28 July 2015

Th belly of the beast is addictive

This is the thirty ninth in a series of articles on rebels and rebellion written for the FREE section of 'The Nation'. Scroll to the end for other articles in this series.  'FREE' is dedicated to youth and youthfulness.

There are rebels who claim that the one way to defeat the enemy is to gnaw at the enemy from inside.  One has to get inside the belly of the beast, so to speak.  In the field of espionage this would be called infiltration.  

It makes sense.  It has worked.  That’s how Alimankada fell to the LTTE, or so we are told.  LTTE cadres, having monitored troop movements and in particular times that groups replaced each other, had crept in wearing Army uniforms.  The attack therefore came from within.  Alimankada was captured.  The enemy entered the belly and split it thereafter.  

It doesn’t always work that way though.  History is full of rebels and rebel groups who used that logic to ‘infiltrate’ the enemy.  What they frequently forget is that typically the enemy is stronger.  Tails don’t wag dogs, this is known.  

The belly, also, can be a comfortable place.  In the USA, for example, people who visit New York City say ‘good to visit but you won’t find me living there!’  And yet, these same people, if they happen to get a job in NYC and are forced to live there frequently fall in love with the city.  They can’t leave.  Not that New York City is the ‘enemy’ and our job seeker is a rebel of course, but you do get the point, right?

Here’s what happened to a bunch of rebels in the early nineties.  They all went to Royal College.  They had all been horrified by what was happening in the country towards the end of the eighties.  They objected to the bheeshanaya (The Terror) unleashed by the then Government on the insurgents.  Neither did they support the insurgents who weren’t averse to use the same kind of terror tactics on their political opponents.  At one point they decided that they didn’t know much about politics and needed to read and learn before they could figure out what to do.  

So they divided themselves into groups, with each group assigned a particular political party or group to join, learn from, influence if possible and then return to share their experiences with their comrades.  

That was it.  They all ended up becoming members of the groups they joined.  They never returned to the original group.  

Sri Lanka, in the early half of the last century had one of the strongest Trotskyite movements in the world.  The history of the Trotskyites can be written as a history of splits or a history of being co-opted by parties that were certainly not revolutionary.  

‘The historical need’ (as they say) persuaded people to support this party or that.  ‘Against the bigger threat’ or ‘against the common enemy’ they justified.  Numbers count and in the end their lesser clout was made even more negligible.  The belly consumed them, one by one, to the point that they became part of the beast.  

Other articles in this series