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Why Edsa I is becoming obsolete

Everyone following the yearly Edsa I celebration would readily notice the size of the crowd diminishing each year. One way to explain this phenomenon is the Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin’s thesis that revolution comes in waves. He was referring to events in Russia. There were two earlier aborted revolutions in Russia, in 1881 and in 1905, before the October Revolution in 1917 that toppled the Czarist regime.

Lenin believed that the revolution would continue in a linear progression, until a proletarian paradise was achieved; at which point, the state would wither away. In 1991, it was Lenin’s handiwork, the Soviet Union, that withered away. Lenin had predicted that the world would splinter horizontally across class lines. Instead, the Soviet Union fractured in a vertical split along nationalistic and ethnic lines.

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What happened in Russia is proof that revolutions are governed by the law of unintended consequences, and that they devour their children.

The waning fervor for the Edsa I revolution could be explained in terms of what happened in Russia. Save in most of Western Europe where revolutions moved in a linear progression from dynastic tyranny to democracy, in the rest of the world, revolutions tend to swing like a pendulum, alternating between authoritarian rule and democratic governance. Our Latino cousins in South America exemplify this phenomenon. The reign of the dictators in the so-called “Dirty War” of the ’70s and ’80s in Latin America has been replaced by democratic rule in most countries in the region.

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But, going by past history, this may just be another democratic interlude, to be followed again by authoritarian rule at a later date. In Russia, the swing of the pendulum happened abruptly: Boris Yeltsin’s democratic agenda has been replaced by Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.

This oscillation between these two extremes could be best explained by the fact that most revolutions are actually  quests for development and a better way of life. When a revolution fails to meet these goals, it will be followed by a counter-revolution. Labeling Edsa I as “revolution”—when in fact it was not—created high expectations among our masses that it would be a revolution in the real sense, with changes in our social structure, redistribution of wealth and the end to poverty in our country, as I said in an earlier piece (“Edsa I  was not a revolution,” Opinion, 2/18/16).

This has not happened; so, after 33 years, it is easy to explain the waning interest in the Edsa celebrations. Those still interested in Edsa I are those who had experienced oppression under the Marcos regime. They are dwindling in numbers. However, our countrymen who continue to live in poverty have increased in number and, from their point of view, they are living under equally oppressive conditions caused by poverty.

If we follow Lenin’s thesis, to save the spirit of Edsa I,  we need a second or third revolution to achieve the goals of development and affluence for most of our countrymen. Unfortunately, President Duterte is leading the country the other way. The regime of human rights which was one of the major gains at Edsa I has been diminished by his war on drugs. Respect for the Constitution  as an institution has been undermined by the shortcuts he has taken to achieve his political agenda.

In short, he is a counter-revolutionary, doing to Edsa I what Putin has done to the democratic reforms in Russia. Mr. Duterte has stated explicitly that he would be happy to restore the Marcos family to power. If he achieves this goal, Edsa I will be a distant memory.

In a Marcos restoration, instead of a yearly Edsa celebration, we may instead see those celebrating this event thrown in jail, in the same manner that those who dare celebrate the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing end up in gulags. Our history books will be rewritten. Edsa I will be depicted as an uprising instigated by a small minority, who misled the people and dismantled the “golden age” of the Marcos regime.

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Hermenegildo C. Cruz is a retired career ambassador and served in this capacity in Chile, Bolivia, the Soviet Union and the United Nations.

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TAGS: edsa revolt, hermenegildo c. cruz, Inquirer Commentary, People Power
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