The time has come for the JVP to come clean about its economic plans. Popular speechmaking must give way to hard facts. Economics-savvy leaders must emerge just as brave Zhou and Deng, challenging primitive Maoists in Red China.



What was Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) which was introduced by the Bolsheviks in 1921 and how is it relevant to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) of 2023 which is poised to seek power for its own distinctive economic policies in a forthcoming General Election?

The Bolsheviks, who were engaged in a civil war from 1918 to 1921, expropriated or nationalised private ventures on the grounds that their war economy needed the resources to equip and maintain the Red Army. However, in reality, it retarded the Soviet economy and brought the country to a breaking point.

The masses and armed services began to revolt as seen in the Kronstadt uprising. There followed an internal debate among the Bolshevik leaders as to the means of facing this crisis. Bukharin and the ‘Right Oppositionists’ called for relief for the peasants and small businessmen while the ‘Left Oppositionists’ led by Trotsky called for more centralisation under the Gosplan.

Lenin, who ruled the roost, decided to take a step back and introduced the NEP, which he described as “State capitalism”. Many of the expropriated ventures were returned to be once again private enterprises. As a result, production increased, the Red Army was fed, and the revolution was saved.

The NEP has been a bone of contention among later Communist ideologues who have lined up on either side of the NEP debate. In China, finally it was the ‘revisionists’ like Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping who defeated the Maoist orthodox economic thinkers and laid the foundation for their country’s prosperity and resulting world leadership. Let us now turn to the JVP.

Tackling corruption

There is no doubt that the JVP under the leadership of Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) has won the respect of the people for their forthright criticism of the corruption and inefficiency of the governments that ran the country.

While other parties dilly-dallied or looked the other way when their members looted the Treasury, it was only the JVP that never compromised with bribery and corruption. Nor were they afraid of challenging the highest echelons of power both in Parliament and outside.

While AKD with his superb control of language and statistics made ministers squirm in Parliament, Sunil Handunnetti chaired the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) to methodically unearth the financial shenanigans of politicians and officials with the help of the Auditor General.

For instance, in the case of the bond scam he exposed not only high-level perpetrators of the financial crime but also the ‘hurrah boys’ of the then leader who rushed to provide footnotes to the COPE report to mitigate the culpability of their bosses. They may now plead that they were mere tyros in politics at that time and had to safeguard their future political prospects.

But it is a black mark which comes to the fore when they now give ‘pora talks’ as the economic gurus of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB).

On the other hand, the JVP to its credit did not vacillate or prevaricate. It paid a heavy price for that when it was targeted by its enemies at the last General Election. Handunnetti, who did so much to get public approval for his party, was defeated in the polls in Matara District and the JVP was reduced to a membership of three in the new Parliament.

Economic policies

One reason for the JVP’s failure was that no one was sure about the economic policies that it would follow. All that the public knew was about the bloodcurdling threats of founder Wijeweera who gave expression to the economic theories of the extremist Maoists.

These ‘isolationist’ ideas were decisively rejected by later leaders like Deng, who set China on the path to private foreign investment, industrialisation, international trade, and globalisation.

The idiotic ideas of Wijeweera included the uprooting of tea bushes and growing manioc instead. Thus, even its supporters have been left wondering what the JVP could do if it succeeds in getting power in a peaceful way that AKD, to his credit, has been fervently advocating.

He now has to articulate a credible economic plan, taking our natural resources as the base. Chief among them is our strategic location in the Indian Ocean midpoint between the Far East and the Middle East.

A few kilometres to the north is the ‘waking economic giant’ India. This proximity draws attention to the economies of scale which demand that we integrate our growth path with the larger industrial complexes emerging in South India.

Also, how can the loss-making State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) be managed? If the JVP cannot factor in all these complex situations, it will not be able to offer a workable economic plan. Its platform speeches certainly do not offer such a realistic approach.

Vietnamese strategy

Of late, Handunnetti and Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa have been taking a more liberal approach to economic problems. For instance, Jayatissa has stated that the JVP is not against private universities. He also talked of following a Vietnam-style economic strategy.

The World Bank says: “Vietnam’s shift from a centrally-planned economy to a market economy has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world to a lower middle income country.

It is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in the East Asia region.”

Vietnam’s economic reforms, known as ‘Doi Moi,’ encouraged private industry, recognised private land rights, and abolished collective farming. One reason for its growth is cheap labour, high productivity, and Government support for foreign investment. Ironically, the US is a major investor.

“Major companies like Adidas, Nike, and Samsung, among many others, have a manufacturing presence there. Not surprisingly, Vietnam’s Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has grown 200 times since 1986, from $ 40,000 to $ 16 billion in 2018.”

The time has come therefore for the JVP to come clean about its economic plans. Popular speechmaking must give way to hard facts. Both Handunnetti and Jayatissa, the most economics-savvy leaders, unlike primitives like Lal Kantha, must emerge just as brave Zhou and Deng, who dared to challenge primitive Maoists in Red China.

Courtesy:Sunday Morning