Colombo Telegraph

Traitors: JVP & The Non-JVP Left

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

The necessity for changing the political culture of distorting history and resorting to personal slander: Part 6

The political culture outlined in this series of articles is apparent in most of the Sri Lankan political entities, particularly, in the left. Internationally also, this political culture has prevailed, as has been epitomised by the political struggle between Stalinism and Trotskyism in the last century. As I am discussing left wing tendencies, I will digress by looking at the destructive political culture that had prevailed in the Soviet Union, which strongly influenced the political culture of the left elsewhere, in using falsification of history and personal slander as a weapon against political opponents.

The Bolshevik Party seized power grasping an unprecedented opportunity that the Russian history had provided, and the party slogan that was used at the time was All Power to the Soviets. Initially, these Soviets were councils represented by workers and peasants’ deputies. However, after the seizure of power, these Soviets became councils represented by workers, peasants and soldiers’ deputies. The Bolsheviks gradually dominated the Soviets by expelling all other groups and factions from the Soviets. Virtually the state power was concentrated only in the hands of the Bolshevik Party (later renamed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union).

It is evident from Lenin’s polemics with his opponents that he fundamentally opposed any deviation from Marxist philosophy[1]. He was totally committed to the paradigm of class struggle, and any deviation was taken as falling prey to bourgeois-reactionary falsehoods. He raised many allegations against his comrades in arms, warning them of the doubts that have been planted in their minds. For Lenin, the only satisfactory outcome of his polemics was the complete demolition of the political positions that were different to his. Yet, his polemics did not involve a distortion of history, or engaging in personal slander against his political opponents. It is important to note that he did not seek the physical annihilation of those who did not agree with his views, or who appeared to have deviated from the Leninist take on the objective truth of Marxism. However, the situation changed later with the ideological struggle becoming bloody, ending up with mass extermination of dissidents.

In analysing Lenin’s polemics, one could note that Lenin himself has been culpable for the subsequent bloody developments, as his early polemics appear to point the way towards the destructive events that had taken place later, like his incendiary polemic against Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Commissar of Culture in the first Soviet regime established under Lenin’s leadership, placing him in the same category as of Peter Sturve[2]. This sort of merciless logic and guidance led most of Lenin’s comrades in arms during the revolution, to their imprisonment for treason and subsequently to their death.

These political tendencies leeched into the political culture of the Soviet Union and later in the Third International; which had a fundamental but detrimental influence on the left movements elsewhere. It affected the left politics in Sri Lanka and India. The Sino-Soviet split in the sixties found both Communist parties attacking each other branding each other as traitors to the cause. This was reflected in Sri Lankan politics with the split of the Communist Party into two. As a natural consequence, the JVP also carried this ideological baggage, like branding Comrade Bala Tampoe a CIA agent. This tradition followed from post-Lenin deterioration of the politics of the Third International from an internationalist position to taking on an opportunistic national position. Instead of the Leninist method of annihilating the logic of a political person by subjecting the ideological position to the cold light of political reason, the political culture of the left deteriorated to using falsification of history and personal slander as weapons against political opponents.

The JVP came into existence, mainly from the womb of the traditional left, particularly of the Ceylon Communist Party and the LSSP. Both the CP and the LSSP branded the JVP as being instigated by the CIA. I recollect that in the early seventies, the JVP cadres confiscating a publication by the Dharmasekera group, that was critical of the JVP. There had been both physical and verbal altercations between the two groups. This came to crux on the 6th of March 1971, when the Dharmasekera group held a demonstration outside the American embassy during which a policeman was killed. The JVP had nothing to do with the demonstration, although the government used this as a pretext to declare State of Emergency and provide the armed forces with powers of arbitrary arrest. The Government also proclaimed the third part of Emergency Regulation 15A, thus allowing security forces to dispose of dead bodies without holding post-mortems. In the latter part of the 1970s, another major factionalisation in the JVP leadership came to a head in early 1971.

I should note that political discussions occurred within the party and outside, about the differences of opinion between separate factions. Some were branded as traitors, for example those who became witnesses to the crown during the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) trials against the JVP. Personal slander also existed to an extent in that the one who had resigned or been expelled being branded as a traitor or an enemy. Yet, the fact that these factions and the individuals were part and parcel of the JVP at one time or another was never rejected.

*To be continued


[1] Lenin, V I. 1908. Materialism and Empirio-criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy, In Lenin, V I. Collected Works, English edition, Vol 14, Moscow. For example, the following quote: True! The “realists,” etc., including the “positivists,” the Machians, etc., are all a wretched mush; they are a contemptible middle party in philosophy, who confuse the materialist and idealist trends on every question. The attempt to escape these two basic trends in philosophy is nothing but “conciliatory quackery.”

[2] Peter Struve (1870-1944), one of the most influential Russian scholars, mastered in history, journalism, economics, international relations, and practical politics. He was also an activist, who helped found the Marxist movement in Russia, and helped Lenin in launching his political career. Peter initiated Marxist Revisionism in Russia and was the theoretician and a cofounder of the Party of Constitutional Democracy (the “Cadet” Party). He became the principal critic of the Russian intelligentsia and the main political ideologist of the anti-Bolshevik opposition during the Civil War and in emigration

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