| by Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne
(November 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The year 1971, was a turbulent time. Government which swept to power claiming a socialist revolution had to face a youth rebellion led by a party claiming to be socialist! It appeared to be a belated revolt. It was meant to be an uprising against the pro imperialist UNP regime, which the youth leaders, Wijeweera and others, assumed to be a power that could not be defeated in an election.
Socialism via Parliament
They believed that a well knit plan was there to install a dictatorship in case of an electoral defeat. However, instead of a right wing dictatorship a populist government came to power which promised socialism through parliament. Various dissatisfied elements were there to push the impatient youth into action. The result was the 71 insurrection which led to a repression, killing more than ten thousand Sinhala youth. The rebellion, instead of consolidating the right wing, compelled the government to move against the bourgeoisie. The Business Undertakings (Acquisition) Act, No. 35 of 1971 was one of the instruments put forward to tame capitalism. The Act empowered the government in the following manner. “Requisitioning of property ; Taking possession of property acquired by or vested in the Government; compulsory transfer to the Government of property; Power of Minister of Finance to direct a bank in which the proprietor of any business undertaking has an account not to permit him to operate such account; powers of entry and inspection and power to demarcate premises used for or required by any business undertaking; to call for information and to make copies of any documents; notice of claim or disclaimer in respect of any property; http://www.lawlanka.com/lal/actSelectedSection?chapterid=1971Y0V0C35A§ionno=16 Appointment of a competent authority to manage and administer the affairs of any business undertaking acquired by or vested in the Government.”
However we know that no socialism was achieved by these regulations. In the first place there cannot be socialism in one country and certainly not in a small under developed country like ours. Clearly, up to today there is no socialism in Cuba or elsewhere. Yes, Cuba and Venezuela have achieved success in health and education sectors, with a stand against poverty and inequity. At the same time we do not find complete free expression or open public debates in these countries. However in both countries the pro proletarian power has controlled the excesses of the bourgeoisie.
Even in Lanka one could argue that act no 35 was used to frighten the capitalists who violated Labour laws and provident fund regulations. But it was certainly used to frighten and demolish local investors who were not prepared to support various leaders of the government. Up to now no one has explained why Buhari Hotel, a small hotel that provided lunch & dinner to local people, was nationalized. At the same time all positive actions suggested by defenders of the act, could have been done with the existing finance regulations, Labour laws and provident fund regulations. If that law could not serve the purpose of a ‘socialist’ government, I fail to under stand how a similar law could help the Mahinda regime that has committed to free market policies of neo liberalism. I can see only one way it could help neo liberal international forces. The proposed act could be utilized to take over local enterprises with the view to sell these to MNCs protected by Pentagon and Indian military power. On the other hand it can be used against all business houses that could support opposition political movements; particularly those who are involved in media and publishing activities. In any case this law will be a threat only to the local capitalists. All foreign investors will be protected by international agreements and military powwows of the global masters. Mahinda regime, as a slave of global powers is committed to protect all foreign investors, even if they are loss making and bankrupt.
Mahinda is making such comic political steps, yet existing without much harm, because of the poor performance of the main opposition. With, out dated policies and irrational slogans, parliamentary opposition has no attraction to the radical workers or the youth. There is protest and displeasure waiting for a positive leadership.