The apologists to the SLPP government took offense when the budget 2021 was called ‘neoliberal’. However, TINA is not in their control. Starting from the budget, government’s ideologue’s take on how to create wealth to the government’s policy on developing the East Container Terminal of the Colombo harbour, all cry out “There Is No Alternative to the market”. Private agri-business companies are the solution to backward agriculture. Venture capitalists and equity market and tax concessions to the big capital can drive the Sri Lankan economy. The government does not have money, so the only alternative is to seek foreign investors. Let’s lease the container terminal and land. Even sick tourists are better than nothing. Let’s bring them all to boost the market. Go out to work, shop and consume!
This has been the narrative that the SLPP government has been harping for the past year. In parallel, they have also been discrediting the left – that they are reductionist, they focus only on redistribution and not on production and that the left is limited to theory devoid of practice. The fact is that the Sri Lankan left is forced to take care of the spillovers of the neoliberal market. By defending the rights of the working people who are denied their rights at the workplace, whose work arbitrarily terminated, by joining hands with farmers and fishers who are fighting to ascertain their control and ownership over land, water, seeds and market prices and supporting women in debt who are mobilizing against usurious finance companies, the left in Sri Lanka has been reacting to the fallouts from the neoliberal market. In some cases, the left succeeded in building pressure to roll back neoliberal policies on education, health care, land, water … By doing that the left has in fact assisted the capitalist state to avert mass uprising that could destabilize the capitalist foundations of the Sri Lankan state and the market.
It’s time to say enough is enough. Left should articulate left political alternatives, and stop constructing a buffer to the capitalist state and the market. It’s time we stop bending to the pressure to acknowledge the importance of the market. It’s time to imagine, construct and mobilize around left alternatives.