Insurrection if in the US, ‘people power,’ democracy movement if elsewhere

AMERICANS were stunned on January 6. What they witnessed and applauded in 1986 here, followed by the so-called color revolutions in Eastern European and Middle Eastern nations, in Tiananmen Square in  China in 1989, and most recently in Hong Kong, they were witnessing in Capitol Hill –the United States Congress being taken over by angry protesters.

A witty, well-informed Brooklyn writer tweeted: “This is not who we are! We do this abroad not at home.” That got over 200,000 “likes.”  One response to that in jest: “Due to Covid travel restrictions, this year the US had to organize the coup at home.”

The American masses, even military veterans who had risked their lives in wars in countries they never heard of before, stormed the Congress building, shouting that the presidential elections were rigged, and Congress should not certify Joe Biden’s victory. The following days, the Americans who were not hoi polloi, its political, ideological and even movie-industry elite were wailing: Insurrection!

Insurrection 2021, left; People Power 1986, right. (Left photo: inquirer.net crediting Reuters)

The Americans had a different name for the very same phenomenon that occurred in other countries: people power, democracy movements – which the US deep state in fact supported and even organized from the start.

Here in 1986, Corazon Aquino and the Yellows, backed by the US, claimed Marcos stole the elections with the Comelec counting 10. 8 million votes for Marcos, which beat Cory’s by 1.5 million votes.  Marcos had 54 percent of votes, Cory had 46 percent. In the US elections in November, Trump got 10  times more votes than Cory, 74 million, with the Democrat Biden getting 81 million. That’s 51 percent against Trump’s 47 percent.

Stop the steal

The Trump forces that stormed the US Congress thought – naively – that they could, as they put it, “stop the steal.” They failed.  

Called terrorists by most Democrats  — “protesters” by most  Republicans, according to a poll —  they are being hunted down by hundreds of FBI agents, and will most likely spend a good part of their remaining lives in prison, just as “democracy-movement” Chinese activists were hunted down in 1989 by China’s Ministry of State Security.  Here,  leaders of the victorious EDSA revolution got to become presidents, with scores of them getting government posts which gave many of them riches beyond their wildest dreams.

We should be grateful to Trump and his rednecks: Their Capitol Hill siege marks the desacralization of the idea of ‘people power.’ This is the belief made sacred by the Yellows, the Reds and the American imperialists that if a political force mobilizes a critical mass of people to undertake massive demonstrations, to the point that the government capitulates because of fear or other forms of pressure — such as a call from a personal envoy of the US president, telling the president “to cut and cut cleanly” — it is the legitimate representative of the people, and the beacon of good governance. 

Former senator Antonio Trillanes 4th has been so crazily credulous of such a notion that he thought that through his gang’s occupation of two five-star hotels where he called for the ouster of President Arroyo, or through fake, but dramatic disclosures of President Duterte’s  alleged links with drug lords, he could conjure up people power to storm Malacañang.

Beautiful sight

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a few months back referred to the Hong Kong riots by “democracy” activists as a “beautiful sight to behold.”  After seeing a redneck occupying her chair, who even stole her mail, I don’t think she’ll ever applaud people-power events anywhere again.

Ironically, this “people power tool” of US imperialism, was invented by its arch enemies, communist parties, first by the Russian Bolsheviks who captured power using it expertly in its 1917 October Revolution.  Rather than winning power through the ballot, the communist strategy (other than having their own army) is to have a centralized, cohesive and disciplined organization fool and agitate the masses, so they could undertake massive street demonstrations to overwhelm a duly elected government.

The communists’ expertise has been in agitating the most disenchanted but mobilizable sections of society to undertake street demonstrations to portray the fallacy that the overwhelming majority of the people are exercising “direct democracy” – when in fact most of them would be at home praying that order would soon be restored.

I became a communist activist in my youth enamored by such notion, of an oppressed people directly exercising their political power, rather than through representatives they choose in an election.

After two years though, I witnessed myself how an organization, even a small one such as the fledgling Communist Party of the Philippines at that time, can fool and mobilize masses by psychological techniques and political mobilization by its cadres. That term “cadre” in fact got to be a franchise of communists to mean its members who are trained or experienced in such “mass work” and mobilization. A simple illustration: In a mob of 10 people confronting for instance a police phalanx, one cadre would yell, “Makibaka, Huwag matakot”! Most of the individuals in that group will more often than not charge the police.

First Quarter Storm

Unknown, for instance, to many of my generation who still romanticize the so-called “First Quarter Storm” of the 1970s, is that the party’s top cadres — including three of chairman Jose Ma. Sison’s six-man executive committee – were in the midst of events, maneuvering the student demonstrations.

Their aim was to get students to storm Malacañang in order to provoke more ruthless police brutality, to create an atmosphere both of anarchy and anger against the Marcos government. I myself was involved in such revolutionary work, assigning young-thugs-turned-revolutionaries from the tough neighborhoods of Tondo and Caloocan armed with pillboxes and Molotov cocktails to be at the vanguard of the demonstrations to lead them to violent confrontations with the police.

The idea that demonstrations are spontaneous actions by crusaders and “concerned citizens” is one of the biggest myths of our age, as ridiculous, yet as easy to believe, that a marionette has his own free will.

The techniques of mass agitation are still the same. US authorities have disclosed in the days following the Capitol Hill siege that supremacist organizations such as “QAnon”, “Proud Boys” and the “European Legacy,” armed with Molotov cocktails stockpiled nearby, were agitating and emboldening the crowd to break the windows and enter the Congress premises.

The big lesson of the Capitol Hill people power event is that we are stuck with that tedious, often flawed system for a people’s representation in government: elections. Yes, especially in our case, it’s been manipulated by oligarchs and political clans, and in the past decades, by celebrities. But it’s far, far better than mob mobilization, even if they are given noble names like “people power” or democracy movement.

China’s system of a dedicated corps – the Communist Party — ruling the country without having to be chosen directly by the people through regular elections has proven incontrovertibly — by its success in getting 600 million people out of poverty in 30 years and recently, conquering the Covid-19 pandemic — to be the best form of government. But the Chinese case is sui generis, its Communist Party  — probably the collective version of Plato’s philosopher king — having been imbibed with an ethos of serving the people and nationalism through decades of war and violent struggle even during peace time. It was also achieved at the cost of hundreds of millions of lives lost in failed economic experiments. 

We’re stuck with flawed elections, the only system so far which reflects the real people power.

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