Denounce the Trade Union leaders’ thuggery against the members of Sri Lanka Socialist Equality Party

Statement of the Colombo Action Committee

The Colombo Action Committee (CACPS) vehemently denounces the physical attack unleashed on two members of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), Dehin Wasantha and Lakshman Fernando,   by the President and Secretary of the Moratuwa University branch of the Podujana Progressive workers’ Union – a trade union affiliated to the Sri Lanka People’s Front – on 30th November. We call upon the entire working class and the oppressed people, including the university workers, academics, and students, to rise to defend the rights of the SEP members to engage in their political activities.

SEP members were attacked while they were distributing leaflets to announce the public meetings to be addressed by Joseph Kishore, the national secretary of SEP, USA. When they were engaged in the campaign near the University of Moratuwa, Indika Perera and Suranga Piyawardene, leaders of the above-mentioned two trade unions, arrived armed with long clubs and brutally attacked the SEP members. Wasantha suffered a fractured bone on his left hand in trying to protect his head from the attack.

It is also reported that the thugs threatened to kill Wasantha, who has been working as a non-academic employee at Moratuwa University for more than 25 years, and accused him of “supporting the Tigers” (a reference to the LTTE). This is a despicable call to incite communalism against the party and a call for state repression. Thus, they have directly threatened not only the members of the SEP, the working class, but also the oppressed sections of the population.

This barbaric attack is an expression of the bourgeois fascist frenzy of the People’s Front, which is completely detached from the people. Their hatred towards the principled fight of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and its predecessor Revolutionary Communist League (RCL) over half a century, is no surprise to us. What runs under the hatred towards Wasantha is their mortal fear at the type of struggle he conducted for socialist principles, and for the rights of the workers and students of the University over a period exceeding 25 years, as a member of the Sri Lanka Industrial Officers’ Union. This incident tacitly brings us the lesson that the working class, facing a serious class war against capitalism, has to face not only the capitalist state, but also these union bureaucrats – which is an integral part of the capitalist state – in organizing its counter-attack.

This attack has once again proved that the reactionary role of trade unions has been raised to a higher level, at a time the capitalist system, immersed in a world scale crisis, is planning to deliver a critical defeat on the working class. While the ruling class burdens its crisis on the shoulders of the working masses through inflation, job cuts, snatching welfare etc., trade unions are aligning with the state to crush the growing counter-attacks of the working class, and stepping forward to carry out physical attacks on its organizations.

It is not a Sri Lankan experience only. Many incidents of such trade union thuggish attacks against the working class have been reported from all over the world in the recent past. We quote below from a statement of the Colombo Action Committee, protesting against an incident when the trade union officials attacked its own members inside the union office at Cankaya, Turkey in last August:

“Under the conditions of the working class encountering the deadly attacks of the capitalist system, which is deeply engrossed in a crisis of international proportions, the trade union movement is unable to provide any leadership to the working class. The trade union movements around the world, which were leading struggles to win reforms for the working class, acting as mediators between the capitalist class and the working class, thereby serving as mediators of the class struggle, in an era when production was relatively confined to national boundaries, have gone into complete crisis with the globalization of production. Under the conditions in which, the role of winning concessions for the working class has been objectively unviable, as there is no national perspective whatsoever to face the attacks on the working class by the capitalist class; now the trade unions work directly as a garrison of the capitalist class in response to the present global scale capitalist crisis. Thus, in the desperate effort of the capitalist system engrossed in a global crisis, for its very survival, the experiences all around the world confirms the readiness of the unions to go all the way as its partner.”  [Defend the Turkish workers from the thuggish attacks of the trade union bureaucracy! August 20, 2023, theSocialist.LK]

Such is the reality behind the physical attacks on the working class organizations by the Trade Union bureaucracy.

Our statement on the Turkish incident also added:

“The Colombo Action committee understands that, not only in Turkey, but also in every country, the way to protect the rights of workers including safeguarding their jobs and wages is through the struggle against the capitalist system and its protectors; the trade unions. It recognizes that, it has become crucial to build up independent organizations of the working class in which working class democracy is practiced, by exposing the reactionary alignment of trade unions and middle-class movements with the capitalist state and corporations. In those working-class organizations that represent the economic, political and life needs of the workers and oppressed people, and operate on their democratic will, there is no room for capitalist agents including trade union bureaucrats, who tie the workers to the capitalist class and its state and put the burden of the capitalist crisis on the shoulders of the working class. Such independent, genuinely democratic organizations of the working class, which arrive at decisions democratically through discussion, are essential to carry out the struggle to a final victory, cutting off betrayals.

Colombo Action Committee supports the call issued by the ICFI through the WSWS, for building up independent action committees of the Working class and establishing the objective unity of the working class by creating an international organization of such committees around the world. In the recent interventions made by SEP activists presenting this program, there were incidents of physical assaulting and verbal threatening and obstructing by the trade unions. CAC has always defended SEP and independent workers against those attacks.” (-ibid-)

The fact that, not only the capitalist state, but also the trade unions acting as an instrument of the state, have started resorting to physical attacks against the independent class actions of the working class highlights the decisiveness of one of the democratic principles established by the legacy of the RCL-SEP struggle itself. That is, the principle of the necessity of fighting against the capitalist repression unleashed on any organization of the working class and oppressed people – despite their political differences – with all their might. The working class has no other way but to fight without retreating from this principle, which is constantly maintained by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

Colombo Action Committee (CAC) appeals to all workers to join hands in the struggle to take control unto their own hands, building their own political institutions, and unifying them nationwide and internationally, independent of the trade unions that act as a police force within the working class, aligned with the corporations and governments. That is the only path of freedom for the working class.

Workers, defend the democratic right of the Socialist Equality Party to engage in political propaganda and campaign!

Step forward to defend the organizations of workers and the oppressed!

Build independent action committees!

Build the Democratic and Socialist Congress of Sri Lankan workers and the oppressed!

Forward to an international alliance of workers’ action committees!

[This statement was initially issued in Sinhalese on December 10, 2023]

Featured image: A poster of the CACPS campaign against the attack

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