Friday, May 8, 2009

Echoes of Pacifico Ortiz: A Discourse on Social Guilt and Its Role in the Fulfilment of Marxist Crisis Theory

Hansley A. Juliano, II AB Political Science: December 16, 2008

The expression and acknowledgement of human culpability in the current state of social injustice in the public sphere seems to be the growing norm among the corporate powers-that-be. As such, there are growing and conscious efforts to facilitate in the alleviation of the economically-challenged citizens from known business and capitalist institutions, which led to the conception of the idea of “corporate social responsibility” or CSR, a value which almost all businessmen are being trained into and which the Ateneo has been repeatedly touting as its contribution to social change. If one would look at it at face value, it appears to be something very good and helpful in the development of a society that is increasingly and desperately becoming more and more uninhabitable, a means of closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. If we would dissect its individual actions and implications, however, we shall see that this concept is here as only a renewed means of the prevailing capitalist system in disguising itself to perpetuate itself longer in power and prevent the masses from actually realizing the need for its overthrow through a revolution guided by Communist principles. Perhaps one of the most elaborate means to mislead the people into a false sense of fulfilment and self-realization is the induction of the concept of private property, as it is grounded upon the principles of alienation. Private property, being a product of the labourer and yet is not being experienced (that is, taking benefit from it) by the labourer himself, demarcates the product of the labor from its creator. This is best illustrated in fast food restaurants. As a child of eleven, I was fond of eating at Chowking in my hometown. One day when I entered the establishment, I noticed two staffers of Chowking having their lunch of nilagang baka with three cups of rice. I approached them and asked them if Chowking serves nilaga as well. When they responded in the negative, I ask them why then are they not eating any of the foods that the restaurant is selling. They replied that they are not allowed to eat any of their products but may make their own.

The alienation of the labourer from the fruits of his labor makes the labourer himself a commodity no different from the products he creates. He is objectified twofold by his condition of being in labour for a capitalist overlord and his inability to relate with his produce. This relation, if compared to the Hegelian state of living of the slave, is far worse. For Hegel, the slave is important to the master for the master cannot produce without the slave, and the slave has his means of realizing the wretched state he is in to allow for the moment of revolution. Marx’s description of the labourer is harrowing: it transmogrifies the labourer into an unthinking beast of burden, an animal and statistic only defined by his labour. If there would be anything common with white-collar office workers and blue-collar labourers, it is the underlying fact that for the system they are working in, what is only important is more quantitative and fast-efficient production, regardless of the costs to human self-development. It is in this light, therefore, that we consider how private property has made human society stupid in its over-reliance to it. Quoting from the corporate terrorist Tyler Durden in Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club, it appears that in a capitalist society we are obsessed with accumulating property, so much that in the end “the things that you won end up owning you.” Despite the fact that private property does define a semblance of humanity for a person, it is only through the transcendence of private property that man could be emancipated. As such, it is advocated that private property be abolished. Though there might be the danger of abandoning the concept of being free, what is given importance is the establishment of the relationship of brotherhood, one that is not meant through any ends whether for monetary gain or benefits. There is only the brotherhood for brotherhood’s sake.

Karl Marx wrote in his Das Kapital that “the value of commodity is defined by the amount of labor invested in the production of that commodity.” What allows capitalists to accumulate larger and larger amounts of monetary compensation is the concept of surplus value which, as we have mentioned a while ago, ensures that the labourer shall not partake in the fruits of what he has laboured for. Through a set means of wages equal to a supposed capacity for production (which is not valid due to the dynamic capability of the labourer), the profit shall always proceed towards the capitalist. And yet, it shall be through this system of increasing desire form profit that capitalism shall self-destruct, should circumstances play out in the crisis theory. The greed of capitalists for profit will drive them to mechanize their form of production, laying off workers and, unconsciously, losing that stretchable dynamic supply of surplus. In the increase of surplus commodities due to piling up of mechanically-made products, there will be overproduction and underconsumption which will likely drive the businesses to lose profits in the long run, bringing about the need for mergers. Eventually, power and wealth shall be congested in a select few (which is actually happening right now given the statistics are true). Such a widening gap between poor and wealthy shall, as illustrated by Marx, bring about increasing proletarianization culminating in what Teodoro Agoncillo mistakenly thought the 1896 Revolution to be: “the revolt of the masses.” The Filipino interpretation of the Communist hymn Internationale succinctly described what should be done: Wala tayong maaasahang Bathala o manunubos, kaya’t ang ating kaligtasa’y nasa ating pagkilos! (We cannot rely on God or any saviour, so our salvation is in our hands.)

The late first Filipino president of the Ateneo, Fr. Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., once prayed for a government to raise up the hopes of a nation desperate enough that it already “stand[s] on the trembling edge of revolution.” Despite the fact that the 1970s are, indeed, turbulent times with the Communist spectre haunting the status quo, the revolution of the proletariat has not yet arrived in its entirety. The state has not yet descended in utter dispossession under the hegemony of a paltry few, but it is already nearing that state. There is still a possibility and hope for the chained labourer to win a world.

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