|The JVP, Che Guevara and moral values
I was appalled, nay, I was overcome with despair, when I saw on TV, Somawansa Amarasinghe addressing the faithful at Kalutara, the day after he had returned from being a fugitive from justice. Nothing but hatred and venom sprouted out from his mouth.
He did not spare even President Kumaratunga, who after all had been magnanimous enough to permit him to return to his homeland on a new passport.
I wondered to myself why he had not used his several years in self-exile to reflect on the fundamental problems of life. If he had, I am certain he would have come to the same conclusion as his one-time hero, Che Guevara, had, when he wrote in his "Man and Socialism in Cuba" that "at the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality."
In the same essay, Guevara pointed out that "to build communism, you must build new men as well as the new economic base....Hence it is very important to choose correctly, the instrument for mobilizing the masses. Basically, this instrument must be moral in character".
What makes one despair is that Somawansa and those in the party who look up to him for leadership and guidance do not seem to have still realized that morality and the staggering crimes which they now admit to having committed, do not go together.
The sum and substance of the morality which Che had spoken of was lucidly given expression to by John Gerassi, one-time Professor of International Relations at San Francisco State University, when he wrote "Che lived and died for others for a better world, a world where people can really love, instead of just coming to terms; just compromising" and Fidel Castro has said that Che was "a communist, a true communist, he had a boundless faith in moral values, he had a boundless faith in the conscience of man...He saw, with absolute clarity, moral resources as the fundamental lever in the construction of communism in human society."
In a tribute to Che, Fidel Castro has also said "Che was one of those people who is liked immediately, for his simplicity, his character, his naturalness, his comradely attitude, his personality, his originality, even when one had not yet learned of his other characteristic and unique virtues."
This was exactly what I found Che Guevara to be when I met him in Singapore in 1959. One was immediately struck by his simplicity, humility, and naturalness. Judged by these values and norms, which constitute the essence of morality, the record of many of the JVP and of the several leaders of other political parties who claim that they want to create a new society, do not bear examination.
The post-independence era has seen a host of new faces some of whom I know personally in politics, but behind a facade of wanting to create a new society, they, in effect, merely promoted their own selfish interests and sought power. The moment they obtained entry in to the establishment, they abandoned the socialist struggle.
Several years ago when I was working in the Foreign Ministry, Vernon Walters, a roving US Ambassador at the time, visited this country.
My boss, the Foreign Secretary, hosted a lunch for him at a leading Colombo Hotel, to which he invited some foreign diplomats serving in Sri Lanka. The Foreign Secretary asked me to go ahead of him and receive his guests and keep them company till he arrived. I did so and stood at the Reception Counter until the guests arrived.
The receptionist at that time was a former insurgent who had participated in the 1971 rebellion. After release from prison he had rehabilitated himself and had become a "respectable" member of society. When he saw the diplomats and other VIPs arrive, he was thrilled at the manner in which liveried hotel employees received them by opening the doors of their cars, saluting them, and escorting them inside.
I recognised the ex-JVPer but he did not know who I was. The ex-insurgent turned to another hotel employee who was with him and told him in polished Sinhala "Teha, just watch those suddhas being saluted and received by our bastards. If only our vade (i.e. the uprising of 1971) had succeeded, I too would have been driving about in a huge limousine and these fellows would have opened the door and saluted me. What a shame our job was not successful. And so here I am, a mere hotel receptionist". But subsequently, he abandoned the JVP, joined a bourgeoise political party, and ended up as a junior minister.
This is not an isolated case. There are several who took part in the 1971 uprising who are now comfortably ensconced in top posts in the government and in the academic world (some have even changed their names), without giving a thought to liberating the others in the class where their origins lie.
Before them there was the Boralugoda lion who sat comfortably in the cabinet of the prime minister who came from the feudal family which he had sworn he would see buried before his own death. And now we see the lions two sons, without the slightest shame, propping up the most corrupt government in the countrys post-independence history.
How will their conduct fit into the pattern of moral values which prompted Che to write "Revolutionary leaders must avoid falling into isolation from the masses. They must struggle every day so that their love of living humanity is transformed into concrete deeds, into acts that will serve as an example, as a mobilizing factor". (Man and Socialism in Cuba).
The fact of the matter is that politics cannot be divorced from the deepest things of life. As Mahatma Gandhi wrote "political life must be an echo of private life. There cannot be any divorce between the two" (Young India July 11th 1925).
You cannot have ethical values infusing your personal and private life and be a murderer in your political life. It is this realization that led Jaya Prakash Narayan, (with whom I had the rare privilege of enjoying a personal friendship when I was serving in Chennai (then Madras in 1960), the founding father of Indian Democratic Socialism, to give up being President of the Indian Socialist Party which he himself had founded, and join Vinobha Bhave and the Sarvodaya Movement. He aimed, like Gandhi, spiritualizing politics.
Our tragedy is that despite the much talked of Buddhist civilization, which is said to be our heritage, we do not have in political life, a man of the stature of Jaya Prakash we are so bourgeoise.
If we had such a man, by now he would have called far and led a Total Revolution.
Instead of placing this government on probation, he would have brought it to its knees as
JP did to Mrs. Gandhis government in 1977.
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