Sunday, September 16, 2012

Martial Law--what it really was and why we suffered

A week from now, and we will be commemorating that day when former President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. It was September 21, 1972 when "Macoy", the monicker of the former dictator, signed Proclamation 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial law.

Proclamation 1081 should be understood in what it intended to happen--it was a strongest expression of the State against what it deemed to be a "creeping" Communist menace. Understand that unlike today, when Communism and Socialism have been deemed legal and hence, not necessarily a serious threat to the stability of the Republic, back then, there was a serious tug-of-war between global powers. There were two contending forces then--the United States which champions capitalism, and the U.S.S.R., a union of Soviet Republics, which positioned itself as the leading guidance in Marxism-Leninism. 

Asia was the battlefield of ideologies at that time. Communist armed movements have sprouted in almost all parts of Asia. China, which had its revolution in 1949, was the first big convert to Socialism, although at that time, it was entering a cultural flux. 

Vietnam, Cambodia and some countries in mainland Asia were fighting ideological wars. Socialism was so pervasive in the minds of that generation, that the entire world were actively discussing it and sharing opinions and views. In the Middle East, Socialist forces were also ousting governments and changing the very landscape of the once US-dominated region.

The Philippines was no different. At that time, our country was at the height of decadence. Our imports were being sold everywhere in the known world, both in capitalist and non-capitalist countries. However, a great disparity exists between trading partners bigger than us and our country. This disparity has affected the economic structure that, as we increase trade, it makes us poorer than richer. Our so-called "trade parity" agreements were not as encouraging as what we thought it would be, because frankly at that time, we were still recovering from the serious effects of war. Industries were just recovering. The social landscape, meanwhile, still bore marks of a debilitating war and the subsequent agrarian rebellion that happened shortly after.

Having said that, those sixties and early seventies saw a society being ruled by petty Kings who thought that they own a piece of Philippine territory. They sowed terror throughout the archiepelago. Crime and violence were at its all time high. People can't really go out from their homes without equipping themselves with arms. 

Beneath the veneer of a disquieted society, being forced to acquiesce from a vastly emerging new ilustrado, lies a social movement waiting for things to reach a boiling point. This movement was a product of decades old problems tied with land ownership. The sixties saw how these movements grew and grew until eventually, it grew into a Socialist-inspired insurgency.

This insurgency, having ideological dominance in the social and public spheres, became a serious threat to the survival of a decadent capitalist society. 

The New Ilustrado represented by new emergent powers like the Marcoses saw this movement as a direct threat to their very existence. Socialism called for a drastic overhaul of the entire system, which, at that time, was a necessity, if the People wanted to grow economically. 

This Socialist movement took arms against the legitimate government. Thus, the State had to unleash its strongest defense---a legal prescription against a brewing rebellion.

Had the strategy back then was patterned along the Cuban Revolution, Martial law would not have lasted that long. Yes, there was a growing agrarian-based revolt, yet, it had reached its apex when the Huks nearly took control of the capital during Taruc's time. Now, that it was marginalized, the new Socialists should have realized was its enormous influence and power over even remnants of the national bourgeoisie. It should have exploited it to a point of reaching a full revolution.

No, the New Socialists concentrated on going to the countryside and fight the enemy away from the very center of power. It was upon the false assumption that the movement was still weak and small. Yes, in terms of military preparedness, it was. The ratio of combatants versus state agencies was lopsided in favor of government. 

What it lacked in firepower, the movement compensated in influence. Socialism was a pervasive public topic during those times, and many among urban dwellers had subscribed to it. 

But no. The error of previous movements past, afflicted even the New Socialists who thought of battalions against battalions. They forgot the concept of a true revolution--that revolutions sprout from the warm loam soil of public discontent. Had these New Socialists concentrated on bringing into life the revolution "from within" and poured their energies into transforming the center into a revolutionary hub, Martial law would not have lasted that long.