By Dayan Jayatilleka –
The TV News of December 8th 2021 showed Army chief Shavendra Silva striding out if the Ministry of Agriculture, trailed by the state minister and the Minister of Agriculture. The newscast of Dec 9th showed the Army chief saying that the Task Force on combatting Covid-19 had been switched to organic agriculture.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa seems to be turning the Sri Lankan state into military-occupied territory. The process could be termed a creeping coup from above.
On the morning of December 9th an upmarket English-language newspaper contained not one but two columns, which, based on very different empirical material and from very different perspectives, rang the alarm bell about the prospect of military rule.
What political perspectives for resistance issue from these manifest contemporary phenomena and accompanying warnings?
As the writer of one of the two critical commentaries cited above, I can only speak for myself. I would say that the bottom-line is twofold:
* The main political contradiction of the current stage of Sri Lankan process is that between, on the one hand, encroaching military rule under presidential auspices, and on the other, civilian democracy.
* Therefore, the main strategic project and slogan must be to appeal to and persuade all civilian democratic political forces, whether they be in Opposition or Government, to rally to resist growing military encroachment and to safeguard civilian democratic governance, rule and processes of transition.
This is vital, because if the ongoing process of militarization accelerates, there will neither be elections by which to effect change – which may not concern the governing party–nor any elected civilian dominated sector and function of the Sri Lankan state—which will concern the governing party.
The old slogans of uniting Opposition forces on the basis of the abolition of the executive presidency should be cast aside promptly. What is at stake is far more fundamental. It is not the form –presidential or parliamentary–of the democratic state, but it’s very content and character: will it be civilian democratic or military despotic?
The broad bloc that is necessary for this battle goes beyond the Opposition; it must reach out to sectors of the government as well. It should also appeal to the democratic sectors of the military and its officer corps.
Currently the main obstacle I see to the formation of the broadest possible bloc in defense of democracy, is the limited perspective of the current JVP leadership.
For Marx, Engels and Lenin, it was hardly a matter of unconcern whether the political character of the state was an autocracy or a democratic republic.
For Trotsky, Gramsci and Dimitrov, it was hardly a matter of negligible importance as to whether the capitalist state was ruled by bourgeois democracy or fascist dictatorship.
However, for the JVP and the FSP, these are irrelevant.
They see only two realities:
(a) The crisis of the capitalist system—and in the case of the JVP, the open economy—and
(b) The mobilization of the popular forces for a mass struggle against an enemy they see as on the defensive if not the retreat.
There is absolutely no understanding of the character of the enemy, its strategic project and the material forces at its disposal.
As usual the JVP possesses an objective understanding neither of itself nor of its enemy, when such understanding of both these categories is the prerequisite for strategic success, as Sun Tzu emphasized in The Art of War.
In Louis Althusser’s For Marx, ‘conjuncture’ is defined thus:
‘CONJUNCTURE (conjuncture). The central concept of the Marxist science of politics (cf. Lenin’s ‘current moment’); it denotes the exact balance of forces, state of overdetermination of the contradictions at any given moment to which political tactics must be applied.’
Neither the JVP nor the much more sincere and less sectarian FSP, grasp the political, or more accurately, the politico-military conjuncture.
This is because they do not grasp and have never grasped ‘the Marxist science of politics’.
One cannot grasp the Marxist science of politics without a rigorous study of the founder of Marxist political science: Antonio Gramsci.