We are the Young Revolutionaries in Solidarity
The position of an organisation is imperative to creating groups with a stable foundation for pushing forward a change with longevity and direction. We submit the following short brief for the consideration of all Tamil youths who want to be politically active to bring about long lasting positive change to the oppressed people in Sri Lanka, in Britain and across the diaspora.
BY SAMANTHI, YRS
Governments in every country claim that they have a fair democracy. But living conditions of people contrast that on a regular basis. In Sri Lanka, more than a decade has passed since the end of war that saw the brutal massacre of tens of thousands of lives; a genocide on the Tamil people. Only thing that has remained constant is the state of affairs for the oppressed classes.
It is clear that the current situation is definitely something we cannot settle for, and that stands for Sri Lanka, but also for the UK. There is a struggle that is routinely dismissed within these nations, a suffering that is painted over, and a political plight complicated and derailed by ruling authorities.
From students to pensioners, NHS workers to restaurant staff, the UK government has shown nothing but cruel disregard to their situation, never committing to a long-term, systemic solution. What they have done is equivalent to applying a plaster on a broken bone – completely useless with zero thought, but it means we cannot accuse them of ignoring the problem.
The bottom line, however, is that we can see this is all intentional experience. We will be wasting our time if we attempt to explain how we have been hard done by, or exploited or violated in some way – because those that actively perpetuated the system know very well the damage of their decisions. Interestingly, they, the ruling class, probably understand the way the world works better than most suffering under the system, currently. Combining the impact of conditioning through media, compulsory mainstream education (especially historical elements), the conscious creation of the middle class narratives in the universities and the remnants of colonial practice and attitude scattered across the globe, it is somewhat unsurprising that this is the case.
It is possible to write for years on end, critiquing the perpetrators; the governments, elites etc. but this is passive. Although that might teach a group of individuals the pernicious patterns and behaviour of those in power, it in no way aids the upheaval of this system.
This statement is born from the necessity for change, both domestically and abroad, with our particular focus in Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam, with the hope that this will clarify the position we hold in organising in these areas. This is to connect the dots between the troubles faced by a section of the society, to the wider struggle that is emerging.
It was the material conditions that led to the consequent situations in nations such as Sri Lanka. An example to explain this better would be the conditions of Sri Lanka leading up to the 1980s; suppression of workers movements and rights, combined with political chauvinism, lead to the hostility between two groups in Sri Lanka, which ultimately resulted in war. This explains just one element of a multifaceted conflict, however, draws on the roots – the elite’s exertion of power, manipulation of the people and their frustrations, and oppression of the people.
In relation to fighting back against the oppression in Sri Lanka, our position is unique in some sense. Some distance exists between the majority diaspora and the current struggle in Sri Lanka. However, it’s important to learn that the struggles here and over there are the same, at different intensities and context – the plight is the same, the material may vary.
This is dependent on what one considers essential, or a right that access should exist to irrespective of any circumstance. Is it fair or reasonable that our right to education is accompanied with the burden of debt from the age of 18? This route of higher education is encouraged, by schools, parents and also the government, with the idea that the more qualified you are, the more employable you become. The job market is in a state that means there are not enough jobs available for everyone eligible to work. This fact will not change even if an individual becomes more qualified. All it means is that the competition between those seeking labour increases, as there is a higher threshold for qualification. Essentially, the ability to have financial freedom is sold as something within reach of most individuals, but it’s clear that it becomes complicated quickly. These we consider basics to have a decent quality of life The most obvious question to come from this is why is access to decent education and jobs are limited? Whether or not the obligation to pay back student loan for example, is access to jobs holds a different context in Sri Lanka but a strong feature in common is that the governments of neither country have any intention of keeping these services fully free and make it accessible for all.
Achieving Tamil Eelam is the dominant aspiration within Tamil society, particularly in the diaspora. YRS fully supports this goal. This cannot come with the assumption that this means we fully support all previous efforts in the name of achieving Tamil Eelam, or even that our Eelam consist of the same principles. considerable proportion of the youth diaspora do not know the current state of affairs in Sri Lanka.
When analysing the existing diaspora organisations linked to Eelam, their real impact is something we should question. The war ended in 2009, and since then the noise made by these groups have been loud, yet the progress is much quieter, plan of action less transparent and intentions more disputable.
Fathoming freedom is difficult when you cannot imagine yourself free from the constant economic pressures. With the current situation as dire as it gets, we’re only more concerned and understanding of the doubts that the youth hold. India and China’s power play dangling over Sri Lanka and even questions that seem simple, like how to successfully break down the current government -no easy straight forward answer will come from this. We as humans become more complex in our organisation with growth, and at present, capitalism and the society created through it are limiting the potential of our development. Forming unity under a common cause, such as our fight toward freedom, democratic rights and priority of quality of life for all, is essential.
The aim is not to simply tell people what to do, but grow on the base of struggle. Emphasis on a common struggle is necessary contrary to the political narrative that is forced upon us, such as identity politics, divisive approach toward fighting oppression etc., issues across the world are far less isolated than it’s made to seem. Analysing it in such a way limits the capacity to understand the problems faced in this world.
Sri Lanka’s struggle is built on centuries of colonisation, followed by decades of the remnant effects of colonial tactics and active resistance from the people against those who were continually trying to exploit them. However, it is as important to note the events that were occurring across the world at the same time- independence from the commonwealth had also inspired the developments inside Sri Lanka. Throughout the 1900s, and especially in the latter half, the fight for independence from Britain was rife, and undoubtedly would have inspired and fuelled one another. And this interconnectivity does not end here, as the battles after independence within these countries unsurprisingly had similar themes. The plights and difficulties across countries had the united theme of the elite attempting to continue exploitation on subaltern masses. And this similarity transcended, as a variety of movements were inspired by one another.
Underpinning all issues is the same cause. Therefore our outlook on the situation should be the same – fighting the cause. But instead, years of capitalism and its policies, through laws down to our ingrained societal values has left the majority with the mentality that what exists cannot be changed; only dealt with. This chain of thinking swiftly leads people toward helping through aid, charity and lobbying the apparent human rights body, the UN.
Our fight toward self-determination for Tamil speaking masses in Sri Lanka is not to negate or discriminate against the others that coexist in the country, as the prerequisite for the space we aim to create does not take race or class into consideration, which therefore means the caste system must also collapse. The priority is also to win democratic rights for the people. Hence infringing those democratic rights for other groups in Sri Lanka would be contradictory to our aim.
As the concept of a democracy is thrown around heavily today, propelled by the Western world’s claim to have mastered functioning ‘democracies’ despite the public’s input toward decisions being extremely limited (and at times, nothing more than a facade of input), we must be clear in what we mean when we say democratic rights.
This will not in any way look like the systems of so called democracy that exist now as there is no element of the people of the country leading. Democracy originates from two Greek words that essentially mean “power of the people”, which is the essence of our fight. The people must and will have control over their resources, decisions and full information of the processes.
They will be able to vocalise disagreements and debate until full commitment and satisfaction is reached, and if their needs for a basic decent quality of life are not met, those they have asked to represent their wishes will face the natural consequences. By allowing the people to be an active participant of the democratic system as opposed to a passive one will allow for full accountability, meaning the priority will become the health and wellbeing of the people, as opposed to a balanced budget or economic gain.
This means what we are fighting for has not existed in fullness yet, even as many a state claim they have it and therefore, the state we currently live in is riddled with the same issues of a state not acting in the will of its people. Though the context varies vastly across the globe, what is clear is that decisions made by government bodies that publicly express interest in the wellness of those that subside privately calculate how to extract the most they can from the same people.
We use the term ‘privately’ quite loosely, because although older generations may have been successfully convinced that the policies of Raegan and Thatcher, or even the New Labour Government, were necessary, the cracks are giving to the weight and their deception have been hard to ignore. We have witnessed a recession that had a serious impact on the long term future of people across the globe, and we witnessed a recovery programme that paid no mind to those struggling, instead bailing out banks and protecting their ‘free’ market.
And over a decade later, we are seeing the making of another recession, fuelled by a global pandemic in a sense where the virus has exacerbated the issues that were riddled in every society, regardless of location. A pandemic hasn’t stopped people from protesting, the people have decided the risk is necessary as otherwise, the world would continue to neglect them. All the world did over this treacherous period was prove the point of the protesters and the rebels: we need the economy up and running again and we need you to do this, but we will blame you for anything that goes wrong. The feeling of being fed up is universal, which makes the action taken by individuals from this point forward pivotal, as there is a mound of frustration, broken promises and poverty to mobilise.
We cannot surrender our rights. Our aim is to build a fightback demanding all democratic rights and linking it to create a system where the we, the masses, are democratically in control to ensure these rights are secured permanently. We link up with co-thinkers and all oppressed sections regardless of their identity to mount such a fight back. Therefore. we request all youth, including Tamil youths, to consider our manifesto and come forward to discuss with us and get involved.
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