International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International 1991: Oppose imperialist war and colonialism!

Sri Lankan Trotskyists Defend Rural Youth

This article originally appeared as the lead in the Revolutionary Communist League (RCL) newspaper “Kamkaru Mawatha” on November 23, 1990. The RCL is the forerunner of the Socialist Equality Party in Sri Lanka.

The Revolutionary Communist League calls upon all workers and youth to begin an immediate campaign for the organization of a general strike of the working class against the massive pogrom which is being carried out against the youth and the reign of terror being conducted by the United National Party government’s state forces and death squads in the rural areas.

This massive pogrom is but one front in the war of the UNP to defend bourgeois rule and the interests of the imperialist robbers in Sri Lanka. The UNP government has opened up another front in the northern and eastern provinces, launching a racist war against the oppressed Tamil nation. Through this war, the UNP government plans to destroy jobs, living conditions and working conditions to comply with the dictates of the World Bank and to drown the working class in blood and impose military dictatorship.

The imperialists are warming their hands over the fires which bum the bodies of the youth killed by the state forces and death squads. By way of payment for the bloody executioner’s work being performed by the Premadasa government, the Aid Group for Sri Lanka, which met in Paris on October 23, approved a loan of 40,000m rupees.

The large-scale massacre of the youth was begun by the UNP in August 1989. As many as 100,000 youth have been killed and their bodies burned or thrown into rivers. According to government figures, there are 12,000 youth in “rehabilitation” centers and 5,000 in maximum security prisons. The state minister for defense, Ranjan Wijeratna, stated in parliament that these 5,000 are to be held for life.

The capitalist class in Sri Lanka was born licking the boots of the imperialist colonial masters. It managed to transfer political power into its own hands only through a conspiracy in which it pledged to uphold the interests of the imperialists. This class has always tried to pit the rural poor against the working class while falsely claiming to stand for the defense of the interests of the rural masses as one of their wretched tactics to preserve their class rule.

Their other tactic was to repress the rural Sinhalese masses in direct proportion to the intensification of the capitalist crisis. It was this pernicious political line which was followed by the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP, the main bourgeois opposition party) capitalists as well as the coalition government which the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and Communist Party leaders formed with the bourgeois SLFP. It is the same capitalist beasts who keep the rural poor under subjugation by suppressing their rights. The capitalist class, which is unable to solve a single social problem, has left a legacy to the rural poor of increasing land hunger, indebtedness, poverty, disease and malnutrition.

The UNP and SLFP capitalists in Sri Lanka, following in the footsteps of the capitalists in other semicolonial countries, have pushed the working class and poor peasantry of the country further into the grip of the imperialist bankers and the multinational companies. Today they come forward to subordinate the workers and the rural poor to the new demands of finance capital. There exists no other way out for these weak native capitalists who are bound hand and foot to imperialism.

Serving the interests of imperialist finance capital, the UNP government which came to power in 1977 subjected the workers and the rural poor to the deepening crisis of the capitalist system. Under the dictates of the World Bank and the IMF, it began to deal deadly blows to the jobs and living standards of the workers and poor, privatizing the state sector, devaluing the rupee and raising prices. The obstacles to naked imperialist exploitation were removed and land belonging to peasants was given to multinationals like Monaragala Sugar Company and Pelawatta Sugar Company, while two free trade zones were opened in Katunayake and Biyagama.

In July 1987, the Indian army of aggression was invited into Sri Lanka to suppress the Tamil liberation struggle and to protect bourgeois rule in the midst of unemployment and the destruction of free education. This act, combined with raising water taxes and the introduction of laws allowing the arrest of peasants who defaulted on their debts and the cessation of loans intensified the hatred of the village masses producing an insurgent situation in the rural areas. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which degenerated into a fascist organization, attempted to turn this turbulent situation into a Sinhala chauvinist revolt defending the bourgeois state’.

Under conditions in which the economic and political crisis is now being worsened by the crisis in the Persian Gulf, the Premadasa regime has since last September placed on its agenda the destruction of 150,000 jobs in the state sector and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the plantation sector, while submitting other workers to super-exploitation. At the same time as prices are rising steeply, the World Bank has dictated that the expenditure for subsidies should be slashed to Rs. 4,260m. As part of the attack on jobs, teachers and other public servants are being retired, paving the way for the destruction of the remnants of the education system. At the beginning of this year, the fertilizer subsidy was eliminated, raising the price by 100-200 percent. While these steps were being taken, the government announced through the budget the total removal of the final obstacles to foreign capital.

According to official figures, unemployment is 1,200,000, but the real figure is almost double that. The government offers the youth nothing but massacres and exploitation at slave wages within economic colonies for foreign capital, which have been formed under the name of free trade zones. In Koggala in the south, a free trade zone has driven the fishermen out of the villages.

The RCL calls for the immediate intervention of the working class to stop the rural bloodbath. Stop the rural massacres! Release all political prisoners! Withdraw the emergency and other repressive laws! A general strike of the working class should be organized based upon these demands. We call upon workers to pass resolutions in all the trade unions and other workers’ organizations to demand such a general strike. We call upon all organizations of the oppressed and the youth to agitate on these demands.

The RCL does not believe that mere protest actions can halt the bloodbath being carried out by the UNP and the Sri Lankan capitalists. Over the last decade, one out of every 160 inhabitants of the country has been killed. If all the massacres on the island as a whole, including those carried out in the Tamil areas, are considered, the ratio is about one for every hundred. The SLFP-LSSP-CP bourgeois coalition killed about 20,000 youth in the 1971 youth uprising. At least a million have been made destitute by the war during the past few months. One out of every 16 in the population is a refugee. The Sri Lankan capitalist class has taken first place when it comes to pushing the masses into wretchedness.

What this reveals is the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie’s decomposition and its pro-imperialist brutality. The only way out of this barbarism is for the working class in Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam, in alliance with the rural poor, to create soviets, drive out the UNP government and establish a workers and peasants government—a union of socialist republics of Sri Lanka and Tamil Eelam.

As in every one of its attacks, the Premadasa government has been able to conduct this campaign of terror in the rural areas not out of any intrinsic strength of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie, but only because of the contemptible betrayals carried out by the LSSP, CP, NSSP and CWC leaders.

These leaders rejected the proposal made by the RCL to take practical steps through a united front of all working class organizations to defend the workers movement and the oppressed against the terror of the UNP state and the JVP fascists. These leaders, who saved their own skins with the help of the arms given by the UNP government and the security provided by the state, gave their support to the ferocious repression launched in the rural areas in the name of suppressing the JVP.

Faced with the burning hatred of the masses against the UNP government, caused by the continuing repression which has killed more than a hundred thousand people, these leaders have now begun to shed crocodile tears over the state repression and have formed a “common alliance of the opposition” in order to herd the rural people into the SLFP.

This tactic is a continuation of the historic betrayal carried out by the leaderships in the Sri Lankan workers movement in 1964. In that year, the Pabloite LSSP leaders joined the Stalinist traitors and entered the bourgeois SLFP government, betraying the class independence of the working class and betraying the peasantry to the capitalist class. It was this betrayal which alienated the Tamil oppressed in the North and the East from the working class. It likewise paved the way for the attacks of the capitalist class against the working class by isolating the working class from the poor and destroying its independent class policy. Moreover, this betrayal ultimately created the political conditions for the massacres taking place today in the rural areas.

The NSSP centrist leaders have adopted the pernicious role of misleading the parents and children who are burning with hatred over the killing of their sons and daughters. “The organization of the parents and children of the disappeared” which they have formed is directed towards begging concessions from the Premadasa regime and asking assistance from the so-called human rights organizations of the imperialists who sustain the UNP government. So treacherous is this organization that it also makes inquiries on behalf of those police officers who participated in the rural killings in the south and later disappeared after going to the war in the North and the East. The NSSP leaders have placed arch reactionaries like Anura Bandaranayaka of the bourgeois SLFP before the rural youth, hailing them as “defenders of human rights,” when these same people gave their full support to the rural massacres.

The other traitors are the Thondaman-Sellasamy leadership of the CWC who directly participate in the preparation of the plans for military dictatorship and the war plans of the UNP government.

All these traitors who support the UNP government in the destruction of all the rights of the working class also support the UNP massacres in the rural areas and the anti-Tamil war in the northern and eastern areas. This is how these leaders act as accomplices in sacrificing workers, the rural poor and the Tamil oppressed to a military dictatorship.

The working class must force these leaders to break the official and unofficial coalition maintained with the UNP government and the coalition with the other bourgeois parties, including the SLFP, and to mobilize the trade unions and other organizations under them to prepare a general strike to stop rural massacres and release political prisoners.

The RCL does not believe that these traitors will take steps to bring a workers and peasants government into power or to defend the rural poor. It is the RCL which fights for the mobilization of the workers movement to defend the rural masses and for a workers and peasants government consolidating the alliance of the working class and the peasantry against a military dictatorship which is being prepared through the racist war and the war in the countryside. We call upon every worker to come forward to build the RCL as the revolutionary leadership.