11 August, 2020

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Comrade Shan: Remembering N. Sanmugathasan On His Birth Centenary 

By Dayan Jayatilleka – 

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

A political personality must be judged against the backdrop of his/her own time but also viewed with the benefit of hindsight so as to ascertain the more lasting relevance of his/her effort. So it is with Nagalingam Sanmugathasan, better known as N. Sanmugathasan and best known as “Comrade Shan”, the centenary of whose birth falls of July 3rd 2020.

To reverse the usual sequence, let us begin with the time we are living in. Noam Chomsky, the world’s most prominent and influential public intellectual said in a widely quoted recent interview that we are approaching the most dangerous point in human history” He followed it up in a more recent interview on the current wave of protests in the USA saying “The first thing that comes to mind is the absolutely unprecedented scope and scale of participation, engagement, and public support. If you look at polls, it’s astonishing. The public support both for Black Lives Matter and the protests is well beyond what it was, say, for Martin Luther King at the peak of his popularity, at the time of the “I Have a Dream” speech.” (Jacobin magazine June 2020)

In order to understand the historical roots of the strong protest movement –which surveys show has 61% of white participants, though the Black Lives matter movement is the core– the US media has begun to seek out figures from the old Black Panther Party (BPP). Counterpunch magazine recently interviewed Billy X Jennings, Black Panther Party veteran, aide to Huey P Newton, pall-bearer of George Jackson, and BPP archivist, on the subject of the recent protests. In answer to a question he replied: “I would take this back to some learning. When I first joined the BPP I read a book called Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. Mao said that at some point “a single spark can start a prairie fire”. We are seeing the spark in the streets since Floyd’s murder….”

N. Sanmugathasan (right) with Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong was a titan of 20th century history and one of the most consequential history-makers of modern times. He was a great ideological, intellectual and philosophical influence on several generations. Even today, the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou regards himself a Maoist.

The wave of protests in the USA and the world today, though dissimilar from the great wave of 1968 in that the portraits of Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong are absent, are validations of Mao in the animating spirit of the young people in those protests, because one of Mao’s best known slogans (which he thought summed up ‘the essence of Marxism’) was “It is Right to Rebel!”   

Comrade Shan knew Mao and represented him. He was the only Sri Lankan and one of the very few South Asians to have had conversations with him. The founder-leader of India’s Maoist movement the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) much better known as the Naxalites, Charu Mazumdar, never met Mao. Shan, however, stood with Mao at Tien An Men square at the height of the Cultural Revolution when Mao reviewed one and half million Red Guards marching as the sun rose.

Shan’s Maoist party, the Ceylon Communist Party, was one of the two pathways for serious-minded revolutionaries in Sri Lanka, the other being the ‘Southern’ stream of the pro-Moscow Communist party of Sri Lanka (CPSL), identifying themselves with Dr. SA Wickremesinghe. In actuality these tended to be a single path, not two, since many of the Lankan Maoists originated in the ‘Southernist’ SA Wickremesinghe tendency of the CPSL. 

Shan may be seen as the founder and ‘Vice-Chancellor’ of the ‘university’ of Marxist-Leninist learning that almost every committed Lankan revolutionary, South and North graduated from but never stayed on in. The fact that the JVP, though not itself a Maoist movement emerged from the bowels of the Maoist movement and its leading cadres were for the most part ex-Maoists, is evidence of the fecundity of Sri Lankan Maoism. 

When the Maoists split from the pro-Soviet communist party in 1964, the new movement was distinguished by the fact that it had been able to carry the main trade unions of the pro-Moscow party (the Ceylon Trade Union Federation—CTUF) with it, which was a rarity in most parts of the world. The CTUF was led by Sanmugathasan. The cadre leading the All Lanka Peasants’ Congress also went along with Sanmugathasan. 

N. Sanmugathasan

Most striking was the ideological role played by the Sri Lankan Maoist leader internationally. Shan was one of the first in the world to found a Maoist communist party, breaking away from the Moscow-centric CP. His skills with the English language and his knowledge of Marxist-Leninist doctrine made him an ideal representative for the Communist Party of China in the global polemic with the pro-Moscow parties. The histories and anthologies of political literature of that period showed the Ceylon Communist Party, as the Maoists were known, the chance to punch above their weight. His English-language writings were regarded as a prime source on Maoism by students of comparative communist studies the world over.  

Within Sri Lanka though, Shan’s chances of success were almost non-existent. He was from the Tamil minority, an elderly man, with a bad back and an upper middle-class lifestyle –and therefore capable of neither organic integration with the increasingly monolingual Sinhalese social base nor the practice of what he preached. 

Shan’s indirect influence was very considerable though, in that Mao’s works were translated into Sinhala and had an ideological shaping influence far beyond the membership of his party (for instance, the spirited current Chairman of the  Election Commissioner was a Maoist when he was my senior at Peradeniya—while he recalls me as a ‘Stalinist’).

When the April 1971 insurrection broke out, Sanmugathasan who had been one of the most acerbic ideological critics of the JVP was jailed along with them by Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike, to whom all revolutionaries looked and sounded alike. 

Some of Shan’s best writing was in prison and published as books after his release. When he was released from jail, his party had split, with a faction adopting the new foreign policy of China, best exemplified by its line on Sri Lanka and Sudan where it supported governmental suppression of communists and radical leftists it suspected were under the influence of the USSR. This rightward shift in China’s foreign policy was the cause and consequence of its new rapprochement with the United States under Richard Nixon. 

Sanmugathasan was not entirely and utterly orphaned, though. Having opposed Deng Xiaoping’s alleged restoration of capitalism in China and supported Albania, he broke with it too and guided his vastly diminished party into the Revolutionary International Movement (RIM), which confederated far-left Maoist insurgencies in Asia, including the Naxalites of India and most importantly, the successful Maoists of Nepal. 

From a discussion in December 1983 with Kothandaraman, a respected senior figure in Indian Maoism and deputy leader of the underground Peoples War Group of the Naxalite movement, I knew the impact that Shan had on subcontinental Maoism and the regard in which he was held. 

In the late 1960s, the Jaffna branch of Shan’s Maoist party, then in its heyday, had led a violent mass struggle, prefiguring those of today’s Naxalites in India against caste oppression in the mainly Tamil North. Though this struggle was displaced by the emerging Tamil secessionist movement, the left wing of that movement had been influenced by and had considerable respect for the struggle waged by the Maoists. When K. Pathmanabha, founder-leader of the EPRLF, wasn’t musing about the failing health of Dr. George Habash, iconic leader of the Palestinian Left movement, the PFLP (which Pathmanabha had trained with), he was asking me with concern “how is Comrade Shan?”. 

However, despite the invocation of the slogan of a national liberation struggle and the arguable approximation of the conditions in the Tamil areas to those that Asian Maoism took root in, and despite the Tamil ethnicity of the founding father of Lankan Maoism, none of the Tamil Eelam armed movements were Maoists except for a small, short lived group called the National Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam (NLFT) which soon spawned a breakaway, the People’s Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam (PLFT). 

The abiding irony of history, though, is the poignant relevance of the essays written by Sanmugathasan in the mid-1980s (and published in the Lanka Guardian), reminding the emergent Tamil armed movement, of Mao’s Rules of Discipline and Points for Attention, cautioning the young militants against terrorism and killing of civilians, and preaching the doctrine of Protracted People’s War in which, mass organizations form the foundation and politics in command (‘all political power flows from the barrel of the gun but the party commands the gun and not the gun the party’- Mao). 

Had Velupillai Prabhakaran heeded this advice of an older Tamil leader and guru who had dialogued with, learned from and literally stood alongside Mao, the greatest theorist and practitioner of guerrilla warfare in history, he and his militia may not have been obliterated on the banks of the Nandikadal lagoon.

Shan and my father, Mervyn de Silva (whose 21st death anniversary fell last week), were friends. Mervyn had fondly nicknamed him ‘Mao Tse-Shan’. He used to visit our rented flat in Ward Place and Mervyn would drop in for a meal at Shan’s home down Schofield Place. My father and he would discuss and debate Chinese foreign policy, domestic politics and inner-party dynamics in depth. When Mervyn edited the Ceylon Daily News, Sunday Observer, The Times and the Lanka Guardian, he never failed to publish Shan, much to the slightly bemused chagrin of his friend Pieter Keuneman, the cosmopolitan leader of the much larger, mainstream, pro-Moscow communist party. 

I had read Mao as I barely entered my teens, thanks to Comrade Shan. When he returned from China, he used to bring me, a schoolboy, lacquered bamboo Mao badges, tunics, and various editions of the Little Red Book of ‘The Thoughts of Mao’ and of Mao’s poems. 

When I was a young man in the 1980s acting on Mao’s moral-philosophical warrant that “it is right to rebel!” and trying to survive for the rest of the decade “all the vicissitudes of this dangerous business” of “risking one’s skin to prove one’s platitudes” (Che Guevara), comrade Shan afforded me shelter for some weeks, which could have proved painfully costly for him at the hands of the state, and terminally so at the hands of the JVP which had already murdered old Left veterans like trade union leader LW Panditha. 

On this his birth centenary, my indelible memory from a late-night conversation is of him confessing that “In matters of ideology, I am a Brahmin.”   

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    Dayan is back to his comrade days. DJ, what do you think about comrade Putin getting elected for life ???

    • 5
      1

      Chiv,
      Like the rest of us, Dr. DJ is getting old and looking back with nostalgia. His rose-tinted glasses are firmly parked on his nose, preventing him seeing the incongruity of his current writing and his Nugegoda Man days.
      How the mighty have fallen indeed.

      • 1
        0

        OC
        Dayan, despite his political acrobatics, has held sound views in Marxist theory and international affairs.
        How he managed it escapes me.
        He was among the few very brilliant minds among leftist youth in his campus days. Even the JVP youth respected him, despite strong disagreement.
        His flirtation with the EPRLF and then Premadasa led to his political downfall.

  • 6
    0

    Thank you Dayan.
    Have you come across what NS said about LSSP and CP?
    The rhetoric of Marxism was employed by the LSSP and CP, in order to promote the Sinhala
    chauvinist policies of the bourgeoisie Sri Lankan state and to curtail Tamil national political
    mobilization and rights. N. Shanmugathasan in his critique of the parliamentary Left for its
    conciliation with chauvinism of the bourgeoisie condemned the leadership’s opportunism
    which “…led them to a situation where they have come to decide issues not on whether they
    are right or wrong but whether they meet the approval of the Sinhala masses… That is, why
    except the attempt made by the Marxist-Leninists to organize the Red Flag Union, in the
    1960’s, the other parties have neglected plantation labour. It is not an organizational defect.
    It is a matter of politics. It is for the same reason that the LSSP and the CPSL have refrained
    from making a bold and revolutionary call in the matter of the Tamil problem. It is not
    without significance that so far they have refused to call for the withdrawal of the army from
    the North and East.”(Shanmugathasan 1989: 8)”

  • 3
    3

    Thank You Dayan,

    This is the centenary year of the birth of Shan

    Shan was an unrepentant communist.

    It is very difficult to be a communist after Deng Xiaoping took China along capitalist path.

    Marx, Lenin, Stalin , Rosa Luxemburg, Castro, Che” Guevara, Mao and Shan were distant memories

    Memories never die!

    Sri

    • 6
      1

      srikrish

      Have you noticed Dayan has dropped few names:
      N. Sanmugathasan
      Noam Chomsky ” public intellectual”
      Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”
      Billy X Jennings “Black Panther Party (BPP)”
      Huey P Newton, pall-bearer of George Jackson,
      Chairman Mao Tse-Tung
      Alain Badiou “regards himself a Maoist”
      Che Guevara
      Ho Chi Minh
      Charu Mazumdar the Naxalite
      Dr. SA Wickremesinghe
      Deng Xiaoping
      Kothandaraman
      Dr. George Habash, iconic leader
      K. Pathmanabha, founder-leader of the EPRLF
      National Liberation Front of Tamil Eelam (NLFT)
      Velupillai Prabhakaran
      Shan and my father, Mervyn de Silva

      The core message is Dayan knew lots of people who mattered.

      “it is right to rebel!” only from your comfortable sofa.

      • 1
        0

        NV,

        Dayan has an expertise in name dropping,

        No doubt Dayan is brilliant, but comfortable only in the shadow of his father.
        He needs a lot of sympathy and understanding!

        • 5
          0

          srikrish

          “No doubt Dayan is brilliant,”

          In what way, you mean he is brilliant, is it for taking 64 positions all at the same time.
          What was his overall contribution to this island, in terms of debate, new thinking, new ideas, race relation, protecting human rights of every human being of this island, ……. intellectual honesty, …… most of the time he hides behind his daddy’s reputation, switches loyalty, jump ships, ….. justify all human rights violations, war crimes, …. vocal war crime denier for which he was rewarded by crooked politicians, …..

          He defended and supported EPRLF for being non sectarian. In fact had he read EPRLF party Manifesto/declaration one of it’s objectives clearly stated EPRLF was for establishing a separate state.

          Because of people like this opportunists who are in the limelight all the time, those wise people who could contribute immensely have withdrawn from public life.

          • 2
            0

            NV,
            If you convincingly say “black is white” and “white is black” with quotations from a galaxy of intellectuals, of Course out of context, then you are nothing but brilliant

      • 3
        0

        Dear Native,
        .
        that should not be by misake. LOOKING at the manner DJ’s unique inconsistent nature. ‘:
        :
        See how he has changed his tone today – being fallen back to unemployed mode.
        :
        That is idiosyncratic to DJ genetics (I mean not to his fathers okay- father was a great journalists who won the hearts and minds of all then – but DJ was bought by Rajapkashe clan for political scapegoating to the very same manner Rajapakshes have been doing with Wimal Buruwanse)

  • 3
    0

    Thanks Dayan, but you forgot a very important contribution by Shan to Marxist theory in Sri Lanka.
    He offered the best theoretical defence of Marxism Leninism (Stalinism to Trotskyists) in the ideological debate between the Trotskyists and Marxist Leninists. Even now, Shan’s writings contain the some of the strongest political defence of Stalin against attacks by Trotskyists and later ‘revisionists’.
    Shan was painfully aware of being a member of the minority community and some pro-Soviet leaders took advantage of it when they split. Keuneman (not SA Wickremasinghe) kept referring to him in public as Nagalingam Sanmugathasan (instead of Shan). There was no CP theoretician of his calibre in the South. Had there been one who stood by him, the CP faction associated with him would have been withstood the communal onslaught, and the JVP may have been stillborn. It was this sensitivity that persuaded him to make Premlal Kumarasiri a major leader, despite Premlal’s although lapses in his political understanding, place his trust in Rohana Wijeweera, and later give prominence to SD Bandaranayake, a very secular left-oriented Sinhalese politician with a weakness for parliamentary politics.

    • 0
      0

      Dayan is incorrect to say that China’s rapprochement with the US under Nixon resulted in the rightward shift in China’s foreign policy. At the time the USSR was aggressive towards China and even threatened war. China saw the US as a tactical ally against the Soviet threat. China’s stand on liberation struggles did not falter.
      Political changes struck root, as Shan noted correctly, a little before Mao died. (Shan insisted that China’s Three Worlds Theory was not Mao’s.)
      Shan aligned with Enver Hoxha of Albania when the latter defended Mao against Deng. When Hoxha distanced himself from Mao, Shan parted company.
      Linking the mass campaign against untouchability guided by Shan’s party with the Naxalite uprising some years later is unfortunate. The untouchability campaign was a broad-based campaign uniting a wide spectrum of forces and had support even in the South. The campaign did not exclude armed struggle in the context of violence by the goons paid by the upper caste reactionaries and the police. The Naxalites effectively declared revolutionary war.
      Many left-oriented Tamil militants were inspired by the campaign against untouchabilty and not the JVP insurrection as some claim. What the militants missed out was the mass struggle component.

      • 3
        1

        //important contribution by Shan to Marxist theory//
        I wonder if one might say he was a “keyboard Marxist” lacking in practical skills!

    • 2
      0

      SJ,
      .
      Dayan may have been fine during his campus days with his stand to Marxist theory in Sri Lanka.

      But honestly saying, did it reflect his behaviours displayed in recent times ? He stood by Wimal Buruwanse, – just an idiot of lanken politics that spread blatant lies rabblerousing the easy targets.
      .
      I have no disagreement with some of his opinions on international relations ( in particular, he insists, that we as a smaller nation should stay arguing with western countries – this comes because he lived in Paris, Geneva and several other cities representing the country at that time).
      But I am very against him standing by Rajpakashes/Wimal Buruwanse – now again on his return he seems to have changed his attitudes, being again unemployed. HIs thoguhts and minds have never been consistent. Pleae get back to the articles he wrote to CT – say for during the last 3 years.

  • 3
    0

    “In matters of ideology, I am a Brahmin.”

    I recall reading that he was the only son of a family with considerable means. Despite pressure from his mother to find gainful employment instead of staying a Marxist theoretician, he stuck to it, telling his mother he had enough family money.

    There was a communist party theoretician in Jaffna, Subramaniam, whose son was studying engineering at Peradeniya and, when he was ill, came to live in Kandy where I met him. It seemed that even as he spent all of his time on his Marxist theory, corresponding with the likes of West Bengal CM, Joyti Basu, someone else from his extended family had to provide for his family.

    Deepal Jayasekara, a brilliant engineering student at Peradeniya, dropped out to work full-time for the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), and I believe his articles are still published on the WSWS site. I would think he would have to manage with the little stipend that SEP paid its full-time workers/office holders.

    I have always had mixed feelings, because all of them would have faced hostility from their families for the “irresponsible” choices they made, but they still stayed committed to their ideals.

    [contd.]

  • 4
    0

    But DJ himself has been all over the map, trying to run with the hare while hunting with the hounds. Who can forget him baying for blood in the Vanni in the final stages of the war, and denying war crimes, openly lying and stonewalling on behalf of the GoSL at UNHRC.

    • 2
      0

      Agnos
      There was a whole generation of idealists who motivated others by example. Even those who rejected their policies respected their dedication. Much of that tradition derives from the Jaffna Youth Congress.
      Not just the big names and known leaders, even ordinary members sacrificed much for the cause. They may seem a rare breed now, but I still come across several.
      I met Deepal not long ago at social function and had a long chat. He was disappointed about many things, but not at all bitter.
      *
      DJ in his campus days was very consistent in his stand.
      Membership of a political party is a serious commitment and a source of political stability.

    • 4
      0

      Agnos,
      Dayan apparently has a brilliant mind, but lacks credibility due to taking contradictory positions for opportunistic reasons. Once he was an EPRLF Cabinet minister, then a Premadasa acolyte, then transformed into a Rajapaksa apologist , his last permutation being Sirisena’s man in Moscow. He has been consistently kept at arm’s length only by Ranil.

      • 0
        0

        …and understandably the JVP and the LTTE.

      • 3
        0

        old codger

        “Dayan apparently has a brilliant mind”

        Please clarify.

        • 1
          0

          Native,
          Being brilliant is not incompatible with being devious and/or dishonest.

          • 3
            0

            NV/OC,

            DJ’s problem is a problem of character. He does have the intellectual capacity to grasp vast amounts of information quickly, synthesize it and speak and write well, in a way not too many in SL can do.

            But as he has himself said on occasion, his father, for all his public persona as a well-recognized journalist, was given to too much drinking and womanizing. That must have affected DJ’s moral and character development. On one hand, the Catholic faith of at least one of his parent imposed moral strictures, and on the other you have his father doing those things, and that provides a certain denial, an early exposure to living with contradictions.

            Even without such fatherly adventures, religions, by claiming certain attributes about a God they know nothing about, themselves impart such comfort with contradictions at an early age. As a result, children grow into adults without the ability to uphold the truth, a proper sense of right and wrong. You see this aplenty among MR-GR supporters in SL, just as I see it among Trump supporters in the US.

            • 3
              0

              Agnos

              “He does have the intellectual capacity to grasp vast amounts of information quickly, synthesize it and speak and write well, in a way not too many in SL can do.”

              If you look at his typing, mostly recycled stuff, nothing new, nothing interesting, mainly name dropping, imitating borrowed ideas such as backstop, rebalancing, pivot, …………….. deliberately dropping these unrelated terms in his typing as if he had coined them, a card carrying racist, ……….. he was against holding elections to Northern province in 2013, he suggested MR appoint an interim council to run Northern province, he also suggested few unknown persons, Nesan, …… … .

              A pretender, he benefited from three presidents, took several contradicting/incompatible/dishonest positions over the past 35 years, a permanent war crime denier, … a headless chicken, …..

              Then the point is he maybe an cheap clowning intellectual however the question remains does he possess intellectual honesty.

              Do compre this person to Prof Gananath Obeyesekere, H L Seneviratne, R A L H Gunawardana, …… now tell me how good is his “body of work”?

              I would go so far as to say SJ’s body of work is impressive mostly useful and interesting apart from his loyalty to Banda, Weeping widow, and peacefully rising middle kingdom than this bogus intellectual.

              • 0
                0

                Native,
                “SJ’s body of work is impressive mostly useful and interesting “
                Are we going soft on SJ then?

                • 1
                  0

                  old codger

                  “Are we going soft on SJ then?”

                  Not really.
                  I thought I better give him a break

                  Do you know why he is so fond of Pandaranayakka, Weeping Widow, Mao, China, China’s aggressive foreign policies, especially its PIECE LOVING policy, piece of land from every neighbour, … sometimes he believes China has the right to own and occupy this island?

                  He must have forgotten as to what happened to (Vira?) Alakeswara when Zheng He visited this island with treasure ships.

                  Have you finished your analysis of the forth coming elections. Any predictions. Why do you think Wimal Sangili Karuppan Weerawansa is still popular, given that Voters make informed choices?

              • 2
                0

                Agnos

                This is the same bigot who immediately after forming of the government in 2015 found Ranil Wickramasinghe’s government illegitimate simply because it was not elected by the Majority of the majority people. As far as Dayan was concerned any government that seeks legitimacy should not depend on nor elected with the support of the minority.

                • 1
                  0

                  Agnos

                  Please refer to his old rambling:
                  Beyond 50:50
                  JANUARY 17, 2015
                  Dayan Jayatilleka
                  https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/beyond-5050/comment-page-2/#comments

                  • 4
                    0

                    Agnos

                    Even after parliament pledged confidence in Ranil as Prime minister in 2015 Vasu and Dayan continued to call him “an unelected Prime Minister who does not command a majority in the legislature” while maintaining a deafening silence when MR illegitimately grabbed power in a coup from Ranil. He also maintained complete silence when his platonic partner threaten to storm Temple trees and evict the legitimate prime minister Ranil from his official residence.

                  • 0
                    0

                    NV,

                    If you look at the comments under that link from January 2015, you will see that at that time I made a comment and called DJ ‘moronic’ and what he said it ‘racist claptrap,’ etc. I haven’t changed that view about him.

                    If you go back to the time of war and the immediate aftermath, DJ, Rajiva Wijesinha and Palitha Kohona were much more articulate and media-savvy than most people who spoke in support of the Tamil side. Part of that had to do with the GoSL enjoying the benefits of being a recognized state; with their label as militants or ‘terrorists,’ the LTTE couldn’t find skilled communicators among Tamils to represent them. And part of it was the deviousness, lying and stonewalling by the GoSL. But some skill was involved as well, and we have to acknowledge it.

  • 5
    1

    I should say a little in the context of the ‘upper middle class life style’ of Shan referred to by Dayan.
    Shan joined the Communist Party and its trade union in 1943 soon after he graduated from the University College Colombo. He was from what one may call a typical middle class family of Jaffna.
    He worked very hard to build the CTUF, and his dedication came in handy at the time of the split in 1964. The CTUF went with him partly owing to the gratitude of the membership to him and partly to the intense political work in the years running up to the split.
    His ways were simple and frugal and during the years of building up the trade union and the Party, he would even hop a ride on transport lorries to travel for political work in order to save money for the party and would sleep on the floor of any party or trade union office.
    His roughing out took a toll on his health and that changed his lifestyle to some extent.
    Rohana Wijeweera would repeatedly ridicule Shan from public platforms in 1970-71 saying “Shan sahodaraya viplave kerannata eyata pukkata kottak one” (To make revolution, Comrade Shan will need a cushion for his buttocks).

  • 0
    1

    1953 Hartel was a success, but the left got frightened of the success, abandoned the mass movement, and allowed SWRD to steal and enjoy the fruits.

    Even FP was in support of this campaign. If the struggle was continued led by the left, the history of the country would have been different.

    The 1961 Satyagraha campaign in the Northern and Eastern Provinces was again a success.
    FP, frightened of the house arrests of it’s leaders and some army action, claimed it to be a failure to this day. This satygraha campaign evoked a lot of sympathy in the South
    The masses both in the North as well as in the South if mobilized and continued, it would have made a difference.

    The untouchability campaign 1965-1970 with tolerable violence was another success. It was simply allowed to fizzle out.

    All these are extra parliamentary mass uprisings. The people were ready, but their leaders were not, the parliamentarians got frightened, allowed terrorist campaigns of JVP and LTTE to take over, and provided an opportunity to the ruling classes to suppress convincingly with international support.

    The only way for the Tamils to win their rights is to be part of an island wide extra-parliamentary struggle..

    Do we Learn lessons from the past? and are we ready?

    Sri

    • 0
      1

      Sri
      The opening sentence seems imprecise. Why should success scare the Left?
      One may say:
      The LSSP took too much for granted.
      The VLSSP doubted electoral success of the Left on its own.
      The CP had only pockets of electoral support.
      Translating Hartal success into something bigger required mass political work, and a slow process except during a major political crisis. The left was unprepared– I will agree.
      *
      The FP had no plans for the Satyagraha, which drew spontaneous support owing to police brutality against demonstrators. It was public enthusiasm that kept it going.
      Soon it was a stalemate, and a few FP hotheads, without consulting the leadership printed Tamilarasu stamps, post cards and stamped envelopes and started a postal service. The state interpreted it as a separatist move, and declared a state of emergency. All Satyagraha detainees but SJVC were together at the partly complete Army Camp at Panagoda, with minimal supervision. They did nothing to work out their next move.
      *
      The Mass Movement Against Untouchability achieved much, but full success is a long process. The leaders of the movement (CP led by Shan) were hounded by the police from 1971 using the April Insurrection as pretext.
      *
      I agree on extra-parliamentary struggle, but also a broad united front.

      • 0
        1

        SJ,

        I stand by with what I said.

        1953 Hartel was conducted on 12 August 1953 and 12 people were killed.

        The left should have continued with this one day successful Hartel.

        The Hartel, if continued may turn out to be out of their control, the left was in their comfort zone and they did not want to disturb their peaceful existence. The over through of a government is a nuisance, they might have thought

        Being gentlemen in politics, the followers of not Marx, but British Labour party ,they wanted to wait until the 1957 general election to reap the benefit.

        The leftists especially Dr NM Perera could quote from Erskine May, Clerk to the British House of Commons- the expert on Parliamentary procedures and Practices and wanted to practice Parliamentary procedures and Practices to the letter.

        Extra Parliamentary actions were anathema to them and hence they called off the Hartel after the first day.

        • 0
          1

          Sri
          I do not question your right to hold firm your views.
          I, however, questioned the validity of the phrase “the left got frightened of the success”. Fright is not quite reluctance.
          *
          I would have thought that but for AE Gunasinghe nobody on the Left in Sri Lanka was a follower of the British Labour Party. (Please give us any evidence to the contrary, which will help me, among others, to review our understanding of the history of the Left in Sri Lanka.)
          It is well known that NM was a ‘disciple’ of Harold Lasky, and not the leading theoretician of the LSSP. He was a practical person who did much mass political work at one time.But the politics of the LSSP tradition was something else. Sri Lanka was only second to the US in having a strong Trotskyite party.

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    The only consistency of DJ to-date had been his critique of JRJ in the media in the late 80s holding a brief for
    R. Premadasa.
    Perhaps,understandable in a sense. JRJ as PM WITH A 4/5ths majority in Parliament tried Mervyn de Silva over some thing that he had published which angered JRJ. Parliament became a court house and Mervyn was humiliated. First time ever that an Editor of a News-paper was tried by Parliament! One of those aberrations of
    JRJ.

    Since then, DJ HAS BEEN A WEATHER-COCK. EPRLF, R. Premadasa, Rajapakse and even Sirisena,all within a matter of 3decades or so. Perhaps, in retrospect he admires the consistency of Comrade Shan all his life towards the Maoist cause.

    Frankly, I am still unable to reconcile myself to that remark of DJ when he claimed that the Tamil National question was settled on the shores of the Nandikadal Lagoon!

    SJ, with his numerous posts on this tribute to his leader Comrade Shan has also remained an unrepentant commie!

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      Plato,
      It was not Mervin de Silva but some other journalist.

      Please read the extract from the Net Below for further details,

      The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Act of 1978 has been in existence since January 1978, hurriedly pushed through the legislature by the then United National Party (UNP) government,
      The editor and the news editor of the state- owned ‘Observer’ were hauled before Parliament on Jan. 30, 1978, and convicted after a “trial” conducted by MPs. The newspaper had published a picture with an incorrect caption.
      The ‘Observer’ had mixed up the captions of two pictures, one of which showed the then Sri Lankan foreign minister Shahul Hameed at a public function and the other of Hollywood actor Peter Fonda and a companion cruising down a river. The newspaper apologized for the mistake but Parliament was not satisfied. Both journalists were fined.

      This is not the end of the story.

      S.Nadesan QC criticized this verdict in a newspaper article and he was sued in the Supreme Court.

      JR was finally compelled to eat humble pie

      This act was subsequently repealed

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    Name dropping has its benefits and disbenefits. This one had helped in understanding a bit of the hidden history of Sri Lanka. Shanmugathan was very fluent in Sinhalese as well. His personal conversions with his friends like Mervyn de Silva would have been in Sinhalese. He is a hardcore pro Chinese communist albeit an arm chair one. Sadly for him he realised late in his life that a Tamil person cannot succeed in the main stream politics. He attracted many Tamil students, towards Marxism, who went on to read Marx, Mao etc. They were disillusioned when millions died as a result of Mao’s “Let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend”. Many people now think that Mao’s famous quote “Ploitical power flows from the barrel of a gun “ is too simplistic.
    Marx’s conclusion of class struggle and perfect society has also failed and is discredited but his philosophical basis that human society is in a process of continual change (dialectical) has stood the test of time. The change as explained by him was caused by the fact that ‘ every idea or situation contains within it an internal conflict that forces a change to occur.’ This theory is also called unity of opposites.

    • 0
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      Shan R
      Just to put the record right
      Mervin was editor of a leading English daily and publisher/editorof Lanka Guardian for very long. So the prospect of conversions in another tongue are weak.
      Shan was a great organizer of trade unions and a successful trade union strategist. His role in the campaign against untouchability was important. I wonder what qualifies him as an armchair whatever he is.
      The minority of Tamil students attracted to Marxism moved away from Left politics owing to the surge in nationalism in the 1970s.
      Could you kindly elaborate on what you mean by “Marx’s conclusion of class struggle and perfect society”.

      • 0
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        ShanR and SJ,
        Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao are real theoreticians. The last two of course were Stalinists, whereas Marx, Engels, Stalin and Trotsky were another school of thoughts called Trotskyite.

        Shan was a Stalinist Whereas Karlo (V. Karaladingam) from LSSP was a Trotskyite .

        There was no one else in Sri Lanka to beat them in their scholarship

        I read them with relish. It was late 60s or early 70s

        The following are gems from MAO

        • “let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend”,
        • political power grows out of the barrel of a gun
        • us imperialism is a paper tiger

        Mao had interpreted Hegel’s Dialectic Materialism positively during cold war years.

        Those were the days

  • 0
    1

    ShanR and SJ,
    Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao are real theoreticians. The last two of course were Stalinists, whereas Marx, Engels, Stalin and Trotsky were another school of thoughts called Trotskyite.

    Shan was a Stalinist Whereas Karlo (V. Karaladingam) from LSSP was a Trotskyite .

    There was no one else in Sri Lanka to beat them in their scholarship

    I read them with relish. It was late 60s or early 70s

    The following are gems from MAO

    • “let a hundred flowers bloom, and a hundred schools of thought contend”,
    • political power grows out of the barrel of a gun
    • us imperialism is a paper tiger

    Mao had interpreted Hegel’s Dialectic Materialism positively during cold war years.

    Those were the days

    • 1
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      “…whereas Marx, Engels, Stalin and Trotsky were another school of thoughts called Trotskyite.”
      *
      Really?
      This the biggest slip I have seen from you.

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        SJ,
        Sorry,
        It should be Lenin not Stalin.
        Trotsky had no problem with Marx, Engels, Rosa Luxembourg and Lenin,but was against Stalin. Mao was not in the seen when Trotsky was alive. Trotsky was finally murdered by Stalin or his agents in Mexico.

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        Sorry SJ.
        Even then the statement is historically wrong.

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          Sorry, I typed SJ for Sri
          A historically less serious mistake.

        • 0
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          But this is not the first time wring own name for commentator name. Neither it is could be the last.

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    Great to see that Dayan Jayatillaka (among some of the commentators here) is one of the few people still openly prepared to avow the ideals of Karl Marx and his derivatives including Stalin, Mao, and Che Guevara. Let us look at the record of these great individuals through the lens of today to see whether they are worthy of praise or even mention today:
    -Karl Marx- about as wrong as anyone can be in his demonstrably false arguments and the architect of more suffering than any other person in history – and I don’t mean just in a moral sense with an estimated minimum of 100 million deaths to his account.
    – Stalin: It is on record that Lenin hardly killed a fellow communist, while Stalin hardly ever stopped. Much of the above millions are to his account.
    -Mao: responsible for the deaths of upwards of 40 million people through his harebrained schemes that are apparently admirable according to DJ.
    – Che Guevara: How many of the morons wearing his brand on tshirts and tuktuks know he was a racist with a god complex, who happily executed so many innocent at Sierra Maestra by firing upon them while smoking monte cristo cigars, among his other crimes? We know how much DJ loves Che and the moronic Fidel. I have visited that country and seen the sorry state it is in today.

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