Recently the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) commemorated its comrades lost during the 1988 – 89 uprising which was crushed by the then government. It has been 31 years since the historical event. As the party marked the event for the 31st consecutive year, the party’s General Secretary in a recent interview shared his views on the current political situation in the country and the way forward while also reminiscing the youth uprising in those tragic years.
Excerpts of the interview :
Q : Recently the JVP marked the commemoration of November Heroes. How do you view the political environment prevailing in the country now?
A : Today, Sri Lanka is confronted with a political and economic crisis similar to the crisis the country faced in the 80s. Country’s economy has collapsed and is caught in a debt trap. The rulers have to borrow more and more. The leaders do not have a correct vision or a program to pull the country out of this crisis. They take decisions on a day to day basis; continuously borrow money even for the debt servicing and finally, when they fail to repay debts, they sell national resources.
To suppress the people’s’ struggle against these moves, they accumulate dictatorial powers and the 20th amendment to the constitution is for that. Today, Sri Lanka is caught in a power game between several powerful countries such as China, US and India.
To please all these forces, the government is selling off important national resources and the independence of the country. This is what is happening now under the name of patriotism. The situation in 1988-89 too was similar to this. This is a threat to freedom and democracy in the country, and people should seriously consider this situation.
Q : There is public criticism against the JVP over the 1988-89 incidents and commemoration of November Heroes. Your comment on this?
A : The parties and governments that killed November Heroes and betrayed the country and still contribute to these repeated betrayals have used their media power to portrait a wrong picture and fabricate stories. They have created such a public opinion about 1988-89 incidents. Those who believe those untrue and fabricated opinions without analyzing facts intelligently, accuse us.
Q: How do you interpret 1988-89 struggle?
A : It was a patriotic struggle with socialism as the ultimate goal. It was against the betrayal of the country to India and the invasion of Indian forces. It was an inevitable struggle against a dictatorial capitalist ruler. It had mass support but was suppressed brutally. Thousands of genuine patriotic revolutionaries sacrificed their lives in the struggle, but the capitalist governments never recognize them. They sling mud at the struggle to hide their betrayal of the country.
There were patriotic and anti-imperial armed struggles in Sri Lanka before 1988-89. Uva- Wellassa struggle 1818, 1848 Matale struggle are examples. Both were against British imperialists. The leaders of those struggles too were branded as anti government terrorists. However, the capitalist leaders who name and commemorate leaders of Uva-Wellassa rebellion Keppetipola and the leader of the Matale rebellion Puran Appu talk nonsense about 1988-89 struggle.
The 1988-89 struggle is superior to 1918 and 1848 struggles in many ways. Although those two struggles were against British imperialists, the goal of the struggle was re-establishing feudal system. It was the reality at that time. However, the 1988-89 struggle had a goal to establish a socialist society and therefore, it is progressive.
Q : As a political party that experienced all the bitterness of a struggle, don’t you think that there will be chances for such struggles in the future?
A : No. because the present situation is different. We have learnt lessons from the 1988-89 struggle, so have the capitalist leaders. They too suffered losses. People too learnt lessons. Therefore, there is no chance for similar struggles. We will not allow such a situation to occur again.
It is true, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is attempting to simulate JR Jayawardena with neoliberal agenda and vast dictatorial powers accumulated with the 20th amendment. Nevertheless, Gotabhaya cannot be JR. Also, JVP is not a single party today but is a broad social movement. Although the situations seem similar, there are differences.
Once Karl Marx said, “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” So JR created a tragedy with neoliberalism and knelt in front of imperialists and now Gotabaya is attempting to do the same but differently.
Q : How can we defeat this trend and change the situation?
A : It is very clear that all these situations are the expressions of the crisis of the capitalist system. Capitalism is expired now and it is like a stinking carcass spreading foul smell. They need a dictator to maintain it. They need to borrow money to maintain it and kneel before powerful countries. This rotten socio-economic system cannot be repaired, and it cannot be cleaned up and turned into a new one.
Nobody can become a patriot while protecting this system. Those who protect this system either directly support the dictatorship or are fake patriots.
Therefore, at this November heroes’ commemoration, we stress that the only solution for all crises faced by our country is socialism. Now, true patriotism and anti-imperialism only go with socialism.