By Kumar David –
About two months ago (I can’t recall the date) I went out on a limb and said people’s anger would boil over, strikes and civil disobedience would sprout and trouble spill onto the streets. It has been a most extraordinarily rapid fall from grace for Gota. To get to know more about the unrest you need to meet or talk to people and visit social media; the formal media is muted. The immediate reason is near collapse of the economy and the asinine behaviour of Gotabaya and his cabal of bums. I summarise in one long sentence: Inability to service foreign debt, painful price increases and shortages, pardoning of drug-lord buddies and murderers, a lunatic instant-ban on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, mishandling of the covid pandemic leading to loss of earning by day-labourers, fishermen and the poorest, abuse of power, interference with judicial processes, thuggish police, attacks on free speech, slavish subservience to China and the regime’s palpable bewilderment and loss of direction.
The economy will continue to decline, there is nothing that Magic Basil or for that matter the opposition can do to help even if it wished to. The main-switch of the lights at the end of all tunnels have been turned off, the house is on fire and the firemen on strike. Confrontation between regime and people has commenced, so his is the time to think strategically. The initial outbreaks are spontaneous and that’s good, but at some point in time the spontaneity of the masses will be, will need to be complemented by leadership. The JVP most likely will assume natural leadership, nothing can or should stop that. Sajith can help if he wants to.
This is where the real point of today’s column commences. It’s a continuation of the discussion from last week (“Only Way Forward for the JVP” – 11 July) where the argument was that the JVP must not move beyond a certain point all on its own, it must collaborate with a multi-class, multi-party alliance. First observe that the anger that has broken out is indeed multi-class and multi-party. It is a universal and spontaneous expression of frustration by many people against avoidable blunders and abuses of power. This unity at the base must be preserved among anti-regime organisers and factions. A trade union action centre has already been established Lal Kantha and Suman Rathnapriya told a news conference.
It is necessary to initiate a common discourse on ‘What next’; ‘Who to invite?’ All who subscribe to a few basic points should be welcome. E.g.: Stop the economic collapse or resign, reverse the pardon of king-pin murderers, rescind the fertiliser instant-ban and replace it with an organic fertiliser expansion programme, repeal the PTA forthwith. The basics will have to be agreed between the JVP, the Sajith-Mangala balavegaya, liberals like NGOs, Tamil and Muslim parties that have guts, radical clergy and any small political entities that throw in their weight and others. The JVP or Sajith must convene a round table pow-wow and for heaven’s sake let there be no bickering about convenorship, chairmanship, roundness of table and such stupidities. The point is to get an agenda endorsed, not to anoint leaders or choose between Karl Marx and Adam Smith.
An action plan deals with immediate challenge and will be relevant for months or a year or two till imminent dangers pass. There are two; the economy will collapse, literally, leading to chaos in living conditions; second, when Gota hears the rattle of the guillotine and his junkers the rumble of the tumbrils they will panic. Will they send out the troops? This is no flower show or ladies tea party. The authoritarian option looms large. The immediate need is that the opposition must build a mass movement that can discourage and daunt use of the military. The Gotabaya cabal is a viper waiting to strike, so the mongoose must be alert. The medium-term objective is to prepare the ground for a shattering defeat of the regime at the next presidential and parliamentary elections. It is not necessary to incite confrontation between people and military when electoral victory down the line is certain. The opposition, whatever its differences on socialism, executive presidency, state-directed versus capitalist-led economy etc. must not put that cart before the horse. The answers to these types of long-term questions depend on the composition of the alliance that wins the next election cycle.