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Ingredients for a bloodless revolution

By JOSEPH C. HARSCH / March 4, 1986



SINCE the almost bloodless revolution in the Philippines, a number of people have wondered whether events there might provide a model for similar revolutions elsewhere. To get at the answer, let us first examine the ingredients that went into the making of the successful revolution. They were as follows: First, there was mass dissatisfaction with the existing regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

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Second, the moral institutions of the country, in this case the Roman Catholic Church, accepted the dissatisfaction as valid, encouraged it, and prepared large numbers of nuns, monks, and priests to play a leading role in the revolution if and when the time might come.

Third, the middle class, including business and banking communities, supported the dissatisfaction and favored action to unseat the existing regime.

Fourth, leading elements in the Army were ready to go over to the reform movement, and the mass of soldiery was reluctant to fire on the citizenry.

Fifth, the sponsoring superpower -- the United States, gave its consent.

It took all five of these ingredients to produce the dramatic story of events of last week in the Philippines. There could have been a revolution without all five, but not an almost bloodless one, or one so swift and decisive. It was the successful meshing of all five ingredients which gave the Filipino people a new government literally overnight and without widespread shedding of blood.

It is the last of these five ingredients which rules out any applicability of the Filipino experience to countries behind the Iron Curtain. All of them are ruled by regimes placed there by the sponsoring superpower, the Soviet Union. When the four other ingredients were present, as they were in both Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Soviets sent in their own tanks to sustain their own effective control.

Poland is only the latest example. The Solidarity movement was an example of enormous mass dissatisfaction with the regime. It was supported by the moral institution of the country, again the Catholic Church. The business and banking community (so far as it exists clandestinely in Poland) was on the side of change. The Polish Army would be reluctant to fire on fellow citizens. But the sponsoring superpower, the Soviet Union, made suppression of Solidarity a condition for the Soviet tanks remaining in their barracks.

Hence the only possible applicability is among countries that are clients of the world's other superpower, the US.

There have now been three overthrows of dictatorial regimes among US clients in recent times. All were with consent of the sponsoring superpower. The Somoza regime was overthrown in Nicaragua under partially similar circumstances during the Carter administration in Washington. The dissatisfied mass of the people was supported by the middle classes and the church. But it took a long civil war before the US gave its consent.

Now we've had the examples of Haiti and the Philippines, both almost bloodless and without a preceding civil war.

There are two cases today where there is considerable mass dissatisfaction, South Korea and Chile. But in neither case is the dissatisfaction yet as deep or widespread or general as it was in Haiti and the Philippines. Nor are the moral institutions of the country or the middle classes yet wholeheartedly on the side of change.

But there is some indirect effect in the community of countries associated with the US in global affairs. The US gave its consent to change and reform in both Haiti and the Philippines. This proves that the Reagan administration is willing to abandon a dictator who has overplayed his hand and outstayed his time. It is a caution light to those who now rule both Chile and South Korea. It may temper their behavior.

All revolutions are unique. But this is not the first similar bloodless revolution. The English had one, in 1688, when King James II placed John Churchill in command of his Army. It was a mistake. On the night before what might have been a decisive battle against the invading forces of William of Orange, General Churchill, the ancestor of Winston Spencer Churchill of our times, went over to the opposition. The result is known to historians ever since as both the ``Glorious'' and the ``Bloodless'' revolution.