Open Letter: SEP-SL Assistant Secretary Saman Gunadasa demands an alignment with Hamas

By Nandana Nannetthi

An Open Letter to the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) of Sri Lanka

Dear comrades,

On November 19th, Socialist Equality Party (SEP) of Sri Lanka held the second meeting of 3 meetings under the title “Stop the Israeli genocide of the Palestinians in GAZA” in Galle at the Galle de Galle Auditorium. There, comrade Saman Gunadasa, the Assistant Secretary of SEP spoke in the following manner, during his two-hour lecture.

We defend “massacre of civilians, or taking hostages, or every other thing”, that was carried out on October 7th by Hamas, inside Israel, on account of the intolerable oppression that was carried out continuously by Israel. According to him, history runs through such uprisings of the oppressed masses. This is a distortion of the Marxist premise that, written history of all societies hitherto is the history of the class struggle. Marxism or working class has not stood with the petit- bourgeois suicidal methods.

Also during the first meeting of the above mentioned series of meetings held in the Millennium guest house on November 15th, the main speaker, Saman Gunadasa said, “I don’t approve the religious nationalist program of the Hamas organization”, while emphasizing at the same time “ however, I stand with the leadership and the actions of Hamas in the uprising of the Palestinian masses” and so on.

Saman Gunadasa addressing Jaffna meeting

Among the hundreds of articles published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) and by the World Socialist Web site (WSWS) on the Palestinian question there has been no room for such a concept.

Instead, they show that the October 7 attack was prompted by a series of attacks on the Palestinians until this moment, starting from the conspiracy of creation of Israel, while they stand against the broad campaign that works to divert the attention of the masses from the roots that caused the entire conflagration. There, we base ourselves from a definite political standpoint. That is, mobilizing the international working class to establish a working-class rule, by sweeping away imperialism and capitalism, root of all crimes.

Gunadasa’s proposal to stand with “Hamas Organization’s existing leadership and its actions” represents a turning away from the Permanent Revolution that says “democratic tasks of national unity and liberation during the period of imperialism can be achieved only by the working class based on the class struggle, armed with Marxist program.

For his defense, he might say that he has explained that “we defend the right of those oppressed masses to rise”. But he doesn’t explain the political logic behind his standing with the Hamas leadership and its actions, disregarding the concerns of two contradictory classes that represent the oppressed masses and bourgeois Hamas leadership. He will never do that. ICFI wrote against the opportunistic clique including Healey, when Palestine Liberation Movement was elevated instead of emphasizing the independent leadership of the working class, as follows: “Without defining the specific class forces in the nationalist movements, speaking of Palestinian people is once again a political aberration that serves to bury down the critical role of the working class” (How Workers’ Revolutionary Party betrayed Trotskyism, 1973-1985, page 107). History and foundations of Marxist Movement is built up through such a struggle.

However, at the last meeting of the proposed series of meetings held at Colombo Public Library Hall on November 21st, it was very clear that SEP General Secretary comrade Deepal Jayasekera stands opposed to Gunadasa when he emphasized that “we, as the world’s Trotskyist movement, have criticisms against Hamas Organization. They are political criticisms. They are not at all moral”.

“Hamas Organization is a bourgeois nationalist movement. We emphasize the fact that the methods employed by them including the October 7th attack will in no way contribute to the defeat of the Zionist state, nor to the liberation of the Palestinian people. Further, Hamas Organization is based on the support of the bourgeois apparatuses of the Middle East. Its Orientation is towards them. Their appeal is to those governments. Hence, they subjugate the struggle against the Zionist state to the requirements of the bourgeois regimes of the Middle East, and to the settlements they seek to arrange with Israel and the world imperialist powers.

“It has been shown that the workers and the youth around the world don’t have a habit of idly watching the genocidal war being carried out by the Zionist regime of Israel….. We stand in line with these workers and youth in solidarity. We insist to develop these movements as much as possible against the war in Gaza. Further, we in particular, intervene to direct these movements towards the working class. That is the only social force capable of stopping the Imperialist war and Israel invasion.”

Deepal Jayasekera addressing Colombo meeting

The program of the International Committee presented by comrade Jayasekera is clear, and we should say that we work in solidarity with this program. But, the fact that the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the party proposed two different policies that are contradictory to each other, and allowing these two policies to co-exist, as a matter of course, is clear evidence that the political health of the party has degenerated. Gunadasa has publicly expressed his position at two public meetings. Party members, including at least half a dozen members representing the Political Committee or the Central Committee participated in these discussions. The complete video of the meeting has been posted in the SEP Facebook page. Nobody seems to have opposed Gunadasa’s proposal. What does that clearly Indicate? Isn’t it that, within the party, there is room not only to hold working class and non-working-class concepts, but also to campaign for them?

Above all, the fact that in Jayasekera’s speech at the Colombo meeting, there was not even a hint being shown of the danger raised in Gunadasa’s statement showed that such a situation exists within the party. When the Secretary and the Assistant Secretary were talking on the same matter from two extremes, members and friends applauded both of them very generously. Politically, this existence is centrist. Centrist politics creates revolutionaries as well as reactionaries. But, in general, it strengthens opportunism in the party.

Pseudo leftists say that Israel attacks have affected Palestinian princes, capitalists, workers and peasants alike, and therefore it necessitates a solution that all can participate, and for that, one of the two solutions, either a dual state solution or a capitalist unitary state like that of Nelson Mandla’s South Africa is suitable, while they work devotedly to subjugate the world-scale public revolt, developed by the Palestinian genocide, to the capitalist class once again. When representing the rights of the oppressed, while accepting Hamas Leadership, doesn’t Gunadasa’s proposal express allegiance to this reactionary class collaborationist movement that made the working class pay with their blood on many occasions?

Was this a mistake that happened at the spur of the moment? When it was suggested for a general strike during the 2021 Teachers’ struggle, not only the party got frightened, but also those party members who made the proposal were viciously attacked. During the Covid-19 pandemic, having allowed the cremation of Muslim dead bodies in silence, it supported the cruel reactionary proposal of the government that the funeral ceremonies of Muslims should be done according to science. Although a discussion was requested by a few Central Committee members in order to resolve that matter, it was not allowed by the majority of the party apparatus. In 2022, during the public uprising, despite the development of the appropriate perspective and the program with the help of the ICFI, it abstained from intervening in the mass struggles in all possible ways, providing the necessary intervention required by the situation and the necessary leadership. Above all, when a request was made for a discussion to clarify these matters, those comrades including this writer who gave leadership to the SEP-Left group, were expelled en masse.

SEP-Left group stood for developing the theoretical struggle of the party at least since 2014. As was concluded by the 12th plenary session of ICFI in 1992, it understood that rebuilding the Marxist Culture that had been deteriorated by opportunism, including Stalinism, is the foremost responsibility of the party, and preparing the party for that task could not be delayed. But, this necessity was ignored by a conservatism that led to avoiding taking necessary turns  at the appropriate moment. Conservatism was characterized by the obstacles that impeded the establishment of the Marxist perspective among the working class.

While this was the root of the disputes within the party, party apparatus, instead of solving these problems based on the lessons of the history of the movement, followed the easy path of moving forward disregarding them.

As for Gunadasa, this was reflected by his abstaining from the interventions in the factories of Ratmalana working class centre, where the interventions had been carried out over a long period. For a long time, not even a report had been published at least to reflect that there’s a working class there. Instead, he recently announced a fake railway action committee. No matter how much the subjective desire for the revolution is, the skepticism about the struggle that should be carried out for the political perspectives within the working class, opens the door for such frauds.

In order for them to organize themselves to adapt to these conditions, the party apparatus needed to get rid of the SEP-Left who opposed it. Appointing yes-men, who were not politically tested or who were incapable of taking political leadership, to the Central Committee and the other main committees, was one step taken by them. The nature of their politics is already apparent by now. Just consider the political fraud carried out by Aruna Malalagama – the businessman, who was newly appointed to the Central Committee – together with his local secretary Ratnasiri Malalagama. He announced a Southern Province action committee. He and Ratnasiri announced a series of action committees, such as those of cinnamon peelers, garment workers, Tangalle farmers and of hotel workers. Establishment was reported on the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) too. One who has at least a scant respect of the history of the authentic struggle of the reputed website and of the party would not drag the party to the risks posed by such lies. The so-called hotel committee that Malalagama announced, calling the workers of his hotel by force, was maintained for a few days through creating a fear in them of losing their jobs. What has been done there was causing disgust for the very same organizational structure of the action committees.

The frenzied desperation in Gunadasa’ effort to disrupt the online public meeting organized by  the Colombo Action Committee, which was the only organization that actively defended the artist and freedom of expression within the working class against her arrest, by unruly intruding into the midst of it, levelling unfounded allegations against the members of the Committee, is an indication of the abyss, the party has fallen into. Today, the very same person suggesting to stand with bourgeois Hamas is not surprising.

This also reveals that, when the entire party apparatus attacked the Marxist position on the national democratic right of self-determination – that it can be attained only through  the dictatorship of the working class – Gunadanasa’s appearance as the chief proponent of the attack was not an accident.

The world vacillates between world war and socialist revolution. Preparation of the party for this situation cannot be reduced to mere relying on the word of the International Committee. Party can be prepared only through developing those perspectives in the party and in the class through active practice.

In that sense, investigation of the centrist behaviour expressed by Gunadasa cannot be delayed. On the other hand, his propagation of the anti-Party position must be corrected immediately. The role of individuals like Malalagama, and the question of how the party tolerates such behaviour, must be examined based on the history of the international struggle for building the party.

In order to do this, the party membership must take an initiative, and the theoretical capital that has already been provided by the experiences of the history of the International Committee and the SEP would provide the necessary tools for that. Sections of the International Committee should be built by the leadership and membership of relevant sections, subject to the perspectives and guidelines developed and provided by the ICFI – the perspectives and guidelines the ICFI has developed with the participation of all the sections. It is important to realise that the ICFI cannot substitute for the place of the party membership in this process.

Finally, it should be said that party building is absolutely bound up with the following emphasis of the ICFI: Firstly, explanation of the history, perspective, and the program; Secondly, intensification of the political struggle against opportunism in the working class; Thirdly, turning directly towards the working class physically and consistently.


Nandana Nannetthi (On behalf of SEP-Left)

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