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The Choice, August 28, 1971

The Choice

By Teodoro L. Locsin Jr.

August 28, 1971—“WATCHING them live,” said Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., “I wonder why I do it at all.” With a sweep of his right arm he had described an arc that took in, symbolically, the area below us. We were standing before a large picture window that commanded a handsome view of the Makati villages.

“President Marcos has threatened again to bring charges of subversion against me. It’s a bluff, but who knows?”

“Would he pull something as stupid as that?” I wondered. “Has he forgotten how the Yuyitung affair backfired in his face?” But then, Marcos is not a computer but a man and, therefore, capable of making errors, which do more harm to his victims than to himself because of his power. Senator Diokno called him the most dangerous threat to freedom in this country.

“A very dangerous man,” Aquino said.

“And the secret is not to be afraid.”

“And all for them!” he said, indicating once more the villages. “Do they care at all about what is happening outside of their houses and clubs?”

“I suppose they do,” I answered. “The miserable condition of the common people must be affecting their businesses adversely.”

I knew he did not mean caring in that personal sense, but it is nonetheless true that it is only in that sense that the businessman cares at all. Nothing wrong in that, of course. The most natural thing in the world is for a man to be concerned only with what he owns and what benefits him exclusively. That is the essence of the bourgeois. If he grumbles about the deplorable state of the nation, all he is really complaining about is that others of his social class are getting a disproportionately larger share of the national loot and only because they are more intimate with the politicians in power than he is. That is why any movement for social reform that relies in any significant degree on the propertied class for support will betray its program. The victory of such a movement will mean only a change of masters and a new vocabulary to mask the same old exploitation of the common man.

Only the proletariat is capable of effecting a radical change, a permanent improvement. The condition of the proletariat being that of total destitution with regard to material possessions, the working man may pin his loyalty and sympathy only on his equally suffering fellowmen and not on objects that he alone can enjoy. All the proletariat has is his comrades, with whom he shares material poverty and spiritual alienation. He alone is, therefore, capable of creating a new society free from contradictions and held together by the bond of virile fraternity such as is forged in battle and not by the constricting web of greed. Communism is not about the equal redistribution of money but about the total abolition of money itself—the very concept of it and the society it has spawned.

Such, at any rate, is the radical view.

“But they are not all like that,” he said, “or I would have given up long ago. Some of their children have left comfortable homes and secure futures to work for the cause of social reform. Have you seen the Holy Spirit girls who volunteered to tend to the needs of the demonstrators before Congress? If you see them, you regain your hope.

“There are others, the radicals. They seem to have quieted down. Do not be fooled. They are not yet beaten. There are many who, given the means….Young men, timid in school, but now they are in the mountains. There is something about holding a gun in your hand….”

“Frantz Fanon said somewhere that for the oppressed of the Third World to regain a sense of human dignity it is necessary to put a gun in their hands,” I said. “But, perhaps, they will scatter with the first shot.”

“Do not underestimate them.”

“I shouldn’t,” I said. “In Shanghai in 1927 communist cadres like the youthful Chou En-lai defeated the reactionary government even though at the outset of the hostilities most of their armaments were still in the possession of the police.”

“If the government cracks down on dissent, the Left will go underground.”

“You mean individual acts of terrorism? The repression will be even harsher and if you think that will arouse the upper classes against the government, you are sadly mistaken. If fascism surfaces in this country, the businessmen will rally to its support.”

“Probably big business.”

“Because they are all in debt to the government.”

“But the small businessmen are being ruined by the policies of the present government. We know with whom they will side.”

“Do we? The backbone of the reaction has, strangely enough, always been the ruined middle class. Instead of gravitating toward the proletariat as one would expect them to, history has shown that they have always preferred to side with the fascist reaction. The horror or emptiness, of a totally uncertain future is worse than the rigors of familiar poverty and police terror. Remember how General de Gaulle exploited that fear of nothingness after the Paris riots? The middle class quickly rallied to his standard. I’m not comparing de Gaulle with President Marcos.”

“A few months ago your father told me that the country simply wasn’t ripe for a revolution. Now I’m not so sure I agree with him.”

“I’m not sure about anything.”

“If that were the case with all of us, how could we continue to fight?”

“Habit.”

“Yes, I sometimes think I do it out of habit myself,” he said, massaging a swollen wrist the result of an accident he had encountered as a result of one of those “things” he did that he knew would benefit chiefly those worthless ones in their flashy cars and mindless pursuit of pleasure.

Marxism is a mixture of determinism and voluntarism. As Lenin did in 1917, setting the precedent, the communist would split a society wide open even before its time was up—if he had the power.

Each day that passes brings a further worsening of the condition of the common people and a progressive narrowing of our political choices down to two: communism or the capitalist reaction, that is—fascism. There will come a time when men will have to choose either of these two and there will be no third alternative. There are no neutrals in wars and revolutions. “Those who are not with me are against me because their diffidence in joining me amounts to a criticism of my position, a criticism that can only benefit my enemies.” That is how the communist will reason. And it is true because the fascists benefit from the apathy of the people. Communism is dynamic. For it to thrive everyone who considers himself for it must serve it to the limits of his capacity and ability. Because it is truly popular, of the people, no one can avoid active involvement without forfeiting his role as a communist. But the fascists are content if the people are indifferent, so long as they pay their taxes and do not protest the frequent abuses of their civil rights.

To side with capitalism amounts to accepting responsibility for all iniquities perpetrated by that system. Capitalism meant the extermination of whole races that had stood in the path of its expansion. It means the inhuman exploitation of millions, hundreds of millions of Asians, Africans and Latin Americans. And the most galling part of it is that all this is carried out under the banner of democracy. All for the benefit of a few hundred families all over the world.

The Communist Practice

To side with the communists, on the other hand, one must accept responsibility for the starvation of the kulaks, the liquidation of eminent communists by the Soviet government, the betrayal of the communist cause in the Spanish Civil War and the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armies of the Warsaw Pact. A movie like Costa-Gavras’s The Confession raises once more the question that plagued the intellectuals of the immediate postwar period: Is it possible to serve the communist cause without having to condone some of its atrocious practices or must one serve blindly without scruples in order to avoid the charge of objective treason?

Arthur Koestler was one of the first to explore this problem. In his novel, the protagonist falsely confesses to crimes he had never committed against the Soviet government so as not to discredit that government before the world. If he had insisted on his innocence, no communist would have believed him. Only the capitalist press would have taken his side. They would have played up his opposition, and, thus, ultimately, he would be serving their purposes. He would have become, in fact though not in motivation, a traitor.

In the 1930s, when top Russian communists were arrested, tried and executed, the communist press enjoined all antifascists to refrain from protesting the apparent injustice done to these men who had served communism so well. Any criticism of the Soviet purges would only weaken the communist cause and shore up the fascist position, the argument went. “To criticize the Moscow Trials is to say that the fascists never intervened in Spain, that the capitalists never broke up strikes and murdered workers in the United States, that there is no such thing as imperialism.” That was the formula.

In The Confession, Artur London, on whose memoirs the movie is based, finally admits his guilt and foregoes his right to appeal the apparently unjust decision of the communist tribunal because his defense attorney has informed him that the arch-capitalist party in the United States has won the presidential election. Eisenhower is president of the United States and communists must do everything in their power to strengthen the communist camp in the coming contest for world domination. They can do this best by not questioning the decision of the tribunal. To do so would be tantamount to questioning the integrity of the Revolution and would only serve the imperialist cause.

In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, when the United States was girding its loins for imperialist adventures and Western Europe cowered in fear of the massive communist forces deployed along its borders, the French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote an essay called “Humanism and Terror.” In it he sought to justify the mystifying character of communist justice. (In two previous articles, we have tried to show what this justice consists of.) In a situation fraught with danger, communism may be allowed to use any means to preserve itself since it is the last hope of humanity. Stalinist Russia was surrounded by deadly capitalist foes, principally Nazi Germany. To criticize the policies of Stalin amounted to treason since not only did it fail to change his policies, prompting Stalin to resort to ever more repressive measures which further unsettled the country, but it also weakened the government. The Nazi invasion of Russia showed that Stalin’s policy of forced industrialization was correct, no matter what the cost in human suffering. If Stalin’s critics had been allowed to govern Russia, they would have taken their time industrializing the only socialist state in the world, which would have consequently perished under the Nazi lance.

Question, Please!

Now the question is raised, when are the communists going to stop using that line?

A few years ago, the armies of the Warsaw Pact occupied Communist Czechoslovakia and deposed a popular government for one subservient to the Soviet Union. The familiar reasons looked much too frayed along the edges from overuse and antifascists throughout the world have been at a loss to justify the invasion. Up to now I haven’t come across a good justification for it. It is fortunate that Communist China has emerged to represent communism in this part of the world. Unlike the Soviet Union, China has not up to the present abused its position. It has not invaded on the pretext of preserving the Revolution. It has not sacrificed foreign revolutionary movements for its own security. On the contrary, it has, whenever possible, committed itself to the revolutionary struggle everywhere in the world, from Africa to North Korea to Vietnam. But we cannot close our eyes to the fact that one major communist country has, time and again, abused its privileged position in history. For the position of the communists is, indeed, privileged. Only they are justified to use violence, says Merleau-Ponty, since like surgeons they resort to bloodshed to save the patient, not to exploit or kill him. The capitalists, on the other hand, use violence as a means of exploiting men for the benefit of a favored few.

Choice?

The time is not yet here when we will have to choose between these painful alternatives. But it isn’t far off. In the meantime, what we can do is to weaken tyranny with whatever means we have at hand. It is true that both political parties are fundamentally the same. Both serve the interests of the upper class, especially since their composition derives mostly from that class. But at the moment there is only one of the parties in power and the man who heads it has done more than any president before him to further fascism in this country. Never has the army been used so often to crush dissent. Tales of political assassination have become too rife to be dismissed as mere political gimmicks of the opposition. Perhaps, the present government is not half as bad as it is made out to be by its foes, but half is bad enough. And why take the risk? While one still can, one must do everything to cut it down to manageable size and nothing less than the defeat of its candidates can accomplish that. [This article was written before the opposition’s overwhelming victory in the 1971 senatorial election that came after the Plaza Miranda bombing.] Our liberties, such as they are, are what’s at stake. In issue is bourgeois democracy or One-Man Rule.

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