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

The Sri Lankan crisis of 2000

33-1. At the turn of the millennium, the Sri Lankan government was in complete disarray following a series of military debacles starting with the fall of Elephant Pass to the LTTE in April 2000. Amid what she described as “the gravest crisis faced by the Colombo rule since 1948”, President Kumaratunga was desperate for political support. Suddenly, after being denied official party status for more than two decades, the SEP was granted formal recognition. A week later, the SEP received a presidential invitation to attend an all-party conference to discuss the political crisis. In a statement rejecting the invitation, Wije Dias denounced the talks as being “to rubberstamp government decisions already made, lend credibility to its policies and garner support for the continuation of a war that has had disastrous consequences for working people, both Sinhalese and Tamil, throughout the island.”

33-2. At the June 2000 plenum of the WSWS and ICFI, the significance of Kumaratunga’s letter and the political lessons for all sections of the ICFI were exhaustively discussed. In his opening report, David North explained: “We must recognise as a significant turning point in the history of the International Committee that a section of our movement has received an invitation to participate in all-party talks with the national government. It is not a matter of feeling honoured—we are certainly not. Rather, it is a significant substantiation of a point we have been making for some time: that beneath the surface of existing and long-established political relationships—in which certain parties, organisations, individuals and relations have dominated and seemed almost immovable, with nothing appearing to change—a great deal is changing. Beneath the surface, class relations are changing. The movement of socio-economic tectonic plates, intensified by the breathtaking transformations in technology; alterations in patterns of world trade and economic intercourse—i.e., profound changes in the mode of production and production relations—are building immense charges into the whole political superstructure and preparing the way for a sudden, dramatic and devastating political transformation.”

33-3. The plenum cautioned against any tendency towards complacency or political passivity. The ICFI had to be ready for sudden political shifts, which could involve further attempts to draw out of its sections new bases of support for bourgeois rule as well as the use of state repression. What was emphasised was the necessity of sustained political and theoretical work to prepare the party and ensure that it was not caught unprepared. By constantly working over political questions, the party counteracts the pressures spontaneously generated by bourgeois society on the working class and its vanguard and ensures that it does not react to events in a petty-bourgeois, impressionistic manner. That included an appreciation of the role of the sections of the IC as the essential ingredient in the development of a revolutionary, socialist movement of the working class and rural masses.