax or the polos y servicio (labor service)
which has been deducted to their salaries. The mutiny was crashed and later
prosecuted to those who are in charge basically the mutineers are either imprisoned
or executed. The mutiny was an instrument used by the Spanish colonial government
and friars to accuse three secular priests, Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto
Zamora the GOMBURZA and all were executed through the garrote. One of the
priests, Jose Burgos reputation caused him to be accused to the mutiny (Foreman,
1906). Burgos had been recognized as a defender of the native clergy. His arguments
over the rights of native priests had prolonged to include questions of race and
nationalism (Zaide G. , 1984).
The tragic event of the execution of the GOMBURZA is origin of the political
awakening of young intellects especially Rizal. The Cavite Mutiny of 1872 lead to the
Propaganda Movement which aim for reforms. Basically the reforms push that
Philippines should be made a province of Spain, Philippines should have a
representative at the Spanish Cortes, Filipino priest instead of Spanish friars and rule
of law. However the colonial authorities did not favour these reforms (Craig, 2007).

With such reforms cannot be achieved and the growing ideological differences among
the members, the Propaganda movement soon dissolve. But with the happenings
especially to the political arena, Rizal was baffle to what prescription should be done to
the ill-sicken Philippines. This was reflected in his two novels, the Noli Me Tangere and
El Filibusterismo. Aside from illustrating the Philippines situation from Spanish rule, it
also narrates and proposes a two-pronged remedy or solution, that is, thru reform and
revolution. This was his main political thought, his objective for the Philippines the
politics of change, a thought of change. His literature would be lead to the
independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule. His whole works would
determine his political thought yet there is still complexity whether he supports
reforms or revolution. This now would assess his political beliefs and to what certain
degree is his position towards the political spectrum. His political thought between
reform and revolution will also determine his thought regarding the society and

Political thoughts: Reform or Revolution

His two novels basically reflect political ideas of reform and revolution two
political alternative strategies. His objective focuses on the application between reform
and revolution due to the on growing crisis in the Philippines The novels main
character and protagonist, Crisostomo Ibarra during the Noli and later own change his
identity as Simoun in El Fili shows Rizals duality moving to and from assimilation and
succession, a personality torn between pen and sword, sees Rizals inspiration of
Philippine Revolution between reform and revolution (Balbin, 2013). Some historians
would agree that Rizal was indeed a reformist as his main objective towards the
Philippine Islands under Spanish colonial rule. The popular uprising against Spain in
1896 and his lack of support and endorsement for a revolution armed struggle would
complicate our opinion regarding his political thought.
The grievous consequence in dichotomizing the reform and revolution
alternative affected the national movement was pictured by Rizal and the La Liga
Filipina against Bonifacio and the Katipunan. The dichotomization leads to be counterproductive and instill doubt of antoginism. This was purely reflected when the
American attacks the Independent movement as anti-Rizal (Ocampo, 2001). Also when
Dr. Pio Valenzuela testified in military court upon the outbreak of the Philippine
Revolution, he attested during his consultation with Rizal in Dapitan, that Rizal had
strongly condemned an armed struggle for independence when Valenzuela asked for
his support. But years later, Valenzuela testified that Rizal had been favorable to an
uprising as long as the Filipinos were well-prepared, and well-supplied with arms
(Laubach, 1925). Valenzuela said to historian Teodoro Agoncillo that he had lied to the
Spanish military authorities about Rizal's true stance toward a revolution in an effort to
acquit him (Agoncillo, 1996). This statement alone and other more statement could
justify that Rizals thought is into the revolutionary side.
Noli Me Tangere illustrates and exposes the tyranny of the Spanish Catholic
priests and the ruling government, basically Rizal incorporate what he sees in the

reality world in his first novel. As he incorporates his findings, he lets the target
readers, the Filipinos to wake up to the reality of tyranny. The young Crisostomo Ibarra
symbolizes the opening of the eyes of the intellects just like Rizal which was spark by
Fr. Jose Burgos. Ibarra itself was a reflection of Rizal, a European educated man who
returns for the hope of change. Noli becomes a catalyst of revolution and charter of
nationalism for Filipinos (Schumacher, 2008). El Filibusterismo as the sequel for Noli is
a treatise of revolution (Capino, Gonzales, & Pineda, 1997) and a veritable declaration
of war against the colonial regime (Quibuyen, 1999).
Throughout the sequel, there was an unfinished dialogue on reform and
revolution between Ibarra and Elias in the Noli, and continued Simoun and Basilio in
the El Fili. Elias, a wanted criminal and a miserable man but an idealistic one who
wanted revolutionize the country and to be freed from Spanish oppression. He was the
primary supporter of revolution. We also have reformist such as Pilosopong Tasyo he
hopes for reformation although the discussion of Elias and Rizal was highlighted.
Furthermore the flow of events specifically the incident with Padre Damaso and
Crisostomo Ibarra, Ibarras imprisonment and sentenced execution, and his escape
escalated to the response of revenge. The revenge symbolizes the plot of revolution.
Rizal as an author heavily emphasizes on the main protagonist and he did show in the
character of Simoun. Simoun was disgusted towards Basilio and Isaganis plan of
putting up a Spanish academy. The radical attitude and behaviour of Simoun
symbolizes that Rizal already identified himself with the apostle of revolution
(Guerrero, 2003). The extreme put into place when Simoun plots to blow up Kapitan
Tiagos house during Paulita Gomezs wedding reception. The failure and his suicide
would be interpreted by some that Rizal does not support the armed revolution. Yet we
must remember that Basilio was one of the victims of Spanish regime. It symbolizes
that they already forget the atrocities.
Rizal may or Rizal is a counter-revolution, but with the sequence of the novel it,
we can ask why he is counter-revolutionary. He can be counter-revolutionary because
he may be hopeful for reforms. But it may be also that he is counter-revolution but not
against because we are not ready to the risk of revolution which he states when Dr. Pio
Valenzuela visited him in Dapitan. He prescribes that Filipinos should prepare for the
incoming. Revolution may have to wait for maturity. It can be a manifestation that the
Filipino people is not yet ready because of insufficiency- lack of awareness, lack or
support, lack of resources and the rest. Simoun was not totally supported; some were
in the state of illusion. His motives for revolution was base from revenge, his interest
and vengeance will never succeed the problems in his novels at the end were never
solved. His plan is more on a personal gain not for the greater good. Unlike Elias, in
Rizals conversation with Jose Alejandro, his roommate in Germany and later a general
in the Philippine Revolution, Rizal revealed that his favourite character was not Ibarra
but Elias. As quoted by Alejandro, Rizal confessed:
He (Rizal) regretted very much having killed Elias instead of Ibarra,
reasoning that when he published the Noli his health was very much
broken, and was very unsure of being able to write the continuation and

speak of a revolution. otherwise I would have preserved the life of Elias,

who was a noble character, patriotic, self-denying and disinterested
necessary qualities in a man who leads a revolution whereas Cristomo
Ibarra was an egotist who only decided to provoke the rebellion when he
was hurt in his interests with men like him, success cannot be expected
in their undertakings (Alejandro, 1949).
Reform was never inclusive, but it was a tactic that is needed to be
distinguished for the longer strategy of separatism. (Quibuyen, 1999). Rizal maybe
positioned himself to reforms but as he incorporates to his novel the reform seems
useless and the presence of injustice will still be there. Revolution was the final key,
the way to prepare and execute will now depend to the revolutionaries. The revolution
should be ripe before executing it, since it is too risky. Meaningless to say, the end of
the sequel tides towards the context of revolution.
Rizals cousin Gallicano Apacible also expressed his misgiving about the view
that Rizal was anti-revolution. He argues for the contrary, finding that Rizal was a
complete and unwavering separatist who believed that only thru separating from
Spain could Filipino achieve their social, civil and political aspiration (Quibuyen, 1999).
Rizal continued that Filipinos could not and ought not to expect anything good to the
Spaniards. Also recalling the election that lasted 3 days to elect a responsible one
who would direct the Philippine Policy in Europe, Aplicable recalled:
There were two candidates: Rizal and Marcelo Del Pilar. Many of us
who supported Rizals candidacy did so on the conviction that Rizal was a
separatist and the more radical one (Quibuyen, 1999, p. 36).
Jose Alejandro, Antonio Luna and Eldiberto Evangelist, all who are for separation
against Spain expressed that Rizal was a supporter of the revolution. They considered
the peaceful campaign for reforms as one tactic within the broad strategy of
seperatism (Quibuyen, 1999). Rizal precluded the use of force if became necessary, as
his June 19, 1887 letter to Blumentritt reveals:
I can assure you that I have no desire to take part in conspiracies
which seem to me premature and risky. But if the government drives us to
say, when there remains to us no other hope than to seek our ruin in war,
when Filipinos shall prefer to die rather than to endure their miseries any
longer, then I shall advocate violent means (Guerrero, 2003).
With Rizals disillusionment with the Reform Movement, Luna expressed his
support for Rizal and sent him this letter (January 1892):
The propaganda for assimilation is necessary but more active
should the separatist propaganda be, because we shall not obtain the first
(i.e. assimilation) and even if we did (which is almost impossible) we
would be worse off than ever; the practical thing is to seek adherents in
order to shake off the yoke of Spain. I want to make clear therefore, what

is in my mind: that we must work for independence, organizing ourselves,

converting ourselves into apostles in order to gain men and money. For all
this much study is necessary, a great deal of tact, prudence and no
boasting of our strength I offer therefore my services, in this sense, but
with the sole condition that I shall be allowed to disengage myself from
the active campaign if I see it will only be an armed riot. It is not that I
dream of success, rather I dream of a resistance for which you understand
me well enough; if they triumph over us let it be at the cost of much
blood. I shall go then to Manila and in all my acts always keep in mind my
duty as a separatist. (Jose, 1972)
His colleagues in the inner circle knew that this is their ultimate objective.
Realizing that the reforms that is the wish list of the Propaganda Movement cannot be
achieve the such as Philippine as a province of Spain, reform was seen as a tactic a
campaign of enlightenment and later on developing the national consciousness of the
Filipinos (Quibuyen, 1999). With the reformist pushing for such reforms while Spain
took less action and attention, people gain more awareness about the tyrannical rule
and began supporting for separation as what the Katipunan movement started. As
history is uncertain whether or not Rizal refuses a revolutionary movement, the turn of
events escalated to what resulted to the Philippine Revolution and the quest of selfdetermination.

Social and Economic thought

Regardless of what Rizal prefers, one thing is for sure; his thought as we expect
is beyond moderate or liberalism in the extent that he may show what is more radical
during that time which is the ideologies in the far-left (Marxism, Socialism,
Anarchism).Some would ask if Rizal was exposed to the writings of Marxism or any
trend of Socialism. Actually he was exposed. His mentor and friend, Miguel Morayta
who is a professor of History at Universidad Central de Madrid; and friend Francisco Pi
y Margall, an extreme republican, a libertarian socialist, the president of the shortlived First Spanish Republic in 1873 and an advocate of autonomy; both borrowed
heavily from Proudhons Social Philosophy (Guerroro, 2003; Bonoan, 1992). Proudhon
is considered by many to be the "father of anarchism" (Guerin, 1970). His theory
defines anarchy as "the absence of a master, of a sovereign" and wrote, "As man
seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy." Rizal may have been
introduced to Proudhons ideas. In his novel El Filibusterismo, Simoun presented
anarchist attitude especially in his plot to blow up Kapitan Tiago house during Paulita
Gomezs wedding reception. His plot to kill not just the clergy and government officials
but also everybody regardless of being innocent of not, reflects him being an
Rizals friend and his admiration to Pi y Margall may also shape his thought.
Rizal knew the stateman Margall and later become friends because Rizal was a friend
of his daughter. Margall specifically presented his governments program of reform
with this opening line: All political revolutions are, at bottom, a class war (99). It was

his governments objective to pave the way for the emancipation of the working
classes through radical reforms. The social question is the concern of all, declares Pi
y Margall (Asiniero, 2005). And this brings us right to Rizal. In fact Juan Luna had also
written to Rizal on the subject of socialism which he asked for guidance on what books
to read on the subject matter. Luna indeed was enthused over Le Socialisme
Contemporain, described as a conflation of various schools of socialist thought from
utopians like St. Simon and Robert Owen to Marxist, anarchists and Christian socialists
(Ordonez, 2011; Guerrero, 2003). Rizal himself wrote a lengthy discussion on
November 1891 with a Russian Naturalist about the principles and implication of the
socialism of Leo Tolstoy. (Guerrero, 2003)
Rizals novels and works reflect themes that are used as a tool for his social
analysis of the Philippine context. With or without knowledge of the Marxist rhetoric,
Rizal indeed was employing Marxian tools of analysis on illustrating how the conditions
during the Spanish colonial Philippines (Balbin, 2013). His works reveal how a group of
people that had so much absolute power control over the factors of production in an
economic system who determined on retaining that power by whatever means it was
challenged by an inferior group( Filipinos) which has the intent in obtaining that power
themselves. In what ways do the current group (Spaniards) who controls the means of
production, it would always be in an exploitative matter. The Spanish colonial rule
employs an Encomienda system throughout her colonies. Under the Encomienda
system, the native inhabitants in a given geographic region were entrusted to an
Encomendero or trustee as a reward for his service to the Spanish Crown. In return,
the Encomendero was authorized to collect tribute from the natives and to recruit
workers for the polos y servicios. This system is so extractive that it leads to forcelabour.
In Marxian perspective, it is how the Spaniards extract and exploit our labour in
return to support the upper class. By the notion of class, Filipino was indeed a class in
Rizals works. The American, French and Russian revolution was not about nationalism
but basically challenging the divine rights. The French and Russian basically shifted
the structure of the class paradigm, from monarch to a pluralistic area. The American
Revolution not just results to independence but also to a radical shift to those who
hold power. The sayings of Marx can be applied to Rizal as well: The prescriptive
content of Marxs early conception of nationality appears considerably more radical
than the other democratic concepts of the nation that have been drawn on the
legacies of the French and American Revolution (Benner, 1995). One is the distinction
between the restrictive nationality of the state and its supporting elites from the wider
national community. Indeed Rizals concept of the Filipino as a nationality can be
compared to Marxs concept of Class. Filipino is a class, a group of people which is
heavily exploited and oppress by such dominating class the Spaniards. This imposes
that the concept of nationality of Rizal can reflect to the oppressive characteristic of
the upper class who indeed holds the means of production.
The Propaganda Movement of the Philippines pushes for the abolition of the
polos y servicios and promotes equality among Filipinos the native Spaniards or

Insulares, the Creoles and the Indios. This point to the concept of nationalism, where
people who share a common language, history, and culture should constitute a nation
is also related to class. It signifies the conflicts between nationality and nationality,
specifically the awakening of national consciousness of the people under a colonial
rule. Foreign domination or colonization in our history always depicts exploitation and
oppression. Land grabbing the Regelian doctrine & encomienda system, force labour,
religion as a tool for repression, unequal rights and freedom, repressive policies
against the colony would always make a distinction that this colonial government and
the imperial states are the bourgeoisie in which Marx would pertain that they could not
retain their status and wealth without exploiting the lower class. This lower class then
is the natives living in the colonial territories. With or without the knowledge of Marx,
Rizal definitely provided a framework that definitely uses the Marxian analysis for
class struggle. The economic system Encomienda system and its exploitation
towards Filipino workers; the social stratification between Filipino and Spaniards; the
religious orders began retaking Philippine parishes; the colonial rule eventually
showed its weaknesses and eventually gave up as it sparks the revolution. The influx
of the intellectuals such as Rizal contributed to the consciousness of the people this
consciousness is not just nationalism but also class consciousness since people began
to get tired against the abuses and injustices of the Spanish Colonial system. Together
with the awakening of nationalism and the spark of class consciousness of the Filipino
people, revolution was inevitable due to Rizals action of providing the people the


Rizals contemporary political thought revolves around the politics of change

which was the consequence of the three-hundred years of rule under Spanish Regime.
His thought can be said as the founder of Filipino Nationalism which was resulted by
the Propaganda Movement and later on the Philippine Revolution. Through this
process, one of the issues is that Rizal is uncertain between reform and revolution
which was reflected in his novels and his condemnation of a popular uprising against
Spain in 1986. The common conception of his lack of support for the revolutionary
armed struggle even more complicated to his political thought. It is believed that he
was never a revolutionary but a reformist to the end. But after the creation of the
novels, his loss of hope and disillusion to the Propaganda Movement, the rising turmoil
against the Spaniards, and the turn of events Rizal may have change his opinion. Yet
in the end we may Rizal shifted his opinions. His last work, Mi Ultimo Adios reflects his
strong love for the nation, which connotes that the Philippines deserve more: a sense
of nationalism that truly push for separatism. And also one insight from the Spanish
Advocate General in his Trial cited:
limits him (Rizal) to condemning the present rebellious movement as
premature and because he considers its success impossible in this time
For Rizal it is a question of opportunity, not of principles or objectives
(Guerrero, 2003, p. 422)

As Father Schumacher would point out, this is a justly naive interpretation of

Jose Rizals thoughts, but correct in spirit, for Rizal really never wavered from his belief
that the Filipinos must be free. Though, he always maintained that it was the Filipinos
must work for it, and not only through force of arms or feats of strength. Schumacher
summed it:
But, consistent with his views from the Noli onward, he maintained
to the end that the revolutionary goal was to create a nation of Filipinos
conscious of their human and national dignity and ready to sacrifice
themselves to defend itHe did not live to see that day. But he had
pointed the way for his countrymen to follow, not just with his books, but
with his life and with his death (Schumacher, 2008).
Regardless what he opted to side on, the revolution was inevitable. The
Philippine Revolution happened, and basically his thought contributed to the struggle
of the Filipinos in gaining self-determination and independence. His thought describes
and criticizes the whole society under Spain the social injustice between Filipinos and
Spaniards; the extractive and exploitative economic institutions especially of polos y
servicio or force labor; and the wish for greater opportunity and participation in the
local, national and federal government and the church. This was his thought, the
thought of change which reflects all these three cores (economic, political and social).
And his thought contributed to the future of the Philippines and also influences other
nations. It helped us in building the nation and ignites us Filipinos in looking the
problems of our society.
Regardless of preference on who our national hero or favourite hero, we must
be like Rizal. Rizal was not blind to the reality and he reflects to the problems which
the Filipino suffers. He was a fighter, regardless of being a reformist or revolutionary.
And his actions lead to the solving the problem. He may be called as a socialist,
liberal, reformist or revolutionary; but one is sure that Rizal indeed was a humanist.
His thought of change basically reflects his love for the people. His willingness to fight
against the Spaniards by the weapon of pen instead of the sword is not a reflection of
reform over revolution but as the pen as a tool of both reform and revolution. Even
though he knew the risk of what he is doing, he pursues his aims for the greater love
and interest. His sacrifice of his life for his countrymen is a conviction of a
revolutionary man, as Che Guevara quoted: The true revolutionary is guided by great
feelings of love. Rizals death and all the martyrs immortalize their love for the
people. The greatest love that one can give to another is his life which they sacrificed
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