By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
Right now, the JVP is busy enthusiastically backing the Opposition move for a vote of no-confidence on the Prime Minister. Have any member of that party reflected on the possible net result of such action as far as the party’s own purpose lies?
Crisis of the JVP
In the original days of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), it had a clear sense of purpose. Whether that purpose or general goal had been right or apt or realistic is another issue altogether. The important thing is that the party had a clear and unambiguous eventual goal to which it had been working under the leadership of Rohana Wijeweera, Gamanayake etc. Ask the JVP today what its political purpose is and you will not get a valid answer. The crisis of the JVP today is that it has lost a purpose.
The JVP’s consistently poor showing at elections is largely an outcome of the fundamental reality that the party has ceased to be driven by anything other than being a critic of the government in power-whichever that may be. This is not a goal in any sense of a definition; it is just a state of negative being.
By contrast, go back again to the 1969-70s. At that time the JVP took the shape of a growing political force- burgeoning by the day and attracting hundreds of youth from the towns and villages. These youth discovered in the party and its messiah a deeply enthusing idealism to embrace. JVP had been many things even then; but it carried the idealism of rectifying injustices from society and ushering in social justice for the poor and the disadvantaged of society by the destruction of the evil that is capitalism. The idea became viral and thousands of youth were able to conceal their prolonged training in the jungles. When the uprising of April 71 took place, it came as a shock to the broad masses of rulers and people. Rulers and others were thrown into confusion. Purpose can invest those in possession of it with dynamism and energy; with resilience.
In my youthful days, the Samasamajists had such an appeal- although by then the appeal had weakened somewhat in intensity.
As a young undergraduate in Peradeniya, I remember how much we were magnetised by the theoretics of Doric De Souza – the exponent of Trotskysm. Doric, reflecting a strange coincidence with the JVP that was to come, had five classes which he held behind the Hindagala Hotel at the foot of Mahakande. We were individually and collectively caught up and fired by pledging to fight for the eradication of poverty and all social ills which, Doric told us, had been due to the dominance of the capitalist class. We were made to feel heroic as revolutionaries. A purpose drove us. The very idea of going out of ourselves to fight for a rule of the proletariat gave us adrenalin rushes. Some of us even neglected the reason for which our parents had spent for us to be in the university. (At the time, the University wasn’t free). The wider and transcendent goal of being courageous about changing society drove fire within us. One of our crowd, I remember, dear old Shanmuganathan, wrote slogans on walls with the blood of his body! In this way, the seniors who were indoctrinated (that is the right word) found it their pupose in turn to indoctrinate freshers who flowed in.
Personally, I realized after I left the University and even much later when I had been more exposed to the disciplines of economics and business at Melbourne University that the Doric theoretics were one-sided and that capitalism in fact had historically led to huge advances in wealth creation among the poor and working classes of the world and so the proletarians did not feel enthusiastic about forming a government of their own. The idea of a revolution was confined to discourse in parlors and in the gathering of intellects.
Marxism in the JVP
On the other hand, the JVP still does officially hold on to Marxism and the guys are red-shirted. However, they haven’t declared any goal of socialism in their published and articulated programs. Have you heard any of them arguing for socialism as we heard the old left shout hoarse during their golden days? That left has been liquidated and we now find only defunct ghosts like Vasudeva and DEW Gunasekera who talks of everything save of socialism.
Diverted Results of JVP Efforts
What does seem to be the purpose of the JVP today? You think and you’ll find none. They simply criticise the government in power. They attacked the Rajapaksas while the latter had been in power. The result was that their efforts translated into votes for the new Yahapalanaya government. This is the precise impact of mere negative approaches to politics. The criticism of the government that is, only helps the Opposition. The party does the dirty work of others. Did you observe how the JVP took on the recent local government elections? “Give us the villagers,” (Apata gama deela balanna) was the JVP slogan. Slathing assaults were directed on the yahapalanaya government; but the votes they may have earned got lodged with the Pohottuwa. I must say, Anura Kumara Dissanayake does his homework very well and he knows to find faults and to communicate effectively the deficiency of the ruling powers. But, then, who benefits-other than the Opposition to the government?” The elections signified a wash -out for the JVP and a swelling of Pohottuwa ranks.
Right now, the JVP is busy enthusiastically backing the Opposition move for a vote of no-confidence on the Prime Minister. Has any member of that party reflected on the possible net result of such action as far as the party’s purpose lies? That eventual outcome is to bring down the government as much as to swell the Pohottuwa power and pave the way for a Rajapaksa return. The JVP should ask themselves the question: how would such a result serve any overall purpose of their party? The evident outcome would,, first be negative for the JVP since the Rajapaksas winning would decimate their party further. The track record of the Rajapaksa government provides enough evidence to surmise that a fresh return of that regime would mean the complete destruction of democracy and a further erosion of human rights. How does such an implied outcome suit any purpose of the JVP?A returned regime would get about closing avenues for democratic dissent and conducting elections where the decision is preset. The hit squad will return and metamorphise Sri Lanka into another North Korea headed by a “dear leader!” This isn’t wild speculation if one were to assess the conduct and performance of the family regime’s last ruling exercise.
Not having a purpose has also meant that the JVP doesn’t have a strategy. The party thinks for the day and acts on short-term expectations. Not having a purpose means the JVP will not be able to attract new members to the ranks. At this rate, the party’s final end would be to slip into the cosy laps of the right-just as Vasu or DEW have done. That, too, if the new regime of the Rajapaksa’s will incorporate the JVP into some concocted fake of a “Joint” government.