28 November, 2020

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Systems Are Collapsing!! So What? Perspective Of The Left

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Sumanasiri Liyanage

My friends who have or previously had links with the Marxist left are greatly perturbed these days by the series of events that were unleashed in the recent past and that seem to have reached a climax with the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice. It is quite natural that these developments have put liberals off balance. Unfortunately, the left in Sri Lanka are at present in the same boat. What is resonated in their minds appears to be that ‘the whole system is collapsing’; ‘the system has begun to collapse’. This state of mind is clearly reflected not only in their writings and public statements but also in private conversations. Minister D E W Gunasekara, the General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Communist Party, told the Parliament that people in this country will lose faith and trust in the Parliament and the Judiciary if things are allowed to move in an uncontrollable direction. I share their reading of the situation, i.e, systems have begun to collapse; but I am not disturbed by the situation. On the contrary, I am quite happy over the fact that the system has begun to collapse. Is not this a situation we in the left have been waiting for? Did not we repeat time and again that this system was decayed, moribund and full of contradiction; therefore its internal dynamic would lead eventually to its collapse? Do we have tears to be shed for the system’s collapse? Let me pose a different question: Why are systems undergoing in the process of disintegration? In my opinion, systems needs to be changed and transformed because the ruling classes can no longer rule and govern by adopting and using old  mechanism and methods. In fact, the change actually began in the mid-1970s. Hence, it has been a gradual process. However, the country’s existing system needs a radical shift if it wants to move to its next phase.

Periodizing the Second Republic

About 35 years ago, when the Second Republican Constitution was enacted, Dr N M Perera, my political mentor, informed us that this Constitution would finally create a situation in which different persons and different branches of the state instead of working in unison would clash vehemently with each other. What he envisioned has become true today. Looking at how it has worked, the Sri Lankan Executive Presidential system, in my opinion, can be divided into three phases, namely, (1) 1977- 1987: a system based on personal authority and respect; (2) 1988- 2012: a system based on offering  bribes; (3) emerging system based on centralized, unified and openly authoritarian oligarchic power. The executive presidential system that was made to be based virtually on ‘bribes’ (financial and non-financial) to legislature, judiciary and subordinate part of the executive itself after the impeachment on President Premadasa has now proved that it cannot go on like this. System of bribes would encounter a crisis for two reasons. First, when the quantum of bribe is not adequate to be distributed among the ruling groups involved. Secondly, people who depends on bribe always in a non-satisfied state so that s/he seeks more. It seems that the system developed by President Premadasa and followed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has now reached its crisis point. Hence, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has realized that it is imperative to make the system more unified, centralized and authoritarian. In other words, a system that depends more on sticks than carrots has become the need of the day. He was made aware that “Offering bribes” in the form of high posts in the government has become inadequate in taming the so-called independence of judiciary that lost its virginity long time ago. President seems to think that he should act quickly before he loses his two-thirds majority in the Parliament that seems to be imminent in the near future. It is in this context, we are witnessing the clash between the legislature and the executive on one side and the judiciary on the other. It may be extremely interesting to see the final outcome of this battle. Whatever the outcome, the trust that the people have on these institutions would be further weakened. It is quite clear that at the time of crisis, all these institutions are concerned more and more with the protection of their identity rather than the performance of their moral obligations.

Challenge of the Left

We live in an interesting time. As Marx and Engels said in a different context, in such a situation, “[a]ll that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and wo/man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his/ her real conditions of life, and his/ her relations with his kind”. Now let me come to my initial question. Why should left be disturbed by these events? I could identify three reasons why the left is so worried about the evolving situation. First, the leftists tend to believe with some justification that the presence of democratic institutions even with bourgeois bias would assist the campaign of the left against the system for far-reaching reforms. According to them, the institutions that are in crisis are bound with democratic norms so that the protection of the institutions is imperative to preserve those democratic norms. Of course there is a truth in this argument; but at the same time we have to keep in mind that the architecture of these institutions are designed in a such a way that those democratic norms are embedded in them to achieve an explicit instrumental purpose. While the ruling class is making a desperate attempt to discard democratic norms from the institutions, the left on the contrary should find ways to protect the democratic norms by developing a new institutional architecture. Secondly, the left appears to be worried of the fact that alternative systems to replace the old decadent systems have not yet evolved. So the current situation may lead to anarchy. Once again, this view is also based on misconception. People develop new and alternative systems when they are really active on the streets, factories, universities etc. Soviets in 1905 Russia or Commune in 1871 Paris were not pre-planned structures. People develop them through their own experience and to suit the need of the day. Thirdly, a large number of leftists are scared that they would lose what they have collected, financially and otherwise, in relatively crisis-free period. Hence, protecting existing systems go very well with their newly acquired vested interests either in the form of positions and/or wealth.

The development in the past year or two shows that new opportunities have open for the Sri Lankan left to remobilize its forces to confront the new challenges posed by the current conjuncture. Protests over land, water and police harassments are reported almost everyday in the media. These protests show that the system as it works today is incapable of meeting peoples’ demands and satisfying their aspirations. The support for the FUTA demand for the allocation of 6% of the GDP for education also signifies the macro level issues that need to be addressed. The collapse of the systems is an indication that the country needs systemic change in its polity, economy, society and culture. The new systems do not fall from the sky. Systems evolve and develop. Instead of disturbing and worrying about the system collapse, in my opinion, the left should come up with a clear alternative.

*The writer teaches Political Economy at the University of Peradeniya and is a co-coordinator of the Marx School, Colombo, Kandy and Negombo. E-mail: sumane_l@yahoo.com

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    How can any system develop when the executive is hell bent on imposing his own medamulane system on the country. He listens to no one except a few parasites like Ranawaka, Modawanse and Koparage Vermin. Not the Clergy, not civil society, not the UN, not the Commonwealth, nor the US.

    Best step is for the comrades to exit the govt which will send a strong signal to all the flunkeys that it is not business as usual when it comes to the independence of the Judiciary and Sovereignity of the people.

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      No worries! The Rajapassa SYSTEM is collapsing all right! Out of chaos comes great opportunity.. THE LANKA SPRING TO OVERTHROW DICTATORSHIP!
      The Rajapassa monolith, having overplayed its hand is collapsing and the siblings, wives amd sons, including Namal the crown prince who sees his ambitious coming to a deadly halt are competing to dish out the blame. Head will no doubt fall within the palace!
      Everyone knows that the greed of Basil (the uneducated LA petrol pump guy who knows nothing about economics or development but calls himself Minister of Economic development- ha, ha ah), to lay his slimy hands on the poverty fund via the Divineguam Bill, has led to the impeachment imbroglio from which the family dictatorship is reeling..
      Basil wanted to enlarge his own empire and usurp MR and Gota the White Van goon’s empires, but there has been over kill and BLOW BACK.. as the LANKA SPRING BLOSSOMS! All it takes is a few good people!

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        Judging from the chaos at Jaffna University, the county has come a full circles in a short time – back to the bad old days of per-1983 when military repression in Jaffna led to the killing of 13 soldiers..
        Rajapassa Brothers have also come a full circle and need to be booted out and eleminated like the LTTE was for Lanka to truely move forward..

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      The Tipping point is here! The Rajaspassa dynasty is crumbling from within having gotten too fat, rotten, greedy and power and money mad to notice that “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.
      Even though Ranil Wickramasinghe is a complete looser like the knaves and morons who sit in the diya-wenna parliament – a legislative arm that is an insult to the people of the country, the people’s revolution will leapfrog him and settle on a new leader.
      The fall out of the impeachment and the Kangaroo Court will be the total de-legitimization and distrust of the country’s politicians and the end of the Rajapassa family honeymoon on looted public funds!

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      Who cares if the left leaves? MR does not need the left and let them understand that. MR will take this country forward without small left parties and small minority parties. We were looking for a Sinhala Buddhist leader and we have now found not only one person but a whole family that has the potential to lead us like kings did in our great past. After Mahinda will come Namal. Gone are the days of Bandaranayakes and Sennanayakas.

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    See the guys like the Waasi-Deva of NSSP fame, who have send all of his 3 children to USA and get them US citizens or Green card holders and now running around the Satakaya like someone no shame at all.

    These are the fake marxists that we have now.

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      Why are you against the marxists in the U.S? U.S is more progressive than Sri-Lanka…learn about U.S left/progressive movement by visiting http://www.democracynow.org

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    What do you mean by “existance system need radical shifting”,is understood Capitalism of neo-liberial economy-politiacl order of Sri lankan visible with many existance condractions in ruling classes in power base.In fact system operating is still weakness and backward of Capitalis mode of producation in every sphere of life.The stage of capitalism in Sri lanka, not yet higher leveale of wealth accumulation and finicial capital are concern.
    Still system not having suffcient Capital market and abduant resoures to bulid NATIOAL economny by own model by her Indepaedence path of capilaist develoement.
    In political, Economy and social terms we NOT stage of Socialism or socialist revoluation like Russian in 1917 tees.We are in reality path of Capitalist developement and revoluation of democratic ERA.
    NM Colvin Lesslie of LSSP leaders were in illusion path of Socialism when they joinly enter coliataion politics with SLFP in 1960,64, and 1970 or so-called coliation Govt. with SLFP’s Banadarakes.
    the result of Refomist poltics of LSSP had created huge vaccum in democratic forcres in Polital leadership of working class in country,that space had been taken over by Anarchism of JVP-terrorist politics since 1965.
    Instaed of Socialism in country,it had been replace by anarchist politics of petty bourgesios adventuriest of JVP under the banner of Che Guvura type of rebellion politics.Politics has turn into gun culture dominiation by TERRORISM OF JVP OVER 40 ODD YEARS.
    People of Sri Lankan lost vision of ideal of socilaism and as well as Democary bourgisios revolution and its task.
    Needless to now we are lack of politiacl leadesrship of Capitalist path of development and carry the unfinished TASK of bourgisios revoluation.
    History of Politics and parties 1948 since indepandeance has again again proved the SRI LANKAN NATIONAL BOURGESIOS CLASS IS UNWILLING TO UNDERTKE OR UNABLE GIVE LERDRSHIP CAPITALIST PATH OF DEVELOPEMENT BY THEMSELFS.
    If any type radical changes will NOT lead TO socialism but new from of Capitalism.Your essay in apperance look very logical,but in reality for from ground reality of country political-economy situation.

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    The emphasis placed by the writer, on the predictions for systemic failure, while interesting also forecasts turmoil and upheaval. If what he predicts, becomes a reality, would ordinary people bearing the brunt of this tornado have learnt any lessons for future directions? Are Sri Lankans capable of learning from past follies?

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      Sri Lankan’s memory is 7 days.

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    The writer has not defined the term ‘Left’ he refers to. The ordinary man is unable to understand the term now as there are several groups who call them ‘Leftists’, viz; there are the oldest leftists in the Govt. who say yes to everything that the Govt. does, there is another group also within the Govt. which sometimes says ‘yes’ and sometimes ‘no’, there is yet another who say something in public and act differently. Of the two groups in the opposition, one group speak being ‘leftist’ while still believing in protecting mainly Sinhala interests to get their votes, the newly founded group too has no clear position on protecting minority rights. There are others as well. So the term ‘Leftists’ needs clarity so that people, specially the new generation, could have a clear alternative to follow to defeat the ongoing corrupt, communal and violent political culture.

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    Most of Left Politics of LSSP and SLCP( moscow wing) has left behind a mixed legeacy of Political movement over 40 years,position has taken over by Anarchist cum terrorsis OF JVP movement, one side gun-point other side communalism and anti-tamil political since its came to beng 1965 under the PND WIjewera of anti-Marxsist ideological orginization.
    It is not only UNP and SLFP is Pratice communial politics ,why JVP came into being 1965 anti-tamil political party.And since 1968 Coliation politics of LSSP and CP-(moscow wing) MASALWADA politics line of politics,have been done irrperal damge to Sri Lankan working class is movement immersubial.
    Very important things is no political anylsis of past on dilactic point of view,unforthnaly enghish speking political controal by MOST TOROSKIST LIKE DR BAHU,KUMAR DAVID LASIRI FRENADO AND SUMANSIRI LIYAGE.Most of them are origine of Trostakist school of thoughts.

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    I agree with the Sumanasiri Lianage that this is the opportunity for the left for a systemic change. But in SL the left has killed itself. So the next level of government and governance will be a total chaos.

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      The situation is that the people of Sri Lanka are confused as to what ‘Leftist Politics’ is. The CP of Ceylon preached Stalinist thinking and later the Peking Wing lectured on Maoism; the LSSP talked of Trokyism and then the LSSP (R) lectured in a different angle. The JVP had another. With these differences and contradictions all these Parties adjusted their allegiances differently from time to time. The consequence is that workers and generally the public lost interest in ‘Leftist Politics’. Now they think that what is practised by the present Govt. are leftist policies as there are different types of Leftists in the Govt. and some key leaders adorn themselves in shawls which have a Red Border.

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    In Sri Lanka I don’t think we had any Marxist Leninists or leftist leaders since 1935. LSSP and CP were Bourgeois liberal radical parties though they wear red shirts. J.V.P is a rural and urban lumpen’s party. D.E.W, Vitharana and Vasudewa are they leftists? If not tamil racist neo nazi LTTE supporter Wicramabahu a leftist? Wicramabahu a curse of Sri Lanka left movement. The damage he done to left movement is much bigger than 1964 left coalition with Sirima.
    Reality in present world scenario it is impossible to a left party to come forward. There may be isolated papadam struggles similar to “Occupy wall street or Wiki Leaks” but all will end up with in few days or if not American-Euro imperialist will get the control of the situation like in Libya or Iraq.
    At present if we change the ruling party who will come to power? Never ever left will come to power or elect a single member to parliament unless otherwise they have a coalition with S.L.F.P. But Ranil and his corrupted U.N.P clans will come to power and create 1977-1994 era again. Only difference is even Ranil and U.N.P kill 60,000 or 600,000 Sinhala civilians neither N.G.O’s nor Yankies nor Pommies nor U.N.O, nor Amnesty International will utter a word.

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      Amen!!!…You are so accurate. Curse of the Left Movement is Bahu..who broke the LSSP one piece by one piece into pieces…. Today he is a lap-boy of the LTTE…

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        The LSSP leaders then, NM, Colvin, etc., killed the leftist movement when they joined the SLFP Govt. and then jettisoned the interests of the working class, being in the Govt. brought laws to curb trade union rights. Then people like Wickrabahu were not in the picture and not responsible for beginning of the deterioration of the left movement. That is true history in brief.

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          Comrade Bahu was there and he was in his youth. He is the one with Siritunga Jayasuriya started Vama Samasamajaya…There was a serious debate within the LSSP about the coalition governments. However, Bahu is the culprit with his “Vama Samasamajaya” promoted Vasudeva, Edwin, Arasa, Regi, Oswin to break away and break the GCSU and form the stupid NSSP without fighting within the LSSP he master minded the breakup of LSSP…..

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        DW, the first breakaway of the LSSP was in 1964 when NM and senior leaders decided to join and accept Ministerial positions in the then SLFP Govt. under Srimavo. This decision was against the wishes of the rand and file and Trade Unions. Edmund Samarakoddy, Bala Tampoe, and several key members left and formed the LSSP (R). After joining the Govt. NM etc. were making various moves to weaken the Trade Union movement. These are few of the situations that started the decaying of the Left Movement which was a strong force that launched the succedssful 1954 Hartal against the JR’s UNP Budget that proposed to remove all food subsidies.

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          Yes there were always bad decisions by the Leaders but I believe waiting and fighting within the party would have been a better route rather than leaving the party and putting up small parties all over….See how many fractions the NSSP has broken into…..My point is Left has become dead and irrelevant not ONLY because of the bad decisions of the Leaders but indiscipline and egos exhibited by their then youth leaders such as Bahu, Vasudeva, etc

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    The LEFT is as dead as mutton !

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    A Security Guard heading the legislature; a temporary Clerk in a Japanese Contractor firm to the Mahaweli heading the Economy; an allegedly petrol pump attendant cum 7-11 Store Clerk heading the Defence establishment and a murderer (vide CBK) at the helm of affairs…With this team what else do you expect other than total collapse of the economy, society, parliament/governance and what have you ???

    Senguttuvan

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    I am afraid my good friend and comrade Sumanasiri, is quite wrong on a number of points. (He is correct that the system is breaking down in general, and the long term challenge is to move forward to new, alternative and better institutional arrangements. I add, eg abolish the Ex Pres in favour of a representative parliamentary system). He is also correct on his third point. But it is in respect of the the first two points (that he expounds in an apparently Marxist, but actually inflexible and undialectical manner), that he is wrong.

    On the first point, Sumane’s other mentor Trotsky, who was a finer dialectician than my good friend, put forward the concept of a Transitional Programme. This means we involve ourselves and fully participate in the ground realities and struggles that are glavanising society at the moment, but we never give up the motive of going beyond them, through them. Sumane wants us to give up the fight on the CJ issue, the Divineguma power grab, the fight against authoritarianism etc, and go and fight for water and land rights, 6% for education, etc, INSTEAD. Nothing wrong with these if he said ALSO. But if you do not immerse yourself fully in the principal aspects of the current struggle, you are playing Rajapakse’s game by dividing up united opposition activity.

    Sumane is also wrong on the way he approaches the second point. He claims that the weakness of consciousness in the mass movement is no problem. “Like the Paris Commune of 1871 and 1905 Russian Revolution, the masses will learn everything through the struggel on the streets”, or words to that effect, he uses. Sumane is turning a blind to three of his greatest mentors, Marx, Lenin and Trotsky who repeatedly explained the FAILURE of these uprisings as caused by insufficient preparation, at the time, like Sri Lanka now, of mass consciousness for the historical tasks at hand.

    Fortunately in real life Sumane is doing a great job in addressing this second issue by orgainsing the Marx School that he and Mahinda Ratnayake are spearheading.

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    Don’t spread the Stupidity.
    Stupidity is when you can’t help it.

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    “People get the government they deserve”

    In Sri Lanka – only a revolution and an uprising of the people like the one that happened in 1971 under the genuine leadership of the JVP – or the struggle for self determination by the LTTE can bring about a government of the people.

    In both instances, the peoples movement was crushed by the respective governments in power – calling a true freedom fighting movements as “Terrorists”.

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      J.V.P was not a genuine left movement. J.V.P at last served to C.I.A. and became a cat’s paw of C.I.A. 1971 attack and 1989 terrorism paved the ways to U.N.P’s J.R.J and R.Premadasa to come to power easily.
      LTTE was a creation of R.A.W and trained in India and arms supplied by India but at the end LTTE killed Rajiv Gandhi and flushed India and gone to C.I.A lap. Yankees used LTTE in to Balkanise India in early stages and had the idea to take over Trincomalee harbour for their navel interest in South Asian Sea to control Africa, South Asia, Australia and East Asian navel routes.
      J.V.P and LTTE terrorisms were not revolutions but C.I.A controlled puppet shows.

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    There are too many single issue protests – with none of them really shifting to a higher gear to become a mass protest.

    with this we can understand the existing divisions and lack of a real consensus

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    The absence of unifying issues is a reflection of a fragmented consciousness – the issues exist but there is no awareness or compassion to grasp them –

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