Gerry Healy



Behind the Ceylon Coalition

   What is the truth about the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, (LSSP), coalition in Ceylon? This is now the number one question for every Trotskyist throughout the world.

   On June 7 at an aggregate conference of the membership, 507 voted for a coalition with the capitalist government of Mrs. Bandaranaike. 75 voted for the policy of the “United Secretariat of the Fourth International” in Paris to support a United Left Front government of the communist Party, the LSSP and the party of Philip Goonewardene, known as the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, (MEP).

   This group, led by Colvin R. de Silva and Leslie Goonewardene, decided to remain in the Party even though it has entered the coalition government. 159 members who opposed the policy of class collaboration walked out of the conference and formed the LSSP (revolutionary Section.

   Meeting in Paris on June 22, the “United Secretariat” of the Fourth International unanimously expelled Dr. N. M. Perera, present finance minister in Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government. Anil Moonesinghe, Minister of Communications and Cholmondely Goonwardene MP, who accepted another post.

   The same united Secretariat, without batting an eyelid, then decided to suspend 504 members of the LSSP from membership for having supported the coalition. It took no action against the Centre group of de Silva and Goonewardene even though they remain members of the coalition party. Nothing like this has happened in the international Trotskyist movement since its foundation.

   The capitulation of the overwhelming majority of the LSSP to capitalist is the direct outcome of the split in 1953. This involved the forces of the International Committee, of which the Socialist Labour League is a member, and those who supported Pablo’s revisionism, who are now grouped around the “United Secretariat.

   The degeneration is  inextricably bound up with the struggle inside the international Trotskyist movement.  It constitutes the most complete example of betrayal by Pablo and his European allies, Germain and Pierre Frank.

   These people must take the responsibility, since they have been in constant communication with the LSSP in Ceylon, for the past 18 years.

   The answer lies not in Ceylon, but in an international study of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism. The real architects of the coalition reside in Paris.

Early Years

   The Lanka Sama Samaja Party was founded in 1935, mainly by students returning from London universities who supported the propaganda of the international Trotskyist movement against Stalinist betrayal.

   The Party entered into politics by critically supporting the national movement for independence of Ceylon from the yoke of British imperialism. In the early war years its leaders  were imprisoned and escaped, some to India, where they founded Trotskyist groups, whilst others continues the illegal struggle on the island.

   These students came in the main from bourgeois families. Their parents in some cases were related to the leading aristocratic families on the island. Because of their native capitalist interests, these families tended to be hostile to imperialist overlordship, a factor which assisted the young leaders of the early LSSP.

   In 1947, Ceylon was granted formal independence, which allowed, among other things, the granting of franchise through the setting up of an island Parliament.

   In the election of 11947 the Party won a number of seats. The opportunist ideas behind the present coalition began to form inside the ranks of the top leaders of the LSSP almost from this date.

   It is one thing for these men to wage a national liberation struggle for independence from imperialism under conditions which allowed the native capitalists of Ceylon to continue to hold power was its agency. It was another thing to build the LSSP as a revolutionary party whose aim was the destruction of bourgeois parliamentary democracy, the expropriation of the native capitalists and the setting up of the proletarian dictatorship in Ceylon. So far as this was concerned participation in Parliament was of secondary importance.

   The main task before the LSSP was to lead the struggles, particularly of the working class and the rural poor, against the national bourgeois imperialist agents, at the same time as they exposed Parliament from within.

   It was precisely this struggle which the LSSP leadership evaded. They continuously avoided the training if a Marxist leadership with deep roots amongst the working class and rural poor which could carry out this task.

   This would have meant a day-by-day, violent clash with their aristocratic friends and they were not prepared for such unpleasantness. It was so much easier to engage in a game of verbal shadow-boxing in Parliament

   So they turned more and more towards these Parliamentary methods of struggle in a  retreat from the historic responsibilities of the building on the revolutionary party.

From the United National Party to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

   From 1947 to 1956 the Ceylon Parliament was dominated by the extreme right wing United National Party which included amongst its top leaders some of the most corrupt politicians it was possible to meet anywhere in the world.

   In the late 40’s and early 50’s the economic position of the island deteriorated and the United National Party began to lose support. The position became so serious that in 1952 a split was organised from that party by Mr. Bandaranaike, the late husband of the present Prime Minister, who then founded the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

   The economic situation went from bad to worse and the UNP launched attack after attack against the living standards of the workers and peasants.

   On August 12, 1953, The LSSP led the great Hartal action against the increase in the price of rice. That action was in the nature of a direct and violent clash both with the capitalist UNP government and with the capitalist class of Ceylon as a whole. As the LSSP annual party conference of 1954 said:

   “The clash further reached in whole regions the level of actual rebellion … the masses were able to come out of this unprecedented direct action struggle with a sense of victory won and of a government rendered temporarily impotent.”

   Clearly the situation was becoming desperate for the ruling class and British imperialism.

   The foundation of Mr. Bandaranaike’s was, therefore, of enormous importance to these reactionary forces. The UNP could no longer rule, so the demagogue Bandaranaike was ushered onto the scene.

   To save the rule of native capitalism and imperialist interests, however, he had to pay lip-service in the founding programme of his party to vague socialist demands whilst at the same time he was firmly committed to the preservation of capitalism and imperialist interests on the island.

   His party was a petty bourgeois, capitalist party whose main objective was to head off the growing discontent of the masses with the LSSP which, following the Hartel action, was resulting in a growth of support throughout the island for the LSSP.

The 1953 Split in the Fourth International and Events in Ceylon

   Towards the end of 1953, the split took place in the Fourth International and it is now clear that this had a direct bearing on subsequent events in Ceylon.

   The split arose over the Pablo theory that under the pressure of international events, an irreversible leftward process had begun inside the Soviet Union. This, it was implied, could lead to a section of the bureaucracy breaking away, assuming the role of a revolutionary leadership and re-introducing democracy inside the Soviet Union.

  As Pablo, in Europe, was drafting his resolution “Rise and Fall of Stalinism” in which he expounded his revisionist theory, Leslie Goonewardene, secretary of the LSSP, began speculating about the character of the SLFP.

   In an early 1953 issue of the LSSP English weekly “Sama Samajist”, he designated  the SLFP as a “centrist party”, which, although it upheld capitalism, could, he claimed, be supported in a number of its demands by the LSSP.

   The illusion was therefore created that under certain conditions the SLFP would be forced to act in the interests of the working class in Ceylon.

   Thus, he confused a process which is familiar in reformist parties based on the working class with a demagogic left cover of a petty bourgeois party based on capitalism.

   The SFLP was not a centrist party, but a capitalist party. It had come to the rescue of a discredited UNP with a left cover that was in practice meaningless. Its emergence was part of a deliberate calculation by the ruling class to isolate the LSSP.

   Leslie Goonewardene place a question mark over the whole future of the LSSP as a revolutionary party, at the same time as Pablo placed a question mark over the role of the future of the Fourth International. From such a theoretical revision of Marxism, it was impossible for the revisionists Leslie Goonewardene and Colvin. R. de Silva to build a revolutionary party in Ceylon.

   Whilst under certain conditions the SLFP talked big against the imperialists and even nationalised insurance and petroleum installations, these actions bring little or no improvement to the conditions of the working class and should not be confused with the importance of nationalising the major industries in Britain. The limited nationalisation policies carried out by the SLFP, especially recently, are designed chiefly to strengthen the economic positions of the native capitalist interests.

   At a meeting early in 1954 in Colombo, the LSSP leadership unanimously rejected Pablo’s proposals. In June of the same year an international conference took place in Europe to discuss Pablo’s resolution “Rise and Decline of Stalinism”. The delegation of the LSSP to that conference was led by Colvin R. de Silva and Leslie Goonewardene.

   Instead of voting against Pablo’s resolution as was already decided by their national committee in Ceylon, tey agreed to accept that resolution provided Pablo, in turn, accepted a number of amendments. They agreed, in fact, to turn a blind eye to what was going on in Europe provided he remained equally blind to their opportunist course in Ceylon.

   This was the basis of the unprincipled agreement which has persisted in the International movement between Pablo and the LSSP leaders since that time.

   They gave him support against those Trotskyists organised around the International Committee who wanted a political clarification of international events, whilst the, in turn, praised them to the skies as the “largest Trotskyist organisation” in the world, thus deliberately covering up for their opportunism. Anyone who attempted to discuss the grave problems facing the movement was denounced as a disrupter and a factionalist by both sides.

The SLFP Becomes the Government.

   In the general election of 1956, the SLFP took the government from the UNP for the first time. Now the theoretical designation of the SLFP as a centrist party took on a new form for the LSSP leaders. Shortly after this election they announced that the policy of the LSSP towards the SLFP should be one of “responsive co-operation”.

   The SLFP, like the UNP, did not and could not solve a single basic problem facing the Ceylonese working class and peasantry.

   After Mr. Bandaranaike’s government was formed in 1956, he came to a coalition agreement with the MEP, which is a petty bourgeois party with some roots in the trade unions. It was founded and led by Philip Goonewardene, a man who had previously been expelled by the LSSP.

   Although he was taken into Bandaranaike’s cabinet and the name of this coalition government changed to the MEP, it failed, as it was bound to, right from the beginning.

   Strikes and other mass struggles were breaking out all over the island during the late 1950’s. Even the political resolutions of the annual conference of the LSSP which took place on July 18/19, 1959, had this to say:

   “There are two principle features of the current political situation which require to be carefully assassed for the purpose of determining the tactics of the struggle to overthrow the MEP government. On the one hand there has been during the last year and a half a tendency amongst sections of the masses and especially of the working class to resort to direct or extra-parliamentary action.

   “Since November 1957 we have witnessed a series of working class strikes, all economic struggles save the one day Token General Strike on March 3rd. Last, which however is a special case. The communal upsurge 1958, and the rigours of the first months of the consequent emergency serve only to interrupt these strike struggles but did not prevent their resumption in recent months. This is certainly a readiness among workers to strike on felt economic issues.

   “Apart from strike action by the workers we have also witnessed in recent months such political phenomena as mass resistance to destruction of shanties, mass occupation of crown land and mass satyagraha on railway lines. No doubt these manifestations of discontent did not spread in the manner that strike struggles spread among the working class.  Nevertheless they are noteworthy phenomena in that they bore the character of mass direct actions and were engaged in by other sections of toilers than the workers. It is also to be noted that these actions too were directly rooted in day to day needs.

   In short the masses will rely primarily on constitutional methods and processes, but they are ready in the case of felt issues to resort to direct action even outside the constitutional process to bring pressure to bear on the Government.”

   The LSSP was looking both ways. It was paying lip-service to the resistance of the working class and the growth of the strike action whilst at the same time turning more and more in the direction of parliamentary politics.

   The debates inside the Party centred around these issues.  A minority, led by Edmund Samarakkody wanted to direct the Party towards extra- parliamentary action, whilst the leadership of M. N. Perera, Leslie Goonewardene and Silva was turning more and more in the direction of a parliamentary alliance with the SLFP in preparation for the 1960 general election.

   The Party ranks were thoroughly confused, especially when top leaders announced a slate of close on 80 candidates for parliament, whilst at the same time they signed a “no-clash” agreement with the SLFP and the Communist Party in a number of important constituencies.

   Such an alliance, they said, was necessary because of the danger of the extreme right coming back to power and establishing a dictatorship. They justified support for the capitalist party, (SLFP), on the same lines as the Stalinists had previously in Spain and France justified support for the class-collaboration betrayal of the Popular Front governments.

Pablo Supported 1960 “No-Clash” electoral Agreement.

   In a communication t0 the LSSP early in 1960 the Pablo Secretariat in Paris agreed that it was possible to “permit practical no-clash agreements with SLFP”, although their letters stressed that it would not be permissible to vote in the election in those constituencies where such an agreement was operating for the candidates of the SLFP.

    The Pabloite International Secretariat endorsed, with reservations, the main line of the LSSP in the 1960 elections. The same letter went on to say:

   “What is on the other hand permissible, is a critical support for an eventual government of the SLFP, a support that is temporary each time this party engages in an action that is effectively anti-imperialist.”

   Thus Pablo and Co. supplied them with further cover for their capitulation to the SLFP.

After to 1960 Election.

   Between them, the Communist Party and the LSSP helped the SLFP to power in 1960. The way in which the SLLP prepared for the election revealed the enormous political degeneration which has now set in within the Party.

   Candidates were not elected democratically by the Party but in agreement with its top leaders. In the main only those who could pay their election expenses were selected.  As a result a horde of undesirable elements were place on the SLLP slate.

   There was no difference between this procedure and many of the practices of a corrupt social-democratic party. The SLLP leaders had turned their backs on mass struggle and were now operating as parliamentarians of the most opportunist character. Yet in spite of all their efforts they only gained 14 seats in parliament.

   Since they had collaborated with the SLFP during the election, the masses were confused as to the party’s intentions and therefore voted for the SLFP. From this date active steps were taken to prepare for the coalition.

The Lanka Estate Workers Union is Smashed.

   The most significant of these was a retreat on the citizen question in relation to the Tamil estate workers. This took the form of a slight amendment to the Party’s programme stating that this issue was a matter for negotiation between the Indian government, representing the Tamil plantation labourers who had emigrated to Ceylon from India, and the Ceylon government.

   The conflict over the citizenship issue is necessary for the rule of the imperialists. It cannot be resolved until they are successfully overthrown. By making this a constitutional issue between the capitalist governments of India and Ceylon, the LSSP had turned away completely from the revolutionary requirements of the Tamil poor.

   This reflected itself most sharply in the field of trade union relations in the country-side.

   Most of the plantation workers are organised between two trade unions of over 300,000 workers, one led by S. Thondaman , right-wing supporter of the SLFP, and the other by Aziz, a fellow traveller of the Moscow dominated Communist Party.

   During the late 1950’s, there was an enormous growth of the Youth Leagues influence by the SLLP throughout the island and in particular in rural areas never before penetrated by the Trotskyist movement.

   This movement amongst the youth was a further indication of the development of a pre-revolutionary situation. Its most positive effect in the countryside was reflected in the growth of the SLLP’s Lanka Estate Workers Union, which had in early 1960 reached a membership of 80,000 among the Tami workers.

   Because of its youthful organisers, it was gaining ground steadily from the reformist trade union leaders, Thondaman and Aziz. Then, when the LSSP retreated on the citizenship issue, this union was thrown into a crisis and virtually collapsed.

   Large numbers of Tamil workers ceased to be members and the union became torn between the struggle of various gangster factions. This was perhaps one of the cruellest blows which the leaders of the LSSP dealt against their party. Ie effectively barred the way for the Party’s growth in the countryside, something which was absolutely decisive for the taking of power.

The LSSP Loses Support

   Any illusions which the masses had about the SLFP electoral victory in 1960 were almost immediately dispelled. During 1961 strike struggles became a regular feature of the important industries.

   The LSSP leadership noted this in their report of their Politbureau to the Central Committee on March 31 in 1962. They described the 1961 strike wave as follows:

   “Broadly speaking the principle gains of the strikes can be said to be the following:

1. The have increase the consciousness of the working class of the strength that is created by its unity.

2. They have destroyed many of the illusions the working class had in the SLFP government

3. The have demonstrated to a wide layer of conscious workers that struggles on a trade union level cannot                                                                                                                                    

    take them much further, and that the political struggles which involve the question of the political regime    

    itself, have become necessary.”

   Quite so.

   Throughout 1962 support for the SLFP government continued to crumble.

   Ceylon had entered a state of extreme class tension which was in itself reflected in the assassination of Mr. Bandaranaike by a budist monk.

   The dockers in Colombo harbour, who are amongst the lowest paid workers on the island, engaged in a stubborn strike for more wages, which was a continuation of a previous strike they had waged in 1959. That strike arose as a result of an enquiry into their conditions, the findings of which still remain unpublished. It was called off during the state of emergency.

   The dock strike was followed by a strike of bank clerks which lasted 90 days. Mrs. Bandaranaike who had now assumed premiership soon showed her class teeth in an outburst of hostility towards the striking workers. The Bank Clerk, the journal of the Bank Employees Union for June and July 1962, reports her attitude as follows:

   “On the morning of 26 April the Honourable Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Prime Minister of Ceylon, made a political onslaught on the union in her famous ‘message to the Nation’.  Among other things she said, ‘I have no doubt whatsoever now that the movement started by the F.P, (Federal Party), was inspired by various organisations in different parts of the island who have been planning to secretly to overthrow the lawfully established government of this country. For instance, I would like ti refer to the strike organised by the Bank Clerks’ Union. There is reason to believe that there are certain elements who are using the bank employees to cause grave harm to the economic life of this country.’”


 The significance of the strikes of the dockers and bank clerks is that they were in all essentials political strikes against the government.

   In January 1963 the Ceylon Transport Board was affected by a strike which paralysed the main transport services. Mrs. Bandaranaike promptly called in the army to drive the busses and scab on the strikers.

   On 10 July 1963, 3000 Wellawatte, ( a suburb of Colombo), textile workers struck work. The stage for a decisive showdown between the working class and the capitalist  government of Mrs.  Bandaranaike was being reached.

Enter the United Left Front

   Between June and September 1963 two major events took place which have an immediate bearing on the background to the coalition.

   In June the Socialist Workers Party of the United States supported the reunification with Pablo’s Fourth International, although because of legal reasons it could not itself be a member. The unification conference in turn gave full support to the LSSP leadership, Colvin de Silva, N.M. Perera  and Leslie Goonewarden, which it said had:

   “Correctly raised the question of a united left front, both to arrest the movement to the right and to help these masses to move towards an alternative left.”

   This United Left Front was based on an agreement between the Communist Party, the MEP party of Philip Goonewardene and the LSSP. The purpose of the agreement was, in the words of the Pabloites, to form an “anti-capitalist” United Left Front on an agreed programme.  

   Why did the LSSP leaders put forward the United Left Front at this stage? In 1960 the right wing pushed through a coalition resolution at a special conference immediately after the debacle suffered by the LSSP in the general election.

   But the same conference elected a central committee in which the right wing was in a minority. The right wing of N.M Perera was in a quandary. The leaders then obligingly helped them out with the tactic of the ULF – the sugar coating of the bitter pill of coalition.   

   Prior to this, the Communist Party provided wholehearted support for the SLFP whilst the MEP of Philip Goonewardene had in fact participated in a coalition with the 1956 SLFP government.

   A resolution of the LSSP submitted to their Central Committee on 14/15 October 1961, characterised the role of the Communist Party as follows:

   “The Communist Party remains very much where it was before the July 1960 elections. Politically its line remains substantially unchanged and it continues to support the SLFP Government unconditionally. Its policy of unconditional support is likely to continue as long as this policy subserves the foreign policy needs of the Soviet Government.”

   Now this was all conveniently forgotten by the LSSP leaders as well as the so called “United Secretariat”. The plain truth was that both the CP and the MEP were already in Mrs. Bandaranaike’s coalition pocket and through its electoral collaboration with the SLFP the LSSP was over halfway there.

   It continuously campaigned for support for Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government on issues “which it agreed”, thus following carefully in the footsteps of the Pabloite directive of 1960.

   On points 14 (a) and (b) on the citizenship issue, on the programme of the United Left Front, the Unified Secretariat haggled about for a few weeks over a formula. On 1 July they wrote to Leslie Goonewardene agreeing that the final draft “is certainly an improvement”, and that “we recognise that there is nothing wrong in the principle of negotiations between India and Ceylon on the subject.”

   Thus the Secretariat took full responsibility for the LSSP’s retreat on the citizenship issue.

   The theory of the Pabloite United Secretariat on the United Left Front followed from the theory that you do not need a revolutionary party to take power but that this could be arranged through the medium of a “front”. Today the Communist Party and the MEP fully support the coalition government. The United Left Front simply paved the way for the LSSP to join the coalition.

   In April 1964, just two months before the coalition, the United Secretariat in Paris sent a letter of encouragement to the LSSP leadership which said:

   “The United Front of the left, strengthened by mass struggle and directed to the establishment of its own political power on a genuinely socialist programme, provides a means for stemming the tide of reaction and uniting the masses and the ranks of our own party for the ultimate realization of our perspectives. Ceylon can provide another Cuba or Algeria and prove to be of even greater inspiration to the revolutionary minded workers throughout the world.”

   The idea that the Stalinist party of Ceylon could participate through the Front in taking power flowed originally from the 1953 conception of Pablo that sections of the bureaucracy could, under “certain circumstances”, fulfil the task of the revolutionary party.

   They were obsessed with the Cuban and Algerian neo-revolutionary-party-road and they also wanted to avoid at all costs publicly breaking with N.M. Perera and the LSSP leaders. They wanted to preserve the façade of international unity, especially in the face of the criticisms of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

Trade Union Unity Around the 21 Points.

   The second important event during the summer of 1963 was the enormous growth of unity amongst the trade unions all over the island. While the LSSP and its opportunist allies were seeking to concentrate the attention of the masses on the parliamentary road via the United Left Front, the trade unions were coming together to do battle with Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government.

   On Sunday 29 September 800 delegates from all major trade unions representing one and a half million workers from the plantation and industrial enterprises, met in the Ceylinko Hotel, Colombo, and ratified the following 21 points as an agreed programme for action against the government:

   1. Pay increase Rs. 1/- per day or Rs 30/- per month for all employees.


   2. (a) Monthly pay for all employees; (b) Annual increments for all employees


  3. Exclude all cost of living allowances, provident fund payments and commuted pensions from income tax.

   4. A maximum 45 hour working week for all employees. Overtime payments for all work in excess of 45 hours for all employees.


   5. Adequate provision of housing of house rent allowances for all workers.


   6. Full tenancy rights for all workers, including estate workers, who occupy dwellings supplied by the employer.


   7. (a). Seven days casual leave and 30 days medical leave for all workers in the private sector and local bodies; (b) Maternity leave to be extended to six weeks before and six weeks after confinement: reduced hours of work during the latter stages of pregnancy and immediately after confinement; (c) Saturday to be considered as half day for purposes of leave and public holidays in government establishments and local bodies; [text as original – Ed]. (d) When holidays fall on Sundays the following day to be declared a holiday; (e) All statutory holidays under the Shop and Office Employees’ Act to be granted to all workers in the private sector. (f) Sunday to be a paid holiday for all workers.

   8. All casual employees in the public sector including local government should be made temporary after six months of service and all temporary employees should be made permanent and pensionable after three years of serviced. All service, including interrupted and broken periods of service prior to permanency, to be counted for incremental and pension service.

   9. (a) No retrenchment without the provision of suitable alternative employment and adequate compensation for full past service; (b) Work for unemployed or relief under a scheme of unemployment insurance.

   10. (a) Increase employers’ contribution to Employers’ Provident Fund to 10% of gross pay. (b) Provision for the withdrawal on money lying to the credit lying to the credit of employee in E.P.F. without restrictions on cessation of employment after not less than 10 years membership of fund including funds transferred to the E.P.F.; (c) Double the widows’ and Orphans’ Pension Fund benefits.

   11. Full trade union, political and civil rights to all public servants including teachers and employees in state corporations and local government service, and full access to all estates, (plantations), for trade union officials.

   12. Appointment of representatives of workers to boards of state corporations.

   13. Creation of transfer and promotion boards with trade union representatives.

   14. Full trade union, political and civic rights to all public servants including teachers  and  employees in state corporations and local government service, and full access to all estates, (plantations), for trade union officials.  [Text as original – Ed.]

   15. Re- instatement of all employees dismissed or compulsorily retired for participation in strikes or trade union activity and the removal of all penalties imposed for such participation or activity.

   16. The implementation of the assurance given by the late Prime Minister Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike that in implementing the Official language Act and the Tamil Language Special Provisions Bill no penalties will be imposed on old entrant public servants and the employees in local government bodies.

   17. Public servants whose duties do not require proficiency in the official language to be exempted from the proficiency test.

   18.  (a) A unified administrative service with prospects and promotions from the lowest to the highest and suitable provision for 50% of posts in the higher grades to be filled from the lower grades in the public service; (b) Provision of proper avenues of promotion from lowest grade to highest grade for technical and industrial categories of workers.

   19. Reconstitute the Public Service Commission and the Local Government Service Commission to win the confidence of the public and Local Government Service and to appoint an appellate body answerable to Parliament to revise all previous decisions of the PSC and LGS.

   20. Treble the rate of Workmen’s Compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Ordnance and grant full pay from date of Accident.

   21 Equal pay for equal work: (a). No discrimination against women: (b). No wage discrimination on basis of language as in the case of teachers.

The Mercantile Union Strike – Bandaranaike Shuts Down Parliament.

   Six weeks later the Ceylon Mecantile Union, the best organised union on the island, called a 69-day strike on behalf of its clerical membership  employed on the docks and the main industrial enterprises in Colombo.

   Its general secretary, Bala Tampoe, who is a leader of the minority, who walked out of the LSSP conference, led his union from the start into battle against Mrs. Bandaranaike’s government.

   The strike was a display of enthusiasm the like of which the island had not seen for many a long day. On 9 January 1964, the government intervened and told the CMU that it would make no more concessions.

   The next day Mrs. Bandanaraike presented them with an ultimatum with the result that by Sunday, 12 January, it had won a decisive economic and political victory.

   This was too much for Mrs. Bandanaraike and her government and she decided to close down Parliament in February 1964  The CMU strike had clearly thrown herself and her government into a most serious crisis.

March 21 Demonstration

   Such was the temper of the trade union movement fortified by the agreement on the 21 points, the victory of the CMU and the government crisis. They then decided to move into action behind the 21 points with a massive demonstration in Colombo on the evening of 21 March.

   The remarkable thing about these 21 points was that they united for the first time in history, the plantation workers with the proletariat of the towns.

   Truly, had the LSSP been a revolutionary party, the time had come for the seizure of power.

   The rally assembled at 4 pm. With leaders, including Thondaman and Aziz pledging an all-out struggle for the 21 demands. This received the unanimous support from the largest audience of workers ever seen on the island.

   Colvin de Silva for the LSSP trade unions called for a fight to the finish for the 21 demands. Yet at the same time as he was speaking on the Galle Face his colleague, N.M Perera, was already engaged in secret negotiations for a coalition with Mrs. Bandaranaike.

   A journalist who was interviewing her whilst the workers were assembling on the Galle Face reported that she was physically shaking with fear of the demonstration. She feared above all that the demonstrators might take the revolutionary road and begin to establish workers’ and peasants’ power in the island.

      So it was perfectly understandable at this time that Dr. N.M. Perera should come along on behalf of the LSSP majority to help her out of trouble.

   After all, was not the island led by a few great aristocratic families such as those of Mrs. Bandaranaike?

   Did not the sons and daughters of these families go the London, some to learn to speak on the left and some to learn to speak on the right?

   Whilst Colvin de Silva was making left noises on the Galle Face his colleague, N.M. Perera, was creeping through the servants entrance of “temple Trees”, the Prime Minister’s residence.

   On the evening of 21 March, as the capitalist house presided over by Mrs. Bandaranaike began to burn down, it was only natural that those aristocratic children, the Goonewardenes, the De Silvas and the Pereras should in their own way come to the aid of Mrs. Bandaranaike and her class.

The “United Secretariat” and the CP Help N.M. Perera with his Secret Negotiations for Coalition

   N.M.Perera knew he was on solid ground for his secret coalition talks. He enjoyed the wholehearted support of the Communist Party, always a supporter of coalition, and a major prop in the so-called United Left Front. He had also enjoyed the tacit collaboration of the Paris “United Secretariat”!

   From early 1964 onwards the Secretariat refused to allow any discussion about what was happening in Ceylon. They said it would upset unification by leading them into conflict with the LSSP leadership which they wanted to avoid at all costs.

   In reply to a critic who wanted such discussion they wrote the following:

   “The Reunification Congress (June 1963) placed with the united new leadership  the responsibility of doing everything in its power to cement the ties re-established after a long split and to work for a fresh cohesion and stability in the world Trotskyist movement. This required a certain organisational relaxation for a period and a serious effort to ameliorate internal disputes in the various sections and in the components of the united movement – especially disputes inherited from the past – in order to help every area in the common problem of making a fresh start. All this was explained and agreed upon unanimously by the delegates who participated in the re-unification Congress.

   “The attitude of the United Secretariat towards the situation in Ceylon as elsewhere in the movement has been governed by these broad considerations laid down by the Re-unification Congress.

   The United Secretariat ‘in essence’ as Comrade Anderson puts it, has not modified in the least the criticisms of the LSSP made by the Seventh World Congress. What it has done is to place confidence in the capacity of the leadership of the LSSP to prove responsive to those criticisms. The letter addressed to the LSSP was not intended as some kind of public pillorying or as a challenge to pitch into a factional brawl, as Comrade Anderson appears to believe. The criticisms which it contained were made with complete goodwill by the assembled representatives of the world Trotskyist movement and in full confidence that they would be given thoughtful consideration by the LSSP. The United Secretariat has sought to maintain this loyal and comradely attitude towards the Ceylonese section, while frankly acknowledging that its members tend to sympathise politically with the left wing of the LSSP …

   “However, the United Secretarial feels that it would be wrong for it as a body representing the movement as a whole to brush aside the declarations of the majority of the LSSP leadership and refuse to grant them the time needed to prove in action the sincerity of their stand in relation to the United Left Front and the good faith of their assurances. (Our emphasis - GH).

   “It would mean first of all to deliberately heat up the atmosphere in the LSSP by injecting the sharpest kind of factionalism; secondly to exacerbate matters still further by transferring the dispute to the public arena. A divisive policy of this kind would put in jeopardy if not destroy fraternal relations between the United Secretarial and the leadership of the LSSP. The end result could be highly injurious to the Fourth International and to the LSSP, including its left wing which has absolutely no interest to put in question the unity of the party through the creation of undue internal friction and tension from any source.

Mrs. Bandaranaike Explains.

   All the chickens were coming home to the Bandaranaike roost. The revisionists from Paris to Colombo were now eager to demonstrate that faced with the need to give a decisive to the working class to take power, they were on the side of the class enemy.

   We have entered the last lap of the great betrayal, on Sunday 10 May the prime minister, Mrs. Bandaranaike, finally made known to the public at large her plans for the coalition government.

   The following extract for her speech will surely rank as one of the most thoughtful class statements in history.

   “After July 1960, after I was made President of the party of the invitation of Mr. C.P. de Silva and other well- wishers, the SLFP was able to form a government winning 75 seats in alliance with the left parties, except the MEP. What is the real significance of this? – We who got 46 in March got 75 in July because we got the support of the Left. This must be admitted honestly. If by any chance we got less than 75 seats those parties who supported us in the election would have had a place in forming the government.

   “However, after forming the government we had to face certain questions. The leftists who worked with us began a series of strikes because they did not get a place in the government. In the North, while there were communal issues flaring up, there were various other issues cropping up on the language question too.

   “Though it is true that we faced this bravely, in the light of my experience I must remind you of something. However much progressive work we do, we cannot expect any results unless we get the co-operation of the working class. This could be understood if the working of the Port and other nationalised undertakings are considered. We cannot go backwards. We must go forward. Disruptions, especially strikes and go-slows must be eliminated and the development of the country must proceed.

   “Some people have various ideas on these subjects. Some feel that these troubles can be eliminated by the establishment of a dictatorship. Others say that workers should be made to work at the point of a gun and bayonet. Still others maintain that a national government should be formed to solve this problem. I have considered these ideas separately and it the context of world events.

   “My conclusion is that none of these solutions will help to get us where we want to go.  Therefore, what we should do is to travel on the path defined by our leader in accordance with our conscience. It is only by considering the changes that have taken place in our country that we can achieve our purpose.

   Therefore, gentlemen, I decided to initiate talks with the leaders of the working class, particularly Mr. Phillip Goonewardene and  Dr. N.M. Perera. Though both of them expressed their opinion, I must say that I did not agree with all they said. I then had further discussions on outstanding issues.  

   “Can we form a coalition government? If so, how could this be done? These are the questions we considered. Afterwards they informed me that they could form a government on the basis of a common programme like the 1956 agreement binding on the constituent partied of the MEP. They were of the opinion that it was a government like this which could work for the common weal.”

   A few hours before the vote was taken at the LSSP Conference on Sunday 7 June, Pieere Frank for the United Secretariat in Paris was still advocating his policy for the ULF. The “centre” group of the Leslie Goonewardene and Colvin de Silva supported him.

   Fortunately, the revolutionary left wing took no notice and walked out of the conference.

   However, Dr. N.M. Perera, now on the way to becoming Finance Minister had no difficulty in leading a party which by now had been so thoroughly confused, corrupted and betrayed by the United Secretariat in Paris as well as its rotten leadership such as Goonewardene and de Silva that it went the whole hog and gave him a massive majority.


Some Problems with the Ceylon

Revolutionary Left

   The relationship between the leaders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party  (Ceylon) and the Pabloite international centre in Europe was a marriage of political convenience.

   The former capitulated to the pressure of the capitalist politicians in Ceylon and eventually found their way into the coalition government, whilst the latter concentrated on the liquidation of the sections of the Fourth International founded by Trotsky in 1938.

   In Britain it was Pablo who prepared the ground  for John Lawrence and his group in 1954 to split away from our organisation and join the Communist Party. Right at the moment when Lawrence proposed to enter, Pablo drew back and criticised him.

   From time to time we also read of criticisms which the centre in Paris made of the LSSP. All the while they boosted this party as the largest Trotskyist organisation in the world. They maintained the friendliest relations with its leaders.

The Pabloites Supported N. M. Perera

   Pablo, Frank and Germain were fully aware of the revisionist policy being pursued by N.M. Perera. After the 1960 election he wrote a lengthy resolution outlining his preparation for the coalition, which was forwarded to the centre in Paris. In this, he justified his policy along the lines of the “entrist” policies pursued by the Pablo leadership.

   The following sections reveal his ideas which were essentially in line with Pablo’s policy of “entrism” and for national capitalist parties and movements such as the FLN in Algeria.

   “Concretely”, he said, “the LSSP Party will have to take the following steps. First of all enter into a no-contest pact to fight the forthcoming elections. In the campaign itself declare our readiness to support the formation of as SLFP, [Sri Lanka Freedom Party], government. This must not be hedged about with conditions otherwise we will weaken the forces ready to rally round an alternative government.  

   Secondly, steps must be taken to bring about  a programmatic agreement with the SLFP with a view to forming a joint government. The pre-election resistance through of the disadvantages  of a Marxist-SLFP alliance will no longer obtain after the election. We will not get most of what we stand for, but a broad progressive programme should be possible, eg. (a) nationalisation of life insurance, but not all; (b) control of banks but not nationalisation; (c) government import of all essential commodities, but not all imports and exports; (d) a ceiling on incomes, etc.

   It is possible to denigrate such a line of action as class collaboration and condemn it out of hand. This charge of class collaboration is only tenable if the class character of the SLFP as a petty-bourgeois party is not accepted. In any case, such entrist tactics in respect of reformist social-democratic parties are nothing new. Admittedly we ate taking entrism a stage further by accepting office. But is this not the best way of taking the masses through the experience necessary to dispel their illusions and creating confidence in our genuineness. A few bold progressive measures sponsored by us will enable them to learn more than years of propaganda by us. These measures should such as to be in line with our socialist programme and such as would carry our socialist policies forward.

   It is also possible to condemn that as parliamentarism. As I have already pointed out historical factors have pushed the party into the parliamentary struggle in a big way. And parliamentary struggle is also a struggle for power.  Universal franchise does boost the parliamentary struggle. It is no accident of history that in no country where universal franchise obtains has there been a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist class. Though mass struggles leading to the overthrow of capitalism are conceivable, in point of fact such situations have never yet arisen, because the franchise has placed in the hands of the workers a vehicle for achieving power. Universal franchise one must admit has tended to blunt the edge of mass struggle. Militant working class actions will continue to occur, but they do not reach the heights necessary for wresting power …

   It would be equally wrong to deny the dangers and pitfalls of such a policy of entrism, as I have advocated earlier. It may, specially at the outset, create more illusions in the progressive character of the SLFP. Ther are also the dangers inherent in taking office. LSSP ministers may have to take unpleasant decisions with regard to strikes, and the demands of the workers. We may not be able to eliminate these dangers, but we can minimise them (a) by activising our party organisations and by systematic propaganda through it of the true meaning and purpose of these entrist tactics. We should, if the work is properly carried out, succeed in infiltrating the SLFP branches and capturing the more progressive minded youth of the rural areas; (b) by pushing through a comprehensive labour code obtain some very needed reforms which will help root out some of the worst evils of the existing system. By a more sympathetic attitude to labour as against the employers win the confidence of the workers and be able to harness them for the next stage in our attainment of power.”

No Basic Difference Between Pablo and Germain.

   Significantly enough the recent timing of Pablo and his followers for their public pro-Khrushchev activities coincides with the formation of the coalition government in Ceylon. Yet there is no basic difference in method between Frank and Germain, who are expelling Pablo and N.M Perera and his followers.

   Indeed, over the past year Pablo has had no direct control or influence over what has gone on in Ceylon. All the decisions have been made by Germain and Frank, supported by the Socialist Workers in the United States.

   It is well known that Germain is at this moment engaged in building up a faction in Western Europe against the SWP. His immediate collaborators are those who are turning towards liquidation into the parties of social-democracy.

   Recently, Germain described Mr. Joseph Hansen, who likes to be known as the secretary of the late Leon Trotsky, as “an hysterical old woman”, and the SWP as “an opportunist party”.

The LSSP Revolutionary Wing and the Degeneration of Pabloism.

   One cannot separate the problems of the LSSP revolutionary wing from this degeneration. These comrades are aware that a lot of discussion had taken place about what happened in the international movement since 1953.

   Apart from a few brief written words and odd notes about international work there has been absolutely no serious discussion in the LSSP on such problems for almost ten years. Many comrades who support the minority are only now beginning to realise the relations between the international and national degeneration of the Fourth International founded by Trotsky in 1938.

   The future of the revolutionary wing depends mainly now upon a serious study of this relationship.

   The United Secretariat under the direction of Germain and Frank, supported by the SWP, advocated support for the centrist wing of Leslie Goonewardene and Colvin de Silva and the United Left Front policy right up until the vote was taken at the LSSP Conference on 7 June. Pierre Frank very reluctantly supported the revolutionary wing after they walked out.

   They did not, in any way, support the revolutionary minority before the conference. Indeed, they endeavoured at all times to dampen down the internal struggle by pleas about unity and international party peace.

   The united Secretariat issued a bulletin in January 1964 which contained letters to the LSSP leadership about the United Left Front and the basis for the eventual agreement between them.

   In the same bulletin they published a resolution from the minority. This resolution was submitted for discussion on 7 July 1963, but the United Secretariat did not make in known to their sections until early in 1964. This resolution warned the whole movement about the dangers of the United Left Front when it said:

   “The working class and the broader revolutionary masses of tomorrow must not be led to believe that their salvation lies in putting a so-called ‘Left Front’ in office, but in organising and uniting for direct mass action against the SLFP government and the other forces of capitalism in Ceylon, on the road to a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.”

      This was reproduced without a single word of comment, either for or against, by the United Secretariat. Such silence undoubtedly disorientated many comrades who could have been won to the minority.

   Whilst behind the scenes some leaders of the Paris centre vaguely supported the leaders of the minority, in the public activity of the LSSP they came down heavily of the side of the centrists. This two-facedness is typical of the methods of Pabloism.

   Even now, when Leslie Goonewardene  and Colvin de Silva with their supporters are actively behind N.M Perera and the coalition government, the United Secretariat does not expel them. It is still hoping that it will be possible to bring them together with the revolutionary left, in an organisation where they will be able to manoeuvre between the left and right wings.

   In effect, the United Secretariat is extremely hostile to many of the leaders of the minority because they know that there is going to be a serious examination of the policies of the International Committee of the Fourth International.

   After the coalition government was formed, a ferocious struggle between the two rival factions for power took place inside a number of unions. The tendency which gained most from this was undoubtedly the Chinese wing of the Communist Party led by Shanmugathasas, whom Pierre Frank had special discussions with whilst he was on the island. [There is a large Chinese population in Ceylon/Sri Lanka – Ed.]

   Having staggered through the United Left Front, Frank is now looking for another alliance with a pro-Chinese tendency which is extremely hostile to Trotskyism. At the same time as Frank was speaking to Shanmugathasas the latter was taking full advantage of the formation of the coalition by insisting in the press that this was the direct outcome of Trotskyist policies.

   The LSSP revolutionary wing has now the historic task of re-constructing the revolutionary party in Ceylon. They will do this all the better when they understand its relationship to the past and break completely from the United Secretariat in Paris. Their place is in the ranks of the International Committee of the Fourth International.