23 May, 2019

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The JVP Political Culture, Distorting History & Resorting To Personal Slander

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

The necessity for changing the political culture of distorting history and resorting to personal slander – Part 1

In the past several decades, we have witnessed a growing political culture in Sri Lanka, of falsifying, distorting and fabricating history and using slander as a weapon for silencing political critics. This political culture is not limited to Sri Lanka, but prevails globally, not only in politics but in almost all other spheres of influence. In Sri Lanka, in general, this political culture is apparent in most political parties, and particularly, in the political movements of the left. Internationally, this political culture is well-known, as epitomised by the political struggles between Stalinism and Trotskyism during the last century, which still continues.

This is a vast topic with an unlimited scope of discussion. However, I restrict myself here to reflect upon the politics of the left in Sri Lanka, particularly relating to the recent politics of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP – Peoples’ Liberation Front) and the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP). The episode of comrade Kumar Gunaratnam alias Kumara Mahaththaya (Kumar) provides us with a classic example of this harmful and predominant political culture that is prevalent in Sri Lankan politics: politics of falsification, distortion, deception and fabrication of history and the use of personal slander as a weapon in the process.

Premakumar Gunaratnam| Photo courtesy Peter Boyle.

Premakumar Gunaratnam| Photo courtesy Peter Boyle.

Before discussing aspects of political culture prevalent in Sri Lankan politics, let me digress by briefly citing the following international example. Exactly twenty years ago, on December 6, 1995 a Soviet era historian, General Dimitry Volkogonov, passed away. In 1988, he was a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist. Lenin was God for him, and he praised Lenin as a genius that led the October Revolution, a glorious achievement of the mankind. Stalin was a fallen angel, and Trotsky was an anti-Communist and anti-Soviet renegade. From an atheist and “Marxist-Leninist”, Volkogonov first became a humanistic democrat, then a Russian nationalist and later morphed into a liberal anti-communist*.

This conversion was not due to an intellectual liberation of a historical scientist, but due to the rebirth of Russian capitalism as symbolised by the opening of a new Coca-Cola bottling plant near Moscow, anointed with Holy Water by a Russian Orthodox priest, complete with his beard, his princely robes and a mitre. In the 1990s, Volkogonov ‘having seen the light’, discovered that Lenin was an evil genius who masterminded the abominable October putsch. Volkogonov attempted to resurrect stories of German gold financing the Bolsheviks, and Lenin being a German agent. To muddle up history, he mixed up both circumstances and historical context, omitted the fact that Bolshevism grew as a tendency and took shape based on the experiences of the 1905 Revolution, which Lenin described as the dress rehearsal for October.

To use Leon Trotsky’s terminology, Volkogonov was one of the top practitioners of Stalin’s school of falsification. According to Felix Kreisel of Iskra Research Publishing House, Volkogonov must be classified as a court historian, i.e. a bemedalled and bejewelled courtier of the ruling elite who specializes in serving up the historical myths required and requested by his masters. Every king, Pope and tsar had needed such a courtier, a specialist in prettifying and glorifying his rulers, a crafty scholar who confuses and mystifies the people, thus protecting and preserving his odious regime. Kreisel describes the manner in which many like Volkogonov rose to the top ranks of a Soviet era school of historiography, by concealing facts, silencing and murdering witnesses, pulping history books, and inventing tales.

Leaving out the historical and social circumstances of the Russian Civil War, foreign intervention and blockade, and leaving out the social, political and economic conditions that prevailed in the Russian empire, Volkogonov condemned the ‘anti-democratism’ of Lenin. Yet, one could not see any historical review or analysis of those events that took place during that period. Volkogonov also had a change of heart regarding Leon Trotsky’s political views. In 1988, he accused Trotsky of hatred of the Slavs, of anti-Russian chauvinism. In 1991, he congratulated Trotsky on his immersion in Europe, praises his knowledge of Western literature, art, psychology, flattering Trotsky as being the “most European among the revolutionaries. Whatever the relative truths and untruths regarding these allegations of falsification, distortion and fabrication of history, truth relating to progressive social development as history has shown will be difficult to shelve or hide in the long-term.

Coming back to discuss the political culture prevalent in Sri Lanka, we can consider the recent controversy regarding the Politbureau member of the FSP, Kumar Gunaratnam. I am not an affiliate of the FSP or the JVP, but it was interesting to watch the different views the leaders of the JVP, ex-leader of the JVP and Former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence have expressed. Since the breakaway of the FSP from the JVP in 2012, Kumar has been at the centre of several controversial political episodes. I knew his brother Ranjitham Gunaratnam, but came to know Kumar only in the recent years, after he was ‘unofficially deported’ back to Australia in April 2012. The state security forces assassinated Ranjitham in 1989. He was a member of the Politbureau of the JVP. According to informed sources both of the JVP and the FSP, Kumar had played a major role in rebuilding the JVP after its brutal repression in the late 1980s.

*Roberts J C Q, 2000. Speak Clearly Into the Chandelier: Cultural Politics Between Britain and Russia 1973-2000, 217, Surrey

To be continued

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Looking forward to the rest of this story. Having once being the kingpin of the original JVP Lionel Bopage would be an important source for modern Sri Lankan politics. He has hands-on experience and a good theoretical foundation

  • 1
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    Lional bopage also was an another Just like Lenin because of powervty hated rich and the powerful.

    As soon as they made it for themselves, forgot the struggle, now preaching from the west.

    Some one made the “Kaludiya Dahara” movie and showed what JVP is all about.

    Just a bunch people who mislead the youth at that time because they were jealous with those who were enjoying it.

    • 3
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      Jim softy

      “Lional bopage also was an another Just like Lenin because of powervty hated rich and the powerful.”

      Have you had an opportunity to meet Lenin? You must be a lucky Lankie.

  • 1
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    By the way, let me reveal something I haven’t said before:

    In early 1990 s, the former leader of the JVP, Somawansa Amrasinghe, personally wrote to the authorities of the BBC World Service a letter urging them to ‘remove’ me from the BBC’s Sinhala Service. And my BBC’s bosses were amused and showed me everything he sent with a good laugh.

  • 1
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    This guy Bopage is not qualified to talk about Sri Lankan politics. He is the one who caused huge damage to Sri Lanka in 1971 by introducing terrorism with his terrorist leader Wijeweera. He again took to terrorism in the 1980s, then fled the country in the guise of a refugee

  • 1
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    Lionel Bopage and Kumar Gunarathnam are two sides of the same coin. I am not surprised one terrorist is trying hard to rescue the other now in trouble

    • 0
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      Dinesh W. What about Anura Kumara Dissanayake? Is he not a terrorist according to your way of gauging people?

      • 2
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        max

        “Dinesh W. What about Anura Kumara Dissanayake?”

        What about him?

        Don’t you want them to renounce violence? Do you want them to remain terrorists until end of their life?

        Further AKD has apologized for what they as a party did or didn’t do to the people of this island.

        He owned up JVP’s past mistakes, said sorry and let him move on. If you find yourself hating democracy the best way forward is to empower the cobra head who will keep the island in constant turmoil.

        • 0
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          Max and Native Vedda,

          Like Bopage, Anura Kumara Dissanayake has not killed any innocent people in Sri Lanka nor has he done any terrorist act. AKD’s hands are clean, Bopage’s hands have blood

  • 1
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    Will the a author acknowledge that he is an ex-JVP terrorist who ran away to Australia without facing justice for the spiral of violence and mayhem that he and his pol-pot types unleashed on Sri lanka?

  • 1
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    If it is another country Bopage is still in jail until death. No wonder Sri Lanka is called ‘Wonder of Asia’

    • 1
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      Brijesh

      “If it is another country Bopage is still in jail until death.”

      JVP terrorists are not rotting in jail. They were released in the early 1990s.

      He left JVP long before you were born.

  • 0
    0

    The terrorist has spoken again

  • 0
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    JVP never produce right thinking persons in Sri Lanka since 1965.
    Lional B… is no exceptions of that.
    He too was anarchist origin by his birth .

    That is why he join JVP member and rose up to level of Politibureau member of First Terrorist Party of Ceylon. [Edited out]

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