Monday, August 25, 2008

Marxism in Sri Lanka, RIP

The museum of Communism in Prague.
The entrance is through McDonald's. (A pic by udijw)

The Rajapakse Administration won, despite some irregularities, a genuine victory over the UNP in the recent provincial council elections. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the last election is how poorly, the Marxist-Nationalist JVP did in the polls. Here's a bit of a summary from the Island editorial on the JVPs plight:
[..]a huge crisis is staring the JVP in the face. Its ignominious defeat has strengthened the hands of its breakaway group. Dissident JVP MP and leader of the National Freedom Front Wimal Weerawansa said yesterday afternoon that he was willing to join forces with the JVP if the present leadership of the party changed. He has pointed out that the JVP vote has dropped in Anuradhapura from 50,000 at the 2006 LG polls to 19,000 at 2008 PC polls within two years. In 2006, it polled 19,500 in Polonnaruwa, 38,000 in Ratnapura and 36,500 in Kegalle but on Saturday it managed to secure only 7,000, 9,700 and 9,000 in those three districts respectively. The breakaway of Weerawansa and others has, inter alia, manifestly taken its toll on the JVP.

The pathetic performance of the JVP where the postal votes are concerned is proof that the JVP lacks following among the public servants in spite of its campaign to obtain a 5,000-rupee pay hike for them. More importantly, the JVP's vote has shrunk despite an increase in the number of young voters.

The indications are that, faction ridden and enervated, the JVP is reaching the end of the road in electoral politics. Another disastrous split is inevitable sooner or later. The JVP must be ruing the day it parted company with the SLFP, which helped it gain benefits disproportionate to its real strength which has now been exposed. [link] (emphasis mine)
and it's worth emphasizing. JVP is no longer, or fast unbecoming the youth party. That's a cause for celebration. Marxism is alive and (somewhat) well in the local universities, but since only less than 2% of the population (pdf source) ever gets to enjoy Sri Lanka's "free" education, and the rest of the 98% has found other ways of acquiring higher education, that's no longer a deciding factor.

True enough, in recent times, portraits of Lenin, Marx and other communist symbols were little more than decorations for the JVP, while most of it's popularity came from it's Nationalist and anti-LTTE rhetoric. But great many JVPers (and I've met some) are Fabian Socialists, thinking of the nationalist rhetoric as a vehicle for some sort of socialist society in the future. And it's agenda, however nationalist, has always contained a very definitive left-wing economic agenda.

Nationalism and anti-LTTEism is alive and kicking in Sri Lanka, but the movement has a different symbol and a leader in Mahinda Rajapakse's coalition. Separating the nationalist lobby from the socialist baggage of the JVP, if and when the party is sufficiently pushed off from the political discourse is definitely a step in the right direction and a happy outcome of this election which will help put Marxist and other leftover socialist thinking to the dustbin of history, where it truly belongs.

Related -- Museum of Communism, the website.


Bawa said...

for the sake of being politically correct.. the JVP was never marxist rather maoist.. which is why they stood up against the pro-Soviet government in the 70's.

Secondly they have long since removed their radical red ideologies, now becoming mostly a socialist party with a hardline nationalist agenda.

One of the reasons for their downfall is the lack of charisma and finesse in the party, Somawansa is definitely not the smartest guy around and at 50+ cannot be the leader of a youth driven leftist party.

Giving credit where credit is due, the JVP has been successful whenever power was given to them, take a look at the T'rama probably the best managed PS in the country and what they did with the agriculture and irrigation within a short span of 1.5 years...

They were instrumental in getting the North and East PC demerged and also were the driving force on the war on terror... so whatever progress the govt. makes a good portion of the crdit shld go to the JVP...

Deane said...

The likes of Weerawansa and others are quoted as saying JVP follows Marxism-Lennism. Here's Weerawansa for the Lanka Academic,

"The outlook of the JVP is based on Marxism-Leninism. We are courageous enough to admit it. Marxism-Leninism is the philosophy which analysed the present situation faced by all the masses in the world and showed the way for emancipation."

I dont think the downfall is due to lack of charisma. They built a movement, outsourced it's leadership. and played the wrong cards.

I don't see any progress they did with irrigation or agriculture either.

Jack Point said...

Was the UPFA election victory really fair?

What the UPFA has an ideology is not Marxism but it is probably the next worst thing.

They believe in a big role for the state and the private sector is just about tolerated.