Slogan du site
Descriptif du site
New Left Review 28, July-August 2004
Article published on 11 January 2008
last modification on 23 April 2015

by r-c.
logo imprimer
Save this article in PDF

Authorization to publish this article has been granted the New Left Review. This the article is now part of the book Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination published by Verso in 2005


After the literary revelations of ‘Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate’ (New Left Review 27), a new political reading of José Rizal’s astonishing last novel. Imperial power, anarchist bombings and anti-colonial insurrection in the gifted young Filipino’s vision of a 19th-century global landscape.



In an earlier article, ‘Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate’ in New Left Review 27, I discussed the novels of Filipino José Rizal Noli me Tangere and, in particular, El Filibusterismo (Subversion) of 1891—within a loosely literary framework. I argued that Rizal learnt much from European novelists, yet transformed what he found there to explosive new anticolonial effect. But Rizal was not only the first great novelist but also the founding father of the modern Philippine nation, and did not read merely fiction. He also perused the newspapers and magazines of the various capitals in which he lived — Madrid, Paris, Berlin, London — not to mention non-fiction books. More than that, from very early on his political trajectory was profoundly affected by events in Europe, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, and their often violent local backwash thousands of miles away in his home country. The aims of the present article are twofold. One is to use a transnational space/time framework to try to solve puzzles which have long perplexed critics of Rizal’s last published novel. The second is to allow a new global landscape of the late nineteenth century to come into view, from the estranging vantage point of a brilliant young man (who coined the wonderful expression el demonio de las comparaciones) from one of its least-known peripheries. [1]

By the time El Filibusterismo was published in 1891, Rizal, now thirty, had been in Europe for almost ten years, and had learned the two master-languages of the subcontinent—German and French—as well as some English. He had also lived for extended periods in Paris, Berlin and London. He subtitled his second major fiction novela filipina with good political reason. But it could almost as well be termed novela mundial. Bismarck had made Germany the dominant power in Europe, and pioneered a new global German imperialism (alongside several others, of course) in Africa, Asia and Oceania. Alfred Nobel had invented the first WMD [Weapon of Mass Destruction] readily available to energetic members of the oppressed classes almost anywhere. On the Left, the terrifying defeat of the Commune, the collapse of the First International, and Marx’s death had opened the way for the rapid rise of anarchism in various forms, initially in France and Spain, but not much later in other parts of Europe, North America, the Caribbean and South America, as well as the Far East. I shall try to show how this global political context shaped the peculiar narrative of El Filibusterismo.

Compared to Noli Me Tangere, which has been translated into a good number of languages and is widely known and loved in the Philippines, El Filibusterismo is relatively unregarded. At one level, this neglect is easy to understand. The novel has no real hero. Women play no central role, and are barely sketched as characters. The plot and subplots are stories of failure, defeat, and death. The moral tone is darker, the politics more central, and the style more sardonic. One might say that if the Father of the Philippine Nation had not written it, the book would have had few readers up till today. For Filipino intellectuals and scholars it has been a puzzle, not least because they have been distressed by its apparent lack of verisimilitude, its non-correspondence with what is known about Philippine colonial society in the 1880s. The temptation therefore has been to analyse it in terms of its author’s ‘real-life’ ambivalence on ‘revolution’ and political violence (which will be touched on later). But at least some of these difficulties are reduced if we consider the text as global, no less than local.

Shifts in Spain

In 1833 a dynastic crisis occurred in Spain, which gave rise to two successive civil wars, and haunted the country to the end of the century. In that year the ferociously reactionary Fernando vii—imprisoned and deposed by Napoleon, but restored by the Unholy Alliance in 1814—died, leaving the crown to his only child, the three-year old Infanta Isabella, with her Neapolitan mother becoming Regent. Fernando’s younger brother Carlos, however, disputed the succession, claiming that the 1830 public abrogation of the Salic law prohibiting women from becoming sovereigns was a manipulation designed to rob him of his inheritance. Raising an army in the ultraconservative North (Navarre, Aragon and the Basque country), he opened a war that lasted the rest of the decade and ended only in an uneasy truce. The Regent and her circle turned, for financial as well as political reasons, to the liberals for support; and, by a measure of far-reaching consequences, as we shall see, expropriated the property of all the powerful monastic Orders. At sixteen, Isabella was married off to the ‘effeminate’ Duke of Cádiz, and soon became accustomed to finding her pleasures elsewhere. On coming of age, she moved away from her mother’s policies, fell under the sway of some ultraconservative clerics, and presided over an increasingly corrupt and ramshackle regime.

In the last months before this regime finally fell, in September 1868, Isabella ordered the deportation of a number of her republican enemies to the Philippines, where they were incarcerated on the fortified island of Corregidor in Manila Bay. In the empire-wide exhilaration that followed her abdication and flight to France, some older well-off, liberal-minded Manileño Creoles and mestizos, including Antonio Maria Regidor, José Maria Basa and Joaquín Pardo de Tavera—later to become good friends of Rizal—organized a public subscription on behalf of the suffering prisoners. [2] In June 1869, the rich and liberal Andalusian General Carlos Maria de la Torre took over as the new ‘Captain-General’, and horrified much of the colonial elite by inviting Creoles and Mestizos into his palace to drink to ‘Liberty’, and strolling about the streets of Manila in everyday clothes. He then proceeded to abolish press censorship, encouraged freedom of speech and assembly, stopped flogging as a punishment in the military, and ended an agrarian revolt in Manila’s neighbouring province of Cavite by pardoning the rebels and organizing them into a special police force. [3] The following year, Overseas Minister Segismundo Moret issued decrees putting the ancient Dominican University of Santo Tomás under state control, and encouraging friars to secularize themselves, while assuring them, if they did so, of continued control of their parishes in defiance of their religious superiors. [4] The same exhilaration set off what became a ten-year insurrection in Cuba under the capable leadership of the well-to-do landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, who at one point controlled the eastern half of the island.

But in Madrid, with the decision to install Amadeo of Savoy as the new (unpopular) sovereign, the political winds started to shift. In December 1870, Prime Minister General Juan Prim y Prats, who largely engineered Amadeo’s accession, was assassinated; and thus, in April 1871, de la Torre was replaced by the conservative General Rafael de Izquierdo, Moret’s decrees were suspended, and the new Captain-General abolished the traditional exemption from corvée labour for the Cavite naval shipyard workers. On February 20, 1872, a mutiny broke out in Cavite in which seven Spanish officers were killed. It was quickly suppressed, but Izquierdo followed up by arresting hundreds of Creoles and Mestizos—secular priests, merchants, lawyers, and even members of the colonial administration. Most of these people, including Basa, Regidor and Pardo Tavera, were eventually deported to the Marianas and beyond. But the regime, abetted by some conservative friars, decided to make a terrifying public example of three liberal, secular priests. After a brief kangaroo trial, the Creoles José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, and the aged Chinese mestizo Mariano Gómez, were garrotted in the presence of, it is said, forty thousand people. Rizal’s beloved elder brother Paciano, who had been living in Burgos’s house, was forced to go into hiding and forswear any further formal education. [5]

Six months later, on September 2, almost 1,200 workers in the Cavite shipyards and arsenal went on the first recorded strike in Philippine history. Numerous arrests and interrogations followed, but the regime failed to find an arrestable mastermind, and eventually all were released. William Henry Scott quotes Izquierdo’s ruminations on this unpleasant surprise. Since ‘more than a thousand men could not share exactly the same thoughts without some machiavellian leadership’, the general concluded that ‘the International has spread its black wings to cast its nefarious shadow over the most remote lands’. Unlikely as this perhaps sounds, the fact is that the International had only been banned by the Cortes at the end of 1871, and the Bakuninist Madrid section had made special mention in the maiden issue (January 15, 1870) of its official organ La Solidaridad, devoted to arousing the workers of the world, of ‘Virgin Oceania and you who inhabit the rich, wide regions of Asia.’ [6]

Student years

Many years afterward Rizal wrote that ‘Had it not been for 1872, Rizal would now be a Jesuit, and instead of writing Noli Me Tangere would have written its opposite’. [7] With Paciano on the blacklist, Rizal’s prime family name, Mercado, would have closed for little José any chance of a good education; he was therefore enrolled at the Ateneo under the secondary family name Rizal. In 1891, he dedicated El Filibusterismo to the memory of the three martyred priests. When asked, in 1887, by his Austrian friend, the ethnologist Ferdinand Blumentritt, what the meaning was of the odd word filibustero, he replied: ‘The word filibustero is still very little known in the Philippines; the common people still are unaware of it. The first time I heard it [he was then eleven years old] was in 1872 when the executions took place. I still remember the terror it aroused. Our father forbade us ever to utter it . . . [It means] a dangerous Patriot who will soon be hanged, or a presumptuous fellow’. [8] It turns out the word was coined around 1850 on one surprising shore of Céspedes’s Caribbean, and from there drifted, via Cuba and Spain, across the Indian Ocean to Manila. [9]

In the late spring of 1882, the 20-year-old Rizal left his country to study in Spain, concealing his plan from his parents, but supported by his elder brother Paciano and a sympathetic uncle. How was this possible? The Mercados were a cultivated, Spanish and Tagalog-speaking family of mixed ‘Malay’, Spanish, Chinese, and perhaps even remote Japanese descent. They were the most prosperous family in their town of Calamba (today an hour’s drive south of Manila); but their wealth was also fragile, as they did not own much land, but rented it from the huge local Dominican hacienda. In 1882 world sugar prices were still high, but would crash in the depression that lasted from 1883 to 1886. The family would always send what money they could to José, but it was never enough, and the youngster was always hard put to make ends meet.

In any case, early in June, Rizal disembarked at Marseilles, before proceeding to Barcelona and on to Madrid to enrol as a student at Central University. The first disagreeable downward shock was, as he wrote to his family, ‘I walked along those wide, clean streets, macadamized as in Manila, crowded with people, attracting the attention of everyone; they called me Chinese, Japanese, American [i.e. Latin American], etc., but no one Filipino! Unfortunate country—no one knows a thing about you!’ [10] In Madrid, he was to be asked by fellow students whether the Philippines was owned by the United Kingdom or by Spain, and another Filipino whether it was very far from Manila. [11] Yet the overwhelming Spanish ignorance of, and indifference to, his country was soon to have useful consequences. In the colony—but the Spanish state never called either the Philippines or Cuba a colony, and contained no Colonial Ministry—racial hierarchy, embedded in law, modes of taxation and sumptuary codes was of overriding importance to everyone. Peninsulars, Creoles, Spanish and Chinese mestizos, ‘Chinese’, and indios were italicized social strata. In the Philippines, the word filipino referred to the creoles alone. In Spain, however, Rizal and his fellow students quickly discovered that these distinctions were either unknown or seen as irrelevant. [12] No matter what their status was back home, here they were all filipinos, just as the Latin Americans in Madrid in the late eighteenth century were americanos, no matter if they were from Lima or Cartagena, or if they were Creoles or of mixed ancestry. [13] (The same process has produced the contemporary American category ‘Asians’ and ‘Asian Americans’.) On April 13, 1887, Rizal would write to Blumentritt that ‘All of us have to make sacrifices for political purposes, even if we have no inclination to do so. This is understood by my friends, who publish our newspaper in Madrid; these friends are all youngsters, Creoles, mestizos and Malays, [but] we call ourselves simply Filipinos.’ [14] What they ‘are’ (colonially) is contrasted to what they ‘call themselves’ in the metropole. But there is actually a further elision, since many of these mestizos were ‘Chinese’ not ‘Spanish’. (Indeed the Chinese mestizos vastly outnumbered their Spanish counterparts in the Philippines.) [15] The political esfuerzo involved probably explains why their newspaper called itself hopefully—and unmindful of the International—La Solidaridad. Thus one can suggest that Filipino nationalism really had its locational origins in urban Spain rather than in the Philippines.

For the next four years Rizal studied hard at Madrid’s Central University. By the summer of 1885, he had received his doctorate in philosophy and letters, and would have done the same in medicine if his money had not run out. After Rizal’s execution at the end of 1896, Miguel de Unamuno—who, though three years younger than the Filipino, entered the philosophy and letters faculty two years before him and graduated in 1884—claimed, perhaps truthfully, that he had ‘seen him around’ during those student days. [16]But for the purpose of this investigation, the most significant event occurred at the beginning of his senior year (1884–85) when Miguel Morayta, his history professor and a leading figure in Spanish Masonry, delivered an inaugural address that was a blistering attack on clerical obscurantism and an aggressive defence of academic freedom. [17] The scholar was promptly excommunicated by the Bishop of Avila and other mitre-wearers for heresy and besmirching Spanish tradition and culture. The students went on a two-month strike on Morayta’s behalf, and were quickly supported by fellow students at the big universities in Granada, Valencia, Oviedo, Seville, Valladolid, Zaragoza, and Barcelona. [18]The government then sent the police in, and many students were arrested and/or beaten up. Rizal later recalled that he had only escaped arrest by hiding in Morayta’s house, and assuming three different disguises. [19] As we shall see later, this experience, transformed, became a key episode in the plot of El Filibusterismo.

There is only one other event from the student years that is here worth underscoring: Rizal’s first ‘vacation’ in Paris in the spring of 1883. We described in ‘Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate’ the excited letters he wrote to his family from the French capital. There is nothing remotely comparable for Madrid. Paris was the first geographical-political space which allowed him to see Imperial Spain as profoundly backward—economically, scientifically, industrially, educationally, culturally, and politically. [20] This is one reason why his novels feel so unique among anticolonial fictions written under colonialism. He was in a position to ridicule the colonialists rather than merely to denounce them. He read Eduard Douwes Dekker’s Max Havelaar only after he had published Noli Me Tangere, but one can see at once why he enjoyed the Dutchman’s take-no-prisoners style of satire. In any case, by the time he graduated he had had enough of the metropole, and spent most of the next six years in ‘advanced’ Northern Europe. There are perhaps parallels with Martí, eight years older than Rizal, who studied in Spain in the mid-1870s, and then left it for good, spending much of the rest of his life in New York.

Imperial Europe

At this point we must temporarily leave 24-year-old Rizal in order to look schematically at the three worlds in which he found himself situated in the 1880s—the time of Noli Me Tangere’s publication and the planning of El Filibusterismo. One ‘big world’ was imperial Europe, and its American, Asian, and African peripheries. The central figure was certainly Bismarck. Having routed the armies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at Königgrätz in 1866, he repeated this triumph in 1870 at Sedan, where Louis Napoleon and 100,000 French troops were forced to surrender. This victory made possible the proclamation, in January 1871—at Versailles, not Berlin—of the new German Empire, and the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. After this, he began to interest himself in competing with Britain and France in extra-European imperial adventures—in East, Southwest and West Africa, in the Far East and in Oceania, particularly Spanish-claimed territories there. (We shall see the impact of this expansion when we return to Rizal, who liked Germany in part because it made Spain so paranoid.) Characteristically, the notorious carving up of Africa among the imperialists in 1878 was performed in Berlin. In dealing with Germany’s well-organized working class and socialist party, Bismarck shrewdly combined repression with substantial social legislation. He remained in power till 1890, when the new, erratic Kaiser forced his resignation. Noli Me Tangere, a little incongruously, had appeared three years earlier in the imperial Hauptstadt.

In France, Bismarck’s triumph at Sedan was followed by a brutal siege of Paris from which the shaky post-Louis Napoleon government had fled to Versailles, to sign there a humiliating armistice and later treaty. In March 1871 the Commune took power in the abandoned city and held it for two months. Then Versailles seized the moment to attack and, in one horrifying week, executed roughly 20,000 Communards or suspected sympathizers, a number higher than those killed in the recent war or during Robespierre’s ‘Terror’ of 1793–94. More than 7,500 were jailed or deported to places like New Caledonia. Thousands of others fled to Belgium, England, Italy, Spain and the United States. In 1872, stringent laws were passed that ruled out all possibilities of organizing on the left. Not till 1880 was there a general amnesty for exiled and imprisoned Communards. Meantime, the Third Republic found itself strong enough to renew and reinforce Louis Napoleon’s imperialist expansion—in Indochina, Africa, and Oceania. Many of France’s leading intellectuals and artists had participated in the Commune (Courbet was its quasi-minister of culture, Rimbaud and Pissarro were active propagandists) or were sympathetic to it. [21] The ferocious repression of 1871 and after was probably the key factor in alienating these milieux from the Third Republic and stirring their sympathy for its victims at home and abroad. We shall look more at this development later on.

Sedan also caused the withdrawal of the French garrison in Rome, and its replacement by the forces of the new, increasingly repressive and inefficient Kingdom of Italy. The Papacy, deprived of its temporal power, struck back politico-spiritually with the bizarre doctrine of Papal Infallibility, and threatened excommunication of any Catholic participating in the Kingdom’s political institutions. Imperialism of a mediocre sort began in East Africa, while rural misery in the South was so great that between 1887 and 1900, half a million Italians left the country every year. Rizal visited Rome briefly in 1887 but seems not to have noticed anything but antiquities.

On his return to Europe in February 1888 via the Pacific, Rizal made a brief stop in mid-Meiji Japan, and was impressed by its orderliness, energy and ambition, and appalled by the rickshaws. It was gratifying, of course, to see a non-European people protect its independence and make rapid strides towards modernity. Though he spent a short time in Hong Kong, China itself seems to have been off his map. He reached San Francisco at election time, when anti-Asian demagogy was at its height. Enraged by being kept thirteen days on board ship for ‘quarantine’ purposes—the ship held about 650 Chinese—he hurried across the continent as rapidly as he could. Nothing would be less likely to impress him than the corruption of the Gilded Age, the post-Reconstruction repression of former Black slaves, the brutal anti-miscegenation laws and so on. [22] But he was already foreseeing American expansion across the Pacific. He then settled contentedly in London to do research on early Philippine history at the British Museum, and seems to have taken no interest in the gradually growing crisis over Ireland. (Living by Primrose Hill, was he aware that Engels was ensconced just round the corner?)

Anarchist stirrings

But this apparently calm world of conservative political dominance, capital accumulation and global imperialism was at the same time helping to create another kind of world, more directly related to Rizal’s fiction. Indeed, already in 1883, he had sensed the direction of things to come:

Europe constantly menaced by a terrifying conflagration; the sceptre of the world slipping from the trembling hands of declining France; the nations of the North preparing to seize it; Russia, over the head of whose emperor hangs the sword of Nihilism, like Damocles in Antiquity, such is Europe the Civilized. [23]

The year Rizal was born, Mikhail Bakunin escaped to Western Europe from Siberia where for a decade he had been serving a life-sentence for his conspiratorial activities against Tsardom in the 1840s. In 1862 Turgenev published Fathers and Sons, his masterly study of the outlook and psychology of a certain type of Nihilist. Four years later, a Moscow student named Karakozov attempted to shoot Alexander II, and was hanged with four others in the great public square of Smolensk. [24] That same year Alfred Nobel took out a patent on dynamite, which though based on highly unstable nitroglycerine, was both simple to use, fairly stable, and easily portable. In March 1869 the 22-year-old Sergei Nechayev left Russia and met Bakunin in Geneva, where they co-authored the sensational Catechism of a Revolutionary, then returned to Moscow a few months later. Bakunin kept up (strained) relations with the Nihilist leader despite the notorious murder of a sceptical student follower, later fictionalized by Dostoevsky in The Possessed. [25]

Towards the end of the 1870s, by which time the Nihilists had been succeeded by small clusters of Narodniki as the clandestine radical opposition to the autocracy, political assassination, successful and failed, had become quite common in Russia. 1878: in January, Vera Zasulich shot but failed to kill General Fyodor Trepov, military governor of St. Petersburg; in August Sergei Kravchinsky stabbed to death General Mezentsov, head of the Tsar’s secret police. 1879: in February, Grigori Goldenberg shot to death the Governor of Kharkov, Prince Dmitri Kropotkin; in April a failed attempt by Alexander Soloviev to kill the Tsar in the same manner; in November Lev Hartmann’s abortive try at mining the imperial railway carriage. 1880: Stepan Khalturin’s successful blowing up of part of the Imperial Palace—8 dead, 45 wounded. Nobel’s invention had now arrived politically. Then on March 1, 1881—15 months before Rizal landed in Marseilles—occurred the spectacular bomb-assassination of the Tsar, by the group calling itself Narodnaya Volya (The People’s Will), that reverberated all over Europe. [26] [26] (The assassination of US President Garfield a few months later was barely noticed.)

This particular form of political violence, targeted at heads of state, heads of governments, or powerful ministers, actually had its heyday from the late 1890s to the eve of the Great War, with Russia still setting the pace. There were many failed attempts (including one which cost Lenin’s elder brother his life), but the list of successes seems today rather startling. French President Carnot (1894), Prime Minister Cánovas of Spain (1897), Empress Elizabeth of Austria (1898), King Umberto i of Italy (1900, planned in Paterson, New Jersey), us President McKinley (1901), King Alexander of Serbia and his wife (1903), Russian Interior Minister Count Wenzel von Plehve (1904), Grand Duke Sergei of Russia (1905), King Carlos of Portugal and his son Luiz (1908), Prince Ito of Japan (1909), Russian Prime Minister Stolypin (1911), King George of Greece (1913), and of course Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914. Every major state except Germany and Britain. [27] Almost all the assassins were caught and promptly executed.

The storms of Russia were to have profound effects across Europe. They can be symbolically represented in one generation by Bakunin, who died in 1876, and, in the second, by Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, who escaped from Tsarist prison to western Europe that same year. The word anarchist in its technical-political sense was coined in 1877, and spread rapidly and widely, though it was also obvious that there were several competing and cross-pollinating currents of thought about its aims and methods. [28] Anarchism’s emphasis on personal liberty and autonomy, its typical suspicion of hierarchical (‘bureaucratic’) organization, and its penchant for vitriolic rhetoric, made its appeal especially great under political conditions of severe repression by rightwing regimes. Such regimes found it much easier to smash large trade unions and political parties than to keep track of and destroy hundreds of self-generated autonomous groupuscules. Anarchist theory was less contemptuous of peasants and rural labour than mainstream Marxism was then inclined to be. One could argue that it was also more viscerally anticlerical. Probably these conditions help to explain why revolutionary anarchism spread most visibly in still heavily peasant, ‘Catholic’ post-Commune France, Restoration Spain, post-unification Italy, Cuba—and even Gilded Age immigrant-worker America—while prospering much less in Protestant, industrial, semi-democratic Northern Europe.

In any event, at the end of the bleak 1870s there arose in intellectual anarchist circles the concept of ‘propaganda by the deed’, spectacular violent attacks on reactionary authorities and capitalists, intended both to intimidate the former, and to encourage cowed workers to re-prepare themselves for revolution. Historians tend to mark the beginning of this new phase by the almost comically unsuccessful uprising of April 1877 in Benevento, northeast of Naples, organized by Errico Malatesta, his rich friend Carlo Cafiero (who had earlier bankrolled Bakunin from the safe shores of Lake Maggiore), and Sergei Kravchinsky aka Stepniak, who had earlier joined the Bosnian uprising against the Turks, and would go on—as we have seen—to kill the head of the Tsar’s secret police. (The two Italians were acquitted in the cheerful atmosphere created by the young Umberto I’s accession to the throne in 1878. The same ambience allowed the young anarchist cook Giovanni Passanante to get off lightly when he narrowly failed to kill the young king with a knife etched with the words ‘Long Live the International Republic’.) [29] Two months after the Benevento affair, ‘comrade’ Andrea Costa, a close collaborator of Malatesta, gave a talk in Geneva theorizing the new ‘tactic’. In early August, Paul Brousse published an article in the radical Bulletin de la Fédération Jurassienne explaining that words on paper were no longer enough for awakening the conscience populaire; the Russians had shown the need to be just as ruthless as the Tsarist regime. Finally, the gentle Kropotkin swung into action in the December 25, 1880 edition of Le Révolté, theoretically defining anarchism as ‘permanent revolt by means of the spoken word, writing, the dagger, the gun, and dynamite . . . For us everything is good which is outside legality’. [30] It remained only for Le Drapeau Noir to publish clandestinely on September 2, 1883 a Manifeste des Nihilistes Français in which the claim was made that: ‘In the three years of the League’s existence, several hundred bourgeois families have paid the fatal tribute, devoured by a mysterious sickness that medicine is powerless to define and to exorcise’, while revolutionaries were urged to continue the insinuated campaign of mass poisonings (Rizal had just made his first happy trip to Paris a few months before). [31] These were all signs that some anarchists were thinking about a new kind of violence no longer targeted, à la russe, against state leaders, but rather indiscriminately against those regarded as class enemies.

Restoration Spain

We can now turn to Rizal’s ‘third world’, that of Spain and its once-vast Empire. (What was left in the 1880s was only Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, the Marianas and Carolines, Spanish Morocco and the Berlin-acquired, goldless Rio de Oro.) In the nineteenth century, this world was unique in the zigzag of insurrectionary explosions in the metropole and in the colonies. (One will not find anything remotely comparable till after World War II. For France the fuse was laid by Ho Chi Minh’s political and Vo Nguyen Giap’s military victory at Dien Bien Phu, and set alight by Algeria’s fln revolt—leading to the collapse of the Fourth Republic, De Gaulle’s return to power, and the OAS’s retaliatory terrorism. For Portugal: military failures in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau led to the bloodless coup against Salazarist autocracy in Lisbon in April 1974.) It is worthwhile to consider briefly the main features of this interactive zigzagging, for it was a pattern of which José Rizal was well informed, and by which his thinking was shaped.

In 1808, the odious future Ferdinand vii had organized a military revolt in Aranjuez which accomplished its main aim, the forced abdication of his father Carlos iv. But Napoleon, at the height of his power, took this opportunity to send troops into Spain (occupying Madrid), on the pretext of a major intervention in Portugal. Fernando vii, who had rushed to Bayonne to negotiate legitimization of his succession with the Secretary of the World-Spirit, was immediately imprisoned. Joseph Bonaparte was then put on the Spanish throne. Resistance and rebellion broke out almost simultaneously in Andalusia and in Hidalgo’s Mexico. In 1810, a liberal-dominated Cortes met in Cádiz, which produced in 1812 Spain’s first constitutional order. The colonies, including the Philippines, were given legislative representation. [32] Napoleon’s defeat brought Fernando back to power in Madrid with the full support of the Holy Alliance. In 1814, he refused to recognize the Constitution, inaugurated a new reactionary absolutism and, in spite of a ruined economy, attempted to arrest the American revolutions for whom nationalism and in-Spain-repressed liberalism were the two main principles. Fernando failed completely in continental Spanish America, but held the loyalty of slave-owning peninsulars and Creoles in the Spanish Caribbean—out of Bolívar’s charismatic orbit, and petrified by the successful slave revolution in Haiti. And the Philippines? The ‘Sarrat’ revolt of 1815 in the Ilokano-populated northwest corner of Luzon was quickly and violently repressed. In 1820, however, a military revolt in Andalusia, headed by the mayor of Cádiz, forced Fernando briefly to accept a liberal constitutional order. But Castlereagh’s London, Metternich’s Vienna, Alexander i’s Petersburg, and Ferdinand’s kinsman in Paris would have none of this. A French military expedition restored autocracy in 1823, the mayor of Cádiz was hanged, drawn and quartered, and hundreds of liberals and republicans were executed, brutally imprisoned or forced to flee for their lives. That same year, and in response to these events in the metropole, occurred the creole-led ‘Novales Mutiny’ in the colonial military which came within an ace of seizing Manila, and would have done so had it not been betrayed from within. [33]

One can easily detect a comparable conjuncture in the years 1868–74. Isabella’s regime was overthrown in September 1868 by a military-civil coup in which General Prim y Prats, the Machiavellian liberal politician Práxedes Sagasta, and the conspiracy-minded radical republican Ruiz Zorilla were key players. We have already seen the consequences of this ‘explosion’ in Cuba and the Philippines. But in Spain itself the next six years were ones of extraordinary political turbulence. Prim y Prats’s assassination at the end of 1870 doomed the monarchy of Amadeo of Savoy, which led to the proclamation of a Spanish Republic on February 11, 1873. The new regime lasted in reality only eleven months—during which time it experienced four Swiss-style rotating presidents—till the generals moved in (guided behind the scenes by the sly Andalusian conservative politician Antonio Cánovas del Castillo), dissolving the Cortes in January 1874, and restoring the Bourbon monarchy in the person of Alfonso xii at the end of that year. Among the key reasons for this démarche was, as one might have surmised, the imminent threat posed by Céspedes’s Cuban revolt to the integrity of what was left of the old Spanish empire. Meantime, however, there was an extraordinary Durkheimian effervescence in the Spanish public sphere. Republicans were briefly legal for the first time in living memory. Bakuninian and Marxian radicalism gained their first political footholds, and in the widely popular ‘cantonalist’ political movement of 1873 for radical decentralization of the polity, many young anarchists and other radicals got their first experience of open, mass politics. (Nor was this the end of the chain of zigzags, as we shall see. Martí’s insurrection in Cuba at the beginning of 1895, which also had its antecedents in anarchist Barcelona, encouraged Andrés Bonifacio’s revolt in the Philippines in August 1896, helped sentence Rizal to death four months later, and in 1897 led to Cánovas’s assassination by a young Italian anarchist.)

With this background we can now consider Restoration Spain as Rizal encountered it at the beginning of the 1880s. Its dominant politician, Cánovas, liked to say that he was a great admirer of British parliamentary government, and proceeded to set up, with the help of Sagasta, a peculiar parody of the Gladstone–Disraeli duumvirate. Schumacher has pithily described a corrupt, cacique-ridden regime which lasted essentially till the end of the century:

[T]he two leaders permitted the entire system to be vitiated through managed elections . . . As more serious crises came to be resolved, each would yield power to the other and the successor government would then proceed to manage an election in which a respectable minority of candidates would be elected with a scattering of outstanding republicans and Carlists to give verisimilitude to the Cortes.’ [34] [34]

The Spanish Disraeli ruled from 1875–81, 1883–85, 1890–92, and 1895–97, while ‘Gladstone’ filled the spaces in between. The worst domestic and colonial repressions typically occurred under Cánovas, while timid reforms were usually accomplished under Sagasta.

Friar power

For what follows next, it is crucial to understand Cánovas’s policies toward the generally reactionary Spanish Church. In 1836, First Minister Juan Mendizábal had decreed and carried out the expropriation of all the property of the religious Orders in Spain; and during Glorious 1868, Antonio Ortiz, Minister of Gracia y Justicia, had abolished the Orders themselves—in metropolitan Spain. Mendizábal was no Thomas Cromwell: the Orders were ‘compensated’ by being put on the state’s payroll. The clerical properties were put up for auction and, especially in rich rural Andalusia, were snapped up by members of the nobility, high civilian and military officials, and wealthy bourgeois, many of them absentee. Relatively mild Church exploitation was succeeded by ruthless agribusiness methods; hundreds of thousands of peasants lost access to land, and swelled the numbers of paupers, half-starved day-labourers, and the ‘bandits’ for which the region became famous after 1840. Andalusian Cánovas made no attempt to roll back what Mendizábal had decreed, though he sought and secured strong Church backing against the rising tide of liberalism, masonry, republicanism, socialism and anarchism. [35] (It was he who in 1884 sent the police into Central University at the call of the bishops.) Nor did he restore the independent position of the Orders, who, after all, were directly responsible to Rome not to himself. But there was one striking exception to all these changes—and that was the colonial Philippines.

It had begun centuries earlier, in the time of Felipe ii. The conscience of the ageing monarch had been sufficiently stung by the revelations of de las Casas and others of the inhuman depredations of the conquistadors in the Americas that he decided to entrust his last major imperial acquisition largely to the Orders, who indeed managed the relatively peaceful conversion of the bulk of the local population. The remote Philippines had no ‘lay’ attractions comparable to Potosí, and so the Orders largely ran the colony, especially outside Manila. In the course of time, especially the Dominicans and Augustinians acquired vast properties both in Manila real-estate and in hacienda agriculture. Furthermore, from the start the Orders had insisted on carrying out conversion via the dozens of native languages (only then would conversions be deep and sincere) which they assiduously attempted to learn. This monopoly on linguistic access to the natives gave them enormous power which no secular group shared; fully aware of this, the friars persistently opposed the spread of the Spanish language. Even in Rizal’s time, it has been estimated that only about 3 per cent of the population of the archipelago had any command of the metropolitan language, something unique in the Spanish empire (with the partial exception of ex-Jesuit Paraguay). In the nineteenth century the Spanish political class understood this situation very well, and perhaps rightly reckoned that, without the Orders, Spanish rule in the Philippines would collapse. Hence the only Order-controlled seminaries tolerated in Spain after Ortiz’s time were there simply to provide new young friars for the Philippines. At the same time many friars, traumatized by their ‘defenestration’ in Spain, headed off for safety and power on the other side of the world. Thus, in the Cánovas era, friar power was as peculiar to the Philippines as slavery was to Cuba. But (thanks to Sagasta) slavery was finally abolished in 1886, while in Manila (no thanks to Sagasta) friar power was not seriously undermined till the collapse of the whole system in 1898. From another angle, one can see that Filipino anticolonial activists were inevitably faced with a hard choice which was not open to Cubans and Puerto Ricans: to reject Spanish or spread it. We shall see later on how this question shaped the narrative of El Filibusterismo.


When an alarmed Captain-General Izquierdo had suspected the machinations of the International behind the extraordinary strike of the autumn of 1872, what made the idea plausible to him? After Isabella fled Madrid in September 1868, Bakunin was much quicker off the mark than Marx. He immediately sent his Italian friend, ex-Mazzinist, ex-Garibaldist Giuseppe Fanelli, to Barcelona and Madrid to inform and organize the ‘most advanced’ local radical activists. In spite of the fact that Fanelli knew no Spanish, he had an instant and powerful impact. The Centro Federal de las Sociedades Obreras was formed early the following year, and sent two Bakuninist delegates to swell the Russian’s majority at the Basle Congress of the International in September. [36] [36] Early in 1870 the Federación Regional Española, the Spanish section of the International, was publishing La Solidaridad, and a little later held its first and only Congress in early-industrial Barcelona. [37]

Meantime, Marx’s Cuban son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, who had been with the Commune in Paris, but then moved to Bordeaux to widen support for the Parisian insurrectionaries, finally fled across the Pyrenees with his family (his newborn baby died en route). [38] Once settled in Madrid in June 1871, under the alias Pablo Fargas, he followed Marx’s instructions to combat the influence of the Bakuninists. But it was pretty late in the day. In December, the Cortes banned the International. During the year or so he was in Spain, he had no luck in Bakuninist Barcelona, but did help start a Marxist group in Madrid. Lafargue was the only pro-Marx ‘Spanish’ delegate at the disastrous fifth Congress of the International in The Hague in 1872. Not till 1879 was a semi-clandestine Marxist Socialist Party formed and it did not come out of the closet till the rule of Sagasta in the early 1880s. Its organ, El Obrero, first appeared in 1882. [39] Many more years would pass before it became a central player in the politics of the Spanish Left. There is no special reason to think that Rizal ever heard of it while a student in Madrid.

But he was certainly well aware of what developed next, and we shall find traces of this in El Filibusterismo. Cánovas’s six-year regime of repression was replaced by the milder, more permissive Sagasta in 1881, very soon after the assassination of Alexander II, and after a meeting in London of various anarchists had moved to confirm the necessity of violent ‘propaganda by the deed’. The change of government in Spain allowed the FRE top leadership, mostly Catalan, to believe the way was now open for wider, and legal, organizing of the working class, and in September it replaced the FRE by the FTRE (Federación de Trabajadores de la Región Española). Since this policy diverged from the radical resolutions approved in London, they did what they could to keep these decisions under wraps. But the news leaked out anyway. In spite of a spectacular increase in its affiliated membership—58,000 people in one year—tension grew quickly between the ‘legalists’ in industrial Barcelona and the radicals with their base in rural Andalusia. At the 1882 Congress in Seville, most of the Andalusians broke away to form a group they called The Disinherited (Los Desheredados). 1883 was a difficult year in any case. A world-wide depression had set in, with especially severe consequences in Andalusia, where hunger and immiseration grew rapidly. Furthermore, Cánovas returned to power. A new wave of rural arson and robbery spread all over the Prime Minister’s home region, causing real panic in many places. [40] The police arrested and tortured hundreds of people, anarchists, peasants and bandits, claiming shortly thereafter to have uncovered a vast secret insurrectionary conspiracy called La Mano Negra [Black Hand]. [41] Far from offering its support, the FTRE, hoping to avoid repression, firmly disassociated itself from what it termed criminal activities. This stance did not help, and the organization declined steadily till its dissolution in 1888. [42] We shall see that the spectre of La Mano Negra and the Andalusian panic are reflected in the latter half of El Filibusterismo.

Rizal’s homecoming

Sagasta returned to power in 1885, and held it until 1890. It was this government that finally abolished slavery in Cuba, enacted a rather liberal law on associations which allowed radicals to start organizing legally once again, and substantially expanded press freedom. It even made some serious attempts at reforms in the Philippines. In 1887 the Spanish Penal Code was extended to the archipelago, followed in 1889 by a similar extension of the Spanish Code of Commerce, the law on administrative litigation, and the Civil Code, except with regard to marriage (the Church in the Philippines bitterly insisted on this). But it was exactly in July 1885 that Rizal left Spain more or less for good, proceeding to France and Germany, and busying himself with further medical studies and with the completion of his first novel. When it was published in the spring of 1887, he decided the time had come to return to the Philippines. He went to Austria to meet for the first and last time his favourite correspondent Blumentritt, toured Switzerland, visited Rome, and sailed for Southeast Asia from Marseilles, arriving home on August 5. (But he left again for Europe only six months later.)

On coming to power for the second time, Sagasta had appointed a new, relatively moderate Captain-General in the Philippines, Lt. Gen. Emilio Terrero y Perinat, who in turn relied heavily on two capable anticlerical subordinates, both of them Masons: the civil governor of Manila, José Centeno García, a mining engineer with republican sympathies, and an unusual twenty years of experience in the Philippines, and the director-general of civil administration, Benigno Quiroga López Ballesteros, a younger man who had once been a liberal deputy in the Cortes. (Centeno would appear, unnamed but honored, in El Filibusterismo.) The two men vigorously enforced laws which took municipal justice away from the mayors and gave them to new justices of the peace, and likewise reassigned the provincial governors’ judicial powers to judges of the first instance. The intended effect of both measures was to cut back the power of the friars, who had traditionally held undisputed sway over local government via local executives. [43]

News of Noli Me Tangere (and a few copies) had preceded Rizal’s return home, and he found himself a famous, or infamous man. The Orders and the Archbishop of Manila demanded that the book be prohibited as heretical, subversive and slanderous, and the author suitably punished. But, perhaps to his own surprise, Rizal was summoned to a tête-à-tête with Terrero himself, who said he wanted to read the novel, and asked for a copy. We do not know what the Captain-General thought of it, but the novel was not banned under his rule. [44] After a few days in Manila, Rizal returned home to Calamba to be with his family, and open a medical practice. Then his many enemies went to work. In a letter to Blumentritt of September 5, 1887 he wrote: ‘I get threats every day . . . My father never lets me go for a walk alone, or dine with another family. The Old Man is terrified and trembles. People take me for a German spy or agent; they say I am an agent of Bismarck, a Protestant, a Freemason, a sorcerer, a half-damned soul, etc. So I stay at home.’ [45]

Worse was to follow. As noted earlier, Rizal’s family wealth rested on the extensive lands it leased from the local Dominican hacienda. From the time of the 1883–86 depression the friars had started raising rents steeply, even as world sugar prices collapsed. Furthermore they appropriated other lands to which, the townspeople felt, they had no just claim. About the time that Rizal returned, various tenants, including relatives of Rizal, stopped paying rent, and appealed to Manila to intervene on their behalf. Suspecting that the Dominicans were cheating on their taxes, Terrero sent a commission to investigate, but then did nothing. At this point the friars went on the attack by getting court orders for evictions. Rizal’s family was deliberately chosen as the main target. Both sides went up the legal hierarchy over the next four years, even to the Supreme Court in Spain, but unsurprisingly the Dominicans prevailed. In the meantime members of Rizal’s family were evicted from their homes, and other recalcitrant townspeople were soon treated the same way. By then Rizal himself had been advised by everyone to leave the country, since he was suspected of masterminding the resistance.

In early 1888 Terrero’s term was up, and the Sagasta government, under heavy political pressure from conservatives at home and in the colony, made the fateful decision to appoint in his stead General Valeriano Weyler, a man with a reputation for ‘severity’ from Havana—and later, in the middle 1890s, to become world-notorious as the ‘Butcher of Cuba’. [46] Terrero’s liberal advisers were quickly dismissed or transferred. In 1891 Weyler would be the man who finally ‘solved’ the problem of tenant recalcitrance in Calamba by sending in a detachment of artillerymen to burn several houses to the ground, and forcibly clear lots ‘illegally’ occupied. In El Filibusterismo Weyler appears, unnamed, as the central target of Simoun’s jewelled-pomegranate bomb. It is not surprising then that Rizal delayed his final return to the Philippines until after the general’s term was over.

El Filibusterismo

The making of a filibustero

Rizal’s decision to live in London on his return to Europe was spurred by the priceless research collection of the British Museum. From newspapers and journals he was perfectly aware of the rising tide of nationalism within the dynastic empires of Europe, to say nothing of Cuba, the Ottoman Empire, and the East. Central to all these nationalisms’ articulation were the efforts of folklorists, historians, lexicographers, poets, novelists and musicians to resurrect glorious pasts behind humiliating presents and, especially through replacing imperial languages by local vernaculars, to build and consolidate national identities. He had never forgotten the early shock of being misrecognized as a Chinese, Japanese or americano, and of realizing that his country was basically unknown in Europe. Furthermore, he was aware that unlike, for example, Malaya, Burma, India, Ceylon, Cambodia and Vietnam, no precolonial written records in his country had survived European conquest. Such Philippine history as existed was the product of members of the Orders or, later, of racist Spanish conservatives. His concern in this regard was also rivalrously stimulated by the somewhat older Isabelo de los Reyes, whose landmark El Folk-Lore Filipino had surprisingly won a prize at the Madrid Exposition of 1887. [47] In the British Museum he found what he was looking for, a very rare copy of Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas of Dr Antonio de Morga, published in Mexico in 1609. (Morga had arrived in the Philippines in 1595 at the age of thirty-four, to take the positions of Justice of the Audiencia in Manila, and lieutenant-governor. He was a rarity in his time, an austerely honest colonial official whose realistic outlook was not clouded by clerical prejudices.) After laboriously copying out this book by hand, Rizal decided to get it republished with extensive annotations and commentaries of his own, most of which were designed, by comparison with clerical chronicles, to show the reliability of Morga’s generally favourable account of native society—its level of civilization, its peaceful productivity and its commercial relations with China, Japan and parts of Southeast Asia. He managed to publish the book with Garnier in Paris, officially in 1890, but in fact late in 1889. [48]

Though Rizal’s Morga was not widely read then, or later, it clearly represents a turning point in his own political trajectory. He was becoming a filibustero, a patriot determined one way or the other on his country’s full independence. (As we shall see, El Filibusterismo shows this new stance extremely clearly.) One consequence—given the prestige he had won among Filipinos by Noli Me Tangere and a spate of powerfully written articles published in various republican newspapers in Spain—was a growing schism within the overseas Filipino community in the metropole. Even during his student days in Spain, Rizal had frequently criticized his fellow-countrymen there for frivolity, womanizing, idleness, gossip-mongering, drunkenness and the like. Although he retained a number of close friends there, his years away in Northern Europe had deepened his irritation and sense of alienation.

Yet there was an interesting moment of partial reconvergence. At the end of 1888 a group of the more serious Filipinos there decided to take advantage of Sagasta’s 1887 law liberalizing political space to form themselves into an energetic new political organization and to publish their own journal, to be called La Solidaridad. Barcelona’s atmosphere was a significant element in these decisions. The influential anarchist journal La Acracia had already started publication in Barcelona, at the same time that in Madrid Pablo Iglesias’s (Marxist) Socialist Party put out El Socialista. In 1887, Barcelona’s anarchists finally had their own successful daily, El Productor. [49]Republican and anarchist organizations were proliferating along with many others. The Filipino initiatives were focused by the arrival in January 1889 of Marcelo del Pilar, the most capable Filipino politician of his generation. Del Pilar’s elder brother, a native priest, had been arrested and deported to the Marianas in Izquierdo’s repression of 1872, and Marcelo was an agile anti-friar and nationalist organizer under the permissive rule of Terrero, Centeno and Quiroga. But after Weyler’s arrival he knew he was a marked man, and so escaped to Spain. He immediately took over leadership of the Filipino activists and their new journal, eventually moving it to Madrid to be closer to the centre of state power. From then on, till his miserable, poverty-stricken death in Barcelona in July 1896, he never left Spain.

While Del Pilar’s goal was certainly eventual Philippine independence, and while he actively promoted close ties with Manila and encouraged organizing there, he was convinced that the necessary first major steps had to be taken in Spain itself. ‘Liberal’ cabinets, along with liberal and republican members of the Cortes, had to be lobbied by every means available to create the institutional spaces in which independence could eventually be achieved—while concealing this ultimate goal as much as possible. The tactical steps that had to be taken were basically to catch up with Cuba, via a programme of assimilation. Cuba had representation in the Cortes but the Philippines, as we have seen, had lost this right in 1837. After the abolition of slavery in 1886, Cuba had basically the same legal system as Spain. The Caribbean colony was Spanish-speaking, its educational system was basically secular and state-provided, and the Church’s political power was relatively low. Though Del Pilar was an accomplished writer in Tagalog (more so than Rizal, in fact), and though he privately discussed language-policy in a future independent Philippines, he was sure that at this stage only assimilation and hispanicization would create the political atmosphere in which Madrid would permit the Philippines to assume Cuba’s political status. Pushing through a serious state-sponsored Spanish-language educational system in the Philippines would also have the effect of destroying the foundations of the Orders’ peculiar dominance in his country. [50]

Though utterly different in temperament and talent, Rizal and Del Pilar respected one another, and for a time Rizal wrote energetically for the new journal. But fairly soon, partly as the result of intrigues and jealousies among the lesser activists, they grew apart. After February 1891 Rizal announced that he would write no more for La Solidaridad, though he would always give it his moral support. The novelist was increasingly certain that the whole assimilationist campaign was futile. Politically, Cuban representation in the Cortes was meaningless under the corrupt Cánovas–Sagasta electoral system. It had not stopped Spain from continued merciless exploitation of Cuban production through manipulated tariffs, monopolies and subjection to Basque and Catalan business interests. So dissatisfied with ‘assimilation’ was Cuba, in fact, that, exactly as Madrid feared, the demand was now for autonomy—home rule in effect, heading in the direction of that independence which most of Spanish America had achieved more than half a century earlier. Besides, Rizal believed, there was no chance whatever, at the end of the nineteenth century, of turning millions of Filipinos into assimilated Spanish-speakers. Sagasta’s sending the brutal Weyler to Manila in 1888, and his own replacement by Cánovas in 1890, further deepened Rizal’s conviction that nothing could be successfully achieved in Spain. The work of emancipation would have to be done back home.

It was in this frame of mind that he moved to Belgium where the cost of living better fitted his meagre resources, and where printing was said to be cheaper than in the surrounding big states. There he worked on El Filibusterismo, seeing it frantically through press in August 1891, after which he immediately headed home. If Noli Me Tangere was targeted at multiple audiences in Europe and the Philippines, El Filibusterismo was meant only for the latter. He sent a few copies to personal friends in Spain and elsewhere, but the rest of the entire edition was shipped to Hong Kong, where he intended to settle till Weyler’s term was over. To his trusted older friend Basa, one of the deported victims of Izquierdo twenty years earlier who had settled in Hong Kong and become a successful businessman (and agile smuggler), he wrote an important letter from Ghent on July 9 entrusting the books to him, and urging complete secrecy in the face of clerical espionage which also stretched into the British colony. The letter is very bitter about his own extreme poverty, and the endless broken promises of financial help from rich members of the Filipino community in Spain:

I am tired of trusting in our fellow countrymen; they all seem to have joined hands to embitter my life . . . Ah! I tell you [frankly], that if it were not for you, if it were not that I believe that there are still [some] genuinely good Filipinos, I would readily send fellow countrymen and all to the devil! What do they take me for? Exactly at the moment when one needs to keep one’s spirit tranquil and one’s imagination free, they come at one with intrigues and petty meannesses! [51] [51]

A missing library?

After this too-extended historical background, we can now reconsider some of the puzzles that face the reader of Rizal’s second novel, especially its apparently proleptic aspects. But before doing so, one serious investigative difficulty needs brief discussion. If one considers what books Rizal had in his library in the Philippines, what is plain is that there are no volumes by political thinkers after the time of Voltaire, Rousseau and Herder, unless we include Herbert Spencer. Rizal’s vast published correspondence shows the same pattern. No mention of Constant, Tocqueville, Comte, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Bentham, Mill, Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Hegel or Fichte—only one-sentence casual allusions to Proudhon and Tolstoy. It is true that Rizal was a novelist, poet and moralist more than a political analyst, but it is hard to believe that over the almost ten years he spent in Madrid, Paris, London and Berlin, he managed to avoid or ignore all these influential thinkers. There is, so far, only one direct clue—a letter written to him in Brussels by his close friend in Paris, Juan Luna. In this letter, the painter reported that he had been reading with great interest a book by the Belgian polymath and renowned bimetallic political economist Emile de Laveleye (1822–92):

I have been reading Le Socialisme contemporain by E. de Laveleye, which is a compilation of the theories of Karl Marx, Lassalle, etc., Catholic socialism, conservative, evangelical, etc. I find these most interesting, but what I would like is a book which would place in high relief the miseries of contemporary society, a kind of Divine Comedy, a Dante who would walk through the workshops (talleres) where one can hardly breathe and where he would see men, kids (chiquillos) and women in the most wretched conditions imaginable. [52]

Luna refers to Marx and Lassalle without further explanation, meaning that he knew Rizal needed none. Another possible clue is an article published in Madrid in January 1890 by Vicente Barrantes, a former high official in Manila, and now a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on the Philippines. (Barrantes probably recognized himself in Noli Me Tangere’s portrait of a senior civil servant who throws well-off mestizos and indios into prison to extort money from them.) After describing the Austrian Blumentritt as an agent of Bismarck’s ‘reptile fund’, he denounced Rizal as ‘anti-Catholic, Protestant, socialist and Proudhonian’. [53] So? The absence of political books in his Calamba home can easily be understood. After the publication of Noli Me Tangere, the novelist was a marked man in the Philippines. Censorship was typically strict, and the presence of such books (necessarily smuggled) in the event of a search by the regime would endanger his entire clan. Fear of the authorities also probably explains the personal, and often anodyne, character of his letters home after he left Spain in 1885. The void in his other correspondence can perhaps partly be explained along similar lines. We know that many of the recipients of his letters, even in Europe, burned them after his arrest in Manila on his return there in 1892. He himself was in his own way a secretive person, usually distrustful except of his family and closest friends.

Returning to El Filibusterismo, the novel seems to be set in the time of Weyler (March 1888 to April 1891). The oafish, brutal and cynical ‘Su Excelencia’ is clearly modelled on the future Butcher of Cuba, [54] while the unnamed, liberal-minded, pro-native High Official who opposes the Captain-General and is dismissed for his pains, is a thinly veiled portrait of Manila civil governor Centeno. This temporal placement is even more sharply confirmed by one of the smaller subplots, which introduces the reader to the melancholy story of the family of the honest peasant Tales. This man clears and works a small piece of land on the wooded confines of Ibarra-Simoun’s home township San Diego (modelled after Rizal’s hometown Calamba). [55] As he prospers, agents of the nearby hacienda of an unnamed Order inform him that the land falls within the hacienda’s legal boundaries, but he may stay on if he pays a small rent. Each year thereafter the rents are steeply raised, till Tales refuses to pay any more; threatened with eviction, he refuses to budge, and arms himself to defend his property. Meantime he loses all his money in a vain attempt to win his rights in court. Finally he is captured by bandits and held for ransom. By the time the ransom is finally paid, he returns to find his property taken over by the hacienda and a new tenant in place. That night the new tenant, his wife, and the friar in charge of rents are brutally murdered, with the name Tales smeared in blood on their bodies.

At this point something quite extraordinary happens. The Narrator suddenly says: ‘Be calm, peaceful inhabitants of Calamba! Not one of you is called Tales, not one of you has committed the crime! You are called [a list of names follows, ending with] Silvestre Ubaldo, Manuel Hidalgo, Paciano Mercado, you are called the entire people of Calamba!’ [56] Ubaldo and Hidalgo were Rizal’s brothers-in-law, while Paciano was his elder brother. All were severely punished for resisting the Dominicans in 1888–90. And ‘San Diego’ is calmly unmasked as ‘Kalamba’. [57] Later in the novel, we learn that Tales joins the bandits, and after his daughter Julí’s suicide to escape Father Camorra’s lust, allies himself with Simoun, and finally becomes Matanglawin (‘Hawk-eye’), the uncaught bandit chief who terrorizes the whole countryside around Manila. Historically, there seems to have been no figure like Matanglawin in the Philippines of that time, though there were plenty of small bandits in the hilly country to the south of the colonial capital. But were there perhaps one or two in the violent, hungry Andalusia of Rizal’s student days?


The main subplot of El Filibusterismo is, as mentioned earlier, the ultimately unsuccessful campaign of the students to have the state establish an academy for (lay) instruction in the Spanish language—the first step towards the hispanicization of the population. In historical fact, there was never any such student campaign in Manila, and in any case Weyler would not have tolerated it for a moment. But the subplot is visibly a satirical microcosmic version of the tactical assimilation campaign conducted by Del Pilar in Spain from 1889 onward—in which Rizal had lost all faith. The detailed picture of the students seems completely unlike the one we can gain from other sources of the high school and college world Rizal experienced in Manila in the late 1870s, virtually innocent of politics. Almost to a man, the students in El Filibusterismo are depicted as gossips, opportunists, blowhards, cynics, rich do-nothings, spongers and cheats. The only one who is painted as goodhearted and patriotic, the indio Isagani, is still a firm, naïve believer in the campaign, and without any serious political ideas. It is thus not easy to avoid the conclusion that almost the entire subplot is simply historical Spain oceanically transferred to an imagined Manila.

But this is by no means all. In the crucial early chapter (‘Simoun’) in which the reader learns—because Basilio accidentally recognizes him—that Simoun is actually Ibarra, the naïve hero of Noli Me Tangere, the question of the campaign is introduced into their conversation. To the reader’s probable surprise, the cynical ‘nihilist’ conspirator Simoun sounds, as it were, a violently Basque or Polish note. [58]

Ah youth! Always naïve, always dreaming, always running after butterflies and flowers. You unite so that by your efforts you can bind your motherland [patria] to Spain with garlands of roses, when in fact you are forging chains harder than a diamond! You ask for equality of rights, and the hispanization of your customs, without understanding that what you ask for is death, the destruction of your nationality [nacionalidad], the obliteration of your motherland, and the consecration of tyranny! What will you become in the future? A people [pueblo] without character, a nation without liberty; everything in you will borrowed, even your very defects. You ask for hispanization, and you do not blanch with shame when it is denied you! And even if it be granted to you, what do you want with it? What would you gain? If you are lucky, a country of pronunciamentos, a country of civil wars, a republic of predators and malcontents like some of the republics of South America! . . . Spanish will never be the common language in this country, the people will never speak it, because that language does not have the words to express the ideas in their minds and the sentiments in their hearts. Each people has its own, as it has its own way of feeling. What will you gain from Spanish, the few of you who speak it? Kill your originality, subordinate your thoughts to other minds, and instead of making yourselves free, turn yourselves into veritable slaves! Nine out of ten of you who presume yourselves ilustrados are renegades to your country. Those who speak Spanish forget their own tongue, which they no longer write or understand. How many have I seen who pretend not to know a single word of it! Luckily you have a government of imbeciles. While Russia, in order to enslave Poland, compels her to speak Russian, while Germany prohibits French in the conquered provinces, your government endeavors to have you keep your own tongue, and you, in turn, an amazing people under an unbelievable government, you insist on stripping yourselves of your own nacionalidad. One and all, you forget that so long as a people conserves its language, it also preserves the guarantee of its liberty, as a man his independence while he preserves his way of thinking. Language is the very thought [pensamiento] of a people. [59]

The tirade is powerful enough to let the reader forget that Ibarra-Simoun had an unscrupulous and cruel Basque grandfather, and that for purposes of his disguise affects a bad, heavily accented Tagalog; or that this denunciation of Hispanization is expressed in excellent Spanish. She might also overlook a contradictory argument of Simoun a few lines earlier: ‘Do you want to add still one more language to the forty-odd already spoken in the islands so that you understand each other all the less?’ [60] But the important thing is that Rizal never elsewhere wrote publicly in these vitriolic terms while in Europe—which would have appalled the comrades around La Solidaridad. In Spain he would have been speaking to the present, but transferred to Manila he is speaking to the future, with Poland and Alsace brought in as warnings.

Similar space-time shifts are visible as the novel moves towards its climax. After the campaign for a Spanish-language academy has failed, mysterious ‘subversive’ posters (pasquinades) appear all over the university one night, leading the regime to indiscriminate arrests—a clear replication of Cánovas’s raids on the Central University of Madrid at the start of Rizal’s senior year. The mysterious posters quickly cause a general panic, fed by wild rumours of insurrection and invasions of ferocious bandits, which recall the Mano Negra panic in Andalusia in 1883, and foreshadow the so-called ‘revolutionary’ peasant attack on Jerez early in 1892. It is interesting that Rizal anchors these plot developments in the Philippines by giving the relevant chapter the (untranslated) Tagalog title Tatakut, which means ‘panic’.

Dansons la Ravachole

Finally, we come to Simoun’s bomb-plot itself, which is to be accompanied by armed attacks by Tales’ men and others outside the law, including a cruelly abused peninsular, who have agreed to coordinate with the mysterious jeweller. There are a number of curious features to this failed conspiracy. First, imagined in 1890–91, it precedes rather than follows the spectacular wave of bomb outrages that rocked Spain and France in 1892–94. From 1888 on, however, a growing number of explosions of bombs and petards had occurred, typically in industrial Barcelona, but also in Madrid, Valencia and Cádiz. Most were planted in factories, few caused loss of life or serious injuries, and almost none resulted in the unmasking of the perpetrators. There is every reason to suppose that they were arranged by angry workers under the influence of anarchist ideas, though perhaps some were organized by police agents-provocateurs. But the numbers of bombings and their gravity increased markedly after the ‘Jerez Uprising’ of January 8, 1892. That night, some 50–60 peasants entered the town to attack the prison where some of their comrades had earlier been incarcerated and tortured. It seems they expected, naïvely, that the local military garrison would support them. The police dispersed them, and it appeared that one peasant and two townspeople had been killed. Near the end of his third ministry, Cánovas launched an indiscriminate wave of repression against peasants and workers, and on February 10, four of the supposed leaders of the ‘uprising’ were publicly garrotted. [61]

A month later, a series of serious explosions started in Paris, the work of the half-Dutch, half-Alsatian François-Claude Koenigstein, better known as ‘Ravachol’, a criminal with a record of murder and robbery. He was quickly caught and put on trial. Claiming that he had acted in revenge for earlier violent police repression against a workers’ demonstration in Clichy, followed by the trial of some workers at which the prosecutor demanded (but did not win) the death penalty, Ravachol told the court that he had acted on revolutionary anarchist principles. On July 11 he went to the guillotine shouting ‘Vive l’Anarchie!’ and promising that his death would be avenged. [62] His was the first political execution in France since the massacres of the Communards.

In spite of his dubious past, Ravachol’s death made him an instant hero of the anarchisant left on both sides of the Pyrenees. Núñez Florencio quotes a well-known popular song of the time, La Ravachole, as follows:

Dansons la Ravachole!
Vive le son, vive le son
Dansons la Ravachole
Vive le son
De l’explosion!

The famous theorist of anarchism, Elisée Reclus, was quoted in the Spanish anarchist press as saying that ‘I am one of those who see in Ravachol a hero with a rare grandeur of spirit’, while the writer Paul Adam, a member of Mallarmé’s circle, wrote an Éloge de Ravachol in which he affirmed that ‘Ravachol saw the suffering and misery of the people around him, and sacrificed his life in a holocaust. His charity, his disinterestedness, the vigour of his actions, his courage in the face of ineluctable death, raised him to the splendour of legend. In these times of cynicism and irony, a saint has been born to us.’ The Spanish anarchist press described him as a ‘violent Christ’ and ‘brave and dedicated revolutionary’, and some anarchists put out two short-lived publications in his honour: Ravachol in late 1892 and El Eco de Ravachol early in 1893. [63]

The autumn of 1893 saw major repercussions of the Ravachol affair. On September 24, Paulino Pallás threw two bombs at the Captain-General of Catalonia, Gen. Arsenio Martínez Campos (signer of the Pact of Zanjón, which brought Céspedes’s 10-year insurrection in Cuba to a peaceful end). This attentat resulted in one death, and several grave injuries (Campos was only scratched). Pallás made no attempt to hide or escape, but throwing his cap into the air, shouted ‘Viva l’Anarquía!’ He was executed by firing squad a month later at the soon-to-be world-notorious fortress of Montjuich. [64] [64] On November 7, the 32-year-old Salvador Santiago threw a huge bomb into the Barcelona Opera House during a performance of Rossini’s Guillermo Tel, causing a large number of deaths and severe injuries among scores of the city’s moneyed elite. [65] Many innocent suspects were arrested and tortured before Santiago was caught in hiding. After declaring he had acted to avenge Pallás, whom he knew and admired, he was garrotted at Montjuich on the 24th. [66] [66] Martial law was proclaimed in Barcelona by Sagasta (back in power since 1892), which lasted for a year. Its executor was none other than Weyler, just back from the Philippines. The anarchist press was forcibly shut down.

Then on December 9, Auguste Vaillant hurled a large bomb into the French Parliament, which fortunately killed no one, but wounded several of the deputies. On February 5 the next year, he was guillotined, the first instance in French memory of the death penalty in a case where no victim had been killed. [67] (President Sadi Carnot refused to commute the sentence, for which he was stabbed to death in Lyon, on June 24, 1894, by the young Italian anarchist Santo Jeronimo Cesario—who was guillotined two months later.) The culmination of this wave of anarchist bombs (though not its end by any means) came with a series of death-dealing explosions in Paris immediately following Vaillant’s execution, and clearly in part to avenge him. The perpetrator was found to be Emile Henry, a young intellectual born in Spain to fleeing Communard exiles. He too was quickly caught, and guillotined on May 21. [68] [68] For this study the single most important bombing did not come till the ‘outrage’ of Corpus Christi Day on June 7, 1896, in Barcelona—but this will be left for consideration in Part Three.

None of these five famous bombers of 1892–94 fit Simoun’s personal profile. All of them were quite young, poor, half-educated (except for Henry), and self-proclaimed anarchists. None of their bombs had anything Huysmanesque about them, though Pallás is said to have used ‘Fenian-type’ bombs rather than the standard ‘Orsini’ model. [69] But consider some of the words that Emile Henry spoke at his trial, as reported by Joll. Asked why he had killed so many innocent people, Henry replied sardonically that: ‘il n’y a pas des innocents’ [There are no innocents]. Then:

I was convinced that the existing organization [of society] was bad; I wanted to struggle against it so as to hasten its disappearance. I brought to the struggle a profound hatred, intensified every day by the revolting spectacle of a society where all is base, all is cowardly, where everything is a barrier to the development of human passions, to generous tendencies of the heart, to the free flight of thought . . . I wanted to show the bourgeoisie that their pleasures would be disturbed, that their golden calf would tremble violently on its pedestal, until the final shock would cast it down in mud and blood.

He went on to declare that anarchists

do not spare bourgeois women and children, because the wives and children of those they love are not spared either. Are not those children innocent victims, who, in the slums, die slowly of anaemia because bread is scarce at home; or those women who grow pale in your workshops and wear themselves out to earn forty sous a day, and yet are lucky when poverty does not turn them into prostitutes; those old people whom you have turned into machines for production all their lives, and whom you cast on the garbage dump and the workhouse when their strength is exhausted. At least have the courage of your crimes, gentlemen of the bourgeoisie, and agree that our reprisals are fully legitimate . . .

You have hanged men in Chicago, cut off their heads in Germany, strangled them in Jerez, shot them in Barcelona, guillotined them in Montbrisons and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchism. Its roots are too deep; it is born in the heart of a corrupt society which is falling to pieces; it is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents egalitarian and libertarian aspirations which are battering down existing authority; it is everywhere, which makes it impossible to capture. It will end by killing you. [70]

Henry’s rhetoric uncannily reproduces that of Simoun: hastening the rush of a corrupt system to the abyss, violent revenge against the ruling class, (including its ‘innocents’) for its crimes against the wretched and the poor, and the vision of an egalitarian and free society in the future. [71] Although Tagalog peasants had their own utopian and messianic traditions, embedded in folk-Catholicism, [72] Simoun’s discourse does not reflect them but rather a language of European social fury that went back at least to the French Revolution, if not before, and was a special feature of anarchism in the era of ‘propaganda by the deed’. But Simoun is imagined in a more complex, and also contradictory way. There is in him a negative photograph of Sue’s aristocratic ‘socialist’ Rodolphe, who practices his own vigilante justice on evildoers and exploiters, of Huysmans’s Des Esseintes adding one more enemy to a hideous society, and perhaps even Nechayev. [73] Much more important, however, is that Simoun is, in his own way, an anticolonial nationalist, who has national independence through ‘revolution’ on his mind; and his conspiracy is not just a symbolic moment of ‘propaganda by the deed’.

In the early 1890s, Filipinos and Cubans were especially well positioned to think along such lines, since they were subjected to the only European state which had by then lost 90 per cent of its imperium to independence movements. Simoun may speak scornfully of the Spanish Americas, but he understands a certain hope that their history opened up—which was not then available to the subjects of any other empire.

When Basilio—the young medical student recruited by Simoun after friars have killed his little brother and driven his mother insane—learns of the ‘infernal machine’ inside the pomegranate lamp with which Simoun intends to blow up the colonial elite, Captain-General included, at the wedding party, he exclaims: ‘But what will the world say at the sight of such carnage?’ Simoun replies:

The world will applaud as always, legitimizing the more powerful and the more violent. Europe applauded when the nations of the West sacrificed the lives of millions of indios in America, and definitely not in order to found other nations far more moral or peace-loving. Yonder stands the North, with its egoistic liberty, its Lynch law, its political manipulations; yonder stands the South with its turbulent republics, its barbarous revolutions, its civil wars, and its pronunciamentos, like its mother Spain! Europe applauded when a powerful Portugal plundered the Moluccas, and [now] applauds as England destroys in the Pacific region the local primitive races in order to implant that of its own emigrants. Europe will applaud [us], as it applauds the end of a drama, the denouement of a tragedy. The common people barely notice the bases of what is happening, they simply observe its effects! [74]

After the us, Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay have had their independence applauded (accepted) by Europe, so to speak, why not the Philippines and Cuba? In these sentences, one feels how much closer to the Philippines of the 1890s were Mexico and Peru than were Tonkin and Java. In effect, a successful insurrection was quite possible in the Philippines. And indeed, four months before Rizal’s death, Andrés Bonifacio began one on the outskirts of Manila—a bare eighteen months after Martí led the way in Cuba.

An enigmatic smile

This brings us to one last curious aspect of El Filibusterismo. The novel’s final pages are filled with a lengthy dialogue between the dying Simoun and the gentle native priest, Father Florentino, with whom he has found temporary refuge. Simoun poses the question of Ivan Karamazov. He says that if vuestro Dios demands such inhuman sacrifices, such humiliations, tortures, expropriations, misery and exploitation of the good and innocent, telling them simply to suffer and to work, ‘What kind of God is this?’—‘¿Qué Dios es ése?’ [75] He says no more, while the old priest tells him that God understands all Simoun’s sufferings and will forgive him, but that he has chosen evil methods to achieve worthy ends, and this is inadmissible. Most commentators have assumed that the old priest represents Rizal’s last word on the politico-moral drama of the novel, and find their views reinforced by the fact that (as we shall see in Part Three) Rizal refused to have anything to do with Bonifacio’s conspiracy—even though it was made in his name—and indeed denounced it. But to make this judgement so easily requires overlooking a strange brief chapter near the end, called ‘El Misterio’, of whose seven pages in the original manuscript three were blacked out by the author.

We are in the house of the rich Orenda family, at which three callers have arrived, in the chaotic aftermath of the failed explosion and armed incursions. One of the visitors is the young blade Momoy (suitor of the eldest Orenda daughter Sensia), who attended the fateful wedding party of Paulita Gomez and was a befuddled witness to what happened. Another is the student Isagani who, to save Paulita’s life, had seized the lethal lamp and plunged into the Pasig river with it. Momoy tells the family that an unknown robber ran off with the lamp, before diving into the water. Sensia breaks in to say, quite remarkably: ‘A robber? A member of the Black Hand? [Un ladrón? Uno de la Mano Negra?]’ No one knows, Momoy continues, whether he was a Spaniard, a Chinese, or an indio. The third visitor, a silversmith who helped do the wedding decorations, adds that the rumour is that the lamp was on the verge of exploding and the house of the bride was also mined with gunpowder. Momoy is stunned and panic-stricken at this, and by his expression shows his fear. Then, seeing that Sensia has noticed, and mortified in his masculinity: ‘“What a shame!” he exclaimed with an effort, “How the robber bungled it! All would have been killed . . .”’. The women are completely petrified. Then:

“It is always wrong to seize something which does not belong to one”, said Isagani with an enigmatic smile. “If the robber had known what it was all about, and if he had been able to reflect upon it, he certainly would not have done what he did.” And, after a pause, he added: “I would not be in his place for anything in the world.”

An hour later, he takes his leave to ‘retire permanently’ in the household of his uncle (Father Florentino, the native priest at the dying Simoun’s side), and disappears from the novel. [76] [76] The goodhearted, patriotic student, who has never smiled enigmatically before, regrets that he wrecked Simoun’s scheme. The Spanish makes it clear that ‘permanently (por siempre)’ is merely his intention at the moment of departure. It is as if the reader is invited to await a sequel to El Filibusterismo.

We are now perhaps in a better to position to understand both the proleptic character of the novel, and the significance of Rizal’s terming it a Filipino novel. Technically the prolepsis is engineered by a massive transfer of events, experiences and sentiments from Spain to the Philippines, which then appear as shadows of an imminent future; their imminence is in turn guaranteed by a firm location in the time of Captain-General Weyler, who was still in power when the book came out. Contextually, the future emerges both from the past and the present in a different sense. The Spanish Empire had always been primarily American, and its virtual evaporation between 1810 and 1830 promised a final liquidation to the residues, while also proffering warnings of the consequences of prematurity. Europe itself, Rizal thought, was menaced by a vast conflagration, conflicts among its warring powers, but also by violent movement from below. El Filibusterismo was written from the wings of a global proscenium on which Bismarck and Vera Zasulich, Yankee manipulations and Cuban insurrections, Meiji Japan and the British Museum, Huysmans and Mallarmé, Catalonia and the Carolines, Kropotkin and Salvador Santiago, all had their places. Cochers and ‘homeopathists’ too.

In late 1945, a bare two months after the Japanese Occupation of his country had collapsed, but Dutch colonialism had yet to return in force, Indonesia’s young, first Prime Minister, Sutan Sjahrir, described the condition of his revolution-starting countrymen as gelisah. This is not a word that is easily translated into English: one has to imagine a semantic range covering ‘feverish’, ‘anxious’, ‘restless’, ‘unmoored’, and ‘expectant’. This is the feel of El Filibusterismo. Something is coming.

Notes :

[1I would like here to express my gratitude to Robin Blackburn and his student Evan Daniel, Carol Hau, Ambeth Ocampo, and Megan Thomas for all their help with material and criticism.

[2William Henry Scott, The Unión Obrera Democrática: First Filipino Trade Union, Quezon City 1992, pp. 6–7

[3Leon Ma. Guerrero, The First Filipino: A Biography of José Rizal, Manila 1991, pp. 9–11.

[4John N. Schumacher, S. J., The Propaganda Movement, 1880–1895 [rev. ed.], Quezon City 1997, p. 7.

[5Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, pp. 8–9; Guerrero, First Filipino, pp. 3–6, 13

[6Scott, Unión Obrera Democrática, pp. 6–7.

[7‘Sin 1872, Rizal sería ahora jesuita y en vez de escribir Noli me tangere, habría escrito lo contrario’: Rizal’s letter to his friend Mariano Ponce and staff members of La Solidaridad—1890s organ of the Filipino nationalists in Spain, as quoted in Guerrero, First Filipino, p. 608, note 13. My translation.

[8‘Das Wort Filibustero ist noch auf den Philippinen sehr wenig bekannt worden; die niedrige Bevölkerung kennt es noch nicht. Als ich dieser Wort vom ersten Mal hörte, was es in 1872, wann die Hinrichtungen stattgefunden haben. Ich erinnere mich noch das Erschrecken welches dieser Wort weckte. Unser Vater hat uns verboten dieses Wort auszusprechen . . . [It means] ein gefährlicher Patriote, welches in junger Zeit aufgehängt wird, oder ein eingebildeter Mensch!’ The Rizal–Blumentritt Correspondence, Vol. 1, 1886–1889, Manila 1992, fifth and sixth unnumbered pages after p. 65. Letter of March 29, 1887, from Berlin. My translation.

[9F[ernando] Tárrida del Mármol, ‘Aux Inquisiteurs d’Espagne’, La Revue Blanche, vol. 12, no. 86 (1 February 1897), pp. 117–20. On p. 117 he wrote, of the inquisiteurs modernes in Spain, that ‘their methods are always the same: torture, executions, slanders. If the wretched person whom they mean to destroy lives in Cuba, he is called a filibuster; if he lives in the Peninsula, an anarchist; if in the Philippines, a freemason [leurs procédés sont toujours les mêmes: la torture, les exécutions, les calomnies. Si le malheureux qu’ils veulent perdre demeure à Cuba, c’est un flibustier; si dans la péninsule, un anarchiste; si aux Philippines, un franc-maçon]’. We shall run into the redoubtable Tárrida later on. Suffice it here to say that he knew what he was talking about, since he was born in Cuba in 1861—the year also of Rizal’s birth—and said of himself in the above article that je suis cubain. In fact it appears that the word in its political, rather than older piratical (‘freebooter’), meaning was coined in New Orleans around 1850. The local Francophone Creoles and Mestizos termed filibustiers the variegated idealists and mercenaries who joined the Venezuelan Narciso López in that city for three attempted invasions of Cuba (1849–51) to throw off its Spanish yoke. From Creole, with its added ‘s’, it must have passed into English and Spanish, since people like the notorious American mercenary William Walker, who made himself briefly president of Nicaragua in the mid-1850s, called themselves filibusters. Most likely, the carriers of the Spanish version to Manila were high-ranking Iberian military officers, many of whom served in the Caribbean before being sent to the Philippines. Four of the last five captain-generals in the archipelago, Valeriano Weyler (1888–91)—born to Prussian parents in Mallorca—Eulogio Despujol (1891–93), Ramón Blanco (1893–96) and Camilo Polavieja (1896–97) had all won their repressive spurs in the Caribbean, Despujol in Santo Domingo, the others in Cuba. Weyler would become world-notorious in the later 1890s when sent to Cuba to suppress the final nationalist insurrection. His policy of forced reconcentration of populations on a vast scale (prefiguring what the Americans did in Luzon in the 1900s) caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. It is a strange historical irony that López, who offered command of his second expedition to both Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, was notorious for his ‘severity’ towards Blacks, allied himself with the Southern slavocracy, and recruited men mainly among veterans of the Mexican War, found posthumous ‘patriotic’ rehabilitation thanks to his public garrotting in Havana. The red-white-and-blue, star-and-stripes flag he designed for annexationist purposes remains Cuba’s national flag today. See Hugh Thomas, Cuba, The Pursuit of Freedom, New Brunswick, nj 1971, pp. 212–17.

[10‘Yo me paseaba por aquellas calles anchas y limpias adoquinadas como en Manila, llenas de gente, llamando la atención de todo el mundo, quienes me llamaban chino, japonés, americano, etc: ninguno filipino. Pobre país! Nadie tiene noticia de tí!’ Letter of June 23, 1882 from Barcelona, in One Hundred Letters of José Rizal, Manila 1959, p. 26. These letters were not available when the big Correspondencia Epistolar was published

[11Que nos tomen por chinos, americanos o mulatos y muchos aun de los jóvenes estudiantes no saben si Filipinas perteniese a los ingleses o los españoles. Un día preguntaban a uno de nuestros paisanos si Filipinas estaba muy lejos de Manila.’ Letter home from Madrid dated January 29, 1883, in One Hundred Letters, p. 85.

[12In the first-class Avant-Propos she wrote to her new French translation of Noli Me Tangere, Jovita Ventura Castro noted that it was only after 1863 that students from the Philippines were permitted to enrol in metropolitan universities. (The translation, N’y touchez pas!, was published in Paris in 1980 by Gallimard with the sponsorship of Unesco.) The first to enrol were creoles physically indistinguishable from Spain-born Spaniards. Multi-coloured mestizos and indios seem only to have arrived in the later 1870s. They were thus something visibly quite new.

[13See my Imagined Communities, London 1991, p. 57.

[14‘Wir müssen alle der Politik etwas opfern, wenn auch wir keine Lust daran haben. Dies verstehen meine Freunde welche in Madrid unsere Zeitung herausgeben; diese Freunde sind alle Jünglingen, creolen, mestizen und malaien, wir nennen uns nur Philippiner.’ See Rizal–Blumentritt Correspondence, 1886–1889, p. 72. It is important to recognize that the German word Philippiner is uncontaminated by the ambiguities surrounding filipino. It is clearly and simply (proto)national.

[15It is very striking that the words mestizo chino do not occur in Noli Me Tangere at all, and only once, in passing, in El Filibusterismo. There are plenty of characters whom one can assume are such mestizos, but Rizal is careful not to mention their ‘give-away’ typical surnames. Sadly Iberian prejudices against the Chinese rubbed off rather heavily on the young anticolonial elite.

[16Mentioned in the Mexican Leopoldo Zea’s illuminating introduction to the Venezuelan edition of Noli Me Tangere, Caracas 1976, p. xviii, citing Unamuno’s ‘Epilogio’ to W. E. Retana, Vida y Escritos del Dr. José Rizal, Madrid 1907.

[17He particularly enraged the hierarchy by insisting that the Rig Veda was much older than the Old Testament, and that the Egyptians had pioneered the idea of retribution in the afterlife, and discussing in sceptical terms the Flood, and the Creation which even then Rome insisted had taken place in 4004 bc. Manuel Sarkisyanz, Rizal and Republican Spain, Manila 1995, p. 205.

[18Rizal, El Filibusterismo, end notes, pp. 38–39. The editorial notes add that congratulations and supportive protests came in from students in Bologna, Rome, Pisa, Paris, Lisbon, Coimbra and various places in Germany.

[19See the animated account Rizal gave his family in a letter of November 26, 1884, in One Hundred Letters, pp. 197–200.

[20According to the 1860 census, most of the adult working population was occupationally distributed as follows: 2,345,000 rural labourers, 1,466,000 small proprietors, 808,000 servants, 665,000 artisans, 333,000 small business-people, 262,000 indigents, 150,000 factory workers, 100,000 in the liberal professions and related occupations, 70,000 ‘employees’ (state functionaries?), 63,000 clergy (including 20,000 women), and 23,000 miners. Jean Bécarud and Gilles Lapouge, Anarchistes d’Espagne, Paris 1970, vol. I, pp. 14–15. Forty years later, in 1901, Barcelona alone had 500,000 workers, but half of them were illiterate. See J. Romero Maura, ‘Terrorism in Barcelona and Its Impact on Spanish Politics, 1904–1909’, Past and Present 41 (December 1968), p. 164. Schumacher goes so far as to claim a level of equality in illiteracy between metropole and colony ‘unique in the history of colonization’. (In 1900, illiteracy among people over ten years old in Spain was 58.7 per cent; the American-organized census of 1903 showed a figure of 55.5 per cent for the Philippines—this figure takes into account various local languages, Spanish, and American). The Propaganda Movement, p. 304, fn. 9.

[21See the vivid account and superb analysis in Kristin Ross, The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune, Minneapolis 1988; also James Joll, The Anarchists, Cambridge, ma 1980, pp. 148–49.

[22See the concise account in Guerrero, First Filipino, p. 198.

[23‘Europa amenazada continuamente de una conflagración espantosa; el cetro del mundo que se escapia de las temblorosas manos de la Francia caduca; las naciones del Norte preparándose à recogerlo. Rusia cuya emperador tiene sobre sí la espada de Nihilismo como el antiguo Damocles, esto es Europa la civilizada . . .’ Letter home from Madrid, dated October 28, 1883, in One Hundred Letters, p. 174. Spain seems not worth mentioning!

[24For a tableau vivant, see Ramón Sempau, Los Victimarios, Barcelona 1901, p. 5. For an impressive listing, see Rafael Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo Anarquista, 1888–1909, Madrid 1983, pp. 19–20.

[25The grouspuscule was characteristically named The People’s Retribution. Nechayev fled back to Switzerland, but was extradited in 1873, and sentenced to twenty years in prison. In 1882 he was ‘found dead in his cell’ à la Baader-Meinhof.

[26Sempau, Victimarios, pp. 66–67; Norman Naimark, Terrorists and Social Democrats, The Russian Revolutionary Movement under Alexander iii, Cambridge, ma 1983, ch. 1; Derek Offord, The Russian revolutionary movement in the 1880s, Cambridge 1986, ch. 1; and especially David Footman, Red Prelude [2nd ed.], London 1968. The first bomb failed to touch the Tsar. Realizing this, a figure whom Sempau names ‘Miguel Ivanovitch Elnikof’, but who was actually Ignatei Grinevitsky, came close enough before throwing a second bomb that he was killed along with his victim. An early suicide bomber, one could say. A valuable feature of Footman’s book is a biographical appendix on 55 Narodnaya Volya activists. Thirteen were executed, fourteen died in prison, fourteen more survived imprisonment, eight escaped abroad, four committed suicide during or after their attentats and two went to work for the secret police.

[27In fact there was at least one abortive plot to kill Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1878, ‘uncovered’ after an explosion at police headquarters in Frankfurt. Its purported ‘anarchist’ leader, August Reinsdorf, was quickly executed, while police chief Rumpf was assassinated shortly afterward: a murky affair, in which the manipulative hand of Rumpf is quite probable. In the years 1883 to 1885, there were bomb plots in London against the Tower, Victoria Station and the House of Commons. See Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, p. 18. These ‘events’ were quickly reflected in Henry James’s Princess Casamassima (1886), and much later in Conrad’s The Secret Agent (1907) and Under Western Eyes (1911). Mention should also be made of the May 1882 Fenian assassination of Lord Cavendish, the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, and his undersecretary, though their status was well below of that of the figures mentioned above, and though the Fenians, like the nationalists who killed Franz Ferdinand, were far from being anarchists.

[28Jean Maitron offers some interesting data in this regard. The single most important theoretical anarchist publication was Jean Grave’s Le Révolté, first published in safe Geneva in February 1879 with a print run that rose from 1,300 to 2,000 before Grave felt it was possible to relocate it to Paris as La Révolte in 1885. By 1894, when it was smashed by the state in the wake of Carnot’s assassination, it had a 7,000 print run, with subscribers in France, Algeria, the US, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Holland, Romania, Uruguay, India, Egypt, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. No Russian. Its ‘apache’ opposite number, Emile Pouget’s satirical Le Père Peinard (‘Bons bougres, lisez tous les dimanches’)had a comparable ‘Atlantic’ stretch. See Maitron, Le Mouvement anarchiste en France, vol. 1 : Dès origines à 1914, Paris 1975, pp. 141–46.

[29Joll, The Anarchists, pp. 102–5.

[30‘la révolte permanente par la parole, par l’écrit, par le poignard, le fusil, la dynamite . . . Tout est bon pour nous qui n’est pas la légalité’. Maitron, Le Mouvement, pp. 77–78.

[31‘Depuis trois ans que la ligue existe, plusieurs centaines de familles bourgeoises ont payé le fatal tribut, dévorées par un mal mystérieux que la médecine est impuissante á définir et á conjurer’. Maitron, Le Mouvement, p. 206.

[32The Philippines kept this representation in all subsequent ‘constitutional moments’, until its rights were abolished—well after the collapse of the South American Empire—in 1837. Rizal told his friend Blumentritt that his maternal grandfather had in fact sat as a Philippine representative in this metropolitan legislature. See letter of November 8, 1888, from London,in Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, vol. 1, third unnumbered page after p. 268.

[33D. G. E. Hall. A History of South-East Asia [3 ed.], London and New York 1968, p. 721. For details on these commotions, typically organized by Creoles, see Sarkisyanz, Rizal, pp. 76–79.

[34Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, pp. 21–22. My italics.

[35On Mendizábal and Ortiz, see Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, p. 134, fn. 16. More generally on the consequences of the confiscation of Order properties, especially in Andalusia, see Bécarud and Lapouge, Anarchistes, pp. 14–20.

[36The International’s first two congresses, held in peaceable Switzerland in 1866 and 1867, had gone ahead quietly enough with Marx in the central position. But Bakunin’s influence was already strongly felt at the third congress in Brussels in 1868, and Bakuninists were a majority at the fourth congress in Basle. The fifth congress was supposed to assemble in Paris, but Sedan made this impossible. By the time it was finally held in 1872, in The Hague, it was hopelessly divided. In the year of Bakunin’s death it was dissolved, though Bakuninist congresses continued to be held till 1877. See the succinct account in Maitron, Le Mouvement, pp. 42–51.

[37George Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology and the Working Class Movement in Spain, 1868–1898, Berkeley 1989, pp. 14–18; Bécarud and Lapouge, Anarchistes, pp. 27–29.

[38How did a Cuban manage so fine a French name? His grandparents on both sides had been ‘French Haitians’, and had moved to Cuba to escape Toussaint’s revolution. One grandfather (Lafargue) was a small slave-owning planter and the other (Abraham Armagnac) a Jewish merchant. One grandmother was a Haitian mulatta, and the other a Jamaican Caribe. Both Paul and his parents were born in Santiago de Cuba. The family moved back to the grandfather’s native Bordeaux in 1851, escaping this time from Cuban rebellion and Spanish repression. Paul carried a Spanish passport, and was bilingual in French and Spanish.

[39Bécarud and Lapouge, Anarchistes, pp. 29–34; David Ortiz, Jr., Paper Liberals, Press and Politics in Restoration Spain, Westport, ct 2000, p. 58.

[40According to Bécarud and Lapouge, Anarchistes, p. 36, an earlier such wave had occurred in 1878–80.

[41Ramón Sempau observed that now ‘se renovaron prácticas olvidadas’—‘forgotten practices [i.e. of the Inquisition era] were renewed’. Los Victimarios, p. 275. Two famous Spanish novels, published a quarter of a century later under a liberalized regime, afford fine evocations of the ‘undergrounds’ of Barcelona and Andalusia in this period: Pío Baroja’s Aurora Roja [Red Dawn] and Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s La Bodega [The Cellar], both originally published in Madrid in 1905.

[42See the succinct account of these developments in Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, pp. 38–42.

[43Compare Guerrero, First Filipino, pp. 178–80, with Schumacher, Propaganda Movement, pp. 109–14.

[44Guerrero, First Filipino, p. 180.

[45‘man droht mich jeden Tag . . . Mein Vater lässt mich nie allein spazieren, noch bei einer anderen Familie essen; der Alte fürchtet und zittert. Man hält mich für einen deutschen Espion oder Agent; man sagt ich sei Bismarck Agent, Protestant, Freimason, Zauberer, Halbverdammte Seele u.s.w. Darum bleibe ich zu Hause.’ Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, Vol. 1, fifth unnumbered page following p. 133. Bismarck was an ogre for clerical circles because of his decade-long Kulturkampf of the 1870s, intended to coerce German Catholics into giving their first loyalty to the Reich. (It was partly his reaction to the promulgation of Papal Infallibility.) But there was also wider fear of his designs on Spanish Oceania. It seems that in 1885 the Reichskanzler had announced that the imperial navy would ensure the safety of German entrepreneurs in the Carolines. Spanish troops were sent off hurriedly to put down resistance there to the full imposition of Madrid’s sovereignty. In El Filibusterismo, the nice student Isagani expresses his strong sympathy with the insulares. (Ch. xxiv, ‘Sueños [Dreams]’).

[46Weyler (b. 1838) spent almost all of the first ten years (1863–73) of his career in the Caribbean. It will be recalled that the First Dominican Republic had successfully broken away from Haiti in 1844, but in 1861, at President Pedro Santana’s initiative, had been taken back into the Spanish Empire. In 1863 a popular revolt broke out—aided by Haiti—against this ‘treason’. Weyler was among the first young officers to be sent from Cuba to crush the insurrection. Pressured by the us, and by military reverses, Madrid was forced two years later to withdraw its troops and recognize the Second Dominican Republic. Weyler made his reputation as an outstanding officer (he was the youngest man of his time to achieve general rank) by his successes against the Céspedes revolt in Cuba. He earned the soubriquet el sanguinario by his leadership of ruthless ‘hunter’ (cazadores) units of lumpen or criminal volunteers. Even a fervent admirer concedes that he killed more prisoners than any other Spanish officer. On his return to Madrid, he was assigned the task of smashing the Carlist forces in Valencia, and accomplished it successfully—without Cuban-style methods. See the hilarious franquista hagiography by General Hilario Martín Jiménez, Valeriano Weyler, De Su Vida y Personalidad, 1838–1930,Santa Cruz de Tenerife 1998, chs. 2–6, and especially on dead prisoners p. 247.

[47On this fascinating and pioneering, work, see my ‘The Rooster’s Egg’, New Left Review 2, March–April 2000. We shall see a lot of Isabelo later on, in Part iii.

[48In his First Filipino, Guerrero has a lengthy and interesting discussion both of Morga’s original and of Rizal’s annotations (pp. 205–23). It has to be said that some of Rizal’s closest friends, such as Blumentritt and the painter Juan Luna, privately suggested to him that his patriotism had led him into exaggerations. De los Reyes was politely critical on the same grounds in public.

[49See Ortiz, Paper Liberals, pp. 57–60. Ortiz comments that these productions, as well as the later La Revista Blanca, showed that the lively anarchist press ‘surpassed the socialist press in intellectual rigour, circulation, and longevity’. He also points out the massive new popularity of reading clubs where—given the widespread illiteracy of Barcelona’s working class—‘readers’ (lectores) read out loud from the press. It is quite remarkable that two El Productors appeared in the same year, one in Barcelona, and the other in Havana under the chief editorship of the energetic Catalan anarchist Enrique Roig y San Martín, whose Circulo de Trabajadores also issued a bimonthly Bakuninist magazine called Hijos del Mundo. I owe this information to an unpublished paper ‘Leaves of Change: Cuban Tobacco Workers and the Struggle against Slavery and Spanish Imperial Rule, 1880s–1890s’, by Evan Daniel (2003), at pp. 23–24. My thanks to Robin Blackburn (and Evan Daniel) for allowing me to read it. Daniel says that the Havana El Productor regularly reprinted articles from Barcelona’s La Acracia (as well as translations from Le Révolté and other non-Spanish anarchist periodicals), but does not mention its Barcelona twin, which is puzzling. Daniel also emphasizes the enormous importance of lectores for the many illiterate tobacco-workers. All of this offers a striking contrast between Havana and Manila in this period: a vigorous and legal anarchist press could flourish in Cuba, while nothing remotely comparable would ever have been tolerated in the Philippines.

[50Schumacher’s Propaganda Movement provides an astute and generally sympathetic account of Del Pilar’s life, ideas, goals, and political activities. The paragraph above is a wholly inadequate micro-version of his argument. This may be the place to say something brief about Cuban–Filipino contacts in Spain, such as they were. A good many Filipinos who became Masons in the metropole joined lodges largely composed of Cubans, probably because the Cubans were more friendly and welcoming than the Spaniards. Rafael Labra, a senior Creole Cuban member of the republican group in the Cortes (sitting for Puerto Rico and Asturias), with a strong autonomist programme, was not only intellectually influential through his voluminous writings on colonial questions, but also regularly attended and spoke at ‘political banquets’ organized by Filipino activists. He had earlier headed the first abolitionist movement in Spain—in the 1860s! (Thomas, Cuba, p. 240.) Beyond this, the ties seem to have been rather minimal. Cuba’s political status was far in advance of that of the Philippines, its representatives in Spain were more likely to be peninsulars and Creoles (rather than Mestizos or ‘natives’), and the problems of the two colonies were very different. I know of no Cuban who ever visited the Spanish Philippines, and no more than one or two Filipinos who, in the late colonial period, had seen Cuba at first hand.

[51‘Estoy cansado ya de creer en nuestros paisanos; todos parece que se han unído por amargarme la vida . . . Ah! Le digo a V., que si no fuera por V., si no fuera porque creo que hay todavía verdaderos buenos filipinos, me dan ganas de enviar al diablo paisanos y todo! Por quién me han tomado? Precisamente, cuando uno necesita tener su espíritu tranquilo y su imaginación libre, venirle á uno con engaños y mezquindades!’ Epistolario Rizalino, vol. 3 (1890–92), ed. Teodoro M. Kalaw, Manila 1935, pp. 200–01.

[52Letter of May 13, 1891, in Cartas Entre Rizal y Sus Colegas de la Propaganda, Manila 1981, Tomo ii, Libro 3, Parte 2a, p. 660. My rough translation. Many thanks to Ambeth Ocampo for sending me the text.

[53The article appeared in the laughably titled La España Moderna on January 2. Rizal published a scorching reply in La Solidaridad in February, and in a March 6 letter to Blumentritt remarked: ‘[If he dies of rage at my reply] this would be a great loss for my menagerie. He is one the finest specimens in my [collection of] snakes and hippopotami [es wäre eine grosse Verlust in meiner Menagerie; er ist einer der schönsten Exemplaren meines Schlangen und Hippopotames]’. Rizal-Blumentritt Correspondence, vol. 2 (1890–1896), third unnumbered page after p. 336. ‘Proudhonian’ probably was intended to belittle Rizal as a mere acolyte of the admirable Catalan democrat and federalist republican Francisco Pi y Margall, who had published a translation of Proudhon’s Du principe fédératif in 1868. Though Pi y Margall was almost forty years older than Rizal, he was a close friend, and a public supporter of the Filipinos. See Sarkisyanz, Rizal, p. 112, and ch. 8 (devoted to the two men’s relationship).

[54In the final chapter of El Filibusterismo (at p. 281) Simoun describes how, as Ibarra, he fled secretly from the Philippines with ancestral valuables, and devoted himself to the trade in gems. Then: ‘He took part in the Cuban war, aiding now this side, now that, but always making a profit. It was there that he got to know the General, then a major, whose will he first captured by financial advances, later making him a friend thanks to secret crimes to which the jeweller was privy [Tomó parte en la guerra de Cuba, ayudando ya á un partido ya á otro, pero ganando siempre. allí conoció al General, entonces comandante, cuya voluntad se captó primero por medio de adelantes de dinero y haciéndose su amigo despues gracias á crimenes cuyo secreta el joyero poseía]’. Weyler became a major in Cuba in March 1863. What these ‘secret crimes’ amount to is unclear—cruelties, corruption, or libertinage? A curious section of Martín Jiménez’s hagiography discusses the general’s ruthless and voracious sexual appetites. Of a married woman with whom he had a secret affair while boss of Cuba, Weyler himself noted: ‘The woman pleased me so much that if a rebel battalion had tried to block our assignations, I would have tried to reach her even if a forest of bayonets stood in my way.’ Valeriano Weyler, pp. 256–57.

[55Chapter iv (‘Cabesang Tales’) and x (‘Riqueza y Miseria’ [Riches and Destitution]).

[56‘Tranquilizaos, pacíficos vecinos de Kalamba! Ninguno de vosotros se llama Tales, ninguno de vosotros ha cometido el crímen! Vosotros os llamáis . . . Silvestre Ubaldo, Manuel Hidalgo, Paciano Mercado, os llamáis todo el pueblo de Kalamba!’ This apostrophe is how Chapter x ends. It is reminiscent of the famous ending to Dekker’s Max Havelaar, where the author casts aside his characters and his plot to launch a hair-raising broadside in his own name at the Dutch colonial regime in the Indies and its backers in the Netherlands.

[57One of Rizal’s political hobbies at this time was to insist on spelling Tagalog words, even when, or perhaps especially when, they derived from Spanish, with his own orthographic system. One of the provocations involved was to substitute the aggressively non-Castilian ‘k’ for ‘c’ and ‘w’ for ‘ue’. Hence pwede for puede and, here, Kalamba for Calamba.

[58The comparison is not idle. On p. xxix of his introduction to Noli Me Tangere, Zea quotes from Unamuno’s ‘Elogio’ the following: ‘In the Philippines, as in my own Basque country, Spanish is a foreign language and of recent implantation . . . I learned to stammer in Spanish, and we spoke Spanish at home, but it was the Spanish of Bilbao, i.e. a poverty-stricken and timid Spanish. [Hence] we have been forced to remodel it, to forge by our efforts a language of our own. So it is that what in a certain respect is our weakness as writers is also our strength.’

[59El Filibusterismo, chapter vii (‘Simoun’), p. 47. My rough translation; the original is not included here for reasons of space.

[60‘¿Queréis añadir un idioma más á los cuarenta y tantos que se hablan en las islas para entenderos cada vez menos?’ El Filibusterismo, p. 47. There is as yet, evidently, no alternative national language. In Rizal’s time Tagalog was understood only on the island of Luzon, and even there, only in the region around Manila.

[61Nuñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, p. 49; Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology, pp. 175–80. Esenwein’s excellent research has turned up some strange things. From one angle, the chain of events began with the Haymarket ‘Riot’ in Chicago at the beginning of May 1886. In an atmosphere of anti-‘communist’ and anti-immigrant hysteria, and after a travesty of a fair trial, four anarchists were hanged that November. The executions aroused indignation all over Europe (and of course also in the US), and on the initiative of French workers’ organizations, May Day came to be celebrated annually (except in the US) in commemoration of the victims. The whole Spanish Left was a vigorous supporter of the new tradition, especially while Sagasta was still in power. Just after the May Day commemorations of 1891, two bombs exploded in Cádiz, killing one worker, and injuring several others. The local police arrested 157 people, but never found any provable perpetrator, so the possibility of agents-provocateurs cannot be ruled out. It was some of these prisoners whom the men of Jerez intended to liberate. The odd thing is that just at this juncture none other than Malatesta, accompanied by the rising anarchist intellectual star Tárrida del Mármol, was on a lecture and organizing tour of Spain, and was due to speak in Jerez. On hearing the news of the violent events, Malatesta rather courageously decided to keep going towards Cádiz, but disguised as a prosperous Italian businessman. He doesn’t seem to have accomplished anything. Esenwein thinks it significant that neither at the time nor later did the anarchists proclaim January 8 as ‘propaganda by the deed’. To the contrary, they always insisted that they had nothing to do with it.

[62See Maitron, Le Mouvement, pp. 213–24. In his prison cell he told interviewers that he had lost his religious faith after reading Eugène Sue’s Le Juif errant! Maitron points out that French anarchism in this period was largely a matter of tiny, clandestine or semi-clandestine units without real organizational ties between them. This characteristic made it hard for the police to monitor them effectively, and also made it relatively easy for criminal elements to penetrate them. French anarchism did not become a real political force till the end of the 1890s with the abandonment of propaganda by the deed, and the onset of syndicalism in working-class political life. Spanish anarchism had a much stronger and wider social foundation. That Ravachol was partly Alsatian is my deduction from the testimony of Ramón Sempau in his Los Victimarios, p. 15.

[63Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, pp. 121–23.

[64For Spain, this was the first clear example of ‘propaganda by the deed’. In October 1878 a young Catalan cooper called Juan Oliva had fired a gun at Alfonso xii but missed. A year later, the 19-year-old Francisco Otero tried to do the same, but proved an equally poor shot. Neither was connected to anarchist circles, and both were promptly executed. (Nuñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, p. 38.) Pallás was a poor young lithographer from Tarragon, who emigrated to Argentina; he married there, and then moved to Brazil in search of a better livelihood to support his family. He became a radical and anarchist while working as a typesetter in Santa Fé. On May Day 1892 he threw a petard into the Alcantara theatre in Rio shouting ‘Viva l’Anarquía!’ No one was hurt, and the audience burst into cheers. When the Spanish police searched his house they found anarchist newspapers, a copy of Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, and a lithograph of the Haymarket Martyrs. Most historians have argued that he acted partly out of indignation at the Jerez garrottings, but Nuñez Florencio says there is no document in Pallás’s hand to support this claim. Compare Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology, pp. 184–5; Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, pp. 49, 53, and Maura, ‘Terrorism’, p. 130 (he says two were killed, and twelve wounded).

[65The choice of this opera may not have been random. At its first ‘convention’ in 1879 Narodnaya Volya produced a programme that, inter alia, stated: ‘We will fight with the means employed by Wilhelm Tell’. The legendary Swiss archer was widely regarded as an ancestral hero by late nineteenth-century radicals and nationalists. See Walter Laqueur, A History of Terrorism, rev. ed., New Brunswick, nj 2002, p. 22.

[66Santiago had started out as a Carlist and ardent Catholic, but poverty, petty crime (smuggling) and unpayable debts had aroused his interest in anarchism. Five other people were executed with him, though there is no convincing evidence that he did not, like Pallás, act on his own. See especially Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology, pp. 186–87 and Maura, ‘Terrorism’, p. 130. According to Bécarud and Lapouge, Anarchistes, p. 44, when he was asked what would happen to his daughters after his execution, Salvador Santiago said: ‘If they are pretty, the bourgeois will take care of them.’ Anarchist boutade? Or myth?

[67Maitron says Vaillant came in handy for certain dirigeants of the Third Republic, who were reeling from public revelations about the Panama Canal Bubble scandal, and found him a wonderful way to shift public attention elsewhere—also to enact harsh laws against ‘revolutionary propaganda’ of any kind. Le Mouvement, p. 237.

[68According to Joll, The Anarchists, p. 115, Henry was an outstanding student who got into the École Polytechnique, but then dropped out for the sake of anarchism. Clémenceau, deeply moved by Henry’s execution, wrote: ‘Henry’s crime was that of a savage. But society’s act seems to me a base revenge. Let the partisans of the death penalty go, if they have the courage, to sniff the blood at La Roquette [after 1851 the prison where all death sentences in Paris were carried out]. Then we shall talk . . .’Quoted in Maitron, Le Mouvement, p. 246.

[69Núñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, p. 53, quoting a contemporary newspaper source. Felice Orsini (b. 1819) was a veteran of the 1848 revolutions, a deputy in the ephemeral Roman Republic, and a committed Italian nationalist. Imprisoned by the Austrian regime in the fortress of Mantua in 1855, he made a spectacular escape, and headed for Palmerston’s England, where Mazzini was plotting insurrection from seedy lodgings on the Fulham Road. His 1856 sensation, The Austrian Dungeons in Italy, quickly sold 35,000 copies, and his Byronic good looks and fervent rhetoric made him wildly popular on the lecture circuit. Meantime, he was inventing a new type of bomb, made mainly from fulminate of mercury, which did not need a fuse but exploded on impact. He tested it on a hut in Putney, and in disused quarries in Devonshire and Sheffield. Then, believing that the assassination of Louis Napoleon would spark a revolution in France, which would cause Italy to follow Paris’s example, he crossed the Channel, and tried out his invention on January 14, 1858. His target was barely scratched but 156 people were injured, and eight eventually succumbed. Orsini was guillotined on March 13. Palmerston tried to pass a Conspiracy To Murder Bill, making plotting to murder foreign rulers a felony, but mishandled its passage, and was driven from office. See Jad Adams, ‘Striking a Blow for Freedom’, History Today, vol. 53, no. 9 (September 2003), pp. 18–19.

[70Nuñez Florencio, El Terrorismo, p. 115–19. Note Henry’s references to Jerez and Chicago, as well as Pallás and Vaillant.

[71See ‘Nitroglycerine in the Pomegranate’, New Left Review 27, p. 109.

[72The locus classicus is Reynaldo Clemeña Ileto, Pasyón and Revolution: Popular Movements in The Philippines, 1840–1910,Quezon City 1989

[73One should not rule Nechayev out. The pamphlet that he coauthored with Bakunin in 1869 was widely read all over Europe, and some of its themes seem echoed by Simoun in El Filibusterismo. In the issues of La Solidaridad of January 15 and 31, 1893, there is a curious two-part article, titled ‘Una Visita’, by Ferdinand Blumentritt, describing an unexpected visitor in the form of Simoun, who explains that Rizal had him appear to die in the novel to conceal from the colonial authorities his survival and his massive political multiplication among the Filipino population. A long and heated debate develops between them on the future of the Philippines, and on the methods to be pursued in the political struggle. At one point, the indignant ethnologist says: ‘Mr Simoun, you are not merely a subversive, you are also a nihilist [Señor Simoun, usted es no solo filibustero sino también nihilista]’. To this, as he makes his mysterious departure, Simoun retorts sardonically: ‘I am leaving for Russia, to enrol there in the school of the nihilists [Me marcho á Rusia para estudiar allí en la escuela de nihilistas]’! Nechayev had already died, aged only 35, in a tsarist prison the year before Rizal arrived in Europe. But Blumentritt was in some ways Rizal’s closest friend, and I think it unlikely that he would have associated Simoun with Nihilism if the two had not discussed the latter seriously. Besides, Dostoevsky’s The Possessed had come out in French translation in Paris in 1886, not long after Rizal had left the French capital for Germany and Blumentritt-in-Austria. We know also, thanks to De Ocampo that Rizal read (but when exactly?) Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons in a German translation. (My thanks to Megan Thomas for bringing Blumentritt’s odd articles to my attention.)

[74Basilio: ‘¿Qué dira el mundo, á la vista de tanta carnicería?’ Simoun: ‘El mundo aplaudirá como siempre, dando la razón al más fuerte, al más violente! . . . Europa ha aplaudido cuando las naciones del occidente sacrificaron en América millones de indios y no por cierto para fundar naciones mucho más morales ni más pacíficas; allí está el Norte con su libertad egoista, su ley de Lynch, sus engaños políticos; allí está el Sur con sus repúblicas intranquilas, sus revoluciones bárbaras, guerras civiles, pronunciamentos, como en su madre España! Europa ha aplaudido cuando la poderosa Portugal despojó á las islas Molucas, aplaude cuando Inglaterra destruye en el Pacífico las razas primitivas para implantar la de sus emigrados. Europa aplaudirá como se aplaude al fin de un drama, al fin du una tragedia; el vulgo se fija poco en el fondo, sola mira el efecto!’ El Filibusterismo, chapter xxiii (‘La Ultima Razón [The Final Argument]’), p. 250.

[75El Filibusterismo, chapter xxxix (untitled), p. 283.

[76‘¡Qué lastima! exclamó haciendo un esfuerzo; qué mal ha hecho el ladrón! Hubieran muerto todos . . .’ ‘Siempre es malo apoderarse de lo que no es suyo, contestó Isagani con enigmática sonrisa; si ese ladrón hubiese sabido de qué se trataba y hubiese podido reflexionar, de seguro que no lo habría hecho. Y añadió despues de una pausa: Por nada del mundo quisiera estar en su lugar’. El Filibusterismo, pp. 271–72.

Associated keywords

Also in this section

Events to come

No events to come
bullet pointSite map bullet pointContact bullet pointEditors area RSS

2003-2019 © RAForum - All rights reserved
Top of the page
Created with SPIP
Template ESCAL 4.1.4