The End of Veneration – Rizal and Constantino – Part 6
“Either the Revolution was wrong, yet we cannot disown it, or Rizal was wrong, yet we cannot disown him either.” Says Constantino. These are worrying, challenging questions for a patriotic, nationalistic Filipino, even one who is not a Marxist. But are they the right questions?
Let us remind ourselves: We have the Spanish, not Bonifacio, to thank for launching the revolution. Bonifacio proved an incompetent commander, was driven out of Manila and failed again at Indang in Cavite. Aguinaldo, the bête noir of Constantino, as well as other members of the elite, took and held territory with some success. None, however, showed inspired military leadership. The revolutionaries had Manila invested in late 1896 yet did not push their advantage and throw out the Spaniards. That lack of decisiveness allowed time for the Spanish to receive reinforcements (No veterans, most of them were raw, untrained recruits). While the revolution did not collapse in its entirety it lost sufficient ground that, along with the depredations by the Filipinos forces against the common tao under the pretext of revolution, morale fell sufficiently for the situation to become unwinnable for either side.
We cannot disown this history. We must accept it. To simply blame the elite may be convenient, but it is an excuse and far too simplistic. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of the British: The Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War was suicidal, courageous, magnificent, and the result of incompetent leadership. Said a French general, “It’s magnificence, but is it war?”.
In the early part of World War 2 British forces in Europe were thoroughly clobbered by the Nazis and forced to withdraw across the English Channel (The French call it La Manche, unwilling to accept that the English actually had a channel) through the small French town of Dunkirk. Those forces had to be rescued by a fleet of ships and tiny private yachts, some little more than exaggerated rowboats, which set off across the channel to bring them back. Dunkirk was a failure yet the term ‘the Dunkirk spirit’, the unwillingness to give up even when the odds are against you, still survives.
The Philippine Revolution was the Filipino Charge of the Light Brigade, its Dunkirk. It is not only victories that define national character, so do defeats.
Even if we accept the concept of a revolution of the masses, was it a revolution for the masses? There is nothing in Bonifacio’s or the Katipunan’s political philosophy that suggested anything other than a change of personalities, certainly there is nothing to suggest that system ic change in ownership of the economy or access to power. Indeed, the elections at Tejeros, supervised by Bonifacio, suggest that the revolution would merely extrapolate local municipal politics to a national scale. Since for most ordinary Filipinos the interface with the power structure was these same principales, they could expect little real change.
Constantino’s/Agoncillo’s concept demands that we think of the revolution as a single monolithic movement. But was it? Although the Katipunan philosophy offered little to the common tao there were others who underpinned ‘their’ revolution with something more substantive. The Pensacola brothers in Zambales, for instance fought under the motto ‘It is time for the rich to be poor and the poor to be rich’, a clear and distinct demand for systemic economic and political change and equitable distribution of resources for the benefit of the masses. No such philosophy tainted the revolution in Cavite and Manila or the lips of Bonifacio or Aguinaldo.
So whose revolution is ‘our’ revolution, the ‘revolution of the masses? Bonifacio’s or that of the Pensacolas? Which revolution did Rizal actually repudiate?
To be continued