International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 3-4 (July-December 1988)

Sri Lankan Trotskyists Win Bank Workers’ Union Election

This article originally appeared in the Bulletin on July 15, 1988.

All five candidates of the Revolutionary Communist League were elected to the leadership of the Sri Lankan Central Bank Employees Union at the annual elections held on June 23.

The Trotskyists secured the posts of president, general secretary, assistant secretary, treasurer and one executive committee member in a union which numbers 1,000 members at the most important financial institution in Sri Lanka.

The popular frontist group led by S.D. Karunaratne of the Nava Sama Samaja Party, who attempted to subordinate the union to the capitalist regime, was beaten. This opportunist front had been set up by the NSSP (cohorts of the British Grant group, the “Militant” tendency), the Stalinists and the bourgeois Sri Lankan Mahajana Party, and had earned the hatred of the membership.

The victory of the RCL, which fought to expose the treacherous role of these opportunists who supported the Indo-Lankan Accord and the Indian-Sri Lankan invasion of the Tamil homeland, indicates an important development within the working class.

These popular front opportunists had gone to the reactionary extreme of entering into a front with the UNP scab union in the Central Bank. This was totally compatible with their support of the Indo-Lankan Accord.

The RCL group fought against this treacherous policy right from the start and presented resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Indo-Sri Lankan troops from the Tamil homeland, for the self-determination of the Tamil nation, and for a United Socialist States of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka. This program is decisive in unifying both the Sinhala and Tamil working class to overthrow capitalism.

These resolutions were defeated with the support of the treacherous centrist Andradi group which chose to be “neutral” between the revolutionary resolution and that of the reformist right wing. Nevertheless, the RCL resolution obtained 27 votes. The resolution of the outgoing opportunist leadership mustered only seven votes.

The same delegates’ meeting which rejected the RCL resolution for withdrawal of troops from the Tamil homeland then elected RCL members to five of the leading positions. The following RCL members were elected:

President, Kiri Banda Mavikumbura; secretary, H.M.B. Herat; treasurer, P.D. Palangasinghe; assistant secretary, W. Jayaweera; and executive committee, M.T. Risman.

The election of a leadership committed to a revolutionary defeatist policy in Sri Lanka’s central financial institution creates an intolerable situation for the ruling class, which is engaged in a desperate war against the Tamil nation in the North and the East.

Last year, the management of the central bank sacked T.N. Nihishan, a member of the RCL, on vindictive political grounds. Previously Comrade Ratnayake, a leader of the RCL and editor of its weekly newspaper Kamkaru Mawatha, was involuntarily pensioned off from the same bank following the 1980 strike.

It is certain that the election of a revolutionary leadership in the union will evoke a ferocious reaction from the beleaguered regime in Colombo, both on the union as well as the RCL. Precisely this situation will provide the opportunity to the new leadership to demonstrate to the members of the union the indispensability of revolutionary policies.

The battle lines that are now being drawn around the bank employees’ union embrace the entire class arena of the volatile island and are decisive in the battle for revolutionary leadership in the working class.