CPSL will present alternative economic strategy - D.E.W. Gunasekara | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

CPSL will present alternative economic strategy - D.E.W. Gunasekara

11 June, 2023
D.E.W. Gunasekara
D.E.W. Gunasekara

The Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) will present an alternative economic strategy at its 80th anniversary celebrations on July 3 at the Maharagama Youth Centre.

Party Leader and veteran politician D.E.W. Gunasekara in an interview with the Sunday Observer said their economic strategy will be presented to all political parties adding that no political party in the history has put forward such an economic strategy and policy. The economic strategy Idiri Maga put forward by party founder Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe in 1955 is still valid and being taught even in schools and universities.

Gunasekara said they want to showcase the 80th anniversary of the Communist Party for some definite purpose and provide some solution to the present crisis.

He said in the context of the new global developments, they are going to present an alternative economic strategy to the people and all the political parties. “However, this will not be the final draft and we are prepared for discussions and make necessary amendments. We want to create some political consensus. Today no one talks about the crisis. How can we find a remedy without knowing the fundamental cause of the crisis?”

Excerpts of the interview

Q: What are your thoughts on the eight-decade long journey of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL)?

A: The Communist Party was formed on July 3, 1943. However, the origin of the movement can be traced back to the 1930s. Dr. S. A. Wickramasinghe was the founding leader of the party. After completing his studies in England as a specialist doctor, he returned in 1929.

As a student, he was a member of the British Communist Party. So, he had that political background. On his return to Sri Lanka, he came via India and he had gone to see Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi who were in prison. When Dr.Wickramasinghe was a student in London, Nehru used to come there to meet him and he used to go with him as his secretary.

Then Nehru was a member of the Indian student movement along with Krishna Menon. They were the joint secretaries to the Indian Majlis. Dr.S. A. Wickramasinghe and Dr.Colvin R. de Silva were the two joint secretaries of the Ceylon Students Union. That was the background in which they were moulded. On his way back to Sri Lanka, Dr. Wickramasinghe also met Ven. Udakendawala Siri Saranankara Thera who was studying at Shantiniketan, India and in the Indian national movement along with other Indian leaders. Dr. Wickramasinghe returned here and joined the Colombo Youth League.

In 1931, they had the All Ceylon Youth League for the purpose of calling for total independence. Jawaharlal Nehru also came for that conference held in Colombo.

In 1933, Suriya Mal Movement was started and the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) was started in 1935. The Second World War broke out in 1939. Then the ideological dispute came whether to support the war or not. Dr.Wickramasinghe, M.G. Mendis and Ven.Saranankara Thera took up the position to support the Soviet Union and defend the first socialist country. On that particular issue, they were expelled from the LSSP. After 1940, they formed the Colombo Workers Club and formally they formed the CP in 1943.

From then onwards they concentrated on forming trade unions. Dr.Wickramasinghe, M.G.Mendis, Ven.Saranankara Thera, A. Vaidialingam and P. Kandiah were the five founding leaders of the Communist Party (CP).

The present generation of workers is enjoying these rights particularly public servants such as eight hour-working day and pension schemes entirely due to 1946 and 1947 general strikes. In 1957, the Provident Fund was given purely due to a three months struggle conducted by the CP. Today the EPF has become the biggest fund in the whole of South Asia.

The vision of the CP was to form a socialist society and that is a long term perspective. Before that, it was necessary for them to achieve total independence. So, the first part of the history they fully devoted and fought along with other National Congress leaders for total independence. There were two trends in the country at that time. One is for total independence and the other for constitutional reforms.

These two trends were operated simultaneously. As a result, constitutional reforms were introduced in 1948. In 1972, total independence was achieved with the establishment of the first Republican Constitution.

The radical changes that were brought by the CP were total independence and adult franchise in 1931. Dr. Wickramasinghe who contested to the first State Council in 1931 became the first Marxist who was elected to the legislature. Free education, health services and total independence started firstly by the sole representatives of the left movement at that time.

As far as political development is concerned, one of the CP’s contributions is the theory of the United Front. That is for which the Communist Party fought for over 20 years of ideological struggle. The Communist Party took up the consistent position that other progressive and nationalist forces should also join together to complete the anti-imperialist task.

That consistent ideological struggle had the desired results by way of formation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1951. The first United Front ever formed in our country was Philip Gunawardena and the Communist Party in 1950. So, the conceptual alliance was promoted by us and consistently followed up to now by the working class and the minority.

However, the left alone can’t accomplish this task. It is necessary to enlist the support of the other central forces. Even in the context of the present crisis, the alternative is left and centre and there is no other alternative.

Q: Do you think that the ideology of the Communist Party is still valid in this day and age when even staunch Communist countries have embraced some form of capitalism to strengthen their economies?

A: Socialism is a long term perspective. The first experiment was the Soviet Union. In 1999, it collapsed due various other factors. When globalisation of the economy came with the fourth industrial revolution and neoliberalism, the closed economy couldn’t operate.

That is why the Chinese took a different position that it is necessary to have both the private and public sector. So, that has improved success. The ideology is a long term one. Capitalism has a history of 500 years and imperialism has a history of146 years. Capitalism needs not to be built and it grows when you have the capital market. Socialism is something that you will have to build in the interest of the whole community. So, it is a transformation. Nearly because you want, it cannot be accomplished.

Q: Critics say that traditional leftist parties such as CP and LSSP have faced a decline while relatively new parties like the JVP led National People’s Power and Frontline Socialist Party have gained more confidence among the public. Do you think this is true and if so what do you see as the couse for the decline of the traditional left?

A: That is a fact and there is no question about it. But the only thing is that our theory continues to be valid. Even the JVP took up the same position earlier but they came to an alliance later in 2004.

That is how they increased their vote base to 39 seats in Parliament. Later they went back due to some differences and then the party was split into two to three. Today they may be strong but what is the percentage of their votes? It has to be tested and seen at an election. They will never be able to form a Government without the support of the centre.

The JVP can play a role and there is no question and we don’t deny it. However, they will realise soon or later they alone can’t fulfill that task. In order to accomplish neoliberalism, it is necessary to form a broad spectrum of the society.

Q: The leftist parties such as the CP and LSSP were once considered as the king makers and decisive factors in forming Governments. This doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. Why do you think the traditional left seem to have lost their electoral clout?

A: Sometimes, we make mistakes and then we will have to reassess and operate. That is the way forward. In the history of all political parties, ours is the only party which has represented all legislators from 1931 till today. No other party can claim such representation. Ours is a long term vision. During the vision you have to go along with other forces. That is the difference. Sometimes, other forces bypass but again they will have to come back. It has been proven time and again.

Q: Youth participation seems to be minimal in the activities of the traditional left. Is there a plan to revitalise the party in the same way that the Chinese Communist Party reinvented itself for its 100 anniversary to attract more young people?

A: It all depends on how the future struggles take place. Today there is a complicated political situation. The incumbent President has only one seat in Parliament but he is the Executive President. These are some developments taking place. There is a national leadership crisis in the country. That is why Ranil Wickremesinghe had to be brought as the President by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Younger people will also learn throughout their own experience. They will also realise that a broader unity is necessary. The JVP will soon or later realise this. Even China had to change their strategies. Today we will have to take a world view of the developments.

I think the Opposition, Government or even some of the left leaders are unable to explain what the real fundamental course for this crisis is. It is a neoliberal strategy. Some of them may accept it but they don’t want to come out.

This crisis is taking place on a world scale. You should take a global view of the developments. Whoever expected the decline of the dollar? There is going to be a BRICS meeting in August. Iran and Saudi Arabia are going to be the new members and there is going to be a new currency. So, the whole world system is going to change.

Particularly, a small economy like ours, we have become dependent and interdependent as far as the economy is concerned. Most of our present day political parties don’t appreciate that the Asian economy is the vanguard of the world economy.

Even some Cabinet Ministers, know nothing about it. Today the RCEP is the biggest free trade zone consisting of 15 countries in South East Asia. The group of G7 countries has also come forward to strengthen cooperation on a range of global challenges. So, the world situation has completely changed.

These things are not stated in the text books. You must analyse and see what the real course for this crisis is. This economic crisis is a triple crisis- exchange, debt and finance.

Q: What do you think of the present political culture where thuggery, intimidation, extortion and violence seem to be the order of the day? What can we do to ensure that a future Parliament is free of such individuals and would have only educated and professional individuals?

A: There is no ready-made solution. That is why I say the economic crisis led to a political crisis and the political crisis led to social crisis. Today it has led to a cultural crisis as well. When it comes to the stage of cultural crisis, it is very serious and the Government has not been able to control it. There will be a collapse of the rule of law and that is already taking place. The people are taking the law into their hands. It is useless blaming the people and they are losing their patience. The first factor is the economy. Second factor is the instability created due to the political crisis. Inflation and other factors have also seriously affected the people and the people are being asked to tighten their belts. The public sector has also collapsed. There is no remedy unless you treat the main cause. The solution to the present crisis is to increase production and exports since there is no other solution.

Q: There is a plan to form a broad Opposition coalition to oppose the Government at a future election. Will the CP join such a coalition or will the CP campaign alone on its own platform?

A: You can’t make predictions and you have to go through the experience and it will come to a point where the people will demand it. Finally, it will come to a point of setting aside all other issues and the question of democracy will emerge. Then all other forces will be compelled to do that. You can speculate but I still don’t see it has come to the stage of maturity.

Q: President Ranil Wickremesinghe has come in for a lot of praise for the manner in which he is handling the economy. Do you endorse this path?

A: The Government hides the real cause of the crisis and says it is useless to talk about the past. You will have to talk about the past.

You will have to do it self-critically. How to find a remedy without knowing the defect? What are the steps taken by the Government during the past one year? They went to the IMF by getting borrowings from Japan, China and India. Have you seen even a single Minister go to the field and speak to the people there? You can’t find even a single Minister in the Cabinet who can redress the people today.

There is a big gap between the people and the Government. You must explain to the people where we failed and what we should do.