The Filipino People’s Revolution of ’86 and the World’s Postmodern Democracy

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Analysis, politics, Popular Culture
Tags: , , , , ,

A peaceful people’s revolution towards freedom, justice, truth and peacce is the postmodern Filipino’s legacy for this world and its democracy. Classical literature tells of democracy as knowledge gift from the early Greek civilization, and so is politics. The French revolution, the American revolution, and the communist revolts in Russia, China and Cuba are rich texts of modern upheavals for democracy.

That three-day revolution in 1986 which ended the Marcos 20-year dictatorship marked the Filipino’s patriotism, nationalism and dignity to come one for a common cause. It is different, unique and special in its own right as it took a different turn. It debunked theoretical formulations for political change, that even those who claimed wisdom in political understanding faltered to predict it would happen.

The Philippine revolution in 1896 was tainted in blood. Attempts of people’s revolution in the mid 20th century were formulated to be a protracted, an arms struggle, yet failed to win genuine and en masse action from the Filipino people. The EDSA People’s Power  of 1986 was spontaneous but deliberate of a single call, that unified the people to go the streets amidst the threat of iron hand of the defunct government.

In those days, victory was at hand for the people. There was certainty in faith among the people who marched through EDSA. Undivided in their cause, the Filipinos, young, old, rich, poor, political, apolotical, educated, uneducated, black, white, brown, risked their lives to end tyranny and to oust the tyrant from his throne.

They came, in numbers, as days passed, their numbers grew. The Church called the people, courageously, to express their rights, to claim their rights for freedom. The people, regardless of their religious affiliations, came and stood in front of tanks, unafraid of the harm that the militia could do against them. The Filipinos flooded the highway en route to bring back democracy.

The Filipinos succeeded. Corazon Aquino became the first Filipino woman president, the first in woman in Asia to hold the highest political position in a modern government (excluding the Empresses of China, Japan, Korea). Democracy was reinstated over a long period of dictatorship, without bloodshed, without armstruggle, spontaneous, natural and authentic.

The Filipino revolution in 1986 is our legacy to postmodern world democracy. Germany followed, the east and west divided by the Berlin wall reunited and is now one with a unified Europe. Then the people’s revolution in the Baltic states came after. More recently, the people’s revolution in Tunisia, then in Egypt.

E pluribus unum. Amidst diversity one. When a numbe of people gather, the voice of people united, their hearts and minds consolidated for a single cause that is for the common good, no other power can work with that. Vox popoli, vox dei. People are not gods, but their united voice, be it clamoring for an unpopular call, can awaken the consciousness of other people. Victory is to them.

The power of people’s revolution, does not rely in the strength of the arms. It rests in the willingness of the people to call for change. It reinforced by the steadfastness of faith in their action, in their capacity and in their cause to create the change. The success of a people’s revolution is the success of its people. The thing is Filipinos did it and won it 25 years ago.

The people’s power revolution on EDSA in 1986 is not something to be left and read in history books. It has to be retold and handed on to Filipinos across generations, for its spirit is the Spirit of the Filipino people as men and women for peace, justice, freedom, truth and equality. With the same traits Filipinos are able to conquer the world in thier own right, in their littlest contributions to the world’s postmodern democracy.

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Comments
  1. interesting. but how exactly does one define “postmodern democracy”? “postmodern world democracy”? how precisely do you understand the label “postmodern”? more importantly, what kind of “democracy” was established after the first EDSA uprising? going beyond hollow triumphalism means looking into both the negative and positive contributions of a phenomenon. apart from being the first woman president and assuming the role of rallying point in this uprising, what was the first Aquino regime’s other legacy to the Filipino people? in a word, what sort of change did it really bring? in terms of foreign policy direction, social structures, economic well-being of the people, human rights situation, what essential differences is there between the pre-Marcos regimes, the Marcos regime, and the post-Marcos regimes? these questions should make for a starting point for more reflection. kudos 🙂

  2. rod rivera says:

    Karlo,

    Thank you so much for reading, though you have asked a lot of questions, that are worth reflecting.

    Postmodernity is a period of development that breaks from the traditions of modernity that is intertwined in the preservation of structures. While even philosophers and theorists have not arrived at a strict definition of what postmodernism, it is understood to be construction of a world or realities in the world, not bound by the structures. Postmodernism, that is fragmented, representations of multiple truths, of individuals.

    When you look at the pre-Marcos and the Marcos regime, what you see is the rigidity of modern democracy, and autocracy inside a cloak — structures of power centralized and held by individuals and the few elites. True, the Filipinos did not succeed in breaking the structure. But in the people’s way, they have known a truth (not Truth) that as people they have power to change the government even to the streets. While there is a strand of postmodernism that is anarchaic as individuals, this was not the case for us.

    While from the pre-modern and modern times, a revolution was constructed to be a blood bath, what the Filipinos demonstrated is a new template of a revolution. Reading from 1986 the world situation, many of the same template succeeded. The power shifted. Aquino was just a symbol of the power of the people to change a regime, fight dictatorship and bring the clutched liberties of the people.

    Her legacy to the Philippines was not my concern, EDSA was not her triumph, but the people’s triumph. What this means to me is again my postmodern construct, what is that to you is yet subject to other’s interpretation.

    What kind of democracy was established after EDSA? A populist politics, yet still mired by low political consciousness among people, and manned by self-serving elected politicians. We must have won democracy from Marcos’ authorianism, but we are losing it for many other reasons that are reflective our people’s culture.

  3. i forgot to check on your reply so allow me to post a rejoinder today. i will not anymore focus on the terms postmodern, postmodernity, or postmodernism as your statements in this page already speaks for itself.

    what i would like to focus on, however, is your take on the EDSA popular uprising and its legacy since i find this discussion more promising.

    the assessment that political, economic, cultural, and military hegemony still remains in the hands of an elite class of landlords, big businessmen, and corrupt bureaucrats composed of less than a hundred families is true.

    indeed, despite the overthrowing of the Marcos dictatorship through heroic collective mobilization of the Filipino people, unjust social structures that oppress and exploit the Filipino remain.

    in this sense, there is no fundamental difference between the pre-Marcos, the Marcos, and the post-Marcos regimes.

    the only distinction now is the use of democratic slogans and publicity stunts to cover up the underlying class dictatorship of the ruling classes.

    but as you correctly pointed out, the EDSA popular uprising nonetheless showed the people the power of collective action in advancing their national and democratic rights and interests.

    where our view diverge however is in your misreading of the EDSA popular uprising as a “new template of a [sic] revolution.”

    in the first place, it was never a in the strictest sense of the word a revolution for, as you yourself said, the EDSA uprising did not lead to fundamental changes in the social system wherein foreign domination, domestic feudalism, and the use of the state for the interest of the landed and moneyed few persists.

    secondly, this so-called “peaceful revolution” came to the fore as a result of the open armed fissure between two armed camps –the Marcos-Ver faction and the Enrile-Ramos group –from within the dictatorial establishment.

    it was the stalemate between these two camps that led to the appearance of the organized progressive forces as well as the spontaneous masses in EDSA with the Enrile-Ramos camp asking for the people’s support.

    the confluence of the Enrile-Ramos faction’s military mutiny, the popular uprising of the spontaneous masses and the organized anti-dictatorship movements became the key features of Marcos’ downfall.

    but while the EDSA uprising overthrew the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, there are many factors that led to this critical conjuncture.

    the most decisive factor in the fall of the dictatorship is the preparation of the people’s consciousness through the two-decade long armed and unarmed resistance to Marcos led by the revolutionary underground movement.

    the Filipino people’s “culture” or so-called “low political consciousness” should not be blamed for the problems of the present. for is it not the system itself that makes sure that the people have a low level of political consciousness by limiting the people’s access to quality education and propagating a decadent, colonial, and feudal culture through the mass media?

    in the first place, the kind of democracy reestablished after EDSA is flawed and slanted towards those who hold on to power and private property no matter what the cost. the urgent task for the present generation thus includes holding on to the lessons of the EDSA popular uprising –its achievements and its failures, and to work tirelessly to inform, organize, and empower the Filipino people so that they will collectively assert and push for their rights and welfare.

    as E. San Juan would put it: “What makes a real difference in the Philippine scene is the moment of recognition by the millions of powerless and disenfranchised that their society can be changed if they can organize and act in order to alter iniquitous property/power relations radically.”

    • rod rivera says:

      Taking off from E. San Juan, a people’s revolution is the uprising of the masses who had the heightened political consciousness of their situation and inflamed desire for social change. The latter then is subject to interpretations. While I wrote of an ordinary person’s standpoint, you are coming with structuralist and Marxist viewpoint. There are succeses and failures of the EDSA revolution, I have to agree with that. Prof. Randy David, reading its development, found no template as how it will be geared, what would happen and what will be its implications. It was for him a spontaneous spark of consciousness that triggered the flames of new enlightenment, and that is one of its achievement or success. Yet, I agree that such success was limited because it did not change the structure of power distribituion in our nation’s politics.

      Derrida’s words on producing something out of nothing is of the highest value, are apt to consider the historical, political, social and cultural value of EDSA to the Filipino people and to the rest of the world. I supposed that the left movement in the Philippines had consciousness of the possibility of mass upheaval. But this was constrained by the political hegemony going inside the movement then to keep its trajectory of people’s protracted war and arm struggle. This fragmentation of the single and united communist front happened to manifest a decade after EDSA, but this was spurred by the debate on how the people’s struggle could be won.

      What was obviously evident in the EDSA revolution, is the power of the people with a shared socio-political consciousness, and not just that of the conflict between Ver and Enrile’s camp. There are many contributing factors to consider in that ‘people’s revolution’. True, the efforts of the underground movement were not futile to have contributed of course to the consciousness of the Filipinos. Determining how much its contribution is, needs more than rhetoric, but empirical proof with sound critical judgment. IF we consider then that the EDSA to a great extent is a result of the underground’s effort, as “the most decisive factor”, and you assume it failed, then the left also failed. Whatever faliure EDSA had is also a failure of the very people who initiated it, participated in it and won the dictatorship through it.

      You have a critical mind to understand a historical episode in a continuum, that is highly commendable in terms of dialectics of historical materialism to analyze EDSA, while I was making sense of it with semiotics and phenomenology. Now, if we revisit EDSA within the frames of conflict theory, and considering your assumptions, EDSA is not a genuine class struggle, neither a people’s revolution, that it did not result to the Marxist-Leninist’s ideals of political change. Then, the underground who had dedicated their lives to the people’s nationalist struggles failed to put into power the proletariat because the mass base that were in EDSA did not come with a revolutionary proletariat consciousness, and that the Philippines now is no different from the conditions we were before Marcos and during Marcos dictatorship. If so, their enlightenment can be attributed to derive from somewhere else. Then EDSA as worthless has to be stricken out in our social memory.

      The Philippine left had always been against any government, but had it been pro EDSA, had it actually included EDSA in its protracted people’s war? Change is continuous as it is inevitable. I agree with Marx on this, but there are several courses towards that change. But prior to realizing social change, we have to be in agreement of that ideal state and how we could achieve it. EDSA, I think provided a new template, an alternative template, you should be able to figure this out in light of contemporary perspectives and the classical frameworks of Marxism. Determining how close or how far is EDSA from the historically accounted people’s revolutions should help you so.

      I really appreciate this intellectual discussion with you Mikhail. Cheers! 🙂

  4. since i’m not as busy this afternoon, allow me to correct certain assumptions and misreadings of my position in your rejoinder.

    1.

    I supposed that the left movement in the Philippines had consciousness of the possibility of mass upheaval. But this was constrained by the political hegemony going inside the movement then to keep its trajectory of people’s protracted war and arm struggle.

    historically speaking, the mass movement of workers, peasants, and other impoverished sectors perceived the possibility of a popular uprising occurring.

    and it did participate in the first “people power” and even led the storming of Malacanang from EDSA

    however, the mass movement did not have any illusion that such a popular uprising alone can effect deeper social transformations apart from unseating the dictator.

    after all, the big businessmen, the landlords, the corrupt bureaucrats, and their foreign masters will not give up their power and privilege without a violent fight.

    2.

    IF we consider then that the EDSA to a great extent is a result of the underground’s effort, as “the most decisive factor”, and you assume it failed, then the left also failed. Whatever faliure EDSA had is also a failure of the very people who initiated it, participated in it and won the dictatorship through it.

    in the first place, i never mentioned EDSA was a failure. it was in fact a most stunning success as a popular uprising that mobilized organized forces and spontaneous forces, contributing to the final blow against the dictatorship

    EDSA 1 was never a revolution in the strictest sense of the word. it did not change fundamental social structures that allow an elite few to continue oppressing and exploiting the majority up to the present

    the mass movement for national liberation and genuine democracy never had any illusion that a popular uprising like EDSA 1 can on its own overhaul an entire social order

    history –from our own country’s experieince, the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe to the recent unrest in the Middle East– has proven this to be true.

    3.

    considering your assumptions, EDSA is not a genuine class struggle, neither a people’s revolution, that it did not result to the Marxist-Leninist’s ideals of political change. Then, the underground who had dedicated their lives to the people’s nationalist struggles failed to put into power the proletariat because the mass base that were in EDSA did not come with a revolutionary proletariat consciousness, and that the Philippines now is no different from the conditions we were before Marcos and during Marcos dictatorship. If so, their enlightenment can be attributed to derive from somewhere else. Then EDSA as worthless has to be stricken out in our social memory.

    this is an amusing but ultimately twisted proposition that is based on a misleading caricature of “marxist-leninist” theory and practice.

    while the EDSA popular uprising did not result in the overthrowing of the class rule of the big compradors and big landlords, it toppled one faction of the elite –the much-hated Marcos dictatorship.

    and for this alone, the EDSA popular uprising should be remembered and honored as one of the shining moments of the Filipino people. it is one of the clearest expression of the people’s anti-fascist consciousness.

    4.

    The Philippine left had always been against any government, but had it been pro EDSA, had it actually included EDSA in its protracted people’s war? Change is continuous as it is inevitable. I agree with Marx on this, but there are several courses towards that change. But prior to realizing social change, we have to be in agreement of that ideal state and how we could achieve it. EDSA, I think provided a new template, an alternative template

    the national liberation movement in the philippines –including the legal democratic movement and the unarmed and armed underground resistance –is not against any government.

    if the ruling clique in power takes up a stand against foreign domination and for genuine land reform, national industrialization, respect for human rights, etc. –then for sure there is no reason for the people’s movement to continue its resistance

    the possibility of popular uprisings happening is always there, and it can lead to tactical gains for the people. but a thoroughgoing change would require the mobilization of whole sectors of the people for fundamental social transformations.

    this would also require readying the people’s capability against the repressive apparatuses of the state. moreover, this would require a long time to organize and develop.

    popular uprisings such as the 2 EDSAs cannot stand in place of a more fundamental systemic change or social revolution.

    but such uprisings do have a place in the comprehensive people’s struggle for social justice and genuine democracy. these would take on an even greater role when the balance of forces tilts in favor of the people’s movement vis-a-vis the ruling classes

  5. vince says:

    this is helpful 2 me…tanx…………..

  6. vince says:

    umm.????????? what is the reason why filipino participate in the eds revolution…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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