18 September, 2021

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Continuing A Politically Relevant Discussion

By Kumar David –

Only two commentators are referred to below because to discuss all the politically important responses to “Kumar at 80: Engineer, Scholar, Socialist” by Rajan Philips in Colombo Telegraph would too exhausting for me at this age!

Kumar

old codger

“In 1970, Kumar David was one of a triumvirate of young Sama Samajists who set up a secret internal left faction (Vaama Sama Samaja group) within the LSSP.” 

Perhaps Dr. KD should have stayed inside the LSSP and changed its ways.

This is an interminable point of debate among us now. But it was impossible once the old guard understood how big a threat we posed (We would have won a Party Conference in the late 1970s hands down if they accepted our demand for one which the leadership refused). They expelled Vasu to prevent it – Bahu and Siritunga were expelled earlier; I was expelled later. The old guard also knew that we had strong international support from Marxist groups.

Old Codger also said: The only reason that the LSSP got such massive number of seats in 1970 was its pact with the SLFP, like the JVP much later. Our voters aren’t very interested in being offered hard work now and paradise later. They want paradise up front.

True, that’s why I all upon the JVP now to work towards a front with the Liberals on a Social Democratic programme. Like OC I too have no illusions about our voters.

SJ’s – Comments

Siva ridiculed someone using the term “Marxist blueprint”. Very fair ridicule of that person.

“I think that the Vama Samasamaja group emerged a little too late.”

What the hell!! Pity Vasu, Bahu and I were born a “bit too late”. Maybe we should have in 1964 launched a Baby Samasamaja when we were still raw youth (instead of Vama Samajamaja). The real culprits in this respect were Bala, Edmund and Karlo who had the standing in the Party to stay and fight do what we did not succeed in achieving. We would have been irrelevant had these establish Samasamaja figures stayed and given leadership after the 1964 Conference.  

The Vama group as NSSP did fairly well because the Government Clerical Service Union supported it.

No absolutely NOT true. We had much deeper organisational roots in all districts and branches of the LSSP. That’s why the leadership feared us so much and systematically expelled us.

The general strike of 1981 was badly timed or rather badly coordinated. Its defeat was a severe blow to the NSSP.

100% agreed. NSSP Central Committee was split and the leading working class comrades in the CC called the decision “madness”.

Kumar David

(The Older Codger)

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Latest comments

  • 3
    3

    Kumar
    When Shan split with Keuneman & Co he faced similar problems including reference to his ethnic identity. But he braved it all, thanks to his work in the trade unions which went with him in 1964, on top of a whole year of political education in party branches.
    *
    The GCSU was the only solid organization that the NSSP had. Do not underestimate its worth.
    *
    A leadership that betrayed the ULF and the 21 Demands campaign had to be fought from without. (Retreat on language policy was of little practical significance after the FP itself had toned down its opposition when negotiating with SWRDB.)
    Do not blame Edmund S and Bala T, for there are times when one cannot fight moral corruption from within.
    Blame Colvin who led the attack and got cold feet. It took him six years to carry a “mal wattiy” to the Maligawa and a little longer to ruin his reputation with the notorious parts of the (otherwise in some important ways a welcome) 1972 Constitution. I grant you that NM was more sober.
    Where Edmund S and Merryl F erred was in letting their bitterness against NM got the better of them to vote against the government on the Lake House bill in 1964.

  • 3
    2

    There was the notorious January 1966 march against the Tamil language bill? Condoning the chorus of racist catcalls (Thosai, Maslavadai Meenaachchi etc) against the FP MPs in Parliament?
    Was it not the time to wake up because that identified the LSSP and CP (Keuneman faction) as accomplices to SLFP’s racism?
    *
    How old was Wijeweera (b. July 1943, ) when he broke with Shan? Much older than you or any older than Vasudeva (b. January 1939) was in 1964?
    *
    Were there no opportunities and reasons between 1970 and 1977 to part company?
    I do not accuse any of opportunism for not acting in time. But suspect that at times sentiment betrays sound reasoning.

    • 2
      0

      Prof.KD,
      Apropos my remark that you might have stayed in the LSSP and reformed it from inside, could I indulge in some alternative history?
      Let’s say you didn’t leave the LSSP. Since you were younger than Wijeweera, you were probably even more hot-headed. So, in all likelihood, you would have started your revolutionary insurrection before him, and either been disappeared or incinerated. In that case, we wouldn’t be having this discussion!
      So, maybe the way things eventually panned out was better.

      • 2
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        oc, even if Kumar in his hot-headed youth may have been reckless, I don’t think that he would have been driven by hatred the way Wijeweera was.
        .
        I’m glad that those aspects of his party have now disappeared and they have morphed into the NPP. May I appeal to you to always call the group the “Jathika Jana Balavegaya“? That is how they now refer to themselves.
        .
        Would Wijeweera ever have wanted the likes of Dr Harini Amarsuriya to have been part of the organisation?
        .
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpRAnTEkh4M
        .
        That is 28 minutes in English.

  • 9
    0

    Leaving politics aside, let me wish you many happy returns on completing four score, and many more productive years to come.

  • 4
    0

    If a working class, party is built up from the grassroots, do personalities matter?.

    There was a school of thought that claimed that the left was frightened of the militancy of the working class during 1953 hartel and did everything to dampen the revolutionary zeal of the working class and SWRD stepped in with his Pancha Maha Balavegaya coalition in the 1956 general election, thereafter the left could only play a second fiddle.

    That was the beginning of betrayal not 1964

  • 5
    0

    No Siva, we also had the Railway Workers Union and Bata (Ratmalana) and comrades in leading bodies of most important unions. But what is more important if that we were in a majority in most Party District Committees and probably most Party Locals except the Ruwanwella-Yatiyantota and the Panadura-Kalutara areas. WE WOULD HAVE WON AT A PARTY CONFERENCE AFTER 1975.

    Be that as it may the more important issue is this. “Do not blame Edmund S and Bala T, for there are times when one cannot fight moral corruption from within.” This justifies splitting the party which was a rejection of our (and historically proven) FUNDAMENTAL POSITION. The working class will not easily desert its traditional organisations. The history of all Europe in the last 100+ years Britain’s Labour Party included, Asia (India, China, Indonesia etc) has proved this over and over again. It is inside the proven mass organisations that the organic leaders of the class are to be found. You cannot recreate an organic leadership without historical roots and experience. I am convinced that Bala-Edmund-Karlo-Prince-Reggie Mendis etc etc committed a HUGE historical blunder. They don’t have even tiny sects of 5 people each left over today. Siva I am not going to argue this point with you again; I am too tired.

    Mr Srisrish: NO there was no revolutionary situation in 1953. The Hartal was a powerful and brave protest but it was NOT A ONE-DAY A PRE-REVOLUTIONARY EVENT. Please read up how revolutions mature and develop. For example 1905-1917 and Feb-Oct 1917 in Russia, 1921-1948 China, Vietnam, Cuba etc. There never was and there never has been a revolutionary conjuncture in post independence SL (not 1948, 1953, 1971 or 1989) because revolutions happen according their own logic and dynamic (so said Marx, Lenin, Rosa and Mao) not because NM, Colvin or Wijeweera says so.

    • 2
      2

      Kumar
      I grant your claims about NSSP having other trade unions– for you know the inside story. But I fear that you are rather overestimating the Vama strength within the LSSP. But that was not the point that I was making.
      *
      There are times when a split is necessary, especially when the main organization is betraying the cause. (The CPI(M) – CPI split and the CPI-CPI(ML) split were thus inevitable.)
      *
      Even here the split in the CP was needed in the local context. A key difference between the split in the CP and that in the LSSP was that there was no ideological debate at cadre level in the latter.
      In fact, Shan thrived until he isolated himself from potentially friendly progressive forces and made a few bad judgments, from a little before 1970. (The parting of Wijeweera with a large chunk of the party youth in 1966-67 perhaps had an adverse impact on Shan’s judgment.)
      (BTW, did not the Bolshevik minority split– regardless of the the name?)
      *
      I assume that you will not context the point that the Party was morally corrupt to commit the betrayals that I listed.
      Its lack of sympathy for the JVP youth and treating Vasu like a Red Dalit were serious symptoms for the Vama to taken note of.

    • 0
      0

      Dr Kumar David,

      I was referring to the rise and fall of the left, especially LSSP in the context of a Parliamentary democracy and not about a revolution.

      If you consider it as a normal distribution, LSSP was on the top of the normal distribution in 1953,thereafter sliding downwards until it solely dependent on the national list for a single seat in Parliament.

      With a no-contest pact with SLFP, LSSP was able to get 14 seats in 1956.

      When LSSP contested without any alliance in March 1960,the number of seats went down to 10,In July 1960 it was 12 and 10 in 1965 and 19 in 1970 when it contested as a United Front with SLFP and CP.

      Thereafter one or two seats dependant on SLFP and finally a pathetic single seat from the national list, thanks to SLFP/SLPP.

      LSSP has now withered away with no hope of a revival!

      Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Cuba are another story to be told on another occasion.

  • 3
    0

    SJ, Prof. KD
    .
    You gentlemen are discussing how the ice cream melt without referring to the quick rise in ambient temperature. You are discussing quarrelling among children as the cause.
    As for me the the relevant discussion is how and why the Communism collapsed, China adopted Capitalism and left parties all over are less than 5% today (SJ once pointed out to me a couple of exceptions) . Sri Lanka cannot be discussed in isolation in order to gain some insight.

    Soma

    • 0
      0

      Soma
      I agree that Sri Lanka cannot be discussed in isolation. But, more importantly, it cannot be discussed ion isolation from its own history.
      The whole of South America is on a strong leftward swing.
      The US coup in Bolivia has backfired badly. Attempted coups in Nicaragua and Venezuela have failed too.
      Recently even Peru switched and Chile has rejected the right wing at the last election to the “Constitutional Congress” (The earlier vote to be rid of the Pionochet constitution was overwhelming.)
      The fascist in charge of Brazil is facing imminent downfall.
      Look at Colombia, the last bastion of the US in South America is facing growing mass protests.
      That is more than one or two exceptions.
      *
      Even China is reversing a little from its all out capitalist transformation on some fronts. But I will not count on it.
      *
      ps. If the children did not quarrel, the ice cream would have been consumed before it melted.

      • 1
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        SJ
        The wind must first sweep India before it arrives here.

        Soma

        • 2
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          It swept Cuba before it even touched the US.

    • 1
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      Good point, Soma: On the Left, people are largely driven by ideology. So even small differences are important to them to debate. And they don’t see the irrelevance of their debates. On the Right, however, pursuit of power — driven by greed — is the only objective. So the capitalists can easily compromise, gang up together and screw the rest of us.

      • 0
        0

        Quite right.

        Soma

      • 2
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        SAV,
        “On the Left, people are largely driven by ideology. So even small differences are important “
        That reminds me of the time I innocently asked an Anglican priest to explain the difference between a Baptist and a Methodist!

        • 0
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          old codger, no difference between anglicans, methodists and baptists except that these groups were established historically in different time periods. It’s like your children followed each other with different school grades, names, interests, clothes and the like, but eat together and have the same parents who love them. Different christian groups will have the same united destiny after they leave this world, living in the peace of the eternal now as one kingdom family of a father who loves them, and protects and provides.

          • 1
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            This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

            For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

          • 0
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            Amen.

            • 1
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              Soma,
              Do you know that both Muslims and Christians use amen/ameen ? But in other things they are quite different.

          • 0
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            David,
            “no difference between anglicans, methodists and baptists “
            What about Catholics then, David? Just asking innocently.

        • 0
          0

          SAV, Soma & OC
          I think that I have responded to this earlier with instances in recent history where broad fronts have been formed to deliver justice for the people. It is encouragingly seen in South America now.
          Ideological differences are a sign of political alertness and healthy debate. But sectarianism is not.
          *
          We cannot lightly dismiss differences between those clinging to capitalist parties for small favours and those who reject that approach.
          There are ‘purists’ and dogmatists who cannot work as a team, at times within their own organizations.
          Greed cannot always keep the reactionaries together. They unite only in the face of a challenge.

  • 0
    0

    Dr Kumar David,

    I was referring to the rise and fall of the left, especially LSSP in the context of a Parliamentary democracy and not about a revolution.

    If you consider it as a normal distribution, LSSP was on the top of the normal distribution in 1953,thereafter sliding downwards until it solely dependent on the national list for a single seat in Parliament.

    With a no-contest pact with SLFP, LSSP was able to get 14 seats in 1956.

    When LSSP contested without any alliance in March 1960,the number of seats went down to 10,In July 1960 it was 12 and 10 in 1965 and 19 in 1970 when it contested as a United Front with SLFP and CP.

    Thereafter one or two seats dependant on SLFP and finally a pathetic single seat from the national list, thanks to SLFP/SLPP.

    LSSP has now withered away with no hope of a revival!

    Soviet Union, China, Vietnam and Cuba are another story to be told on another occasion.

    • 2
      0

      Sri Krish,
      “LSSP was on the top of the normal distribution in 1953,thereafter sliding downwards “
      That was because of the poor state of worker rights at the time. Pay was low. Most people couldn’t afford a house. You could be sacked for being late or missing work, even in State service. The left parties agitated and won all these facilities ( maybe a little too many). By the 80’s, there wasn’t much to agitate about, and the Left was superfluous. Sure, there are still strikes, but these are no longer survival issues.

      • 2
        0

        Sri Krish,
        Even in the US, Communists had a toehold, and a very good propaganda point when segregation was active. But when from Eisenhower onwards, governments realized it was their Achilles heel vis-a-vis the Soviets, and dismantled it, Communist influence dwindled. But one could credit the Soviets for ending US racial discrimination!

        • 2
          3

          OC
          Communist influence was brutally suppressed in the US:
          McCarthyism with its origins in the period of the ‘Second Red Scare’ from the late 1940s through the 1950s.
          McCarthy ran riot between 1949 and 1954 until he was disgraced in 1954. US communists never recovered from it.
          *
          As for dismantling systemic injustice to the Blacks, the Civil Rights Movement played a more decisive role than the establishment.
          Black militants of the 1960s and even early 1970s were much left-oriented; and important leaders were severely persecuted.
          The problem is not yet over as events of 2020 have affirmed.

          • 1
            0

            SJ,
            Supresion usually is counterproductive and communist party would have become much more popular, but unfortunately,Americans themselves did not fall prey for Macarthy’s ill efforts.

            The word McCarthyism refers to acts of Joseph Raymond McCarthy just after the end of the second world war.

            Macarthy was a senator and was in the habit of denouncing ordinary Americans as communists, communist sympathizers and Soviet spies and that
            they are a threat to the security of USA.

            It turned out o be false alarms in most of the cases and subsequently and Americans themselves exposed McCarthy and ended his witch hunt..

      • 2
        0

        Old codger,

        Exactly, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

        The industrial relations in which employers, workers and their representatives and, directly or indirectly, the government interact to set the ground rules for the governance of work relationships..

        Workers are no longer exploited as in the past.

        Sole proprietorships and partnership had become extinct and are replaced by private and public liability companies.

        Capitalists had become wiser and governments had brought in progressive legislations such as EPF, ETF and pension rights in almost all democracies including Sri Lanka, India and the west.
        And workers had become partners in management by having substantial shares in the companies where they work as laborers and thus profits are shared.

        The distinction between owners and workers become blurred and thereby industrial peace become normal and workers have a stake in the success of companies.

        Social responsibilities had become the norm.

        In this context there is no rational for the existence of parties of the left and liberals are in the ascendency.

        • 0
          0

          Srikish
          As OC had hinted the credit for all those gains is attributable to Communist pressure. They departed leaving us a rehabilitated devil. Still the hunger, malnutrition and homelessness persist.
          Above all corruption of power brokers is intolerable.

          Soma

          • 1
            0

            Soma, OC,

            Yes Soma, you are correct.

            OC had hinted with excellent insight. I could only elaborate.

            The left was instrumental for all the progressive legislations enacted for the benefit of workers in Sri lanka and in all democratic countries, but not in the communist countries..

            The credit is attributable to the communist pressure, there is no doubt about it. The left was successful as effective opposition.

            But having achieved everything, the workers selfishly deserted the left, lost their militancy, went behind capitalist parties and their fellow travelers for small bits and pieces.

            In the recent general elections in UK, the traditional working class electorate, voted for the class enemies-the Conservatives.

            This is a great tragedy of our times.

            • 1
              0

              Sri Krish,
              It is said that someone asked Gandhi what he thought about Western Civilization. Gandhi said: “Yes , Western Civilization would be a very good idea!”
              In the same way, Communism is a good idea, and does wonders for workers in capitalist societies. But a real Communist government isn’t popular, because nowadays the workers know that across the border , people might not have free education and healthcare, but they have BMW’s and more than two kinds of ice cream. That’s human nature.

      • 0
        0

        OC
        The model fails in Kerala. In W Bengal the failure of the CPI(M) was for a completely different set of reasons.

        • 1
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          S.J,
          Didn’t Communist governments in Kerala introduce a lot of progressive legislation, as well as reinforce secularism? However, their activities made it very difficult for industry even now.

          • 0
            0

            OC
            True of Kerala. The CPI(M) in W Bengal also did much for land reform to gain a large rural vote base.
            Kerala swung between a left alliance and a Congress-led alliance.
            The point I made is that the elevation in standard of living did not negatively impact on left support.
            *
            For your interest:
            The CPI(M) alliance in WB had a record number of electoral successes since election for a third time in 1977 until defeat in 2011. (In 1971 it had most seats but outdone by a Congress – CPI collusion When CPI made its historic blunder of being an ally of Indira Gandhi, and support her during the notorious Emergency Rule.)
            For better or for worse typically 30-40% of the people were with the left. CPI(M)’s bungling in Nandigram antagonized the peasantry (not just locally but across the state) by forcing people to give up their land in the interest of an overseas investor. It cost the CPI(M) dearly and there is no sign of early recovery.

            • 0
              0

              OC
              (2)
              The failure of the left here has important reasons which I will not go into here to avoid being driven at a tangent.
              My view is that the Left had no chance of being elected to power. (Its voter base was limited to certain provinces and was not predominant in any district. Why is was so is a matter of decades of debate. There were important factors that worsened conditions like the Citizenship Act of 1948.)
              The Hartal offered an opening, but not to penetrate the rural electorate regardless of what any conspiracy theorist may claim. SWRDB capitalized on its momentuml.
              By 1956, Philip G saw the way things were moving and joined SWRDB in a coalition, and did well even after parting company in 1959. But a miscalculation of the public mood in July 1960 cost him dearly. (His was the first public surrender of a left party to Sinhala chauvinism.)
              The left could have held on with tactical electoral alliances as the SLFP base was never stronger than 25% and it needed alliances. The UNP held over 30% but there were no strong political allies in the South.

            • 0
              0

              OC
              (3)
              The Left had a strong voice in 1963 when it formed the ULF.
              Mrs B was intimidated by the 21 Demands campaign.
              She was sharp enough to see that breaking up the UF was her best chance. When she approached Philip (before asking NM) to join, Philip reportedly said the whole UF joins or none. Mrs B was reportedly not keen on having the CP.
              NM jumped at the idea and his decision join without prior consent of ULF partners was a lost opportunity for a strong left alliance and trade union solidarity.
              I do not claim that the left would not have split if the ULF somehow ‘adjusted with the SLFP’.
              The CP was already heading for a split following the international debate on the path to socialism.
              Various Fourth Internationals would have resented partnership with the SLFP. Hence the LSSP’s left would have split sooner or later.
              But the way things happened was a disaster for the LSSP. Philip’s bitterness drove him into the open arms of Dudley’s UNP in 1965.
              What is saddest is that the first ever politically mature act of trade union solidarity was wrecked.

            • 0
              0

              ,SJ

              .Let us be much more specific.

              Kerala managed to have communist and congress led alliances assuming power alternatively since 1957 and continuing the seesaw.

              The left Front government led by Communist party Marxist in West Bengal winning seven conseSJcutive elections since 1977 without any interruption met their waterloo after Nandigram saga when they were convincingly defeated in 2011 by Mamata Banerjee, the leader of Trinamool Congress.

              Communist dominated government sent heavily armed police stormed the Nandigram area with the aim of stamping out protests against the communist government’s plans to expropriate 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land of the poor peasantry for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).The police shot dead at least 14 villagers and wounded 70 more..

              It was an anticlimax for a communist government and never recovered from the shameful calamity..
              ..

  • 0
    0

    ,SJ

    .Let us be much more specific.

    Kerala managed to have communist and congress led alliances assuming power alternatively since 1957 and continuing the seesaw.

    The left Front government led by Communist party Marxist in West Bengal winning seven conseSJcutive elections since 1977 without any interruption met their waterloo after Nandigram saga when they were convincingly defeated in 2011 by Mamata Banerjee, the leader of Trinamool Congress.

    Communist dominated government sent heavily armed police stormed the Nandigram area with the aim of stamping out protests against the communist government’s plans to expropriate 10,000 acres (40 km2) of land of the poor peasantry for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).The police shot dead at least 14 villagers and wounded 70 more..

    It was an anticlimax for a communist government and never recovered from the shameful calamity..
    ..

  • 0
    0

    Prof KD, After 80 years you must have realized that all these views, debates, ideologies, history, geography and all what humans concoct as pros and cons lead us nowhere if we haven’t learnt to live in the now reality of the moment and politically govern according to qualities like truth, justice, reconciliation, mercy, love and forgiveness. Then there is full assurance of satisfactory provision and protection and advancement for all as the vibrational frequencies acting in environment are different energizing laws. So far we have had only anger, fear, frustration, jealousy, bitterness, robbery, murder and money mania creating evil atmosphere. Power corrupts and cannot bring peaceful single mindedness and transformation.

    • 0
      0

      David,
      “satisfactory provision and protection and advancement for all as the vibrational frequencies acting in environment are different energizing laws.”
      I take it that your knowledge of Physics is comparable to my knowledge of brain surgery.

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