Rizal on Reform and Revolution (conclusion)

Rizal on Reform and Revolution (conclusion)

Andres Bonifacio and other leaders of the Katipunan, together with ranks of the revolutionaries, belonged to the “left-wing tendency” of those who adhered to the ideas that Jose Rizal espoused. Upon closer look at the ideas, one will find that most of his thoughts on society were essentially heavily tainted with French revolutionary ideas but were also calibrated in such a way that they fit into a reformist frame. We must remember that the French Revolution never happened overnight. It also underwent the same process in which people hoped that the regime could still be changed through peaceable means (Reformism) until the Jacobins (or in our case, the Revolutionaries of 1896) decided to have enough of it when they realized that bondage could no longer be tolerated. This was also exemplified during the struggle of Filipinos against the dictatorship way back in the 1970s. Though it took a shorter time compared to Rizal’s time, the contradictions intensified that culminated in the assassination of Benigno Aquino, in 1983. His death momentarily unified the opposition forces and became the catalyst that led to the Edsa Uprising.

Rizal’s statement that he had no desire to take part in conspiracies, which to him seemed “premature and risky,” was an expression of a disagreement over strategy and tactics of how to steer the revolution. Back in my university days, I always heard this premature and risky advice from reformist activists in the campus. Although they usually said that they agreed with the revolutionary calls; when it comes to practice, however, they said it was not yet time. Perhaps, Rizal never liked the tactic used (as he portrayed it) by his character Simoun in his novel El Filibusterismo, of inciting violence and the insurrectionary/putschist’s persecution of the people to force them to revolt.

Elmer Ordonez, in his article “Rizal and the Literature of the Left,” commented that the essays of Epifanio San Juan, one of the leading scholars in Rizal studies, “attempt to recuperate Rizal (appropriated by U.S. colonialism and Ilustrado collaborators in search of a national hero for their Filipino wards) from his perceived apostasy, the December 15 Manifesto, where he abjured the armed revolution. San Juan recalled Recto’s ‘landmark synthesizing of both revolutionaries’ (Rizal and Bonifacio’s) parallel lives’ in 1958. For San Juan, Recto pointed to a ‘fatal and unbridgeable dualism’ which today, our wide-ranging endeavors to integrate history and practice, are trying mightily to resolve.”

The question again arises as to who benefited from that dualism. What forces in Philippine society might have consciously fanned this dualism to their advantage? My view is that this dualism would last until a social movement that linked reform and revolution triumphed and became the dominant narrative.
The root of the problem was the persistent maneuver of the interest groups, such as U.S. colonialism to create a disconnect between reform and revolution and make it appear that Rizal was a pacifist through and through, thus turning him into a propaganda tool for social inertia in the face of colonial oppression. The right-wing tendency was a clear result of this disconnect. It was the tendency to absolutize reformism that, in turn, assured the continuation of the survival of the status quo.

Grasping the reality of the revolutionary situation could make one arrive at the proper analysis of Philippine history and of what is happening now. All the ills of the Philippine society can be traced back to the outcome of the dialectics of the time of Rizal. The way many of our community leaders think on how to achieve social change for our country of origin is also characterized by this tendency. Up to now, many people still pit Rizal against Bonifacio. They have missed the great lesson of the Revolution of 1896 that the two pillars of Philippine history were representative of a single historical process of the Filipino peoples’ aspiration for freedom. Hence, given all these lessons of history, only a social movement that is able to grasp the dialectics between Rizal and Bonifacio, reform and revolution, will be able to lead the Filipino out of its pre-industrial and agricultural state.

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