21 July, 2024


Two Disastrous Insurrections & Spurning Tamils Has Damaged The JVP: The JVP Must Banish The Demons Of Its Past

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

“A political party’s attitude to its own mistakes is the surest way of judging how earnest it is and how it fulfils its obligations to its class and the working people. Acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons, analysing what led to it and debating the means of rectification – that’s the hallmark of a serious party; that’s how it must perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class and the masses”. Lenin: “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder; April 1920.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has matured; its perspectives today are correct and we (ULF) have joined it in a progressive-democratic alliance for this presidential election, next year’s parliamentary elections, and beyond into the future to nurture a socialist, democratic, corruption-free alternative to the rotten political culture of today. Let that be said at the outset in no uncertain terms before I get on with the remainder of his essay which probes the JVP’s unhappy past. 

I am aware that the JVP has reflected on the two principal errors of its past, arrived at some conclusions and made amends by changing its strategies, but I am not aware how deep the evaluation has been. I have no interest in tearful public confessions, only sadists need that; my interest is to satisfy myself and others that the internal critical process has been thorough. As the remark by Lenin nearly 100 years ago quoted at the head of this essay says, that’s what matters. Let me add that at the end of the quote when Lenin says “class” what is in the mind of this master strategist of party building is the party’s cadres. 

The two costly blunders the JVP made were (a) ultra-left insurrections in 1971 and 1989, and (b) capitulation to Sinhala chauvinism on the “Tamil question”. I am not aware of any JVP anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bias, so I should not say National Question (NQ), but I will use the term since it is convenient. On insurrection and ultra-leftism, I am returning to the theme 48 years after the LSSP published my little pamphlet Tharunu Ugathunge Deshapalanaya (The politics of youthful intellectuals). Though not of profound depth it can stand up to scrutiny even today as the first Marxist critique of the 1971 insurrection. The English text dates to the insurrection and Ajith Samaranayake’s brilliant translation was printed in huge numbers in 1973 and sold by the party for Rs 1! That’s enough on that, let’s move on.

The blunder Wijeweera and the early JVP made has its theoretical roots in the Sino-Soviet conflict of the 1950s. Wijeweera took the Chinese side for which reason the Soviets refused him re-entry to college in the USSR after a short break at home. He refused to cave in and joined the Maoist wing of the Ceylon Communist Party of N. Sanmugadasan. Mao was steering his adherents all over the world into extremism and therefore disaster. The worst was1964 when Communists and the Chinese community in Indonesia lost half-a-million lives in a military coup after a struggle between Maoist politics and the army. Before that however the unexpected victory on 1 Jan 1959 of the Cuban revolution and the dazzling personality of Che Guevara stunned the JVP leaders (who below age 30 wasn’t at the time!); the Indonesian debacle made little impression. 

The ideological stance of the JVP from the 1960s to mid-1990s was to substitute a well organised revolutionary core (the party) for the people and the working class – a travesty of Marxism – and to advocate clandestine insurrectionary intervention of clusters of “revolutionaries” instead of raising the consciousness of the people as a whole (the masses). Lenin would have turned in his coffin in his Red Square mausoleum, but the JVP theory was not inconsistent with Mao’s worldwide stance against “revisionism” and his ultra-left adventurism. You know the whole story; Wijeweera-theory the 1971 putsch and a lightning speed grab for power by armed cadres was thought to be the revolution. That the leftist LSSP and CP were in coalition with Mrs B is not an excuse or explanation; the Coalition Government came into office at the end of May 1970, but planning of the 5 April 1971 insurrection was in progress many months ahead of this D-day. The LSSP-CP “sell-out to the bourgeoisie” affords little justification for the JVP’s insurrection thesis.  

Though enraptured by the iconic blaze of Che, the JVP did not abandon towns and cities and take-off into the hills to form “focos” – vanguard groups for guerrilla attacks to focus discontent and light the fires of insurrection. Actually, the JVP was not wedded to Guevara-Debray ideology; it was a rural-urban outfit playing big people’s games in a charade manned by young people. The suppression of the insurrection after about a week of uncertainty was foreseeable. I have many a story to tell about life on Peradeniya Campus and disputes within the LSSP in those days, but not now. Let it wait till my grandchildren grow up. 

In the above three paragraphs I have given a compressed review of the Sino-Soviet backdrop and internal dynamics of early JVP ideology. There are scholarly works but that is not the same as a reappraisal by a party of itself which we don’t have. There are other crucial points on which I can’t spend three paragraphs each within the limits of this column. I will skip the 1989-90 exploit since it requires 5000 words for itself. Regarding other crucial matters I will only enumerate them. First there is the dominant and uncontested role of Rohana Wijeweera, his political beliefs and his ideology. Of his political beliefs the shortest remark I can make is that he was convinced that an insurrectionary grab for power by a few thousand armed-cadres could transform state and society. His ideology is summarised in the ‘five lectures’ where he outlines a simplistic take on global and domestic history and economy. One lecture is an anti-plantation-Tamil stance in the guise of containing “Indian expansionism”. The final lecture is about what I called political beliefs a moment ago.

A second point is class character. The JVP at its origin was Sinhala petty-bourgeois; neither working class, nor urban elite-intellectual like the LSSP and CP. (Today the JVP has a strong trade union base). It did not have roots, as the LSSP and CP had, among English speaking (and thinking) urbanised Marxist intellectuals who had cut their teeth in the émigré and socialist circles of inter-war European Marxism. The third point then is that absence of book-learned familiarity with the Marxist classics in the early JVP was one reason why the dominance of little-learned Wijeweera could not be challenged by the few intellectuals of those days, primary among them Lionel Bopage and briefly Victor Ivan, Uyangoda and a few others. What I have called a second point, the class nature of the JVP at its origin, has flowed seamlessly into this my third point about ideology. 

What is needed today is to strengthen the JVP cadre’s familiarity with global politics and to nurture a deeper appreciation of economic systems and alternatives (finance capital, Soviet-style centralised economic authoritarianism and the new Chinese-Vietnamese option). I think the leadership is aware of the need for cadre education and may get down to it after the hustle and bustle of elections.

My Editor is not infinitely generous, so I must hurry on to the JVP’s other big blunder. Before going further, it is fair that I convey what ULF comrades who interact with the JVP in People’s Power forums have reported back. The JVP is not hostile to Tamils, Muslims or Christians, nor is it Sinhala or Buddhist chauvinist. My few personal interactions confirm this. A welcome evolution but this is not the record from the past. The JVP must face up to and bury that demon from its past in the way that Lenin says these things should be done. 

There is little that the JVP can do before 16 November to attract Tamil voters; so badly has its past discombobulated them. To begin with, Wijeweera was a racist who participated in the 1966 effort to scuttle the Dudley-Chela agreement, even against the instructions of his then party, the Maoist CP. It opposed the Dudly-Chelva agreement as Sirima, and to their eternal shame the LSSP and CP, did. Throughout the civil-war it stridently supported the military with anti-LTTE slogans that sometimes appeared to be anti-Tamil. It was the foremost opponent of the 13-th Amendment and filed the court case that broke up of the N-E Provincial merger. (I grant the merger was anti-democratic because the people of the Eastern Province had not been consulted; but in principal merger is not a first step to dividing the country; that is a racist lie). Today the JVP is cagy about devolution requiring ULF negotiators in PP forums to invent imaginative verbal offerings. I could go on but this is indictment enough.

This is a frank but comradely interjection on the National Question. The JVP is a socialist party and its leaders are Marxists; so am I. It would be good if it expedites internal discourse on the NQ as it will surely have to; it cannot much longer duck its own cadres. The big beneficiary of such discourse will be the JVP itself since it is emerging as the core of a left-progressive formation worthy of state and governmental responsibility. The clock is ticking, there may be no more than five years left. Sorry about trying to compress into 1500 words what needs 20,000 words. 

The challenge for the rest of Lanka’s left is to understand and explain how the JVP, despite these blunders, has emerged as the principal left party in the country. And to strategize how to work in collaboration with it now that it is open for cooperative business.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    By and large that take political analysis of JVP, LTTE proxies of (TNA) and Muslim Terrorist proxies of that Muslim Congress, and Islam of Rashied Budiadeen, Assad Sally and Majuber Rahaman of UNP having common platform.!@
    By for all political elements not that trusted more than that practices are an identical, having also similar background ….of Terrorism our soil.
    Politics of JVP, LTTE-(TNA) and Muslim Terrorist of ISIS are determined by Gun Rule Politics ,depended on chaos ,terror attacks and disorder of system of democracy governance .
    Are they not that confidence of institutions of Parliment and other representatives bodies and an outlets. Nevertheless they uses all as tools by achieved and activated their political agenda by means of anti-establishment form of struggle.
    They undermined very foundation norms of democracy by programmer of
    by so-called “Socialist revolution” of JVP , hence “Homeland for Tamil in North -East” by TNA that claim Tamil speaking in World in big land in Lanka ; and by in terms of converted other faiths religion to occupy Island ,by shifted for Islam state. By new form 21/4 terror attacked.
    Their key mission be different but form of struggle are same has been undertaken
    by these Political trends of THREE OUTFITS of Island .
    The ongoing Presidential Elections has been used to reached their political achievement to be legitimacy of overall covered operation of that calamity of Terrorism by JVP TNA and religion Political parties of Muslims in Lanka.

    Politics of terrorism will be drawback with this dodge of RIGHT to VOTES for the People and its sovereignty of Islanders.That taken to extremist of that new political conflicts. by UNP blessing of Sajith P…..! by @@@
    And uprooted ours values of democracy of development of Capitalism in 70 years.

    • 9

      SLPP losing their votes to the JVP and Mahesh only a matter of time before Gota has a public meltdown… he’s unable to keep it together and his lack of charisma and having his brother on the stage to save him from embarrassment is ugly. No one cares for him anymore. SLPP ship is already sinking and the rats are getting ready to flee… SLFP is glad they got rid of the garbage and are building up new politicians.

  • 3

    In the penultimate paragraph Prof Kumar David says {“….Sorry about trying to compress into 1500 words what needs 20,000 words”}.
    In this article Kumar David uses thousands of words to say “Vote for Gotabaya”.

    Prof Kumar David’s initial brief was to keep Gotabaya in the news. He did. The renewed brief is “Demonise those who do not deify Rajapaksa family’.
    The man is stupid enough to try. He takes on JVP, rocks the cradle while pinching the child. The title of the rubbish is {“Two Disastrous Insurrections & Spurning Tamils Has Damaged The JVP: The JVP Must Banish The Demons Of Its Past”}
    This is not bankrupt journalism but scum journalism.

  • 0

    I am going to try to write a 20,000 words comment in 300 words limits. So it is nothing but a recipe for fresh giddiness.
    Prof. Kumar is selling some blue stuff and calling it Blueberry Yogurt. He is saying even Shiva didn’t die by eating it, so you won’t, too. Let’s look at where did he got it. Once angels got together and start to churn the Milk Ocean to make curt milk using Meru mountain as the Churn and Vasuki (a massive snake) as the rope. The churning supposed to give out so many good things (A tree that can give anybody anything, same type of cow, Goddess Lakshmi, Apsaras the angelical-beautiful women, an elephant which can fight out against anything………………..). , in addition to the intended Amrita, which will give no death life. But what came out was the universal quantity poison, the snake spit in the ocean, when it could not take the Churning pain. It looked blue. Not real curt milk. The stupid, foolish boy Shiva drank it. He was about to fall and die. At that time, Uma choked at his neck. The poison could not go further and stood at his throat. Then all the promised things came out and everybody enjoyed them and lived happily ever after. This is what Prof. Kumar saying that Anura is about to do. He is playing the role of the tortoise that carried the Meru Mountain, the churn, to the Milk Ocean and Anura will be the angel churning. He is saying when Wijayaweera started it the poison killed 120,000 Sinhala youths. But now it is Anura going to bring out the real fruit. That is a comic book tale of 2500 years old gone with Marx; not worth even to talk about it. That kind of im-propionate job of Socialist state managing the economy never worked. That’s all only a mythical story there is nothing true.

  • 0

    Let’s us look at the real problem of Lankawe and churn it and and see if Socialism is a solution for that. Lankawe problem is Britain built the Universal Franchise based Democracy and introduced capital market in a Buddhist environment. Buddha Dharma is far above the feeble-meek democracy on the equality of lives and completely against the competition. They both cannot work with Buddhism. Buddhism says not just human-s are equal, but even the animals are equal to men and under Universal Franchise, they too need votes. So in Wildlife Sanctuary Lankawe even wild lions and Afghan donkeys, water buffaloes, Arabian camels and tigers also vote. The low class Hindus who was doing menial jobs in TN came 2 or 3 centuries ago looking for ultra-hard jobs, but now completely turned off to hard environment living after converted to Buddhism. Look at the estate workers, who still holding on to Hinduism. They are the back bone of the foreign exchange, exports. How is Anura’s communism going to change the mentality which expects, election to election, Biriyani and Arrack? If Anura wants some votes, he should promise that he will bring rice from Mars and he would let Tamils to starve and die, but would not give a bite on that for them. This is why, in the 3rd, 4th, 5th centuries, Tamils in India, eradicated the Buddhism and Jainism from India. Unless a Sinhala Thirunavukkarasar is born in Lankawe and wipe out the Sinhala Buddhism from Lankawe, no political solution can work there.

  • 0

    Who cares about the pre-71 insurgencies and their racist states. You don’t say anything about the 1989-90 ones, pretending it is going to be 5,000 words long. So, let’s say that the 1989-90 ones were Non-Racist! Same holds today. And then you sneak in the sentences: “Today the JVP is cagy about devolution requiring ULF negotiators in PP forums to invent imaginative verbal offerings. I could go on but this is indictment enough.” Nonsense! The majority want a unitary state. The clever JVP is doing imaginary devolution at the moment, but once all are working with the Marxist egalitarian economic policy, all will feel the uselessness of race. Other parties will stoke up racism with their capitalistic policies, even if they don’t intend it.

    • 0

      All Marxist regimes tried to eradicate religion but failed. China is still trying very hard. China has very tough control over religion. For example, Catholics & Buddhist can have churches & temples as long as preachers are approved by the Gvt. But, Muslims have no such leniency; they being surrounded, taken into custody and brainwashed with Marxist ideology under the guise of job training. This is the fate of any religious group if suspected of acting against Gvt rules. What an egalitarianism!

  • 0

    UNP / UNF cannot ensure National Security. / National Unity
    With or without Sajith.

    So JVP could fill the vacum and try and be the alternative to SLPP (Gota)
    Effective and Efficient governance is what the country needs at this point.

  • 4

    Despite the takes on history and their analysis, I agree totally with the author that a third force is essential if the downhill slide is to stop. People seem to have again coalesced around the two big parties (Blue and Green) as usual and the political parasites are laughing in glee from their rear ends. The stupid voters of SL cannot seem to imagine any kind of third alternative and fall into the emotional trap time and time again.

  • 0

    Its nice to see AKD has thrown away his RED shirt ant have stated wearing GREEN shirts……
    Funny time INDEED……………………..
    As our villagers say……. “”Jaha Rathu Aliya……….. Jaha….””

  • 0

    There is no political position has shifted by JVP last 55 years.
    In that political deeds of that JVP is/was anarchist + Terrorist oriented political outfit but it will not that change policies by JVP in near future.!
    Will of Vote for JVP is an encouraging Terrorism in Island-wide. Citizens who love democracy could not that vote for JVP…..?
    Eventually that JVP nature of political terrorism has corrupted ours that values of Democracies .
    The crux of matter is there is no way to monitor to deeds of JVP norms of democratic credentials by incoming elections .

  • 3

    If I was in Sri Lanka I will neither vote for this Gamaya nor would I vote for that Lawariya Kolla.

    As a veteran of the Armed forces, my vote will always go to a former soldier because not once but many times it is the only security forces that has ensured the safety of the Citizens and no one else.
    If not for the security forces taking control of the calamity that occurred on April 2019, the country would have dived into chaos.

    As a matter of fact, no government with any sense of dignity would ever expect people to vote for them after the security debacle that happened on April 23rd, 2019.

  • 0

    Emeritus Prof (the late) Carlo Fonseka was a leading Rationalist. He was President of SL Medical Council at one stage. Just before he was appointed, the born-again Carlo changed his views in the Jaffna Library burning.
    Prof Kumar David eulogised the Rationalist Carlo but a born-again Kumar seems to be into {“…Banish The Demons…..”} and Devils(??)

  • 0

    So Prof: what you are trying to tell us is that the Revolution is round the corner eh?
    The LSSP too told us this same yarn; Before it could negotiate the corner all its leaders went back to their maker!

  • 0

    “Though not of profound depth it can stand up to scrutiny even today as the first Marxist critique of the 1971 insurrection.”
    Kumar, do not flatter yourself.
    N Sanmugathasan has done a more scientific assessment of the JVP than the ideologists of the LSSP. The LSSP leaders were so intimidated that they would not even ask for Vasudeva’s release.

  • 2

    JVP was in total disarray after 1971 and was revived by JRJ who released Rohana W and gave political encouragement to put down the SLFP. LSSP & CP attempts at a political revival; and Bala Tampoe gave them international respectability by getting the JVP admitted to his brand of 4th International.
    The JVP was Sinhala chauvinist from Day One. In its early years it was openly anti trade union, anti working class, anti-plantation worker and to this day retains its chauvinism. It was ultimately fired from the 4th International, which took 20 years to learn what the JVP really was about.
    It has been more anti-devolution than the UNP and SLFP, it rejects the idea of recognizing regions with predominantly Tamil or Muslim populations.
    its objection to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was based on opposition to the N-E Provincial Council. Mrs B objected to conditions imposed by India in the Accord re Sri Lanka’s defence and foreign affairs. She climbed down on some of her objections to the 13th Amendment in 1989. The JVP killed Vijaya Kumaranatunga for defending 13A. It had a go at VB Karunaratne for the same reason.
    Ask Lionel Bopage about the rot that set in the JVP.

  • 0

    Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
    A perfect example is our good old Prof!

    First it was the Single Issue Presidential election.As the months rolled this ran into various other issues;
    Now the JVP…….
    But then, it is human nature to find fresh cause for optimism.

  • 1

    Dear SJ

    Cool. Should not TNA and JVP be asked to attend a Truth and Reconciliation process and account themselves to all their killings/public forgiveness.

    Not general elections after elections we have now legitimised both…………..an act that killed more than any the riots and Tsunamis in our Nations history.

    Interrupted all the hard work done to bring about some sense of normality to fix our historical blunders just as so many other ‘now’ successful third world countries have done to get themselves out of this rot.

    It was a failure by the security services in the first place that allowed this as we were never prepared for such vile acts of gun trotting children of our own will run around kill their fellow men? instead taking advantage of the opportunity to Nation build??

    Now we need to beef up the security apparatus for the entire Nation (with all segments of the society reflected) for a better tomorrow??

    It is not so much what both parties thought of as solutions (as we all have rights to think differently in a democracy) that bothered me but the methodology??..the killing field to take away a fellow mans right to express while talking about human rights…….a duplicity that we all have to live by today.

  • 1

    What nonsense is this senile old man talking about? Wijeweera opposed a pact in 1957 when he was a 13 year old member of the CP? High time Kumar, HLD Mahi, and Dayan Jayatillake all shut up.

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