What is SEP-SL going to achieve in trying to sabotage the Colombo Action Committee?

By Colombo Action Committee for People’s Struggles (CACPS)

CAC members at a rally in Kytes on December 23, 2022

An article dated May 06, 2023 entitled “Statement of the Socialist Equality Party of Sri Lanka on the Expulsion of Nandana Nanneththi and Sanjaya  Jayasekera”, published in the Sinhala and Tamil sections of the World Socialist Web Site, made the following allegations against the Colombo Action Committee (CAC).

Nandana and Sanjaya, “are using the so-called Colombo Action Committee as a means of attacking the SEP. They also claim that the SEP has diverged, in a sectarian manner, from the call of the International Committee/SEP 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 the rural poor. It has nothing to do with the SEP’s call for a Democratic and Socialist Congress of Workers and Rural Poor…

“CAC is a collection of individuals, including some political activists, drawn from different parts of the island,” the statement says.

On 13th May 2023, a special meeting of the CAC Executive Committee seriously considered these allegations and unanimously concluded that this was a naked manifestation of a cowardly and regressive attempt to mislead the working people. The SEP statement has not made any attempt to substantiate these allegations with proper evidence and reasons, and it is not capable of doing so.

The said  article is silent on the important questions as to when, where and how the CAC has been used as a means of attacking the SEP, by  Nandana and Sanjaya.

They claim that CAC is not a genuine action committee because it is a collection of individuals, including some political activists who have been ‘picked up’. The SEP article, while stating that Action Committees should be formed, in ‘every workplace, factory, estate and residential area’ and by the ‘rural poor,’ is intended to prove that CAC members do not belong to any of the aforementioned social categories or classes. Then how to describe this particular type of creature that is said to be ‘picked up from different parts of the island’? Is there any good intention in it other than the frenzy to somehow destroy the CAC?

Once again, here, what comes to the fore is the reason for the fact that the party leadership turned away from massive public struggles last year, especially from the ‘Gotagogama’ protests. This leadership was confounded by an attitude which considered the workers, farmers, housewives and youth who participated in these struggles day and night as not belonging to the proletariat because they had come to the ‘wrong place’. They were of the opinion that the fake left front, which included capitalist parties and organizations, trade unions, comprising the Gotagama leadership, also comprised the hundreds of thousands of oppressed people who gathered there. That is why a suspension of the membership of the party was imposed against comrades Sanjaya Jayasekera and Ananda Wakkambura due to their intervention at Gotagogama Public University lecture in mid-June last year, which laid the foundation for CAC. Claiming that ‘they’ [Gotagogama self-claimed leadership)  came to attack the party members, that ‘they’ objected to the use of party names and that the party had to protect their comrades without sacrificing them, the SEP leaders finally receded to hide behind a transparent veil of not doing what is ‘unbecoming of a party like the SEP’. 

As the Communist Manifesto authored by Marx and Engels points out, the “proletariat” is  “the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour-power in order to live.” While byhearting this phrase, the SEP leadership has turned interpreting  in a way that would serve its aims.

The SEP leadership cannot allege that Sanjaya and our group have made any political evasion, surrender or betrayal regarding the perspectives  or the program of the international working class in their intervention in Gotagogama. In highlighting the problems that have arisen, it is the method of the Marxist to highlight them in relation to the political tasks of the party. The purpose of their article  is to prevent the emergence of such a political effort which is essential to the class struggle.

CAC was built consequent to the campaign started from Gotagogama by the SEP-left group, including Sanjaya, and after a long discussion in relation to the perspectives and program advanced by the SEP in its statement dated July 20,  2022, prepared under the guidance of the International Committee (IC). On September 11, 2022 , at its inaugural meeting held at N.M.Perera Centre, Colombo, the aforementioned July Statement was adopted unanimously after a long and intense discussion.

The founding meeting, together with its Executive Committee, unanimously decided that the report of the meeting should be sent for publication to the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), the globally authoritative publication of the working class. Accordingly, the report of the meeting, along with its photographs, was sent to the Sri Lanka editor-in-chief of WSWS on September 15. However, after 5 days, the editor-in-chief simply informed us, “we are not publishing the report you have sent to the WSWS because it is a report from a committee  you have formed without the approval of the Socialist Equality Party.“

It is clear from this itself that the SEP’s hostility toward the Colombo Action Committee is based on the fact that it was not formed with the ‘approval’ of the SEP and was not made an appendage of it. The implications of CAC’s establishment – that it was a necessity of the working class struggle, or that it was a step forward in connection with the campaign of the International Committee and is a realization of the SEP Statement – were all ignored in bringing to the fore, above all, the  fanatical bureaucratism. This bureaucratism was also demonstrated in their resistance to the emergence of the class struggle without first consulting the SEP. The SEP leaders know that this irresponsible act, which is not explained and cannot be explained, has a very negative effect on the working class and the youth. Why do they ignore it? But, in contrast, the CAC activity has always been based on the principles of the unity of the working class against the bourgeoisie.

On October 10, 2022, CAC sent another statement to the WSWS (SL). There we wrote:

“On 22 September, a Fisheries Action Committee was established in the Island of   Kytes in the Northern Province…

“CAC is keenly aware that Sri Lanka, which represents a sharp edge of the international class struggle that is intensifying day by day, has the necessary conditions to develop hundreds of Action Committees as centres of power of working class activism, which committees have  been historically determined to be an essential tool of the class struggle.

“The ruling class is unable to prevent a broad mass movement consolidating  under the leadership of its own democratic organisations – the workers’ Action Committees – against the brutal capitalist rule. Instead, it is repeatedly convincing the public, by resorting to military and police suppression, of the need for those organizations.

“It is in these circumstances that we believe that the Kytes Fisherfolk Action Committee has signalled a landmark in the people’s struggle against the conspiracies that divide the working masses as North and South and along ethnic lines.”

The SEP leadership again opposed such a unity. That statement too was also not published.

The SEP leaders also rejected the CAC statement issued on December 10, 2022, intervening against the act of the union leaders harassing SEP members during the campaign organized by the telecom unions on December 8,  2022, in front of the Colombo railway station.  It said:

“The union leadership has attacked the democratic right of the workers to know and decide on an alternative program, as well as the democratic right of the SEP to present its views to the workers. Working-class democracy is the precondition for workers to achieve the organizational discipline necessary to win economic interests.”

“Meanwhile, social media activist Lal Perera, in his ‘Talk with Lal’ YouTube channel, posted a video with scenes of union bureaucrats obstructing SEP members, under the heading ‘Clash due to group coming to disrupt the  telecom-insurance struggle‘(in Sinhala). Further, he has spread provocative and humiliating lies about SEP members as ‘pawns of the government’. The full exposure of this pro-capitalist media campaign is the responsibility of all who think and respect democracy. He should withdraw his false statement and apologize to the SEP and the people.”

CAC campaign against the threatful intimidation of SEP members on 23 February 2023 at Jayawardenepura University is also a forceful one. Our statement of March 9, 2023, distributed in hundreds of pamphlets, read:

“WSWS has reported that the group that threatened SEP members said, ‘students are being divided by bringing in party politics.’ We insist that students are divided by blocking students’ right to freely discuss political views. The challenges that students are facing at the moment are not limited to one university, one sector or to students only…  It has become the necessity of the era to establish the space for democratic discussion, integration and leadership of a powerful working class and mass movement that can face them.”

Why does the SEP regime see these as attacks against them? The meaning of what the SEP leaders are doing in directing the workers and the oppressed masses to ramble through other fake narratives disregarding  these revolutionary efforts should be clear now.

It has already been proved in practice that this bureaucracy is terrified of the emergence of the class struggle outside of its sphere of influence. While proposing that workers and farmers should take steps to build action  committees by themselves following the programme of the International Committee, they are terrified about the committees they claim to have been established without their approval.

This is a situation brought to the fore by the turbulent current situation in objective social relations. At this time, the wave of class struggles spreading like wildfire all over the world calls for a practical militant turn, armed with historical experience and theory. But, the SEP leadership, like any conservtive movement that knows itself unprepared to face this challeging situation due to its inability to change its habitual existence, sees genuine Action Committees as threatening. This is because these comittees have the potential to raise the militancy of the working class and ignite revolutionary struggles. The purpose of such a practice is to prevent such a struggle. Accordingly, they want the workers’ committees be brought under their bureacratic control.   

The Colombo Action Committee is fighting against this bancrupt policy. It is CAC’s expectation that the SEP-SL will try to resolve this crisis through a genuine democratic discussion.

This article was originally published here in Sinhalese on May 25, 2023.

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