21 September, 2019

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People’s Power Movement Is Not Simply An Election Front

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Long-term perspectives for the People’s Power (PP) movement: PP is not simply an Election Front

Since it’s election season, presidential, provincial and mid-next-year parliamentary, every conversation invariably drifts that way. All are agog about “Who will be the DNF candidate?” “What is the latest prediction?”  and so on. That’s natural but only a side-line for today’s column. Sure, the election later this year is important and every entity in PP will strive to strengthen Anura Kumara’s performance, but PP is not simply an electioneering machine; it is a long-term strategy. It needs to prove itself by grass roots application and commitment. If this materialises and following, hopefully, a good showing at the presidential poll, PP can aim to emerge as a strong, if not decisive force in next year’s general election. And that’s not the end either.

At a minimum it must crystallise a programme beyond the insincere collations that the SLFP, UNP and SLPP routinely fake. At best PP can influence and foster a future to take Lanka to economic improvement and social democracy. When stepping out on a new road realistic short-term thinking and visionary long-term perspectives have to be blended. What I have said in these few sentences is an outline but surely not absurdly ambitious or unrealistic? What big change, anywhere in the world, at any time, came about without fusing an immediate goal with a future vision? My vision is that the PP movement can become big and grow way into the future.

Any fool knows that PP is not going win the presidency this time, but what’s important is that the people grasp that giving PP a boost will strengthen its hand for the road ahead. I would be over the moon if it came close to polling 20% and satisfied if it breached the one million mark. Let’s take heart from the rejection of established parties everywhere and the burst of Alt-Movements of the left and the right; Jacinda Arden, Imran Khan, Five-Star in Italy, Sirias in Greece and Podemos in Spain are leftist or progressive beginnings. 

The putrefaction of a system entrenched decades ago, for example the capitalist economy in America and Europe, has in its crisis, also puked ultra-nationalists. The universe is topsy-turvy and in unstable times unhinged narcissists like Trump, near-fascists like Hungary’s Viktor Oban and Italy’s immigrant hating Matteo Salvini sprout like mushrooms; so do left leaning movements. The scene in Lanka is similar; we have Gota called a fascist by some on the left, the all mixed-up UNP and People’s Power which I see as a long-term game changer. 

This third-option is the most intriguing; if it polls well it would signal the arrival of a force with more than electoral perspectives. PP must be the start of a new road otherwise I can see no point in being involved. Without a radical vision and a state-power perspective what’s the point of it all? Like the rest of the visionless liberal intellectual flotsam we might just as well spend our time running behind Gota or the UNP! 

What are the programmatic perspectives in outline – I have promised you a comprehensive review after the draft of the PP expert panel is made available. Briefly, there are don’t-do’s and do’s. The don’ts are easy; PP must remain free of all forms of corruption and its ranks must be above personal opportunism which is the hallmark of present-day Ministers, MPs and Provincial Councillors of the SLFP, UNP and SLPP. It must in no way indulge in the politics of race and religion and must not bow to reactionary monks and minority-baiting fanatics. The don’t-do list is easier to compile than a well-structured enumeration of positive programmatic steps. Think of the conduct of the SLFP, UNP, the SLPP and especially of the Rajapaksa cabal and its hangers-on, and that’s the don’t-do list!     

What should PP’s progressive, radical or left plan of work be? First let’s ask ‘What is ‘left’ in the context of Lanka’s sad history of the last four decades of leftism? Three UPFA-lefties (LSSP, CP and Vasudeva’s outfit) are Mahinda Rajapaksa’s erand boys preparing to mount the stage and rant in support of Gota. Don’t I know how they spoke of Gota till his SLPP nomination? Not so long ago I have been at their Socialist Alliance and Vasudeva’s party confabulations where Gota was spoken of in terms like, militarist, killer, despot and even fascist. Now Gota is the saviour and the hero! How do these people sleep at night? And you call Trump a barefaced liar.

To move on with ‘What is the left?’, then there is the ULF a player in the drive to remove Rajapaksa and now a partner in the UNP led government. There are also many ‘left forces’ outside these two alliances; post-Shan entities are visible in the plantations, Tamil areas and Colombo; there are tiny sects scattered here and there and then there is the JVP, the largest and most significant left party in the country. What on earth is distinctive about this menagerie, what marks it? The answer is two-fold; roots or where a party originated, and secondly its association with the term socialism. The origin factor is as clear as the ubiquitous red of every leftist’s shirt. Every significant left party, group or sect had its origin in the old LSSP, the old CP, and after the Sino-Soviet split of the mid-1950s in Shanmugadasan’s Communist Party (Maoist) of which Wijeweera was a member. Hence one marker of leftism is genesis from which the red shirt and flag originate. 

The second marker of leftism is its association with the term socialism though to uncultivated minds on left and right the word is no different from a state-owned economy as in the USSR and Soviet Block Eastern Europe. This is not the place for a harangue about the Soviet economy, the Chinese ‘Socialist Market Economy’ or Marx’s concept of socialism. (I covered China in “China’s Socialist Market Economy: Viable Concept or Oxymoron” in Global Challenges and National Crises, Hector Abhayavardhana Felicitation Symposium (2001), and that analysis remains valid to this day). 

The important point is would a directed programme (dirigisme is the fancy word), goodies for have-nots and constraints on haves, attract leftists from the various corners in which they lurk? Will adapting what was successful in early stage development in the Chinese and Vietnamese experiences entice other leftists? Maybe some. maybe not others. The UPFA-left in Mahinda’s kennel will not budge. They are too far gone; no longer socialists, leftists or anything-ists, they are the walking dead. But a feasible and progressive plan of work will compel others on the left to throw in their lot with People’s Power. To put it plainly, I do believe that PP can grow and attract people at large and more parties, trade-unions etc.

There is nevertheless a crucial point for reflection: Are we looking for Left Unity and a leftist-socialist programme, or is it more realistic is the prevailing world and domestic conjuncture to think in terms of broader unity and a progressive programme? I am sure I don’t need to spell out the difference between a leftist-socialist and a broad-progressive programme, but we must come down hard in favour of the latter. Global production and financial systems have changed, technology has transformed the working class (traditional industrial workers are in decline, the labour force is mainly a new working class blended into the service sector, information processing and sales; it dresses and talks with a different attitude). What makes sense to the majority today and appeals to their needs is not the same as the programme aimed at trade unions and blue-collar workers used to be. To align with the new PP needs to be a broad, its vision has to relate to domestic and to new class and global realities. It has to take cognizance of the modern state and existing capitalist and informal sectors.  

I am getting dangerously close to discussing what I promised to hold back for a future essay, concrete programmes and a review and analysis of feasible options. The treacherous way would be to sell-out like the UPFA-left, the stupid way would be to trigger wholesale economic collapse in the name of socialism as in mismanaged Venezuela. Both can be avoided with common sense. More urgent is the practical task of taking PP to districts and workplaces, attracting others to join and swelling the 30-member outfit to 50 and 100 and setting up an organisational structure. The work is in hand and PP will eventually be more than the JVP and entities on its periphery. This is not a work plan confined to the period from now to the presidential or next year’s parliamentary election. It reaches well beyond that time frame. Everyone in PP is clear about that but what’s important to carry the message to the outside. 

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Latest comments

  • 1
    5

    In all democracies – most in the world today fall into this category- far left groups poll below 5%. Such is the hold of capitalists over the masses. In Sri Lanka inferiority complex of these groups is such that they would rather sleep with extreme capitalists than seeking middle ground. The title they have earned ‘rathu ali’ is far more damaging than Prof. Kumar rekons.

    Soma

  • 0
    5

    I can not fathom why the PP nominated AKD of the JVP who sold the souls of Wijeweera and his martyrs to Dr Ranil for a lousy 25 Lakhs , when the Yahpalana Ministers collected LKR 34 Million each just in free Car Permits-

    I don’t know how JVP ADK cab get 20% unless Colombo Elite , Anglicans and the Vellalas vote for him in one Block…

    Will that ever happen?. I wouldn’t be putting any money on it.

    Dalits wouldn’t have a bar of either the JVP or or even any of those betrayers , let alone its Leader Prince Anura after they backed Dr Ranil to destroy the peaceful post Nanthikadal Nation, which was built with over 50,000 lives of brave soldiers of the Srilankan Armed Forces.

    I am surprised Dr Kumar who announced his grand PP is rnot putting even 100 Bux with the Bombay bookies. after singing all those Hosannas to the JVP and its Boss…

    • 2
      0

      KASmaalam K.A.Sumanasekera

      “…………………..AKD of the JVP who sold the souls of Wijeweera and his martyrs to Dr Ranil for a lousy 25 Lakhs………………………….-

      Who gave you the idea that Wijeweera had soul?

  • 1
    0

    “Every significant left party, group or sect had its origin in the old LSSP, the old CP, and after the Sino-Soviet split of the mid-1950s in Shanmugadasan’s Communist Party (Maoist) of which Wijeweera was a member. Hence one marker of leftism is genesis from which the red shirt and flag originate.”
    *
    Does the writer think that Wijeweera was Marxist of any description? I remember what he had to say about the JVP before ans after 1971 April.
    *
    Sanmugathasan made a terrible mistake in the face of the Party being given a Tamil label by Keuneman & Co. While he had the support of many strong Sinhalese trade union leaders and middle level leaders, he had none to match Dr SA Wickremasinghe. He wanted to cultivate a youth leader and fell for Wijeweera, who had other ideas.
    Wijeweera was suspended (and later sacked) for participating in the notoriously communal pritest march against the Tamil Language act of 1966 (in which the CP & LSSP shamelessly joined); and more importantly printing leaflets in support of the protest in the party’s press. (The leaflets were discovered in time and destroyed.)
    The JVP was a chauvinist party that was anti trade union. Anti Hill Country Tamil, and even hostile to the older generation.
    *
    While Sanmugathasan promptly denounced state repression of the JVP, especially the killings, the LSSP defended the government to the extent that no leader lifted a finger to get Vasudeva N. (detained on suspicion of links to JVP) released.
    *
    There are things that have not changed in the JVP. Electoral politics only made it more opportunist. So let not sentiment get the better of sense in unquestioningly endorsing the JVP. This should also be the time to challenge the JVP on some key issues.
    *
    Even JRJ is said to have claimed that he was a communist of some description at some time.

    • 0
      0

      SJ
      What you you say about how the ignoble acts of the LSSP and CP in joining with the SLFP 1965-6 is correct.
      In fact a memorial for the Buddhist priest who fell down following police firing still exists somewhere near the Kollupitiya police station .
      In fact later on there was a expression of self criticism conducted by the CP initiated by the SA Wickremasinge faction of the party before both sections united.

      But there was no Wijeweera JVP then during the SLFP,LSSP,CP march on the 1966 Tamil Language Act.

      It blossomed much later in the 1969/70 era fertilised in the Sanmugathasan Peking wing CP. The Wijeweera JVP was possibly a plant by a foreign hand.

  • 1
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    Indian Expansionism was the most famous lecture of the JVP Leader just before the 1971 insurrection; The tutorials of the lecture are still in circulation.

    • 0
      0

      The expansionist troops were plantation workers.

      • 2
        0

        SJ

        As far as Rohana Wijeweera was concerned they were fifth column.
        Yet he wanted every worker to trust and support him and JVP.

  • 1
    1

    the jvp has no future in rural areas
    villagers will never forget what the jvp did to them during the insurrection

  • 4
    0

    After this election Sri Lanka my not exist as a Sovereign State if Gotha is elected and that is realty.
    Gotha will be a Lame Duck President and he will not be able to engage with countries that matter and he is talking a lot of rubbish. He stated that he will not give an inch to any foreign power. Frankly there is no more left in Sri Lanka and after winning the so called war and by briging China in he and his brother MR have allowed India to flex its muscle and take over large chuks of Sri Lanka. So Proff your talk of PP being a formidable force at the next election is irrelevant afer 5 years of VANAVASAM unde Gotha.

  • 4
    0

    KUMAR

    Can peoples power work the oracle and make the following possible

    MR the THUG says we will send the Bond Thieves. to jail.
    Can PP send Alibaba ( MR ) and the 40 thievs to jail Basil being the biggest of the lot. The others to note are Gotha , Wimal the Wansa and Cabaral. The only reason Mahendiran is being singled out is because he is Tamil.

  • 0
    0

    Is that New Form of political anarchism currently advocated by after that 9/11 of USA , its give promoted state terrorism access to Monopoly of Ruling classes in Worldwide led by US administrations .
    Thus that LTTE of Tamil mode of Separatist are extremist one of that!
    Then, its moving towards that ISIS, Alkaid, Jihadist and Boku Haram by Islam terrorist outfits are being that back by vital interest of USA globe hegemony.

    What is to be done that ongoing Hong Kong of political vandalism against undermined democracy norms that region are New wave of anarchism aim at destabilization of People’s Republic Of China.
    And overthrown Communist Party of China by politically armed at that including cocktail bombing and explosions….through out day and night. ..in Hong Kong?
    Waving USA flags by Hong Kong protesters asking that USA to an interventions by name of “Human Rights” .

    The few handful of Hong-Kong that leaders do not know that USA was/is Globe number since since 1945 ?
    Indeed that USA -Criminal system of imperialist-hegemonic has brought upon the People of world numerous WARS which that including TWO disastrous World Wars.
    USA has lost champion democracy by advocating human rights are covered up the USA hegemonic plains for New War mongering planing at Region of Indo-Pacific .
    In reality that USA survival of that Three pillars are ; Separatism of racism , Extremism of Religion fanaticism and mode of Terrorism are game play by USA very beginning 21st practices after 9/11 in USA and Globally .
    That is why writer said that New People Front is not confined to elections it has different role to play in future.

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