International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 1 (March 1988)

The Situation in Sri Lanka and the Political Tasks of the Revolutionary Communist League

Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International

1. In the unlikely event that the countless tragic experiences of this century have not already sufficiently demonstrated the perfidious and reactionary character of the national bourgeoisie in the backward countries, the signing of the Indo-Sri Lankan accord and the Indian invasion of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka provide yet another bitter lesson to the oppressed toilers. If there is anything unique in the actions of Jayewardene and Gandhi, it is only the degree of cynicism and ruthlessness with which they have executed their joint conspiracy. In the pantheon of national bourgeois scoundrels, these two assassins have won themselves a place alongside such immortal imperialist flunkeys as Chiang Kai-shek, Sadat and Mobutu. The policies of Jayewardene and Gandhi have shattered whatever still remained of the myth that the national bourgeoisie of India and Sri Lanka have any progressive role to play in the future of their two countries.

2. For decades, the Indian bourgeoisie has basked in the reflected glory of that historical misunderstanding known as Gandhianism, still exploiting the masses’ confused and naive veneration of the so-called Mahatma’s politically-cunning asceticism as a cloak for the staggering corruption of the Congress Party sharks. While presenting itself to the world in the saintly pose of “nonaligned” benevolence, the Indian bourgeoisie, commanding the fourth largest army in the world, has silently and despotically safeguarded imperialist interests in South Asia and trampled upon the democratic aspirations of myriad oppressed nationalities within its own country. As for the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie, which lacks even the dignity of the slightest historical association with the struggle for national liberation, it has desperately sought to find justification for its hegemony in the vagaries of geography and the mystic legends of Vijaya, Dutugamunu and Parakramabahu.

3. From the suppression of the citizenship rights of the plantation workers in 1948 and the denial of parity status for the Tamil language in 1956, all the way to the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1983 and the subsequent invasion of the North and East, the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie has, like a broken record, continually defended its bloody crimes with the claim that it was upholding the sovereignty of the unitary state. In order to foster popular support for its war against the Tamils, it incited the most primitive xenophobic passions by claiming that the Sinhalese race was making a last-ditch stand against Indian “expansionism.” The more it denied the rural population the basic necessities of life, the more the UNP and the SLFP (the two main bourgeois parties) sought to drug the peasants with the poison of anti-Tamil communalism.

4. In the meantime, the crooked New Delhi intriguers shed well-publicized crocodile tears over the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka and sanctimoniously pose as their defenders against Sinhalese genocide—demanding in return absolute veto power over the policies of the liberation movement.

5. But, at long last, the murderous class interests that guided all the hypocritical play-acting have been exposed with a blinding clarity. Jayewardene’s defense of Sinhalese national sovereignty and Gandhi’s protection of Tamil freedom have predictably degenerated into the grotesque spectacle of their unified military campaigns against the very populations in whose name they claimed to speak. Jayewardene has handed over the Northern and Eastern provinces to the Indian Army for the indefinite future. The Sri Lankan Army, which was deployed for four years to exterminate the Tamils in the North, has now been dispatched to the South to suppress the impoverished Sinhalese workers and peasants. As for the Indians, their defense of the Tamil masses has resolved itself into the launching of an all-out offensive to annihilate them. The actions of the Indians recall the American general in Vietnam who justified the leveling of Hue with the words: “In order to save a city, it is sometimes necessary to destroy it.” Here, the Indians propose to “save” a nation by destroying its people.

6. There are many historical precedents for the actions of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie. The analogies which are most appropriately recalled on this occasion are the collaboration of the French bourgeoisie with the Prussian Army in 1871 against the insurgent Parisian working class and, 46 years later, Kerensky’s plans to surrender Petrograd to the Germans in order to forestall the Bolshevik revolution. The lesson of Jayewardene’s treachery is that the “patriotism” of the national bourgeoisie lacks all historical substance, is merely a flimsy pretext for its capitalist greed, and is always subordinated to its essential class interests. The rule of the bourgeoisie in Sri Lanka now rests upon the twin pillars of Indian occupation of the North and anti-Tamil racism in the South. This situation merely illustrates the fact that the democratic equality of all national, racial and religious groupings within any country can only be achieved through the socialist revolution led by the proletariat.

7. While the conspiracies of Gandhi and Jayewardene have unmasked the brutal nature of the national bourgeoisie in the Indian subcontinent, this latest historical experience has demonstrated the bankruptcy of petty-bourgeois nationalism, which has been shown to be incapable of achieving national self-determination. In times of historical crisis, when the fate of entire peoples hangs in the balance, there is no place for sentimentality. Sympathy for the plight of the LTTE and concern for the fate of its fighters are no excuse for failing to say what must be said: the policies of the Liberation Tigers are principally responsible for the grave setbacks which the national struggle has suffered since July 29, 1987.

8. Prabakaran now claims that his decision to fly to New Delhi and agree to the terms of the Indo-Sri Lankan accord was the product of Indian tricks and deceit. This “excuse” exposes not only the naivete of the LTTE, but the political impotence of petty-bourgeois nationalism. If the LTTE leader could be tricked by Gandhi, it is because his entire policy had been built upon soliciting the assistance of the Indian bourgeoisie in securing the self-determination of Tamil Eelam. The source of this catastrophic miscalculation lies in the essential class perspective and program of bourgeois nationalism.

As Lenin warned more than 70 years ago, the bourgeoisie of an oppressed nation conceives of self-determination exclusively from the standpoint of securing its own national privileges and establishing the best conditions for the exploitation of the workers and peasants within the “independent” country. This selfishness is rooted objectively in the nature of the bourgeoisie as a class, which bases itself on the extraction of surplus value from wage labor, that is, on the subjugation of the working class. This class objective guides the policies of all wings of the bourgeois nationalists, including its most radical tendencies, such as the LTTE, and determines their political physiognomy. At every step, the bourgeois nationalists take care not to permit the liberation struggle “to get out of hand” and become a threat to the maintenance of capitalist rule.

9. Thus compelled to place limits on the mobilization of the oppressed masses, the bourgeoisie in the oppressed and backward countries are organically incapable of attaining the universalism that is the indispensable prerequisite for the liberation of their nations from the clutches of imperialist oppression. As the Revolutionary Communist League correctly stated in the October 16 issue of Kamkaru Mavatha:

“But national liberation cannot be achieved through a movement based on national exclusivism and aimed to win one’s own rights only. In our epoch, such a movement will find itself isolated among capitalist nations, whatever the strength of the mass movement it may generate. A liberation movement of a particular oppressed nation can go forward only as part and parcel of a movement fighting fully and unreservedly for democracy.

“National exclusivism prevents the national liberation struggle of an oppressed nation from becoming part of such a movement. This is because, in the last analysis, national exclusivism is connected to the attempt made by the national bourgeoisie to exploit the workers and peasants in its own country. Herein lies the source from which flows the political impotence of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”

10. Despite the tragic consequences of its acceptance of the Indo-Sri Lankan accord, which include the carrying out of horrific massacres by the Indian Army, the LTTE is still attempting to hang on to whatever remains of its battered alliance with the Gandhi regime. As late as October 14, Prabakaran was still pretending that the genocidal actions of the Indian Army were based on a misunderstanding. In a message to Gandhi, he claimed that “it was uncharacteristic of a democratic country like India to superimpose its will at the point of a gun on a people who have the democratic liberty to choose their political destiny.” At best, Prabakaran’s invocation of Indian “democracy” is an example of naivete. At worst, it is a deliberate deception of the Tamil masses, aimed at preventing the independent mobilization of the workers and peasants against their class enemies in Colombo, New Delhi and Jaffna!

11. The failure of the LTTE does not invalidate the demand for national self-determination, nor does it signify the hopelessness of such a struggle. Rather, it demonstrates yet again that the fate of the national democratic movement is bound up with the historical role of the working class in the oppressed country. Like all other unresolved tasks of the democratic movement, national self-determination can only be achieved through the dictatorship of the proletariat. In fact, this historical perspective of the Fourth International has found tragic vindication in the experience of the Sri Lankan masses, Sinhalese and Tamil, over the last 40 years. There would never have been the fracturing of the national struggle of the Tamils and the class struggle of the Sri Lankan proletariat had it not been for the unspeakable betrayals carried out by the LSSP, sanctioned by the Pabloite revisionists, over the last quarter century.

Certainly, the entrance of the LSSP into the Bandaranaike coalition in 1964 marked the historical watershed in the development of both the class struggle and the national movement. Prior to that historic betrayal, the Tamil masses looked to the working class for leadership and confidently anticipated that its national oppression would be lifted once the proletariat overthrew the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie. This was materially demonstrated by the hartal (general strike) of 1953 and the 21 demands movement of 1963-64. The entire situation was altered between 1964 and 1972, as the LSSP assumed responsibility for defending the Sinhalese bourgeois state and actually participated in the passage of a constitution which institutionalized national oppression. Forsaken by the LSSP, the Tamil masses looked for a new road and were thus drawn into the train of bourgeois nationalist politics.

12. The betrayals of the LSSP notwithstanding, the sole perspective which offers a way out of the blind alley of bourgeois nationalism is one based on the unified struggle of the Tamil and Sri Lankan working class. The Indian occupation, which has exposed the class basis of the oppression of the Tamil nation as well as the Sinhalese masses in the South, raises anew the imperative of combining the national struggle with the class struggle, under the hegemony of the Sinhalese and Tamil-speaking working class. Concretely, this means raising the banner of the United Socialist States of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka!

13. Upon the rotting structure of capitalist states and within the strangulating confines of their artificial boundaries, neither the democratic aspirations nor basic material needs of the masses can be satisfied. Since the end of World War II, imperialism has not allowed the creation of a single national state based on the genuine democratic equality of its various linguistic, religious, and racial components. Invariably, imperialist-sanctioned “independence” has meant the setting up of bastard states whose very foundations have been built upon a fatal compromise of democratic principles. In this process, the national bourgeoisie has functioned not as the liberator of the oppressed masses, but as a junior partner in imperialist plunder. The type of state created in this process has been nothing more than a prison ground for putrefying capitalism, upon which the progressive development of the productive forces has been impossible.

14. The consequences of imperialist domination of these bourgeois states is well-known. Unable to develop viable local industries, their economic fates chained to the export of a few raw materials, and suffocating beneath a massive and unserviceable debt, a nightmarish combination of mass illiteracy, disease and starvation prevails in the backward countries. Even in those rare cases where local industries have been built up, these have merely been part of imperialist-controlled multinational production to be utilized exclusively as sources of imperialist superprofits. Such bogus economic development contributes nothing to the national interests of the oppressed population. Arising out of such conditions, with the joyous approval of the bourgeoisie, are the horrors of intercommunal warfare. This state of affairs cannot be altered as long as bourgeois rule prevails. The post-independence history of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma—in fact, of every former colonial country in the world—decisively proves that the bourgeoisie cannot establish genuine national unification and political independence.

15. History—despite the protestations of the Stalinists, revisionists and petty-bourgeois nationalists—has entrusted this task to the proletariat. It is the only social force that can realize the right of nations to self-determination. However, it does this not as an appendage to the national bourgeoisie, but rather as its implacable enemy. It fights for self-determination with its own weapons and on the basis of its own program, rallying behind it all the oppressed masses in the villages and countryside. Self-determination is achieved as a by-product of the socialist revolution led by the proletariat which, having established its dictatorship, guarantees to all oppressed people their legitimate democratic rights. As the framework for the genuine equality of nations, it proposes the creation of a voluntarily united socialist federation. While believing that the voluntary amalgamation of all the oppressed nations offers the best opportunity for economic and cultural progress, the proletarian dictatorship pledges that those nations which wish to secede shall have the right to do so. This is the essential content of the program advanced by the Revolutionary Communist League for a United Socialist States of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka.

16. The principal obstacle to this struggle is the venal collaboration of the LSSP and the Stalinists with the Indian and Sri Lankan ruling classes. Their de-facto coalition with the Jayewardene regime is the inevitable outcome of their defense of the unitary state. Neither of these two parties has the slightest independence from the bourgeoisie. The CP’s role is, of course, rooted in the entire history of Stalinism. As for the LSSP, it has severed all its historical connections to its revolutionary past. How the mighty have fallen! The past writings of Colvin De Silva on the national question, true masterpieces of Marxist literature, now read like an indictment of the entire political line of the party he still leads. By tying the LSSP cart to the UNP horse, De Silva has immeasurably aided the most reactionary chauvinist forces on the island. Against the wishes of the working class, which has no interest in defending the Sinhala state, the LSSP has assumed co-responsibility for the worst crimes of the Jayewardene regime.

17. Moreover, in endorsing the Indian presence in the North and East, it callously ignores the legitimate national sentiments of the oppressed Sinhalese peasantry and thus strengthens the hand of the ultrareactionary JVP and its SLFP mentors. This policy serves only to discredit the workers’ movement in the eyes of the petty-bourgeois masses and assists the growth of a fascist movement based on Sinhalese chauvinism. Rather than identifying the struggle against Indian occupation with the class struggle against the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie and, moreover, linking this very class struggle with the democratic unification of the Sinhalese and Tamil masses, the LSSP does everything possible to alienate all sections of the oppressed population. It glorifies the Indian occupation, it supports the extermination of the Tamils, and it endorses Jayewardene’s repressive measures in the South. The crux of the policies of the LSSP is the repudiation of the independent mobilization of the working class on the basis of a socialist and democratic program.

18. The entire course of events has vindicated the program of the Revolutionary Communist League. It alone has upheld the strategy of proletarian internationalism among the Tamil workers in the North and the Sinhalese workers in the South. Moreover, during the past year, in close fraternal association with the Socialist Labour League of India, it has extended the fight for Trotskyist policies into the multimillioned Indian working class. This, too, was a conscious decision, based on the recognition of the fact that the fate of the Indian and Sri Lankan proletariat is inextricably linked, and that their fight against imperialism is, indeed, a combined struggle.

19. At the present critical juncture, the pressing task confronting the RCL is to expand its forces as rapidly as possible. This requires intensifying the fight against the LSSP’s and CP’s collaboration with the UNP government. As the RCL has correctly stated:

“The only way forward is the struggle for the mobilization of the working class independently from the capitalist parties, and to drive out the UNP government through a struggle on a perspective of a socialist republic of the Sinhalese and Tamil-speaking peoples, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Indo-Sri Lankan invading forces from the North and East, and fighting to ensure the national democratic rights of the Tamil nation.”

20. As a crucial element in this fight, the RCL must strive to place itself at the head of every form of working class struggle in the South against the capitalist class and the UNP regime. The impact of the deteriorating world economic situation will in the coming months provoke a renewed offensive by the one force that all revisionists all over the world have forgotten about, the Sri Lankan working class. This coming offensive, armed with a correct revolutionary policy, will transform the entire political equation in Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent as a whole. The present inroads of the JVP into the countryside, based on the betrayals of the LSSP-CP and the despair of the rural masses, will be undermined as soon as the upsurge of the working class provides the Sinhalese peasantry with a new perspective.

21. The International Committee notes with great satisfaction the hard-earned and impressive successes of the Revolutionary Communist League during the past few months. In the face of government repression and Sinhalese racist goon squads, it alone has publicly campaigned against the Indo-Sri Lankan accord in the name of the working class. Despite all the difficulties, its recent successful public meetings in Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna against the Indo-Sri Lankan accord clearly demonstrate that the RCL is now in the process of making major gains among the Tamil and Sinhalese masses, winning forces away from both the LSSP and CP in the South and the LTTE in the North. It is precisely these gains which lie behind the UNP’s attempted assassination of three leading cadre of the RCL on November 12 in the city of Colombo.

Another indication of the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie’s fear of the resurgence of Trotskyist influence in the working class and among the youth have been recent death threats against RCL members issued by the JVP. The RCL must counter these attacks and threats with the necessary security precautions, but above all by intensifying the revolutionary work it is conducting within the working class.

Indian troops out of Tamil Eelam! Hands off the Tamil liberation struggle!
Down with the Gandhi-Jayewardene pact!
Unite the Tamil and Sinhalese workers in the struggle for a United
Socialist States of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lanka!
Long live the Revolutionary Communist League, vanguard of the Sinhalese and Tamil proletariat!
Long live the International Committee of the Fourth International!