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Ecumenicalism and the Left movement

by Factotum

"What are all these Christians doing talking about Marxism?" someone asked incredulously. 'Revealing the truth' answered a padre in the gathering. That was way back when a felicitation volume honouring a leading member of the second generation of leftists was released at that place off Havelock Road known for study and dialogue.

This may sound a turnaround from those early days when the Church was considered to be decidedly hostile to the Left movement. "One of the popular fictions of the time at the inception of the left movement was that if the LSSP and the CP came to power temples and churches could be razed to the ground," observed a leading light of the print media the other day when yet again the aged and the young, laymen and clergymen met to discuss and later set on record the triumphs and failures, the times of good fortune and (in retrospect) ill conceived strategies that led to visitation of the vicissitudes on the Left that are common to man and institutions.

In the context of the theme 'The Left Movement and Democratisation Process in Sri Lanka' it was recalled among other events that due to certain compulsions a Cabinet Minister of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka had no choice but to lock up his party Press and pocket the key, for the regime did not take kindly to the radical and strident stand taken by the party newspaper.

It transpired that (what an irony!) a vociferous advocate for the closure came from the Left camp itself and a fellow Minister who plainly declared that one can not run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. The perennial rivalry between the 'Trots' and the 'Coms' resurfaced time and time again in all those events that covered a period of over half a century of 'leftism' in the country, then.

Unpleasant memories of the Leftists in Government going for the jugular of another newspaper group (not this one) and its eventual closure were clearly etched in the minds of the participants and was best forgotten by some of the diehards. What came out as blatantly communal and racist slogans in 1965 was explained away as condemnation of the alliance of the reactionary capitalist class transcending communal divides.

That might go down well by way of argument but there was no explanation as to why in later years the Left apologised to the community that was targeted by those barbs and emotive slogans.

Comments on the new Left - that organisation that has come to the fore in electoral politics did not warm the cockles of the ageing particpants. In fact, the young researchist's observations although not so intended were provocative enough for others to get their hackles up but it was all in the game as it were, what, with the old fire having left the old Left.

With papers read and unread from a galaxy of learned presenters here and abroad going into the publication of a voluminous record of the Left Movement, to be preserved for posterity, the Ecumenical Institute for Study and Dialogue (EISD) has certainly taken on an onerous task but is sure to come up with a useful handbook for scholars and laymen as always.

It would certainly be interesting and interllectually stimulating to monitor the progress of EISD in this regard especially in what appears to be a twin programme to bring about church unity and bridge the Church with those elements of the left that accord with the teachings of Jesus the liberator which is what he truly was.

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