My brother Eddie, the Marxist

Published November 19, 2020, 11:12 PM

by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas

CHANGING WORLD

Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas

(Part 3)

          After four years of study in the US and another year in Spain helping to start a business school that would become one of the leading business schools in the world, the IESE Business School in Barcelona, I returned to the Philippines in May, 1964.  By that time, Eddie had already been radicalized in his views about Philippine society.  He saw the gross inequalities that prevailed (and continue to prevail today) among the various income classes.  He especially emphatized with the masses of the rural poor and the working class in the urban areas.  He was disenchanted with what he perceived as a socially irresponsible group of Filipino and foreign entrepreneurs who practiced the worst form of free-market, profit-maximizing capitalism.  Because of his big heart and affection for the downtrodden, it was easy for him to be strongly attracted to the Marxist paradigm.

In his analysis of the capitalist economy that was first developed in England, Karl Marx applied the dialectic philosophy that he borrowed from Friedrich Hegel who interpreted history from the standpoint of an idea (thesis) leading to an opposite idea (antithesis) which contradicts or negates the thesis  The resulting tension is resolved by a synthesis which again provokes a counter anti-thesis.  Hegel was an idealist, positing that only spirit exists while matter is just a mirage.  Marx borrowed his dialectic philosophy but turned it upside down.  According to Marx, only matter exists.  There is no such thing as spirit.  If spirit does not exist, then God, who is pure spirit, does not exist.

That is why Marx was an atheist.  Those who accept the materialistic philosophy of Marx cannot possibly believe in the dignity of every human being because it is the soul that gives this dignity.  That is why those who really practiced Marxist materialism, like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong could allow the killing of millions of individual human beings without any remorse.

          What struck me most about Eddie when I got to know him well again after returning from my studies abroad was his willingness to sacrifice a comfortable life to promote the welfare of the suffering masses in the Philippines, the rural and urban poor.   He believed in the dignity of every human being and was far from accepting the Marxist belief that only matter exists.  His belief in the existence of the spirit never left him, even if his insufficient understanding of Christian philosophy led him to abandon his faith.

His strong belief in the existence of the next world became completely obvious to his immediate family when his wife Lilia passed away in 2016.  He would be constantly praying to her and telling us about messages he was receiving from her.  That is why I am convinced that Eddie adopted Marxism as a foundation for his political economy but not for his philosophy of life.

He saw in the dialectic analysis of Marx the roots of sufferings of the Philippine masses.  Feudalism was the thesis to which capitalism was the anti-thesis.  Capitalism in turn  will lead to its anti-thesis which is socialism in which the state takes over every major economic activity.    Then socialism itself will be replaced by pure communism in which the state itself will no longer be necessary because there will be a new man who will be born who will unselfishly work for the common good.  That is the nirvana that every full-blooded communist naively believes will be the final destiny of humanity.

          Actually, in our conversations about the ills of Philippine society, we agreed in much of how we diagnosed the economy.  We accepted the Marxist prediction that an exclusive focus by capitalists on the maximization of profit would lead to the increased misery of the masses and to the lowering of real wages, to the detriment of the working class.  Now that I  think of what Eddie used to say about free-market capitalism, his conclusions were no different from what Pope Francis has been saying about the evils of the extreme forms of free market capitalism.  In fact, Pope Francis uses equally strong words to condemn the culture of maximum profit at any cost.  He says that that “the economy kills.”  It is no surprise that some unthinking conservatives today label Pope Francis as a Marxist.

What Eddie and I did not agree on is how we should regard the rich.  In his indignation about the extreme form of capitalism, he fell into the error of condemning the rich indiscriminately.  Despite his being very conversant with the New Testament, he ignored the fact that Jesus Christ, in spite of his being mostly with the poor most of his life, had some very close and intimate friends among the rich in Palestine then, i.e., Zaccheus, Lazarus and his sisters, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus.  In fact, Eddie was so dead set against the rich and believed that only class struggle will lead to the poor being redeemed from their dehumanizing condition, that he claimed that some rich people edited the first beatitude uttered by Christ.  According to him, as some of his former students reported in the webinar mentioned above,  the original  text was “Blessed are the poor”!  He claimed that some rich people added the phrase “poor in spirit” so that they could also be included among those blessed by Christ.

          I tried my best to explain to Eddie  what then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote about the authentic interpretation of the Christian doctrine of “the preferential option for the poor,”  There was no denying that Christ showed a preferential option for the poor, having Himself lived in poverty and having associated mostly with the poor of his generation.  But as mentioned above, Christ did not condemn the rich indiscriminately.  Christ’s preferential option for the poor was neither excluding nor exclusive.  It was not excluding because he did not exclude the rich from salvation as long as they were “poor in spirit.”  Nor did He focus exclusively on the material welfare of the poor.  He was even  more concerned about their moral and spiritual wellbeing.  Thus his preferential option for the poor  was not exclusive.

          Whatever were our disagreements about how to combat the evils of the extreme form of free-market capitalism, I never thought of Eddie as a godless Marxist.  That is why, I have the strong conviction that he can still be rewarded by our Creator with heaven either now or after some time of purification in purgatory.  He is no different from that father of the boy who shyly asked Pope Francis if his father could still go to heaven even if was an atheist but was a good man, having had his four children baptized into the Catholic faith.  Pope Francis emphasized the doctrine that God does not abandon his children when they are good, regardless of their faith.

The Pope told the boy whose name was Emanuele: “This is the answer:  God was proud of your father because it is easier when one is a believer to baptize his children, than to baptize them when you are an unbeliever.  Surely God likes this so much.  Talk to your dad, pray for your dad.” In a homily he gave on May 22, 2013, Pope Francis elaborated on this truth of the Catholic faith:  “The Lord created us in his image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and he does good and all of us have this commandment at heart:  do good and avoid evil.  All of us.”  In his homily, the Bishop of Rome reflected on Christ’s response to his disciples, who thought that anyone outside their group could not do good.  The Pope made it clear that the disciples were wrong when they thought that someone who was not of their party could not do good.  Jesus corrected them and broadened their horizon.

I can confidently say then that my brother Eddie the “Mad Marx”  is now resting in the peace of the Lord. He did much more good than some so-called practicing Catholics who live a double life.

For comments, my email address is [email protected]

 
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