International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 2 (June 1988)

Sri Lankan Trotskyists Hold May Day Demonstration

This report from the Revolutionary Communist League, Sri Lankan Section of the ICFI, was originally printed in the Bulletin, May 27, 1988.

On May Day 1988, the Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, was the only workers’ organization to hold a meeting and demonstration in the city of Colombo.

The demonstration started from Grand Pass north and marched up to Newnham square, near the harbor, holding aloft red banners with slogans expressing the program of the Fourth International summoning the working class to the conquest of power.

  • Build the International Committee of the Fourth International. Build the world party of socialist revolution.
  • Workers of the world, unite.
  • Forward to the world socialist revolution.
  • Defeat the war plans of US imperialism.
  • Forward to the political revolution in the Soviet Union. Defeat the restorationist plans of the Gorbachev Stalinist bureaucracy.
  • Down with Zionism. Victory to the Palestinian revolution.
  • Withdraw the Indo-Lankan armies from Tamil Eelam. Defend the right to self-determination for the Tamil nation. Forward to a United Socialist States of Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam.
  • Drive out the UNP government.
  • Forward to a workers’ and peasants’ government.
  • Demand the LSSP-CP leaders break from the capitalist popular front and the CWC break from the UNP government.

More than 200 members and supporters of the RCL and its youth organization, the Young Socialists, marched in the demonstration.

At the end of the march, comrades Wije Dias, the general secretary of the RCL; K. Ratnayake, the editor of the party newspaper Kamkaru Mawatha', central committee members Ananda Wakkumbura and K. Sunil; and Saman Gunadasa, the secretary of the Young Socialists, addressed a meeting.

The meeting was held under circumstances in which the continued resistance of the Tamil liberation struggle to the Indo-Lankan Accord has thrown the Sri Lankan and Indian bourgeoisies into a deep crisis and totally exposed the treacherous leaderships of the reformist Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Stalinist Communist Party, as well as the various Pabloite-centrist tendencies, all of whom supported the Indian invasion of the Tamil homeland. All these traitors hid behind the excuse of a Buddhist festival to prevent the mobilization of the working class on May first.

“May Day 1988 is being celebrated in a situation in which it has become absolutely necessary for the working class to be mobilized on an internationalist basis. This can be achieved only under the leadership of the world party of socialist revolution. That party is the International Committee of the Fourth Internatonal,” RCL General Secretary Wije Dias stated in beginning his speech at the RCL May Day rally.

Continuing, Comrade Dias said:

At the very outset, we should like to emphasize that our purpose is to drive out the reformists, Stalinists, and all sorts of centrists who have openly embraced chauvinism and racism, against the international working class, and go forward to construct the revolutionary party to lead the working class to power. These people are completely wedded to the defense of imperialism and this is so blatantly exposed by the national-reformist policies of these parties.

The so-called stability that was created at the end of the second world war by the imperialists with the help of the gigantic betrayals by the social democrats and Stalinists, on the very basis of the destruction wrought by the imperialists, is now already being transformed into a trade war. This was expressed by the tornado that swept the world stock markets on October 19, 1987.

This is developing in the direction of a third imperialist world war. The imperialist countries that fought two world wars are once again on the path of war, to divide the world amongst themselves.

The wars of intervention that the US imperialists are conducting to establish their control over countries on the periphery of the world market mark the beginning of this process. The US imperialists invaded Grenada; they are engaged in a war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua; they are using the apartheid regime of South Africa in the African continent; and in the Middle East, they use Zionist Israel and bomb the Persian Gulf.

They are using the Indian Congress regime in South Asia and the South Korean regime in the Pacific region.

The epoch of wars ushered in by imperialism is also an epoch of revolution. It is the epoch of the world socialist revolution. Despite the repeated betrayals by the Stalinists and the social democrats after the great October Revolution of 1917, once again we now see the working class and the oppressed nations entering into struggles against imperialist and bourgeois oppression and exploitation.

The Indo-Lankan Accord and the Indian invasion against the Tamil liberation struggle, carried out at the invitation of the Sinhalese capitalists, was an acid test of the leadership of the working class. The Samasamajists, the Stalinists, the CWC, the Nava Samasamajists, as well as all the revisionists, have flocked as one to the support of the military invasion of the Tamil homeland.

The imperialists and their agents in the Indian and Sri Lankan capitalist class organized this invasion because the Tamil liberation struggle threatened the system of puppet states set up by the imperialists in 1948. All those who support the Indo-Lankan Accord are defenders of this reactionary system. The defenders of the national state are invariably disrupters inside the working class.

The Sri Lankan working class did not accept the puppet state set up in 1948 by the imperialists.

Sinhalese and Tamil workers demonstrated against this state in 1948 in the streets of Colombo. Ever since this state was formed, the bourgeoisie worked to divide the working class and attack the Tamil nation and the oppressed masses. They set about depriving the estate workers of their citizenship rights.

They intensified the Sinhala racist attacks against the Tamil nation to such an extent that by the 1970s, even the Tamil bourgeoisie, who had been committed partners in this bargain, decided that it was not possible to coexist with the Sinhala racist bourgeois state. The constitution of 1972, which was passed by the coalition government of 1970-77 in which the LSSP and the CP were partners, enthroned Sinhalese racism, thus raising national oppression to a new high. Contrived after the 1971 youth insurrection, this constitution was designed to divide the Sinhala and Tamil workers and the oppressed from each other.

The arch traitor Colvin de Silva stated in an interview to the bourgeois press that when drafting the racist constitution of 1972, he never imagined that he would have to stake his life to defend the unitary state of Sri Lanka. The fact is that this traitor drafted this constitution in the full consciousness that he was, in doing so, defending the bourgeois state, destroying the property of the Tamil nation and shedding their blood, and rendering tens of thousands of Tamils homeless. That is precisely why this same constitution turned the emergency law into a normal piece of legislation.

The UNP government raised this racist policy to the level of a genocidal war against the Tamil nation. But it turned out to be one which the Sinhala racists could not win by themselves. That is why they invited 150,000 Indian troops to the Tamil homeland.

Comrade Dias pointed out that the Indian invasion was aided, not only by the treacherous leaders of the labor movement, but also by the petty-bourgeois leadership of the Tamil liberation struggle, such as the PLOT, EPRLF, EROS and TELO who completely went over to the side of the invader. The LTTE helped the very enemy it was fighting by disarming the Tamil masses through its belief that it was possible to get some concessions from the Indian ruling class.

The working class of Sri Lanka and Eelam must drive out this treacherous leadership imposed on them, construct a revolutionary leadership, smash the Sinhala racist bourgeois state and build a United Socialist Republic of Eelam-Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an inseparable part of the world economy and the problems confronted by the working class of this island are those that spring directly from the world crisis of capitalism.

“Therefore,” Dias emphasized, “every struggle of the working class demands a program with the perspective of the world socialist revolution.

The struggle at Ceylon Tobacco is a case in point. The Stalinists who are in the leadership at Ceylon Tobacco tell the workers that the masses should be persuaded to boycott foreign cigarettes. This program would isolate the tobacco workers and betray their struggle. It prevents the building of the class unity of the workers of Malaysia and Singapore, who are exporting cigarettes to Sri Lanka. The working class is a class which objectively extends beyond these nationalist limitations imposed by the treacherous leaders. Only a conscious policy expressing this unity can ensure the defeat of the counterrevolutionary plans of the bourgeoisie.

Taking up the question of the Free Trade Zone, Comrade Dias explained,

The capitalists who come into Sri Lanka to take advantage of the low wages in the Free Trade Zone set up by the UNP government push the workers of those countries into unemployment. The cheap labor of this country as well as all other backward countries is the result of the betrayals by the Stalinists and reformists. Foreign investments cannot be understood except by means of this betrayal, especially that of 1964. The UNP government came to power on the shoulders of these leaders, with plans to destroy all the rights of the working class.

Just as the plunder of the rural peasant by the bankers cannot be stopped without the leadership of the revolutionary working class seizing power, the exploitation by imperialist bankers and multinationals cannot be stopped without achieving unity with the working class of the advanced countries. That is why the perspective of the world socialist revolution is absolutely essential for the working class. This perspective is provided only by the International Committee of the Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution.

Dias heaped scorn on the renegades Healy, Banda and Slaughter who had betrayed the world party of the socialist revolution. “These people,” he said, “have now openly shown up in the camp of the Gorbachevs, who are hell-bent on the restoration of capitalist property in the Soviet Union. This is the politics of Pabloism, which led the LSSP into a coalition with the capitalist class.

The victorious struggle carried out by the International Committee against these renegades has sharpened our cadres in all the countries to fight against these counterrevolutionary traitors in the working class.

Through the struggle undertaken by the world party against the renegades, we have managed to temper a cadre capable of defeating the scheme of the Samasamajists, Stalinists and the centrists who base themselves on nationalism and popular frontism, which is its direct outcome, to defend bourgeois property. On this basis, we sharpened our struggle to break the popular fronts that these traitors to the working class have set up with the UNP and the SLFP-SLMP.

Comrade Dias assailed the right-wing JVP which is performing a particularly pernicious service to the capitalist counterrevolution through its racist politics:

Movements like the JVP, which work to mislead the oppressed youth who have been disoriented by the betrayals of the treacherous leaders of the working class, can be defeated only by mobilizing the working class independently on an internationalist basis. All the democratic demands, such as the national question of the Tamil nation, the citizenship rights of the workers and the land question of the rural peasant, can only be solved and the unemployment of youth can be ended solely by the working class taking state power into its hands. This can be achieved only by the working class consciously releasing its force as an international class.

In this it is decisive to mobilize the immense strength of the Indian workers who have been subjected to the rule of the Congress capitalists at the head of the pro-imperialist bourgeois state of India. We must remember that this working class is on the march against its reactionary ruling class. The Socialist Labour League of India, the Trotskyist party of India, fights for this perspective.

Concluding his speech, Comrade Dias appealed to all those who were present to join the Revolutionary Communist League, the section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, and fight for the perspective of the world socialist revolution.