When ed turned Red

Personally, since I turned 21, besides my mom sponsoring my piercing my ears, I became a Socialist. I suppose that was the second act of engaging in a 'permanent revolution' within myself and going against my state/social/church-sponsored beliefs and inclinations. My first act was in assuming my stupidity and ignorance despite the respect I received from my peers three years earlier.

I had, prior to that been anti-communist, on the basis of my being told by the media, the church, the state, and the ignoramuses i was surrounded by - and which included myself - that communism=USSR/China, communism=authoritarianism, communism=oppression, communism=violent overthrow of the government, communism=anti-religion.

Not so.

That was, I've realised ever since, nothing short of an effort to vilify a phenomenon via negative and verifiably false association. In singapore, this false association was manufactured via the 'Marxist Conspiracy detentions' of 1987. I personally, being into nothing other than breakdancing and being a 'Far East kid'v(in Far East Plaza), believed those involved to be 'bad men' and bought into the allegation that they wanted to overthrow the government through a violent revolution and create chaos. Well, till today, I have no evidence that was or wasn't the case. But what I do know for a fact is that being a Marxist/communist/socialist does not necessarily equate with a 'violent revolutionary'.

The Opposition

And the so-called opposition in Singapore, till today, have been raised on what was left of alternative ideologies after Socialism/Marxism/Communism had been vilified out of public consideration. Hence, with the eradication of the Socialist spirit, they've fragmented into interest groups quite unbothered by the interests of all except for the majority - which is why one might see a huge turn-out for 'gay' rights, whilst only a handful protest against the death penalty or the Internal Security Act. That is, in significant part, a product of the legalist-confucian system of self-reliance-cum-self-absorption. You could call it a socially acceptable update of the ‘triad society’ mentality where one is empathetic within the boundaries of the ‘gang’. Thus, I wasn't surprised to observe that even the young amongst the opposition make assiduous efforts to distance themselves from socialist ideologies and vociferously assert that the 'Marxist Conspiracy' detainees weren't Marxist or Communist. In this, they too, it appears, fell hook, line and sinker for the general association of Marxism/Socialism/Communism with 'bad'. Hence, they were deprived of the Socialist benchmark that has checked on the spirit of all democratic movements from the plebeian revolts of the Roman era through to the present. Thus, in being deprived of such a check, they became victims of the general legalist-confucian ethos and begin to make sense of democracy from within its bowels after being digested by it. We all tend to make sense of reality given which aspect of reality is deemed to be worthy of consideration don’t we.

Undeniable Truths

Upon my reading of The Communist Manifesto in 1990, written by the brilliant Karl Mark and Friedrich Engles, I couldn't deny its truth, and the truths that I extrapolated from it in the years after

Yes, we are living in a class system; Yes, it’s true that the elite own everything and use the labour and mind power of the masses for their own profit; Yes, the maximal development of all is dependent on the maximal development of all; Yes, equality of opportunity does not equate with equality of access to the resources necessary to exercise said equality of opportunity; Yes, the motivation of individuals cannot be maximised when they are hierarchically minimised or maximised within the various levels of the class system; Yes, the governments of just about all states are little more than a phenomenon mediating between class interests whilst taking the class system as sacrosanct, and in other words, helping the masses make the best out of an inequitable situation - and this is one of the core factors shared by the capitalist and legalist-confucian approaches toward reality.


Whilst I was pro-Captain America, pro-capitalist, pro-America, pro-PAP at that time, I couldn't help but acknowledge these to be truths. Thus, I was led by the force of reason to move against my own beliefs and turn 'red'. But whilst Marx might have viewed religion as an opiate that enabled the masses to successfully compensate for their general impotence as the masters of their destinies, I realised that this was not a necessary evil of religion but an incorporation of it. I saw no conflict between the approaches of the Buddha, Guru Nanak, the universalism of Islam, the dialectical principles embedded within Hinduism, or the 13th Commandment of Christ - love thy neighbour as thyself - and Socialism. In fact, I realised that ideology could either be an effort to 'materialise' religious concepts or detract the masses from its value.

I realised that religion, whilst being a movement against self-absorption, is, in significant part, a product of a a history of power, class division, and technological/scientific decrepitude, and cannot have existed to this day unless it accommodated it and allowed its own incorporation. In other words, religion made the best of a bad situation by compromising with it even whilst trying to compromise said bad situation. We could say that the development of religion was stunted by its attempting to speak against a system of self-absorption, helping people to cope with it along with a scientifically/technologically backward society, and asking them to take solace in the ‘Lord/s’ as a compensatory and recuperative device. Hence, it seems, after millennia of accommodation, that religion is little more than an opiate. But that would be nothing short of blaming the victim and casting aside its potentials because it has been malformed through a negative experience. I realised that when we get past these, and appreciate its core values, then it serves as the north star checking on our technical and material navigation of socio-political reality. It’s when we refuse to use religion as a compensatory and recuperative device, that is when we can appreciate it as a motivational resource that can be used to rid ourselves of the need to compensate and recuperate by addressing the socio-political sources of the devaluation that leads to religion being used to compensate and recuperate. Religion ought not to be used to compensate, but to motivate us to get rid of the circumstances that leads us to compensate. In that, Socialism takes the selfsame approach.

Thus, I could continue being a Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, et cetera, and use its location to check on my ideological inclinations, whilst using socialism to check on the democratic aspirations, or pretensions, of all political ideologies.

In fact, quite a few religions serve to check on any impulse that might be engendered by the desire of some revolutionaries to ‘pick up the sword’ and give birth to Utopia with immediacy through a bloody c-section. In fact, the ideal religion, like culture, is a product of the best of all religions being fused into one. If it’s good enough for the production of the best of scientific perspectives, I see no reason why it can be applied in our appreciation of religion or culture. Too often, the best of intentions are spoilt by our desire to bring about change immediately. In other words, we want to be ‘immediately gratified’ and think we are doing great things by accessing the most obvious ‘solutions’. What frequently happens is that we just end up refining evils and perpetuating them in more acceptable forms by not considering the possibility that the means can, at times, compromise the appreciation or/and effectuation of the ends.

In Sum

In realising these, amongst other truths, over the 2 decades that has since passed, and in not being able to overthrow the initial premises that via my subsequent inquiries and discoveries, I am forced by the tyranny of reason to continue along my current perspectival trajectory. However, the selfsame skepticism that swung myself from right to left, has continued to exercise its tendency toward self-critique. Hence, It could be said that my being inclined toward red is a product of my continuous failure to find sufficient evidence to exchange it for alternatives. The best way to stick to your inclinations, as far as I’m concerned, is to continuously seek evidence to overthrow them. In adopting such a stance, we cannot be sure where we’ll be. But we can certainly be assured that it would be better than it would otherwise be.



  1. Hi Ed,

    Great article - heavy but gets the creative juices flowing.

    I enjoyed it, especially given my intellectual appreciation of the works of Marx - Engels.


  2. .
    Hi Imran,

    I must say that you are one of the few singaporeans who have exhibited some reciprocity, i.e. mutual commenting.

    However, just to share, it would be good if people considered that which they didn't already 'appreciate'. I realise that in singapore, people tend to respond to only that which interests them - as opposed to finding interesting that which requires a response.

    As i have told my immediate multiracial circle time and again, the intellect does not advance significantly unless it contends with that which falls outside of one's zone of familiarity. And, additionally, i often tell them to avoid being content with a 'statement of preference' and that they ought to move on to supplying further thoughts/questions/critique/analysis/contribution. If we do not do this, we are not only deprived of the opportunity to further our perspectival development and knowledge, but we also become practiced in being lazy thinkers. The combination of both would most certainly impact on our making sense of our own interests.

    Going back to 'mutual commenting' again, that, in social terms, translates to considering and responding to what you have to say and not turning away after i have said my fill. If you translate the way SG bloggers/opposition behave into the social context, it's just downright rude. But, that said, that is basically what i've experienced in the social arena for the past 3 decades - especially amongst the chinese, though i've found the difference waning the past decade. I suppose both the social and digital arena complement and reinforce each other in this respect.

    That said, you are one of the few SG writers whom i would recommend, besides Ben Cheah and 'Solo Bear' - even though if it's just for the challenge of debate as it is when SB gets ridiculously homophobic...but, his brief observations on other matters are quite insightful all the same. But we would do well in getting our reciprocal tendencies in order lest the collective intellect is compromised for want of civil and empathetic contribution.


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