This speech has been unusually difficult for me to prepare, because I am so angry with the whole world, and most of the people in it, including many of the victims of oppression. I will explain underway. I try to speak my talks and not read them, but this topic is too complex for me to rely on my spontaneity, so I have chosen to write it, and then rewrite it, and end up still angry.
Why did I, a white westerner get involved in this crazy world of Sinhalese and Tamils? I knew nothing about Sri Lanka until the end of the internal war, May 2009. I was asked by the Latin American Friendship Association in Tamil Nadu, India to look into it, because they knew of my work with Cuba and the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of our America (ALBA).
I am rooted in Martin Luther King’s premise: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”.
I got involved in solidarity with your people’s struggle because you have been so brutally treated, and because of the moral principle of solidarity with the oppressed, the struggle for justice.
In the land of my birth, The Devil’s Own Country, I experienced similar injustice committed against the native peoples and the black people as Tamils suffer. In the 1960-70s, I joined with millions of brothers and sisters of all colors to fight racism, to struggle for equal rights, for education and health care for all, the basic right to vote, and to assist the Vietnamese-Cambodians-Laotians win back their countries from the invading Yankees. We did help end the war in favor of the invaded peoples, and black people did achieve most equal rights.
But now, decades later, the world still looks as bad or even worse.
I recently read Under My Skin, Doris Lessing’s first volume of her autobiography. She wrote this nearly 20 years ago when in her 70s. I quote from a passage on page 282 that took place during World War II or soon afterwards:
“We took it for granted that when the working class – or the blacks or any other disadvantaged people – took power, they would be inspired by only the purest and most disinterested ideals.”
What do we have in the world today so long afterwards?
1. A black-faced man as the most powerful president in the world engaging in more aggressive wars at one time than any time in US history. And where I live, Denmark, the so-called “red” government continues murdering people in Afghanistan and backing up capitalism just as the neo-liberal government did.
2. Former Tamil leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) once fighting for the welfare and liberation of an entire people now engage in murdering, raping, kidnapping into slavery and prostitution, robbing their own people. Karuna, Devananda, Pillaivan—leaders of the groups TMVP, ERDP and others—work for some of the most vicious rulers in the modern world, the Rajapaksa family regime which commits genocide against the Tamil people.
3. Declared Marxists, Communists, Maoists, Trotskyists, Buddhist monks ally with the Rajapaksa reign and other Sinhalese mass murdering regimes before them.
4. Black, brown, yellow-skin people once achieving government power have committed genocide or mass murder and other violent crimes against their own people. Former revolutionary leaders, many of them former guerrillas who fought for liberation of the masses or ethnic groups in many countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe now work for capitalism and material riches.
The United States committed genocide against the Vietnamese, who are now engaging in capitalism as is China, led by the false Communist party.
5. Cuba, the most successful revolutionary nation promising equality, an end to racism and poverty based upon a socialist economy and aligned with the oppressed of the world is now regressing towards capitalism and inequality, and with a foreign policy that backs the vicious Sinhalese chauvinist governments and ignores the suffering plight of the Tamil people.
I am deeply hurt and disappointed that the government of Cuba—where I lived and worked side by side with the people and government for eight years—as well as the socialistic-progressive governments of Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American governments have not understood that their own principle of international solidarity must apply to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka.
Cuba with the other ALBA countries contend that they are opposed to the United States and European countries “intervening” in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. But, in reality, all that the US asks is that the Sri Lankan government investigate itself and find some scapegoats to punish for massive war crimes that can no longer be hidden. But the greatest terrorist states’ minor critique of Rajapaksa’s government for “possibly” committing war crimes is only a symbol of critique, which allows these false “democracies” to maintain a public stance, in order to obtain votes from people who can be beguiled that they are really concerned about the human rights of any people. This is the perennial Human Rights Geo-Political Game.
ALBA cannot help but know this is so. They know that the US-UK-France-Israel and others in their alliance have all along supported Sri Lankan chauvinist governments with money, intelligence, surveillance, armaments, military boats and aircraft.
The progressive governments must have forgotten the Marxist principle of self-determination, the very moral principle of the right to life, the right to equality. What would the current government of Cuba mean today about what Fidel Castro told author-photographer Lee Lockwood?
Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies… Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.1
What do Cuba and ALBA governments think today of Lenin and Marx on the matter of self-determination? In Lenin’s 1916 theses, “The socialist revolution and the right of nations to self-determination”, he wrote:
Victorious socialism must achieve complete democracy and, consequently, not only bring about the complete equality of nations, but also give effect to the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, i.e., the right to free political secession.
Today this would mean that since the proclaimed socialist state of Sri Lanka—led by a self-proclaimed coalition of socialists, communists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Buddhist monks—refuses to grant equal rights to Tamils and maintains discrimination in language, religion, education and jobs it is necessary that the Tamils achieve self-determination through “free political secession”.
Karl Marx, who lived so many years in England and is buried there, supported national independence for Ireland and did so in the interests of the socialist movement of the British workers. Marx wrote in a letter, April 9, 1870: “It is [Britain’s oppression of Ireland] the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite their organization, it is the secret of which the capitalist class maintains its power.”
This is exactly the situation for the past six decades in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese workers have been fooled by the Sinhalese ruling class’ promulgation of racism and chauvinism, and the religious system of castes, to discriminate against Tamils. And Tamils have not been insightful enough to try to create working class and solidarity alliances with other ethnic and religious groups.
6. The peoples’ whistle blowing medium Wikileaks is a major factor in our knowing as much as we do today about the crimes of state. These communicators, especially those under attack by the terrorist governments—Julian Assange and Bradley Manning—must be supported. If our joint enemy succeeds in crushing them we will all suffer because of it.
Why is it, then, that there are so few of the 99% who are actually engaged in anti-capitalist action? Why do most of the workers, the poor and disenfranchised still cling to supporting one or another of the capitalist political parties?
The answer(s) could lie in a lack of confidence in our selves as worker leaders. We place too great a reliance on authorities be they religious or spiritual gurus or political leaders. India, for example, is still a hot bed of authoritarianism, which I witnessed recently during my book tour. The caste system is as thoroughly racist as apartheid. It is absolutely maniacal that racism is practiced within the same race or nationality or religion. This self-defeating practice is capitalism’s greatest weapon to divide and conquer. Socialism is absolutely impossible as long as people fall into the self-defeating trap of perpetuating castes and discrimination of one ethnic group over another.
We must realize that government leaders, and most religious-spiritual leaders, are not like us. They are well paid by our taxes, and many skim money from the public tills and under-the-table deals. They do not suffer materially. They are not unemployed or homeless. We must drop the illusion that they will save us.
There are positive struggles
Despite my despair of the inhumanity of humanity we do have some positive movements underway now. The Mondragon cooperatives in Spain is a possible vehicle for the transition from capitalism to socialism, at least the workers are also owners and decision-makers, which is more than socialist states accomplished. The Bolivian indigenous culture to Live Well, and not to live better—never content with just enough—is another equalitarian movement. Another great step forward is that of Occupy Wall Street. The OWS has extended into many US cities and a few other countries. In one important way, it is more advanced than the movements I was part of in the 1960s-70s. Our movements were usually single-issue oriented. Only a minority of us held socialist or communist views and we could not organize any significant movement for socialism. The OWS starts from the logic that it is capitalism that is the true culprit. This movement has to move out to the working class and convince them of this reality. I know many are making efforts.
Then we have Arab Spring. Here are millions of people literally risking their lives, willing to be killed while fighting through non-violent actions a democratic form of rule with jobs and food for the majority who are poor. I am not referring to Libya, which is a different struggle—one mainly rooted in war lord clans seeking national power supported by the imperialists. They were successful in aborting the desires of the initial protestors who were, in fact, positively influenced by the masses in Tunisia and Egypt. Even though two brutal dictators were thrown out, the capitalist system led by the army and corporations are still in control. The US-NATO’s key ally Saudi Arabia is used to brutally put down protestors in Bahrain. Today, the situation in Syria is most complicated. All sorts of forces are at play and there is no clear revolutionary force fighting for justice and equality midst the clash of national and foreign powers’ manipulations.
The Human Rights Game!
As we meet, the 19th session of the so-called Human Rights Council is meeting. Nothing will come out of this farce to favor the Tamil people. The US had hoped that Rajapaksa would ease real critique of his war crimes by adopting his own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s mild findings and recommendations, and that he would say so at this HRC session. But the arrogant king of the lions did not feel compelled to lift even that finger. He has had all the support he needs from the west and genocidal Zionist Israel all these years, and in latter years from India, Russia, China and Iran. But western governments live in an historical conjuncture where they need to raise the façade of protecting human rights, in order to pacify their populations and to conduct “humanitarian operation” wars for profit and global domination.
Unlike in previous years, however, the US now feels like pushing the human rights button a bit more firmly since it has lost its hope of obtaining access to Trincomalee harbor for a naval base. The rising super-power China already obtained its naval-commercial port at Hambontota, and it looks like either it or the former super-power Russia will be granted the Trincomalee port too.
The latest information is that the US will introduce its own resolution regarding Sri Lanka in the last week of the HRC session (March 19-23). It purportedly will call upon the government to implement “the constructive recommendations in the LLRC report and additionally to take immediate steps to…address serious allegations of violations of international law by initiating credible and independent investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for such violations.”
As in the special HRC session in May 2009, the US and its European allies are calling upon Sri Lanka’s government to police itself. But this time, given its loss of favoritism, the US has added that it should initiate “independent investigations”, albeit the US does not back the UN’s own expert panel report calling for “an international independent investigation”.
There is a fine line between the government’s own LLRC and what the US is calling for but there is much fanfare in the world community of geo-politics. Cuba-ALBA, and the Non-Aligned Movement of 113 nations generally, resist, understandably enough, when the major imperialist state and its allies among the former colonial powers demand that they do this or that. Cuba-ALBA lands had long been forced to bow to these demands. While Cuba-ALBA are not terrorist states as are the US-EU-NATO states, they have fallen into the trap of “an enemy of my enemy is my friend”. What they fail to recognize, or admit, is that the western powers are not the only terrorist states. They fall into the double morality trap of backing the sovereignty of all Third World governments no matter how they treat their populations. Sri Lanka government is a terrible violator of human rights, and not just against the Tamils, but also against Muslims, the indigenous tribes, and it also exploits Sinhalese workers, the poor, and lower castes.
Cuba has told Sri Lanka that it “extends its utmost support to Sri Lanka at the 19th Summit of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.” The Cuban ambassador to Sri Lanka who conveyed this message of President Raul Castro is named Nursia Castro Guevara, of all names. She stated that her government “vehemently rejects fake allegations on human rights against Sri Lanka”.
It is immoral, it is a shame that Cuba totally dismisses the testimony of thousands of eye witnesses to and victims of mass murders, rapes, incarceration; and then dismiss as well serious reports by international organizations, including the findings of the UN expert panel on accountability, the videos broadcast by Channel Four, the diplomatic correspondence leaked by Wikileaks.
My statements here must not be taken out of context and misinterpreted, as Sri Lankan officials and some Cuba-ALBA solidarity people have done, to represent my position as one of siding with the US. I have not supported US governments for half-a-century.
I predict that the majority on the HRC will vote against the US’s mild resolution to be put forth and they will do so, in part, because of opposition to the US’s constant human rights abuse in many parts of the world.
But the fact that the US will lose its resolution will result in a victory for it. That nothing will occur at the HRC to force the hand of Sri Lanka’s war crimes will be used by the “democratic” West to pontificate against Cuba-ALBA, NAM, Russia, China, Iran complicity with war crimes. And these war crimes, which the US & co. helped create, will remain without accountability just as the US actually wishes. Otherwise, if there were a real investigation, the US’s own dirty linen could be exposed. Yet for many millions of unaware people in the US, the West generally, and elsewhere, it will seem as though these governments are the good guys fighting the bad guys—communists and former communists, and “colored third world” governments. It should mean a lot of votes for the puppet president of the US.
What can be done!
Tamils must not rely on the greatest terrorist in the world to help them. The Yankees offer no help without dire costs. The United States of America kills tens of millions; tortures hundreds of thousands; starves hundreds of millions. We must be aware that since World War 11, the US has invaded or intervened militarily 160 times in 66 countries. At present they are murdering people in seven countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and until recently in Libya where their allies continue murdering people. They arm some Syrian rebel elements and prepare to invade Iran, or let Israel do so.
Without US support to Israel, the Palestinians would be a free people today. Zionist Israel commits genocide against the Palestinian people. It offered Mossad intelligence, great amounts of weaponry, fast Dvora naval attack craft, Kfir killer aircraft and even pilots to Sri Lanka to murder the Tamils. After the end of the war, Sri Lanka sent its military chief-of-staff, Donald Perera, to Israel as its ambassador as a reward for Zionist assistance. He told the largest Zionist daily, Yedioth Abornoth,: “I consider your country a partner in the war against terror,” thus coupling terrorism with the Palestinians’ struggle for their homeland and the Tamils’ right to exist in peace and equality. He also supported the cold-blooded murders in international waters, on May 31, 2010, of nine Turkish solidarity activists bound for Gaza with survival supplies.
I believe that your organizations must create grass roots organizations and discuss these realities. You have to abandon false hopes and stop wasting time lobbying terrorist states. You need to discuss these realities with people’s grass roots and indigenous organizations and unions in Latin America, Palestine and elsewhere where people are struggling for sovereignty, for liberation. You must explain to them your history, why you had to take up arms and fight for separation, for an independent nation. They have to hear of your suffering, of your struggles, why Tamil Eelam, political separation is a necessity when ruling powers will not grant a people their basic democratic and equal rights.
The progressive governments have won majority votes for new constitutions in Bolivia, in Ecuador, in Venezuela that grant equal rights to their indigenous peoples. In Bolivia, for instance, under the new constitution there are four official national languages, three of them are indigenous as well as Spanish. If these people could know you simply want these same rights, they might listen to you and stop backing Sri Lanka.
Tamils, stand up to all terrorist states, which also support the terrorist state of Sri Lanka!
We must work for a worldwide boycott of Sri Lanka and join in the boycott of Israel.
We must communicate with other people who are struggling for their rights and join forces.
We must join with others to combat the growing racism-fascism in the West against Muslims and Arabs.
We must prove the case of genocide against Tamils as did the International War Crimes Tribunal during the war against Southeast Asians. We could ask the Permanent People’s Tribunal—which found that Sri Lanka committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during its sessions in Dublin, Ireland, January 2010—to take up such an investigation.
We have wandered over the deserts and the seas. We have been hungry and thirsty. We have been murdered and tortured. We are of the working class, of the castes; we are many races and nationalities. We share a common vision: freedom and equality; bread and water on the table; a shelter over our heads. We must fight together to live in peace and harmony.
Che Guevara would be on our side today!
- Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel, New York, 1967. [↩]