Tue Jul 23, 2024
July 23, 2024

People's Second Victory in Sri Lanka

The wave of rebellion in Sri Lanka that has been going on since March has devastated the Rajapaksa dynasty. President Gotobaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country. We must state that this is a tremendous victory that shows the strength of the mass labour movement, and after Ecuador, it is the continuation of the rise of revolutionary waves that uplift the world’s workers and frighten the ruling classes.

By Esat Erdoğan – July 16, 2022
Located in the south of India, this beautiful island country has suffered a major economic collapse due to the mismanagement of predatory capitalist governments and especially the Rajapaksa family. The consequences of bad management combined with the crisis caused by the Covid pandemic, and the country became unable to pay its foreign debts. The country’s foreign exchange reserves are almost depleted. Without money, the import of basic goods, cooking oil, milk, medicines, paper, fertilizers, and fuel is nearly stopped and many basic products were exhausted. Electric cuts reached up to 13 hours a day.
The first rebellion against these unbearable conditions began at the end of March 2022. Workers went on strikes in many sectors, especially in the education, electricity and health sectors. Demonstrators occupied empty space in front of the presidential office throughout April. Prime Minister Mahida Rajapskaya drove street gangs on the people. At the beginning of May, the Prime Minister could not stand the protests and had to resign. President Goto sacrificed his brother. This was the first victory of the masses.
In June the government announced that fuel ran out. The anger got out when he announced the fuel oil they will not give until July 10, except for the emergency. Because if there was no fuel, there was no job, no bread. On July 9, the rally in the capital Colombo turned into a riot. People neither listened to the “curfew” nor used the lack of fuel as an excuse, tens of thousands poured into the capital in anger. The demonstrations spread to many cities such as Kandy, Kotagala, Kurunegala and Jaffna. In many areas, police and soldiers joined the demonstrators. While President Gotobaya Rajapaksa was forced to flee the country, the rebels, who seized the presidential palace in the capital Colombo, also set fire to the prime minister’s building. This was the people’s second victory.
When the revolt did not stop, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stopped the state of emergency when all bourgeois parties, including the opposition, offered to form an “all-Party government”. But so far, the people have not left the palace or the government buildings.
When the revolt did not stop, all bourgeois parties, including the opposition, offered to form an “All-Party Government” in panic, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe declared a state of emergency and called for the army to stop the revolt. But so far, the people have not left the palace or other government buildings.
From National Independence to the 1971 Uprising
To understand today’s revolt, it is necessary to look briefly at the history of the country.
Starting in the 1600s, Sri Lanka lived under colonial rule first by Portugal and the Netherlands, and finally by Great Britain. Its former name was Ceylon. It gained its independence in 1948 as a result of strikes and mobilizations after the Second World War. Until 1956, the nationalist UNP (United Nationalist Party) ruled the country.
The centre-left party SLFP (Sri Lanka Freedom Party) came to power in 1956. While the SLFP implemented some popular policies, it nationalized the foreign-controlled oil industry. The SLFP was founded by the bourgeoisie to block the rise of the Trotskyist-based LSSP (Sri Lanka Socialist Equality Party), which had a socialist program.
The LSSP (Sri Lanka Socialist Equality Party) was founded in 1935 with a program that defended independence from Britain and also aimed at socialism. In a short time, this revolutionary programme spread among the working class and youth. The lack of a programme for independence by bourgeois intellectuals and parties gives the LSSP great prestige. The party, which has a great weight in the masses due to its role in the country’s struggle for independence, joins the 4th International in 1942. It becomes the largest Trotskyist party in the world at that time. LSSP succeeds in uniting the working people of Tamil and Sinhala peoples under its program. However, the LSSP strayed along a nationalist and parliamentary line and joined the coalition government of the bourgeois party SLFP in 1964. This is a violation of a historical Trotskyist principle: participation in bourgeois governments. For this reason, it was expelled at the 6th congress of the Fourth International, which took place in 1964. LSSP reformism causes the loss of a historical revolutionary moment in Sri Lanka.
In response to reformism in the LSSP, the guerrilla movement Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP-People’s Liberation Front) is formed. Its leader, Rohana Wijeweera, was a young revolutionary who studied medicine at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow and turned to Maoism when he returned to his country. The JVP soon attains significant power among the revolutionary youth, labourers and soldiers. In the early 1970s, the JVP began preparing for a rebellion. The state, which wants to prevent the rebellion, arrests Wijewera. Therefore, the party started an armed uprising with tens of thousands of revolutionaries in many parts of the country on April 5, 1971. The uprising is early and unprepared, yet the rebels control the Southern and Central parts of the country. The state had to get military support from India to suppress the rebellion. After two weeks of war, control passes to the state. Tens of thousands of revolutionaries are killed, Wijeweera is arrested, and the JVP is banned. The JVP would revolt twice, in 1987 and 1989, causing nearly 40,000 insurgents to be killed. The JVP has now become a nationalist party.
After the 1971 Uprising was suppressed, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka was proclaimed on 22 May 1972. The country also becomes one of the important elements of the Movement of Independents.
In the 1977 elections, the nationalist UNP comes to power again. With the 1978 constitution, the country switches to a presidential system similar to France. The UNP’s election promise was the market economy. Shortly after the nationalist government’s decision to open the country to foreign investors (1979), the Tamil Tigers uprising (1983) begins. At this point, it is necessary to look tor the Tamil problem, because that war opened the way for the current administration to power.
War with the Tamil People
In Sri Lanka, 74.9 per cent of the population are Sinhala, 15.4 per cent are Tamil, while religiously 70.2 per cent are Buddhist, 12.6 per cent are Hindu, 9.2 per cent are Muslims and 7 per cent are Christians. In this sense, it is a country where ethnic and religious problems are experienced intensely.
The struggle of the Tamil people for self-determination is one of the major problems in Sri Lanka. The British, who used the Tamil people for tea planting in Ceylon during the colonial period, also brought out an educated ruling middle class from among the Tamils. This situation brings the Sinhala people, who are the majority in the cities, against the Tamil people. The British thus apply the classic “divide and rule” tactic in Sri Lanka.
After gaining national independence in 1948, the UNP (United Nationalist Party) with its new “Citizenship Act” grants privileges to Sinhas, while turning Tamils into ​​second-class citizens. The left-leaning SLFP continues the same discrimination when it comes to government. The language of the Tamil people is ignored. In 1958, the Tamil people rise up to demand equality, but the revolt is suppressed in blood. The socialist LSSP, which had been organizing the Tamil and Sinhala workers together for many years, took a reactionary stance (under the pretext of dividing the struggle of the working class) and left the Tamil people alone in the face of persecution.
In the 1977 elections, the TULF (Tamil United Freedom Front) gets 20 seats in parliament, but the party is banned by the nationalist UNP government. From now on, the Tamil people – with the participation of many JVP units – will now go into armed struggle. The weakening of the socialist left opens the way for the Tamil Tigers.
Tamils ​​organize in the Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka. In 1983, the armed struggle begins with a military convoy attack in which 13 soldiers were killed. The government’s response is harsh: 3000 Tamil militants are killed. Peace talks begin with the intervention of India. However, the war began again in 1990 when the Tamils ​​refused to lay down their arms. Tamil Tigers kill Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan president, Premadasa, in 1993. They declare that they gave up their independence program in 2001 and demanded autonomy. Just at this time, the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister is killed, but the Tamil Tigers deny the murder. This murder fuels the nationalist poison again.
Thirty-five thousand people died due to the tsunami in 2004. The tsunami creates an opportunity for the capitalists and the region is opened to tourism through imperialist companies. Taking advantage of this, the Sri Lankan state committed a Tamil massacre between 2007 and 2009. All imperialist states tolerate this massacre because of their interests. During the war that lasted for 26 years, 100 thousand people died, and more than 300 thousand people were forced to migrate.
From Civil War to Power
The Rajapaksa family, expelled from the country today, came to the head of state in this bloody civil war. The massacre of the Tamil people opened the road for their government. President Gotobaya, who fled the country, gained great respect in the war. The Sri Lanka People’s Party won the 2019 elections. While Gotobaya built a large army with 346 thousand soldiers (excluding the police), he also added wealth to his own family fortune. The name of the Rajapaksa family and the money he smuggled are also mentioned in the Panama Papers.
Although the Gotobaya government achieved partial economic growth, it plunged the country into foreign debt. As a result, the public has become deprived of access to the most basic materials. Unemployment has exploded, especially in the tourism sector. The solution of the bourgeois government was to reduce the taxes of the bosses and increase the burden of the workers. It started negotiations with China, India and the IMF to restructure its debts. He transferred the port of Hambantota, which was built by China in 2010, to China for 99 years in 2017, (The port provides China’s opening to the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, and so it is a matter of tension between the USA, China and India.)  as it could not pay its loan debts. However, the people did not have the strength and patience to withstand Gota and the Rajapaksa family, and they conquered the capital with a great rebellion.
What will happen now?
The president has fled, but who will take his place? The solution proposal of the bourgeois parties is the establishment of a “national unity” government, a new constitution, new elections and an agreement with the IMF. None of the existing bourgeois parties is capable of resolving the crisis. They all defend the interests of the ruling bourgeois class. Moreover, the debt crisis of poor countries in the world is deepening. It is not possible for the “national unity government” to solve the problems under this world capitalist crisis. Naturally, even if a government is formed, the problems cannot be solved and the working people continue to struggle in the streets.
The enormity of the mass movement and the vacuum of revolutionary leadership are the hallmarks of recent uprisings, and the same is true in Sri Lanka. But Sri Lankan workers have the means to build a revolutionary party that can move the country forward to the socialist revolution. There is also a strong tradition of class struggle in the country. With the possibilities created by the uprising, the ground exists for the construction of local and national assemblies. These workers’ assemblies embark on the fight with a contingency plan: the termination of negotiations with the IMF, the expropriation of the Rajapaksa family property, the control of the food companies under the control of the people, the nationalization of the bankrupt companies under the control of the workers, the imposition of high wealth taxes on the rich, self-determination Tamil people to through a democratic constitution etc. Every victory won moves the organization and the struggle forward.

  1. Sri Lanka Tarihi 📒 Wikipedia Updit (upwiki.one).
  2. In addition, for historical details, the book “Ceylon April 1971 Uprising”, Rohan Wileweera, Fred Halliday, Theory Publications can be viewed.


  1. https://www.marxist.com/sri-lanka-the-picture-of-things-to-come.htm


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