By Kumar David –
Unborn tomorrow, dead yesterday: Why fret about these if today be sweet – New Year resolutions that I shall NOT keep
Most of you, born to the world with sourpuss minds, make solemn New Year resolutions and strive to realise them for a week or two till your crass hypocrisy is bared. Me, I am above all that; here are my five New Year resolutions and I solemnly pledge NOT to live up to any of them.
I shall drown myself in less whisky and vintage reds than in previous years – which was enough to float a small ship anyway.
I shall desist from cussing and swearing at the Rajapaksas in 2016.
I shall cease to seize every opportunity to slip in a reference to Marx.
I shall consume less red meat and fatty cholesterol laden nutrients.
I shall refrain from ogling rotund rumps and luscious limbs as they glide by.
There, that’s off my chest and it will reassure friends that I shall be as obnoxious in 2016 as before; they will likewise requite in kind.
Who shall I select as the first victim of my 2016 cussing and swearing? Gallant Prof. Carlo Fonseka is a gracious target and he has earned it with his 20 December panegyric to Tissa Vitarana (“The Road Ahead for Sri Lanka in a World in Crisis: Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the LSSP”). This is mean! He speaks so well, certainly better than I deserve, when remarking on my etchings. There was a time when I too held Dr. Carlo in high esteem; a strong and rational number-two to the legendary Abraham Kovoor. But sadly we all decay; thankfully perpetual pickling in single-malt has spared my brain extreme decomposition. Prof. Carlo should not miss out on this pharmacological marvel.
A ghoulish story on decomposition for the festive season. If you go to Vienna, visit Beethoven’s grave at midnight. You will hear the Moonlight Sonata eerily rendered backwards. In trepidation summon the sacristan who will explain: “Beethoven is decomposing beneath your feet”. Ha haa! No, not funny? Ok sorry. But Prof. Carlo salutation places Vitarana’s diatribe on the same pedestal as Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto; no kidding it does! Scholarly journal ‘History Today’ says the Manifesto is “One of the most important publications in modern world history”, to Eric Hobsbawm it is a “political classic tout court” and Professor Peter Osborne of Kingston University finds it “the single most influential text written in the nineteenth century”. So one wants to ask: ‘Is our good professor feeling unwell?’ but courtesy forbids personal questions.
I have no complaint when he reproduces Vitrara’s eighteen platitudes (“Sri Lanka should remain an independent sovereign state”, “Sri Lanka should at all times be as democratic as possible” (sic), “Sri Lanka should ensure the independence of the judiciary and expedite the dispensation of justice”; phew, there is no injunction that ‘In Sri Lanka, the sun should at all times rise in the east!’). Platitudes, as self-evident clichés, are true, so it’s ok to bring Vitrana’s wish list to notice. But the point is, shouldn’t an erudite commentator critically appraise the record of the LSSP’s Vitarana-wing and examine the internal state of the party? On these points the eminent professor is silent.
What’s the reality? The LSSP of the Dead Left is now, after the January and August 2015, a Dead & Buried Left without a parliamentarian. It is an object of derision in society and ridicule in the working class; ignored even by the Mahinda gang. The calamity in the party is epitomised by this: For the first time in 80 years there is not one person in the official faction who can be called an intellectual. Vijaya Kumar, Jayampathi, Lal Wijenayake and Keerithi Kariyawasem are in the Majority Faction that Vitarana expelled (or suspended). His rump has lost the working class too; union leaders Jagath and T.C. Rashideen have been expelled so has youth leader Chameera. Can anyone name one person apart from Vitarana who is known in the public domain? My case today is not who is right between Vitarana’s rump and the Majority Faction, but that Prof Carlo piece is empty. Was it drafted on a shaman’s ride departing Platform 9 ¾ on the Hogwash Express?
Ranil in the middle
I have previously described this as a centre-right government and implied that the PM is more right than centre. What an inane song and dance he makes of that Bonapartist ogre, his benighted uncle Dickie! But the deal he struck last month with the trade unions to avert a strike shifts him to the centre. I do not proclaim he has undergone political epiphany; it is just that once you start on a road, momentum builds. The business classes and IMFish types do not approve of the “capitulation”; the danger they see is that if the bridges RW is building hold up, he will drift to a centrist position between business and labour. The class dynamics of this government are still evolving and year 2016 will give insight into whether RW will mutate into a centrist. If he positions himself cleverly it will also help the state beat to back the inevitable chauvinist backlash when investigations of human rights violations and war crimes, demanded by the UNHRC, get underway.
We need to thank pro-Rajapaksa trouble makers in the trade unions for the favour. These agitators were milling for a fight (within four months of election) with the new government. They were upset when union leaders cut a deal with the PM; “traitors” was an epithet I was privy to in circulated e-mails. Fear that these forces would create instability was a prime factor in pushing RW into a deal. Some are born to the political centre, others find themselves pushed there! Neoliberal economics is dead, globally; the choice before Lanka, India and for that matter Europe is between the centre-left and the far-right. As for conventional liberalism’s role as a political force, its time-out.
Jihadism versus capitalism-liberalism
The great global morass of 2016 is the moral contest between jihadist theology and old liberal values, that’s one perspective; or the conflict between the ferment of the dispossessed and the economics of haut-capitalism, that’s the deeper angle. The BBC’s Lcye Doucet writes from Syria: “Syrian civilians are living a life worse than death”. This year will be decisive for the way in which these chips fall. Some things are self-evident: (a) bombing will not inflict lasting defeat on ISIS and may push the pendulum the other way, (b) regional states and tribes will not provide ground troops in adequate numbers or quality, (c) the West is reluctant to commit ground troops but if forced, it will be trapped in a quagmire and (d) terrorism will persist in Europe and America – the security apparatus cannot prevent it altogether.
That’s only a paragraph break, let me continue: (e) anti-Muslim sentiments will swell in the US and Europe especially as the wave of refugees and migrants (many of them economic migrants) from Africa and the Middle East runs up to, say ten million, before peaking, (f) regional immersion is sizzling with Iran and Saudi Arabia calling the shots in Iraq-Syria and Yemen, respectively, (g) a settlement to be doable must get an ok from America and Russia, and to round it off, (h) Turkey is determined to crush the breadth out of Kurdish autonomy. Am I absurdly pessimistic? I hope so; if others have a sunnier outlook let’s hear it. Does anyone say that without total rebuilding and the abolition of misery and poverty the incendiary condition in the Middle East can end? Does anyone imagine that one part of the world can go up in flames whilst the rest carries on happily?
The Algerian catastrophe did not end till there was near revolution abolishing the Fourth Republic ushering in the Fifth and de Gaulle’s Bonapartism was in place. For the war in Vietnam to end it took the assassination of a president (opinion is that Kennedy was eliminated because he intended to wind down the war) and another president forced to renounce his option for a second term. Watershed changes of such magnitude cannot happen till the character of the metropolitan host is reformed and the state altered. We are at a similar watershed; overturn of thought and state in some leading global participant nations of the West is a sine qua non that will have to precede pacification of the Middle Eastern imbroglio.
In respect of such transformations we see a striking dichotomy in Europe; either a sharp shift to the left or a surge to the extreme right. The former is exemplified by Syriza in Greece, Corbyn as Labour leader in the UK and recently the spectacular performance of Podemos in the 20 December Spanish elections; and the latter in France, Denmark, Holland and Austria. Eastern Europe is primitive and a dead loss since the memory of Stalinism is still fresh. Nowhere do we see a left surge and a right surge at the same time; hmm, something to think about.