by Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne
The conflict within the UNP is not a clash of personalities. I am convinced of it more than ever today. The radical young leaders insist that the problem is in Ranil’s nature.
His attitude of taking every thing within the passive, liberal framework is making the party politically impotent. Hence, all conservatives have gathered behind him. Though Ranil talks of social democracy; his close adjutants do not know the elementary meaning of the word.
True, Ranil is not a racist, but gangs running behind him are openly chauvinist. Ranil’s mode of operation indirectly helps the government to continue its wile policies, thus putting every body in danger. These are the criticisms made by the anti Ranil radicals. Then they say that it is necessary to replace him with a more dynamic character. However the necessary question I raised was about the politics of the contender. What is his attitude to the crisis faced by neo liberal capitalism? Does he agree to devolution as a political solution to the Tamil national problem?
What will they do to the state welfare, etc? It is impossible for me to accept that a protracted struggle for the leadership of the oldest bourgeoisie party could take place, purely on personal issues. In the past UNP leaders of a different kind existed within the leadership. There were conflicts which appeared to be personality clashes. But in the final analysis we could see a political struggle. The Dudley – Sir John clash was classified as a personality clash by many critics. But clearly it was a clash between liberals and hard liners. After the hartal, to which Sir John gave indirect help, bourgeois society wanted a strong man to deal with the left leaders. Sir John became the obvious choice ands he ruled the country like an iron fisted man.
So what is the concoction here? What are we getting from the United National Party? Instead of a liberal democrat, who wanted to transform himself to a social democrat, are we getting a Sinhala nationalist? We are already suffering under an uncompromising hard line Sinhala nationalist and do we get an opposition leader of the same kind. That means this is the inauguration of another Phantom series. We will be suffering under an immortal chauvinist presidency.
It is true that already the difference between the two parties has disappeared to a large extent. Both worked within the framework of no liberalism accepting the dictates of the IMF. Populism and pseudo socialism of the SLFP died at the hands of Chandrika two decades ago. Mahinda burnt the dead body of populist socialism and threw the ashes to the deep sea and accepted the crown of the Sinhala chauvinists.
Ranil differed and struggled to build a social democratic opposition. It is true that he created much misgiving within the UNP rank and file in this process. Not only did he antagonize the pro Sinhala lobby within the party, but also some of the minority leaders associated with the UNP. He rashly assumed that minorities will be with him without protest. In politics nothing can be taken for granted. In the end it is a minority owned TV channel that did the biggest damage to his leadership.
Ranil travels a lot and he is aware of the world economic situation. He knows better than any other bourgeoisie leader the truth of the left criticism. We have stressed that the failure of the IMF, World Bank and WTO to represent and further the interests of the developing world, through their one-size-fits-all approach, has lead to the collapse of trade negations, widespread criticism of their effectiveness, and bitter international protest.
Many countries are rejecting the neo liberal ideologies of the ‘unholy trinity’ with intensifying calls for their reform or decommissioning. He doesn’t agree to all that, but he knows that a social and democratic approach is the minimum for the survival of his party. Inevitably a democratic approach is necessary as far as the Tamil national problem is concerned. In that scenario a compromise with the left is the strategy. This is the strategy he executed in the past and also his future plan.
We have to admit that the left is still very weak. In that situation it is a folly to allow the backward chauvinists to dominate the political arena. At this moment eclipse of Ranil doesn’t bring a wind fall to the left. On the contrary we have to agitate together with the liberal democracy against many sided reactionary chauvinism. The left has to keep its eyes open widely.