This article originally appeared in the Bulletin on November 11, 1988
The Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, has successfully fought back the UNP government’s attempt to prevent the January-March 1988 issue of the Fourth International magazine from reaching the working class of the strife-torn island.
In August this year, when a shipment of magazines arrived in Colombo, the Minister of State impounded it on the spurious ground that it contained “controversial material.”
After the ICFI and the RCL, of which it is a section, hit back, mobilizing the working class internationally, the reactionary regime in Colombo had to rescind the ban. The director of information of the UNP government has sent letters to all organizations that rallied to the call of the RCL against the ban, informing them of the reversal of the decision.
Immediately upon hearing of the cowardly action in banning the issue of Fourth International, David North, the editor of the magazine and national secretary of the Workers League, the Trotskyist organization in the United States which is in solidarity with the ICFI, sent the following telegram to the Sri Lankan Minister of Information, demanding its release: “I strongly condemn your banning of this magazine. I demand that you rescind this order and release the magazine immediately.”
In a telegram to the Sri Lankan high commissioner in Canberra, the Socialist Labour League, the Australian section of the ICFI, stated: “We demand that the Jayewardene government reverse its order prohibiting the release of the January-March issue of the ‘FI,’ the official organ of the ICFI.”
The SLL warned the Sri Lankan government that “the attack on the basic democratic rights of the Sri Lankan and international working class and our comrades in the Revolutionary Communist League will be fought by our movement in Australia and internationally, as we have previously campaigned against the arrest of our comrades Wije Dias, Brutan Perera and Ruman Perera.”
The British section of the ICFI, the International Communist Party, stated in a letter to the Sri Lankan high commissioner in London that “the ban on the Fourth International is a fundamental attack on the democratic rights of the Sri Lankan working class and the international working class and our comrades in the RCL.... The ICP calls on all working class organizations to oppose the fundamental assault on the rights of the working class.”
In a letter to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Bonn, the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter, the German section of the ICFI, declared, “We consider the seizure of the FI magazine as a continuation of the attempts of your government to attack the democratic rights of the RCL.
“We demand that you immediately inform the government of Sri Lanka and the Minister of State of our protest and that you insist that the seized magazines are immediately released.”
In response to the RCL’s call, several leading working class organizations in Sri Lanka joined the campaign against the ban. The Government Clerical Services Union declared in a letter to the Minister of State and Information, “Whatever reason is given, this act is considered by our union as a great blow struck at the basic democratic rights of the people of my country.
“We are saddened by the fact that you have taken a step entirely contrary to your claim in public that full freedom of expression exists in Sri Lanka.”
The general secretary of the Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU), Bala Tampoe, stated in his letter of protest: “We shall be glad if you will let us know whether the journal in question was impounded for the above-mentioned reason or for any other reason. We are of the view that the impounding was illegal and involved a breach of the fundamental democratic freedom of publication, which includes free dissemination of political journals that do not infringe on the law. We would accordingly request that you order the customs authorities to release the publication mentioned above.”
The centrist NSSP, in its letter of protest, stated, “We consider that this act is a grave injustice. You have violated the right of our people to receive and read the documents normally available in the rest of the world.”
The Lanka Sama Samaja Party, in its statement, said, “Despite our differences with the politics of the organization concerned, we consider that a basic right has been violated in the impounding of this magazine.”
The following organizations also joined in the protest: Central Bank Employees Union; Ceylon Cooperative Employees Federation; Industrial, Transport and General Workers Union, Rowlands branch; Sri Lanka Inland Revenue Service Union; and the independent students’ union.
It is not surprising that the venom of the reactionary regime in Colombo was turned on the Fourth International, which fights to build the World Party of the Socialist Revolution. The impounded issue carried on its cover page a picture of Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya, a prominent leader of the Fourth International and general secretary of the RCL, who died recently.
In the inside pages were material on the life and death of Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya and a special feature on Rajiv Gandhi’s dirty war in Jaffna, exposing the Indian atrocities in Tamil Eelam, the homeland of the Tamil nation in Sri Lanka, which the Indian Army has occupied under the pretext of keeping peace according to the US imperialist-designed Indo-Lanka Accord.
The RCL has issued the following statement on the lifting of the ban on the Fourth International:
The RCL thanks all the organizations that joined the agitation to release the Fourth International magazine. By the ban imposed on the magazine the UNP government launched an attack not only against the fundamental rights of the RCL, but also the working class as a whole. Despite the lifting of the ban on the ‘FI’ magazine, their plans remain to impose a military dictatorship on the working class, destroying all its rights.
We call upon all class-conscious workers and youth to join the RCL, the Sri Lankan section of the ICFI, in order to mobilize the working class to defend its democratic rights, defeating these reactionary measures. Democratic rights of the working class can be secured only in the course of a struggle to mobilize the working class internationally for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.