Sri Lanka: United Socialist Party holds successful congress

“Difficult times – yet we are defiant and determined!”

The 12th Congress of the United Socialist Party (CWI, Sri Lanka) was held last week-end (8 and 9 October) at Kamkaru Sewana Hall, Ratmalana in the outskirts of Colombo.

Politically, Sri Lanka is passing through one of the darkest periods in its history, but the very fact that the USP was holding its Congress in these difficult times speaks volumes for the tenacity of its members, their commitment to the ideas of socialism and above all its dogged determination to march forward and build the forces for the battles ahead.

First day

True to its tradition, the USP started the congress exactly at the scheduled time with almost everyone present wearing red shirts. There were comrades from far-flung Jaffna, from Kalmunai, the Hill Country (plantation area), Monaragala, Wellawaya, Nuraya Eliya and Ragala as well as important towns in the South and Colombo.

The first session on the political perspectives was lead off by the party’s secretary, Siritunga Jaysuriya, moving acceptance of a new document, available in three languages (Sinhala, Tamil and English). He explained the historical process that has led to the present dictatorial regime of Mahinda Rajapakse, and how the responsibility of creating such a monstrous regime lies with the repeated betrayals by Left parties which had time and again entered into ’ popular front ’ politics with the capitalist parties.

A thorough analysis was made of the JVP – claiming to be a “Marxist” party and now in the process of splitting and disintegrating. Its opposition to the genuine national aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people and its descent into the blind alley of chauvinism, came in for special mention as an explanation for the present ascendancy of the virulent Sinhala-Buddhist ideology that was manifested in Mahinda and his coterie.

On the economic situation, Siri explained with statistics and figures just how fragile were the country’s ‘fundamentals’. In spite of growth figures being maintained, he dismissed as a myth the idea of Sri Lanka being the “Miracle Economy of Asia” as claimed by the regime. He made a detailed analysis on the debt situation and how the Sri Lankan economy is in a hopelessly unmanageable position.

On the crucial issue of the National Question in Sri Lanka, Siri explained in detail the present nightmare situation in which the Tamil people live, and how false was the thinking of the liberal political commentators that, after the military victory over the Tamil guerrilla fighters, the government would take steps to solve the National Question. He explained that, contrary to the expectations of many, the regime has brutally used the war victory to suppress whatever democratic rights had existed for the people in the Wanni area and has established direct military rule. He gave numerous examples of the repression of the helpless Tamil population in the North of the country.

More than 20 party members participated in a wide-ranging discussion, along with the visiting CWI International Executive Committee members from Australia and India. Representatives of various branches across the country brought out the flavour of the class struggle in which the USP is engaged and enormously enriched the discussion on perspectives. Srinath Pereira from the Executive Committee replied to the discussion and made points on the present economic and political hardships gripping the country, and how opportunities are likely to erupt in the future for the party to grapple with.

The document on political perspectives was voted upon at the end of the session and was unanimously passed without any opposition or abstention.

Second day

On the second day of the congress, Dhammika De Silva presented a resolution on building the party. She stressed the need to step up attention to the details of recruitment, party building, the newspaper and finances. Before the discussion, a slate for the new Central Committee of the USP was proposed.

USP members from almost all branches participated in the discussion, echoing the need to strengthen the party at all levels. The maintenance of a monthly paper throughout the recent period, now appearing regularly in Sinhala and separately in Tamil, was a tribute to the party. A financial report was discussed and the new Central Committee was agreed by a unanimous vote.

After lunch, the congress was joined by supporters of the USP and family members. The visiting CWI members from Malaysia, Australia, England and India spoke in this session. They touched on the crisis erupting in Europe and the USA at the present time and how the forces of the CWI are intervening in the struggles. The contradictory processes at work in the South Asian region were outlined and the work of the CWI in Pakistan and India. Involvement in broad campaigns, and bringing to them clear socialist policies was an important theme in this fairly open session of the congress.

Fraternal delegates from the left trade union movement gave messages of solidarity to the USP and delegates also heard with great cheer the various warm solidarity messages from CWI sections around the world.

A financial appeal was made and then a closing speech. Finally, all rose in confident mood to sing the Internationale, rounding off a highly successful congress.

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October 2011