By TU Senan –
Canadian politician Tommy Douglas once told a story called ‘Mouseland’ that beautifully sums up the bogus choices that the masses are often faced with in an election.
“…when they couldn’t take it anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them”
“Trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice”.
But Kumar David, responding to an earlier article , claims that it’s ok to elect a cat if it can be tasked with one job –ie “abolishment of the executive presidency”. He claims the “individual is irrelevant, can even be a broomstick, as long as this ONE JOB gets done”. Kumar – also the sole ‘owner’ and copyright holder of the proposal for a ‘common candidature’ – missed all the important points that are made in the article and the very reason for writing such an article.
Kumar’s version of a ‘common candidate’ proposal is rapidly being invalidated by developing events. The idea of rallying Muslim votes behind a Buddhist monk-cat or uniting Tamil votes behind a Sinhala nationalist-cat just because they made vaguely positive noises about a different parliamentary system, is fading now. Why? The UNP leadership, visualising a split in the SLFP, will not surrender the opportunity to others. Similarly it would be suicidal for the TNA to come out and support an openly Sinhala nationalist-cat. There is no chance that the FSP, JVP, or USP will support a UNP candidate.
All these factors are well known – including by Kumar. What is also widely understood is the failed policy of supporting war criminal Fonseka in the hope it would remove the ruling family post haste.
Tamils have demonstrated many times the lengths to which they are prepared to go to get rid of the current genocidal regime. At the same time Tamils in Sri Lanka know by bitter experience that betting everything on a ‘new change’ is a failed policy. They have paid an enormous price on numerous occasions. When Chandrika stood for the presidency for the first time in 1994 to oust the UNP’s notorious JR Jayewardene (JRJ), she created enormous hope. She also managed to win the conditional support of various left organisations and progressive sections. Even the LTTE had high hopes based on secret talks they held with her when she lived outside of the country. What good was then achieved?
The tactic of getting rid of JRJ was correct, but not building a strong independent alternative force at the same time was wrong. In its absence emerged Mahinda. Initially the political vacuum was created through the crushing of the workers’ movement that followed the defeat of the 1980 general strike, which in turn paved the way for the UNP onslaught, the 1983 massacre of Tamils that led to armed uprising, and the consolidation of state power.
Once again we are at a similar crossroads. What’s left of the fighting organisations are on the verge of being further crushed. MR could successfully conclude what JRJ started. What’s the point of following the same old tactic?
Left veteran Vasudeva Nanayakkara followed the old path and ended up selling his soul to the devil. He once, however, pulled the leg of his ex-comrade Kumar by reminding him that he “agreed that MR was a responsible platform on which we can join UPFA and press our positions without playing into the hands of the UNP or militarism”. Vasu carried on pressing.
But all credit to Kumar for not hesitating to become an ardent opponent of the brutal war and horrific MR regime. For this reason he always has our respect. But it seems he is not willing to change the line of argument he pursued years ago. Once again Chandrika, for example, is seen as a ‘magical broom’ that can sweep away the current regime. Surely you could expect the conditional support of the left organisations, Tamils, Muslims and progressive sections again, if it can be realised despite the stark difference in conditions that exist now. Her party is a different animal now and her support base is feeble, for example.
Crucially this will not in any way strengthen the forces that are building up to fight back. In this situation is it a crime to call for a consolidation of all those fighting forces? To fight for a left alternative and build its strength at the same time keeping all options open to overthrow the MR regime. This is the point Kumar should pay extra attention to before he dismisses everything else around him with added arrogance.
We also understand why the spirit of the alchemist is still burning to create a ‘magical cat’ that can unite the opposition based on achieving a single job. It is a fear of the continuation of MR. All decent souls like that of Kumar will feel a kick in the stomach when they look at the possibility of a third term for MR. It is even more frustrating to admit that it is the likely scenario, as things stand today.
A relevant question to ask is what is at stake in a ‘third coming’ of MR? Any remaining strength in the backbone of the opposition will be broken into pieces before a new wave of offensive begins. It’s worth reiterating again that the first ones to pay the price will be the left organisations and the trade unions. With them out of the way MR could crush all opposition like an insect.
So the question standing before us is this? Go all in with a ‘single-job’ cat despite the consequences, or steady the base of opposition that exists now and hope to build its strength in coming years. We take the second route. So far the issues that forced back the MR regime were the issues relating to privatisation of education and his attempt to destroy the pension fund. If a challenge can be mounted to strengthen these defences, it will have more meaning to students and workers involved in this opposition. Even the coming together of the FSP, USP, and NSSP will bend space around it to create a certain amount of gravity. This is not necessarily just a proposal for building a ‘broad left platform’ limited to the existing organised left forces. Rather it should be seen as the initiating of a campaign that appeals widely among students and workers to participate in the growth of an alternative force.
Without building this in as a factor any tactic, whether it be ‘Anything but MR’ or a ‘single job candidate’ will be doomed to failure. This is exactly why and with no illusion we ask this: “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?”