By Kumar David –
“If you know the enemy and you know yourself you will win a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy you will win some battles and lose others. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will lose every battle”. ~ Sun Tzu: The Art of War
Fury at the Gotabaya Regime is snowballing. The fertiliser cock-up has all but brought the government to its knees. An infuriated peasantry is on the march in field, farm and village. As this bomb ticks away perhaps capitulation by Gota and his moronic advisors will defuse an explosion. The second ticking-bomb is the Catholic Church. Make no mistake it is no longer a bellyaching Cardinal; the conspiracy to whitewash those behind the 2019 Easter blasts and/or the cover-up has enraged clergy and laity. Gota’s cynical response has been to incite anti-Catholic turmoil by appointing an obnoxious, rabble-rousing, yellow-robed scoundrel to head a Dirty-Tricks Task Force. Fortunately Buddhists are as sickened as others, so the blatant attempt to provoke anti-Catholic pogroms may not succeed. A third nail in the coffin of this decomposing system is the multimillion dollar Basil-engineered LNG scam.
All this is developing against the background of a failing economy, inability to service debts, shortages and inflation. Not since the 1953 Hartal has an all-class mass-assembly united against a government. At the same time however, never in our post-independence history has a regime made clear its resolve to impose a ‘military solution’; no previous government of Sri Lanka has implicitly or explicitly revealed proto-fascist tendencies; not even JR. Not only trade unions, not only an aroused peasantry, not only angry ethno-religious minorities, the whole people have to be prepared to meet this looming military assault. (Allende failed to prepare the people to meet not only a class backlash but also a brutal military battering and paid the price). As commentators have warned it is not the Rajapaksas per se, but a Military-Paksa juggernaut that is being readied.
Once the menace is perceived what has to be done becomes clear – unification and organisation. An anti-fascist All-Party United Front must be built on an anti-coup programme. Coordination of peasant movements into island-wide bodies, an All-are-Welcome trade union forum to prepare a general strike and an umbrella movement of civil society organisations are all indispensable. Mobilisation of minorities into protective units is timely. Monks and clergy are quite correctly not interested in petty politics; but they will have no option but to come on the streets if it is a question of the very survival of democracy.
The threat of a martial-law project is omnipresent, therefore preparation to meet it has to be all-sided. If mobilisation of the whole people is far-reaching enough, the coup plotters will back-off without rolling out the tanks. The task however is urgent. The state is tottering under a gamut of pressures, some mentioned in my first paragraph. The regime may make its move in early 2022, but it is better to forestall it before it fires a shot. This can be done by mobilisation of the whole people, rural and urban in defence of democracy. Organise, organise, organise; discuss, discuss, discuss; consolidate, consolidate, consolidate.
At this moment trade unions are taking the leading role. Notable are the CEB and Petroleum Corporation unions, teachers, and health-care personnel including PHIs. It is correct that victory on one front will also be a victory for all. At the same time the regime’s obvious strategy will be to isolate one sector at a time, for example CEB-Petroleum, smash it and declare an Emergency which could be used to incarcerate TU leaders and intimidate the whole working class. This is the stark, staring obvious strategy that proto-fascists employ worldwide. Consultation, organisation and consolidation of all trade unions, democratic parties and civil society groups is a sine qua non before launching direct action on any one issue. Never let anyone get isolated, never! Sun Tzu the great Chinese military strategist insisted 2500 years ago: “Know yourself and know your enemy”.
I will in conclusion deviate to a specific topic, the monstrous electricity corruption Bacillus. That the foreign company involved is American is utterly irrelevant – what’s the difference if it were Chinese? That the fuel in question is LNG is beside the point. LNG must be the transitional fossil-fuel of choice for the next two decades as we move away coal so that renewables and new technologies such as fusion, small nuclear and hydrogen in the transport sector, can take root. None of this is the problem. The big problem is the crooked and corrupt contract awarding process. But a much, much bigger problem is that Sri Lanka’s power sector is passing under the control of a commercial entity. Old fashioned privatisation is not the method of the Twenty-First Century – learn that! The new method is taking over enterprises because small countries cannot service their debts nor meet compound-interest obligations. This is what happened to Hambantota Harbour, this will be the fate of Colombo Port City, and this is the fate that Rajapaksa Inc. is preparing for Lanka’s electricity supply sector via dangerous take-or-pay fuel payment contract-provisions.