First published in The Philippine Star, November 3, 2018
In a brief encounter with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle recently, we talked about the Church assuming a more activist moral position in banishing corruption. He had just visited Eastern Europe and noted the moral malaise there and nostalgia for the old communist regime. He wondered about this widespread moral decay. I reminded him of what Pope Francis said – greed is motivating capitalism.
In 1967, I visited Moscow as a guest of the Soviet Writers Union to attend the 50th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. I also saw the grim capitals of Eastern Europe. Who would have thought then that the Soviet Union would ever collapse? But it did, not because America was stronger but because communism was destroyed by internal contradictions and the desire for freedom was unstoppable.
And so, capitalism triumphed, propelled by greed. It is responsible for climate change, the depredation of global resources, and strife in poor countries. Which brings us back to Marx and his searing critique of capitalism, how it should be replaced by a humane order, an appeal that is appreciated in the highest councils of the Church itself. The moral roots of Marxism lie deep in Western philosophical tradition, all the way back to Aristotle. As Marx said, philosophers have explained the world. But the point is to change it. Lenin asked how, and his own answer: Revolution, with Communist Party members as the harbingers of change.
There is a big distinction between a Marxist and a communist. A communist is a member of the Communist Party, and a Marxist is a believer in Marx. Marxism does not always espouse violence. As we have now seen, the ballot is now just as effective as the bullet in ushering social change, if we define revolution as the transfer of power from the oppressor to the oppressed.
EDSA I WAS A BLOODLESS REVOLUTION; it was an epiphany. But Cory Aquino did not understand the immensity of what had transpired and wasted the power placed in her hands to change the country. She was instead so true to her class that she turned the revolution into a restoration of the oligarchy, which then enabled the Marcos family and their cronies to return.
And who are the enemies of the Filipinos today? Spanish statesman, Salvador de Madariaga, whom I met in Berlin in 1960, said a country need not be colonized by a foreign power. It can be colonized by its own elite.
Let me be clear and precise. Our enemy is the very rich who hold almost 80 percent of the national wealth. Marx was absolutely right – the unequal distribution of wealth is one of the root causes of injustice. How did the oligarchy do this? By collaborating with the colonizers, by exploiting the political system if they are not politicians themselves, by prostituting political power, by land grabbing, smuggling, even killing. The political power that the people hold is not really theirs because the people are apathetic, incapable of critical thinking. In a larger sense, we made this bog in which we are submerged.
Revolutions are momentous cataclysms, as difficult to foresee as it is to foretell what they will bear. The Russian Revolution was followed by Stalinist terror and, earlier, the French Revolution gave rise to Napoleon who, fortunately for the French, brought glory to France. Mao’s revolution united China and created the Party, which was harnessed to modernize the country. But Mao also masterminded the Cultural Revolution, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed the Confucian moral order.
IN THE PHILIPPINES, the attempt of the pro-Chinese Communist Party to mount a revolution was hobbled from the very beginning by the Party leadership’s failure to understand what Marxists call the objective reality – in the Philippines, this was an anti-Chinese sentiment not only within the country but also in the region, and the strong pro-American sentiment of Filipinos. The terror imposed by the NPA would soon surface – the massive killings within their own ranks and the assassinations of their enemies – and, consequently, public support ebbed.
The NPA today is irrelevant; neither it nor any separatist movement can sunder this country now. Despite divisive politics and ethnicities, the country is more unified than ever and the armed forces is the most important element that is holding it together.
Yet communism will always draw converts, particularly from the young, idealistic, and educated who see no future, no hope for social justice in this country. As that old injunction states: If you are not a communist when you are twenty, you have no heart. If you are still a communist when you are thirty, you have no head. But I know of several communists who remain true to the faith although they are already in their seventies. Apostasy would be an admission that they have sacrificed for nothing, lived a life without meaning.
WE NEED REVOLUTION NOW; it is in our tradition. Its objectives are not utopian in a nation where so many eat only once a day. That revolution should abolish hunger, provide all Filipinos with shelter, health care, basic education. To mount that revolution requires conspiracy, heresy, organization, and the participation of the masa. How wonderful would it be if those millions of devotees of the Black Nazarene and the true believers of Felix Manalo and Mike Velarde were to march to Makati, Congress, and Malacañang? But how do they awaken from their stupor for, as Marx observed, religion is the opium of the masses? And as history has abundantly shown, religion also divides people.
The Filipino revolutionary should therefore focus on the elements that unite us – culture, for one, and, of course, a sincere love for and rootedness in this unhappy country. There is no time to lose. We are at the periphery of a scientific renaissance. We need to be a part of it and to do this, we must revolutionize our way of thinking and our society.