They virtually buried the news about activists in their teens who perished unknown on & after September 21, except for the Inquirer who had it front-paged.
The exhibit, mounted by Felisa Supapo, who was inspired by the Holocaust Museum in the US, featured the available faces of the martyr. Photos, collated from families, were hard to come by because the pictures would be burned lest these serve as IDs & end up in “soldier’s hands.” “Sketches took the place of some non-existent pictures, as in the case of Macli-ing Dulag, a Kalinga leader.”
If not for the ideological will to remember, the dead would have passed into oblivion among the present generation: only their immediate families seek to perpetuate their memory. But what if their kinfolks didn’t wish to be reminded of the heartaches of the past?
We can always deny the past & postulate, as in David Hume’s paradox that “the problem of the past is not a problem for the simple reason that the past does not exist” [in the sense] that “the content of the past – its nature, its priorities and problems – is determined by the character of a particular ideological form.”
It comes to us as text, devoid of flesh & blood, the fear & the trembling that would rouse us to immediate action, even weeping.
The writing of history [itself] reduces “artifacts, washing list, court rolls, kitchen middens, memoirs” [& in the Philippine context, “Father Nilo Valerio, Jr.’s favorite striped T-shirt, the one he was wearing when he and community organizers Resteta Fernandez and Soledad Salvador were beheaded by soldiers in Bakun, Benguet on August 24, 1985… the compilation of propaganda songs by student activist Ishmael Quimpo”] but “are converted into texts,” which “constituted as text by its reading, is at the mercy of this reading. Far from working on the past, the ostensible object of history, historical knowledge works on a body of text.”
Thus so saying, remembering is a matter of interpreting texts produced by the writing of history.
Taken on various ideological modes, the death of martyrs is either celebrated or dismissed.
Should all the witnesses come to pass, who will eventually remember their deeds for posterity?
Every generation concerns itself with its own existential moment & recuperation – to look at the martyrs with the same reading of their context is an exercise in futility.
It is on this premise that history repeats itself because lessons of the past are never known, much less heeded.
When it happens, the recurrence of an event that is a shadow of itself, an autonomous one despite alleged similitude, it is too late for forewarning.
When Queenie Sicangco Padilla, eldest daughter of Robin Padilla, a Muslim convert, “joined a relief operation in war-afflicted areas in Mindanao, on behalf of her father, to distribute relief goods of the Liwanag ng Kapayapaan Foundation, Inc.,” she observed “evacuees were milling around as if trying to pick up whatever bit of food that they might set eyes on. But there was no food that we could see.”
However, she understood the “near pandemonium when some of the evacuees started climbing into the truck, grabbing some of the food packs and throwing these to their kin in haste. But they could not be blamed for that. They were too hungry to wait.”
It is this brutish desperation of the poor that would lead her to remark: “Why despite the war there is such glitter at Rockwell, Eastwood, and many other places for the rich, who spend large amounts of money for expensive food, clothes, cars, cell phones and many more luxurious things?”
The Calvinistic ethic by a young Muslim would surely never be the concern of those who fanatically pull the carriage of the Black Nazarene at Quiapo, even the zombie-celebrators of the Virgin of Peñafrancia. The Christian faith has, by & large, stayed insulated from the plight of Southeners whose image has been reduced to the plundering banditry of fanatics & self-styled Koran raiders.
How would we judge these events that transpire like atavism that is never exorcised?
Only if, in the injunction of Fredric Jameson, we “convey the sense of a hermeneutic relationship to the past which is able to grasp its own present as history only on condition it manages to keep the idea of the future, and of radical and utopian transformation, alive.”
What we practice now is partial response to the sedimented mode of production that rules/defines the past – equally a harbinger of how we have preempted the verdict of the future that hovers like a black angel upon our acts.
How shall the children of the future view us?
Or with smoldering loathing that nullifies our claim to civilized history?
Between living well & dying badly, what is the balancing act?
Gelacio Guillermo’s “Party Policy in Revolutionary Literature” is clear in its conception of what literature “essentially” is:
“Policies on the basic line – forces, program, tactics, and strategy, socialist perspective – of the people’s democratic revolution, methods of work, organizational principles and the ideological leadership of the proletariat are the lifeblood of the Communist Party of the Philippines and all other organizations under its leadership. Only through the implementation of those policies can the party achieve its historic mission under the present circumstance of US imperialist domination of the country’s political, economic and cultural life through its surrogates among the big comprador bourgeois and landlord classes, and form these proceed to its socialist project.”
The ideological praxiology is traced to Lenin’s answer to “Economists… who are muddled by questions of the relations between the ‘material’ (spontaneous) elements of the movement and the ‘ideologist’ (conscious, operating according to plan).”
Explains he: “An ideologist is worthy of the name only when he precedes the spontaneous movement, points out the road and organizational questions which the ‘material elements’ of the movement spontaneously encounter… One must view (the material elements) critically, one must be able to point out the dangers and defects of spontaneity and to elevate it to the level of consciousness.”
But this is not a signal for the party to dictate the minute trajectory of ecriture.
Guillermo admits (being conscious of historical precedents) “policies, even those emanating from the highest levels of leadership, are not always right, and it takes practice (lasting for months or even years) and internal party struggles to prove them wrong… (which in concurrent literature are depicted).”
Yet in this wise, Maoism is vilified in the West. But for an obvious reason. “In an attempt,” says Jameson, “to Stalinize and discredit [it] and the experience of the Chinese cultural revolution – now rewritten as another Gulag to the East – all of this, make no mistake about it, is part and parcel of the larges attempt to trash the ’60s generally.”
For the decade saw also Sartre theorizing on engagement, “a political aesthetics” that is premised on “interpersonal relations… the dimension of alienation in my ‘being-for-other-people’,” but his Critique failed to complete “the projected highway that was to have led from the individual subject of existential experience all the way to fully constituted social classes.”
Many a bohemian radical subscribed to this existential project, but the literary production harped on the anarchistic, so much so that the ‘60s would see Nick Joaquin’s “Candido’s Apocalypse” stylize rupture as adolescent guilt, even metaphysizing the class discourse in “The Portrait of the Artist.” The existential bog trapped so many aspiring writers, & their thematics have survived to this day in their concentric & formalist poetics.
The narrative has symbolically been running in circles, like a snake devouring its tail.
Neferti Tadiar, in her unpublished response to Guillermo’s lecture on revolutionary literature in 1999 however warns against the problematique engendered by “the relations between aesthetics and politics.”
Says she: “While the function of culture is most evident in the use of literature as a tool of consciousness-raising and education… which means understanding the analyses of the historical situation as articulated in the principles of and strategies of warfare… political struggle is, of course, based on an analysis of the mode of production… the problem of base-and-superstructure comes in.”
“Generally… the theory sees literature as having largely an illustrative role (underscoring mine), the way in which the revolutionary forces and the masses are organized.”
“Revolutionary culture,” Tadiar suggests, “consists of practices of culture which are reappropriated (in effect, ‘freed’) from the social relations of production… and these are completely autonomous systems of domination.”
Tadiar reminds that the internal contradiction in the spheres of domination is a practice in itself, which must be interrogated, as it were, lest the generalizing construct opens to “unforeseen” error. The strategic & tactical plan must naturally anticipate potential/theoretical fall-out.
She resonates Jameson’s political space that resulted from revolutionary praxis of the ’60s, & which the movement seemed to have a blind spot of: “a rhetorical shift, a whole new political space, a space which will come to be articulated by the slogan ‘the personal is political,’ and into which – in once if most stunning & unforeseeable of historical turns – the women’s movement will triumphantly move at the end of the decade, building a Yenan of a new unpredictable kind of which is still impregnable at the present moment.”
For her part, Tadiar posits “the constitution of labor through dynamics of gender and sexuality… It is for this reason [the most commodifiable forms of labor today bear gendered, sexualized and racialized characteristic] that Marxists and particularly the cultural theorists of the movement must engage in dialogue with feminists and theorists of sexuality and race…”
Did Guillermo miss out specifically on this? It could be assumed this is part of the package, but his text is enveloped in tactics & stratagems on what could be mistaken as “masculinist” textual strain.
Yes, there was the brief on Lorena Barros, but her exemplum pivoted on “defending an artificial mass base in the mountains,” regretfully pursuing an error (individual or party?).
Tadiar, of course, implies stressing on equal terms a feminist perspective in the movement inasmuch as “it is living labor, an activity of mediation, as the creative practices of people which are continuously expropriated from them in through the processes of objectification, but which they continuously invent as part of their struggle against their exploitation and objectification.”
Here, instrumental reason is an issue, which implicates pragmatism & historicism. Both must however ultimately confront “the nightmare of history, whose form is rather the fact of labor itself, and the intolerable spectacle of the backbreaking millennial toil of millions of people from the earlier moments of history (Jameson).”
The notion of party literature consequently is the relations of labor & capital, where work is the writing itself, & for what benefit labor must exert itself is the revolutionary distillation that attends Guillermo’s tract on the praxis of the text.
Nadine Gordimer settles the notion of literature & politics with an ironic twist: “For when have writers not lived in time of political conflict?”
Definitely, the polarities interpenetrate each other, just as form & content do not exist separately. Each has an ideological dimension & complement each oppositional “nature” to create a polyphonic meaning.
Of course, there are different modes of engagement/partisanship, & this is best exemplified by the debate in South Africa at the time of apartheid, where censorship by the white state had cost lives & fortunes: “between those who, perceiving that the cost was the constraint of the writers’ imaginative powers within what was seen narrowly as relevant to the political struggle, think that the time has come for writers to release themselves if they are to be imaginatively equal to the fullness of human life predicated for the future, and others who believe literature must be perceived as a weapon in the hands and other the direction of the liberation movement come to future in a future democracy.”
Gordimer is certain about her function: “As a citizen, a South African actively opposed to racism all my life and a supporter and now member of the African National Congress [underscoring mine], in my conduct and my actions, I have submitted voluntarily and with self-respect to the liberation movement.”
[There seems to be no quarrel here with Guillermo’s mode of ecriture.]
Relatedly, Tel Quel, the French philosophico-literary journal “in the late ’60s… sought a political interlocutor – in the form of a collective movement or party – for its program of cultural renewal, defined, on the one hand, by the latest theoretical advances in semiotics, philosophy and psychoanalysis, and, on the other, by the ‘poetic revolutions’ of the 19th and 20th century avant-gardes.”
The magazine consequently allied with the French Communist Party (PCF). In May 1968, the year of the infamous student uprising in Paris, “it would seek to articulate its theory of practice in terms of class struggle… adopting a Marxist theory not only to formulate a materialist conception of the literary text and its subject, but also to associate its scriptural theory and cultural practice with class struggle.”
But the alliance would prove rocky. It criticized, in accordance with the PCF Stalinist position, the revolt “as the petit bourgeois contestation of the students that had been substituted for the class struggle.” The PCF, after all, is heir to the revisionist notion especially in literature as “a reflection of the real, art subordinate to politics, and intellectual activity as a function of militantism.”
The separation of culture from politics – given Tel Quel’s fetish for theorizing – would be temporarily sutured by Althusser, who “showed that Marxism would be comfortably synthesized with the structuralist recasting and with such disciplines as semiotics and psychoanalysis.”
The honeymoon with Leninism was short-lived, as per Tel Quel’s direction. For Sartre, the May movement was an index that intellectuals had been denied the role – so cherished by Tel Quel bureaucrats – of “leading the masses.”
Sartre himself would be a figure of the guru descending the streets, microphone in hand, distributing manifesto – plagued as his postwar generation was with “guilty conscience.”
But for Tel Quel, “there was no need for it: the writers’ raison d’etre was in his or her writing.” Though it “warded off the perils of May,… it continued to defend the revolutionary specificity of its own work, which did not take to the streets.”
It presumed, on Althusser’s axiomatic, that “it could separate its avant-garde work from party politics and still claim, in good faith, to resonate its work with class struggle.”
Theory & practice diverging on the road to utopia did not however dampen Tel Quel’s enthusiasm for the Chinese Cultural Revolution, only later to be convinced, in the words of Kristeva, that “Mao, poet and writer, was the most faithfully modern version of essential Taoism… It was classical China, dressed in the worker’s blue suit of socialism that we had gone to find.”
To wit, for Danielle Marx-Scouras, “it was the distinction between theory and politics that permitted Tel Quel to abandon the PCF for the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, finally, Marxism and politics altogether.”
Of course, the aforemention is the historical legacy of polemics in the West, but it undeniably would have a ripple effect on Philippine literary exchanges. But the fact that the culturati face a blank wall, as it were, on party literature, the virtual other of the canon hereabouts, only affirms the hegemonic diktat of cliques that willfully marginalize the Marxist hermeneutics, which however makes for its secret allure.
O let a hundred flowers bloom.
Way back in Naujan, a poor peasant would bundle himself up into the size of a small table in the corner of hut to be able to sleep listlessly into the night.
Today, housewives pride themselves with “their sawdust stoves in Sikatville, Muntinlupa City,” to save on fuel because “LPG and kerosene have soared beyond their reach.”
“Savings derived from the improvised stove are used for basic necessities, especially food.”
Transport drivers would put the squeeze on commuters who are hard put themselves to put up with domestic expenses; the pecking order of small guys bearing down on smaller punks has become the order of the day.
Adjusting to the price-hike, blind to resistance to the logic of multinational capitalism, results in the small fry breaking into a smile over, for instance, the brisk sale of charcoal & wood which would ultimately lead to deforestation. Community organizers, thralled to the principle of making do with what is given, have succumbed to this mode of survival, as if poverty is a metaphysical curse, even man-made & visited on the unwary by monopolists & investment bankers.
Capitalism is premised on laissez-faire or euphemistically the play of market forces that even out, but when the US got whacked by subprime losses & default, President Bush had to change his tune.
He had finally admitted that “the federal government should interfere in ‘the marketplace only when necessary,’ but given the precarious state of today’s financial markets, and their vital importance to the American people, government intervention is not only warranted; it is essential.”
This is a socialist mechanism within capitalism that is finally employed in the name of balancing the market.
Here, GMA stubbornly holds on to the deregulation bill for the simple expedience that the VAT adds a windfall to the national coffer, which prevents the regime from cutting the people some slack.
The bits & pieces of advice on how to cope with the crises are virtually agit-props for multinational untouchability which is enabled by a strong military frontline that augurs badly for any transition to egalitarian politics.
There is calculated madness in governance.
But only a few see through the charade.
Do we deserve our masses?
Is pacifism devoutly to be wished?
Trust an editorial writer for a broadsheet to defend capitalism the while bushwhacking “the routed forces of communism, and even fascist thinking, who were the only ones celebrating: toasting and boasting what they proclaimed to be a vindication of Marx, glorying in the bloodbath of Wall Street and other great bourses of the world.”
He was talking about the Depression of the ’30s, & in effect the crisis of Wall Street that was triggered by the monumental failure of Lehman Brothers.
Marxists are fascists? Gloating over the poor driven out of their mortgaged houses? The hungry & the jobless?
The masses screwed by a system they had placed their faith in?
A Marxist and a revolutionary, to boot, is compelled to act not by force of anger but by love & compassion. Would they laugh at the misfortune of others, as in Shaudenfreude?
His ideological boorishness shows. The Freudian slip is most telling.
At any rate, in the context of Ernest Mandel’s “account,” for instance, of the recent “worldwide crisis of 1974,” (a virtual recession technically) “he draws on a far more controversial conception of vaster cycles of some thirty- to fifty-year periods each – cycles are then much more difficult to perceive experientially or ‘phenomenologically’ insofar as they transcend the rhythms and limits of the biological life of the individual.”
[Mandel is simply theorizing about the boom-bust cycle that attend the capitalist system, inhering in the very philosophy of overproduction.]
“These ‘Kondratiev waves’ (named after the Soviet economist who hypothesized them) have… been renewed four times since the 18th century, and are characterized by quantum leaps in the technology of production, which enable decisive increases in the rate of profit generally, until at length the advantages of the new production processes have been exposed and exhausted and the cycle therewith comes to an end (From a reading by Jameson of Mandel’s Late Capitalism).”
Or when the bubble bursts, as business jargon goes, & Reaganomics finally comes to a stop: “the boom [having] started from 1940 in North America and the post-war period in the other imperialist countries,” the economic decline in 1973-1974 sent the signal “that the dynamics of this latest ‘long wave’ are spent.”
2008, & it took years for the downtrend to make itself dramatically visible: the rapacity of investment bankers to risk people’s money in their schemes to rake in profits that would take a worker several lifetimes, if at all, to amass.
Yes, the crunch took indeed a long time coming.
It is not the “fear that paralyzes the market” that in turn crushes it: it is greed of Wall Street to hype returns on investment via the very mechanism of capitalism that they zealously secure.
It is Hegelian where the will to succeed & bail out companies will turn things right; it is materialist economics that showed money flowing out without necessary collateral from homeowners that started the meltdown.
Marx saw the inequity of the systemic forces, not the fantasy of Horatio Algers which brokers cultivate, in populist imagination, as if capitalism were mystically ordained.
Why flog communists when the blame lies with those overpaid CEOs, lobbyists & politicians in the interstices of Washington?
her piggy bank
of loose coins
& went back
to retrieve it
when an ‘artillery round
She & her unborn child
in an eternity of a second.
But the soldiers averred
they were collateral
in an operation
against the MILF rogues,
washing their hands
of the episode.
& the six children
strafed by a fighter plane
as they fled the
was offered P10,000
by a “military officer”
but she had disappeared
He read the news –
including the President
in New York –
while sipping coffee
in a morning
of overcast skies
& dry secret tears.