Democracy is a strange word. How else one can explain the fact that the Democrats in America were against giving full citizen rights to black dwellers in that country. The party advocated westward expansion, greater equality among all white men, and opposition to the equality of all humans.
In 1860 the Civil War began between the mostly-Republican North against the mostly-Democratic, slave-holding South. Abraham Lincoln had to fight against racism; as president he is best remembered for leading the Union through the Civil War and freeing Confederate slaves with the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation; for delivering the Gettysburg Address, the most famous oration in American history, on November 19, 1863. In March 1857, the Supreme Court issued its decision; Chief Justice Roger Taney opined that blacks were not citizens, and derived no rights from the Constitution. While many Democrats hoped that this ruling would end the dispute over slavery in the territories, the decision sparked further outrage in the North.
Lincoln denounced the decision, alleging it was the product of a conspiracy of Democrats. Lincoln argued, “The authors of the Declaration of Independence never intended ‘to say all were equal in colour, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity’, but they ‘did consider all men created equal—equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’.
At the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery on November 19, 1863, the address he made became the most quoted speech in American history. In 272 words, and three minutes, Lincoln asserted the nation was born not in 1789, but in 1776, “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He defined the war as an effort dedicated to these principles of liberty and equality for all. The emancipation of slaves was now part of the national war effort. He declared that the deaths of so many brave soldiers would not be in vain, that slavery would end as a result of the losses, and the future of democracy in the world would be assured, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. Lincoln concluded that the Civil War had a profound objective: a new birth of freedom in the world.
World War I
While American history gives that message Russian history emphasizes different aspect of the struggle for democracy.
After overthrow of Czar after a struggle Kerensky assumed power as a democratic leader Provisional Government. Right wing promoted army strong man Kornilov. The major challenge was that Russia was exhausted after three years of its participation in World War I, while the provisional government offered little motivation for a victory outside of continuing Russia’s obligations towards its allies.
Russia’s continued involvement in the war was not popular among the lower and middle classes, and especially not popular among the soldiers. They had all believed that Russia would stop fighting when the Provisional Government took power, and now they felt deceived. Furthermore, Lenin and his Bolshevik party were promising “peace, land, and bread” under a soviet system. The army was disintegrating owing to a lack of discipline, leading to desertion in large numbers. By autumn 1917, an estimated two million men had unofficially left the army.
During the Kornilov right wing uprising, Kerensky had distributed arms to the Petrograd workers, and with their help defeated the conspiracy but failed to consolidate democracy or peace in the country. The threat of the right wing conspiracy was not over. By November most of these armed workers had gone over to the Bolsheviks. On October 25–26, 1917, the Bolsheviks launched the second Russian revolution of the year. Kerensky’s government in Petrograd had almost no support in the city. He was overwhelmed by the numerically superior pro-Bolshevik forces. It took fewer than 20 hours for the Bolsheviks to seize the government and defeat right wing conspiracy. Latter established soviet democracy.
In this historical background we have to discuss the emergence of democracy of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, the fearless leader who signed an agreement with Prabhakaran and dedicatedly searched for an outcome without the disaster of a full-scale war. PM Wickremesinghe is celebrating his 40th year in politics. By now he has become the leader of liberalism combined with social capitalism. This combination of liberal democracy has developed recently influenced by post modernism. He has been influenced by the developments in Germany and Thrudowian Canada.
The problem of liberalism has been exposed by Marxist leaders such as Marx, Lenin and particularly by Trotsky. In the struggle for democracy and social justice there is hardly a separate liberal base in urban society in developing countries like Lanka.
The vacillation of liberal leaders arises due to the lack of stability in the social base. The professional middle class is no substitute as they usually help right wing, dictatorial elements to take power. In this situation it is the duty of the left and workers’ leaders to intervene positively to carry out the tasks of democratic revolution. Strangely enough, during the Second World War it was Winston Churchill who countered the vacillations of liberalism of conservative leaders and mobilized masses against fascism of Hitler.
Second World War
Churchill was not a leftist of any kind and he was thrown into “wilderness” during the 1930’s because of his opposition to increased home rule for India and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of King Edward. However Churchill took the lead in warning about fascist Hitler and in campaigning for rearmament. He understood the nature of fascism better than Chamberlin. On September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany following the outbreak of the Second World War, Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, the same position he had held during the first part of the First World War. As such he was a member of Chamberlain’s small War Cabinet. His speeches and radio broadcasts helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult days of 1940–41 when the British Commonwealth and Empire stood almost alone in its active opposition to Hitler’s fascism. Later he led Britain as Prime Minister until after the German surrender in 1945.
In July 1945, after Germany had surrendered but not Japan, Britain held its first general election in a decade. To the surprise of many, Churchill’s Conservative Party lost in a landslide, having been successfully portrayed by the Labour Party as anti-worker and anti-welfare. But his seat he won defeating combine opposition candidate. “They have a perfect right to kick us out,” he purportedly said upon hearing the news. “That is democracy. That is what we have been fighting for.” He returned to the premiership in 1951, remaining there until ill health induced him to resign three-and-a-half years later.
Mahinda camp believes that the turning point has come! Apparently they were waiting for the day to show their might in mass unrest. Criminal attraction created by anti SAITM, Polpot gode socialist attacks made by the student movement and misguided trade unions are the treasures of the Mahinda fascistic campaign. These are bogus affairs from top to bottom. May be it is a display attractive only to the miserable and marginalized. However, the fascistic Joint Opposition was partially successful in political and psychological terms when it used media to make people believe that it succeeded in ensuring large scale break down in the day-to-day affairs. Fascistic politics are not based on reality. Hence they are happy, so their programme is implemented. Recently they have increased many fold the sabotage actions.
Unfortunately, leaders of Yahapalana government including PM Wickremesinghe, are undisturbed about the negative development taking place. The recent handling of strikes and student unrest has of course improved the image of leaders. Some say Ranil Wickremesinghe is over confident and dismisses Mahinda group activities as primitive politics rejected by civilized humans.
However Polpot socialist youth, campaign against what they called Indian expansionist actions. Two controversial matters currently being negotiated between the two countries are the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) and the Trincomalee harbour project that revolves around the lease of oil tanks. While conscious workers understand that if properly handled ETCA could be helpful to expand the job opportunities and open the Indian market for our goods, there has generated a formidable opposition amongst sections of the local business community and professionals. The general belief is that medical doctors of the government Medical Doctors’
Association is opposing because they fear that they will not be able to withstand Indian competition.
With 40 years experience can PM Wickremesinghe go beyond historical impediments to implement a democratic solution to the ills of the country?