by Patali Champika Ranawaka
There is still much debate surrounding the alleged abduction of Premakumar Gunaratnam. It is yet to be established whether he faked his own abduction, or whether he was indeed abducted by members of the security forces.
Nevertheless, Sri Lankan society, especially the Sinhalese community, should re-examine the background behind the formation of the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) and the future of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). This is because the same movement launched two uprisings (in 1971 and 1987-89) against the state, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of village youth.
The JVP was established on May 14, 1964, with its leaders claiming that the Chinese Communist Party was not launching a workers’ rebellion in Sri Lanka. The way FSP spokespersons criticise the JVP leader duo of Somavansa – Tilvin today is quite similar to the way Wijeweera and Sanath criticised Shanmugadasan back then. As I pointed out before, theoretically and practically, the JVP is two-faced.
On the surface, they seemed like nationalists as far as theoretical beliefs went. However, in reality, they were Bolsheviks who hated nationalism. Nationalism was simply a tactic they used in their attempt to grab power. Practically, there was a group of JVP leaders who were openly active in politics. They campaigned for the party during elections. However, there was a group inside the party which believed in Bolshevism and an armed wing which operated secretly within the party. For them, elections were simply a strategy of taking their rebellion forward.
Premakumar Gunaratnam belonged to the group which theoretically believed in Bolshevism and was secretly engaged in politics within the party.
Premakumar’s elder brother was Ranjithan Gunaratnam. He took over the Inter University Students’ Federation from Upali Jayaweera after the JVP was banned in 1983. Ranjithan was fluent in English, Sinhala, and Tamil. Though opposed to him politically, those who held leftists, and rightist views respected him for his dedication and leadership skills.
The 1987-89 uprising was led by his seniors including C. M. Ananda, M. B. Herath, Saman Piyasiri Fernando, Lalith Wijeratne, Ananda Edamegama, Upali Jayaweera, and Shantha Bandara. Wijeweera and Gamanayake’s involvement at organisational level was actually quite small. Wijeweera’s goal was to assemble a military force under the nationalistic slogan ‘Maubima Nethnam Maranaya’ (Motherland or Death) and then launch a Bolshevik rebellion under the slogan ‘Samajavaadaya Nethnam Maranaya’ (Socialism or Death).
The result was that all JVP leaders, except those who were aided by Indian intelligence, were killed, along with countless others who were either with or were against the JVP. I personally will never forgive the JVP leadership for the attempt to launch a Bolshevik revolution while posing as nationalists and using India’s interference in Sri Lanka as a rallying call. The events of 1987-89 and 2004-2007 proved how dangerous it was to dream of fulfilling nationalist needs through the JVP
The problem is that, despite repeated failures and divisions within the party, the JVP still refuses to change its policies. If policies are proved to be incorrect, then those policies should be dropped. New, more practical policies should be adopted in their place. A case in point is the story of the ‘Sandinistas’ of Nicaragua, who rose to power through a revolution in 1979. This revolution was a cause of celebration for the JVP at the time. However, the Sandinistas were later defeated by a combination of covert US political and military involvement, along with attacks launched by US backed ‘Contra’ fighters. This prompted Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega to change his policies.
Instead of strict Marxist policies, he created a liberal form of socialism which suited the national thinking of Nicaraguans. Thereafter, he won two successive elections. Brazil’s Lula Da Silva, who won two successive elections after being defeated three times, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela all adopted similar policies. Both the JVP and FSP need to think along these lines. There is much they can do for this country by changing their line of thinking. They have only brought destruction upon themselves and others through the sacrifices made in the past.
Failure of Marxist model
There were two viewpoints regarding socialism. One was that the sense of the ‘collective’ was a biological need given humans’ biological characteristic of gathering in groups. The other view was that unlike other creatures, as humanity represented a society where culture and intelligent thought was present, the idea of a selfless collective would stand to create a higher society.
Karl Marx, who rejected both these viewpoints, stated a day would come when capitalism would fail to enhance production (The Crisis of Capitalism) collective production was essential. The fall of the Soviet Union, and the successful results subsequently achieved by Russia and China through the implementation of market capitalism and commercial nationalism, have shown the failure of the Marxist model.
However, towards the end of the 20th century, Western environmentalists gave a new interpretation to socialism. The interpretation stated that as modern development was driving human civilisation towards a crisis due to environmental pollution and lack of resources, establishing collective economic units was the way to sustain society. However, I cannot agree with this version of socialism.
If capitalism suppressed man’s human qualities with money, it also has to be said that socialism suppressed man’s creativity. Both the JVP and FSP are presently facing a situation where they’re unable to move forward as they’re unwilling to let go of the burden of Bolshevism that has been passed down from Wijeweera.
Such ‘lost’ movements ultimately become tools of foreign forces. Even if the US launches a sustained diplomatic assault on Sri Lanka from all fronts, the Ranil-Sambandan alliance is still not strong enough to aid the operation from within the country. That is why the US needs the help of the Bolsheviks. courtesy: The Nation.lk