International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1987): Documents of the Third Plenum of the ICFI

An Open Letter from the Revolutionary Communist League to the Workers Revolutionary Party

Dear Comrade Pirani:

We received several letters you had sent us asking for information about the defense campaign of our Comrade Brutan Perera, who after being held in jail for nearly four months, has now been released on bail to face charges under the emergency laws of the Jayewardene government. Your letters had further inquired about the possibility of joining our defense campaign with that of Viraj Mendis who is threatened to be deported from Britain to Sri Lanka.

As you will take notice, it took some time for us to answer your letters, a fact, we believe which would not require an apology on our part. Firstly, all the information you were asking for was published in our papers and all the other newspapers published by the sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International, to which you have access.

Secondly, we do not believe that a delay of a few weeks in this matter would make a significant difference considering the long period that it took your party, the Workers Revolutionary Party, to come to our defense; a matter of little more than 15 years since April 1971, when the SLFP-LSSP-CP coalition government murdered two of our comrades, Lakshman Weerakoon and L.G. Gunadasa, detained our leadership and banned all our publications under the Emergency Law; or 7 years since our Comrade R.P. Piyadasa was brutally murdered by the Sinhalese racist thugs of the Jayewardene regime which has left the murderers without trial for the last 7 years; or 4 years since 1983 when the UNP organized the anti-Tamil pogroms and subjected our party to a vicious legal and press witch-hunt and arrested Comrade Ananda Wakkumbura.

Indifference to the Fate of the RCL

Even though you claimed to be the leading section of the ICFI, to which we were affiliated from 1968, on each of these occasions and a number of times in between them, your party simply ignored the fate of the Trotskyists who came under state attack in this country and in other countries as well. Despite the arrogant boasts of Healy, Banda and Slaughter about your numerical superiority and material wealth, you failed to organize a single picket line or a public meeting in defense of the RCL, not to mention political collaboration in elaborating defense strategy.

This demonstrated more than anything else the contempt in which your leadership held the ICFI and the international working class, as well as your total subservience to British nationalism. Nothing in the world could arouse your interest or draw your attention except that which you considered would give you immediate material and organizational gains.

Moreover, since the time of the assassination of Comrade R.P. Piyadasa for the stand taken by our party in defense of the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination, your leadership made one provocation upon another to break up the RCL, as part of your sordid intrigues to destroy the ICFI. It is a political fact that Healy, Banda and Slaughter willingly collaborated with a Sinhalese racist clique led by one Dharmawimala Ranasingha to attack our party and you have still not answered the question why you did so.

It is also a political fact that during the anti-Tamil pogroms of July 1983, the WRP published a notice in the News Line, under the name of its general secretary Michael Banda, stating that the WRP believed “that the police and the army have used the arbitrary and uncontrolled powers granted to them under the emergency laws to kill our comrades and destroy their press.” (News Line, August 10, 1986) Yet, you did absolutely nothing to mount a campaign in our defense and thus gave advance notice to the UNP government that you will not even lift a finger in the event of the physical destruction of our party.

Throughout that period, the RCL defended itself and won the respect of many sections of the working class and the youth, only because we never retreated from the theoretical and political foundations of the ICFI, the world Trotskyist movement. It was precisely this fact which made our party a constant target of political provocation by Healy, Banda and Slaughter.

The WRP Line Has Not Changed

You will no doubt argue now that that period came to a close with the supposed “revolution” which took place within your organization in October 1985, when you hurriedly organized the expulsion of G. Healy from your ranks without conducting any discussion on the rotten centrist political line which he, together with Banda and Slaughter, followed from the early 1970s. Subsequent events have now thoroughly demolished your myth about any such “revolution.”

The entire leadership of the WRP, principally M. Banda and C. Slaughter, intrigued to sabotage the political discussion officially proposed by the Workers League during 1982-84 on the political degeneration of the WRP. The Workers League produced enough material to prove that the political line of the WRP is no different in any sense from that of the Pabloite revisionists. The intervention of the International Committee during October 1985 provided for your membership the necessary and indispensable political platform to understand the roots of that degeneration. It also provided a program to regenerate the party.

Your reaction to this intervention was to unleash an immediate campaign against the IC and mobilize all varieties of middle-class forces inside and outside the WRP in order to break up the International Committee. You openly invited the capitalist press into your center, supplied them with all sorts of gossip to make provocative attacks against the Trotskyist movement throughout the world, called public meetings and invited the Stalinists and revisionists to denounce us, called in the police to prevent the supporters of the IC from attending the scheduled Eighth Congress of the WRP and finally issued a public call to destroy the IC.

Without giving any explanation, you then immediately started attacking the Security and the Fourth International campaign, hoping to create legal difficulties for the IC and to give comfort to all the police agencies of imperialism and Stalinism.

Banda’s Trip to Sri Lanka

One of the chief instigators of this campaign, the then-general secretary of the WRP, M. Banda, came to Sri Lanka in November 1985 with your approval and authority, carrying under his arm a bundle of paper cuttings from the capitalist press in Britain and immediately set about mobilizing all the anti-Trotskyist forces against the RCL. Before returning to Britain to openly declare that he is a Stalinist, this man approached the leaders of the LSSP to denounce our party. He conducted discussions with Colvin R. de Silva, the chief reformist advocate for the Sri Lankan ruling class in their dirty war against the Tamils. Invited to rejoin the LSSP by its leaders, this scoundrel said only the lack of Sri Lankan citizenship was preventing him from accepting the membership of this party of the bourgeois state.

There is no question that this man insisted with the leaders of the LSSP that it was the best moment to launch an attack against our party. The membership of the RCL is convinced of the role your general secretary played in the arrests of our comrades in June 1986. At that time, in March 1986, we warned about the politically dangerous role this man was going to play, even as you were hailing his now infamous “27 Reasons” as a masterpiece of Marxism:

We emphatically state that his cynical “theories” are nothing but a flimsy cover for his adaptation to the most reactionary forces the Trotskyist movement has fought against and from now on he will place all the intimate knowledge he gained in a leading post in the Trotskyist movement at the disposal of the enemies of the working class....

Any self-respecting revolutionary organization would consider the heinous actions of M. Banda sufficient grounds to throw him out of its ranks. (Fourth International, Autumn 1986, p. 186)

You, however, remained completely silent, hoping that Banda’s intrigues would help you in your aim of destroying the ICFI. If the sections of the ICFI had not fought tooth and nail the vicious liquidationist campaign you mounted to destroy us, there would not be a Revolutionary Communist League to be defended today. For us the defense of our comrades from the state attacks is always related to the defense of the party from the liquidationist attacks. Nowhere in the world has the capitalist class succeeded in destroying the revolutionary party of the proletariat by state attacks alone. The most important political weapon in their hands is the misleadership of the working class which you have now joined.

In fact, while publicly shouting about the defense of the RCL, throughout this period, you carried out a campaign that the fate of the members of the sections of the ICFI has no relevance to the working class. One of the most outspoken opponents of the IC and a prominent leader in your present regroupment campaign with the revisionists, Gerry Downing, openly declared that no one should take seriously the state attacks against the sections of the ICFI:

Incidentally, many real martyrs of the Fourth International died in Bolivia in armed struggle against the fascist coup in 1971, as far as I can see the only real ones together with the Vietnamese and that of the Sri Lankan JVP uprising in 1973 [sic] to fall in the battle for the revolution in the postwar period. We should be commemorating these real martyrs, not inventing false ones, unfortunate victims of a decadent bourgeois society in New York. (WRP Internal Bulletin, No. 3, January 17, 1986, p. 47)

Lacking political courage to name names, this centrist philistine was in fact referring to Comrade Tom Henehan of the Workers League and Comrades L. Weerakoon, L.G. Gunadasa and R.P. Piyadasa of the Revolutionary Communist League. Comrade Pirani, do you think that we need a certificate from a wretched political windbag like Gerry Downing, who has absolutely no record in the class struggle, for our comrades who have fallen in the battle for the world socialist revolution?

WRP Embraces the JVP

Your factional blindness in this case is only surpassed by your middle-class political stupidity. While you are denouncing the sections of the IC and glorifying the petty bourgeois movements like the JVP, the JVP is conducting an even more vicious campaign against all those who defend the right of the Tamil nation to self-determination in Sri Lanka. They are deeply implicated in the abduction and murder of a prominent student leader of the University of Colombo, Daya Pathirana, on December 15 last year, a militant who distinguished himself for his courageous defense of the rights of the Tamils.

No movement is too bad for you to embrace, even a racist one, in your totally unprincipled campaigns against the ICFI. Since you have decided to boost up the JVP internationally, we would like to help you with a recent quotation from their press which sufficiently sums up their policy in the class struggle and is ideally suited to be inscribed in your campaign banner:

Place no hope on Jayewardene’s solutions. Place no hope on the fight of the SLFP. The time has come to launch the life and death struggle to immediately defeat the Eelam terrorists who attempt to divide up the country. The JVP is ready to fight to the last drop of blood to defend the territorial integrity of the motherland, for the freedom of the masses and for the defeat of Eelam. (Niyamuwa, central organ of the JVP, December 1986)

Such are the reactionary forces to which you are accommodating in your struggle against the IC. This also makes your so-called defense of the Tamil rights in Sri Lanka a thoroughly bogus one.

Since you have proposed the campaign on Brutan Perera and the other members of the RCL be linked up with the Viraj Mendis campaign—which in our opinion is nothing more than a pacifist protest leading directly to the subordination of the working class to a popular front—allow us to make clear where we stand on this proposal.

We of the RCL have absolutely no intention of obstructing any of your defense campaigns either on behalf of the RCL or anyone else. That is your right, nay your duty, which you had completely ignored for more than a decade. At the same time, we too have no inclination of mixing up our defense campaign with the one that you are supposed to be waging.

As it is clear from the letter we received from your Australian supporters, your intervention in our defense campaign has as its aim proving that we are worthless “sectarians.” The campaign waged by the sections of the IC throughout the world and which succeeded in mobilizing considerable support from the trade unions and political parties of the working class has in our opinion already provided the answer to your accusation. You accuse us of “sectarianism” only because we refuse to sacrifice our political independence to petty bourgeois democracy.

The Defense Strategy of the RCL

From the time we joined the ICFI, we always based our defense campaigns on the revolutionary program of Trotskyism and fought for them as principled party campaigns subordinated to the task of building the world party of the socialist revolution. They were always seen as struggles to resolve the crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the proletariat, to raise its class consciousness, and to mobilize it independently to overthrow the capitalist system. In these struggles, we consciously strived to follow the leadership given by Marx himself in 1848, Trotsky in 1905, Luxemburg during the First World War and many defense campaigns waged by revolutionary Marxists throughout the history of the working class movement.

We learned these principles from the fight waged by the ICFI against Pabloite revisionism which, as in all the other questions, surrendered the independent banner of Trotskyism to petty-bourgeois democracy in defense questions as well. The WRP broke from these traditions a long time back and joined the camp of revisionism before assuming the role of fingerman for a number of regimes in the semi-colonial countries. Without making any analysis of these betrayals carried out by Healy, Banda and Slaughter, it is politically stupid for you to turn around and accuse us of “sectarianism” or even of “equal degeneration.”

The political degeneration of your party was most clearly expressed in the attitude it took towards capitalist provocations and state attacks. The shameless capitulation of Healy, Banda and Slaughter to the “democratic” imperialist state in Britain during the Observer libel trial of 1978 epitomized its complete departure from any kind of principled politics.

Even though the WRP appeared in the courtroom not as defendants but as accusers of the ruling class in Britain, your leaders used that opportunity to declare your shameless adherence to the same bourgeois democracy which you were supposedly fighting. To quote from the News Line of October 26, 1978:

Asked about the struggle for workers’ power, Mr. Redgrave said that it was being pursued by peaceful, legal and constitutional methods.... Mr. Redgrave told the court that the party may consider the possibility of resorting to arms “to meet force with force” in the event of a fascist state in Britain.

The pledge that the WRP will fight the state only after fascism had come to power, and smashed the working class organizations, expressed your lickspittle support for the “democratic” imperialist state in Britain. Even worse, when asked where the working class would obtain arms for an uprising after fascism had come to power, your party replied that “it was possible that it would come from sections of the army who themselves might wish to defend the democratic rights.” Then, Redgrave presumptuously declared “that was what happened in Portugal.”

Popular Frontism

In traditional Trotskyist terminology, this is called popular frontism. When advancing this treacherous policy of betrayal, the WRP never bothered that this line would produce political disasters for the workers in Portugal, where the Trotskyist movement was called upon to fight all the illusions generated by the Armed Forces Movement.

Before accusing us of “sectarianism” and of “equal degeneration,” you should have produced concrete evidence of any such shameless betrayals of Trotskyism by the sections of the ICFI, such as the Revolutionary Communist League and the Workers League, who actually fought state repression during the past period.

Comrade Pirani, can you even compare the campaigns waged by the Workers League in defense of Juan Farinas, who was sent to jail for the opposition of US Trotskyists to the US intervention in Vietnam or to unmask the killers of Comrade Tom Henehan? Or the campaigns waged by the RCL in 1971 when the coalition government carried out ferocious repression against our party and when the RCL directly came under attack for defending the Tamils’ right to self-determination with the so-called defense campaigns of the WRP.

In 1971, when the coalition government of SLFP, LSSP and CP carried out vicious repression against the RCL, we developed our defense policy in a struggle against a tendency which wanted a defense line outside the perspective of mobilizing the working class against the class collaborationist traitors in the leadership of the workers’ movement. Let us quote from the resolution of the CC of the RCL on the defense policy passed in April 1971:

The struggle against the police repression that was aimed at the leadership of the League was above all a struggle to mobilize the working class against the general repressive apparatus of the government. There is no defense policy for the Ceylonese revolutionaries apart from carrying out this struggle linked to an agitational campaign within the international working class....

It is one thing to force the left leaders to intervene to defend militant representatives of the working class and other oppressed sections through the development of a movement against the government’s repression within the working class. It is quite another that we don’t pose a threat to them.

In 1966 when Abraham Fischer, a CP leader in South Africa, was imprisoned, the IC campaigned to force the Wilson government to intervene on his behalf and at the same time it made clear the political nature of the campaign: “When we call upon the Wilson government to intervene against the vicious sentence on Fischer, we do it as part of a campaign to expose the Social Democrats as servants of imperialism and to build the independent leadership of the working class for the smashing of the imperialists at their center.” (Fourth International, Vol. 8, No. 3, May 5, 1966)

Every “defense policy” that is formulated outside the perspective of exposing the conscious agents of imperialism within the working-class movement and driving them out becomes a policy for the betrayal of the revolutionary party.

How the RCL Fought State Repression

Because of this Trotskyist line the RCL was able to survive the most vicious state repression under conditions where it did not have legal publications or even a legal office. This intransigent fight against the class collaborationists and their hangers-on in the working class movement gave the necessary political strength to our party to wage one of the most prestigious defense campaigns ever waged in the working class to free the political prisoners of the JVP and to mobilize considerable sections of workers in our own defense in 1976, when Mrs. Bandaranaike threatened to ban us.

In July 1983 we carried forward the same defense policy when the UNP government arrested Comrade Ananda Wakkumbura and attempted to silence our party for our role in exposing the state-organized pogroms against the Tamil people and our defense of the Tamils’ right to self-determination. In the courtroom, the RCL exposed the horrendous crimes committed by the state armed forces against the Tamils and defended its revolutionary program, thus turning the court action into an agitation for the mobilization of the working class. Unlike Healy, Banda and Slaughter, the opportunist cowards who crawled on their bellies at the feet of the imperialist state in Britain, the RCL, under conditions of genocidal war, declared its attitude to that war unequivocally.

Is this our war? Not at all, we reply. We say we should rise up against the war and that the working class should unite with the liberation struggle in the North to overthrow the UNP government and the capitalist system.

Again in 1985, when the UNP government arrested Comrade Ananda Wakkumbura for violating the Sixth Amendment to the constitution and accused our party of campaigning for the division of the country, the RCL campaign on his behalf was based on the same revolutionary principle.

The present campaign conducted by the RCL on Brutan Perera, Wije Dias, Ruman Perera and Viran Peiris is not different from our previous defense campaigns. It has as its aim the mobilization of the working class as an independent force, exposing the treacherous leaderships of Stalinism, Samasamajism and centrism and building the alternative revolutionary leadership to smash the capitalist system.

The “principle” of your campaign on Viraj Mendis is not one whit different from those conducted by Healy. We of the RCL are opposed to the deportation of Viraj Mendis from Britain and we defend his and all other immigrant people’s right to stay in the countries they prefer. In our view such democratic rights can only be defended by independently mobilizing the working class for the overthrow of the imperialist state in Britain.

For that it is necessary to expose the social democratic agents of British imperialism and their hangers-on in the revisionist and centrist movements. You have abandoned that struggle some time ago and there are not many signs indicating that you are returning to that fight. Instead, you now attempt to deceive the working class by carrying out a completely bogus campaign which has very little to do with the defense of the democratic rights of the immigrant workers, but has as its aim propping up all kinds of centrist movements. The political program of this campaign is that the imperialist state in Britain can be reformed in a democratic direction, if only the working class is not mobilized independently against the bourgeois state. We, of course, do not subscribe to any such illusions and consider it as our duty to warn the advanced sections of the working class about the dangers emanating from such a policy.

Inventing False Heroes

Utterly incapable of doing that, you participate in the Viraj Mendis defense campaign to give it a revolutionary coloring by inventing false heroes, while accusing the IC of the same deception, as in the case of Comrade Tom Henehan. The Trotskyists cannot influence sections of the workers and the youth who participate in the Viraj Mendis campaign by portraying the hopeless perspective of Viraj Mendis as a revolutionary one. After all, we are dealing here with an immigration case, not with one of a revolutionary fighter defending his revolutionary policy.

Viraj Mendis has decided that the best course for him is to stay in Britain because of the repression against the workers’ movement in Sri Lanka. Many thousands of Sri Lankan workers are organically unable to follow this “lead.” They have no other alternative but to fight the capitalist regime here. In the name of defending Viraj Mendis, you actually glorify this hopeless middle class “perspective” and thereby imply that any revolutionary policy fought for within Sri Lanka is futile. Thus, you decide to deliver another blow against Trotskyism, which is completely opposed to the middle-class impotency advocated by Mendis.

The RCL will defend the right of Viraj Mendis to stay in Britain, but we will never subscribe to the political line he and you are advancing for Britain and Sri Lanka.

One final point: we came to know that you have approached Edmund Samarakkody of the so-called Revolutionary Workers Party to “strengthen” our defense campaign. We, in fact, received a letter from him, a few days before Comrade Brutan Perera was released on bail, which shamelessly admitted that he knew absolutely nothing about the arrests of our comrades until he got the information from you. It is truly remarkable that a so-called revolutionary leader had no information about these arrests in a situation where major trade union federations, student and youth organizations of the working class were demanding their release.

In our opinion, it is futile to blame Samarakkody for this state of affairs. In his Revolutionary Workers Party, all the revolutionaries, all the workers and the party itself are embodied in the one and the only person of Edmund Samarakkody. Yet, he is one of those centrists, who feels neither regret nor sorrow for the liquidationist course he followed since 1964.

Record of Samarakkody

In one of your recent internal documents, you have attempted to pass him off as a hero who led the 1964 split from the LSSP, but you prefer to remain silent about his evolution after the split and the fate of that organization he came to lead.

Having subscribed to all the “theories” of the Pabloites, particularly to their assumption that in the backward countries the working class can come to power even with “blunted instruments”—i.e., without Trotskyist revolutionary parties—Samarakkody was politically responsible for the growth of opportunism in the LSSP. When the LSSP right wing carried out the political line of the United Secretariat to its logical conclusion by joining the SLFP government, Samarakkody pulled back, but refused to analyze the revisionist roots of the LSSP betrayal. During the 1964-68 period, he together with Bala Tampoe defended the centrist line of the United Secretariat against all opposition and thus completely shattered the organization which opposed the betrayal of 1964, the LSSP (R).

Unable to conduct any political struggle within the working class against the treachery of the LSSP leaders, Samarakkody decided that the best way to fight the coalition was to vote with the right-wing UNP for the UNP’s own resolution in parliament to bring down the coalition government. Violating the decision of the political bureau of the LSSP (R), on which he was the general secretary, Samarakkody voted for the UNP motion on December 3, 1964. Faced with the inevitable backlash, he then tried to adapt to the moods of the popular front and virtually abandoned any fight against it during 1970-77, all the time remaining a vociferous opponent of the RCL’s campaign to mobilize the working class to force the LSSP-CP leaders out of the government and to bring down the SLFP government.

Throughout this period Samarakkody changed camps from the United Secretariat to the Spartacist tendency and then into an alliance with the Italian GOR. When Banda published his “27 Reasons,” Samarakkody became one of the most enthusiastic supporters for the liquidationist line advocated by Banda. Without batting an eyelid, he offered to Banda his own thesis of liquidationism to be published in Banda’s so-called Communist Forum.

Today he protests that Banda had betrayed him because Banda did not inform Samarakkody in advance that he was on his way to join Stalinism! He made similar protests against Mandel and Robertson in the past. As a man who learns nothing and forgets nothing, he has now jumped onto your bandwagon without asking any questions about where you are heading. In the not-too-distant future, we may well have the opportunity to read another protest note from him. You too have obliged him by accommodating to his centrist politics without asking any questions about so many shattered organizations he came to lead during the past 20 years.

These people are, naturally, not interested in and incapable of defending the democratic rights of the working class for the simple reason that they are too busy all the time defending themselves from the consequences of their own antics.

In our view, the defense of the Trotskyist movement is unthinkable without unmasking this unprincipled charade in front of the world working class.

Thanking you for your letters,
Keerthi Balasuriya,
National Secretary of the RCL