Fusion Of Gandhism And Marxism

There is an interesting discussion going on about the validity of radical liberalism in the present context of political crisis.

Ranil Wickremesinghe says he is for a mass struggle which may be akin to what Gandhi did. In any case, issue of none violence is a relevant point to discuss.

As far as I could see the conflict between Marxism and Gandhism or any kind of radical liberalism is not really about the methods of struggle, but about the political perspective of the movement.

Ranil’s project is a liberal social project and not an anti capitalist one. It is about freedom, self rule and democratic participation.

True, there is concern for the poor and the marginalized, but there is no class struggle angle. In fact this is where non-violence is really been emphasized. Private property is ok, if there is compulsion to look after the less fortunate.

This is, as I understand, Ranil’s social project. As Marxists, we are not against such reforms of the system if these are really introduced. But certainly, we do not see that as a solution to the social crisis.

Still, we are for freedom, for self determination, for autonomy, for democracy and we are against chauvinism in any form. So, there is a wide area in which we can work together with consistent liberals in the course of our struggle for freedom and democracy.

But our experience in the last century is that we are the only consistent democrats left! That is why Trotsky and Lenin both said, that the proletariat or the left should lead the democratic revolution. Anyway, still our doors are open, for common struggles with Gandhians.

Method of struggle

Our method of struggle is non-violent and democratic. Strikes, demonstrations, hartals and other mass actions are democratic and non-violent. It is the reactionary rulers, chauvinists and their ‘running dogs’ who are violent.

I entered politics in 1962 and in this entire career I took to arms when JVP started shooting at us. Why, because we stood for defending equality of languages, citizenship rights for plantation Tamils and the right of self determination of Tamil people.

When we started collecting illegal arms for our defence, JR’s regime offered to sell some arms and of course we bought them. Later, everybody under threat was given arms from the state. Today, I see very important ‘Gandhians’ moving around with a truck load of soldiers to protect them from whom I do not know. 

In 1992, still I was campaigning against state terror aimed at suspected youth while on the other hand we protected ourselves from the rebels. We were protesting against abductions and lawless killings since early 1989.

On 1 July 1992 we organized a Janagosa with Mahinda and others. In Kandy with other Sama Samajists, I led a procession of about 500, largely parents and family members of the disappeared. Eight of us were taken into custody by Kandy police. One of them was Upali Lewliyadde, then a police officer given to me for protection against Sinhala chauvinist killers! Kandy police officers did not know how to deal with him.

Dilemma of non-violent struggles

This I believe is the dilemma of non-violent struggles. Trotsky said once that in a mass struggle what is important is not one’s ability to kill others, but the ability to sacrifice one’s life for the struggle. This is the essence of non-violence.

However, one has to fight back even with arms against unjust inhuman killers. If a ruthless killer is attacking a child, then even with violence one has restrain the attacker. One may not use arms but if you are going with the protection of STF, then you are ready with instruments of violence.

Furthermore, if the oppressive killers are attacking not only the leaders but also the masses behind, then at one point the masses will resort to armed reaction. So, there is legitimacy, under certain circumstances, for armed insurrection. I believe even the UN charter accepts that possibility. 

This is what Karen Parker says. What is not accepted is violence against the innocent, particularly women and children. Also attacks against dissenting voices. This has become a debating point in the Geneva sessions.

What is the legitimacy of Tamil insurrection in Lanka? The legitimacy of the Tamil national insurrection lies on the pogroms launched, with connivance of political leaders from ‘57 onwards and state terror released on protesting innocent masses.

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