The Rise of Crusading Sinhala Chauvinism
All indications are that officially legitimated and state sponsored Sinhala chauvinism is preparing to raise its serpentine head openly and brazenly. It is baring its venomous fangs, readying to hit at selected targets and set the country on fire- once again, but as never before. Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), Sinhala Ravaya, combined with other underground vigilante squads such Mahasona Brigade, each with their respective sponsors, mentors and protectors in the State apparatus, have ascended the stage of history with public declaration, brazen arrogance and singular determination. Their aim is to assert the pristine purity and absolute supremacy of the Sinhala Buddhist Nation (SBN). This could be achieved through a crusading campaign of ethnic cleansing and demographic reordering, backed by white terror and state impunity.
Political and Ideological Premises and Exigencies
This bestial communal crusade may be legitimated by large sections of the Sinhala-Buddhist polity. They are being pushed into a deadly, devious trap. They are being manipulated to think that Tamils and Moslems, Christians, Hindus and Islamists – all non-Sinhala Buddhists- constitute a potential threat and enemy to the ‘beleaguered’ Sinhala-Buddhist Nation. They are being led to believe that the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation is in mortal danger, being faced by a diabolical conspiracy. A conspiracy led by foreign Western powers, in league with the Tamil Diaspora and other LTTE separatists and a train of local traitors whose one aim is to overthrow the present Regime, divide the country and displace the historical place and position of the Sinhala Buddhist Nation. For now, the Moslem nationality is being targeted by the BBS. Yet, this crusade had been repeatedly directed against all non-Buddhist communities. This web of contrived ideological demonizing and collective paranoia weave into a single evangelical, missionary zeal legitimated by a self-evident righteousness. The center and heart of this collective, crusading ideological consciousness is concentrated and expressed in a shared need to redefine, reassert, and consolidate the undivided sovereignty, undisputed supremacy and absolute political hegemony of the Sinhala Buddhist Nation over the length and breadth of Lanka, once and for all! This fits in to the political agenda and strategy of survival of the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime (MRR).
Social Base of Sinhala Chauvinism
Will this crusading call find an echo, a resonance, among the broad and diverse social category that constitute the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation? Would it be sufficient to morally legitimate a descent to barbarism and a resultant communal holocaust? Of course, it would be contradictory. Some may dare to resist in the name of freedom, democracy and humanity. However, the majority of the Sinhala people supported just such a brutal terrorist war for decades. They remain silent when the Tamil Nation is being subjected to military rule and occupation and being politically subjugated as never before. Desecration of non-Buddhist places of worship and assault on religious rituals continue unabated and with impunity. Yet, the majority Buddhists have either complied or remained silent. We have a history and a litany of repeated barbaric communal pogroms. We have also witnessed the slaughter and decimation of two generations of Sinhala youth by the State. We should not dismiss the possibility, nor underestimate the political will of degenerate, power-hungry reactionary forces to descend to the depths of barbarism just to seize and maintain absolute state power in order to establish and perpetuate their own brand of hegemonic-terrorist class dictatorship. In the struggle for power, it could mean life or death. Whether in Lanka or in the world, people are being forced to decide between Civilization and Barbarism, between Freedom and Slavery, between Democracy and Tyranny; Between Socialism and Imperialism. It is in this context that the question requires analysis. We should study the psychological and sociological impulses and economic imperatives of this complex unity that makes up the SBN in order to make a concrete assessment of the capability and sustainability of the emerging and rising political crusade of chauvinist fascism. More fundamentally, we would have to study the political economy of Sinhala chauvinism, the corresponding class relations and the forms of their expression in the ideological superstructure, in order to arrive at a concrete analysis and a composite picture of the emerging political conjuncture. This is a preliminary attempt to do so.
The Sinhala Polity
The oppressed Sinhala masses, also battered by decades of war and terror, ground to the dust and struggling to survive, overwhelmed and overcome by the sheer hegemonic legitimacy, power, reach and durability of the State and the Regime, forced into a ‘dog eat dog’, ‘life or death’ competition to stay alive, atomized and polarized, and in the context of imperialist and regional powers penetrating the life-lines of the country, and in the absence of any countervailing force or democratic alternative, may indeed, even subconsciously, imbibe the theory of imminent, mortal danger. Certainly, the more idiotic, Neanderthal sections would imbibe this paranoid delusion willingly and militantly. A rising, thriving new urban, semi-urban and suburban Sinhala Buddhist bourgeois class and privileged upper petty-bourgeois strata; along with an entrenched trade union labor aristocracy, combined with a majority of backward parochial rural masses may believe that they stand to benefit from maintaining the prevailing status quo under a quasi-theocratic, hegemonic, centralized, militarized unitary Sinhala-Buddhist State. Some may prefer to tolerate it just to hang on their privileged status and to climb up the ladder. Still others may concur for the need for personal identity and economic security in a nameless, reckless and turbulent global market place. Such is the soil of fascism.
Patriotism in the form of Military-Fascist Chauvinism
Mahinda Rajapakse may have officially enthroned Sinhala supremacy and Sinhala-Buddhist Chauvinism and may still command undisputed legitimacy among the masses. Yet, emerging and intensifying contradictions, crises and challenges will test his ability to centralize and monopolize State power. Rival fascist forces prepare for seizing state power if and when Mahinda Rajapakse may be forced to capitulate and sell out the agenda. All these scenarios and possibilities make up fertile soil for a crusading, missionary patriotism, in the form of military-fascist chauvinism, to emerge from the throes of economic anarchy, moral degeneracy, political instability and terrifying insecurity. This scenario may come to dominate the landscape, shape the agenda, and determine the day. Black July just may appear a shade of grey – as a dress rehearsal for the real drama, in all its grotesque gory, yet to be enacted.
Sinhala (Buddhist) chauvinism is not an ephemeral or phenomenal reality located in some demented, egoistical psychological mind-set. It is not an aberration, but a natural and integral appendage of the Feudal-Comprador Capitalist State. Under the Mahinda Rajapakse Regime, this introverted and perverted Capitalist ideology derives and thrives in the political economy of a crony-mafia/ narco-terrorist/ decadent dynastic junta. Majority-nation, Sinhala Chauvinism has been a persistent structural feature of the Lankan State. It was ingrained into the colonial Constitution that laid the basis for the transfer of state power. It enabled the British colonial rulers to transfer state power to its most loyal and trusted landlord-capitalist ruling class of emerging Compradors, whose economic existence is integrally tied to imperialism. This ruling class has come to be represented principally by the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, and its various coalitions and alliances. Every single successive regime has reinforced and entrenched the chauvinist structural foundations of the Capitalist State and Political Order. The Mahinda Rajapakse Regime has merely stripped away all the bourgeois liberal trappings and ribbons and crowned this historical trajectory with planned, conscious force, unbending will, singular determination and unfettered fury.
The Hierarchic Strategy of ‘Divide and Rule’
As a matter of deploying the strategy of ‘divide and rule’, state power was vested in a lackey, Sinhala-dominated Comprador Capitalist ruling class. In fact, universal adult suffrage and the principle of ‘one man-one vote’ ensured the economic dominance and political hegemony of this majority, Sinhala-dominated ruling class. The bi-cameral structure and special constitutional provisions to safeguard minorities, were mere sops aimed at co-opting and harnessing the alliance of the dominant compradors and parasitic feudal landlords of other nationalities. At the first instance under this colonial constitution and as the first act of this State, the Hill Country Malaga Tamil nationality, the most exploited, deprived and subjugated population, was deprived of citizenship and the right to vote by an absolute Sinhala majority, backed by a majority of representatives of all nationalities.
This structure of the modern colonial state has woven vertical and horizontal fractures of ruthless economic rivalry and competition, and violent political contention into the very fabric of the political economy and social order. It has generated volatile conflicts between rival ruling fractions of the State, between the various nations, nationalities and communities based on territory, language and religion, and also within each such constituency, based on class, gender and caste divisions. This is the vile and deadly game of predator chess that is packaged and sold as a ‘model five-star democracy”.
The Power of Mythologized Ideology
The Sinhala-dominated comprador- landlord ruling class constitutes the most rich and powerful capitalist fraction which maintains political control over the vital structural linkages, circuits and connections of capital accumulation tied to world imperialism. Furthermore, they have powerful roots and allegiances with feudal power bases and landed property. The oppressed masses, along with privileged classes, castes and strata belonging to the dominant Sinhala nation could be easily manipulated by this ruling class into believing that the Feudal-Colonial State rigged by the British to perpetuate and intensify imperialist domination and neo-colonial subjugation, is indeed their own State. This strategy guarantees that the predominant majority (74%) of the Sinhala masses shall regard the Capitalist State as its own sacred State, set up to defend its rightful superiority and predominance in the country of their origin, against all aliens and intruders. They could be easily deceived and manipulated to believing that they had an inherent right and duty to protect their exclusive ‘historic’ rights and privileges conferred by god and legend on the Land of the Lion, which the aliens and intruders are plotting to take away from them. This ideology of evolutionary exclusivism, collective destiny and ‘bio-genetic’ racial supremacy gets extended to the belief that only the Sinhalayas have the exclusive and undivided right to nationhood and statehood in the “Land of the Lion”- or, as publicly advertised, in the “Land of the Buddha”. The Land of Lanka belongs to them, exclusively, unconditionally and through eternity. All others are, at best, minorities, that must coexist by the grace of benevolent tolerance of the Sinhala nation. Mahinda Rajapakse has the honor of obliterating even this category of ‘minorities’ from the constitutional and political lexicon.
Through this strategy and ideology, the State, and its ruling class, was able to manipulate and mobilize the majority oppressed Sinhala masses to legitimate and celebrate a war of conquest and occupation against the Tamil Nation, waged by this very same State and Ruling class that continues to rain poverty, misery, degradation and death upon them. Regardless of class, caste or any other division, the majority of the Sinhala people continue to legitimate and celebrate the military victory over the LTTE, and the consequent military occupation and political subjugation of the Tamil Nation. This is even though the truth is that the LTTE was an effect caused by the Sinhala supremacist chauvinist politics of the State and intensified by all successive regimes, and its brand of counter-terrorism was caused by the systemic and systematic terrorism of the State, and that this same reign of terror has been, and is, unleashed upon the Sinhala people as well. Such is the power of mythologized ideology and tortured historical chronology that begets the notion of a chosen people, sanctioned by the power of a ‘divine will’ to vanquish and conquer the other, and which finds regeneration in orgiastic blood feasts, narcissistic ceremonies and phallic rituals of self-glorification. The new wave of organized, state-sponsored and authored vigilante Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism represented by the Bodu Bala Sena and its ilk, represent the need of a decomposed Capitalist State, ruling class and Regime to reproduce, reassert and reinforce itself in the context of a new spiral of organic-systemic crisis accompanied by a corroding, convoluting putrefaction of the system.
Character of the Comprador Economy
The ideology of Sinhala chauvinism arises from an underlying political economy. What we have is a neo-colonial political economy that is organically dependent on International Finance Capital and the circuits of imperialist capital accumulation and expanded reproduction. The ruling Capitalist class is categorized into 1. a state bureaucratic sector, 2. a crony-narco-mafia sector, and 3. a private sector. State bureaucratic capitalism, connected with the narco-crony-mafia sector has become the dominant mode of capital accumulation and for amassing vast fortunes. It is estimated that these combined sectors command trillions of Rupees. Their investments and modes of operation remain unknown, except to its official benefactors and direct stakeholders. Graft, corruption and commissions amount to tens of billions. Almost every minister, member of parliament, senior bureaucrat and high official are connected to this booming parallel and illegal narco-crony-mafia political economy, with the Rajapakse troika at the commanding heights.
Within the neo-liberal, open market Capitalist economy, non Buddhist entrepreneurs, drug dealers and racketeers have also got a firm hold on lucrative sources of capital accumulation and made strategic inroads into the thriving sectors of the economy. State patronage has also dispensed privilege, which is resented by the Sinhala-Buddhist competitors. It is this perception of creeping economic power and perceived inequalities in the distribution of economic benefits and opportunities, and the resultant jealousy and insecurity, that form the basic elements of the political economy of Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinism.
Intensifying Economic Competition and Political Rivalry
The rising Sinhala-Buddhist Capitalist sectors have accumulated vast sums of Capital, and are burning with the desire to come up and remain on top of the ladder of wealth, privilege, status and power. It is this underlying lust for power and position, fed by a fear of being displaced and overcome, that drives the chauvinist-fascists to monopolize and extend the domain of the State to the four corners of the Land and the economy. 1983 and Black July targeted mainly the Tamil and Chettiar merchant and industrial capitalists. This time around, it is the Moslem class of merchants, financial and industrial capitalists that stand in the way of asserting the economic predominance and political supremacy of the Sinhala-Buddhist polity. As the economy declines and opportunities for investment and expansion shrinks, the heat of outraged frustration and hatred is let out by scape-goating and targeting the non-Sinhala-Buddhist nationalities and communities. The economic imperative gets nourished by a historical narrative of lost glory and by the introverted, convoluted, egoistical psychological need for conquest and supremacy. All that is needed for this festering pathology to ignite and spread is the official sanction and complicity of the State. The MRR, for its part, requires a permanent state of perceived threat and communal conflict, feeding into the into the ideology and politics of patriotism in the form of a militarized chauvinism to keep its agenda and its survival afloat. This describes the political economy of Sinhala (Buddhist) chauvinism.
It should be clear that this Comprador Capitalist State and its Neo-colonial Political Order is beyond reform. It is rotting to the core. This should be a lesson for the good bourgeois liberals and social democrats of all stripes. The Bodu Bala Sena and its ilk are expressions of extreme putrefaction of the Comprador Capitalist State and neo-colonial political order. The putrefaction has reached into its structural roots and foundations. It can only live and reproduce by increasing doses of deceit and terror and by intensifying poverty, misery, destruction, death and degradation. Militarized chauvinism and fascist terror are the twin props upon which the Regime survives and perpetuates. It is time to bury the corpse and build a whole new state, society and way of life corresponding to the needs and aspirations of the vast majority of exploited and oppressed masses, wherein all nations, nationalities, communities and citizens shall live with equality, dignity, security, autonomy, democratic freedom and prosperity.
*The writer is Secretary; Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)