Leon Trotsky
Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Sri Lanka)

After the split with the WRP

24-1. As the ICFI explained: “The 1985–86 split is, without any question, a historical milestone in the development of the Fourth International. It is the culmination of the protracted struggle that has been waged by the Trotskyist movement against Pabloite opportunism since the founding of the International Committee in 1953. The long period of disunity and confusion created by Pabloite opportunism is coming to a close. The conditions have been created for the consolidation of all genuine Trotskyists, that is, revolutionary Marxists, from all over the world under the banner of the International Committee.”[1]

24-2. The split with the WRP led to an unprecedented development of international collaboration between sections of the ICFI and a renaissance of Marxism within the international movement. The IC produced a lengthy analysis of the degeneration of the WRP entitled How the Workers Revolution Party Betrayed Trotskyism 1973–1985 that has never been challenged, let alone refuted, by any of the WRP renegades. David North replied to Banda’s anti-Trotskyist diatribe in his book The Heritage We Defend that clarified crucial aspects of the Fourth International’s history and program. These works plus innumerable other articles and statements became the basis for the education of the cadre of the movement and for overcoming the impact of the WRP’s political degeneration on the sections of the IC.

24-3. The split transformed the work of the RCL. The documents of the ICFI and the pivotal issues that they raised were thoroughly discussed in the leadership and membership of the party, which overwhelmingly supported the IC. Over the next two years, Keerthi Balasuriya concentrated on the programmatic work of the ICFI, especially in relation to the Theory of Permanent Revolution. Balasuriya and David North wrote the editorial of the Fourth International in March 1987 (Volume 14, No. 1) that provided a detailed exposure of Banda’s renunciation of Permanent Revolution going back to his adulation of Mao and Ho Chi Minh in the late 1960s. The same issue published the correspondence between Balasuriya and the SLL leaders on the Bangladesh liberation struggle. The RCL, in conjunction with the ICFI, also resumed and expanded its political work in India.

24-4. The split created the conditions for an important discussion of the national question that confronted the RCL directly in the form of the escalating civil war against the LTTE. In 1986, Balasuriya wrote a lengthy article entitled “The Tamil Struggle and the Treachery of Healy, Banda and Slaughter” that exposed the WRP’s opportunist veering from complete indifference to the Tamil struggle and backing for the Sri Lankan nation-state in the early 1970s to its uncritical support for the LTTE from 1979 onwards. “As this examination of the historical record of Healy, Banda and Slaughter on the Tamil national struggle makes clear, this pack of scoundrels masquerading as Trotskyists have systematically betrayed the Tamil and Sinhalese workers alike. Above all, they consciously worked, even though unsuccessfully, to destroy the only party in Sri Lanka which fought for the perspective of the theory of permanent revolution—the RCL,” he concluded.

24-5. The aftermath of the split coincided with an acute political crisis for the Sri Lankan bourgeoisie. The UNP government confronted serious military setbacks in the North and growing social unrest in the South fuelled by an economic downturn and the impact of its pro-market policies. President J.R. Jayewardene sought to buy time by agreeing to India’s appeals for negotiations with the various armed Tamil groups. In the wake of failed talks in the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu in 1985, Jayewardene initiated All-Party Round Table talks in Colombo in 1986 to enlist the assistance of the opposition political parties for “a common program for peace.” The petty-bourgeois radicals of the NSSP joined the LSSP, CP and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party (SLMP)—a leftist grouping of former SLFP parliamentarians headed by Bandaranaike’s daughter Chandrika Kumaratunga—in talks with the UNP government. All of them bear political responsibility for the outcome—the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in July 1987 by Jayewardene and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to send Indian troops to the northern and eastern provinces. In the guise of implementing a peace deal, the real purpose of the military mission was to disarm the Tamil guerrillas and suppress any political opposition to the terms of the agreement. The SLFP refused to take part in the government’s Round Table talks and, along with the JVP, launched a chauvinist campaign against any peace deal.

24-6. The RCL was the only party to oppose the Round Table talks and the Indo-Lanka Accord from the standpoint of proletarian internationalism—calling for the unity of the working class in Sri Lanka and India against the military intervention. The party warned that the dispatch of troops stemmed from the crises facing the Jayewardene and Gandhi governments, was directed against the working class and rural masses, and was a trap for the Tamil people. It was no accident that amid the Round Table talks in June 1986, the police arrested three RCL members—Wije Dias, Brutan Perera and Ruman Perera—for campaigning for a meeting to defend public education and held them for six weeks. Shortly after his release, Brutan Perera was detained again, along with RCL youth leader Viran Peiris. They were released only after an extensive international campaign involving all sections of the ICFI. This attempt to intimidate and silence the RCL was clearly provoked by the UNP’s sensitivity to any criticism of its “peace” machinations.

24-7. The Indo-Lankan Accord was a devastating exposure of all the armed Tamil groups, including the LTTE, that placed their faith in the Indian government and army to guarantee the democratic rights of Tamils. All along their perspective had been to gain the support of the Indian bourgeoisie for the creation of a separate capitalist Eelam. The governments of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, however, had not the slightest concern about Tamil democratic rights; they cynically sought to use the Tamil struggle to further New Delhi’s ambitions to become the predominant regional power. In 1987, India intervened militarily to suppress a Tamil insurgency it had encouraged in order to pressure Colombo but that threatened to provoke unrest in India and undermine the reactionary post-war state system in South Asia. Those outfits most closely tied to New Delhi, including the EPRLF, TELO and PLOTE, functioned as auxiliaries to India’s army of occupation with EPRLF leader Vardadaraja Perumal becoming provincial chief minister for the merged North and East. As it sought to establish its unchallenged control, the Indian army resorted to widespread arrests, rape, torture and extra-judicial murders that alienated Tamils and brought it into conflict with the LTTE. However, even as its fighters were being hunted down, the LTTE continued to proclaim its faith in India and Rajiv Gandhi.

24-8. The Indo-Lanka Accord produced a political crisis in the ranks of Tamil organisations in Sri Lanka and the broader international diaspora. Keerthi Balasuriya addressed several well-attended meetings in Europe of young Tamil militants who were looking for answers to the perfidy of their organisations. The most farsighted elements drew the conclusion that it was only on the basis of the ICFI’s perspective and an orientation to the working class that the oppression of Tamils could be ended. They joined the ICFI and have made a powerful contribution to its work in Europe and South Asia.


The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, (Detroit: Labor Publications, 1988), p. 45.