The emergence yet again of a Left group within the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) shows that the strong desire on the part of youth to engage in politics, the desire to appear and shine in the public realm and thus display one’s excellence to the world, cannot be suppressed even under most challenging circumstances.
We need to view positively that this group claims that it is interested in, resisting neo-liberalism, promoting socialism and bringing the alienated ethnic minorities, Tamil community in particular, into the fold of the nation.
These are positions in line with the prevalent political interests of the community. Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dekma states that the Sri Lankan people have rejected neo-liberalism. Hence, shouldn’t it be appreciated that these youth have come forward to assert the same position? The idea of socialism is entrenched in Sri Lankan society. Gunadasa Amarasekera, the founder of Jathika Chinthanaya, claims that Sri Lanka has inherited socialist views from Buddhist thinking. It is plausible that Amarasekera’s view, that this was a reason for socialist ideology that came from the West to get entrenched here, is true. It is understandable if those who believe that the idea of socialism had disappeared from this country get perturbed by the rumblings within the JVP. Not only the Marxist and Trotskyite parties but even the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) belongs in the left tradition of the country. This is manifested in that several times the SLFP formed coalition governments with left parties, the JVP itself being a partner in the previous SLFP regime led by Chandrika Kumaratunga. Winning over the ethnic minorities into the fold of the nation is a principle accepted by the present government as well. Hence, can we accuse our youth of taking those ideas seriously?
The desire on the part of the New Left of the JVP to reassert such positions manifests humanist qualities that have been cultivated in them by society. It gives us some hope that at a time like this when values of self interest seem to dominate the mind of the average young person who is guided to improve his or her lot individually competing for higher living standards in a globalised economy, such a sense of collective responsibility is still left among the youth of our society. That these youth are committed to put into practice for the common good, political ideas they have developed from their inheritance shows their courage. Shouldn’t we encourage our youth to cultivate such qualities more and more?
Sri Lankan polity is in dire need of a strong opposition. In this regard the existing mainstream political parties including the JVP have failed miserably in their duty. Short of waiting for, the present regime to grow in unpopularity and, the opportunity for a regime change to fall into their lap, the opposition in general has not done much to develop a strong critique of government policies in how they affect the well being of the nation and its populace. The voice of the New Left of the JVP manifests this desire on the part of the public, especially the youth, for such a critique.
The New Left of the JVP seems to have a following of rural and urban youth who are in search of new critical thinking in the face of globally and locally changing fortunes of the Left. Political parties of the traditional Sri Lankan left have not been able to develop critical thinking on the role of the Left in the aftermath of the collapse of the socialist bloc. The responsibility of filling this vacuum generally fell on either individuals who are within or outside the traditional left parties or new groups outside them. The JVP which has been Maoist in its outlook from its inception also has not been known to have developed a critique of traditional left ideology except to come up with the idea of social democracy. It is to the credit of the New Left of the JVP that through various publications of the youth and student sections of the party, they have been trying to engage new thinking on the Left thus creating a space for youth to democratically engage in politics.
In challenging the leadership of their party the New Left seems to claim to act to prevent the JVP from becoming yet another bourgeois party. The point seems to be that if the JVP is to continue to preserve its mass base representing the political aspirations of the rural and urban lower classes that it stands for, it has to be liberated from bourgeoisification.
That this group in challenging the conservative leadership of the JVP has acted in a manner that allows them to unleash the law against the former has created a situation unfavourable to them. But it is reasonable to believe that even without such provocation the conservative leadership of the JVP, in order to protect its grip on the party, would have invited state repression on the Left group.
The manner in which the state media behaves and the hand of the state apparatus moves show that the state considers the Left group of the JVP as a serious threat to itself and is getting ready to suppress it.
But, from the perspective of the country, the wise thing to do is to encourage, and provide opportunities for the members of this Left group of the JVP to come out in the public realm and freely engage in political activities. Because, to engage in politics, is a serious necessity of life for young men and women of all classes who wish to conquer the world, especially those who come from lower classes of society in countries like ours. The opportunity to appear and act in the public realm should be there not only for the chidden of the elite and the wealthy classes but also for those of the poor. Youth would rebel only when the opportunity to appear in the public realm is blocked to them. It is when this space is provided to them that they can participate in the act of changing the world, seek to renew the world in a manner that would preserve both themselves and the world. The truth of the above claim can be verified by examining the social locations and statues of the majority of those leaders of the 1971 JVP rebellion who reached for the heights in various spheres of public life.