A key lesson of the 1986 Edsa revolution is the importance of the electoral tactic in the mobilisation of the masses and the capture of government and political power. The CPP’s ultra-left, electoral boycott tactic, was a fatal error leading to the isolation of the left and the victory of the elite over the anti-dictatorship upsurge. If the CPP had fully participated in the election campaign and used the electoral tactic to the fullest extent possible, to mobilise the masses, the outcome of the Edsa revolution would have been different. Cory and the elite forces victory in February could have been followed by a revolutionary October, as the CPP Chair Jose Maria Sison, then promised. This never came to pass and instead we experienced a period of decline of the revolutionary movement.
The left learned this lesson hard and through the 1990s started to run its’ own candidates and participate in the electoral arena. However, the overall character of the left electoral intervention has been to play the electoral card in an extremely conventional way, within the boundaries set by traditional bourgeois politics, that it has become impossible to differentiate the left’s electoral campaigns from those of the trapo candidates. ‘We have to play the game’ was the justification given. And the left certainly did ‘play the game’. So much so, that the CPP’s electoral organisations were the defacto party list of choice of the GMA regime in the 2001 and 2004 elections (an assessment, quite rightly made, in the Inquirer editorial of July 27). The mobilisation of the masses is not the aim, but the winning of seats is, and by any means necessary.
The revolutionary movement in Latin America has once again placed the electoral tactic on the agenda. In Venezuela and Bolivia the revolutionary movement used the electoral tactic to capture government and then proceeded to extend and consolidate a revolutionary political and state power. This lesson and experience is now being extended to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Uruguay and Ecuador.
The lesson for us in the Philippines is that the electoral tactic, under certain conditions, such as during an extreme crisis of elite rule and a sharp rise in the class struggle (as was the case in the period leading to the collapse of the Marcos dictatorship) can be used to mobilise the masses on a massive scale to create a major breach in the system of elite/bourgeois rule. This is a key lesson of the Edsa revolution and a lesson from the advances made by the revolutionary movements in Latin America today. However, as long as we use the electoral tactic purely within the boundaries set by trapo politicians, our political gains will be extremely limited and our movement will suffer the problems of opportunism, that so marks the left’s electoral interventions today.