SEP-SL bureaucracy promotes backwardness and hostility to principles

Months after the politurbo of Socialist Equality Party (SEP) Sri Lanka expelled Comrades Nandana Nanneththi and Sanjaya Jayasekera from the Party, the Party leadership has, on 06 May 2023, released, along with the statement posted below, two other documents in this regard, to the Sinhala section of the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).


We request all workers, all those who are sympathetic to the Party and the International Committee and have progressive interests,  to read these documents carefully.

After ‘purging’ these comrades undemocratically and against the principles, the Party bureaucratic regime took every effort to wipe them and the left faction within the Party out from the galaxy of revolutionary internationalist politics. Upon the failure of all such efforts, these desperate steps taken by the leadership in an unhinged manner create an open platform for the defense of Trotskyist principles against the party bureaucracy, which is intensifying the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Hence, we are certain that the discussion that starts with this would be very crucial in the development of the class struggle today.

The SEP leadership’s statement only mentions the expulsions of comrades Nandana and Sanjaya. But, it fails to mention that, subsequently, the bureaucracy removed comrade Sunil from Ratmalana, expelled Comrade Migara from Kolonnawa, and dropped Comrade Amaratunga from Ambalangoda Locales. The membership of Comrade Ananda Wakkambura, who participated in the decisive Gotagogama lecture mentioned in the statement, was suspended for the same reason. Earlier, comrade Dimuthu from Gampaha was sacked. Comrade William, who is amongst the most experienced members of the Party, was referred to the local Council of Bandarawela, about 300 km from his residence in Bulathsinhala, in order to isolate him from the Party activities. Furthermore, a number of other comrades from the left faction, which includes comrades Sanjaya and Nandana, are under the threat of expulsion from the Party.

About 20 comrades either left or were expelled during the proximate period before and after the last congress of the Party. This number is a huge percentage for a cadre-based Party. The Party bureaucracy has not made any political evaluation of these developments within the Party, under the conditions in which the workers and youth of Sri Lanka are gaining a revolutionary potential in the midst of the massive resurgence of the class struggle on a global scale.

The Party congresses in 2015 and 2022, which were called suppressing democratic discussion and disregarding the constitution, were postponed for a few months, amid the concerns raised by the members of the left faction, and, due to the intervention of the International Committee (ICFI), who advised that the political issues be resolved through political discussion within the Party. The Party bureaucracy turned their back on this advice. Having done so, there is no legitimacy in their uttering gibberish against Nandana/Sanjaya for violating the democratic centralism of the Party.

The bureaucracy has been careful not to utter a word about the long political struggle these two comrades and the left faction had with the Party bureaucracy, within different Party forums, on various political issues. The bureaucracy worked to distort the meaning of the documents submitted by those comrades and, not bothered to, at least present them to the Party members.

This letter itself, bearing witness to the descent into highly subjective personal vilifications, shows that this bureaucracy is appealing to the backward layers that the party has attracted. This is demonstrating the danger of the Party bureaucracy pushing the movement away from the Party’s working-class base towards reaction and nationalism.

The baseless accusations made for the first time in this article against Comrade Sanjaya’s career are shocking. Does this not nauseatingly expose the mentality which unconsciously led the middle-class stratum of the Party bureaucracy in their  relationship with this comrade?

They should explain what kind of international Marxist discipline it is to publish these subjective and nationalist statements in the Sinhala section of WSWS, without any recourse or even a notification to the International Committee.

Exposing these actions of the Party’s unprincipled bureaucracy, we will continue with the discussion in respect of these published articles, and about the struggle led by the left faction of the Party, along with the relevant documents. This short note is a prelude to it.

Our translation of the SEP statement released in Sihalese is published below:

Statement of the Socialist Equality Party of Sri Lanka on the expulsion of Nandana Nanneththi and Sanjaya Jayasekera

Socialist Equality Party – Sri Lanka

06 May 2023

On 12 November 2022, the Sri Lankan branch of the International Committee of the Fourth International, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), expelled Nandana Nanneththi and Sanjaya Jayasekera from the party on specific justifiable grounds.

The resolution for their expulsion, passed unanimously at a meeting of the party’s central committee, detailed the indisciplined and politically hostile actions of these two individuals. SEP General Secretary Deepal Jayasekara sent a copy of the central committee resolution informing Sanjaya and Nandana in writing about their expulsion.

The expulsion followed a series of calculated violations of party discipline over months.

Since entering the legal profession, Sanjaya believed that he deserved special treatment within the Socialist Equality Party due to his high social status as a lawyer. He was convinced that his law degree would absolve him of all responsibility for upholding party rules. Sanjaya believed that such rules only affect ordinary party members but not lawyers like him.

From the moment he got his law degree, Sanjaya, held himself in high esteem for his own genius and began to behave in a lofty manner, like an overfed peacock with its tail feathers spread in display.

He saw the party as a vehicle for his personal political ambitions. But to his surprise, the SEP was not intimidated by his professional qualifications. The SEP emphasized that the rules applicable to party membership affect Sanjaya as well as other members. In particular, the SEP leadership warned him that Sanjaya had no “right” to organize his own political meetings without the party’s permission.

In the midst of last year’s mass protests against Rajapaksa, Sanjaya decided to hold his own public meeting and speech at the Galle Face grounds  in Colombo. He justified this serious violation of party discipline by stating that the speech was an opportunity “was offered to and arranged for me and only me in my personal capacity and not to the Party”*.

Sanjaya aligned himself with Nandana who had already started publishing public statements on his Facebook page showing his differences with the SEP regarding the party’s programme and perspective on various issues. This practice of Nandana was a violation of party discipline. Nandana refused to retract his public statements despite the SEP leadership clarifying how his views expressed openly on Facebook go against the party’s long-established positions, through internal documents circulated among the party membership.

Taking these anti-party activities to a new high, Nandana published a series of statements on his Facebook page last September, publicly denouncing the party leadership in general and a number of core comrades in particular. Despite the written advice sent to him by the SEP General Secretary asking him to stop such open anti-party activities and to withdraw his public attacks against the party, as per a unanimous decision of the party’s political committee, he continued to make such public criticisms against the party on Facebook  and continued his practice.

In all these anti-party activities, Nandana closely and openly collaborated with Sanjaya, maintaining an unprincipled clique relationship. Nandana also participated in the aforementioned public lecture by  Sanjaya delivered at Galle Face grounds.

With Nandana and Sanjaya refusing to accept party discipline, the SEP Central Committee was left with no option but to terminate their membership. The party decided not to publicize their expulsion, hoping that they would reconsider their increasingly destructive behavior and refusal to abide by party decisions. But, later this hope proved to be in vain.

Instead, Nandana and Sanjaya have stepped up their open anti-party activities. Treacherously exploiting the SEP’s reluctance to publicly denounce them, they have attempted to create confusion among SEP supporters by presenting themselves to the public as representatives and spokespersons of the International Committee.

The so-called Colombo Action Committee (CAC), which was formed under their initiative, is being used as a means of attacking the SEP by Nandana and Sanjaya. They also claim that the SEP has diverged  “sectarianly” from the International Committee/SEP’s call for workers to form their own action committees by refusing to cooperate with CAC.

CAC is not a genuine action committee formed by workers and rural poor. It has nothing to do with the SEP’s call for a Democratic and Socialist Congress of Workers and Rural Poor. Through a number of party statements and other articles published on the World Socialist Web Site on Sri Lanka’s political development, the SEP’s call for workers was to form their own action committees in every workplace, factory, farm and neighbourhood, independent of trade unions and capitalist parties. The SEP has also called upon the rural poor to form such action committees in their areas.

In contrast, CAC is a collection of individuals, including some political activists, drawn from different parts of the island. Nandana and Sanjaya are using CAC as a front organization to publicly attack the SEP.

Since their expulsion from the party, Nandana and Sanjaya have used social media to portray themselves as victims of an oppressive party bureaucracy and heroes fighting for personal freedom. Their appeal is aimed at motivating the angry petty-bourgeois and pseudo-leftists who will immediately give approval and publicity to any attack on the International Committee. But this campaign serves to expose how alien they are to the principles and traditions of the movement.The SEP follows the concept of party discipline, clearly defined by James P. Cannon, in an April 1940 resolution adopted by  the membership of the Socialist Workers Party of America, at the end of the struggle against the petty-bourgeois minority, led by future Cold-War anti-communist ideologues James Burnham and Max Shattman:

“With party rights, the membership has also certain definite obligations. The theoretical and political character of the party is determined by its program, which forms the lines delimiting the revolutionary party from all other parties, groups and tendencies in the working class. The first obligation of party membership is loyal acceptance of the program of the party and regular affiliation to one of the basic units of the party. The party requires of every member the acceptance of its discipline and the carrying on of his activity in accordance with the program of the party, with the decisions adopted by its conventions, and with the policies formulated and directed by the party leadership.

Party membership implies the obligation of 100% loyalty to the organisation, the rejection of all agents of other, hostile groups in its ranks, and intolerance of divided loyalties in general.”

The resolution further decisively states as follows: 

“The rights of each individual member, as set forth above, do not imply that the membership as a whole, namely, the party itself, does not possess rights of its own. The party as a whole has the right to demand that its work be not disrupted and disorganised, and has the right to take all the measures which it finds necessary to assure its regular and normal functioning. The rights of any individual member are distinctly secondary to the rights of the party membership as a whole. Party democracy means not only the most scrupulous protection of the rights of a given minority, but also the protection of the rule of the majority. The party is therefore entitled to organise the discussion and to determine its forms and limits.

The party in general not only has the right, therefore, to organise the discussion in accordance with the requirements of the situation, but the lower units of the party must be given the right, in the interests of the struggle against the disruption and disorganisation of the party’s work, to call irresponsible individuals to order and, if need be, to eject them from the ranks.” (James P. Cannon, The Struggle for a Revolutionary Party)

Sanjaya and Nandana are such irresponsible individuals. In response to their unprincipled actions, the SEP, fittingly, expelled them from their membership.

With this public statement, the SEP is making it clear to the working class that the statements and actions of these two fraudsters are not endorsed by the party and should not be given any recognition.

In addition to this statement, the party also publishes the November 12 SEP Central Committee resolution explaining the reasons for the expulsion of Nandana and Sanjay. We  also publish the letter sent by SEP General Secretary  to the party members on December 05, 2022, which further elaborates on the political issues.

*For better clarity, the whole paragraph from the relevant 20-paged long self-defensive letter of objection of 15 August 2022, by comrade Sanjaya, against his suspension, addressed to the General Secretary of the SEP, Deepal Jayasekara, is given below: 

“The chronological facts aforementioned clearly proves that Comrade Marlon [Secretary of the Locale to which Comrade Sanjaya was attached ] distorts and misrepresents the facts and decisions of the PC and the Locale. It was not “an opportunity for a party member” to “deliver a public lecture at Gota Go Gama”, as comrade Marlon states in the letter, but was an opportunity I myself got with the help of Comrade Wakkumbura, through my contacts who conducted Public University of GotaGoGama. The lecture was offered to and arranged for me and only me in my personal capacity and not to the Party. The distortions made in the rest of the letter are quite obvious when compared with the correspondence laid down above.” 

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