Sri Lanka: Successful Congress of United Socialist Party

Delegates defied “very difficult circumstances”

The United Socialist Party (USP), held its 11th National Congress from 31 October to 1 November 2009, at the Workers’ Fellowship Auditorium in Ratmalana, Colombo. It was made up of representatives from all the provinces, including the North and East, and Tamil workers from the central tea plantation area.

A national perspectives document was presented by the central committee and a party building programme was discussed during the two days.

Discussions were mainly concentrated around the new political developments taking place in the aftermath of the war. For more than 30 years, Sri Lankan politics was directly involved with the war between the Sri Lankan army and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

After the military defeat of the LTTE , political developments took a sharp turn, mainly in the South of the country. The capitalist government, led by Mahinda Rajapakse, used a Sinhala Buddhist ideological campaign to establish his authority amongst the Sinhala people in the south.

During the war, the suppression of the freedom of the press reached alarming proportions. All working class struggles which came forward with day to day demands were also suppressed, accused of being pro-LTTE .

Other left parties, including the CP (Communist Party) and the LSSP (Lanka Sama Samajists), all supported this suppression, publicly. And in particular, the pseudo-left party – the JVP – fully supported the Mahinda Rajapakse regime, to pass the ‘Emergency law’, which is being used against the struggles of the working class.

During this congress, we pointed to the possibility of the unfolding of the future struggles of the working class, the youth and the students in the coming period. With the coming back into action of these forces, the so-called popularity of the Mahinda Rajapakse regime will have to face a political tsunami in the next period.

In this situation, the USP has been campaigning to set up an Independent National Workers’ Congress, to discuss the demands and problems faced by the working class and take democratic decisions.

To overcome sectarian rivalries in the trade union movement, the USP has been in the forefront in campaigning for factory-level elected delegates, from all over the country, to assemble at a national congress, on a genuinely democratic basis.

The national question

Other key discussions were centered on the future development of the Tamil national question in the post-war period. It is manifested again by the Sinhala capitalist ruling class and their inability to put forward any political solution to the national question, even after the defeat of the LTTE.

The USP has always supported the struggle of the Tamil-speaking people against their oppression and stood firmly for their right to self-determination. But we saw the LTTE as partially responsible for its own defeat, in terms of adopting some wrong policies and not basing themselves amongst the suppressed Tamil people or collaborating with the working class struggles in the South of the country against capitalism.

In the present situation, Marxists have a daunting task, to appeal to the Tamil workers, poor peasants and youth, to join with the suppressed masses and the working class in the South of the country, to win their national aspirations and demands.

The USP is the only force in the country that has a principled stand demanding the acceptance of the right to self-determination for the Tamil-speaking people. Based on that, we have to build a combined struggle in the North, East and South to overthrow capitalism

We also had a discussion focused on the forthcoming presidential and general elections in the country. The congress unanimously endorsed putting forward a working class programme as an alternative to the neo-liberal policies and communal forces.

We are proud of the comrades who, in the face of very difficult circumstances, attended this crucial congress – particularly the delegates who came from Jaffna, from the tea plantation area and from the East. We had visitors from India and Kashmir, in spite of the difficulties of travel and security. All of us appreciated the warm and optimistic greeting on behalf of the Committee for a Workers’ International by Peter Taaffe shown on film to the Congress. We appreciate the huge support given to the USP from CWI members around the world, and especially the Tamil Solidarity Campaign.

There was a high morale amongst the delegates who participated during the two days of discussions at our Congress. This was reflected in the excellent collection of 40,050 rupees for our fighting fund.