Fourth International (March 1987)

Learn the Political Lessons of Daya Pathirana Assassination

The Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, salutes comrade Daya Pathirana, the leader of the Independent Student Union, who was abducted and murdered brutally on December 15 by the hired assassins of the racist bourgeois state.

It was precisely because of the steadfast struggle they carried out in the student movement against the war of the Sinhala capitalist class against the Tamil nation that Daya Pathirana was killed and one of his colleagues, R. Somasiri, brutally attacked.

We warn the working class and the student movement that this abduction and the assassination of the leader of the Independent Student Union is the beginning of a series of bloody attacks by the bourgeois state and its mercenaries against the organizations of the labor movement.

Behind the Pathirana murder lies the hand of a sinister conspiracy which incites Sinhalese racist frenzy and instigates ultra-right-wing thugs and assassins against every demand and struggle of the working class and the student movement.

This is the most monstrous political assassination in the South by these racist thugs since the killing of Comrade R.P. Piyadasa, the organizer of the RCL in the Rajanganaya area in 1979.

However much the bourgeois press and its lackeys try to cover up the political nature of this assassination, they will not succeed. Pathirana became a target of this conspiracy precisely because of the widely acclaimed stand he adopted within the student movement as a defender of the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation and as a powerful opponent of the pogromist war against the Tamil nation waged by the Sinhalese capitalist class, its state and the UNP government.

We appeal to the students and the working class to demand an independent workers’ inquiry commission to examine the charge leveled by the Independent Student Union and the other student unions that a section of the now-banned Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) is behind this assassination, and to expose the clique of conspirators who carried out the murder.

The ultrareactionary campaign of the JVP—conducted hand in hand with the capitalist racist SLFP, sections of the UNP, and cliques inside the army itself—to instigate Sinhalese racism against the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation has drawn towards it the most rabid racist provocateurs.

The unstable petty bourgeois elements upon which the JVP—an anti-working class organization—is based are today pushed towards the most rabid racist frenzy in response to the crisis faced in the northern and eastern provinces by the big capitalists. Its campaign to instigate the state to use force to crush the forces who come forward to defend the rights of the Tamils in the South and to lend maximum support to the Sinhalese armies in the North is a movement to mobilize the petty bourgeoisie behind the army and to prevent the independent political mobilization of the working class.

The capitalist government, fearful of the social instability that may arise if the extreme racism of this petty bourgeois layer is allowed to operate without restraint, has imposed a ban on the JVP. But sections of the UNP, the SLFP, the MEP and the bourgeois rag Diyaina, the mouthpiece of the racist capitalists, are nevertheless employing the JVP against the working class.

The complicity of the JVP in the political campaign to assassinate comrade Daya Pathirana is extremely clear.

This is what the Malima of October 1, 1986 wrote on the struggle of the Tamil nation for national self-determination.

What they want is to make the Tamils frenzied with racism, and to push them to the necessity of living separate from the Sinhalese. They then want to create a Tamil state along with the Tamil Nadu capitalist class who has made repression and oppression the permanent legacy of the South Indian Tamil masses, and driving out the people of the other areas of Sri Lanka, to make Sri Lanka a slave paradise of the Tamil bourgeoisie.

In the same paper all those who give support to Tamil liberation are denounced as agents of the CIA.

The Malima of November 1, 1986 condemned the Independent Student Union in Colombo University as a “terrorist organization” and wrote the following:

It is reported that the so-called Independent clique of rogues haunting inside the Colombo University with the aim of destroying the Sri Lankan student movement, which courageously took the lead to defend its rights and the rights of the working class as well, has formed an assassination squad with full state patronage.

Among the handful who gathered for this purpose ... separate persons have been appointed to be in charge of terrorist acts, to collect arms to suppress university struggles, to assassinate those patriotic students who are in the forefront of the student struggles, and to commit other illegal acts.

Their aim is to whitewash the Eelam movement and the smuggling of a new brand of racism into the student movement.

The day when the militant student movement gives the appropriate reply to all the acrobatics inside the universities of the so-called independent quacks is not very far.

The JVP, which is putting up posters proclaiming that the Pathirana assassination is a ploy by the ruling class to destroy it, under conditions where the students have directly accused the JVP of committing the assassination, has not taken a single step to condemn this assassination. Is any more evidence than this required to confirm their political support given to this assassination?

This petty bourgeois clique has turned into a gang of provocateurs for the big bourgeoisie, to be used in their barbaric and counterrevolutionary acts under conditions where the big bourgeoisie is trapped in a deep crisis in their war in the North. Their hatred towards the Tamil liberation struggle and towards those who support it in the South is second only to their abominable subservience to the capitalist armies.

The agent provocateurs of the army and the police intent in liquidating the militants of the workers’ and student movements can work in disguise as genuine members of the “mass movement” only under the protection of these organizations.

That the JVP is a political accomplice of this assassination is absolutely clear. But it is our belief that forces which work independently of the JVP have directly intervened in the execution of this crime. The area around the Tunmulla Junction, where Pathirana and Somasiri were abducted, is full of army and police officers and their homes. Moreover, in observing the way in which Pathirana had been tortured before his neck was cut, and how he had been cross-examined, one can see in this crime all signs of the complicity of the official army and police killers of the state or the UNP’s paid assassins. Evidence exists to believe that they committed this dastardly crime with the full political support and the protection of the JVP.

The assassination of Daya Pathirana and the attempt to kill Somasiri is part of a counterrevolutionary conspiracy against the working class. This conspiracy had its origins in the crisis of the UNP government, which is exacerbated by the liberation war and the massive economic crisis. The extensive military defeats inflicted on the Sinhalese capitalist armies by the forces of the Tamil liberation struggle, and the loss of the grip of their political rule of the Jaffna peninsula, has turned out to be the gravest crisis faced by the bourgeois state since its formation in 1947 through a conspiracy against the masses. Not only the Sinhalese capitalist class, but the Tamil capitalists in the North and the Indian capitalist class as well, know that any decisive action by the working class, particularly in the South, would threaten the overthrow of capitalist rule.

This is the reason for the direct intervention of the capitalist classes of the Indian and the Tamil Nadu, aided by the leaders of the TULF, to crush the liberation struggle. The capitalist cliques of the whole subcontinent are united in a conspiracy to prevent the expropriation of capitalist property in the northern and eastern provinces, and the establishment of working class rule based on workers’ and peasants’ soviets and to prevent it from linking up with the working class struggle in the South and becoming a struggle to expropriate the capitalist class.

The so-called round table formed with the participation of the treacherous Samasamajist, Stalinist, Nava Samasamajist and CWC leaders is a maneuver to push these counterrevolutionary leaderships of the working class into an unofficial coalition, under the above circumstances, with the UNP government and to prevent any independent mobilization of the working class. The main axis of this front is the defense, at any cost, of the capitalist state structure and the capitalist class rule, established in 1947.

This open alignment of the Samasamajist, Stalinist, NSSP and CWC leaderships around the UNP in the role of open agents defending the “unitary state” has become a class betrayal that politically cripples the working class and frees the hands of the racist thugs to attack the workers’ and student movements. It is under such circumstances that the SLFP, the MEP, and the JVP, together with racist scum like Rajaratna, launched “The Movement to Defend the Motherland,” a campaign of provocation against the working class, which has been resisting the blows inflicted on it by the expenditures on the racist war.

This front, mobilized in the guise of opposing the “round table of discussion” organized by the UNP government, draws its strength in exploiting the direct alliance of the Samasamajist and Stalinist leadership with the UNP government and their abandonment of even a verbal struggle against the UNP government. The aim of this front is to use the treachery of the Samasamajist and the Stalinist leaders to build up the authority of the state armies among the people of the South, and to create racist provocations. The aim of Sirima Bandaranaike is to ride into power through a racist wave.

These provocateurs who made their entry into the university last October started to gather support for the racist war under the cover of a “Patriotic Students Front.” The students of the Independent Student Union in Colombo University intervened and defeated the attempted provocations against the Tamil students. It is these “patriotic” provocateurs who physically attacked the leftist student unions in Peradeniya University and enabled the authorities to suspend more than 20 students. (According to reports from students, the “Patriotic Students Front” teamed up with the top UNP leaders to direct attacks in Peradeniya.)

The assassination of comrade Pathirana clearly falls in line into this sequence of events. The attack was very clearly and consciously planned and aimed at the bloody repression of the growing opposition to the war among the workers and students.

The political authority enjoyed by comrade Pathirana in the student movement was inextricably bound up with his consistent political position against the racist war. The Independent Student Union, of which he was the leader, had its origins among the university students in 1979-80 as a reaction of the students to the policies adopted by the JVP, which at that time was in the leadership of the student movement. The students formed the Independent Student Union in an effort to be independent from both the Samasamajist, Stalinist leadership and the JVP.

The political tendencies that were instrumental in forming this union rejected the role of the working class as a revolutionary class, and based themselves on the illusion that the students can, by and large, carry out an “independent” political line on their own.

The large-scale Tamil pogrom prepared and carried out by the UNP government and its capitalist armies in July 1983 created a polarization inside the student movement. It was through an open political struggle against those who instigated anti-Tamil provocations that comrade Pathirana assumed the leadership of the Independent Student Union. Comrade Pathirana and his colleagues played a leading role in the student protest movement that began in 1984 when the UNP government shot and killed Padmasiri, a student in the Peradeniya University. They declared that the racist war conducted by the UNP government in the North was directed against the working class in the South and particularly against the unity of the Sinhalese and Tamil masses. In the student protest struggles that took place in Colombo University against the murder of Padmasiri, the police shot and killed another student, Rohana Ratnayaka.

Whenever struggles were organized for the defense of the students, the UNP government and the capitalist press branded them as “antinational” and those who organized them as helping the “division of the country,” and used the armed police and thugs to attack them. It was in the midst of these bitter struggles that comrade Pathirana realized that Sinhala racism and its barbaric war in the North against the Tamils is the main counterrevolutionary danger facing the students and the workers in the South.

At the same time it was these bitter experiences that led them to clash with the JVP, the major accomplice of the Sinhala racists, and the Samasamajist, Stalinist and the Navasamasamajist leaderships who are the main defenders of the racist bourgeois state inside the working class movement. Once grasped, he did not abandon this basic lesson on Sinhala racism and the racist war, whatever the situation or the pressure he faced. In the period immediately before the assassination, he was outstanding in the student movement as an irreconcilable opponent of the unofficial coalition formed by the LSSP and the CP leaders with the UNP government by entering the round table discussions.

It was this courageous and unshakable political position that brought Daya Pathirana to have a close relationship with the RCL and created conditions for him to join the RCL in a number of campaigns. The RCL, while maintaining an alliance with him in this front, was engaged in a sharp controversy with comrade Pathirana on a number of basic and decisive problems. Despite his opposition to the NSSP, as well as the Samasamajist and Stalinist leaders who were supporting Sinhala racism and the war, he was unable to elaborate a political strategy on the basis of the acceptance of the working class as the only consistently revolutionary class inside capitalist society. At the same time, he could not break from the spell of a political tendency which believed that the experiences of Cuba and Nicaragua confirmed the ability of a section of the petty bourgeoisie to act as an alternative to the working class in executing the tasks of the socialist revolution. Precisely because of this he overlooked the fact that the basic task of revolutionaries is to achieve the political independence of the working class from the capitalist class and the struggle for working class power.

Although Pathirana had great respect for the struggle of the Revolutionary Communist League, he kept away from the League on the above questions. But in the recent period, where the class struggle has put every political tendency to a severe test, we believed that this phase could be overcome on the basis of the common experiences gained in the class struggle. The courage, the unyielding determination and the sense of total sacrifice represented by him in the student movement could find its summation only under the proletarian internationalist perspective of Trotskyism. The counterrevolution aimed its death blow precisely when all the conditions were maturing for the achievement of this transformation not only of him but of a whole generation of students and youth as well.

Therefore this was not a blow aimed at him alone, but against a whole generation of students who are turning towards internationalism, overcoming the most abject treachery of Samasamajism and Stalinism and the consummate political bankruptcy of the petty bourgeois leaderships. The International Committee of the Fourth International and the Revolutionary Communist League will not be shaken by this cowardly and base attack. It will only strengthen our determination to fight without concessions to any quarter which will make this attack a weapon to turn the youth away from the working class.

We emphatically and categorically tell youth that there is no easy way or a short cut to socialism, except through a struggle to politically, ideologically and organizationally separate the working class from all sections of the capitalist class and from the influence of all sections of the petty bourgeoisie. The period in which comrade Pathirana consciously entered politics was a period in which the Samasamajist and Stalinist leaders betrayed the working class most viciously and in which various petty bourgeois forces dominated the political arena with their craze on their “ability” and the “right” to be a substitute for the working class.

The problems arising from the very betrayal of the Samasamajist leaders in 1964, i.e., the problems of the present stage of the Tamil liberation struggle that arose as a reaction to their direct subordination of the working class to the bourgeoisie, abundantly emphasize the necessity of a party to mobilize the working class independently. However much the petty bourgeois leaders of the Tamil liberation struggle inflict military defeats on the Sinhala capitalist state, the liberation struggle today is directly faced with a situation where national liberation cannot be achieved under the petty bourgeois leaderships. Although they have trapped the armed forces of the Sinhala bourgeois state in a number of military camps in the Jaffna peninsula, they have been unable to mobilize the masses against the counterrevolutionary intervention of the Indian bourgeoisie and the political conspiracy of the Tamil and Sinhala capitalist classes.

In a situation where the Tamil capitalist class is openly opposed to the struggle for national independence and the total liberation of the Tamil nation, independence can be won only by transforming the liberation struggle into a struggle against the capitalist class. This means that the nationalization of basic capitalist property and the land, and the establishment of workers’ and peasants’ soviets to mobilize the working class in a mass scale for the above purpose has become necessary. The grip of the Indian capitalist class on the liberation struggle can only be smashed by such a mobilization, and by calling on the working class of the subcontinent to extend this socialist struggle to the southern regions of Sri Lanka and to India.

But this is exactly what is not done by any of the petty bourgeois leaderships in the liberation struggle. Even where it is absolutely clear that the road to national independence lies through socialist revolution, these leaderships refuse to take up the struggle against capitalism.

It is this vacillation and indecision that creates the conditions for the conspiracies of the Indo-Sri Lankan capitalist classes. There is no other way to mobilize the working class independently except through building the Revolutionary Communist League as the section of the International Committee of the Fourth International in the northern and eastern areas.

However loud is the cry of the Samasamajist and Stalinist leaders that their alliance with the UNP leaders is to prevent the “division of the country,” the truth is otherwise. In point of fact, they have joined with the UNP to prevent the leadership for the democratic revolution that could only be supplied by the working class. Their support weakens the working class forces in the North, while at the same time creating conditions to inflict a bloody defeat on the people of the North and the East through a massive military offensive. Any victory of the Sinhala army in Jaffna will be a first step in a military dictatorship that would destroy the working class organizations in the South.

The advanced sections of the working class and the students should concentrate their political struggle around the fight to defeat these counterrevolutionary traitors in the leadership of the working class movement and establish the political independence of the working class.

Today these leaders may express shock at the Pathirana murder, but they themselves have to assume the responsibility for paving the way for it. Their contemptible counterrevolutionary support for the bourgeois state, venerated by them as the “unitary state,” and formed in 1947 in the midst of massive opposition by the working class, by a conspiracy between the imperialists and the native bourgeoisie, is consciously aimed at isolating the liberation fighters in the North and sacrificing all the militants inside the workers’ and student movements in the South.

Last June the bourgeois state facilitated their participation in the round table discussion by using the police to break up a public meeting of the RCL and arresting three of its members. From then on until now, the witchhunt against the RCL has continued, with Comrade Brutan Perera kept in remand for four months with the use of frameup cases.

The LSSP, CP and CWC leaders have not taken a single step to mobilize the working class against this brutal repression and the arrest of hundreds of others. The racist thugs of the “Front to Safeguard the Motherland” and the “Patriotic Students Front” began their work with impunity under the patronage of the coalition maintained by the LSSP, CP and CWC leaders.

Is there any basic difference between their campaign against the “division of the country” and the campaign of the rabid counterrevolutionaries? The conspirators drew their strength to kill Daya Pathirana through the treachery of this popular front. The reactionaries base their activities on the calculation that the support given by these treacherous leaderships to the government and the state remains unchanged, whatever militant is killed by them.

The political campaign now conducted by them after the assassination is another trap laid out for the workers’ and student movements. What they are proposing is a “broad front” to “fight against” the JVP while they themselves are maintaining an alliance with the government and the state. We warn the students not to fall into this trap. The struggle against the contradictory and reactionary politics of the Sinhala petty bourgeoisie cannot be conducted by a series of clashes with the petty bourgeoisie. Although the JVP acted as the agency which killed Pathirana, it was the ruling class conducting the racist war that really executed the assassination. Its main representatives are the UNP and the SLFP. The capitalist class which executed the assassination through its petty bourgeois agents are now, for their own safety, attempting to create fresh diversions using the Samasamajist and Stalinist agents. The Samasamajist and Stalinist agents have unreservedly taken this work into their own hands.

The reply to racism is the class struggle. The isolation and defeat of the racist murderers is connected with the independent mobilization of the working class to defeat the government conducting the racist war and to ensure the right of self-determination for the Tamil nation. The real lesson of the assassination is that the advanced sections of the working class and the students should come forward to intensify this struggle. The petty bourgeois organizations could be defeated only by such a mobilization of the working class.

We urge all workers and students to join with us to demand the LSSP, CP and CWC leaders stop their fraudulent double-talk and sever all connections with the UNP government and mobilize the working class to overthrow it. At the same time, the working class should be mobilized against the treacherous LSSP, CP and CWC leaderships while forcing them to fight for a workers’ and peasants’ government committed to a socialist program and to demand that they fight for the withdrawal of the armies from the North and to ensure the right of self-determination of the Tamil nation. It is only through such a struggle that the hold of these leaders over the working class can be broken and the working class be won over to the banner of the revolutionary party leading the working class to power.

The Revolutionary Communist League is totally committed to this struggle. The struggle to which comrade Daya Pathirana was dedicated can be taken to its culmination only by the advanced workers and youth joining the struggle to build the revolutionary party fighting for the establishment of state power by the working class.