Friday, May 8, 2009

Breaking from Simounic Revolutionary Thought: A Discourse on the Futility of a Revolution with Historicity and the Marxian Views of Individual-State Relations

Hansley A. Juliano, II AB Political Science: December 2, 2008

Whenever the phenomenon of revolution is mentioned in the course of the Philippine political sphere, the first images that come to our minds are usually those of the men with rolled sleeves, raised clenched fists and brandishing bolo knives carrying a crimson banner of dissent intent on bringing down tyrannical overlords. It might also be an overflowing massed humanity carrying placards and shouting slogans or demands for reform or against unjust, corrupt and self-serving leaders. It seems that our view on the act of revolution is that it is a process that could be empirically carried and something that has a definitive, absolute end. Therefore, we glorify, stress and sometimes exaggerate the supposed goals and the results that shall be garnered from any revolutionary enterprise. Unfortunately, it appears that this is the very view on revolution that has caused a lingering disillusionment among the demos to even dare to conduct or participate in such action. More often than not, we hear people saying: We have always called for change. We have revolted so many times. Nothing has happened whatsoever. So what for?

This notion of revolution as historical (that is, having an absolute and definite endpoint) has been strongly refuted by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In fact, he clarified that once a revolution has supposedly already achieved its goals (or claim to do so), it is time that this revolution be subjected to another overthrow of another revolution. Constant with Hegel’s chain of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, this never-ending sequence intends (and therefore advocates) constant change and improvement. Most revolutions, when they succeed, overthrow the institution from which they have rebelled from and then establish their version of what the institution must be. This institution, following Hegelian thought, should then be subject to another revolution which would overthrow it; a symbolical execution of the master by the apprentice as Eastern martial art tradition has been portrayed. And even yet, this very action of overthrowing the master is something that the slave cannot do, which prevents him from achieving change. This constant and repeated frustration, however, was not intended to make man think of political action as something that is futile and not worth pursuing. In fact, it should encourage men to dream, invigorate them to act and constantly refine themselves in the pursuit of the ideal life, as is the goal of politics has been defined.

Such a form of action reminds me of the thought process of student activist groups in the duration of the First Quarter Storm. As related by former journalist and writer Jose “Pete” Lacaba in his book of the accounts of the events in the political sphere of the early 1970’s, entitled Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage, these students constantly evaluate themselves and their standpoints with issues in contrast to the actions of the tightly-controlled Marcos government. They have been known to frequently reconsider their points whenever the administration actually begins to take them in consideration. In constantly revitalizing and reforming the voices of change, they remain relevant to the society in which they act and try to improve.

Karl Marx, however, would not want history and the course of political action to proceed. He establishes a form of historical action that culminates, true to his claim of “rectifying what Hegel has placed upside-down,” in the eradication of conflict and demystification of human relations. That is, there is an intent to transform humanity into a socialized whole, wherein conflict and inequalities have been snuffed out as simply fireworks intended to dazzle or even mislead us into thinking that we are progressing as a society, when in reality there is no least measure visible. His Theories on Feuerbach expresses this intent of doing away with all established norms and structures society has placed on human communities and, in a micro level, their collective consciousnesses, rejecting all of these as mere “opiates.” Marx maintains that human oppression shall always occur, as long as people have relations set by the community. Under the influence of such “opiates” as religion and obsession with rights, people cannot truly be able to assert themselves in the context within which they live, act and produce. Every produce then, therefore, is a mere product of oppression, something that should not surprise us and something that should not be enjoyed.

It appears, then, that in this light revolution is protracted and with a certain requirements – aimed at a common, timed and precise achievement of particular living conditions. This is not simply the sudden appearance of someone with a messianic complex of salvation that would liberate people from their woes without them being active themselves in their own liberation. This form of revolution transforms people into scientists willing to experiment and act according to what social change necessitates them to do, what would be needed to mitigate reforms which would eliminate necessity for exploitation: that is, human relation. There shall be a move to make men self-sufficient in the classless society so as not to cause any more oppression due to the need of production and labor in the support of human relations.

However, this is quite problematic if we are going to follow traditional notions of revolutionary action. What is Marx proposing is that we, in our act of dissent against the institution, think of our objectives as certain and ending. This is exemplified, from a different perspective, by the statement of the fictional jeweller Simoun with regards to his insurrectionist plan intended to orchestrate the downfall of a corrupt colonial system: “Fire and steel to the cancer, chastisement to vice, and afterwards destroy the instrument, if it be bad!” By ending the conflicts in the classless, communist society, there shall be the likelihood of people being complacent and not thinking about the status of their habitation as well as their neighbour. If all men would be self-sufficient, there would be no need for community-building and interactions with each other, ending politics as Marx intended. To end politics, then, would be to deprive human of their basic needs: constant change, constant improvement.

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