By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
The scenario of what is left of the Left Movement in Sri Lanka can be broken down into four categories:
Those who have gone to bed with the Right, those who have gone to bed with the Right but who are pretending otherwise, the ambiguous Left and the start-over- again Left.
The start-over again Left is the new Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). These passionate young people and their not- so young mentors start off with the premise that Sri Lanka has not yet seen a “proper Left movement.” There is substantive truth when the FSP says that because what we have seen thus far are fake Left movements.
The Lanka Samasamaja Party and the Communist Party go down to history as two big cruel jokes. These two parties came to the limelight at the beginning largely because they had some men and women of high callibre and breed at the top. NM Perera, SA Wickremasinghe, Leslie Goonewardena, Peter Keuneman, Colvin R De Silva, Phillip Gunawardena, Edmund Samarakkody, Bala Tampoe, Vivienne Goonewardena and some others of lesser prominence. The ordinary masses just ignored their announced policies as the latter simply did not touch their consciousness. Nor did the masses take the leaders seriously when they addressed them as ‘Sahodarayas.’ Indeed it was an unresolvable puzzle to the masses when in a country highly characterized by non-egalitarian feudal values leaders wanted to pretend to be equals. It is legend that Colvin R De Silva had benches for the ‘lower sahodarayas,’ and cushioned seats upstairs for the ‘gentlemen types.’ At May Day meetings Colvin used to come in his luxury car, park it at Borella and then cycle to the Campbell Park venue amidst cheers from other Sahodrayas. Perhaps Colvin was simply brilliant and such weird behavior went unnoticed. The LSSP eventually went to bed with the right wing government headed by Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Personal sacrifice was too much to bear for so long.
The rotten stumps of these two parties are represented by those now in Parliament having gone to bed with the extreme Right Wing Fascist regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa. They are Gone-to–Bed pretending types. Dr Tissa Vitarana and DEW Gunasekera declaring their support for Mahinda’s Third Term scramble had been a bit of a comedy act. These gentlemen, however, pretend to be not fully with Mahinda. They “do not like the dictatorial powers of the President.” Yet, they voted for that extremely backward and retrograde 18th Amendment that did away with all checks and balances to executive power that is the decent norm in all modern governments. Furthermore, DEW was the head of the COPE that investigates the performance of government run business agencies like the Electricty Board, Petroleum Board, Water Board, and 273 other similar agencies. These agencies constitute about 15 per cent of government expenditure and their performance do have a sizeable impact on the quality of governance. Our friend DEW , some few years ago, came out with a scathing attack on the corruption and abuse of these agencies and even pinpointed that Ministers had been involved. He was a hero at that moment in time. But the moment really became a dew-drop moment as DEW forgot about pursuing this. Here you are, now DEW announces proudly that his Communist Party is for Mahinda Rajapaksa. How many Commies are left with him is another issue.
When these Gone- to -Bed Pretending Left speaks they do not bat an eyelid at their inconsistencies. Something they never told us when they were young was that the people are dopes. That is Mahinda’s view, too, judging from his odious acts of commission and omission.
The Gone –to-Bed non-Pretending Left is represented by good old Wimal Weerawansa alone but it has the potential to recruit more. The first group will eventually have to give up their pretence. Mahinda Wijesekera had been one such member. Wimal has no compunctions about backing Mahinda. He is a good actor as he sporadically “kicks up a row” with the President or is able to perform a fast-unto death without meaning to die at all. Had he carried out his threat it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
The JVP that Wimal left behind became the Ambiguous Left. They still are attempting, as they do, to spin their way and remain in the political Opposition. They have an excellent speaker in Anura Kumara Dissanayake whose talents are really lost in the group that he is in. This Ambiguous Left openly criticizes the government and are very vociferous at that. Yet, they fall short of making the only logical option open to them, namely, joining the growing common opposition and ousting the present system of government. The JVP can get back to their party strongholds after that demolition work is done. However, for the essential demolition act to take place they must wholeheartedly back the common opposition candidate, Maithripala Sirisena. On the other hand, logic defies the JVP. Wimal Weerawanse came out with a classic crack at the JVP’s ambiguity: “They say,” says Wimal, “here is the enemy, here’s the stick; now beat the enemy. In our case we prefer not as we have taken Sil.’ ”
Having summed up the other Left groups of today we are left to mention the new one, namely the Frontline Socialist Party. A lot of young and enthusiastic people are in this Party. While the other groups are at the end of the cycle of the Left movement, having in varying degrees leaned to the Right, here is a party that believes they can start again, all anew. FSP points out that all Left parties have failed and so it is ripe to start all over again and commence a new Left. But what guarantee do they give that FSP will not eventually follow the pattern of the Old Left? None, in terms of policy development and none in terms of structure. The slogans are like old wine in new bottles. What difference is this party going to make and how are they making? I have asked a few of them and got no clear answers.
My own view is that the erratic and terminal path of Left movements is an embodiment of the fact that the days of the Marxist Left are over. The fallacy of socialism is its ideological base. Socialism and collectivization are contrary to human nature. Man has a “selfish gene,’ as Richard Dawkins demonstrated in his wonderful treatise called “The Selfish Gene.” We cannot have an economy that goes against that grain. One has to build on the self-interest of human beings and initiate a social system that that would provide for governance that would check any abuses of self-interested capitalism. The capitalist liberal order has come to stay as pointed out two decades ago by Fukuyama in presenting his thesis of “the end of history.” Fukuyama basically states that with crude capitalism having evolved into Liberal Capitalism the task of humanity’s search for a political economy is complete. If socialists ignore this history they will find history repeating itself. The great thing about Liberal Capitalism is that it provides for an efficient mechanism for private investment and growth in the economy. Socialism and collectivization cannot do that as there is absent in the latter ideology the personal motive or drive to invest. Liberal Capitalism generates energies in the individual to invent, to work hard and to prosper. With the prosperity of the individual effort the whole nation prospers. The resulting growth of the national pie enables government to provide an attractive portfolio of social welfare measures for the poor that cannot make it. Just look at the welfare benefits available in strong Western economies.