25 May, 2017

Changes In Lanka’s Political Landscape: Is The CP A Step Ahead?

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

It has been known for a while that a section of the Communist Party (CP), now a majority, and DEW himself were not happy with the way the Joint Opposition (JO) was conducting itself. There are two issues, unwillingness to abandon the authoritarian elements of the JR Constitution which is now under review and will, perhaps, be replaced or amended, and secondly the loud racism in JO rhetoric. The CP’s decision to cut a path independent of the JO and hold its own May Day rally took me by pleasant surprise. A new chapter has opened, unless the decision to split from the JO is reversed in ongoing CP internal struggles. This essay is about prospects for the medium-term, say next three years, assuming the policy change holds. The ground to cover is extensive and I can survey but little of the terrain in a miserable 1500 or so words.

The first delectable dish served up by the CP, is what for months I have been advising Ranil-Sirisena and their government to do, but they have scampered like cowards. That is the CP has put a break on the rumbustious excess and incitement that has been JO stock in trade for the last 12 to 18 months. The JO can no longer engage in provocation, trouble making and chauvinist posturing with the same bravado as before because when one’s own house is falling apart on the inside, it is no time to set fire to your neighbour’s premises. This is true notwithstanding a large JO May Day rally.

This falling apart is the second delicious morsel the CP has served up and we (LSSP-Majority Group) are providential beneficiaries. Tissa has no leg left to stand on and reunification of the LSSP under a non-subservience to the Rajapaksas platform is the next logical step for party majority and minority. The place of the LSSP is with the left; the CP is already talking to the JVP and Frontline Socialists. Though it is early days, new opportunities await the LSSP and a retirement home beckons Tissa. Vasu’s little molecule will “melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew” – pun intended. 

There is unfinished business to attend to before the LSSP (MG) can distance itself from the R&S administration and take its rightful place alongside the CP and JVP in a unified left structure. That is, it must see the new constitution through. Of recent there have been misgivings whether a new constitution will be tabled, or if amendments substantial enough to make the exercise worthwhile will see the light of day. There were fears that a referendum would be hard to win in the face of the JO’s racist onslaught. The CP’s move and a joint left (JVP, Frontline, Siritunga, Bahu and of course CP and LSSP) campaign may see off these fears and turn the tables. It will be necessary to ensure that the proposed constitution, while acceptable to most Sinhalese, also meets the minimum concerns of the minorities and is palatable to the left. These are now less difficult targets to reach. In the interim it is essential that Jayampathy remains in pole-position among drafters; input from Lal Wijenayake who led an opinion survey will be invaluable. This is the “still unfinished business” for the LSSP (MG) to attend to in government.

This is all by way of contemporary background to the two main concerns of this essay; first, an organisational structure appropriate for the left in the medium-term and second, theoretical categories for left/socialist/Marxist thinking in this historical period in the context of recent global transformations. The first is focussed on Lanka while the second is worldwide and must take account of international economic transformations and recent global neo-populist phenomena.

Splits, sects and splinters

You may have heard the old yarn that if you lock up 24 Sri Lankan Marxists in a room and open the door half an hour later, two dozen ‘revolutionary’ political parties will emerge. This is true, literally. The number of Trotskyite splinters I know of are seven and bear allegiance to mother-groups in the UK (2), France (2), Belgium (1), USA-Canada (1) and Venezuela (1).  There are not less than four post-Shan, post Sino-Soviet-split, shreds, floating around. There is the JVP, its fragment the Peratugami (Frontline) and the fragment’s fragment which I call Kurutugami. And don’t forget the Dead Left, where LSSP and the CP are internally divided, and Vasudeva pilots an obscenity spewing rump. Finally we have various civil society versions of the left.

This haze of jetsam and flotsam, many of microbe size, is a criminal waste of organisational and intellectual energy. These guys are no fools; they have read their books and can recite Marx and Lenin like the multiplication table. They are not frauds; they make sacrifices of time, money of which they have little, and are often dragged off and persecuted by the state. But without unity all that energy, sincerity and resources is plain wasted, just flushed down the drain.  Doesn’t the irrational idiocy of 15 peewee May Day rallies say it all! Even the JVP rally was not as large as former years.

If this amorphous mass is coordinated it will achieve much; not 100% of what anyone wants, but a lot of what everyone wants. This is how the left in Greece (Syriza) and Spain (Podemos) made headway. Even in Italy the Five-Star effort which is doing well is a neo-populist outfit of uncertain classification. An accord where all accept a basic programme and a structure is more productive than each sect digging into its own ideological and organisational cave. Electorally a dozen or two dozen parliamentary seats in 2020 for a unified Lankan left is very plausible.

Two items stand at the core of a left merger; a ‘minimum constitution’ and a socio-economic programme. ‘Minimum constitution’ means repeal of JR’s authoritarian bonapartist state structure, democratic rights and repeal of PTA, devolved space for minorities, and directive principles of state to drive an economic strategy that addresses popular needs and populist alienation. I am not so silly as to propose a draft and only flag issues that underwrite a ‘minimum constitution’ acceptable to the left.

The constitutional issue is directed at the current political conjuncture but left socio-economic concerns are long-term and the left should have no illusions about the Ranil-Sirisena administration or the UNP led government. What the left desires is a sustained programme that this government is unlikely to deliver. However, populism (in Asia it is India and the Philippines) swings wildly. Trump under media pressure, said to CBS News: “I don’t stand by anything that I said before; you can assume what you like”. The extent to which the left can push the S&R government and the future relationship between this government and the left are open questions. Nevertheless the sine qua non for effectiveness is left amalgamation which thanks to the CP’s move has come a little closer. A united front, as any fool can see, is a trivial first step; the real objective must be a single unified party.

Categories of twenty-first century left thought

Marx’s bedrock, the materialist approach to history, and dialectics or systems-dynamics, remains unshaken. Historical materialism accords primacy in history and society to production & technology, wars & conquests, class & state, wealth & surplus, and capital & finance. It is now the platform of all political, social and economic thought and is taken for granted. Materialism, in a reversal of Descartes, asserts: “I am, therefore I think”. More precisely, Cartesian dualism dissolves when human social activity is perceived as the active integration of man and his world.

Marx’s social dialectics is immersed in dynamics; evolution – at times by leaps. In scientific lingo dialectics is a systems approach to society and history. In science, modern systems theory is about interaction, contradiction, movement, hierarchy, subjectivity, uncertainty and chaos. But generalisations like this are the easy part; the hard part is getting it right in practice; getting it right in the world today or in Lanka in the midst of our muddle and mess.

Suffocating official ‘Marxism’ that ruled in the post-1930 era is dead. The failure of 100% state-owned, state-‘told’ economics is conclusive and the one party political system went up in flames with the Soviet Camp. The rise of China (#) has stimulated interest in state-capitalism as an interesting intermediate tool. Though the world is still drowning in the endgame of the 2008 recession it has not brought the masses flooding to the left or to socialism; instead they have been shovelled by the millions into the lap of neo-populism. Which by the way is not one thing but a variety of manifestations. The intellectual categories and organisational tools that post Bolshevik, post Maoist Marxism bequeathed to us are outdated and inadequate. The rise and demise of neo-populism, sometimes as caricature and comedy, or sometimes in surprising mutations like Mody, gives us breathing space for reflection, reformulation of socio-economic programmes, and organisational restructuring. (#Rise of China is a loaded term; for a sustained study see for example: “Easternization: Asia’s Rise and America’s Decline” by Gideon Rachman. Other Press, 2016].

My contention is that a window of opportunity has opened and we should use it to reflect, discuss and formulate. There is a lively interest in fresh thinking, however, unless it is linked to an integration of the left, there is no practical motivation. With that it’s adios for today.

Print Friendly

Latest comments

  • 2
    1
    Sri lanka desperately need a third party – “TEA PARTY” – an alternative to existing two parties. that third party should not have any of the existing politicians who are just blood sucking leeches. CP and LSSP have proven that they are outdated and just a waste of time and resources.
    • 4
      0
      Dead leftist Vasudeva Nanayakkara has imported a duty free Toyota SUV and sold it! He is named as 1 of 90 corrupt politicians who sell duty free permit cars and defraud Sri Lanka’s tax payers. The desd leftists are corrupt and dead Kumar. The System is a fraud. Sirisena is the best of a bad lot of corrupt politicians and will win with JVP next time around. Bond Scam Ranil is finished. Corruption and impunity for financial crimes has been going from strength to strength under Ranil’s Jarapalanaya govt. of Economic Hit Men and their Fake Development Model that benefits only the Global 1 percent following IMF” Advise”. Check out the report on the the never ending “Bailout Business” by the Transnational Institute on debt and global financial corruption for which Sri Lanka is being primed with unchecked crony capitalism and corruption at the PM’s office. https://www.tni.org/en/publication/the-bail-out-business
  • 0
    1
    A two Pronged Attack Professor David, you say, “My contention is that a window of opportunity has opened and we should use it..” That is my contention too. A window of opportunity has opened with Mallaiyuran attaining Buddhahood. We should use it to vigorously pursue a policy of Ahimsa to eradicate racism, casteism and communism (sorry Sir, that was a typo) – not communism but communalism. But we should not as you say, use it to just reflect, discuss and formulate (in short, just sitting and talking) as you have been doing for the past 70 years but act and do things. Even Gotama said and now Malaiyuran is saying, Dhamma is not just for reflecting, discussing and formulating – and may I add debating. It is for practising only. Similarly, politicians also should not waste time talking talking but mobilize the proletariat and act. In fact I am wondering why we should not join forces and launch a two pronged attack on this outdated political and religious systems. One prong led by you the ‘Guru’ and the other led by me the ‘Shishya’. It cannot fail.
    • 3
      0
      why you behave so Edwin Rodrigo, The writer focuses something else, but you have been talking about the enlightenment of Budhhahood by YOUR BELOVED COMMENTATOR Mallaiyuran I have the feeling you both have been made you a laughing stock to CT readership. Repeating you re over 60, then your Guru should be over 80 right ? Anyways, sad to see, the discussions fall to primitive personal attack.. what Edwin would get it from ? Can you guys please concentrate on the TOPIC which is ” namely -This is Bold textChanges In Lanka’s Political Landscape: Is The CP A Step Ahead?”
      • 1
        1
        LittleisimonfromBerlin, my comment is highly relevant. All this time, all that the leftists (except for JVP), have been doing is to talk only. I want them DO something. May be you belong to the capitalist kutur class and you want them to continue talking only and not DO anything. Perhaps you are afraid of loosing your privileges. But that cannot be. If you are a capitalist in Sri Lanka you cannot be collecting garbage in Berlin. can you? Of course, as the official commentator of Bhagavat Mallaiyuran, I cannot help bringing in a little bit of Dhamma in to the discussion. The dhamma stresses that it is only for practicing not for idle discussions. I am the laughing stock of CT? That is exactly what I want. To make them laugh at what I write or at least laugh at me. Thanks.
  • 1
    0
    Left thought is BS. Every one’s taste is aristocratic and their opinions are democratic. It is just greed.You can explain that taking your life as the example. You just talk democracy and live aristocracy. If not take any one socialist/CP/LSSP politician as an example. They all talk bu tno work. They are worst than the King 14th Louis’s queen who lived in France.
  • 3
    0
    To be fair DEW as a Senior Minister in the MR regime, did overtly try his best to chop off the language/religion divide caused by “rumbustious excess and incitement”. MR ignored him, Tissa of LSSP (MG or whatever) did not help him but Senior Ministers like Wimal refused to listen. So Prof Kumar David finds the present trend towards independent thinking “the first delectable dish served up by the CP”. Kumar goes on: “This falling apart is the second delicious morsel the CP has served up and we (LSSP-Majority Group) are providential beneficiaries”. LSSP stopped cooking their own meal during the earlier NM days. The born again NM & Colvin found the Srimavo morsels delicious. They (LSSP) been feeding on scraps thrown them ever since. Yet another Kumar quote: “Vasu’s little molecule will “melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew” – pun intended. Reword “Vasu will melt and evaporate” How is Edwin’s sermons on Dhamma going Kumar?
  • 1
    0
    It is time to discard the outdated and outmoded communism and its leftist theories. The world has moved on, and so should we. If you ask me communism never had a foothold in our country. The only purpose CP serves is an opportunity to give ‘leadership’ titles to individuals who would have never had a chance to earn such a prestige; Pieter Keuneman exempted. If the present CP is of any consequence it couldn’t have co-existed with MR and his coterie of spineless politicians. The Left has always been a disaster. Vasudeva hurt socialism more than anyone who ever represented LSSP. The rut started with the highly qualified NM Perera losing his way during the days of Sirimavo B. And, stalwart Colvin R de Silva succumbed to the very temptations politicians, limited in their thinking, fall prey to. It is truly sad to see socialists continuing to keep regurgitating their past memories, unable to strip themselves of their nostalgia. There is no shame in abandoning a theory that is a proven failure.
  • 1
    0
    Another timely contribution from Professor Kumar David. Historical materialism is also about modes of production(e.g. capitalist,capitalist) and forces of production(eg.classes who own capital or labour). To analyse any political entity like the state,political parties,activities of those who own capital etc one has to employ a class analysis. Before speaking about unifying the left parties or their fragments, left oriented intellectuals,political leaders need to analyse the class formation,role of local and international capital, predicament of labouring classes, and the need for a left coalition to drive the necessary political and economic program to suit the times. My view us that such a coalition should not be limited to left parties that organised 15 May Day rallies only. Such a coalition should incorporate other elements of dociety such as religious leaders of the progressive ilk, teachers and academics, trade unions, associations of various kinds, opinion makers and journalists,minority organisations,women’s organisations,marginalised communities and their reps plus students. Thus there are two main tasks for the proposed coalition. 1. Thou right class and economic plus political analysis. 2. Agenda for the future. Flowing from this, an organisational structure needs to be developed for the left coalition. This could be by way of a steering committee with broad representation and a smaller executive committee( or something similar to suit the left terminology). Here we are talking about horizontal integration of left oriented political forces as they exist today. In the day to day life,there is vertical integration of politically active and conscious elements of society through the mainstream party structures or organisations. This is how party headquarters of respective parties located in Colombo control political affairs at the grassroots level. In horizontal integration,left coalition needs to think about not only integration of left leadership and top layer of officials of parties but also grassroots level activists and organisers. As someone says in the comments, words and theories are not enough. Action on the ground is the key to mobilise public opinion. It is good at least a conversation is starting in the right direction. Let’s see how far it gets traction.
    • 0
      0
      Siri Gamage It is good at least a conversation is starting in the right direction. Let’s see how far it gets traction. This is funy talk. Can you socialists/leftists/hypocrites name at least one leftist or who ever who did something good to the country. That includes you two too, except that dumb fellow wijeweera. He should have remembered the capitalist slogan, in any investment you should not lose the capital you put into the investment. If you lose that, every thing is a waste. Wijeweera lost even the capital. All other leftists are clowns. They talk socialism and live the capitalism. See how wicramabahu karunarathne, once he got all his past dues -money. It is all Greed and we all are humans. hypocrites. Preach to others but when it comes to us, it is only aritocracy, capitalism, imperialism etc., etc.,
  • 0
    0
    In addition to the 7 Left factions which owe allegiance to various countries, David has forgotten his own secret allegience to the Neo-Fascist US forces and forgets how he wanted everyone to vote Fonseka for president. Then he came up with the single-cause candidate and we have Sirisena imprisoned by Ranil, Paskaralingam and Bond-Scam Mahendran who are all acceptable to Kumar David. Of course, David can say that the end justifies the means,and supporting Ranil or Fonseka or even Modi who led the Gujarat massacres against Muslims is fine to achieve the dream. And now he thinks the communist party in the JO s at last moving in the right direction while Tissa is moving to the nursing home. What is that right direction? May be towards Washington?
  • 0
    0
    It is quite amusing to watch the unfolding and continuation of the strategy of KD’s left. Only an old decaying mind can think of progress for masses by aligning with Western imperialist block and their local agents. How they have identified their main enemy and continue to target that enemy is quite stunning (though not surprising given last 70 years of left politics in SL). However the masses seem to be thinking in a quite different way. Interesting times…….
  • 0
    0
    It is time that the now completely insignificant old left groups think of lending support to the JVP which is the only effective left and comfort themselves in their last days that they have done justice to the people.
  • 2
    0
    The lefts don’t get their head clear. In Lankawe Lefts were born out of Tamils, Lefts were born to Tamils. There were sincere Tamil lefts like Bala Thambu, Karalasingam, VP. But lefts allowed SLFP to be born out of them and destroy Tamils. They never rejected the Sinhala Chauvinism spread-ed by SLFP. They never disassociated from SLFP and educated Sinhala mass. No left party has done that so far. Their shortsighted recent anti-Ranil is not a political slogan at all. This is why the lefts are completely wiped out from Tamils for whom they came into existence.(The only one left of lefts within Tamils is two centuries old professor Kumar David). DEW is another rotten case. He investigated 300 or so corporations. Old King left COPE with DEW hoping to save him. DEW had not done anything those reports. JVP was investigating Mahendran. DEW thought because Matheran is Tamil, it could catch fire and started to pick up on that. But Ranil’s personal interest is working the otherway. What shame for DEW not having done anything for Sri Lankan Airline because of his loyal slavery for the Old Queen! Still Lankawe is an underdeveloped country. But the base for lefts is dwindling faster than the country’s wealth growing and lower middle class disappearing. The cart is on the cliff. The horses are still running for perk carrots hanged in front of them by SLFP. They not looking at the valley in front of them, they are looking at the carrots hanging on the cart. I think Lefts should seek out good Western universities and refresh their PhD and renter the politics or education in the direction where earth is turning.
    • 0
      0
      The Thathagatha has spoken. No one should say I could not understand what the great discourse was all about. This time it is in English. Of course it is a little broken English. Bu Not Yiddish. Sorry, my Guru in Electrical Engineering, if the Thatahgatha declares that Maxwells equations should be replaced by the rules Satharaseela, I will have to do it.
  • 0
    0
    Jim is confusing capitalism with capitalist lifestyle of individuals including those who hold leftist views…, Capitalism refers to an ideology and practice exercised by those who own capital in millions and billions to invest in large enterprises whether they be plantations,businesses,trade, or other money making ventures. Politicians who thrive in the Benz and BMW culture who support such an ideology and practice by formulating and implementing policies and laws are not capitalists unless they themselves have invested millions and billions in profit making ventures individually or groups. The same applies to those who advocate certain ideas in support of an economic system based on policies that promote the interests of capitalists over the interests of masses most of whom sell their labour to eke out a living. When it comes to left leaders in Sri Lanka also the same yardstick should apply,ie whether they support the capitalists or the interests of working class,peasants, the lower middle class,the poor? In terms of the lifestyle, Is Jim asking people like Kumar David to walk in the streets without cloths because they express some ideas that may or may not have some currency in the present context? Why does he label people who express such ideas as capitalists without any foundation? This is exactly the reason why no new party or a coalition cannot be formed in a country like Sri Lanka. Accuse the messenger for that and this rather than criticising the message.., As human being living in a technologically and materially advanced world, we all are entitled to a degree of individual comfort. I am certain that Jim has not given up the benefits of modern civilisation when he expresses his views. Depending on how hard one has worked in life different individuals have accumulated some wealth in their lifetime and this applies to Jim, Kumar,me and everybody else,even though the value of such wealth is drastically less today compared it its value say a decade or more ago. The problem today is that there is no credible ideology and practice popularised among the marginalised millions of people by the leftists,socialists,yahapalana advocates, jvp or whoever that can translate into a political agenda which can in turn help in gaining power to rule. Politicians are occupied in day to day matters without formulating and propagating an overarching ideology and programme of action. This is the fundamental problem. One may say however that the sorting of constitution is a necessity in the right direction. So, more than lifestyle Jim,what matters is the power of ideas to expose the ideology that support the capitalists, mega capitalists, who control our lives and those who support them at the expense of millions who are marginalised from the very lifestyle that Jim talks about. Capital investment is important with the right controls and supervision. Politicians who go to bed with mega capitalists should be exposed,not those who express ideas in support of an ideology and practice serving the interests of the least advantaged.
  • 0
    0
    New Tamil-terrorist are looking another exit by regrouping Federalism-politics in North by that Trotskyist creating another theory of “uninterrupted revolution” to safeguard vested interest of USA and Indian hegemonies in an Island of Sri lanka. This is new task undertaken by Trotskyist so-called moribund LEFT of CPSL and section of Old LSSP’s. Theory is supply by David-Kumar. The aim of task of Trotskyist are partition of Island for Tamil-chauvinist in North and Tamil Nadu new political leverage of USA hegemony of Indian Ocean. The role of Trotskyist seems to be look LEFT, but in depth analysis is serve for Right-wing of UNP +TNA= JVP new alliances who are behind support for NEW Military regime in center of Colombo state.
  • 0
    0
    CP (Moscow) under Keuneman joined the notorious 1966 January march. Rohana W was there too, but suspended from CP (Peking) for that and later sacked. The CP has produced people of the calibre of Sarath Muththetuwegama, whom none after him has matched. The record of the CP since becoming partners in power from 1994 until recently, was not at all commendable. Is Prof AKD telling us that the ‘Stalinist’ DEW is a better leftist than his Trotskyite counterparts in parliament?

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.