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Sectarian Socialism: The Politics of Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)

17 January 2010

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Modern Asian Studies (2010), Volume 44, No.3: 567-602
- Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009
- DOI: 10.1017/S0026749X09004028 (About DOI)

by Rajesh Venugopal (University of Oxford, Oxford, UK Email: rajesh.venugopal at


This paper explores the politics of Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the post-1994 period, when it re-created itself as a mainstream parliamentary political party and came to play a critical role in the collapse of the 2001–2004 peace process. The fundamental analytical enigma of the JVP lies in explaining its hybrid Marxist/Sinhala nationalist persona, which enabled it to craft a highly effective campaign of opposition to the Ranil Wickremasinghe government’s two-track agenda of peace with market reforms. This paper examines how the JVP’s Marxism relates to its Sinhala nationalism, and how it fits within the Sri Lanka’s Marxist tradition as a whole. It argues that the JVP’s increasing emphasis on Sinhala nationalism post-1999 has occurred in the context of de-radicalisation and parliamentary habilitation, and discusses the relevance of its ideological orientation to the material basis of Sinhala nationalism and its relationship with the social democratic state.

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