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

A Victory for Trotskyism

This Bulletin editorial originally appeared in the July 22, 1988 issue.

The Workers League warmly salutes and calls the attention of all class-conscious workers to the significant victory won by our comrades in the Revolutionary Communist League of Sri Lanka, who captured all five leading posts and a majority on the executive committee of the Central Bank Employees Union, a leading trade union in the island country, at the union’s annual delegates conference held last month.

Dislodging a right-wing popular front bloc headed by the Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP), the Sri Lankan cohorts of the Militant group in Britain, they won the leadership of this trade union of more than a 1,000 members, which is at the nerve center of the country’s economy and has played a leading role in the working class’s struggles.

The ousted NSSP leadership had been exposed before the working class as a direct participant in the corporatist policies of the ruling class. Moreover, the NSSP leaders had played a most pernicious role in betraying the Tamil liberation struggle and paving the way for the military occupation of the Tamil areas by the Indian Army.

The Revolutionary Communist League participated in the union elections on the basis of intransigent revolutionary Marxist policies. In the resolutions placed before the conference, the RCL delegates had demanded, in the face of prevailing Sinhala-majority chauvinism, a policy of opposition to the Indo-Lankan Accord and support for the withdrawal of both Indian and Sri Lankan troops from the Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.

The victory at the Central Bank Employees Union by revolutionary delegates is a direct vindication of the policy of proletarian internationalism upheld by the ICFI against the renegades of the WRP in the split of 1985.

Since the 1970s, Healy, Banda and Slaughter, not unlike their Pabloite forerunners, had insisted that the central problem facing the Trotskyist movement was “isolation” and that the chief reason for this isolation was its proletarian internationalist program. In order to overcome this “isolation,” it was declared necessary to abandon the Trotskyist program and find “a sensuous practice to penetrate the mass movement.”

In practice, this method turned out to be nothing other than adaptation to the different backward tendencies in the labor movement and outside it. Any attempt to fight for a revolutionary Marxist program in the working class was frowned upon as destructive propagandism. This was the basis of all the betrayals carried out by the WRP leaders in the decade leading up to the split of 1985-86. With this formulation, they capitulated to bourgeois national movements in backward countries and the trade union and Labour Party bureaucracy in Britain.

In the course of the struggle against the renegades, the ICFI reaffirmed that the greatest danger facing the Fourth International was not “propagandism,” but opportunism. Opportunism in one or another form expresses an adaptation to the so-called realities of political life as they take shape within a given national environment. The opportunists consider that the revolutionary internationalist outlook of Trotskyism is “too abstract” and isolates the party from the working class.

The RCL’s intransigent struggle for the defense of the right of self-determination for the Tamil nation, against the invasion of the Tamil homeland by the Indian troops, and for a revolutionary defeatist line in relation to the capitalist regime in Colombo, could have been forged and fought for only from the Marxist revolutionary standpoint. This meant that no quarter could be given to opportunism. The events in Sri Lanka have once again demonstrated clearly that far from isolating the revolutionaries, it is the internationalist stand that brings them in line with the development of the working class in periods of revolutionary upheaval.

What the WRP leadership in Britain achieved, in opportunistically adapting to the Ken Livingstones and the Ted Knights of the Labour Party bureaucracy and the Arthur Scargills of the trade union bureaucracy, was nothing other than the destruction of the WRP as a Trotskyist party. Today the leadership of the different fragments of this party stand isolated from the working class and the oppressed masses, precisely because the masses are moving against the capitalist and bureaucratic oppressors, moving against the very agencies to which these renegades have adapted.

Gerry Healy and Cliff Slaughter, placing themselves at the service of the Gorbachev wing of the Soviet bureaucracy, as well as the British trade union bureaucracy, and Michael Banda, with his wagon hitched to the Ligachev wing of the Soviet bureaucracy, stand totally isolated from and opposed to the working class.

The squabbles of the different sections of the WRP produced only a national-centrist hodgepodge of groups, which now exist only as festering sores on the fringes of the labor movement or beyond. Only the comrades of the International Communist Party of Britain, who took a principled internationalist stand, are prepared to meet the inevitable revolutionary advance of the working class in Britain.

The opportunist policies pursued by the WRP charlatans, masquerading as Trotskyists, served only to strengthen that rotten Pabloite rump, the Militant group, in Britain, handing over to it the forces that moved against the trade union and Labour Party bureaucracy, for a further betrayal. This is in stark contrast to the revolutionary stand of our comrades in Sri Lanka, who positioned themselves against the grain of bourgeois public opinion, in line with the revolutionary development of the working class, and inflicted a severe defeat on the centrists of the NSSP.

The renegades of the WRP (Slaughter group) campaigned to ensure the right of their middle-class protege, Viraj Mendis, to remain in Britain, lest he be arrested on being sent to Sri Lanka. In stark contrast to this perspective, which wrote off the possibility of conducting any struggle within Sri Lanka against the rightwing Jayewardene regime, the RCL, Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, stood squarely on its revolutionary defeatist line and faced up to the reactionary UNP regime, securing this signal victory in the workers’ movement.

Let us also remember that comrades Wije Dias, Ruman Perera, Brutan Perera and Viran Peiris were released from judicial detention in 1986 because that campaign was based on this internationalist perspective, as a section of the world party of the socialist revolution. Now once again what has been proven in the context of the Central Bank Employees Union is that an internationalist line alone is capable of securing victory.

Comrade Kiri Banda Mavikumbura was elected president of the Central Bank Employees Union, one of five RCL members elected to leading posts in the union

The conference of the bank employees union voted down the policy resolution on the Indo-Lankan pact, submitted by the RCL delegates, while at the same time electing these delegates to the leadership of the union. The workers have elected the RCL to leadership because they know through the long struggle of the RCL, both in the union itself and the workers’ movement in general, that it is the party that gives no quarter to the bourgeoisie.

The working class is faced with a decisive struggle to defend its living conditions in a situation of deepening military threats, with the Indian and Sri Lankan armies engaged in wars against the oppressed masses in two sections of the island. The reformist LSSP, the Stalinists and NSSP, as well as all types of centrists, are all compromised in the eyes of the working class for having supported the Indo-Lankan Accord, which brought about the Indian military occupation of the island and boosted Jayewardene’s military plans.

The RCL alone stood against the military schemes of the ruling class, presenting from the beginning a correct line which corresponds to the class interests of the Sri Lankan, Tamil and Indian proletariat. Recognizing the nature of the struggle before them and sensing that it could not be won without the mobilization of the entire strength of the working class, the workers turned to that leadership which has prepared them by warning of the nature of the enemy and the character of the struggle. The next step is for these workers is to grasp consciously the connection between this preparation and the RCL’s revolutionary defeatist line in the continuing war, a revolutionary defeatist line which required opposing the opportunists who pandered to the temporary illusions of the working class.

Cliff Slaughter’s Workers Press, immediately after the Indo-Lankan Accord, treacherously misled the working class in the following words: “This [the accord] stops far short of Tamil autonomy ... but halts military plans to carve up the Tamil lands and impose settlers” (Workers Press, August 8, 1987). Since then, the Indian Army has killed more than 5,000 Tamils and rendered every third Tamil a homeless refugee. The working class, moving into objectively revolutionary struggles, will not turn to such liars and deceivers. That is why the Central Bank Employees Union rejected the slimy opportunist leaders of the NSSP.

The Sri Lankan ruling class will not fail to take note of the threatening developments at the Central Bank. In fact, they have a history of constant repression against militants and especially members of the RCL in this vital financial nerve center. The revolutionaries who have taken over the leadership of the union will now face the challenge of demonstrating the indispensability of the proletarian internationalist program to the workers, in the practical action of leading them against the reactionary bourgeois regime.

The Workers League has every confidence that the victory of the RCL in the bank workers’ election is the opening of a new chapter in the struggle of the Sri Lankan and the international working class. It gives a powerful example to the fighters in the Trotskyist movement worldwide to conduct the political struggle against opportunism and centrism which is necessary to build a new revolutionary leadership and establish its political authority in the working class.