Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 23 May 2019 12am







    Tuesday, May 21, 2019-5:28:22A.M.






Font Size


Variations | No thank you

LIKE many other middle-aged (and older) folks, I tend to idealize the past — specifically the glorious days when I was so much younger.

But they’re not actually that glorious. I grew up in a country ruled by a seemingly well-entrenched dictator. Arbitrary arrests and summary killings, among other acts of oppression and repression, happened daily. There was, moreover, no freedom of the press. A Maoist insurgency was gaining ground all over the archipelago while a far better-armed Muslim separatist rebellion had already turned certain areas of Mindanao into a howling wilderness. I lived in a country that also hosted two U.S. military bases which were not far from Manila. Many believed they would be targeted by Soviet nuclear missiles in case the Cold War turned into a hot one.

Just over a year ago, North Korea repeatedly threatened to nuke nearby Guam. For several days, we were, of course, rattled. Yet every day, for decades, my generation and our parents lived under the constant threat of a global thermonuclear war — a conflict that would have probably ended life on earth.

In his book “Future Babble,” Dan Gardner wrote that at the end of his grandfather’s life, the old man “looked ahead at the world I would live in and he saw nothing but uncertainty and darkness. So many things could go wrong. He worried for me. But his life? It had been sweet. This man who had seen his family’s prosperity swept away, who had lived through two world wars, who had raised a young family in the worst depression in history — he was convinced he had lived in the best of times.”

In my case, however, I’m pretty sure that today’s leftism can’t hold a candle to the radical notions we lovingly toyed with in my younger days.
First of all, our literary models were Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao. They wrote so much better (because clearer) than many of today’s revolutionaries.

Marx: “A commodity is…an object outside us, a thing that by its properties satisfies human wants of some sort or another.”

Present-day Marxist: “Marx defined the contradictions of capitalism as deriving from the structural contradictions between the use-value and the value of the commodity, between concrete, useful and abstract social aspects of labor, and their expressions in class antagonisms. Reciprocal interaction, subsumptions, and playful alternations characterize opposites. The fundamental structural contradictions of any social formation (between forces and relations of production, between production and valorization process, etc.) are inclusive oppositions, interpenetrating with each other, all sprung from the historical legacy of the separation of the immediate producers from the means and materials of production and from the nexus of social relations with nature.”

The leftists of my youth weren’t as deranged as some are now over identity politics. The Bolsheviks called their workers paradise the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and not the Socialist Republic of Russia. Ethnicity was downplayed. The USSR was envisioned as the revolutionary United Colors of Benetton — the prototype of a future World Soviet Socialist Republics.

Leftists back in the day believed in economic growth. Socialism/Communism, they said, would be far superior to capitalism in delivering progress all over the world. Lenin and Stalin admired Henry Ford. Stalin wrote that the “essence of Leninism” is the “combination of Russian revolutionary sweep” with American efficiency, “that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognizes obstacles; which with its business-like perseverance brushes aside all obstacles; which continues at a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable.”

Today, I’ve noticed that many leftists prefer inconvenience to convenience. Some don’t like cars, airplanes, computers, the internet, daily shower or a beef hamburger. Some even consider the existence of people as a catastrophe — for our planet. (They don’t believe in God; but they, like pre-Christian pagans, believe in Earth.)

Back in the day, leftists, especially Marxists, despised government. The primary goal of a Marxist revolution was to pave the way for the “withering away” of the State. Marxists aimed for a classless, nationless, moneyless society governed by no one. As Lenin would put it, “So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.”

But today it seems that many leftists believe that government is the be-all and the end-all of revolution. What they apparently want is, to quote George Orwell, a boot stamping on a human face — forever. A scientific, compassionate, non-gender-specific, eco-friendly boot handmade by union workers, to be sure.

But still a boot.

Send feedback to