How to write against the Left

bu-op-icons-mongQUESTION EVERYTHING
By Mong Palatino

Bulatlat.com

Start by insinuating that it’s evil to be associated with the Left, for example ‘Beware of Left-leaning groups’. There’s no need to elaborate; simply insert the term ‘Left’ in a sentence to warn innocent minds about the threat posed by Leftist individuals, groups, institutions, and ideologies. To make it more convincing, tag the Left with loaded descriptions such as godless, anti-Filipino, anti-democracy, pro-China, and terrorists. Even the seemingly objective word ‘militant’ suggests aggressiveness that furthers the stereotype of the Left as passionate but irrational creatures.

After the initial demonization technique, accuse the Left of trying to sow violence and chaos. Again, there’s no need to back up the charge with evidence. What is effective is to isolate the Left by depicting it as a monstrosity in mainstream society. Spread fear in the hearts of the people about the trouble that the Left will allegedly bring if it is allowed to operate in the community.

If a Leftist has a sensible proposal, reject it and persuade or even force others to do the same. Why? Because the Left always has a hidden agenda; it is always concocting a conspiracy that will create mayhem in society. If other political forces and traditional politicians are quiet about their political aims, it is called political strategy. But the Left – it cannot be allowed to practice the fine art and science of politics because its goal is disequilibrium, its methods are dictatorial, and its advocates are uncouth. The new order imagined by the Left will be administered by perverted ideologues who have no sense of humor. Watch out, the Left will hijack and subvert our democratic way of life.

In the academe, describe the Left as dogmatists. Ask why it is stubbornly clinging to a single creed and contrast this to your so-called postmodern approach of mixing theories. Proceed by calling them enemies of pluralism and democratic discourse. Label them Stalinists who are intolerant of opposing views. Or present yourself as a scholar who respects multiple perspectives (except the viewpoint of the Left, of course). Or proclaim that all shades of democracy are welcome (but not national democracy).

Debunk the claim of Leftists that their worldview is scientific. Remind them that they don’t have a monopoly of truth and that grand narratives in the social sciences are no longer fashionable. Replace the tired jargons of the Left with post-political, post-ideological categories such as multiculturalism, civil society, and tripartism. It’s already suffocating and boring if we continue to talk about Leftist themes such as alienation, surplus value, and collectivization. Too Western, male-centric, logo-centric, passe. Time to move on by tackling marginal topics such as sexuality, gender roles, and exotic cultures.

The big themes should be replaced by micro politics; and language games rather than social commitment should be the priority of a true scholar.

During debates, it is useful to raise the specter of dead communist leaders like Stalin and Mao. Repeat the standard depiction of these leaders in the bourgeois press as superbads and villains of modern history. Even if the debate is about education reform or labor rights, always try to redirect the discussion towards the crimes against humanity purportedly committed by Stalin, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge. If the Leftist counters by reciting the horrific sins of capitalist regimes, denounce him for deliberately obfuscating the issue.

Remind the Leftist that Marx is a thinker whose ideas are applicable only in the mid-1850s. Ridicule his decision to read a philosopher who wrote the Communist Manifesto in the 19th century. Ignore the Leftist who will argue that if Marx is already irrelevant in the 21st century, then what do you call the teachings of Adam Smith who died in 1790? Should we then stop reading the Greek classics and stick to modern fiction like Twilight? Ignore all these and insist that Marx, and only Marx, has nothing insightful to offer to our students today other than discredited concepts like class struggle.

Hit hard and proudly assert that socialism clearly didn’t work as proven by the demise of Soviet Russia. Instead of socialism, why not embrace the infinite possibilities offered by capitalism? Indeed, why turn our backs on a system that gave us world wars, mass hunger in the age of plenty, wage slavery amid the creepy accumulation of fictitious capital, and totalitarian regimes disguised as liberal democracies?

Question the sincerity of Leftist personalities. Why is Joma enjoying a luxurious life in Europe? (Forget his refugee status). Why are activists patronizing American-made products if they are genuine nationalists? (Adopt a distorted interpretation of their anti-imperialist demand). Why is the Left silent over the bullying behavior of China? (Try googling ‘Bayan Muna against China’). Why did activist legislators use pork barrel funds in the past; they must be corrupt (That’s why they remained poor after three terms in Congress).

After doubting their motives, attack their tactics. Rallies only cause inconvenience, their participation in elections is a case of opportunism, labor unions hurt the economy, the punitive and resistance actions of the New People’s Army are criminal and terroristic. Blame rallies for causing destabilization or scaring away investors. If there’s a broad political event that threatens the ruling order, disrupt it by presenting it as an unholy alliance between the Left and other sinister forces of the elite.

Use the tyranny of numbers to confuse the public about the relevance of the Left. How can the Left legitimately give voice to the poor if its candidates habitually lose in senatorial and local elections? The masses who join rallies only represent a noisy minority manipulated and brainwashed by the Left.

Discredit rallies since these are the visible and most familiar political representations of the Left. Dismiss rallyists as paid protesters (pambili daw ng bigas), deplore protest actions as impotent interventions that only amplify negativity in society, and deny the effectivity of slogans to inspire the public or even clarify a complex social issue. In other words, depict rallies as ordinary and even inferior political actions. Be careful not to leave a hint that joining rallies is an outstanding example of practicing direct democracy. Never ever mention it and instead exaggerate the disastrous impact of rallies on the city’s traffic and garbage problems.

As an indirect stab to the strategies of the Left, give extra attention to other initiatives that seemingly offer durable solutions to national problems by bloating their reach. (Self-help, civic volunteerism, social commerce). Encourage people to look inwardly or to be active in non-political associations instead of supporting the lost causes of the fighting Left.

And since we really believe that the case against the Left is solid, urge the state to be ruthless against it and its sympathizers. Throw the books at them, including the Red Book. Arrest the usual suspects, with or without a valid court order. Good communists are dead communists, or at least make them disappear. And if debating is useless, choose the lazy but tried and tested red baiting option. Activists, dissenters, and other critics might be correct some of the time but unfortunately they are Leftists. The iron fist of the state and its repressive apparatuses should be applied on them if they will not renounce their beliefs. Challenge them to denounce the NPA as a terrorist group, and if they refuse, then they must be one of them. This is how we preserve peace and promote democracy in our freedom-loving society.

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Some really believe that they have witty rants against the Left but many of their arguments are actually unoriginal and formulaic. Some uncritically repeat Cold War rhetoric that never bothered to recognize the dynamism of Leftist movements in the 21st century. Some are too naïve that it’s unnecessary to make a rejoinder. Perhaps they unconsciously absorbed the petty remarks against the Left from schools, mass media, government agencies, and other conservative opinion-making institutions. We were heavily bombarded with anti-Left propaganda, disguised as neutral information, that when we encounter Leftists in our happy community, our impulse is to violently disagree with their views and reject their proposals.

We think the Left is too negative but have we ever wondered why we are too negative when it comes to the Left? Or why do we recoil when we detect a Leftist viewpoint while we are capable of tolerating other philosophies?

The Left is often disparaged for its simplistic analysis of what is happening in our world. Academics mockingly ask, can the Left improve its style and brand? Their student leaders echo the appeal by poking fun at some of the Left’s slogans like ‘Imperyalismo Ibagsak!’

But what if the real necessity today is not the rebranding of the Left but the unlearning of our misconceptions about it? That the greater tragedy is not the stubborn adherence of the Left to its principles and style of work but our refusal to acknowledge that it offers the most cogent and comprehensive political program which can immediately and ultimately empower the weak and downtrodden in the country. If unimpressed by the vocabulary of the Left, can you at least take time to study its substantial agenda for change? Give the Left a chance to turn this society upside down.

We worry too much about the faults and inadequacies of the Left as if we are really concerned about them. As a political movement, the Left should continually assess and review its impact on society, and this includes listening to the valid criticisms raised by supporters and the general public. The Philippine Left cannot survive this long if it’s indifferent to criticisms or if it has failed to update its methods. Let the debates continue, let a hundred mini-rectification movements prosper.

As for the unofficial style guide of ranting against the Left, perhaps the Left’s ideological adversaries already know by now that the revolution cannot be defeated by merely spreading fallacies, innuendos, and malicious intrigues against it. (http://bulatlat.com)

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  1. Oh well, the left has Albert Einstein—a lot smarter than Alan Cayetano who still believes in “trickle down” economics. So here’s good ol’ Albert:

    Why Socialism?
    By Albert Einstein

    Albert Einstein is the world-famous physicist. This article was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949). It was subsequently published in May 1998 to commemorate the first issue of MR‘s fiftieth year.
    —THE EDITORS

    Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is. Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

    But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

    Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

    For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

    Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

    I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

    It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

    Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

    It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

    Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

    If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

    I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

    The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

    For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

    Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

    The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

    Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

    This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

    I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

    Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

    Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

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