What is to be done?

Keywords by Dr. Charitha Herath

It was V.I. Lenin, a practical and revolutionary leader of the Marxist system, who raised the famous question “what is to be done” in his political writings. Lenin’s issue which led to posing such a question was partially a theoretical one.

Rather contrasting to Marx’s position, which has identified the “class consciousness” of the suppress classes as the dominant force of changing the system, Lenin conceptualised that the “agent of revolution” should not be the class but the Revolutionary Party.

This party, according to Lenin, should be formed comprising the people with professional knowledge on the system and the revolution, so that they could convert the class consciousness of the suppressed group into a revolution.

My point in this article is not linked with any revolution or party system of the country. I only borrowed Lenin’s term to emphasise on the issues of “what is to be done” within the context of post-Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka.

As many would agree with me, the situation in the country after this attack has not yet been neutralised. In fact, it can be seen that the state of affairs in some areas are moving towards catastrophe than before.

The economic disaster that occurred with this incident has not even been countered yet. The tourism and aviation sectors have been severely damaged. The security aspect has been normalised in some ways, although the threats of possible attacks have also been wired every single day.

The country’s educational system has been jeopardised completely, although, yet again, the Government has been announcing many different “success stories” through its media outfits. The mentality of the people has completely reverted, as it seems to me, to the petrifying point of “old war days” of the South in 1989 or the North during 1983-2009. Adding insult to the injury, the President and the Prime Minister sit next to each other only to refrain from facing each other.

Further exacerbating the crisis is another development demonstrated within our society where the people have come to completely distrust the State. It seems to me that this development of such magnitude is a first to this country.

Although it is true that the people attacked the state in some contexts, such as in 1971 or 1989, we somehow did not undergo this kind of an experience in our recent history.

Neither the President nor the Prime Minister’s appeals have been taken seriously by the people! So now, Lenin’s question resurfaces to our consciousness…what is to be done now?

My ‘to do list’

First and foremost, the Government should take the responsibility as the authoritative entity primarily responsible for the national security of this country.

Pointing fingers at lower rank officers or at each other within the Government should be drawn to a stand at least now, along with the Government also preventing the interventions of the so-called “civil society” (who are paid by the Government!) that slings mud to many unrelated persons or agencies.

The demonstration of integrity by the Government is of paramount importance in this conjuncture to win the respect and engagement of the people.

Secondly, the differences shown between the President and the Prime Minister should be put aside at least till the country recovers back to normalcy – there should be one voice and message on behalf of the Government.

Now what we witness is multiple voices coming from different individuals from the Presidential Secretariat or Temple Trees and beside the message from the Police Spokesman, everyone else either makes the citizens overcome with anger or humour.

This behaviour should be stopped at least for a couple of weeks.

It is advisable to examine the way this issue was handled by the Catholic Church. Alhough they were the “most affected party” of this tragedy, the Cardinal stood firm in sending a clear message, effectively and optimistically.

Therefore, my request to the Government is to appoint one person (of course, not one with the persona of Rajitha or Ranjan) to deliver a clear message to the people in a way they would listen.

Thirdly, both sides of the Government should clearly declare as to when the people would get the chance to exercise their voting power. In short, people should be informed when the election would be held. As we all know, the balance sheet of this Government with regard to the elections – a main part representing democracy – has become completely and terribly bad; the assurance on the next election would is crucial.

I think the priority of the people with regard to getting back to normalcy on their part relates with the issue of getting rid of fear. They fear for their lives, their children’s, and their future.

So it seems to me that the main worry a common person currently has is setting his or her mind on a “peaceful and futuristic” goal in this complicated and messy environment. Giving a guideline to the people and granting them the opportunity to practise their own democratic rights is a must in this situation.

I think these three points are a collective answer for the question “what is to be done?”.

(Dr. Charitha Herath is a senior lecturer at the University of Peradeniya and you can reach him through Twitter @charith9)