PNM retains Weerawansa as General Secretary

Even when he was among party favourites, Wimal Weerawansa was a strong supporter of the Patriotic National Movement (PNM). In fact, he was the General Secretary of the movement. According to PNM Chairman Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekara, Weerawansa is still the General Secretary and will remain so.

In the meantime, the dissident group has expressed its their intention to form a new political movement with the support of the PNM. In an interview with The Nation, Dr. Amarasekara explained the role of the PNM and the ideology behind the movement.
However, it was apparent that the PNM disseminates an ideology, which is in contrast to the JVP ideology that Weerawansa claims he still adheres to. Therefore, the questions arise whether two groups believing in contrasting ideologies can work together as one political force. Yet, stranger things have happened in this country and only time will tell the future of the JVP and Wimal Weerawansa.

Following are excerpts of the interview with Dr. Amarasekara:
Q: What is the ideology behind the PNM?
“Our ideology is something called a Nationalistic Ideology. What we want to do is to collect all the nationalistic forces and present an ideology to the people based on a kind of civilisational consciousness. We tried to achieve a civilisational ideology, which cuts across all these political lines. Till we achieved independence there was no national liberation struggle, unlike in India. As a result, we never had a national ideology. After 50 years of independence we have not been able to build a national ideology.”

Q: Do you mean to say that Marxist socialist theories failed because they were not built on a national ideology?
Yes, the pity of it is that they took it in a very simplistic manner. They never understood – probably at that time there was no thinking on these lines.

Q: What brought forth the formation of a movement such as the JVP?
The JVP would never have come up if not for the 1956 change. It was the 1956 change that took politics to the rural masses. The main change was that politics was taken to the rural masses. Up to that time, politics was ruled by the elitist class in Colombo. For the first time, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and other nationalist forces took politics to the rural masses. Prior to that, there was another event of great importance – 1944 free education. For the first time, C.W.W. Kannangara took English education to the masses and created a form of intelligentsia. Bandaranaike took politics to the rural areas. These were the two events that gave rise to the JVP, who came from those classes in the rural area. They are called the ‘Children of ’56.’

What constitutes the JVP is the rural youth. If after ’56, the SLFP had a vision, if they knew where they were going, then, if they had changed the economic policy and political policy and had vision and acted and looked after the children of that intelligentsia, the JVP would not have come up as a political force. What happened was after ’56, the SLFP never acted with a vision. As soon as they came to power they didn’t know where they were going, they had a simplistic vision as well. They never realised that if they had acted properly with a vision, the youth would not have banded to form a JVP. After ’56, the rural youth had some access to education, they were aware of their political crisis but they were not looked after. They were really a frustrated underprivileged class and also with petty bourgeois ambitions. A semi educated rural youth who knew that they should have a place in the sun. The onus goes to the SLFP.

Q: How do you perceive the 1971 insurrection?
By 1971, Rohana Wijeweera, who was a bit of a romantic, thought he could get hold of the rural chaps. However, after the failure of the ’71 insurgency, he matured and decided to enter the political stream. In ’83 as they were making a mark, J.R. Jayewardene banned the party, which was a great mistake. When they were banned on one completely false pretext, they were blamed for the Black July even though they had nothing to do with that. As a result, the JVP went underground and resorted to insurrections and violence.

Q: Do you call them Marxists?
I wouldn’t call them a Marxist party. They may use some Marxist slogans and so on. Whatever it is, Marxism is a humanist ideology. Of course, it never succeeded in the West and it was taken by Lenin in Russia and Mao and those versions are not Marxist. The way it ended up in Russia was Stalinist, an anti-humanist dictatorial party in the name of Socialism. It was the model that appealed to these boys: the dictatorial anti-human Marxism of Stalin. The JVP has the Stalinist ideology. I wouldn’t call it a Marxist ideology. You can see the JVP after J.R., once again they entered the democratic mainstream. During the insurrection of ‘87 they displayed utterly inhuman and despicable behaviour. One could say that they had no access to democratic means and had to resort to violence. Then they once again entered the democratic stream and banded up with SLFP.

Q: How do you perceive the rift within the JVP today?
Where the break up is concerned, I feel that it is a clash of ideologies. As usual, the personalities maybe involved. This is definitely a clash of ideologies because basically as I told you, the JVP believes in revolution and though they have entered the democratic process, I don’t think they have much faith in the democratic process. I think they are basically in that Stalinist frame of mind: That socialism can be pushed down the throat. However, Wimal Weerawansa belongs to a new generation. He is not a man who was involved in the insurrection of ’87-89, he was a man who joined the party as a school boy. And I think he was exposed to much of these debates, intellectual debates and discussions. Probably he was also influenced like that. He happens to believe in the democratic process and believes in our national ideology.

In fact, I knew that at some stage that could happen, that these two ideologies can’t go together. It had to happen at some stage. And I think it has happened. I think what is preferable is for Wimal to take over the party and get the party to agree with him and in that context I think it is a very good thing that happened. Somawansa’s faction must rethink and adjust themselves. They must rethink because of the fate that the Marxists have suffered in this country. Somawansa must think very seriously.

Q: What is the future of the JVP ?
I think, if they are going to have a future they must rethink where they have gone wrong. Some ideological change is necessary.