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

On the Assassination of L.W Panditha

Statement of the Political Committee of the Revolutionary Communist League, translated from the July 1, 1988 issue of Kamkaru Mawatha, weekly newspaper of the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI.

This statement concerns the assassination of L.W. Panditha, the general secretary of the Ceylon Trade Union Federation and a politburo member of the Stalinist Communist Party of Sri Lanka. Panditha had been a central figure in the Sri Lankan trade union movement for more than 40 years. The CTUF is one of the three major trade union federations among urban workers in Sri Lanka.

The Revolutionary Communist League strongly condemns the assassination of L.W. Panditha, the general secretary of the Ceylon Trade Union Federation and a prominent leader of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka.

L.W. Panditha was stabbed to death by unidentified assassins at Dematagoda, on the outskirts of Colombo on June 26, 1988. Undoubtedly, this was a political assassination. The CPSL Politburo statement has not directly named the assassins. It suggests that this assassination was carried out either by the capitalist employers or the Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya, the military wing of the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), which had included his name on its death list.

It is not sufficient to condemn this assassination. It is imperative to understand the sharp political questions raised thereby and fight to mobilize the working class independently against capitalist counterrevolution.Any class-conscious worker knows that Panditha was assassinated while he was involved in Stalinist popular front politics. Nevertheless, it indicates the extent to which counterrevolutionary forces have been developed against the working class movement and that they are preparing an onslaught on the working class to terrorize and crush it.

What are these counterrevolutionary forces? What is their origin? How did they gain strength? How can they be defeated? These are the burning questions before the entire working class movement now.

Behind the assassination of Panditha is the deepening economic crisis, which has driven the reactionary UNP and other capitalist groups to take counterrevolutionary measures in defense of the capitalist regime. This situation is being constantly aggravated by the world crisis of capitalism.

Just as the Tamil liberation struggle takes on a prolonged character, the United National Party government has been compelled to unleash economic and political attacks, sparking off widespread resistance by the workers and toilers.

The agitation and struggles of the working class have struck fear in the capitalist class and its political parties, the SLFP and UNP. These struggles have involved plantation workers, health workers and workers at multinationals such as Bata, Ceylon Tobacco, ABM; striking workers at Ceylon Printers and Samuelsons; Ceylon Telecommunications workers campaigning against privatization; and other workers seeking higher wages.

The UNP government is tightening the grip of the multinationals and intensifying its counterrevolutionary conspiracy to crush the Tamil liberation struggle in the North and the East, the working class and the oppressed peasants of Sri Lanka under its military jackboot. The UNP government, which is beefing up repressive state forces constantly, has legally empowered them to kill workers and the oppressed, labeling them “terrorists,” and supplementing these forces with special counterrevolutionary shock troops such as the “Kola Koti” (the Green Tigers).

That bloodstained rag of the capitalist class, The Island, announced the other day that within the coming two months, another 1,500 soldiers would be recruited into the regular military forces. A new bill, by “absolving responsibility,” grants them arbitrary powers to murder and commit any crime. The members of the state forces will not be legally accountable for any such action, retroactive to 1979.

It is certain that the UNP government, which has directed state forces and secret goon squads in the southern areas of the country on the pretext of suppressing the JVP, has also deployed these forces in the rest of the country for provocative actions.

The struggles of the working class are developing just as the petty-bourgeois strata, which the UNP government had leaned on, are in turmoil as a result of the capitalist crisis and the attacks of the UNP government.

In order to come to power in 1977, the UNP utilized the petty bourgeoisie, which had swung to the right as a result of the betrayal by the LSSP-CPSL leaders, who had entered a coalition with the capitalist SLFP in 1970. The UNP also used this petty-bourgeois support to attack the Tamil nation and the working class. It did this as the instrument of the bankers and the multinationals. The UNP has fostered the upper middle classes, but “betrayed” the lower petty bourgeoisie.

The Sinhala petty-bourgeois JVP bases itself on such disaffected sections. The rural people’s genuine fear that the Indo-Lankan Accord would harm them is being utilized by the JVP under its slogan of “the defense of the motherland” to build a reactionary movement.

The JVP’s politics are based on the ultra-reactionary, utopian myth that it has a better policy than the UNP to defend the crisis-ridden unitary state. The Sri Lankan bourgeoisie unsuccessfully tried using the JVP’s policies before calling in the Indian troops. The UNP government decided that the so-called independent path of the reactionary JVP petty-bourgeois leaders is harmful to the interests of the imperialists, as well as the Sinhala bourgeoisie.

The Jayewardene government is, therefore, trying to crush the JVP militarily or make it subservient to the big bourgeoisie through involving it in the “democratic” process.

Both sections of the Sinhala capitalist class, the UNP and the SLFP, have concluded that the only way to crush the Tamil nation and defeat the working class is with the support of the imperialists and the Indian bourgeoisie. The SLFP’s “opposition” to the Indo-Lankan Accord is determined solely by its hypocritical need to win the support of the petty bourgeoisie.

The racist JVP leaders are more than ready to line up with any reactionary bloodsucker, either the SLFP or the “progressives” of the UNP. The SLFP leaders, who are seeking to attack the workers, toilers and Tamil nation, are hoping to use the petty-bourgeois JVP as its shock troops when the UNP loses power.

The reactionary program of the Sinhala petty bourgeoisie can be advanced only as a counterrevolutionary program which pits the petty bourgeoisie against the Tamil nation, and crushes workers’ organizations, forcing the workers and oppressed into war and destruction. Thus, it is inevitable that the Sinhala petty-bourgeois JVP will eventually attack not only the working class, but also the rural poor whom they profess to represent, acting as a reactionary tool of the Sinhala big capitalists and imperialists.

The support extended by the Samasamaja and Stalinist leaders to the Indo Lankan Accord has helped the JVP leaders present the accord as one given by the working class and its organizations to the UNP, which oppresses the peasants. The LSSP-CP-NSSP leaders, whose pro-capitalist politics united them with the bourgeois Mahajana Party to support the Indo-Lankan Accord, provided an ideal opportunity for the “military wing” of the JVP to label them “the red UNP” and include them on their hit list.

The JVP’s campaign of individual terror flows from its counterrevolutionary politics. Motivated by the reactionary defense of the unity of the bastard bourgeois unitary state, which was imposed through a conspiracy of the imperialists and the Sinhala big bourgeoisie, the JVP is carrying out its terror attacks on the capitalist leaders of the UNP, under the illusion that this party of the big capitalists could be pressured into common line of action; in doing so, the JVP is developing into a terror squad not only against the Tamil nation, but also against the working class.

While the JVP attacks the LSSP-CP-NSSP leaders, who themselves are tied to the defense of the unitary bourgeois state, the UNP government is using every terrorist action of theirs to reinforce counterrevolutionary forces and state repression. Although the UNP and the JVP appear to be mortal enemies, the JVP in fact plays an essential role in the reactionary scheme of the big capitalists. The cynical reactionary evolution of the JVP leaders is illustrated by their involvement in the assassination of Daya Pathirana, who stood up for the right of self-determination for the Tamil nation.

What lies behind the assassination of Panditha is the hand of the counterrevolutionary forces developed by the UNP government and the JVP.

The LSSP-CPSL’s despicable pro-capitalist politics paved the way for the UNP executioners to assume the role of defenders of democracy and the JVP to pose as defenders of “the motherland.” The LSSP-CPSL-NSSP leaders, who support the bloody onslaught on the Tamil national struggle, thereby strengthen the hand of capitalism and isolate the working class from the Tamil nation.

The support that they lend to the Indian invasion and the UNP government pushes the rural poor away from the working class, and prepares the transformation of the rural poor and youth victimized by the cuts in free education, unemployment and extreme poverty into instruments of extremely reactionary movements. They weaken the working class and reinforce the counterrevolutionary forces.

These leaders are opposed to the independent mobilization of the working class on the basis of a democratic program, which guarantees the legitimate national democratic right of self-determination to the Tamil nation and solves the agrarian question of the oppressed peasantry, and a socialist program to solve the social crisis. They bind the working class to the capitalist class and the bourgeois parties, thus disarming and rendering it impotent.

The crisis-ridden capitalist class will use the treachery of the LSSP-CPSL leaders, in order to drown the working class in a river of blood. However, these leaders will not be spared by the bourgeoisie. In Chile, this bloody lesson was drummed into the working class, when the reformist Allende assumed power with the help of the Stalinists, who subordinated the working class to the capitalist class. The rise of fascism in Germany and Spain in the 1930s was caused by the same policies.

The CPSL states that L.W. Panditha dedicated himself to the defense of the territorial integrity of the country, i.e., the bourgeois state. These leaders’ politics, carried out to defend the capitalist class, are suicidal for themselves, as well as the working class.

In order to defeat the counterrevolutionary forces that raised their ugly heads through the assassination of Panditha, the working class must reject capitalist popular front politics, in which Panditha played a leading role, and mobilize itself on the basis of an internationalist program.

That is the fundamental lesson that should be drawn from this assassination. The LSSP-CPSL-NSSP leaders and their henchmen are trying to utilize the assassination in order to tighten the noose of counterrevolutionary popular front politics around the neck of the working class.

The NSSP leaders, the standard bearers of bourgeois coalition politics, have stated that the working class should set up workers’ defense squads so that the NSSP leaders may carry out their popular front politics.

The LSSP leader Colvin de Silva has assumed a more “revolutionary” posture, that the working class should take the leadership of the struggle against “terrorism”: “Let the working class take the lead in the struggle against terrorism. We certainly cannot leave that task to the bourgeois state and the reactionary capitalist government” (Daily News, July 2, 1988).

The working class should take the lead in the struggle against the counterrevolutionaries. But Colvin de Silva is trying to divert the attention of the working class away from the real questions. He conceals from the working class the intensification by the capitalist state and the UNP government of counterrevolution against the working class under the guise of opposing terrorism. The crisis-ridden UNP government and the desperate and feeble JVP, which is maddened by the crisis, did not get their strength to organize goon squads accidentally. They gained this “strength” from the betrayals of these leaders. The attacks on the working class cannot be defeated by touting an abject bourgeois program.

The LSSP-CPSL-NSSP leaders have reacted to the individual terrorism by increasingly cuddling up to the bourgeois state. They accepted arms and soldiers from the state forces, which right then were being prepared for counterrevolution, and extended their support to the military intervention in the Southern provinces. This provided the JVP leaders the opportunity to cover themselves with a false anti-UNP mantle, and the UNP to assume a “democratic” mask. These leaders spread the illusion that the working class could obtain protection from the capitalist state. Now, they are talking of building workers’ battalions parallel to those of the capitalist state.

Without delay, the working class must build its own militia against the bourgeoisie’s, not to defend the bourgeoisie or the bourgeois state, when it is preparing the counterrevolution and discarding bourgeois democracy. A workers’ defense militia should be formed to defend the organizations of the working class, its newspapers, and all the gains of the working class in the previous period.

But a defensive program alone is not sufficient to destroy the reactionary goon squads of the capitalist class. In a social sense, the struggle of the working class should not be defensive, but offensive. The working class, which alone is capable of defending the toilers, must advance a socialist program to break up the domination of imperialism and expropriate the capitalist class. It will attract the toilers to its program in the course of the struggle against reaction. It will destroy the influence of the UNP-SLFP capitalists, who are trying to build forces among the toilers, as well as the JVP, which is trying to build itself among the rural poor. The working class must overthrow the capitalist system, the source of counterrevolution.

In the struggle to mobilize the working class against the fascists in Spain, Leon Trotsky explained:

“On the other hand, the slogan ‘Against fascism, for democracy!’ cannot attract millions and tens of millions of the populace if only because during wartime there was not and is not any democracy in the camp of the republicans. Both with Franco and Azaha there have been military dictatorship, censorship, forced mobilization, hunger, blood, and death. The abstract slogan, ‘For democracy!’ suffices for liberal journalists but not for the oppressed workers and peasants. They have nothing to defend except slavery and poverty. They will direct all their forces to smashing fascism only if, at the same time, they are able to realize new and better conditions of existence. In consequence, the struggle of the proletariat and the poorest peasants against fascism cannot in the social sense be defensive but only offensive. That is why Leon goes wide of the mark when, following the more ‘authoritative’ philistines, he lectures us that Marxism rejects utopias, and the idea of a socialist revolution during a struggle against fascism is utopian. In point of fact, the worst and most reactionary form of utopianism is the idea that it is possible to struggle against fascism without overthrowing the capitalist economy” (Leon Trotsky, The Spanish Revolution (1931-39) [New York: Pathfinder, 1973], p. 340).

The LSSP-CP-NSSP leaders talk about false defensive positions in order to divert the aggressive struggle of the working class against capitalism. When the working class comes forward aggressively in the form of strikes and factory occupations to defend its fundamental rights against counterrevolutionary forces, the LSSP-CPSL leaders will definitely sing their usual melody, “no provocations,” and act to paralyze it.

The working class will be able to defeat the counterrevolutionary forces only by consciously uniting with its class brothers internationally, fighting for a socialist program and arming itself. That means sharpening the class struggle to overthrow capitalism and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The assassination of L.W. Panditha marks a high point in the political situation, which demands that this struggle be taken forward. The working class should demand that the LSSP-CPSL leaders fight for the above program and end their official and unofficial coalition with the capitalist government and the capitalist parties.

Every working class organization should demand that the LSSP-CPSL-CWC leaders expose the growth of the reactionary shock troops of the capitalist class, the UNP government and the petty-bourgeois JVP by holding a workers’ inquiry into the assassination of Panditha, thereby alerting the working class to this danger, and build workers’ defense squads financed by working class organizations.

It is the duty of all class-conscious workers to campaign for the LSSP-CPSL-CWC and all other trade unions to convoke a conference of all trade unions which should:

  • Fight against the counter-revolutionary goon squads.
  • Secure the right of self-determination for the Tamil nation.
  • Defeat the current state repression.
  • Defend the fundamental rights of the working class, such as wages, jobs, free education, health service and trade union rights.
  • Refuse payment of the imperialist foreign debt.
  • Free political prisoners and abolish repressive legislation.
  • Drive out the UNP government.
  • Drive out the Indo-Lankan troops from the Northern and Eastern provinces.

In the course of these struggles, we must form soviets of workers and poor peasants, overthrow capitalism and form a workers’ and peasants’ government.

The Revolutionary Communist League is the organization that fights consistently for the realization of the above program.

When Comrade R.P. Piyadasa, the RCL organizer of the Rajangana area, was assassinated on July 17, 1979, when Brother D. Somapala was assassinated in June 1980, when Brother Daya Pathirana was assassinated in December 1986, and when countless militants of the Tamil liberation struggle were assassinated, the LSSP-CPSL-CWC-NSSP leaders opposed our demand for a workers’ inquiry. Today, when an acknowledged leader of the trade union movement is assassinated, they are still opposed to this.

This makes it all the more urgent that class-conscious workers, militants and youth join the Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, and fight to build it as the revolutionary party of the working class.