Fourth International (March 1987)

Resolution of the ICFI on the Tasks and Perspectives of the Revolutionary Communist League (Sri Lanka)

1. With the defeat of the WRP renegades, a new chapter has been opened up in the history of the International Committee of the Fourth International. For more than a decade, under the chauvinist and revisionist despotism of the Healy-Banda-Slaughter clique, the Trotskyists of the ICFI existed as an oppressed minority who, within their own world party, defended a revolutionary line under what resembled semi-legal conditions. The theory of permanent revolution was treated as a heresy and those who fought for the political independence of the working class lived under the constant threat of organizational reprisals. Healy’s right-hand man, M. Banda, merely paid lip service to Trotskyism as a cover for his Maoist ideology and bourgeois nationalist program. As an examination of the political record now proves, Banda was not a socialist partisan of proletarian internationalism, but an apologist for the semi-colonial bourgeoisie and its state boundaries. Rejecting the hegemony of the working class in the national struggle, Banda advocated a bourgeois solution to the national question. In suitably florid prose, he could support the Indian invasion of Bangladesh and even justify, in the name of Indonesian unity, the horrifying massacres carried out by Suharto’s butchers in East Timor.

2. Banda’s bourgeois nationalist views served as the perfect foil for Healy’s nauseating opportunism in relation to bourgeois regimes in the Middle East. While Healy was endorsing the execution of Iraqi communists, Banda was hailing the extermination of East Timor peasants. Both men had completely repudiated the principles which they had defended between 1961-64 in the struggle against the unprincipled SWP-Pabloite reunification and the entry of the LSSP (Lanka Sama Samaja Party) into the coalition government of Mme. Bandaranaike in June 1964. It is for this reason that Healy and Banda despised the Revolutionary Communist League and, with the assistance of Slaughter, worked consciously for its physical destruction. Not only was the RCL a constant reminder of the past they had betrayed, it was a physical obstacle to the network of unprincipled alliances they were trying to establish with bourgeois nationalists all over the world.

3. The International Committee has now had an opportunity to study the profoundly shocking record of the WRP’s abuse of the Revolutionary Communist League—which included everything from slanders against its leadership, intrigues with Sinhala racists, and even tacit support for the annihilation of its cadre by Jayewardene’s thugs. Only a party steeped in the internationalist traditions of Trotskyism and unshakably devoted to the cause of the world revolution could have stood up, as the Revolutionary Communist League did, against the WRP’s foul abuse of its political authority.

4. At long last, it is now possible for the ICFI to discuss the strategy and tactics of Trotskyism in relation to the burning tasks of the proletariat and oppressed peasantry on the Indian subcontinent. First of all, we must reestablish certain fundamental principles that guide our work. The sections of the ICFI are parties of the revolutionary proletariat. While understanding the crucial role of the peasantry in the backward countries, our sections must never merge with the peasant movement or in any way tolerate the loss of their unique proletarian identity. We proceed from the well- established truth that the national democratic revolution can be completed only through the dictatorship of the proletariat. The ICFI is not interested in ephemeral successes. Its cadre strives to lead the socialist revolution, not to serve as errand boys for various bourgeois nationalists. Moreover, we disdain to participate in the glorification of Maoism—which, failing to understand the profound political lessons of the 1927 defeat, abandoned the struggle to build a Marxist party rooted in the Chinese proletariat. The world proletariat has had, during the past 37 years, ample opportunity to draw the historical balance sheet on Maoism: from Indonesia to Cambodia and, last but not least, in China itself.

5. Only the International Committee of the Fourth International can develop the strategy to guide the Asian masses to victory, and it is with this understanding that it discussed with great care the work of its Sri Lankan section. In line with the development of the objective situation, the ICFI analyzed the national question and came to the following conclusions:

a) The position of the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI is based on Lenin’s position on the right of nations to self-determination and Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. The Revolutionary Communist League indefatigably supports the demand of the Tamil people to a separate state. Historical experience has irrefutably demonstrated the organic incapacity of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie, the cowardly beneficiaries of the Soulbury Constitution, to implement a democratic program to unify the two nations. Its rejection of the democratic rights of the Tamil people since 1947 has developed into a war of extermination. Under these conditions, separation is in the interests of the Tamil people, aids the development of the class struggle of the Sinhalese proletariat against the bourgeoisie and its state, and creates the best conditions for unifying the Sinhalese and Tamil working class and poor peasants.

b) In advancing the right of the Tamil people to form their own state, the RCL always proceeds from the standpoint of proletarian internationalism and makes no concessions to the strivings of the Tamil bourgeoisie for privileges. Within the national struggle itself, the RCL at all times upholds the interests of the proletariat and fights to establish its independence from the Tamil bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. While unconditionally defending the right of the Tamil people to create their own state, the RCL program envisages the victory of the democratic revolution under the leadership of the Tamil working class, allied with the poor peasantry and in close collaboration with the masses of the South. The RCL does not cede the leadership of the national struggle for self-determination to the bourgeoisie, but rather insists that the independence of Tamil Eelam can be achieved only by combining the national struggle against Sinhalese oppression with the social revolution against imperialism and its local agents among the Sinhalese and Tamil bourgeoisie. While recognizing the progressive character of the armed struggle waged by the national liberation forces, the RCL strives to sustain, extend and deepen that struggle by fighting for the formation of workers’ and peasants’ soviets and the expropriation of the imperialists and bourgeois property.

c) This perspective can only be carried out by maintaining at all times the unconditional independence of the Revolutionary Communist League as the vanguard of the Tamil and Sinhalese working class. While recognizing the necessity for tactical alliances with the bourgeois national movement against Sinhalese oppression, each agreement must be strictly defined and based on the Leninist principle: “March separately, strike together!”

d) Despite the progressive character of the national struggle, there can be but one revolutionary party for both the Sinhalese and Tamil workers, and that party is the Revolutionary Communist League. While recognizing the need for organizational flexibility under conditions of civil war, the RCL strives to unite all sections of the proletariat on the island—Sinhalese, Tamil plantation workers and the workers of the Tamil nation—under a single banner. In the specific conditions which exist on the island, the position of defensism in the North and defeatism in the South constitutes component parts of a unified revolutionary program.

e) While recognizing the essentially bourgeois character of the national movement, the RCL makes a necessary (not “invidious,” as claimed by M. Banda) distinction between its reformist and revolutionary wings.

(1) The RCL considers the TULF (Tamil United Liberation Front) to be the mainline representative of the Tamil bourgeoisie, organically hostile to the armed struggle and incapable of waging a principled and consistent fight for national independence. Its entire history has been one of shameful toadying to the Indian and Sri Lankan bourgeoisies, cowardly compromises and outright betrayals. It fears the Tamil masses far more than it desires independence from the Sinhalese oppressors. The RCL has the responsibility to expose before the Tamil masses the perfidious nature of the TULF and its attempts to subordinate the national struggle to the interests of the native capitalists.

(2) The RCL views the various Tamil liberation organizations, such as the ETTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam), as revolutionary nationalists. But despite their courageous struggle for the military liberation of the Tamil homeland, their petty bourgeois outlook and lack of program prevent them from mobilizing the workers and peasants on a scale necessary to achieve victory. Moreover, they are unable to combat the corrosive influence of the TULF and establish the independence of the liberation movement from the treacherous scheming of the Indian bourgeoisie. Their programmatic confusion, derived from the petty bourgeois nature of these groups, leads them into a political quagmire which renders them vulnerable to the intrigues of the Indian bourgeoisie as well as the Moscow and Beijing Stalinists. Under all conditions, the RCL preserves its political independence, organizes the proletariat independently of the revolutionary nationalists, and reserves the right to criticize their policies.

f) The RCL views the struggle for self-determination in the North and the struggle of the Sinhalese workers and oppressed peasants in the South as an organically interconnected whole. There exists no Chinese wall between the two struggles or a predetermined sequence of development. The ever worsening crisis of Sri Lankan capitalism, intensified by the liberation war in the North, can produce an upsurge of the Sinhalese masses and Tamil plantation workers that may, almost overnight, give rise to a prerevolutionary situation that will place the question of power on the agenda. In such a situation, the struggles of the Sri Lankan proletariat and peasantry will strike the decisive blow for Tamil liberation, while bringing to the fore the unified character of the proletarian struggle throughout the island. Whatever the actual course of events, the struggle of the RCL to infuse the national movement with a socialist content serves to inspire the Sinhalese masses and to forge revolutionary links between the oppressed masses of the North and South.

6. In relation to its tasks in the South, the International Committee agreed that the main political task confronting the RCL remains the struggle to break the working class from the grip of the Stalinists, LSSP and the CWC (Ceylon Workers Party) leaders. At the center of this campaign must be the fight to mobilize the working class against these leaders’ support for the genocidal war being waged against the Tamil nation, whether in the form of their direct endorsement of the military onslaught or their cowardly participation in “round table” negotiations and similar forms of treachery. Hand in hand with this campaign against the war, the RCL resolutely calls on workers to reject all economic sacrifices which the government and its lackeys seek to impose in the interests of the war effort and their IMF-imperialist overlords.

7. The RCL advances socialist policies as the programmatic basis of the mass mobilization of the working class against the depraved bourgeois servants of imperialism and the utterly reactionary capitalist state upon which they rest. No struggle against imperialism is possible without fighting for the expropriation of its national bourgeois agents and the establishment of workers’ ownership and control over the means of production.

8. The RCL, profoundly aware of the unresolved democratic tasks which confront semicolonial Sri Lanka, strives to forge an alliance between the proletariat and the oppressed rural poor. For decades, the bourgeois parties, unable to satisfy even the most elementary needs of the peasantry, have utilized Sinhala chauvinism as a demagogic substitute for a genuine democratic program. The LSSP, by refusing to advance a revolutionary program and entering into coalition with the SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party), abandoned the peasantry to the bourgeoisie. In direct opposition to the treachery of the LSSP, the RCL campaigns for the abolition of rural debt, the destruction of the stranglehold of the banks through their nationalization, the illegalization of middlemen and other bloodsuckers, the nationalization of the land, a stable price for produce which fairly compensates the peasants’ labor and guarantees a decent living standard, and the providing of low interest loans and other facilities to spur agricultural production.

9. The oppression of plantation workers, who, in addition to savage exploitation, are subjected to merciless discrimination (denial of citizenship, etc.) is rooted in the very formation of the capitalist state in Sri Lanka and vindicates the historic opposition of Trotskyists, long ago forgotten by the LSSP, to the fraudulent independence of 1948 granted under the Soulbury Constitution. Its most recent bastardized version remains to this day the written proof of the incapacity of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie to carry through a single democratic task. The RCL demands the repeal of all discrimination, the granting of citizenship rights to all plantation workers, and the abolition of privileges for Buddhism and the Sinhala language. The abolition of the constitution requires the convocation of a genuine constituent assembly, in which the plantation workers are granted full rights of participation and voting.

10. The realization of this program is only possible on the basis of a struggle against all the political parties of the bourgeoisie—spearheaded by the demand for a workers’ and peasants’ government. This perspective is irreconcilably opposed to any form of popular frontism, i.e., political alliances with any section of the bourgeoisie. In line with this task, the RCL demands that the LSSP and CP break all ties with the government and with the bourgeois parties, take power into their own hands and implement the democratic and socialist program outlined above. On the same basis, the RCL demands that the right-wing leader of the plantation workers, Thondeman, resign from the UNP government. It is in this way that these traitors can be unmasked and the masses won over to the revolutionary party. The policy of the RCL is based firmly on the teachings of Trotsky:

“Of all parties and organizations which base themselves on the workers and peasants and speak in their name, we demand that they break politically from the bourgeoisie and enter upon the road of struggle for the workers’ and farmers’ government. On this road we promise them full support against capitalist reaction. At the same time, we indefatigably develop agitation around those transitional demands which should in our opinion form the program of the workers’ and farmers’ government.” (L. Trotsky, Transitional Program, Labor Publications, p. 25)

11. The RCL’s call for the formation of a workers’ and peasants’ government is not counterposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat, but is advanced as a transitional demand that mobilizes the workers and peasants for the establishment of their own soviet power. The RCL rejects and fights to unmask all attempts to insert a special democratic stage, as a barrier to the proletarian dictatorship, into the historical unfolding of the class struggle. Alongside the agitation for the above program, the RCL popularizes and, as conditions mature, calls for the creation of workers’ and peasants’ soviets as the basis of the new state power that shall arise from the smashing of the bourgeois state.

12. The revolutionary struggles of the Sinhalese and Tamil masses is indissolubly connected with the fate of the international working class—in the first instance, with the multi-millioned Indian proletariat. In striving to forge the closest fraternal links with the Indian working class, the RCL should review the history of the courageous pioneer work conducted by the LSSP during the Second World War in creating a unified organization for the proletariat of the whole Indian subcontinent. If possible, the first steps toward restoring these links, which conform to the objective interests of the proletariat in India and Sri Lanka, should be taken.

13. Having played a crucial role in the struggle of the International Committee to overcome the legacy of the WRP renegades and to rearm the world movement with a Trotskyist program, the RCL must now make corresponding advances in the physical strengthening of its internal organization. The theoretical rearming of the RCL has created the best possible conditions for expanding the sales of its press, recruiting new members and building new branches. Knowing the boundless loyalty of the RCL ranks, their dedication to the cause of the world revolution, and their fearlessness in the face of bourgeois state repression, the ICFI is confident that its Sri Lankan section is now poised to make great advances. A truly brilliant future stands before Trotskyism throughout the Indian subcontinent.