We mark today the 35th anniversary of the EDSA uprising. For four days, millions of Filipinos took to the streets to finally put an end to the 14-year brutal rule of the martial law regime of the Marcos dictatorship.
The EDSA uprising served as culmination of years of difficult and life-and-death struggle waged by the Filipino people. It is but appropriate to remember the thousands of heroes and martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship.
The uprising arose from grounds made fertile by the blood of sacrifice of tens of thousands of Filipinos who bravely resisted Marcos’ fascist onslaught. They carried forward the people’s aspiration for freedom and democracy through all forms of resistance: from the underground, to the factory picketlines, to campus strikes and to the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), as well as the whole range of national democratic organizations of workers, peasants, semiproletariat, students and other sectors were among the biggest, most resilient and determined force to wage resistance against the US-Marcos dictatorship. They were also the principal targets of the regime’s campaign of suppression under martial law.
The reign of terror imposed by martial law will be shattered not long after it was declared in 1972. Workers strikes erupted in the mid-1970s which eventually led to mass demonstrations of tens of thousands of people in the next years. In the countryside, the New People’s Army (NPA) grew in strength as a nationwide people’s army and carried out ever more frequent and daring raids, ambushes and other tactical offensives.
The strength of the Party and the NPA, as well as that of the democratic mass movement of the basic classes and sectors galvanized the entire country and made possible the emergence of a broad united front against the US-Marcos dictatorship taking the form of informal cooperation and formal alliances. As such, when opposition leader Sen. Benigno Aquino was assassinated by Marcos’ armed minions in 1983, a wave of mass protests was ignited where a broad range of anti-dictatorship forces were mobilized.
Depictions by the bourgeois press of the EDSA uprising as a purely spontaneous response to the calls of church and political leaders are historically inaccurate and erroneous. The EDSA uprising was a product of the efforts of the broad anti-Marcos united front with the national democratic forces serving as among the most determined core of the mass demonstrations. Day and night, workers and student organizations trooped to EDSA and mounted marches to Mendiola and Malacañang to press for Marcos ouster.
The EDSA uprising, however, was no social revolution. It brought about a change in the form of reactionary class rule from fascist dictatorship to pseudo-democracy. Bourgeois liberal rights were restored but only to a limited degree. The post-Marcos regimes secured the semicolonial and semifeudal system and the interests of US imperialism, the big bourgeois compradors and big landlords to the detriment of the country’s sovereignty and economic patrimony. It perpetuated the debt-dependent and foreign capital-led economic policies. Bureaucrat capitalists continue to aggrandize wealth through corruption and plunder. Landlessness remained the most widespread problem in the countryside. The grave socioeconomic conditions of the people were continuously exacerbated by anti-worker and anti-people laws and policies, and by all-out liberalization, privatization and deregulation under the neoliberal policy regime.
At the base of the Philippine ruling state remains the fascist machinery built by Marcos. Not one of the criminals behind the massacres, tortures and other brutalities and crimes of martial law was ever punished under the reactionary state. On the contrary, the key personalities of Marcos’ martial law remained in power and at the core of the security and defense establishment. The torturers and murderers rose among the military and police ranks, become senators and congressmen and appointed to various agencies of the reactionary state. Not only were the state armed forces and police not reformed, their brutal and repressive orientation was further heightened, especially with US indoctrination, training and support. Fascist crimes and rights abuses remain unabated. Any mass initiative by workers, peasants and other sectors to uphold their national and democratic aspirations continue to be suppressed with arms.
The state terrorism and tyranny of the US-Duterte regime is the starkest reminder how the Marcoses and its fascist machinery persisted through the past reactionary regimes. Not only were the Marcoses not punished, they have been politically rehabilitated and continue to aim to restore themselves on top of the reactionary state. Like Marcos, Duterte catered to the interests of the AFP and PNP, appointing generals to key government positions, unleashing the police in the drug war and emboldening them with assurances of immunity, allotting a large portion of the budget to acquire more weapons and giving the military increasing powers to control “the whole of nation” by making counterinsurgency the central policy of his government.
The national democratic forces gathered strength in the course of mass struggles against the US-Marcos dictatorship by firmly upholding the basic interests and democratic demands of the broad masses of workers and peasants. Through EDSA, they proved that with enough organized strength and broad unity, the people can overthrow a reactionary government even if they could not yet effect the transfer of political power from the ruling classes to the oppressed and exploited masses themselves.
The same process and lessons were learned in the second EDSA uprising when the people overthrew the Estrada regime in 2001. It is crucial for the Filipino people to grasp these lessons now as they confront the Duterte regime and demand its ouster.
To effect a fundamental change in the socioeconomic and political conditions of the Filipino masses, however, there must be a real social revolution where economic and political power is taken away from the imperialists, the big bourgeois compradors and big landlords by the oppressed and exploited masses themselves. This is the fundamental aim of the national democratic revolution led by the Party which is being carried forward by millions of Filipinos across the country.
In the countryside, guided by the Party and through the efforts of revolutionary peasant organizations and the NPA, organs of the people’s democratic government are being built in the form of revolutionary committees at the village or intervillage levels. These organs of governance carry out land reform, implement its laws and policies and provide various social services to the people. These will continue to multiply as the revolutionary armed struggle continues to gain strength across the country. In due time, the entire reactionary state together with its military and police force, will be completely smashed by the New People’s Army and the revolutionary masses, and in its place, establish a new democratic government and build a country free from imperialism and social injustice and lay the conditions for socialist revolution and construction.