Journey to Socialism | Daily News

Journey to Socialism

Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev’s declaration in 1956 that socialism will come about in future not by revolution but by evolution has made a lasting impact worldwide. Our own Viplavakari Lanka Sama Samaja Party (VLSSP) Leader Philip Gunawardena joined the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) coalition of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1956.

The Nava Lanka Sama Samaja Party (NLSSP) and Communist Party of Ceylon (CPC) entered into no-contest pacts with the MEP in 1956. NLSSP Leader Dr. N. M. Perera began to talk about ‘a journey to socialism’. Thereafter, only the new left parties talked about revolution and today such parties too have joined the mainstream of Parliamentary democracy.

The prelates of Vidyalankara Pirivena were backing the oldest leftist political party the Trotskyite Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) founded in 1935. They got on to the stage of LSSP candidate Bodhipala Vaidyasekara contesting former State Council Member for Kelaniya J. R. Jayewardene at the old Kelaniya electorate at the 1947 General Election. They got caught up in a sand bottle attack, their shaven heads bleeding, campaigning for Vaidyasekara and Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake, it is said, gave Walpola Rahula Thera, who had by then graduated from University of Ceylon, a scholarship to Sorbonne to avoid his further involvement in LSSP politics. Other prelates such as Kiriwaththuduwe Pragnasara, Bambarende Siri Seevali, Kotahene Pagnakiththi and Yakkaduwe Pragnrama continued to be in leftist politics ending up as part of the Pancha Maha Balavegaya of Sangha, Weda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru, in 1956.

Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike nationalized the bus companies on the recommendations of the Rutnam Survey of 1948, Sansoni Survey of 1954, and the Jayaratne Perera Survey of 1956, establishing the Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) and the Cargo Boat Dispatch Company controlling Colombo Port became the Port Cargo Corporation. Bandaranaike also introduced the first Ten Year Plan (1956-1965) under his socialist programme. His policies were continued after his death in 1959, three LSSP Ministers Dr. N. M. Perera as Minister of Finance, Anil Moonesinghe as Minister of Communications and Cholmondeley Gunawardena as Minister of Public Works joining the Government, giving it a boost in 1964, Anil Moonesinghe ably revamping the CTB.

The Government fell in 1965, C. P. de Silva, Mahanama Samaraweera, Asoka Karunaratne and Charles Edirisuriya quitting it crossing the floor. The National Government of Dudley Senanayake from 1965 to 1970 also continued socialist policies, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna Leader Philip Gunawardena who had nothing to do with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party after the assassination of Bandaranaike being a major player in it.

Socialist policies were implemented in earnest under the United Front Government of 1970 with Dr. N. M. Perera being re-appointed as Minister of Finance, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva appointed as Minister of Constitutional Affairs, Leslie Goonewardena as Minister of Communications and Pieter Keuneman as Minister of Housing. Anil Moonesinghe who had lost his Parliamentary Seat being appointed Chairman CTB made it profit making.

The first Republican Constitution of 1972 drafted by Dr. Colvin R. de Silva pledges to realize the objectives of a socialist democracy. Even the second Republican Constitution of 1978 was named the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. It is significant that while in the former democracy is qualified by socialism in the latter socialism is qualified by democracy.

Although the 1972 Constitution was not implemented properly fulfilling its lofty objectives and lasted for only five years the 1978 Constitution was put into practice for a full decade by its architect President J.R. Jayewardene himself making the country achieve tremendous progress. The open economic policy introduced during this period persists to this day along with the 1978 Constitution and what needs to be done today is to modernize such policy.

Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to implement open economic policies triggered by the fall of the Soviet Union. Although what motivated Lenin to own a Rolls Royce motor car was security concerns Leonid Brezhnev doing so was pure human frailty as his hobby was wild duck hunting and he had the habit of collecting the best cars in the world prompting Ronald Reagan to gift him with a gold-plated Cadillac – a symbol of affluence.

It was why the Soviet Union that became the largest economy in the world after the 1917 Revolution collapsed in three quarter of a century. Who can say that acquiring the latest model Bentley and Jaguar cars, recently, symbolic of the unaffordable extravagance of the moneyed few in Sri Lanka, did not contribute to the dollar crisis?

The fact that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has emphasized that he will take Vietnam as his role-model of economic development shows that there can be no socialism without capitalistic development. As mentioned in this column earlier it is divine intervention, the Buddha putting the country in charge of Sakra or Indra and He deputizing Vishnu or Upulvan to save it from danger that has put President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the helm of affairs. It was he who was able to convert the less than minus -2 % rate of economic growth of 2000 to a rate of growth of over 6% in 2002.

The situation in pre-revolutionary France can be mutatis mutandis applied to the present condition of Sri Lanka. There was a parallel in history of the appointment of M. Turgot as the Controller-General by French King Louis XVI in 1774 to handle the economic crisis in France that led to the French Revolution that erupted in 1789 largely due to incitement of crowds by rabble rousers, one such being Robespierre a supreme example in history that an honest fanatic can be far more dangerous than the worst scoundrel.

Whatever the reasons are, Sri Lanka today is undergoing a period of grave economic crisis, as experienced by the United Kingdom so long ago as the 1780s due to the American War, when the National Debt stood at nearly an unprecedented 250,000,000 Pounds Sterling, to solve which William Pitt known as Pitt the Younger as Tory Prime Minister from 1783 to 1801 and 1804 to 1806 carried through important fiscal and tariff reforms.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe is performing the role played by William Pitt the Younger in England and M. Turgot in pre-revolutionary France and while Pitt was allowed to stay on until he finished the task Turgot was got rid of before he could do so. He had restored national credit but what he could actually accomplish was only a fragment of a comprehensive scheme. This led to the beheading of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette the revolutionaries taking the upper hand succeeding.



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