International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International (1990): 50 years since the assassination of Trotsky

On the State Killing of Rohana Wijeweera

Rohand Wijeweera, leader of the JVP, was assassinated by Sri Lankan government forces on November 12, 1989. The working class must take warning: despite the fascist political nature of the JVP, the assassination is aimed at building the UNP regime’s forces of repression to be used against the working class.

This article originally appeared in the Bulletin on December 8, 1989.

On November 12, 1989 security forces of the Sri Lankan capitalist state arrested and then assassinated Rohana Wijeweera, the principal leader of the fascist Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna (JVP). Several hours later, it captured and summarily executed Wijeweera’s principal deputy, Upatissa Gamanayake. A third member of the JVP’s leadership, H.B. Herath, was also summarily executed by the security forces. The bodies of the three men were hastily cremated.

Wijeweera and his associates were all bitter enemies of the working class. The JVP is responsible for hundreds of assassinations directed against the labor and Tamil national liberation movement. Among those who have been assassinated by the JVP in the course of the past year are three members of the Revolutionary Communist League, the Sri Lankan section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

However, despite the reactionary political nature of the JVP, class-conscious workers in Sri Lanka clearly understand that the assassination of Wijeweera and his associates are acts of state terror which are aimed at strengthening the hand of the bourgeois state apparatus and intimidating all political opposition to the regime.

In the months preceding the assassination. President Premadasa often expressed his profound admiration for the JVP and sympathy for its reactionary aims. He made it clear that he hoped that an agreement would be reached with the JVP so that this petty-bourgeois fascist movement could be kept under the wing of the bourgeois government. However, it did not prove possible for Premadasa to negotiate an agreement with the JVP; and so a decision was made to exterminate Wijeweera.

With this display of calculated ruthlessness, Premadasa intends to provide all his opponents with a bloody object lesson. “Now that you have seen how I have dealt with my too obstreperous fascist friends,” he is saying, “you should clearly understand how I intend to deal with my revolutionary working class enemies.”

The Revolutionary Communist League has been in the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle to mobilize the working class against the danger of military-police and fascist dictatorship. During the past year, it has fought relentlessly to develop a united front of working class organizations to undertake the defense of the workers’ movement against the fascist terrorists of the JVP.

Precisely because it has continuously based its fight against the JVP on the independent revolutionary mobilization of the working class, it is now warning workers to understand the thoroughly reactionary nature of last month’s state assassinations.

The struggle against fascism is the task of the working class, not the bourgeois state. This struggle is indissolubly bound up with the revolutionary struggle against capitalism itself. At any rate, only hardened opportunists like the bureaucrats of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and their Stalinist colleagues would dare claim that the Bonapartist regime of Premadasa is conducting a struggle against fascism. Yesterday, Premadasa’s military satraps lined Wijeweera and Gamanayake up against a wall and shot them. They would carry out the same assignment even more eagerly against working class and socialist opponents.

Moreover, the murder of JVP leaders does not put an end to the danger of fascism. Fascist movements are not the product of “charismatic” leaders, but of the massive social contradictions of capitalism, which drives sections of the petty bourgeoisie into a frenzy. Unless these social contradictions are resolved through a proletarian revolution, they will be resolved on the basis of fascism. While the JVP has suffered a blow, others will come forward to take the place of Wijeweera. In the meantime, Premadasa is attempting to take the remnants of the fascist movement under the wing of his Bonapartist regime.

Under these conditions, it is more imperative than ever for the Sri Lankan working class to heed the RCL’s call for a united front and mobilize its great strength against the bloody Premadasa regime.