The fight for principles and leadership of the working class: How SEP-SL bureaucracy expelled revolutionaries

By Sanjaya Jayasekera 

Sanjaya speaking at a SEP Colombo Fort picket on 17 June 2019

The leadership of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) – Sri Lanka recently (06 May) released three documents officially announcing that it has expelled two of its leading comrades, Nandana Nannetti and Sanjaya Jayasekera from the Party, almost half a year after the act. The announcement included a statement, a resolution of the Political Committee, which comprises a bureaucratic clique, and a letter by party’s General Secretary (GS)  to its membership, each relating to the expulsion of the aforesaid comrades. 

theSocialist.LK published a prelude to opening a discussion on the issues relating to these expulsions and the fight waged by the SEP-Left faction for revolutionary principles, theory and organization, and  two articles by comade Nannetti followed. This illustrative write-up is followed by my reply to Deepal Jayasekara, the GS, against  my expulsion, and will continue to brief the struggle of the left faction, as another step toward helping to draw the necessary political lessons and conclusions. 

One fact should be stressed at the outset. The membership and all sympathisers of the party will recognize the undeniable fact that the SEP-Left faction’s fight for a revolutionary Party always centred on securing the long traditions of Bolshevism and defending the struggle for Trotskyist permanent revolution. The party of the world socialist revolution in Sri Lanka and, mainly, of South Asia has to be saved, strengthened and built as the mass party of the revolutionary proletariat, resolving the historic crisis of the leadership. This requires a resolute fight against those who stand against these principles. 

Why Now? 

Anyone who first reads from the SEP statement the news that the said comrades  have  been expelled after a number of months since the same was done, will necessarily ask the unavoidable question: why is this revelation made just now? 

The reason given  by the statement is that “[t]he 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.” 

What does this statement mean? The party regime expected Sanjaya and Nandana to admit the allegations levelled against them by the regime and be qualified to be awarded the party membership. In any event, there was no communication of such ‘hopes’ from GS, who for half a year failed to abide by the provisions of the Constitution in respect of an expulsion of a party member. 

By stating so, this leadership covertly conceals history, the struggle waged by the left faction including Nandana and Sanjaya, and the political and organizational questions that remained unresolved within the party, even though all attempts were made by the faction at all instances to open discussions to resolve the issues. It also suppresses the facts leading to continuous calculated attempts by the leadership to silence dissent within the party, embodied by the left faction and few other comrades. 

The obvious reason for this sudden revelation by the Party regime was because all its attempts to politically silence Sanjaya and Nandana failed. The activities of the Colombo Action Committee (CAC), of which these two comrades are members, were denounced as being hostile to the party, and its statements were refused to be published in the WSWS, as its Sri Lanka Editor claimed, the CAC was not ‘approved’ by the Party prior to its establishment. However, in spite of CAC’s open requests to politically explain the so-called ‘hostility’, the party regime never made such explanations, even to-date. Instead, the regime took steps to ‘expose’ the conditions pertaining to the expulsions of these comrades, which explains nothing and draws no political lessons, but rather raises a series of questions that these write-ups are intended to answer. 

Personal Accusations

It is quite obvious that the approach of the SEP statement in levelling highly subjective personal  accusations against Sanjaya in the paragraphs 4 to 7  thereof is not the way of Marxists. The accusation has no basis and is factually incorrect:  he joined the party in 2009 just as he graduated. Thereafter, he undertook and was conferred a number of  leadership roles and was a writer for the world socialist website.  He was elected to the CC in both congresses held in 2015 and 2018, and selected to the Political Committee (PC). In 2018, Comrade Dias himself recommended the presence of Sanjaya, being a lawyer,  in the PC.  Now, the leadership should respond, at what stage  did the party turn to psychoanalysis and subject Sanjaya to such analysis and find that their accusations are merited? 

These baseless allegations made for the first time in this statement does nothing but nauseatingly expose the petty mentality which unconsciously led the middle-class stratum of the Party bureaucracy in their  relationship with Sanjaya. Pathetic! The regime knows these accusations only appeal to the gullible and backward layers attracted to the party, upon which it endeavors to tighten its strength.  

Before the Expulsion

Sanjaya’s expulsion for sharing two Facebook posts of the Colombo Action Committee was preceded by his suspension for several months for intervening, with a revolutionary perspective, in the historic mass struggles of the last year (2022) and delivering a public lecture at Public University, GotaGoGama on 15 June. The details regarding this unprincipled suspension which was vehemently objected to by Sanjaya in his self-defensive letter to the party is a matter that could be considered separately.  

While the statement says that the Party was careful not to publicize these expulsions with good hopes, it does not explain why it suppressed the fact, even from the membership of the party, that Sanjaya resigned from the membership of the Political Committee and from the Chairmanship of the Action Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Art and Expression (ACDAE), for reasons stipulated,  in late September 2021. No political assessment of this resignation was done, no official communication made and explanation provided to the membership,  nor discussion held either with Sanjaya or within the party membership in this regard. Being an all powerful clique, they very well knew, there was no space for such comradely discussions; so why bother? 

The ‘purge’ against Sanjaya commenced since then.  In November 2021, Sanjaya joined the debate on the stance of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) in respect of the right of and the slogan of self-determination of the oppressed nations, and defended the ICFI analysis and position in that regard. When comrade Nandana was suspended  on the allegation that he distorted the ICFI’s stance in that regard, Sanjaya stood by Nandana, in Locale meetings and in one Central Committee (CC) meeting,  as the allegation was wrong and suspension unfounded.  

Due to this reason, Sanjaya was imposed two specific conditions – which were akin to standing orders of the party Congress – parallel to such imposition on Nandana, to be specifically bound by, as a prerequisite for permitting to attend the third national Congress of the Party. In response to the imposition of these conditions, which both Sanjaya and Nandana admitted, Sanjaya wrote a long letter, dated 08 February 2022,  addressed to the then General Secretary, comrade Wije Dias, denying the several allegations of discipline. This letter also explained the reasons for my resignation from PC,  giving eight items of political issues regarding the party’s political engagement and the work of the Editorial Board.  It stated as follows:

“The decision to resign from the membership of the PC was never caused by subjugation to middle class pressures to abandon my revolutionary responsibilities, but was taken as the last resort, when I was finally unable to bear the pressure I had to bear as a member of the PC itself. This pressure was due to the non-availability of democratic space to vent out my constructive, but critical and dissenting views, which would be debatable. The following observations are based on my experience and understanding of the matters within the Party, and are required to be discussed seriously, patiently, democratically and in a very healthy and comradely manner without any sense of intimidation or suppression or political profiling. Having often been subjected to political profiling i.e. being blamed as being subjected to middle class (alien) pressures whenever a dissenting view was expressed during PC meetings – my experience was that there was no such healthy environment within the PC for such serious discussions of the following, inter alia…”

This letter also explained in detail why Sanjaya was compelled  to resign as chairman of ACDAE: The growing cynicism and lack of trust of the leadership in him,  lack of support from the party leadership, the use of the action committee only as a tool of party recruitment and propaganda, converting it to another organ of the party, which he objected to. 

Contribution in the Third National Congress

Party’s third National Congress, which was called unconstitutionally, was postponed due to the objections raised by the left-faction in its letter to the party dated 10 February 2022, demanding discussion and resolution of political disputes before the Congress, and revocation of Comrade Nandana’s suspension, to enable him to participate in pre-congress discussions. 

With the intervention of the International Committee the Congress was thus postponed, but its advice was disregarded: to discuss and resolve the internal disputes before the Congress. 

On 15 May, intervening in the congress proceedings, Sanjaya stated as follows:

In the World Socialist Web Site, we have noted that the manifestation of the global economic crisis experienced in Sri Lanka, against the backdrop of the contradictions of the world imperialist capitalist system that has exploded through the Russia-Ukraine war, has marked a decisive development in a series of struggles of the global working class. We have made the effort to bring to a higher level the theoretical and political struggle against the pseudoleft and struggled relentlessly against capitalist reformism, nationalism and trade unionism as the most essential foundations for the task of giving a revolutionary orientation to the class struggles in Sri Lanka and building the party as the mass party of the workers and the oppressed. We have advanced the program of an international alliance of independent action committees as the practical political action of this struggle.

The experience of the people’s struggles against the Rajapaksa government has taught the party the necessity to bind itself organically to such struggles and their developments, not to be alien to them, but to provide theoretical, perspective-wise and essentially practical leadership promptly and at all stages in the coming revolutionary struggles during the decade of the socialist revolution. Our international movement’s clarification that, had there been a section of our party in the Egyptian revolution, the direction of that revolution would have changed, has a direct relevance to our party in Sri Lanka.

Social and political dialectics and ideologies that develop in the working class, youth and students, as well as the party’s perspectives, program, and practical activities, all of these must be subjected to sharp analyzes and critical discussions by the comrades of the party in all party bodies, and this is the most essential requirement of materializing the party tasks that have been placed before us through the perspective of the congress. That is to establish inner party democracy. Lenin described the organizational method of democratic centralism in the revolutionary party as “freedom to criticize, unity in action”.

In order to carry out the historical political tasks assigned to the party, as explained in the Congress resolutions, I propose that the party leadership and the membership should commit themselves after this Congress to raising the level of education and critical intelligence of the party comrades, by defeating the particular “anti-intellectualism” rooted in the party for a considerable period of time, as well as by overcoming the “theoretical and critical poverty” of our comrades, to advance the party with new energy.”

The party bureaucracy did not want to commit to these critical demands of the objective development within and outside the party, but was hell-bent on suppressing the left-faction, first targeting Nandana and Sanjaya. 

Intervention in the GotaGoGama

Since early April 2022, the left faction was demanding that the  party take every step to fight for the leadership of the mass struggles or to endeavor to impose a considerable influence upon the struggles against the Rajapaksha government. The party regime considered it alien to the mass struggles and let it be exploited and derailed by the pseudo-left. In its fight for active intervention in the mass struggles, the left faction was guided by the lessons of the experiences of the Egypt revolution and the following counter-revolution.

Sanjaya in the historic Galleface Greens lecture
on 15 June 2022

A letter sent to the Central Committee in the early hours of 09 April 2022  in this regard will testify to this struggle by the left-faction, and will be published here  sooner.  

The issue of calling to prepare the working class for a general political strike had already been raised by comrade Nandana and others and this demand was rejected by leadership saying that neither the party, nor the working, class was ready for such a general strike. The masses had to be  prepared for a general strike during a period of time, and hence the demand of the left faction.

Even the invitations by party sympathizers who were active in the mass struggles to intervene in the protest site at Galle Face Greens (GotaGoGama) were refused by the members of the leadership, saying the place was not safe for party cadre. 

It is in these circumstances, that Sanjaya was offered to deliver a lecture on the topic of  “Freedom of Art, the Experience of the Struggle and the Way Forward”. This was communicated to the party leadership as soon as it was received, about two weeks before the event. The CC statement shamefully suppresses the necessary facts and correspondence, only to serve one purpose, to justify Sanjaya’s suspension for intervening in the mass struggles with the perspective of the International Committee. The party bureaucracy tried to block Sanjaya’s participation in the Public University lecture at the eleventh hour, and led the Locale to pass an urgent resolution against his imminent intervention, in the absence of himself, comrades Ananda Wakkumbura and Fareeda who were Locale members. 

Sanjaya’s self-defensive letter dated 15 August 2022, consisting of 20 pages including all correspondence in this regard, clearly explains why the suspension was arbitrary. 

In any event, it should be stressed that, in the absence of any prohibition for Sanjaya’s intervention in GotaGoGama, not representing the party there,  even till the event was advertised in social media, the  decision to go ahead with the  intervention was a politically calculated, conscious one taken by the comrades of the left-faction. There was no option but taking the risk of being subjected to disciplinary actions by the party regime, for not abiding by its last-hour resolutions. That risk was taken, because the comrades correctly assessed and firmly believed   in the historical significance of that intervention. 

Sanjaya’s said letter in its concluding paragraphs aptly stated as follows:

“The PC proceeding to suspend three leading comrades of the party taking refuge in its bureaucratic maneuvers, while subjecting them for a considerable time to continuous slanders, suppression and intimidation within Locales and membership meetings, just because they have refused to be “yes-men”, is a rotten indication of a danger that the party leadership and then the whole party is decelerating into a political degeneration within.”

This danger should be defeated. That is the responsibility of a conscious, critical membership, which should have no other bias but the working class. 

The principles on Party Unity in the SWP resolution (from The Struggle for a Proletarian Party) referred to in the SEP statement equally applies today:

 ” The Socialist Workers Party is a revolutionary Marxian party, based on a definite program, whose aim is the organisation of the working class in the struggle for power and the transformation of the existing social order. All of its activities, its methods and its internal regime are subordinated to this aim and are designed to serve it.

Only a self-acting and critical-minded membership is capable of forging and consolidating such a party and of solving its problems by collective thought, discussion and experience. From this follows the need of assuring the widest party democracy in the ranks of the organisation.”


As mentioned above, Sanjaya’s expulsion from the party membership, without any disciplinary inquiry, and any opportunity to hear an appeal,  was based on sharing two facebook posts of the CAC. 

This expulsion was objected to by Sanjaya in his letter dated 24 November 2022 addressed to Comrade Deepal Jayasekara, which was also intended to partly respond to the 12 November CC’s Resolution aforesaid. 

This letter, which is self-explanatory,  is reproduced below, and will answer a number of questions arising from the documents published by the party. 

Questions of discipline demand political explanations, which the party bureaucracy continuously failed to arrive at.

While the SEP bureaucracy cites the SWP Resolution to attack its expelled comrades on the issue of discipline, it fatally fails to  draw the necessary lessons from that resolution which intended to prevent a rift within the Party.   

Sanjaya invited to speak at a meeting of Rationalists on freedom of expression,  24 August 2019

24 November 2022

Deepal Jayasekera, General Secretary, 

Socialist Equality Party, 

Sri Lanka,

Dear Comrade,

I am perturbed, but not surprised, to receive your email dated 19 November 2022 (10.50am), along with the attached document, communicating to me a Central Committee (CC) decision expelling me from the membership of the Socialist Equality Party-Sri Lanka (SEP). Please be informed that I do not agree with the said decision of the CC and PC to expel me, and vehemently object to the positions taken by the Party leadership and communicated to me as aforesaid.

I am perturbed, but not surprised, to receive your email dated 19 November 2022 (10.50am), along with the attached document, communicating to me a Central Committee (CC) decision expelling me from the membership of the Socialist Equality Party-Sri Lanka (SEP). Please be informed that I do not agree with the said decision of the CC and PC to expel me, and vehemently object to the positions taken by the Party leadership and communicated to me as aforesaid.

This letter is to briefly communicate my immediate response to your decision and I will write more for further clarifications, whenever required.

Once again, this decision of the CC and PC shows the continuation of the party leadership’s undemocratic and bureaucratic approach to avoid and suppress serious political questions and organizational matters of the Party, and to cover it up with fake assertions of democratic centralism.

The procedure adopted to expel me from the membership is flawed and antidemocratic. According to your letter, the decision to expel has been taken by the CC at a meeting held on 12 November 2022. You provide no report as to what were the issues debated, what were the salient points of issues for and against the proposal to expel, and which Comrade made which submission. As with my previous suspension of membership for delivering a lecture in GotaGoGama during recent mass struggles, once again, you have not issued me any charges and time to respond, and no disciplinary inquiry has been held. On top of that, you have continuously rejected any discussion with me and Comrade Nandana (or Wakkumbura) on the disputed issues, though such a discussion was repeatedly requested by us and other concerned comrades.

Tragically, your letter also fails to mention anything discussed with the other members of the International Committee, including Comrade David North, about the disciplinary measures taken against myself, comrades Nandana and Wakkumbura and what political clarifications made during such discussions, in relation to our previous suspensions or instant expulsions.

Your letter is intended to misdirect and suppress very material facts and therefore is dishonest. While mentioning about my suspension – which suspension was extended by the Party leadership including yourself for a period of five months without communicating to me any decision taken by the Party and not giving me any discussion with the party, and intended to keep me politically dead and inactive for an indefinite time – your letter suppresses the material fact that I sent a 20-page long letter (dated 15 August 2022) to you against my suspension, with all facts and correspondence. Not even a word uttered in your letter about this important letter, where I deny all your allegations, and you do not mention whether it was discussed in the PC or CC and with IC, and among the membership. However, I am aware that just one or two days after you sent me your 19 November letter, you had already shared your letter with the membership. Not even natural justice!

Failing to mention the aforesaid, in order to falsify facts and hoodwink gullible membership, you only mention that ” Sanjaya has not so far openly admitted that he has breached party discipline, and is continuing to justify his act” (translation mine). If I was supposed to accept your allegation that I had breached party discipline, what is the purpose of requesting by your letter dated 25 July 2022 to respond to your letter of suspension? Does that mean the suspension and its confirmation were already decided, whatever be my reply and objections? Also, why do you fail to mention where and how I have justified my act and how you dispute my justification?

Now, the new allegations against me for expelling me from the membership is sharing two Facebook posts of Colombo Action Committee (CACPS)! The party leadership had no reason to object to me being elected as Chairperson of the Action Committee, but raised guns when I shared, as I should, two Facebook posts of the action committee. Your so-called warning had no merit, and did not contain any responses to the issues raised by the relevant document of the action committee, and it was solely intended to silence dissent.

It is my best knowledge that Comrade Nandana, for a number of times, even at a CC meeting where I and Nandana last attended early this year, requested to have a discussion on the political matters at issue, but the leadership continuously failed to provide it. Instead, on fabulous allegations, the leadership suspended his membership, extended it, permitted some members of the party leadership to spread lies against us, closed all room for free discussion in Locale meetings, and forced comrade Nandana to resort to openly defend himself and his revolutionary personality within the party membership and among the working class at large.

The party leadership showed its extensive sectarian attitude to recent April-July struggles, by turning its back to these struggles and not taking adequate measures to actively engage the party, its student movement or action committees to fight for the revolutionary programme within the mass movement. The 20 July Statement calling for a Democratic and Socialist Congress of Workers and the poor cuts across this sectarianism of the Party leadership.

The Colombo Action Committee was established by delegates, in compliance with this 20 July statement, to wage struggles ahead to build a mass anti-capitalist movement.

Sanjaya, Nandana, Nihal , Udayaprema, and a number of other comrades of the Party are fighting for ICFI’s revolutionary perspective within the Action Committee.

Two statements sent by CACPS to WSWS Sri Lanka Editor were not published in WSWS, and I am aware that the Sri Lankan editor has communicated to the Action Committee no valid reason for not publishing the statements. CACPS asked for any such reasons from the Editor, but no reply was received. Subsequently, the CACPS, in order to respond to the quarries of its members and to tell the truth to the working class, published two posts in its social media (fb) page that the statements have not been published, and expressed its willingness to work hand-in-hand with the WSWS in the future.

None of the political issues raised by the CACPS or its members or any issue with the CACPS itself were addressed by the party leadership (relevant documents are available at page). It adamantly decided to ignore and not to reply to the several questions raised or to explain its opposition regarding the Action Committee, which is gaining momentum within sections of the working class, urban poor and youth.

Instead of explaining these political issues for the political clarification of the working class and the youth, the leadership of our party decided to witch-hunt those who shared these posts and ‘purge’ the party of them. Sanjaya and Nandana are victims of that ‘purge’. The party leadership seems to have assumed that its decision of nonreplying to the several political questions raised by CACPS is not detrimental to the health of the Party, but retaining members connected to the Action Committee is more harmful and should be expelled. The leadership has thus decided not to tackle the political issues politically, but to administratively ‘purge’ those who the leadership think are instrumental in raising those questions. How pathetic!

A sectarian leadership of a revolutionary party would be best characterized, in Trotsky’s words, by identifying it with ‘alienism to great historical movements, a hardened conservative mentality, smug narrowness, and a most primitive political cowardice‘. Taking all matters into consideration, this description aptly suits the character of the present leadership of our party.

The Leadership which asserts centralism without democracy that makes room for free discussion and criticism, stops at the dead end of bureaucratism and opportunism. Organizational centralism that is not subject to internal democratic debate in the party pushes the leadership towards this retrogression. Then, centralism is another cover for bureaucracy. Party discipline is the unity of action thus subjected to democratic free discussion and criticism. Otherwise, subjecting party membership to a so-called discipline of centralism is to strengthen bureaucracy. This is fatally inimical to the class struggle.

Lenin reiterated:

“We have more than once already enunciated our theoretical views on the importance of discipline and on how this concept is to be understood in the party of the working class. We defined it as: unity of action, freedom of discussion and criticism. Only such Discipline is worthy of the democratic party of the advanced class.” [Party Discipline and the Fight Against the Pro-Cadet Social-Democrats, 1906]

In ‘I stake my Life'(1933), Trotsky, referring to Stalinist party bureaucracy, aptly stated, “fear of criticism is fear of the masses. The bureaucracy is afraid of the people.” The present leadership of our party is afraid of democratic criticism and therefore fears the masses, so the class struggle. It then wishes to be seperate from the mass movement. It even feared to call the working class for the preparation of a political general strike. That is why the leadership considers criticism is hostile to itself, and uses administrative measures to keep criticism and discussion within the party suppressed.

Having long been stuck in its comfort zone, immune from mass struggles and moving away from deep-root social dialectics, the Party has been suffering from a severe leadership crisis and is rotting within. Its general membership lacks in-depth understanding of the theoretical nuances necessary for political clarity and largely avoids political debates among the masses. I have succinctly pointed out these developments in my 15 August letter. The analyses of the articles published originally in the World Socialist Web Site Sinhala section have been lacking theoretical depth for a considerable time (raising these issues in the Locale meetings has been prohibited ). I once again wish to reiterate my statement (attached hereto) I made at the third Congress of the Party, as a Central Committee member of the party since 2015 till the last Congress.

The party leadership never wished to face these challenges, but wished to ‘purge’ those who raised the issues. Regrettably, this reactionary approach will not help to build revolutionary leadership within the mass movement.

The all-time panacea used against political dissidents within the party is once again used against Sanjaya and Nandana: being subject to middle class pressures. What is the political content of these middle class pressures ?; What is its political characteristic, natue?; What political deviations these pressures have manifested in ?; Is this middle class tendency ‘purged’ finally when these two comrades Sanjaya and Nandana are expelled? The CC has to seriously explain these questions, inter alia.

I hereby request to revoke my expulsion immediately, and open the floors for a discussion. Once again I wish to request such a discussion, preferably under the supervision and guidance of the IC, with the Party, to discuss all the political issues upon which, it’s no secret, that there is an open and well-known rift grown between the party leadership and a faction of comrades within the party including myself, comrade Nandana and others. Our expulsion is intended to intimidate and threaten the known members of this group within the party and suppress the political issues we have been raising.

The future is an epoch of intense class struggles. I reiterate I have one and only bias, a bias to the working class. As such, I do not hesitate to risk my life to defend the true heritage which the ICFI has been long fighting for, to complete the unfinished tasks of the past century in ours.


Sanjaya Jayasekera,



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