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Systems are Collapsing!! So What?
Perspective of the Left

Sumanasiri Liyanage

My friends who have or previously had links with the Marxist left are greatly perturbed these days by the series of events that were unleashed in the recent past and that seem to have reached a climax with the impeachment motion against the Chief Justice. It is quite natural that these developments have put liberals off balance. Unfortunately, the left in Sri Lanka are at present in the same boat. What is resonated in their minds appears to be that ‘the whole system is collapsing’; ‘the system has begun to collapse’. This state of mind is clearly reflected not only in their writings and public statements but also in private conversations. I share their reading of the situation, i.e, systems have begun to collapse; but I am not disturbed by the situation. On the contrary, I am quite happy over the fact that the system has begun to collapse. Is not this a situation we in the left have been waiting for? Did not we repeat time and again that this system was decayed, moribund and full of contradiction; therefore its internal dynamic would lead eventually to its collapse? Do we have tears to be shed for the system’s collapse? Let me pose a different question: Why are systems undergoing in the process of disintegration? In my opinion, systems needs to be changed and transformed because the ruling classes can no longer rule and govern by adopting and using old  mechanism and methods. In fact, the change actually began in the mid-1970s. Hence, it has been a gradual process. However, the country’s existing system needs a radical shift if it wants to move to its next phase.
Periodizing the Second Republic
About 35 years ago, when the Second Republican Constitution was enacted, Dr N M Perera, my political mentor, informed us that this Constitution would finally create a situation in which different persons and different branches of the state instead of working in unison would clash vehemently with each other. What he envisioned has become true today. Looking at how it has worked, the Sri Lankan Executive Presidential system, in my opinion, can be divided into three phases, namely, (1) 1977- 1987: a system based on personal authority and respect; (2) 1988- 2012: a system based on offering  bribes; (3) emerging system based on centralized, unified and openly authoritarian oligarchic power. The executive presidential system that was made to be based virtually on ‘bribes’ (financial and non-financial) to legislature, judiciary and subordinate part of the executive itself after the impeachment on President Premadasa has now proved that it cannot go on like this. System of bribes would encounter a crisis for two reasons. First, when the quantum of bribe is not adequate to be distributed among the ruling groups involved. Secondly, people who depends on bribe always in a non-satisfied state so that s/he seeks more. It seems that the system developed by President Premadasa and followed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has now reached its crisis point. Hence, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has realized that it is imperative to make the system more unified, centralized and authoritarian. In other words, a system that depends more on sticks than carrots has become the need of the day. He was made aware that “Offering bribes” in the form of high posts in the government has become inadequate in taming the so-called independence of judiciary that lost its virginity long time ago. President seems to think that he should act quickly before he loses his two-thirds majority in the Parliament that seems to be imminent in the near future. It is in this context, we are witnessing the clash between the legislature and the executive on one side and the judiciary on the other. It may be extremely interesting to see the final outcome of this battle. Whatever the outcome, the trust that the people have on these institutions would be further weakened. It is quite clear that at the time of crisis, all these institutions are concerned more and more with the protection of their identity rather than the performance of their moral obligations.  
Challenge of the Left
We live in an interesting time. As Marx and Engels said in a different context, in such a situation, “[a]ll that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and wo/man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his/ her real conditions of life, and his/ her relations with his kind”. Now let me come to my initial question. Why should left be disturbed by these events? I could identify three reasons why the left is so worried about the evolving situation. First, the leftists tend to believe with some justification that the presence of democratic institutions even with bourgeois bias would assist the campaign of the left against the system for far-reaching reforms. According to them, the institutions that are in crisis are bound with democratic norms so that the protection of the institutions is imperative to preserve those democratic norms. Of course there is a truth in this argument; but at the same time we have to keep in mind that the architecture of these institutions are designed in a such a way that those democratic norms are embedded in them to achieve an explicit instrumental purpose. While the ruling class is making a desperate attempt to discard democratic norms from the institutions, the left on the contrary should find ways to protect the democratic norms by developing a new institutional architecture. Secondly, the left appears to be worried of the fact that alternative systems to replace the old decadent systems have not yet evolved. So the current situation may lead to anarchy. Once again, this view is also based on misconception. People develop new and alternative systems when they are really active on the streets, factories, universities etc. Soviets in 1905 Russia or Commune in 1871 Paris were not pre-planned structures. People develop them through their own experience and to suit the need of the day. Thirdly, a large number of leftists are scared that they would lose what they have collected, financially and otherwise, in relatively crisis-free period. Hence, protecting existing systems go very well with their newly acquired vested interests either in the form of positions and/or wealth.
  The development in the past year or two shows that new opportunities have open for the Sri Lankan left to remobilize its forces to confront the new challenges posed by the current conjuncture. Protests over land, water and police harassments are reported almost everyday in the media. These protests show that the system as it works today is incapable of meeting peoples’ demands and satisfying their aspirations. The support for the FUTA demand for the allocation of 6% of the GDP for education also signifies the macro level issues that need to be addressed. The collapse of the systems is an indication that the country needs systemic change in its polity, economy, society and culture. The new systems do not fall from the sky. Systems evolve and develop. Instead of getting disturbed and worrying about the system collapse, in my opinion, the left should come up with a clear alternative.                

The writer teaches Political Economy at the University of Peradeniya and is a co-coordinator of the Marx School, Colombo, Kandy and Negombo.


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වැටුප් ශ්‍රමිකයා කවරෙක් ද? නිර්ධන පන්තිය ලෙස සැලකිය හැකි පංති තීරූ මොනවාද? විප්ලවවාදී පක්ෂයක පන්ති පදනම වන්නේ සහ විය යුත්තේ කුමන පංතීන්ගෙන් ද? මා මෙම ප්‍රශ්නය මතු කරන්නේ න්‍යායාත්මක ප්‍රශ්නයක් හැටියට නොවේ. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ වර්තමාන සන්දර්භය තුල දේශපාලන ක්‍රියා මාර්ගය සකස් කර ගැනීමේදී ආසන්නව මතුවන ප්‍රශ්නයක් හැටියට ය. පසුගිය වසර දෙක තුල ඇතිවුන මා සහභාගී වූ දේශපාලන සාකච්ඡා කිහිපයක දීම මෙම ප්‍රශ්නය මතුවිණ. එහෙත් එම ප්‍රශ්නය මතු වූ අවස්ථා හැම එකකදීම වාගේ අපි එම ප්‍රශ්නය සමග නිශ්චිතව පොර බැදීම අත්හැර දැම්මෙමු. ඒ එය දිගට ගෙන යාමෙන් අප මාක්ස්වාදයේ ශුද්ධ වූ පාඨයන් ගෙන් බිදී යාදෝ යන බියෙනි. මෑතකදී වෟත්තීය සංගමයක් තුල ඇතිවූ සාකච්ඡාවකදී මෙම කරුණ වඩාත් සංයුක්තව මතුවිණ. වෟත්තීය සංගමයක් විසින් සංවිධානය කළ යුත්තේ කවුරුන් ද යනුවෙන් පැන නැගුන එම සාකච්ඡාවේදී සෟජු ලෙස නොවුන ද මතු වුයේ මෙම ප්‍රශ්නය ය. වැටුප් ශ්‍රමිකයා, නිර්ධනයා, සහ කම්කරුවා යන පද වලින් ජනප්‍රිය ලෙස හැදින්වුව් ද නැත ද වැටුපට වැඩකරන කොටස් වෟත්තීය සංගමයක් විසින් සංවිධානය කළ යුතු ය යන්න සාමාන්…
කම්කරු පන්තියේ විප්ලවවාදී පක්ෂය ගොඩ නැගීම සදහා අරගලය

1, මෙම මාතෘකාවේ දැක්වෙන මූලික පද දෙක -කම්කරු පන්තිය සහ විප්ලවවාදී පක්ෂය- මුලින්ම පැහැදිලි කරගත යුතු ය. ධනේශවර සමාජයක් තුල විවිධ පන්තීන් සහ උප පන්තීන් දැකිය හැක. විප්ලවවාදී පක්ෂය කම්කරු පන්තියේ පක්ෂයක් විය යුත්තේ මන් ද? මෙම කරුණ තේරුම් කිරීමට නම් විප්ලවවාදි යන්නෙන් කුමක් අදහස් කරන්නේ ද යන්න පැහැදිලි කර ගැන්ම අවශ්‍ය ය. සමාජ විප්ලවයක් යනු පවතින සමාජ ක්‍රමයයක් වෙනස් කොට -රූපාන්තකරණය කොට- ඒ වෙනුවට වෙනත් මූලධර්ම මත ගොඩ නැගුන සමාජ ක්‍රමයයක් බිහි කිරීම ය. එය දිගුකාලින ක්‍රියා දාමයකි. මෙවන් රූපාන්තකරණයක් වැඩවසම් සමාජ ක්‍රමය වෙනුවට ධනේශ්වර ක්‍රමය ගොඩ නැගීමේ ක්‍රියාවලිය තුල සිදුවීම ගැන අපි කියවා ඇත්තෙමු. අප අද කථාකරන සමාජ වෙනස මෙයට වඩා වෙනස් එකකි. වැඩවසම් සමාජ ක්‍රමය වෙනුවට ධනේශ්වර ක්‍රමය ගොඩ නැගීමේ ක්‍රියාවලිය තුල අප දුටුවේ එක් පෙෳද්ගලික දේපොල ක්‍රමයක් වෙනුවට වෙනත් පෙෳද්ගලික දේපොල ක්‍රමයක් ඇති කිරීම ය. අද අප අරගල කරන්නේ පෙෳද්ගලික දේපොල ක්‍රමයම නැති කරන සමාජ විප්ලවයක් සදහා ය. මෙය පරිපූර්ණ රූපාන්තකරණයක් ය. එක් පෙෳද්ගලික දේපොල ක්‍රමයක් තුල වෙනත් …
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