The Question of Self-Determination remains at the very center of politics in Lanka. The electoral victory of the ITAK has intensified the polarization over the question of Self-Determination. The polarization is sharply demarcated. The defense of the prevailing status quo wherein absolute power is vested in the Unitary State and concentrated in the Executive Presidency at one pole; The demand for devolving and sharing State power; Or otherwise, the right to secede, at the other. Let’s expand this abstraction into its concrete political configuration. The polarization is between the defense of the prevailing Unitary State, and with it the undivided and undisputed ideological supremacy and political hegemony of the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation; This is as against the demand for recognition of the constitutional status of distinct nationalities, parity of political status and sharing of State power- on that basis. These are mutually exclusive propositions. The ITAK Manifesto declares the Tamil people living in the North-East as a ‘distinct people’ and proposes a system of sharing power within a federal union, in an undivided, united country. This is a legitimate and fundamental democratic right to represent the political stand for which the ITAK was mandated by the people and elected to represent their interests. The ITAK has every right to interpret its electoral victory and its people’s mandate as being to claim the legacy of struggle for liberation, state its case for self-determination and provide the framework of constitutional principles in which it seeks a political solution.
The Right to Self-Determination is a principled political stand deriving from the Tamil National Movement. It has to be respected, if there is to be any move forward towards solving the National Question on a democratic basis. Simply outlawing the demand for the Right to Self-Determination, to forcibly eradicate it root and branch and terrorizing and eliminating its proponents will only inflame the hope and desire for a separate State. It is the Rajapakse Regime and its neo-fascist bloodhounds that are fanning the flames of separatism. The demand for dignity, equality, autonomy, security and democratic freedom has to be politically accommodated into the structure of the State as a way of sharing the power, along with the responsibility to decide over matters that concern distinct nationalities and ethnic-religious communities, such as to be treated as equals, without any form of subjugation, discrimination or suppression. This is the basis for a democratic solution to the National Question.
There will be mounting opposition and fierce resistance by an array of neo-fascist forces, in complicity with the Regime, to any form of self-rule to be exercised by the ITAK. Events could be made to develop calling for even more direct military control and suppression, under some contrived ‘crisis of national security’. Given the vast infrastructure projects and the fat commissions to be raked, and with the prospects opening up for land grabbing and accumulating vast fortunes, the Regime will never give up, nor share any political power in any Region or Province. So, the odds are stacked against the ITAK. The most fundamental and enduring strength that the ITAK has to overcome the risks and challenges ahead is the unity, consciousness and organized resistance of the people to defend and advance their fundamental democratic rights and freedoms, and the gains they have made in the struggle for liberation. This strength can be realized only if the liberation of the Tamil nation is defined in terms of the historical struggle for Independence, Democracy and Freedom of the People of Lanka.
But, this may be too much to expect from the ITAK. As it is, the ITAK suffers from a fatal weakness. The ITAK does not seem to accord the same parity of status as it expects from the State, to the distinct Moslem nationality. Recognizing gross violations of human and democratic rights and making war reparations for crimes committed are to be highly valued and built upon. However, bracketing the Moslem nationality under the rubric of “Tamil-Speaking people” will only cave into the politics of division and will blow up in your face. What are the options for the ITAK? As it stands, the odds are against the path of mobilizing the people’s political will and consciousness so they may carry out their own mandate through political resistance and struggle against their subjugation, deprivation, oppression and repression. The breakthrough has to be sought in building the revolutionary movement, focusing mainly among the advanced, class conscious Sinhalese workers, peasants, fishermen and other oppressed masses and women and youth that would fight alongside the oppressed nationalities, hand-in-hand, in a common front of struggle against imperialism and neo-colonial bondage. In the absence of such a revolutionary movement, the future of the oppressed nationalities and of the people of Lanka will be decided by the imperialist/neo-colonial status quo. It will seem more likely that the ITAK will place its bets on the ‘international community. It may choose to rely on playing the international power game, driven by the US and the “Western” bloc and India in the effort to retain strategic superiority in the Asia-Pacific/ Indian Ocean Region, as against the expanding Chinese bloc. However, this will bring about acute contradiction and class struggle within the ITAK and within the ranks of the people. The ITAK is a coalition of political representatives of different class (and caste) forces with different ideological goals, organizational principles and methods of struggle. There will always be the ‘Wellala-Brahmin’/ Feudal-Comprador bourgeois elements who are eager to make a deal with the Regime, the System and with Imperialism, to get their neo-liberal Capitalist agenda off the ground. There are those class forces who shall unyieldingly stand with the vast majority of the oppressed, dispossessed and enslaved masses who uncompromisingly yearn for Dignity, Independence and Freedom. Those who will not capitulate nor compromise the vision and goal of Freedom. The Future belongs to them.
Political analysis requires that we reveal the underlying class interests, motives and imperatives of the range of class forces involved in a contest for power. Lest we get taken for a ride and miss the opportunity at hand! It requires that we track the trajectory of possible outcomes and consequences, and on this basis, work out the principles, tactics and strategy and the urgent tasks at hand for building the revolutionary movement and struggle for liberation and freedom on firm scientific foundations. Think about this proven prospect seriously. What if the resolution of the National Question is to be, all over again, -and is most likely to be- imposed by the State and enforced by the Regime as upon an ‘alien’ conquered people? As upon a vanquished and subjugated external force from whom the Land, Religion and Language of the Sinhala-Buddhist Nation have been liberated and its undisputed supremacy, hegemony and glory restored? Recall that this was the political ideology from which flowed the military doctrine, line and strategy for an all-out war of annihilation and liquidation of the LTTE by the State. What if the ideological mind-set and the agenda of survival is to continue the political counter-offensive to liquidate the political status of the Tamil and Moslem nationalities as the only way to further entrench the supremacist-chauvinist-militarist Comprador Capitalist State under the class dictatorship of the Rajapakse Regime, in order to politically consolidate the military conquest? What if this is the only strategy of the Regime to deceive, divide, suppress and rule the people? The only way to consolidate its grip on the deluded Sinhala oppressed masses? What if this structured ideological-political strategy is the condition of survival of the Regime? What if, given the level of chauvinist militarization and fascization of the State, there could be no turning back, short of the most radical democratic revolution?
This logic of survival will inevitably lead to an intensification of the spiral of organic crises and violent destruction brought about by the Rajapakse Regime. This would result in an irrevocable polarization of the National Question, and a realignment of class forces. There could be direct intervention from external forces. The people’s mandate would have been defiled and violated. Most of all, it will inflame hearts and enrage minds of the oppressed across the Land–those who have “Nothing to lose, but their chains, and have a world to win”. The Independence of the Country and the Freedom of the People of Lanka would be at stake. The people then would have every right to struggle to win their own Right of Self-Determination, Claim their Land, Win their Liberation and Conquer their Freedom from imperialist domination and neo-colonial bondage.
The fundamental structural cause of the war is the denial of the right to self-determination. That is, the abject failure of the State and of each successive regime to address and resolve the question of national self-determination on a democratic basis. An abject failure to evolve a system of State and Governance designed to foster national unity, integration and solidarity. Indeed, what has been followed is a consistent and intensifying policy of national subjugation and violent suppression. Every Regime in power, and every political party representing the ruling class-from Left to Right-have been part of implementing this vile, reactionary bourgeois politics of chauvinism and hegemony. Not for the love of the oppressed Sinhala masses, but for the greed for power, in the service of Imperialism. .The Rajapaskse Regime is a crystallization and concentration of this political trajectory
The defense of the unitary State against sharing power is argued from three major standpoints. Every effort is taken to deny the political and historical status of the Tamil, Moslem and Hill Country Tamil nationalities; All of whom have evolved historically, linguistically, culturally, psychologically and politically as ‘distinct’ peoples, that is, as nationalities. Those who oppose the principle of devolution and sharing power do so by vehemently denying this political status of the various nationalities. This is by insisting that only the Sinhala-Buddhist nation exists as a historically evolved distinct national entity, with the exclusive right to nationhood and statehood. All others are ‘aliens’, even ‘intruders’ who must abide by the benevolence bestowed upon them by the supreme and superior race of the primordial Sinhalayas, who alone have the legitimacy to claim the historical legacy and the exclusive right to rule the Land of Sri Lanka. This claim will neither stand the test of historical truth, nor of Time. The second part of the argument is that any degree or form of devolution and sharing power will lead to a separate State. The bare and simple truth is that it is the brutal, violent suppression by the centralized, hegemonic-chauvinist Unitary Capitalist State that has generated, and will continue to breed, the politics of separatism. The third argument is that the separatist threat poses a threat to national sovereignty. The threat posed to national sovereignty is due to the politics of supremacy and hegemony of the Comprador State, wherein the Land of Lanka has been opened up for imperialist rivalry, penetration, and machination. The Motherland has been chopped up and sliced apart by the various imperialist and regional hegemonic powers and mortgaged to eternity to the International Lending Agencies. Within this framework of contrived and self-serving assumptions, the Regime will not offer a democratic solution based on recognition of the right of self-determination.
The only option for the Regime, then, is to suppress the demand for self-determination, and terrorize and silence those who would espouse such a solution by any and all means, as traitors. This is the role played by the neo-fascist para-militaries such as the Bodu Bala Sena, the Sinhala Ravaya and the Sihala Ravaya, backed by the various power centers in the ruling Alliance, who are unleashing terror and anarchy by targeting other religions and communities, with complete State impunity. The ideology, political program and agenda of the Rajapakse Regime is to exercise and perpetuate absolute, undivided and undisputed class dictatorship over the whole island, under the banner of Sinhala-Buddhist Chauvinism, dished out as ‘Patriotism’. This is so that a class of parasitic, crony-narco-mafia Capitalists, tied to the Regime, would thrive and prosper, while the masses shall be bled dry. This is the political agenda behind the wholesale militarization and politicization of the Political and Social Order, including compulsory military training for university students and training and conferring military rank to school principals. (290 billion for internal defense for some 250,000 armed forces-2013 Budget!). This agenda requires a constant drilling of the glory of the military victory over the Tamil nation through constant blood rituals replete with bombast pomp and pageantry. This is so this reactionary chauvinist poison is instilled and fired into the consciousness of the Sinhala masses, including the armed forces. This is the only way to drug the oppressed Sinhala masses to remain loyal to the Regime and to bear their indignity, abuse and violation in karmic silence. Geneva and CHOGM may serve to temporarily leash the neo-fascist bloodhounds and douse the flames of militarist chauvinism, and there may even be a semblance of ‘normality’. This will be a temporary tactic to bide time. Ultimately, and essentially, the defunct neo-colonial/ Comprador-Capitalist State must resort to what Lenin termed ‘the naked terrorist dictatorship of the bourgeoisie’, if it is to survive.
Every successive government under this ruling class has exploited, manipulated and perverted the genuine desire of the oppressed Sinhala people to rise against their oppressor and overturn their oppression into a brand of neo-fascist chauvinism against other oppressed nationalities. The Comprador State and its ruling class lives off the spoils of imperialist profit, pillage and plunder. It survives by sowing the seeds of chauvinist division to split the ranks of the People and the Revolution. In the context of the raging political storms gathering in the sky, the electoral victory of the ITAK, the overwhelming historic People’s Mandate that brought it into power, and more fundamentally, the political will of the People of Lanka to achieve Independence, Democracy and Freedom will be put to the ultimate test. It is time that all genuine progressive, democratic and revolutionary forces across the country who cherish this Motherland and who yearn for the liberation of the country and the freedom of the people to unite their forces to resist and overthrow the bloodied Neo-Colonial State and establish a People’s Democratic State, in the form of the People’s Republic of Lanka. Our unity is our strength and the guarantee of final victory.
*The writer is Secretary: Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist): Chairman: Anti-Imperialist People’s Alliance