Friday, July 31, 2009

Cory Aquino's Legacy: Reviewing the Lessons

The death of Cory Aquino is now being mourned. Over the next few days we will be witnessing a media review of her legacy, which will be overwhelmingly favourable to the pro-elite, anti-Marcos opposition, that took political power, sidelining the left and the mass movement. Cory Aquino has been described as the icon of Philippines democracy. We would like to qualify this to state that she was/is an icon of elite democracy and this is an important qualification.

It's also important that the left, the Marxist left, re-asserts it's own assessment of the Aquino years and the Aquino legacy.

The Aquino years were a 'traumatic' period for the revolutionary left, having to come to terms with it's own failure in losing the leadership of the political revolution, as well as having to suffer ongoing repression with the massacre of farmers in Mendiola, as well as the assassination of leaders of the movement, Rolando Olalia and Lean Alejandro.

The Edsa revolution was a double-edged sword for the revolutionary left: a partial victory in building a mass movement that overthrew the dictatorship, but also a defeat of it's strategy. Most importantly, today, we continue to live with the legacy of all this.

I think that the left has only made a partial assessment of the Edsa revolution and it's aftermath. I have always believed that a more comprehensive assessment is necessary, because it is of the utmost importance that we learn the lessons for today.

As historical materialists our starting point should be that classes make history and not 'great leaders' (and not even political parties, which are the tools used by the working class in the struggle). We should also internalise that Napoleonic dictum that 'Defeated armies learn well'. This is something that the Cuban revolutionaries managed to do in the aftermath of the defeat of the Moncada rebellion on July 26, 1953 (celebrated a few days ago) and then went on, a few years later, to lead a successful insurrection resulting in the Cuban revolution in 1959.

I think that the Philippine left is still grappling with this and is an army that has not, as yet, learned it's lessons well.

I think the passing away of Cory Aquino reopens this whole discussion and we should roll up our sleeves and get 'stuck into it'.

Ka Sonny Melencio is starting to write about it and we will also try and schedule a Socialist Dialogue discussion on the topic.