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Anti capitalism of rural masses loses its glow

By Wickramabahu Karunaratna

(April 05, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I went to see Harischandra at Peradeniya Teaching Hospital. After reaching ward 2, I felt relieved as I saw Haris coming towards me with a broad smile. My mind went back to the days when I was a student at the Peradeniya Engineering Faculty. Then Haris was attached to the hall services. But unlike many others in that service, Haris was interested in politics and philosophy. That was a turbulent time in politics. The LSSP had entered into a coalition with the SLFP, but the government could not survive for long. Those who broke away from the LSSP over the issue of coalition politics, Bala Tampoe and Edmund Samarakkody, helped the UNP to defeat the government in parliament.

Even dedicated revolutionary workers, who came with Bala and Edmund, could not digest this ultra Left action. Their revolutionary Sama Samaja Party was split into several factions. In 1965 when I met Haris he was an important member of one of the factions. His faction was affiliated to the international current led by Gerry Healy. It was a breakaway current from the fourth international launched by Leon Trotsky. The break occurred over the theories of Michel Pablo on the development of revolution in the post World War period. It was Michel Pablo who came out with the theory of revolutionary populism in order to explain the Cuban revolution and the possibility of this model for the third world. It was not a complicated theory. He argued that radical movements based on rural masses, particularly the youth, could move beyond capitalism because of the pressure of worker states such as Russia and China. He pointed to the radical movements in the third world such as Nasserism, Benbelaism, Bandaranaikism, Gandhism, Sukarnoism, Peronism, etc all claiming to be socialist, in order to justify his conclusions.

Gerry Healy was one of the staunchest opponents of this theory. But he could not give an explanation to the socialist clamour of these populist forces. In fact he simply ignored the rise of populism. In reality both the social democracy of the developed world and the populism of the third world were products of the capitalist boom. The latter was based on the Bretenwoods Agreement, hence one could argue that the rise of both social democracy and populism was a political by-product of the Bretenwoods Agreement! By now, with the end of the capitalist boom, both the welfarism of social democracy and the anti capitalism of rural populations have come to an end. Social democracy has become the cynical modern instrument of capitalist exploitation. A leader who can only play a traditional social democratic role is not a social democrat. Obama does not claim to be a social democrat, though the role he has played so far falls into that category. As far as I know both Michel Pablo and Gerry Healy are dead, leaving others to rethink the theory of Permanent Revolution.

Much re-evaluation

I do not believe that Marxist theories need much re-evaluation. What is necessary is to study them and to apply them to specific situations the world over. Many believe that the application of Marxism means socialism. It is foolish to put such demarcations. Most problems of democracy can be resolved only by the use of Marxist tools. A good example is the problem of nationalities in one country. This is a problem in the domain of bourgeois democracy. But an in-depth understanding can be obtained only by the Leninist approach. In particular the Tamil national problem, which has gone beyond the boundaries of Lanka, can never be resolved without re-reading what Lenin said about the national problem.

Harischandra and I debated Marxism within the Sama Samaja movement. A large part of our lives was spent in the atmosphere of intellectual debate within the Peradeniya campus. I am still fighting against my expulsion from the campus. The campus authorities refused to accept the decision of the cabinet headed by the president, the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission. It is unbelievable, but campus autonomy is more powerful than the president, parliament and the Supreme Court. In the meantime Haris retired from service in the campus as an official in the student welfare section.

I am sure his ailment is nothing serious and he will be able to serve the Left movement for quite some time.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Sam Perera said...

Wickramabahu Karunarathne is living in his alternative reality nobody gives a damn about. He has done virtually nothing productive for Sri Lanka, other than anti Sri Lankan and pro terrorist garbage. This is a tiny dinosaur trapped in the era of mammals by a mistake. He certainly has a place in garbage bins of Sri Lankan history, not anywhere else.

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