Rizal, Marx


“In a letter dated May 13, 1891,” Ambeth Ocampo writes, “[Juan] Luna recommended [to Rizal] a particular book, Le Socialisme Contemporain by E. de Laveleye which is a compilation of the theories of Karl Marx, La Salle, etc.: Catholic socialism, the conservative, the evangelical, etc…”

It is on this note that “scholars wonder why Karl Marx does not figure in Rizal’s writing,” Ocampo says, but he “maintains that Rizal shouldn’t be blamed for what he did and did not.”

Surely, Rizal could have read Marx, the curiously voracious reader that he was, but did Marxism ring a bell, as it were, in him? Obviously, he wasn’t enamored with the idea of a violent relation of classes ending in a cathartic purging of tyranny – after all, he did kill textually Elias in his Noli Me Tangere, unable to pursue the logic of subversion by the plebeian class which he had deemed as needing further education in preparation for self-governance.

So many discourses have qualified Rizal as the even-tempered hero who wouldn’t wager on the side of the masses – after all, he refused the offer by the fledgling Katipuneros then – & pictured him as equally heroic in his fatalist confrontation of his fate. That he willingly died – face turned toward musketry – signified something of the virtu in him.

Yet it could be argued that his spurning of the revolutionary movement – which was taken over by the ilustrados to its final doom – merely confirmed the parochial limitation of his breed. He was, at that very moment of his acceptance of death, also a traitor to Bonifacio’s class but historical accounts cannot pin him down as such. The language of his death was pure laudatio; & only the so-called dogmatic militants are prone to simplifying him as betrayer of the cause.

His social origin was meant to be gripped between the distant Spain, which is alienated from the everyday rapine of the nation, & the mercantile class from which Rizal’s family benefited as conduit of Friar pragmatism. That he would still find consolation in Spain as a motherland is but the fruit of this logic of symbiosis that, intelligent as he was, he failed to discern at all.

Surely, his texts have immortalized the rationale of his life & his actions, but the consequences for the future are dismal & sad: the middleclass would resort to his rhetoric when evading the issue of class war & violence, while the poor would be left to be dazzled by the desire to gain education which the state has designed to keep them in ideological bondage.

Of course, a knowledge of Marx is no guarantee the world would rectify itself. But surely, he could have signalled to the unwary the path for freedom.

Then, of course, who would proclaim him a national hero at a time when American colonization has drowned Filipino psyche in subaltern servitude?


Karl Marx, who recently was celebrated for his 190th year, “was born to a middle-class Jewish family in the Prussian city of Trier.” At the University of Berlin, he “discovered an interest in philosophy, joining the Young Hegelians.”

The rest, of course, is history. He would allegedly turn Hegel on his head & theorize a dialectical materialism that would serve as a beacon for revolutionary upheavals the world over.

There would be the peaks & valleys of praxiology – but the truth remains that the fundamentals of socialism he had to structure from the remains of capitalism, which to this day is not without its defenders & saviors.

Be that as it may, no revolutionary plenum can do without measuring facts & figures in the context of Marx’s analytics – & though detractors are legion, still the fall of capitalism is the pie-in-the-sky the faithful, like the religious, long for.

Even the postmodernists like Badiou, who claims to be anti-postmodernist anyway, would, according to Eagleton, wear their “tenacious adherence” to a redemptive event (the coming of Marxist discourse), as to which Zizek argues, a better deal than “remaining indifferent to it.”

A peasant may never in his lifetime be able to comprehend the technicalities of Marxist surplus-value economics (even his interpreters: Althusser, Adorno, Gramsci, Jameson…), but certainly, the spirit of struggle of the past generations would be more than enough to configure the salvation in the future. The symptomatic is always a Marxist reading.

“The children,” according to Gordimer who wrote about the massacre in Soweto on June 16, 1976, “would do it again & again” for they had “learned fearlessness.”

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