30 November 2011

Old Trotskyites don’t die…

My teacher and friend, E.C. Gunasekara, disciplinarian, sportsman and wonderful conversationalist and human being, who even while fighting a cancer was trying to convert me into Christianity, had in his living room (Pamankade) a wall-hanging of a batsman just failing to make the crease before the keeper whipped the bails off.  There was caption: ‘Old cricketers never die, they just get run out.’  I’ve seen many such ‘old (insert profession/category) never die…’ lines since.  Most of them are cute, and, theoretically at least, applicable to anything and everything, all kinds of people. 

What kind of (not) dying line would be appropriate for Trotskyites, I wondered a short while ago.  Thinking of Trotskyites, took me to a lecture by Dr. Desmond Mallikaarachchi in Peradeniya. This was either in 1997 or 1998.  His topic was Maaksvaadaya maranne kawda? (Who is killing Marxism?).  There were about 50 people in the audience, most of them members of the JVP’s student wing, the Samaajawaadi Shishya Sangamaya (Socialist Students’ Union), one from the Samaajawaadi Samaanatha Pakshaya (Socialist Equality Party), i.e. the new avatar of the ‘VIKOSA’ or Viplavavaadi Komiyunist Sangamaya (Revolutionary Communist League) and maybe about 10-15 who could be said to sympathize with the Jathika Chinthanaya school. 

Desmond focused, naturally for that time, on Nalin De Silva, Gunadasa Amarasekera and the Jathika Chinthanaya School the two had helped form and develop into a significant presence in the universities.  It should be mentioned that the ideological thrust and political will so necessary for crushing the LTTE came mostly from the work of these individuals over a period of more than two decades, a fact that none of their detractors who now enjoy the fruits of that victory are willing to admit.  Desmond, as always, gave an interesting lecture.  Naturally, I did not agree with everything he said. 

There was a question and answer session following the lecture. I had a question.  Three, actually. I offer below the English translation.

‘Who kills Marxism?  Is Marx not murdered by the traditional left or the Old Left when entering into coalitions with right wing or centrist political parties? Is Marx not murdered when so-called revolutionaries hold a galkattas to the heads of workers and force them to “strike”? Was Marx not murdered by Trotskyites who put a full stop to the dialectic when Trotsky was murdered?’  Desmond answered in Sinhala: ‘Ow, ow,ow (yes, yes and yes)’.    

I got black looks from the TVPers. The sole VIKOSA member who was seated next to me, Dharshana Liyanage displaying that latest streak of fascism in all Trotskyites, used his elbow on my ribcage, scowling in a fashion that made the JVPers’ seem quite friendly.  There was no one from the Old Left.  There was, technically, come to think of it, one. Dhammika Amarakoon, who had never been able to hand in his letter of resignation (from the party) because the party office in Kandy was never open. 

If Old Trotskyites don’t die, what happens to them, I asked myself again.  Are they knocked down by a train called reality as they grope blindly along a deterministic tunnel?  Are they blown over by the nescience (lack of knowledge or awareness; ignorance) that has been the natural product of the marriage between tunnel-vision and arrogance, blessed of course by the high priests of crass materialism? 

Can we say, ‘Old Trotskyites never die, they just get their knickers so twisted in the iron-grip of the dialectic that they are rendered intellectually immobile’? I remember another Trotskyite, again from the VIKOSA, Jayasekera from the Engineering Faculty.  Now I had some regard for the two to three Trotskyites on campus because unlike the JVP boys they had actually read some Marx (key word, ‘some’).  One night I was traveling in a Mahakanda-Kandy bus.  This Jayasekera gets into the bus somewhere near Getambe. The bus is quite empty and he happens to sit near me.  I smile. He smiles back. I ask, ‘Ithin kohomada, me dawas wala monavada karanne?’ (So, how are things, what are you doing these days?). He looks at me as though I have asked the stupidest question on earth: ‘Monavada karanne? Politiks!’ He downs me.  I smiled and mumbled acknowledgment of his wisdom, what else can one do when confronted with such ‘unidimensionality’?

Old Trotskyites don’t die; they just grow so bitter that they might as well be called Bitterites.  Old Trotskyites don’t die; they are so black-and-white that they go colour-blind.  Old Trotskyites don’t die; they are so self-righteous that they don’t realize when they end up in or are co-opted by the Right Wing.  Old Trotskyites don’t die; handicapped by a deterministic ideology and therefore burdened with logical inconsequentialities, they lost capacity to think straight and spend their years twisting and turning as though they have been afflicted with a bad case of KPG (Kiri Panu Gaaya) to justify assertion. 

Old Trotskyites, nevertheless, if they spend enough time in the land of their birth and among the people, find immortality thanks to the sheer force of tangible evidence and sometimes even graduate out of Trotskyism into other isms, most enlightening of which is Buddhism.  Some, on the other hand, flee looking for greener pastures, to other continents, discover that the world is not built on ‘material’ and ‘economy’, get uprooted and go unsteady and return home only to find that they just cannot re-root in any way.  Such people spend their years spitting so much that their mouths go dry and their voices become hoarse.  They suffer such depravations, emotional and otherwise, that their final refuge becomes an unholy fascination with organized religion and the worst crooks ever to be in the pay of colonial powers hell-bent on serving the interests of capital.  That they don’t see is perhaps a blessing.  I would not wish anything but myopia for these Old Trotskyite dodderers, some of whom masquerade as Renaissance Men.   

That’s a good end, then.  Old Trotskyites don’t die; they just call themselves Renaissance Men and engage in doddery.