Veteran Filipino socialist activist Sonny Melencio’s political autobiography, Full Quarter Storms, covers a lot of history. The book tells the story of the ‘First Quarter Storm”’ the student uprising in 1970 (from which the book draws its title) and the driving of this powerful movement underground by the declaration of martial law by then-president Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.
The book gives a first-hand view of the mass popular struggles followed by the difficult and dangerous experience of operating underground — one step away from Marcos’ brutal thugs. In fact, the book opens with the story of Melencio’s detention and torture by the military in 1977 — and his dramatic escape, a tale worthy of any Hollywood thriller.
Melencio describes the guerrilla war waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) against the Marcos regime through to the 1986 “people’s power” uprising that brought down the dictator — scenes anyone watching the current Arab revolts will find familiar.
The book looks at the two later ‘people’s power’ uprisings (one of which also brought down a president) and the more recent struggles against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) — whose family’s penchant for graft and corruption rivalled that of the Marcoses.
It is also an insider’s account of the Filipino socialist movement, in which Melencio traces the achievements and the mistakes of the CPP, the main group on the left in the post-1960s period (of which Melencio was a member). He also describes the historic 1993 split in the party and the attempts to achieve unity among an increasingly fragmented left.