By Ramachandrage Adaviya –
(Following article is a blog post from the Ramachandrage Adaviya translated to English by Lakmali Hemachandra)
Mahinda Rajapaksa has again become a topic in power politics. For a moment, after January 8th, it seemed as if his historical role has come to an end. Contrary to justified expectations by many there was no sign from his camp to remain in power by force in the aftermath of the electoral defeat on January 8th. Rajapaksa handed over not just the Executive Presidency, but also the SLFP party leadership and disappeared to Madamulana. However, that disappearance is now looking more like a tactical retreat as he is now coming out with the preparations to contest in the coming general elections and President Sirisena is compelled to come in to terms with that reality.
The project to bring back Rajapaksa is based on ultra-Sinhala nationalism. Rajapaksa apologists explained his defeat as the consequence of ‘minority votes’. Rajapaksa himself expressed these views. In a recent interview with a newspaper Basil Rajapaksa, summed up the defeat of Mahinda to have been the result of organizing Northern votes against Mahinda Rajapaksa. In the past few months, the main theme of the pro- Rajapaksa camp was Sinhala nationalism. In seminars like, venasa sapada? (Does the change feel good?), claims were made that the country is being handed over to the Tigers since the defeat of Rajapaksa.
‘Rajapaksism’ is a disgusting political phenomenon made up of rural backwardness, Sinhala racism and idiocy of the island-centric thinking. A political shift that took place post 2005 was this disgusting phenomenon gaining power as the hegemonic political model in Southern Sri Lanka. Looked at through this perspective all components of the modern democratic project including representative democracy, human rights and devolution were undermined and ridiculed. Militarization of daily life was naturalized and a massive security state maintained with enormous investments was established while Tamil and Muslim people were subject to racists attacks in order to legitimize this state in the eyes of the Sinhalese.
The defeat of Rajapaksa on January 8th can also be described as a revolt by the people who were marginalized under Rajapaksism. Internal divisions within the SLFP and the rift between the JHU and Rajapaksa created cracks in the Rajapaksa vote base and this division combined with the dissenting votes of the majority of minorities, created the 6.2 million votes that eventually led to Rajapaksa’s defeat.
Rajapaksa rule was replaced by a temporary government consisting of various social forces of which UNP, an elitist right wing party based on neoliberalism became the chief component. In the past few months, this government proposed many institutional democratic reforms required to perform a smooth link up of Sri Lanka to global capitalism. However in their liberal democratic content itself these reforms are still very lacking compared to what has been achieved in other countries within the liberal democratic tradition. If Rajapaksa based his hegemony on Sinhala nation, one axis on which Wickremesinghe is trying to build his hegemony is the pledge for democracy.
That is dividing line between the two main bourgeois political parties.
While elitist parties are thus structuring politics from the top, an independent political expression of subaltern including the working class is as good as non-existent. During the 40′-70′ decades when LSSP and Communist politics was dominant the working class constituted a decisive political forces in the country which means labour, not just capital, was organized in different levels. However labour as a political factor is in a very weak position now and until it re-emerges as a dominant political factor, politics will continue to be manipulated by elitist forces.
Nevertheless, in the perspective of organizing the lower classes politically, Rajapaksism needs to be identified as a fatal threat to that very purpose. Therefore in the coming days, the task of the leftist and progressive forces will acquire a dual nature. First and foremost a merciless battle needs to be waged against Rajapakism and this needs to be maintained with special emphasis. Rise of racism will, without a question, obstruct the way of the left and therefore rise of Rajapaksism needs to be decisively objected.
Secondly, the slogans of the bourgeois liberals should be radicalized surpassing the limits of bourgeois liberalism and this include the re-definition of the discourse on democracy through the point of view of the lower classes and other oppressed communities. These include demands from right to protest, right to strike, right to form trade unions, an end to national oppression to right to education, healthcare and environment. The road of the left is paved with this dual strategy.