Leon Trotsky
Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka)

The RCL and the peasantry

29-1. Confronting mounting social unrest in the South, President Premadasa took a pronounced public stand against the Indo-Lankan Accord, demanding that Indian troops leave Sri Lanka by July 1989. He signed a ceasefire with, and covertly supplied arms to, the LTTE in June 1989, thereby assisting its armed struggle against the Indian army. Having failed to reach a deal with the JVP, the UNP turned on it and then more broadly against its social base—the Sinhala peasantry. In November 1989, the security forces detained and brutally murdered most of the JVP leadership, including its top leader Rohana Wijeweera. These murders were the start of a virtual war waged by the security forces and associated death squads against the rural masses over the next two years in which an estimated 60,000 people were slaughtered.

29-2. The abrupt about-face by the Sri Lankan ruling class confronted the RCL with new political challenges that were discussed extensively within the ICFI. The RCL had to warn the working class about the grave dangers of state repression and energetically call on workers to oppose the violent attacks on rural youth. It was not simply a matter of the fate of the JVP leaders, but the social base on which the organisation rested. Just as it had done in the wake of the April 1971 uprising, the RCL had to maintain an intransigent opposition to the government in all aspects of the party’s work, champion the defence of the rural masses and, in doing so, concretely forge the alliance between the working class and the peasantry necessary for the socialist revolution.

29-3. The RCL issued a comprehensive statement opposing the state massacre of rural youth in the South and the renewed war in the North against the Tamil masses in the aftermath of the Indian army withdrawal. It explained that the defence of the rural masses—Sinhala and Tamil alike—was indissolubly bound up with the fight to abolish capitalism and establish a workers’ and peasants’ government in the form of a Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and Eelam. The RCL indicted the opportunist leaderships of the working class—the LSSP, CP and NSSP—both for supporting the war in the North and blocking any independent political mobilisation of the working class to defend the rural masses in the South. The statement outlined a detailed program of transitional demands to address the democratic aspirations and pressing economic needs of workers and the rural peasantry. On this basis, the RCL carried out an extensive campaign to expose the atrocities being carried out by state forces and to mobilise workers and students to defend the rural youth.