Dayan’s gods and theories that failed
Posted on April 27th, 2013

H. L. D. Mahindapala

My friend Dayan Jayatileka ‘s latest book Long War, Cold Peace is exactly what I anticipated it to be: 1. overloaded with quotes from the Marxist mafia; 2. an equal measure of theoretical puffery; 3. self-contradictions; 4. self-congratulatory passages; 5. the least amount analysis of the historical roots that preceded the official declaration of war by the Tamil leadership in 1976; 6. total blackout of the internal dynamics of the mono-ethnic extremism of peninsular politics, propelled by the Jaffna jingoist elite; 7. Vellahlaism — the most powerful driving force in Sri Lankan politics, greater than even Marxism, in the post-independence era — ignored by a “political scientist” who never tires of invoking dialectics; 8. a preponderant focus on the south to make the north look like the victims of the south; 9. habitual repetition of the conventional anti-Sinhala-Buddhists propaganda projected as in-depth theoretical analysis; 10. an abysmal failure to analyse in all its dimensions political violence which dominated the better part of the 20th century in Sri Lanka, 11. Marxism turned upside down, and 12. last but not the least, an obsessive but predictable ideological fixation on the failed theories of the I/NGOs.

It is just not possible to deal with all these aspects and more in this series. Any such exercise to expose the historical, theoretical and political fallacies contained in his book of 500 pages would run into another book of the same length or more. Reviewing the book within the limited space available it can be said that, at best, it is like the curate’s egg: good only in parts. On the whole, the book reveals that he is quite content to live happily inside his closed theoretical box while the world outside has moved miles away from his excessive glorification of Marxist Cuba which has no relevance even to the post-Che Guevaran Cubans who are, slowly but surely, in the process of dismantling Castroism. His nostalgic demigod continues  to be Che Guevara. His presence was so overwhelming in Dayan’s salad days (not that he has got over his political romance now that he is a grown up kid) he quotes his distinguished father Mervyn de Silva, who wrote in May ’68: “You see him everywhere”. (p.489). Of course, he was not referring to the JVP’s fascist leader, Rohana Wijeweera who was labouring to imitate Che, with his beret and all. But it is Che who is invisible now except to his loyal afficianados. Who sees Che now in the same light he was seen in Dayan’s youth? Leaving aside the bloody violence unleashed by Che Guevarism what is left of the original idealism that fired the imagination of the likes of Dayan?

Of course, the Dayan who memorised chunks of Che’s writings in his “revolutionary” days is no longer the same Dayan now. There is a degree of realism that has dawned on him — a realism that makes him believe in the incomplete bourgeois revolution that is yet to fulfill its potential as opposed to the failed Marxist revolution of the expanding working class overthrowing the dwindling capitalist class. My, my, mai-ee, Dayan! What would Che think of you now? Dayan accepts that the new capitalists, vastly different from the Dickensian predators of Marx’s time, are here to stay in the foreseeable future. The fall of socialism symbolised in the Berlin Wall and the triumph of capitalism in communist China — i.e, a new bourgeoise rising within a communist political framework — are two compelling and irrefutable signposts for any objective scholar to acknowledge the collapse of Marxism. It has ceased to be the theoretical framework for political guidance or action, except for the lunatic fringe like those in the Peradeniya University running a Marx School. Besides, Marxism which was supposed to release the suppressed inner potential of mankind to rise above all oppressive forces never materialised under Stalinist regimes that were replicated in the West, including Cuba. It was capitalism, with all its inner contradictions and infirmities, that continued to be the creative and flexible historical force, burying Marxism and liberating the human spirit to be a dynamic force for the future of mankind.

Now comes the crunch. After acknowledging the failure of socialism Dayan arrives at a conclusion which shocked me. I can’t believe that a “political scientist”, as he claims to be, could ever come up with such an inane explanation. He says : “Humanity’s Socialist experiment was undone precisely by fundamentalism and fanaticism by the Osama/Taliban mindset, whether it belonged to religious or secular agencies: Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, Hafizulla Amin or Bernard Coard, Kampucheans wearing spectacles tortured to death in the Tuol Sleng extermination centre, the pregnant women revolutionaries tortured by the SVAMA (Iran’s military intelligence apparatus) and murdered in Teheran’s Evian prison, Grenada’s Maurice Bishop — all these were victims of ‘left’ fundamentalism and fanaticism; a fundamentalist fanaticism that on a behaviourial continuum with fascism. (Sic).” Then he concludes: “It is this eruption of the fundamentalist phenomenon in late modernity that weakened socialism internally to the point of ensuring its defeat in the New Cold War. That phenomenon has to rooted out (sic) or at least contained before humanity moves on to its next tasks or resumes its interrupted ones.” (p. 468).

Though the printer’s devil in this passage  is the excusable the weird theory he advances to explain the failure of socialism is not. Who would believe that Osama bin Lada and Pol Pot are responsibile for the failure of socialism? What made Dayan write this bunkum theory is beyond belief. If he is blaming the fundamentalist fanaticism that  exterminated the ‘left’ and, consequently,  led  to the failure of socialism, then he should begin not with Osama and Pol Pot but with his hero, Stalin, who was the master exterminator of anything and everything that moved against him. He hunted Trotsky, his arch rival, until his agent in Mexico buried a pick axe in the brain of the greatest intellectual / activist of the Russian Revolution. Stalin filled his gulags with the left-wing dissidents. Tens of millions of kulaks, farmers who resisted collectivisation, dissident students, intellectuals and activists were tortured and executed summarily under his “socialist” experiment.

Blaming Osama et al is the most lame excuse I’ve ever read for the failure of socialism. The implosion that tore apart socialism in the land of its birth, USSR, and reverberated right across the globe, was caused by complex factors. The Soviet system began to corrode from within the Russian bureaucratic class that failed to live up to its ideals, or even deliver basic goods and services to the people. One expects a deeper insight into the failure of socialism than this weird blame game of accusing Osama bin Lada and Pol Pot. Is this Marxism or farce-cism? Dayan is bound to come back with the usual excuse of misquoting, misrepresenting or taking it out of context. Let’s wait and see which one he will pick.  The best he can do is to say mea culpa and I hope he would do so.

At the outset I must confess that I have an instinctive aversion for fanciful political theories which are dime a dozen in “political science” — a term which in itself is a myth. “Political science” is a hyped up term concoted to put it on par with the predictable and immutable laws of science without achieving anything near a testable theory that can accurately and scientifically predict the outcome of open-ended history as it advances into the unkonwn future. The total failure of Marxism which was hailed as “scientific socialism” as opposed to “utopina socialism” proves that “political science” has a long way to go to achieve the credibility and the predictability of physical sciences. At best Marxist theories did throw some light into the past. But when it comes to predicting the future it fizzles out like a damp squib. For instance, even the average man knows that penicillin has been one of the wonder drugs of the 20th century, except for those who are allergic to it. “Political science” is yet to produce a reliable, predictable, and viable solution like penicillin for social evils. “Philosophy”, Marx wrote disdainfully, “stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as onanism to sexual love…” Does theory stand in the same relation to Dayan study of the actual world?

Dayan would know that history, in fact, has been the graveyard of political theories that were still born, or crippled or blind with hardly any muscle to move the present into the future. Some of the biggest battles of the so-called “political scientists” have been waged by “political scientists” against their own “fellow-scientists”. Despite their claim to be peer reviewed theorists they expose each other as humbugs writing to promote their academic careers or to win the favour of those in power. In the end, it is the innocent people who had to pay with their lives for the theoretical sins of bogus “political scientists”. The victims of the “scientific socialism” of the Marxists, it is well known, add up to mega millions, beginning from Dayan’s early hero Stalin to Pol Pot and the fascist JVPers. In other words, a “political scientist” is the closest thing to the mythical Abominable Snowman — a mythical creature said to be denizen of the Himalayas but never seen.

I must add that Dr. Dayan Jayatillake isn’t that bad. Actually, when he is good he is brilliant. But when he is bad he is horrible as seen in the instance of blaming Osama for the failure of socialism. His latest book, which I am reviewing at his request, is disappointing, to say the least, because he has, in the main, repeated all what he had stated before without showing any signs of evolving into a more enlightened analyst. (Please note I avoid the term “political scientist). To those who have followed Dayan regularly will find this book  to be somewhat of a deja vu. It is buried so much in his ideological past than in the existential historical past experienced by the people in their daily lives that I feel like asking a refund of the money I paid for the purchase of the book, plus postage.

This is one of the basic failures of his book. The book also confirms that Dayan has been all over the political spectrum from the time he entered “revolutionary politics” that it is rather difficult to pin down his political persona to a definite political identity, say as a Varadarajperumalist, or a Stalinist or any other “ist” of which there are many. However, I can vouch for the fact that his political tergivesations caused much pain to his loving parents, particularly to his dear mother, Lakshmi, while his proud father, Mervyn de Silva, put on a brave front while trying to rescue him from one predicament to another. But from his own descriptions in the book it is clear that Dayan was prone to political adventurism, swinging from one branch to another — all of which, of course, were based on high moral principles. Some of his principles were of the Shavian type of Englishmen who supported the king on loyal principles and cut his head off on republican principles. Though some of arguments for  political swinging sound plausible it is difficult to go along with him all the way because he had done it so many times. Dayan deftly justifies each position he took which can be impressive only if you are inclined to accept all his theories.

Of course, he has to justify each one of his political somersaults which makes one to conclude that he has more lives than that of a cat. He is the only academic I know who had been a political activist of many hues. He has had a unique opportunities in his career. First. he had a worm’s eye view of politics as an underground activist. Then he flew high into the diplomatic circles where he got a bird’s eye view of politics. Now he is back in the  den of dodos at the Colombo University where he has the opportunity to view the political scene at the  eye-level with pragmatic realism. He is well qualified to draw political conclusions which could throw new light on the entire course of violence that ruled his life and times. But his hands-on experience has not enriched him to the extent of taking him out of his Marxist box, or that of his fellow-travellers in the NGO circuit.

His intellectual exercises range from extolling Che Guevara to Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, two opposite extremes, if there was ever, in the political spectrum. How can a Che loyalist praise “Paki” in the same breath? Can anyone hail Margaret Thatcher and Mao in the same breath? Incredible! He is no better than the founding fathers of Marxism who came from Western universities and raved and ranted against the capitalists in the UNP and the feudalists in the SLFP and ended up in their bosom when they finally realised they had nowhere else to go. Did they ever believe in their fire-breathing rhetoric, really? Did they believe in the coming of the revolution at all? As N. Shanmugathasan, the Communist Party leader (Peking wing) told me, pouring acid scorn on the Marxist leaders of the time, if they believed in the revolution which would overthrow the capitalist establishment Dr. Colvin R. de Silva would never have invested in building flats for rent, nor would Dr. N.M. Perera invest in the Moragolla estate which he said was a safety net for his old age.

Marxism begat a breed of political primitives whose theories and actions put the clock back for nearly half a century. Sri Lanka would have emerged as a democratic Singapore if the Marxist mob did not divert the political energies of the people into their theoretical cul – de – sac. The nation is paying today for the theoretical obsessions and the follies of the Marxists. In the end, perverted Marxism ended in the hands of the lumpen JVPers who reduced Marx and Che Guevara into five lectures. Dayan, however, operates at an intellectual / theoretical level and, considering his zig-zagging career from one end of Marxism to the other, and even beyond, he may agree that his theoretical pyrotechnics may dazzle some but not the people who have run away from Western theorists in droves at each election, trusting more in their home-bred philosophies which had served them well down the ages.

(To be continued)  

6 Responses to “Dayan’s gods and theories that failed”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    Dayan Jayatileka is a peaceful Tamil Elamist.

    Long War, Cold Piece!

    I can’t understand why the govt. keeps these enemies like Duminda Silva, Dayan Jayatileka De Silva (a different Mervyn De Silva was his father!), Mervin Silva, Malaka Silva, etc.

  2. Kosala777 Says:

    A fascinating read. Can’t wait for the next part. With respect to Mahindapala, Dayan is someone who wrote against the LTTE during war time, the worry is he is now promoting federalism in a way that might split Sri Lanka

  3. Lorenzo Says:

    LTTE was ONLY the symptom NOT the problem.

    Federal = Tamil Elam. Federal is the problem.

    Federal BS started in 1949. That is the problem. WHEN we didn’t give them their federal BS demand, LTTE came to get it. Now the symptom is dead but the sickness remains.

    We celebrated the death of the symptom but we have to work HARDER to bust up the sickness (Tamil aspirations in SL).

  4. Senevirath Says:

    SUNIL
    We need patroitic people like Mahindapala all over the world Let him be anywhere in the world and serve and wake up people There are enough anti federalist patriotic people in sinhale to preach here. we need mahinda pala and others to enlighten the out side world

    Everybody knows that dayan is against”” sinhala jathikathwaya””’ OR JATHIKA CHINTHANAYA
    HE WORKED FOR VARDARAJA PERUMAL . THEN FOR PREMADASA WITH TISARANI,etc etc ……… after a long way he approached anti federalist MAHINDA for his survival. he can change his ‘WAYS’ AT ANY TIME TO SUIT THE SITUATION.
    in the university he preach marxism”GERANDIYA TA HARI LESIY HEVA ARINDA”

    ONE TIME SILVA BECOMES JAYATILAKE

  5. Mahinda Wickramarathne Says:

    the worry is dayan’s thinking is very similar to elamists, hardcore federalists or strong liberal ideologists: pakyasorthy, dbs jeyaraj, sunila abeysekera, nimalka Fernando, vasudeva nanayak, thisaranee gunasek, jaaympathi wickramarathne, sumathiran, Malcolm ranjith, jayadewa uyangoda, dew gunasekera, ranil abeysekera, willie senanayake, tissa witharana, sisira jayasuriya, vickramabahu karunarathne, Asath Salley, mano ganeshan, jayantha dhanapala and chandrikaa kumarathunga. I heard after denzil kobbekaduwa funeral some patriots attacked him and he fled in nude. the danger with dayan is he is too leftist – he once upset the Buckingham palace where he criticized the Queen and Israel protested against his diplomatic position in Geneva. dayan worships Castro, Castro ideology is ok, but fundamentally he made Cuba poor. dayan should remain a columnist not a diplomat, Dayan is not sympathetic to the Sinhala Buddhist. If given goodies, he may drop Castro and sleep with Uncle Sam

  6. Indrajith Says:

    Since Malindha has mentioned her name, can I ask someone to let me and other readers know who Thisaranee is? By her first name, she is a devoted Buddhists (one who devoted to Buddha, Dhamma and Sanga); but by her writing it is clear that she is a number one enemies of Sinhala Buddhists.

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