Marxism Revisited & Poems for November

1.
The Forbidden

When the Inquirer mascot, Guyito, in his speech balloon quips, “Parang ayaw ko pa rin,” in reference to reportedly the excitement in the American Communist camp over the financial meltdown in New York, you know that Marxism is the most maligned discourse in the global psyche. This specter of “socialism” haunting the American Dream (& Filipino trauma) is traceable to the Gulag complex of the fallen Soviet empire – an event not properly placed in historical context because of the overwhelming capitalist agit-prop of its system being the foundation of history & linear progress.

Why the marginalization of the so-called subversive idea, when even neo-liberals would allow its open airing (so as to hold it in contempt, anyway?). [A fictionist once said, if committed writing as espoused by proletcult would plot a “driver killing his boss,” then he’s out of it – demonstrating how the term “class struggle” has assumed an orthodox interpretation among the intelligentsia. & this is the very heart of the Red Scare that allows dictators to keep power.]

Stephen Resnick & Richard Wolff, writing in 1993 Polygraph 6/7, attribute it “to the hegemonic culture of repressing class [the kernel of anti-Marxist diatribe] that reigns, one supported by a myriad of explicit and implicit social norms, presumptions, and rules of polite and legitimate discourse.” [In effect, class analysis is the repressed in the Freudian political unconscious in public engagements.]

In this regard, the market fluctuation does not factor this very notion of class, given the practice of “the hegemonic presence of non-Marxian discourse on economics in… culture. The academe, the media and the state cooperate to produce and disseminate… the existence of class exploitation in society not only by persuading individuals of is non-existence, but also by offering a radically different explanation for the cause of gross profits [underscoring mine].”

It goes without saying that Obama, a hybrid cognizant of imperial vales, is mistaken by lay people as leaning towards socialism with his regulatory market policies, while McCain triggers a positive response in the heartland of American conservatism which is the very unconscious of its expansionist ideals. This confusion is an orchestrated one since the turn of the century, when the world was perceived to be a dark place in need of the guiding light of Pax Americana that incorporated Asian & Latin colonies.

But the recession is creating a negative effect with respect to American invincibility: after all, “as the social contradictions build within contemporary capitalism, a consciousness may form which at least finds that the repeated conventional solutions yield diminishing returns.” The blue-collar class is, in fact, puzzled over the zigs & zags of the stock market, & everyone is holding out for a definitive statement. Their faith in the system has been shaken: but where will they turn to for salvation?

[In this crisis, some will thrive because allegedly smarter than others: for instance, trader Simon Cawkwell “expects to make three million pound profit this year,” because he engages in short-selling, “the typical term by which investors, often hedge funds, pay a fee to borrow but not by shares, and then bet on them falling.” The practice has been prohibited, but he’s still at it because he’s “intellectually superior to 99 people out of 100 and I’d give the other man a good run for his money.” Getting rich isn’t an ethical problematic; it is an amoral game only the elect could play.]

Historically, the “demise of the USSR” has traumatized the colonial world, but invigorated the West. It “marks the exhaustion of one kind of experiment using among many alternative interpretations of Marxist theory.” Lenin’s “honest interpretation of ‘state capitalism’… was not emulated by the subsequent leaders or followers, supporters or critics. Instead the USSR’s class structure – precisely an exploitative one since its laborers did not appropriate collectively their own surplus labor – came to stand for socialism or communism. State officials appointed to Industrial Ministries functioned much like their private capitalist counterparts, corporate boards of directors.”

& what is exactly this notion of class that has been vulgarized in public mind?

For Resnick & Wolff, Marx understood class in “a radically new way.” It “did not refer to property or power [underscoring mine]” but a “process, both unique and yet completely interwoven with its other… whereby some members of any society labor and produce not only the goods and service necessary for their own consumption, but also more goods and services than that amount. This extra, or surplus, labor that they perform is then appropriated and distributed in ways that differ from one kind of society to another. The particular social organization of the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor comprise a society’s class structure (something quite different from, although of course related to, social distribution of property and power).” In this sense, “this periodization of history… depends upon each period arranged for who would produce how much surplus labor, who would appropriate that surplus, to whom would they distribute it, and what were the particular consequences of each particular class structure?”

In other words, Marx clarifies the notion of “social theft” – an act that for them defines a capitalism that is otherwise celebrated by its defenders for its supposed freedom of economistic activity and efficiency of resource allocation.”

What is implied here is not the statism or essentialist construct of class, but the shifting trajectory of relations overdertermined not by filiation or lineage, but the subject’s position in the grid of production, appropriation & distribution. The fixity of categories has resulted in dogmatic hierarchy & rigidity that has found its resonance in bureaucratic, & worse, historical purging.

Filipino neo-liberal faction has, of late, allegedly sought audience with their militant counterparts, hoping to settle the issue of the “democratic struggle” in view of the global recession that has shaken their faith in the free market itself. On the whole, capitalism as an ambiguous “end of history” does not wash.

But the search for an indigenous Filipino ideology – as envisioned by Pantayong Pananaw theorists & bourgeois nationalists – could only fall back on multiculturalism that harps on tradition & cognitive behaviorism. Eschewing class analysis could only make for a restoration of capitalist/colonial structures – i.e., the First World route, diagrammed in epochal stages, must serve as model. Never can a country, it is cautioned by moderate planners, leapfrog to heavy industrialization or class restructuration without actualizing the historical phases of modernization as realized in the First World. The Western paradigm should be duplicated at all costs.

Without a radicalized class redefinition in appropriation of surplus-labor, how could equity be achieved?

Via non-Marxian principles that allow a certain section to manage the surplus in accordance with its narrow interests? The Makati skyline is not iconic of progress repudiative of the pyramid, but of the visible in inequality & marginalization: the suburban sprawl that surrounds the business enclave does not argue for the efficacy of nationalistic provenance that allows for competition with multinationals without factoring the social costs. The Jollibee phenomenon may take pride in Filipino entrepreneurial spirit [it’s a take-off from MacDonald’s stratagem] but it only benefits an aristocratic family, which recovers labor surplus for itself.

Bourgeois nationalism, after all, is the handiwork of ilustrado revolutionaries – in the manner that Constantino’s “miseducation of the Filipino” failed to arrive at the possibility of a socialist solution [socialism being the Mephistophelian word for what is evil & immoral].

But why is socialism so execrable & forbidding a subject?

As we have argued earlier, institutional discourses – in academe, media, et cetera – fence off Marxism, declaring it a field of virtual “no discussion zone.” The prohibition in the Philippines works back to the Commonwealth occupation that redirected nationalist republicanism from Sakdal revolt.

Yet, in a sense, Marxism – as a general rubric – “maybe able to transcend,” according to Arif Dirlik, “the abolition of theory as theory, or at best, theory as we have known it.”

He adds, “It should be abundantly clear from this formulation of the problem of Marxism that I do not subscribe to the currently fashionable view that the end of existing socialist societies implies the end of Marxism; not because I do not think there is a connection between Marxism and ‘actually existing socialism,’ but because I think Marxism is coeval with capitalism, not with existing socialist societies [underscoring mine].”

Quoting Jameson, he accentuates the point: “…Marxism is first and foremost the study of capitalism and its specificities and contradictions: if capitalism is now universal (as Marx it had to be before socialism – which he considered to be structurally latent with capitalism – was conceivable), then surely Marxism is ever more relevant than it was before.”

This is the crux of ignorance/misinformation which bureaucrats & clerico-fascists have ventilated time & again, as if in the repetition the lie becomes a truth, in columns, classrooms… where Marxism is constituted as the Manichean counterpoise to the state of normalcy, like a child that was born of an alien womb. Never realizing it is the repressed of capitalism come to surface like its real conscience.

Yet Marxism itself has undergone constant self-interrogation, given that the legacy of history, of capitalism as a dominant force, is a testament of barbarity. It interpellates “that Marxism must continue the process of self-criticism already underway for some decades now. [A theory, after all, that implicates sociality of relationships in every historical epoch, is always, as it were, in transit, hoping to arrive at a more humane truth.] Basic presumptions of the Marxist tradition – its determinisms and teleology, its multiple and incompatible definition of class, and its epistemological realism – are now irrepressibly in contention among Marxists.”

But there is a limit to reinterpretation in the light of previous orthodoxy. It is warned that “Marxism’s largely uncritical acceptance of a modernist epistemology will now not survive. On the one hand, new postmodern tendencies (premised, for example, on the breakthroughs of Louis Althusser) will proliferate. On the one hand, strange coalitions of modernist and postmodern tendencies will emerge…”

[To wit, Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of Tiannanmen is based on modernist notion of the state & its representation. He says “the violence of the state reaction seems all the more inexplicable” inasmuch as the “state found itself facing something that could not and did not want to be represented.” Nothing concrete was demanded; the students were at a loss to pinpoint their discontent?]

This shifting scenario brought about by the blow of fresh wind, as it were, should have been noted by red-baiting critics, who are wont to skewer every Marxist act at every turn, keeping them at bay when in fact the very wolves of capitalism are already gnawing at the entrails of Wall Street itself.

So now, we segue to America where an electoral exercise is primed to solve the crisis, as if Obama or McCain are up to the task of solving something that has been in the works for decades. Randy David is in fact overwhelmed by the positive speeches of Obama, who “symbolizes an American nation that is conscious of its most basic strengths [as an imperial power?] – the faith in time of strength [faith in what? resolving the havoc of its interventionist wars?], audacity in a time of uncertainty [how do you check capitalist overproduction & appropriation of surplus labor?]. America is lucky to have him as its next president [how will it recoup its lost mercantile power?].”

Such rhetoric that passes for evangelical wisdom is oblivious of a historical precedent: It is reported that “President Clinton, in his famous economic summit in Little Rock before his inauguration [underscoring mine], listened and responded to a range of perspectives on the problems and solutions for the economic ills of US today [circa the ’90s]. Yet despite the many criticisms directed there against the uneven Bush-Reagan years – the social problems created by a worsening income distribution, soaring federal deficit contracted growth in productivity, runaway health costs, et cetera [it’s déjà vu, the problematics of Obama & McCain promise to troubleshoot with their motherhood economics] all the perspectives offered had in common a systematic refusal to ask or explore any questions about the connection between economic performance and class structure [underscoring mine; on the other hand, every candidate steers clear of the word class, instead they would refer to Wall Street versus Main Street]. All policy proposals shared a wholly unacknowledged and hence unquestionable commitment to maintain the current class structure of the US [to tax or not to tax? To regulate or deregulate? Are these the questions?].”

Given the class system, “from a Marxist perspective… the legacy of the Carter-Reagan-Bush years is, to use Marx’s terms, a higher rate of class expectation in US society.”

But does the dire condition obtaining today warrant an upheaval in the continent? Is a “revolutionary upsurge” up in the air, as reported by the AFP in its coverage of left-wing front. But haven’t we heard that before?

Ever hopeful & optimistic of the future, it is better for underground watchers to scale down the rhetorics. After all, can academic experts be trusted? Can their prognosis sum up the sentiment for the men on the streets?

E. San Juan, Jr. says that “the moment of Yenan may be over, but those of Marx and Lenin are still on the horizon… [But] it remains for revolutionary thinkers to materialize [Hegel’s] Reason and identify the agents of humanity’s liberation from Capital and historical necessity…” It would seem that San Juan is not sold on the CPP as that very agency, averring the cadres’ lack of acquaintance with Gramsci, Luxemburg, & the like. The masses, he intimates, are yet “to be educated, disciplined, and impelled to action by a revolutionary theory ‘as critique of the present and a design for the future’.”

Alas, we who live in the present may never see the dawning of the future.

But can we trust academics?

“In reality,” says Andrew Nether, “Marxism in the United States and most other places is dead in the water. The intellectual output of American academic Marxists – whether more theoretical, as in literary criticism and philosophy, or more empirical, as in history and sociology, has little or no impact on American society.” [In the Philippines, the terrain may have been altered a bit, but the ideological blindness follows the same trajectory.]

After all, “academic Marxism is almost completely disconnected from the working class, from mass culture, and from political activity. [Of course, the party-list is an innovation, but its presence is just a mode of tokenism, & prey to the numbers game in Congress.]

Libero Della Diana, regional chairman of US Communist Party with headquarters on 23rd Street in Manhattan, is even “excited [over the recent development], we feel that we are… at a turning point. We can afford to be less on the defensive for the first time since Ronald Reagan… We receive more and more phone calls, we have more inquiries from people, we see an increase in interest…”

A swallow does not make a summer.

Piana & David may occupy diametrically opposite [ideological] positions, but both are enamored with “change.” Yet history is replete with cock-eyed lessons: the inaugural speech of President Kennedy sent liberals swooning, but it never stopped him, the Prince of Imperialism, from launching the Bay of Pigs invasion.

If Obama is the darling of the press now, will he pull the Marines out of Mindanao? That will never happen: the Presidency is always captive of business, military-industrial complex – & most, the belief that America’s destiny is to oversee the world.

But will salvaging the system work? First World leaders call it “democratic capitalism,” a contradiction in terms, & they “agree to hold a series of global summits on the financial crisis.” The main idea is for the state to inject capital & shore up banks, thereby calming down the market with the use of national reserves – actually, stabilizing the bankers who allowed “high-risk or subprime US home in 2007,” which “loans repackaged as complex investment instruments loosely known as derivatives were resold to investors and bankers around the world.” The American default however “left the banks short of cash and hesitant to make the interbank loans essential to the system’s smooth functioning.”

Precisely because of the spider-like financial linkages of banks the world over, the contraction in investible funds created a terror in the market – something that Bin Laden failed to do with his bombing of the World Trade. It is in the money trail where capitalism is most vulnerable. This is rearguard action by European & American ideologues hoping that a collective action on capital infusion will avoid the catastrophe of the ’30s.

Will it be a reprise? Or will capitalism still hold the ace up its sleeve? Will the people see through the charade?

One thing is sure, though. No longer will brokers put up smug faces on Wall Street. [Something bizarre is actually happening: the wretched of the earth are being made to bail the rich out of their folly.]

2.
Eyeball

There’s blood on the street
& nobody sees it.
There’s blood on whose hands
& nobody sees it.
There’s blood on whose lips
& nobody sees it.
There’s blood on whose eyes
& nobody sees it.
There’s blood everywhere
& nobody sees it.
Suddenly,
a child screams
& everybody
stops in his tracks
Is it hungry?
Is it tired?
No,
it’s simply terrified
by the blood-soaked scene
it has seen.

3.
A.
Orphan

She’s too tough to handle:
flits from one job to another,
can’t stay put
as if she’s on the run,
a marathoner on the road
to nowhere.
Mornings, she has to be
pulled out of bed,
as if she wants
to hide under the sheets.
The day, she moans,
doesn’t offer any reprieve
from the loss & grief
that stare her gently
in the face.
Loving is ever incomplete.
But her resources are down,
she’s got to find permanence,
some arms to cling on,
some voices to shake her out
of childhood drowsiness.
But fear grips orphans
like a tightening rope.
She moves in circles,
everyone is a blur
on the speed route.

B.
A Happy Tune

“That’s all
there is to it” –
it rang
like Balangiga bell
in her ears.
It’s all so draconian,
she says
to no-one in particular,
as she goes about
her chores
like a zombie
on wayward course.
Is there something else
to be said?
People come,
people go.
But if a smile
breaks out
on a stranger’s face,
it’s bonus enough
to plod on
for tomorrow.
People come,
people go –
that’s all
there is to it
on the path to the infinite.

C.
Once Upon a Time

When they grabbed him
like a dog
at the house
it flashed –
the courier had been
intercepted:
The rest of the story
his loved ones
could only wish
to have ended swiftly.
Snuffed by his torturers
who had gone
scot-free,
marking on their gunbutts
another fallen enemy.
[Thank God,
he was a communist
who didn’t trust
God’s merciful love.]
But Jack
wasn’t nimble nor armed,
couldn’t handle a gun
but a pen
to send a message
of collective deliverance.
He probably
hated the sight of blood.

D.

The bereaved
could only utter
a useless prayer
that in the universal
shuffle of cards,
may the winning ace
fall by their side.
O Where are
the barbarians
of yesteryears?
Counting
their medals
sitting in ambassadorial
chairs…
O If only God
would wake up
from deep slumber
& unveil the whys
& wherefores
of the suffering of Job.

4.
At the Gallery

Their canvases
are junkyards:
they cannot sort out
which goes with what
to render something
brilliant or odd
for outsiders
to reconstruct.
If they pile colors
pell-mell,
we mortals may
get lost, or tired,
like a walker
woozy on a tightrope…
It takes time
to send words or hues
on a free fall –
only a handful
can, in one fell swoop,
catch all the stars & fairies
of maddened imagination.
Slow, then quick
the passes like a pitcher’s:
be sure of your footing
as you hurl a curveball.

5.
Persistence of Memory
(for Lola Guya)

She tells the doctor,
“to tell it as it is:”
Yes, her lungs are too late
for the cure –
& that is all there is to it.
She gathers
all of us kids
& troop to the waiting jeep
for the trip back home.
It is too brief for her,
too long for us
who are shaken by the dust
& bump on the road.
She just smiles
through it all –
like when she’d giggle
whenever rural kids
with bulging muscles
would scrap with us,
town brats,
then scurry off, cursing
because it’s our own turf:
When half her body
is burned by a gas lamp
she topples over
while reaching for her
cigarette,
she never complains,
accustomed is she
to the pain
of a century of tuberculosis cough.
O how I wished
I didn’t have to observe
like a loyal grandson
the ritual of gazing
at her fair face
inside the coffin –
she’d still be
alive & gently laughing
in my imagining!

6.
Confession

The guy pressed
the door chime twice,
slipped his card
through the gate,
as if he was privileged
to disturb the peace:
he was only begging
for alms…
Vexed, his temper rising,
the resident
stupidly found himself
fishing a 5-peso coin
from the purse,
scowling at the beggar’s eyes
that didn’t look
burdened
by his mendicancy:
was he arrogantly humble
for being forthright
with his ID
from some dubious agency
that clears him
he’s no scumbag?
But the family man
felt hostaged
by his deceptive poverty –
in the pecking order of things
he felt set up
by the false morality
of Christian charity.
O Why can’t the bum
grab a gun
& blast away
at those
smugly pontificating
at the Palace?

7.
November

The dead are dead.
This November
they will not hear
our secret prayer,
smell the flowers
watch the burning candles.
Their silence
will be infernal,
though we imagine
they keep watch
in the cosmos of heaven.
We tick off their names,
how the list
gets longer everyday:
& realize
how distant it has been…
As if they just
left for New York or LA,
transferred to a better job
overseas…
How is it
we can only sigh
& hold back the tears.
We’re shocked
we’ve allowed the wound
to heal:
& we cannot even believe
we’re so damn capable
of quick forgetting.

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3 Responses to Marxism Revisited & Poems for November

  1. Pingback: Global Voices بالعربية » جنوب شرق آسيا: أثر الأزمة المالية

  2. Pingback: Pamamalimos sa Bisperas ng Pagsadsad ng Krisis « Kapirasong Kritika

  3. Data Transformation
    Super-Duper site! I am Loving it!! Will come back again, Im taking your feed also, Thanks Data Transformation

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