How to “People Power”
Many activists and Filipinos are reminiscing their EDSA 2 moments today and most are reminding themselves of how great those days were, how ecstatic, idealistic and determined the people were then, and how, after seven years of suffering under this puppet regime, we badly need that People Power spirit with us again — one that’s even greater than what we had before.
Not a few of the people I have been talking to, in urban poor communities, the working class, and even middle class folks, wish of seeing that glorious day when the rotten and corrupt Arroyo government gets forced to step down from office by hundreds of thousands of people marching in the streets, accompanied perhaps by churchmen and anti-Arroyo military commanders.
There is a reason the nation gets excited when events of large political significance, such as the Manila Peninsula take-over, occur: people are praying for that “moment,” for that “spark,” hoping the the event would be beginning of the end for the regime. Heck, maybe the stock market stability that day in Makati showed that even the businessmen were not that worried over what’s going to happen with their money anymore. That people have really had enough already.
Mass movement not sparks and moments
Many are now starting to understand though that “moments” don’t necessarily lead to People Power. Not especially under a government like Arroyo, which is extremely desperate and hell-bent in its efforts clinging to office. Looking back, we might have already had a lot of those “moments” under this regime: scandals, controversies, issues, mass resignation of cabinet officials, military dissent, strong church opposition. But the more decisive of the factors, massive street protests — hundreds of thousands of people in collective will and action — still has to be developed.
People Power 2 didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t as if the nation just suddenly woke up on the other side of the bed and decided to go to the streets because they believe they are destined to do so. Before the refusal of the Senate to open the second envelope, tens of thousands of people have already participated in massive rallies, vigil protests and student walk-outs against an array of issues: all-out war, VFA, budget cuts in social services, price hikes, government corruption, etc. Various formations and organizations ranging from anti-Estrada to progressive to revolutionary, have emerged and have swelled their ranks, making them capable of leading multitudes in the streets.
How do we, the youth and students in particular, revive mass protests during these times? How do we create that muscle which “powers” people’s uprisings, and thus prove ourselves deserving of being referred to as “cutting-edge” and “spearhead” of social movements? How do we create People Power in our schools and communities?
First, we must look back at what happened at EDSA and believe that we can lead historically significant and radical activities. Student leaders and activists at present must learn how to “think big” and plan activities way beyond the pocket rallies and media actions we do several times a month. Successful strikes, nationwide walk-outs, peace camps, gigantic street protests, however complicated they are, all begin with simple ingredients. Among them: a little imagination and a strong determination to win.
In order for the student leaders to capture the imagination of the student population, they must come up with definite programs of action, must comprehend the requirements for the fulfillment of which, while being able to implement particular tasks and attain short term objectives. They must desist from implementing rigid and short-sighted plans, in false hope that constantly repeating the same “standard” tasks, will someday lead to something fruitful. Young activists in schools today must share radical visions and plans of action, and must work hard collectively to reach such. We cannot just wait for uprisings to suddenly happen, instead, we must painstakingly strive to fulfill the requirements of building strong mass-based organizations, highly politicized studentry, broad alliances, and others.
Students must be mobilized in their tens of thousands in different activities in-campus and off-campus. Mass organizations and progressive alliances must thus realize the need for creative, broad, activities, that will engage not only the relatively advanced sections of the studentry but the population as a whole. While maintaining that the militant actions are the more decisive, they must also utilize broad forms of protest.
In danger of being branded TH (trying hard), the relatively advanced student organizations must also be careful not to artificially conduct “broad” and “creative” forms of protest (which might look broad in character but does not really engage the broad population), but instead develop the initiative of traditional groups and sectors.
Contrary to government and reactionary propaganda, I don’t believe that most young people are “tired” of people power and are disillusioned. Most young people who ask “sinong papalit?”, ask the question not in a cynical manner. Rather, they are seriously asking for genuine, long-term solutions to our country’s crisis — solutions that progressives must readily articulate and propagate. People are not tired of People Power, rather, they are starting to see the limitations of regime change and are trying to understand the long-term solutions to the problems of our country.
Activists should thus engage more young people in discussions regarding Philippine society in general and the need for revolutionary change. Discussions about the semi-colonial and semi-feudal nature of our society and its basic problems and how to change it, must flourish in the campuses. The people are asking, and this fact requires us to be, more than ever, ready to respond. Analysis and discussions of current issues are well and good, but activists must not stop there, they must be able to deepen theirs and the masses’ knowledge of the roots of these issues and basic problems of society.
A step in the right direction
While we stress that what’s most important now is our systematic and conscious organizing, propaganda and mass work, activists must also be ready for twists and turns, sudden “moments,” historically significant events and turn them to our favor. We must also learn how to adjust when we fail to reach particular objectives. Mass actions might not always be successful in terms of attaining its tactical, immediate target, but if led consciously, will, for sure, always bring fruit for the strengthening of the long-term struggle for change and will always be a step in the right direction.
We can and we must, for our country’s sake, work together to develop another People Power uprising. One that’s more conscious and organized. One that’s ready to defeat the regime’s fascism. One that will push the people’s movement as well as the entire country forward, and will be a significant stride in the struggle for truly meaningful change.#