Archive for October, 2010

PETERBOROUGH, NEW HAMPSHIRE—if you ever hear someone say a dictatorship can’t be taken down without the use of arms, tell them to learn about the “People Power” revolution in the Philippines. That’s what sixty people did on Oct. 23 at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, where two Filipinas and an American journalist described what it was like to be in the streets of Manila when the government of Ferdinand Marcos fell from power in 1986.people power 10-23-2010 007

The uprising followed an election that Marcos tried to steal from Corazon Aquino, widow of martyred leader Benigno Aquino, who had been assassinated by Filipino soldiers three years earlier.

At the time of the 1986 election, Ruth Arjona was in college. Almost all college students were leftists and Marcos opponents, she recalled. The Left did not believe the election would lead to substantial change and she didn’t vote. But when independent election observers walked out of their offices to protest vote fraud and the Catholic Church called for peaceful protests, she joined the movement in the streets and boycotts of products sold by companies with links to Marcos.

Lina Hervas was more of an activist. She had several years of experience in anti-Marcos movements at the time Benigno Aquino was killed. When Cory Aquino and the Catholic Church called for protests following the election, she joined the thousands of protesters in Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Manila’s major roadway, known as EDSA. She remembers 4 nights and 5 days of singing and dancing in the streets, as nonviolent protesters faced off with tanks in what became known as the EDSA Revolution.

P.J. O’Rourke was sent by Rolling Stone to cover the unfolding rebellion in the streets of Manila. He found an “extraordinarily orderly” crowd, calm and determined, and growing in confidence as their hope for change grew. When Marcos lost support of key military leaders, O’Rourke said, he lost his ability to hang onto power.

In the end, the throngs in the street rallied peacefully to support rebel officers. The Church called for nonviolence, as did Cory Aquino. The last pillar of support for Marcos was US President Ronald Reagan, who had formed a bond with the anti-communist Filipino leaders years earlier and was reluctant to cut ties, especially when the U.S. was still occupying major military bases it had held since conquering the Philippines in the 19th century. But eventually even Reagan realized Marcos’ regime was over, and he sent a plane to ferry the fallen dictator and his wife, Imelda, to Hawaii and exile. Cory Aquino became President, carried into office by unarmed people power.

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Mark MacKenzie, President of the NH AFL-CIO, listens to Nigel Costley at lunchtime talk.

HOOKSETT, NEW HAMPSHIRE — Union activists took a break from envelope–stuffing today to hear from Nigel Costley, a visiting representative of the British Trades Union Congress, the UK’s major labor federation. A labor activist since being elected an official of the printers’ union at age 24, Costley told the activists about the TUC’s opposition to massive budget cuts proposed by the Conservative government.

Last week the British government announced it would slash spending by $130 Billion through cuts in welfare benefits, raising the retirement age, and laying off hundreds of thousands of public sector workers.

Just like in the USA, conservative British politicians are trying to blame the ongoing economic crisis on the public sector rather than on the policies which caused the crisis in the first place, according to Costley. Now, he said, “we’re in real danger around the world” that governments could repeat the kinds of policies which got us into the Great Depression 80 years ago. A trend toward fiscal austerity and privatization will deepen the economic crisis, not cure it, he said.

According to the TUC, the cuts will fall especially hard on poor people who depend on government services. The federation is already planning demonstrations for next March.

Costley also described efforts to reach out to young workers, including through sponsorship of an annual music festival that honors the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of agricultural workers who were tried and “transported” to Australia for the ‘crime’ of trying to form a union in 1834. Unions need to forge closer alliances outside the labor movement, he said. “We’ve got to reach out to community groups, to environmentalists.”

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Amnesty International has just issued another call for an investigation into violence in the Triqui region of Oaxaca, especially violence committed against supporters of indigenous autonomy.

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