} Lalith Abeysinghe: April 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Comment on "Left Movement" in Sri Lanka
Lalith Abeysinghe.

I disagree with one of the main points that Kusal is presenting. ( Please see Kusals Article below)

According to Kusal, at least it implies that the "Left" in Ceylon and in Sri Lanka was totally if not partly responsible for the agony that the country is experiencing now.

I disagree.

There was/is no mainstream "Left" in the country at the first place.

We, for various reasons, like to believe that there was (or is) a "Left Movement" in the country. True, the LSSP, the CP and the numerous fractions of those two and the most recent the JVP and the equally numerous fractions were / are there. They are RED. They quote Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Gramsci and so on. They talked about the 'Working class' too. Pathetically, and in reality none of those parties had a "Left (or Marxist/ Leninist) Program". If we prepared to accept or believe that there were/are "LEFT" movement, from that point onwards, whole of our analysis and the predictions get derailed.

The LSSP was the first, which introduced the Marxist elements to the Sri Lankan politics. They were more in Trotskyism. The CP was responsible for Stalinism and Shan for Maoism.

If we accept the Russian Revolution, as Kusal discussed in the Sri Lankan context, there was no "Capitalists" and nor "Working Class" in Russia as such, at least compare with Germany. If we accept the Chinese Revolution, there were no "developed" working class and capitalists in then China. Both the countries were escaping from the feudalism. If we accept the Cuban Revolution, there were no developed capitalists or working class. If we compare Russia, China and Cuba with the other developed countries such as England, France, and Germany and later on USA, the revolution should have been taken in the developed countries. The 'conditions' explained in the Marxist theories were more in those countries and conducive for the "revolution". But it did not happened in that way.

Then what was the "decisive factor" that led the revolutions in Russia, China and Cuba? It was the "Marxist Party" with a "Left (Marxist/ Leninist/ Maoist/ Castroist) Program.

The context in Ceylon in 1930 s was unique in itself and not that different to the contexts of Russia, China and Cuba. Of course the contexts were different from one to the other. There will be no similar situations and the contexts to compare with. There are vast differences in each situation. The Revolution takes place in different ways addressing the details and the differences in each context.

The "Left" in Russia, China and Cuba were equipped with true and capable "Communist Parties" which had a "Program" towards the Revolution. They were not necessarily or unnecessarily uttered the "Marxist" jargons. Lenin in Russia even contributed to the Marxist literature in a creative ways, addressing the Russian context in which the revolution took place. Mao and Castro did the same ways in China and in Cuba.

There were/are no mainstream "Left" in Sri Lanka. It is of course very hard to accept. But we very freely say that there was no "Left" in the Cambodia. Simply because we were not involved in it and we could look at it very objectively.

As Kusal (wrongly!) expressed, there is no need that the country should have 'capitalists' and 'working class' for a revolution. There should be a proper program based on the "Marxist Values" led by a Party for a socialist revolution.

The "Left" in the country is still to come; no matter there is capitalists or a working class.

Lalith Abeysinghe.

Sri Lanka:Non-existing Capitalist and Working Classes and growing “Sinhalaisation”of Business Community
By Kusal Perera

What really is wrong with Sri Lanka ? Where have we landed ourselves as a developing country after 61 years of independence ? And now, how fractured and beleaguered our "paradise" island is ? Thereafter, one should also ask, how stupid and foolish the "Left" had been in Sri Lanka . The "left" during the immediate pre and post independence period called shots in our national politics, deciding many things that have misled and misdirected the society all through the decades there after. Before coming to the current issue of how the "Left" (including those who pose as "pedigreed" Marxists) stupidly projected and explained the UNP (United National Party) as a "capitalist" political party, let us just remember how incompetent and amateurish the "Left" had been in Sri Lanka from the time it was ' Ceylon '.
First, the LSSP, the most articulate and democratic of the original "left" political parties and the traditional Communist Party (CP) were both talking of "working class" politics, when there was no such working class in then Ceylon , in the way they chose to define the working class. It was therefore obvious they could not become a mass national force, though they could in the early period become an urban "protest" force.
Second, the failure in understanding this fundamental mistake in their politics led them to portray the "Sinhala" break away faction from the UNP as a "progressive" force in order to work out a platform to defeat the UNP. "Progressive" they decided, because this break away SLFP was going on a "State take over" of private business as a principle stand of their economic policy. The result ? This anti-UNP "left" parties supported "Sinhalisation" of the State in lieu of "State take over" of private business, in the name of "nationalisation". Nationalisation for them was as good as "Socialism". Thus it was "socialism" under a racist government that turned the State into a Sinhala State. "Never mind" they thought, if the UNP could be defeated.
Why defeat the UNP and not the SLFP? Here in lies the big lie of the "left". There is no capitalist class in Sri Lanka as explained by the "left" activists and intellectuals. The UNP and the SLFP have almost the same social base in terms of political strength. The same business community funds them both. The Sri Lankan society is yet to develop and polarize into economic classes. Every segment in society still lives a quasi feudal life, with their attachments to caste and village. One great recent exposure of this social thinking and attitude was the aftermath of the 2004 December Tsunami. It was not only the ordinary man in the Colombo streets who ran to his village to see what relief could be organized, but the big time businessmen too. They took over most relief work in their own villages. For them Tsunami relief immediately meant their village and their own caste.
It's very plain. They live in feudalistic beliefs and social ties. We have businessmen and their professional advisors trekking to Kataragama annually, to fulfill their previous year's vow and to make another this year, expecting their businesses to flourish with the help of God Kandaswamy. This only explains the attitude, the competitive mind set of the business community. What we have in Sri Lanka is a "business community" scrapping out profits by what ever means and not a Capitalist "class" regenerating capital for growth.
It has to be so. Our economy is not an economy that stands or lives on "productive" capital. The plantation based economy that was introduced into a feudal society during the British rule, did not help dismantle the feudal society in full and generate new "capital". It only grafted a new money based plantation sector with other service appendages, into the existing feudal society leaving whole parts of it with old social values, social structures and also the traditional village hierarchy intact. What developed around all that in the colonial economy which we inherited after the 1948 independence was a service oriented consumer economy? Tea and rubber that could have opened up value added product based industries were not encouraged by the Colonial ruler and wasn't thought of after independence. The major focus was on a welfare State subsidized and run by the State. The private sector therefore grew as a trade and commerce sector, with the government playing the role of a regulator of trade, especially of import and export trade.
There after productive capital came in as grants and aid from pro-Soviet regimes since 1956, when the Bandaranayake government moved into a State centered economy. All corporations producing leather, ceramic, steel, rubber and timber products, were Soviet bloc gifts to be State owned. While most such enterprises were mismanaged and used for political advantage by ruling political parties, with other main service sector enterprises owned by private individuals also taken over by the State, there remained very little opportunity for a capitalist class to evolve and grow.
Nothing proves this better than the privatization of the commuter bus service. Three years after the economy was turned into a complete free market, there were no large capital investments available for the private bus service. Private buses are run by many hundreds of individuals with finance and leasing 25 years and plus after the privatization. They represent the social segment that indulges in small time business like groceries and local distributor agencies for consumer products. This is the main reason for this service sector to be totally and wholly ad hoc and thus unprofessional in its management and operations.
Such petty expansion of trade capital depends on State patronage. All recent frauds and corruption cases have exposed links between ruling regimes and the business community. From JKH group to Ceylinco group, from LMS Ltd to Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation privatisation, the issue is not only how unethical and unprofessional these big time business dealers have been, but also how well knit the ruling regimes have been with business persons in supporting them for all things vulgar in business.
Therefore, all through the past decades, the economic growth in Sri Lanka has not been able to shift ownership and social relationships based on capital. Economic activities have not been able to change attitudes and social values to suit the development of a modern society. Instead, it nurtured ethnic and caste polarization within the business community. With such polarization, political patronage became an important factor in competing for markets.
For such a sucking, dependent business community which tries to sustain itself and make profits in an economy with snail pace lopsided growth, competition to survive becomes important and often times crucial. It is this that led the majority Sinhala business community to gang up and take control of the State and organize themselves to have the larger share of the existing market. Over the years, politics of the business community thus became more and more Sinhala. The "Sinhala Veera Vidhanaya", basically a market oriented organization of the Sinhala urban middle class was seen promoting local trade associations to clear out non Sinhala traders from their towns and cities. Over the years, it became quite apparent that in urban areas where trade capital accumulates, the region becomes more Sinhala in politics.
Western province, the geographical area which enjoys the greater accumulation of national wealth at 51%, showed this "Sinhalisation" during the last general elections in 2004 April. In all 03 districts, the JHU which fielded Buddhist monks as candidates polled over 10% with Colombo the most commercialized of all districts giving them 18% of the votes polled at that election. These are districts with large percentages of non Sinhala and non Buddhist presence as well. Yet in predominantly Sinhala Buddhist districts like Hambantota, Moneragala and Anuradhapura , but with very much less accumulation of trade capital, the same JHU polls a falteringly less percentage of 0.1, 1.4 and 2.2 percentages respectively.
Such "Sinhalisation" of the business community is only possible with competition for a larger market share with State power. This has become more evident with the present regime that uses the Sinhala platform to wage war against Tamil separatism. The social call by the Rajapaksa regime, backed by Sinhala political groups like the JVP and the JHU that compete between them to be the best Sinhala representation in politics through war, has provided space for the majority Sinhala business community to use that Sinhala hype to carve out bigger shares in the market for themselves on ethnic bias.
The collective of Colombo based big business people as the "Maubima Lanka Padanama" (Foundation of Motherland Lanka) with its improvised Lion logo called the "Soorya Sinha" logo is the tragic example of such Sinhala dominance in the market. It is this business community that funded the UNP. They now want the UNP too to represent them as a Sinhala political party, as the party in waiting to form the next government. The crisis within the UNP in bringing a pro Sinhala political leadership represents this tussle for Sinhala political power. The UNP is thus far from a "capitalist" political party. It can not be in a country that lacks a capitalist and a working class.
What ails Sri Lanka is this backwardness in capitalist growth and not socialism. Sri Lanka needs to work on a subjective factor, an intellectual leadership to achieve such capitalist growth. The "left" in Sri Lanka is not one that could help generate such intellectual discussion. Sadly, it’s dead wood now.