Saturday, January 28, 2012

Salvadoran Marxist economist, Aquiles Montoya's Last Column in ContraPunto

Yesterday on Friday January 27th the Salvadoran Marxist economist, Aquiles Montoya passed away. This was his last column—dedicated to today’s youth—and which appears in the Salvadoran digital news-site ContraPunto (in Spanish) with a small introduction by Juan Jose Dalton, journalist and son of poet Roque Dalton. I offer here my flawed translation of these urgent and relevant words. Any and all mistakes in translation/interpretation are my own.

The Importance of an Open Mind
by Aquiles Montoya

SAN JOSÉ VILLA NUEVA – I’ve always confessed to being a Marxist economist, and in these brief moments that remain of my life, I will not find a better theory that allows for such a comprehensive understanding of capitalism.  At the present moment and to better understand capitalism’s current crisis even the staunchest of anti-Marxists recommend his study. But if a better theory were to be found, I would without a doubt forsake it—just as I abandoned the typewriter for the laptop.

Well then—with that being said, I am not necessarily a Marxist, because that thing of “scientific socialism,” or “Marxism” is well beyond my head. Let me explain myself: If Stalin would declare himself a Marxist, and his actions were justifiable under Marxism, I am certainly not a Marxist; just as I do not share Marx’s political ideas, on how to alter capitalism for example, or that thing about the dictatorship of the proletariat. And still yet I share his communist ideal. And this ideal, this utopia was not exclusive to Marx. It was an idea shared by the so called “Utopian Socialists:” shared by Proudhon, whom Marx went as far as mocking in his works. Shared by philosophy’s misery, by anarchists like Bakunin, and Kropotkin, whose ideas, whose approach should be, at the very least, just as well-known.  And the same goes for Rosa Luxemburg and her fight against the reformist politics of Eduard Bernstein and Germany’s Social Democratic Party leadership.

But unfortunately, in our media, in this shitty little country of ours, any John Doe that can read and write--which is not the same as comprehension—has the guts to declare that I want to deceive and intimidate when I recommend reading Rosa Luxemburg, as if the economic, social and political problems that concern me were simply a vulgar game of poker.

Because I am old in years but remain young and open-minded to new and old ideas alike, I’d like to take the occasion to share with the  young and old—but still young-minded—some anarchist ideas. Not so that they’ll become anarchists—that is after all a very personal decision—but so that they take notice that just as the world is vast, the world of ideas in terms of knowledge is just as vast.

I will quote the Russian anarchist, Kropotkin whom despite being Lenin’s political rival was much well respected by him and whose words still ring so hauntingly true. And so Kropotkin’s words went something like this:

“To Today’s Youth”

Perhaps since you cannot see a solution to the problem you have resigned yourself. It is possible that you may be telling yourself: “Already, whole generations have suffered the same fate, I cannot change anything, I too must suffer my fate! Oh well, to work then and to better my life.”
Sure! But life itself will make you take notice:

One day the crisis will burst—one of those crises, but no longer fleeting—which strikes down whole industry, which throws thousands of workers into misery, which decimates families. You will struggle like the others against this calamity. But soon you will take notice—right before your eyes—how your wife, your son, your friend succumb to the lack of resources and for lack of food end up dead in bed; while life herself—untroubled by the lot of the suffering—proclaims her happy undulations through city streets, smiling, full of sun. You will then be revolted by that society, you will ponder the causes for such crisis and your gaze will drill to the depths of that iniquity which exposes thousands of human beings to the greed of a handful of loafers; you will comprehend that the socialists [anarchists] are right when they say that current society can and must be radically altered.    

The following day, when your boss calls onto you, to renew cuts to your wages, or to take some money from you to further round off his wealth, you will protest; but he will answer you with arrogance: “If you do not want to work for these wages, go graze yourself by the weeds.” You will understand that the boss not only wants to skin you like a rabbit but also considers you of a lower-race; that not being satisfied in keeping you within the talons of his wages, he aspires to your total enslavement.  You will then have to bend your back and renounce to the feeling of human dignity and end up suffering total humiliation or blood shall rush to your head, and horrified at the precipice, you will react, fired and thrown on the streets you will understand that the socialists [anarchists] were right when they said: Revolt! Revolt against economic slavery, because that is the root of all slavery! Then you will come and claim your place among the socialist ranks and labor to liberate all slaves: economic, political and social slaves.”

What did you think? Was Kropotkin right or not? Even if this and other authors do not appear in manuals—which are like catechism for some— of so called Leftist intellectuals. This old Russian’s approach is so relevant today that it seems to me a political responsibility to dust it off and bring it to light in face of a world like ours which knows little or nothing of anarchist ideals.

And to the outraged-ones of our time, who occupy parks and plazas, Kropotkin tells them:

Occupy, in the name of the people, the wheat warehouses, the stores stuffed with clothes, the livable houses. Do not squander anything, organize immediately to fill all the voids, tend to all needs, satisfy all the needs of production, no longer for the benefit of nobody but for society to live and flourish[…]. Bread, the revolution needs bread! Let somebody else circulate Rimbaudian verses! […] Our task will be so that from the very first days of the revolution and while it lasts not a single man shall go without bread in the rebelled land.

The bourgeoisie ideal consisted of spouting great principles or rather great lies. The popular ideal will be to ensure bread for everyone. While the bourgeoisie and the proletariat make themselves great among small groups of people, while the “experienced” argue indefinitely as to the forms of government, we, the “utopianists,” will have to contest with the daily bread.         
We have the audacity to assert that each and everyone can and must eat according to his or her hunger that the revolution will triumph through everyone’s daily bread.

As it is well-known, we are utopianists, so fervent in our belief, that we believe that the revolution shall and will ensure housing, clothing and bread for everyone; this is distasteful to the bourgeoisie be them red or blue, because they understand perfectly that a people that eats according to its hunger is very, very hard to master.  

And as to gender equality, Kroptkin proclaims:

The very ones who hope for the emancipation of humanity have not included women among their dreams of freedom and consider it unworthy of their elevated masculinity to even think in “matters of the kitchen.”

The emancipation of women is not opening for them the doors of the university, and the courthouses, and the parliament.  Such an emancipated woman simply passes on to other women her domestic labors. The emancipation of women is to liberate her from the soul-destroying work of the kitchen and the washtub; it is to organize in such a manner that she may feed and raise her children—if she is so inclined—without losing out on the possibility to take her rightful place in social life.  

Generally when anarchism is brought up in our media it is to degrade it but not because its approach, its philosophy, its ideas are well-known, but because those very few that self-identify as Marxists rarely know Marx but rather the manuals and even less of Rosa’s thoughts, Gramsci’s, the socialist utopians, etc.

I think, for a political and intellectual revolutionary it is necessary that one not be satisfied with readings of Marx or Lenin. And on the other hand, one must attend to reality and to creativity, learning to think critically and to propose ideas, whether these are accepted or not. But that shall alas be the least of concerns and so as consequence I quote someone (Kropotkin) who has been ignored despite his great rationality and relevance.

Goodbye kids, I love you, but please educate yourselves!