Lessons to be learnt from Mandela’s nationalism -Part II
Posted on December 26th, 2013

H. L. D. Mahindapala

 Nelson Mandela triumphed gloriously by tapping into S. African nationalism ” the indelible political force still alive in global politics despite the theoreticians pooh-poohing nationalism as something of the past. When President Barack Obama says “God Bless America” he is expressing patriotism at the highest divine and terrestrial levels. When David Cameron sings “God Save the Queen” he is glorifying his Queen and his country which, incidentally, stands, in essence, only for the Westernized-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant (WASP) ideology.

 In  subtle but over-determining ways White-Christian supremacy reigns supreme in the West. While tolerating non-white minorities under liberal principles in a limited way the supremacy of the dominant white majority remains intact. They reveal their fangs whenever they perceive that their White-Christian culture is threatened by the minorities. The hostile legislative, political and social reaction to the Muslim  minorities in Western societies reveal that non-White-Christian cultures are tolerated only as long as they are not a threat to the dominant White-Christian  culture. The non-White-Christian minorities have a place only as a marginal entity that lies low without disturbing the dominance of the majority.

 For instance, Barack Obama was elected as president not because he was black but because he was more white than George Bush. He has killed more civilians than Bush. He has strengthened the American empire more than Bush. Though his rhetoric is dove-ish his practices go beyond that of Bush to sit down every Tuesday in the White House and decide with his co-killers in the CIA, State Department, FBI etc., as to who should live and who should die to preserve “the core interests of the American nation”. This is the political meaning of “God bless America”: asking God to give America all the power it needs to eliminate its perceived enemies, whether it be in its own backyard in Wacko or distant Yemen.

 Take also the example of the highest  public symbols. Take the case of their national flags. No special/significant place for minorities is given like in the case of the multi-ethnic Sri Lankan flag. The Union Jack and the American are symbols only of the White-Christian man and do not reflect the multi-ethnic composition of their nations. And both national anthems are sung only in English. The Hispanics in America  ( 52 million constituting nearly 17%) are fighting tooth and nail to have Spanish recognized as a language of the states without any success. Flags and languages are highest national symbols and practices of all nations. They also represent the overall cultural composition of the nation. They define the underlying social layers that go to make the nation. So when it comes to recognizing and expressing pluralism and multi-ethnic values how far has the US and UK flags, currencies, stamps, passports, official forms etc., gone to accommodate the minorities in comparison with that of Sri Lanka? Doesn’t the Sri Lankan flag stand out like that of a rainbow nation compared to the exclusively white supremacists symbols of the Western neo-colonialists?

 Those who decry nationalism invariably have refused to recognize the undying and reinvigorating forces of nationalism. The fashionable theoretical propositions that announced the premature death of nation states, especially with the rise of regional blocs and market forces cutting across sovereign borders, have yet to explain how the UN has been growing over the years into an entity of 193 nation states, with no end in sight. Post-World War II  and post-Cold War periods, which decolonized Western and Russian empires, saw the biggest rise of nation states. Even the revolutionary movements of China, Vietnam and Cuba were driven primarily by nationalism though the theoreticians attributed their success to Marxism. Mao, Ho Chi-Minh and Castro were essentially nationalists dressed in the garb of Marxism. Besides, Marxism was supposed to unite mankind  in a brotherhood of workers. But Sino-Soviet border clashes, Sino-Vietnam wars debunk this Marxist theory. These wars establish that nationalism was a far more potent force than the brotherhood of the workers.

 Leading revolutionary movements of the 20th century tend to substantiate the thesis that the success of Marxism was more due to nationalism than to class antagonisms. Practically, all the revolutionary movements that won were against foreign imperialists than against the local bourgeoisie. Even the October Revolution in Russia was a coup staged by the Marxist elite and not a mass revolution that rose up from the ground, awakened by Marxism. The subsequent success of pragmatic Stalin over theoretical Trotsky, with his theoretically desirable but practically unattainable permanent global revolution, can be attributed to the power of home-grown solutions over airy-fairy internationalism.

 As seen in the total collapse of the USSR nationalism knocked Marx’s class war into a cocked hat. It was essentially an elitist ideology. For instance, Sri Lankan Marxists, consisting initially of the returnees from the West, became the pop culture mainly of the English-educated middle class, with devotees from Prof. E. F. C. Ludowyk’s English Department rushing to embrace it as a panacea for all evils.  Eventually the Trotskyite elite at the top divided themselves into sub-atomic particles, supposed to be on theoretical differences though in reality, as Reggie Perera once told me, it was all about personal rivalries of the leaders at the top to exploit the  misled  masses for  their personal gain. What appealed to the English-educated middle class Trotskyites was the anti-British nationalism more than hair-splitting dialectical materialism. They saw the Senanayakes and the Bandaranaikes as the Brown Sahibs who had replaced the White Sahibs. Decades later, when Marxism fell into the hands of the Sinhala-educated youth they abandoned the incomplete and inadequate theoretical Marxist ballyhoo and turned it into a force of nationalism reduced to five lectures, some of which were anti-Indian and anti-Tamil.

 The first wave of Marxists were spearheaded by one-eyed theoretical Jacks who sought to impose imported theories to grass-roots issues. In the evolving post-independent stages when the nation was looking for directions the Marxists were asking stupid questions like “What would Lenin do in these circumstances?” while D. S. Senanayake and S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike  applied home-grown solutions to national problems. “DS”, “SWRD” and now President Mahinda Rajapakse triumphed because they championed Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism. Repeatedly, nationalism has been the consistent winner beating all other anti-national forces, be it left-wing Marxism or right-wing Ranilism, which is allied to pro-Tamil federalism/separatism, pro-West, pro-Indian politics.  

 The lessons are there for anyone with eyes to see on the score board. “SWRD” beat Sir John Kotelawela hands down because the latter was identified as an anti-national, Westernized alien ” just like Ranil Wickremesinghe. Sir John was accused of roasting a pig on spit in the Buddha Jayanthi year. And Ranil Wickremesinghe roasted our heroic soldiers on Thoppigala when they were sacrificing their lives to save the nation. The current cosmetics of a  Leadership Council, or the tinkering with the various non-functioning parts of the UNP’s dilapidated electoral machine, will not lift them into the seats of power. This is why Sajith Premadasa, more than others in the UNP, is seen as an acceptable and credible figure : he projects the image, like his father, of a man coming from grass root Sinhala-Buddhist forces. Nor has he denigrated the nationalist  forces that won  the Vadukoddai War. Even the minor parties like the JVP and the JHU came up because they pursued the nationalist line.

 In politics people have the instinctive capacity to (1) identify their collective interests and (2) who can serve those interests best. Their consistent political behaviour reveals that they invariably rely in times of crisis on  nationalists as their most  reliable saviours. This is something that Ranil Wickremesinghe and his anti-national “henchaiyas” who surround him will never learn. With the threat of India looming large, with the menace of the Tamil diaspora breathing fire against the nation, with the Western  powers flexing their muscle to destabilize Sri Lanka, a la Syria, the people have nowhere to go except into the arms of President Mahinda Rajapakse. Wickremesinghe has been  heading closer and closer to the anti-national forces with each crisis. The more he goes in that direction the more the people turn to Mahinda Rajapakse. The electoral failure of Wickremesinghe can be attributed to one single factor: people do not trust him because he is identified too much with anti-national forces, both internal and external.

 The inner coterie which controls the levers of power in the UNP are trying to save Wickremesinghe instead of saving the party and/or the nation. Their capacity to ignore the fundamental forces that gang up  against anti-national Wickremesinghe is, to say the least, astounding. They have only to look at the Indian neighbourhood to see the emerging trends. Modi is on the rise because  he represents the Hindutva dogma which has no hesitation in crushing the Muslim minority. Hindutva is on the rise again. It also means the rise of Hindutva imperialism. It’s time for Indian neighbours and minorities to be on their guard. Having  crushed the Muslims in India  he  is also talking  tough on Kashmir. Whether it is for good or bad, it is clear that nationalism, in whatever form it appears, pays dividends. Wickremesinghe and his gang of “yes-men.” are the only suicidal maniacs who not only refuse to read the signs staring  in their faces but also kill the ideals on which their founding fathers built the nation.

 This explains why he has failed repeatedly at the polls. The people have been willing to pay any price for nationalism. But they will not buy anything from traitors. And Wickremesinghe is doomed to go down in history as the man who could not save himself, let alone the nation. He has tried every trick in the book and failed. Why? If you take the ground realities every factor should  have merged into a one gigantic force to win over Mahinda Rajapakse. But he has failed for the simple reason that the people trust Mahinda Rajapakse and not Wickremesinghe  And people trust Mahinda Rajapakse because they know that he will fight for the nation and not cow down to anti-national forces. Whereas Wickremesinghe hopes to win by running down the nation. It’s as simple as that.

 At best he is a con artist. His most  laughable con act ” apart from marketing his “juck-muck” politics by riding bullock carts against  the cost of living — was to wave the Sri Lankan flag with R. Sampanthan in Jaffna. He was hoping  to impress the nation that he had conquered the north by waving the flag with Sampanthan. But no one believes that they are committed defenders of the Lion flag. The convincing proof will be when Sampanthan and C. V. Wigneswaram, the Chief Minister, will raise the national flag in the north. Can Ranil make that happen?

 It is the failure of Wickremesinghe’s political stunts that has made him the joker in the  pack. The steady decline of the vote bank under Wickremesinghe’s leadership indicates clearly that he is not wanted by the people. The divisions within the party and the mass exodus from the UNP to the government indicate that he is not wanted by the Party. And the fact that he is propped up by a few of his “henchaiyas” leads to the conclusion that he is a dead man walking. As a last resort his “henchaiyas” have decided to keep him in the ice box, hoping  that  the electorate will come round to accept UNP cryonics : the unproven art of reviving corpses preserved in a frozen state until they can be revived in a future  date that is not on the calendar.

 When he decided to back Gen. Sarath Fonseka as the presidential candidate in the  last election it was  a public admission that he was not fit to be the leader of the nation. Obviously, he conceded that the people will vote for Fonseka and not him. Now he is negotiating  with other parties for the next leader to contest Mahinda Rajapakse. He has no winning card for bargaining with any party. Any common  front in the opposition must find a candidate  who can  beat Mahinda Rajapakse ” and there is none.  Even the parties with whom Wickremesinghe is negotiating will not want  him as the next candidate. Finally, the fact that he is not wanted by the Party was demonstrated for all to see when he was kicked upstairs as Leader of a Council of Yes-men.

 And it is this unwanted loser who had the gumption to announce that Mandela could have continued to be the leader if he wanted to but he didn’t. Clearly, he was lauding the  ideal standard set by Mandela as a lesson to Sri Lankan leaders. So why doesn’t he give the lead by following Mandela’s example and go home for good? More than to the people he would be doing the greatest service to himself, particularly to his reputation of which there is none left.

2 Responses to “Lessons to be learnt from Mandela’s nationalism -Part II”

  1. Christie Says:

    Mandela was in sense a victim of Indian colonialism and imperialism. He went to India to pay homage to Mohandas Karamchan Gandhi, the ian er

  2. Christie Says:

    “Guptagte” summarizes the power of India, Indians, and Indian colonial parasites in South Africa. Nelson Mandela as President Zuma are in the hands of Indians.

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