Dr. S. A. Wickremasinghe, the pioneering leader of the socialist movement in our country was elected to the First State Council of Sri Lanka representing the Morawaka Korale. Dr. Wickremesinghe was one of the founding leaders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the first Left Party in Sri Lanka, when it was formed on December 18, 1935. The ideological differences in the International Communist Movement during 1938-39 intensified with the onset of World War II. These conflicts also affected the LSSP, and supporters of the USSR and the Soviet Communist Party were expelled from the LSSP. A group of members including Dr. S. Wickremesinghe was expelled. They were removed on April 18, 1940.
Birth of the Communist Party
A group of intellectuals including Pieter Keuneman, who had just finished their education in Great Britain, joined the Communists led by Dr. Wickremesinghe, who had been expelled from the LSSP and carried out lot of struggles through different organizations for 2-3 years. Following a congress held on 2-3 July in 1943 the Communist Party was established.
The Communist Party had two major objectives when it was formed. They were to achieve full independence and establish socialism in Sri Lanka.
The period after the founding of the party in 1943 can be traced back to several periods.
Although the Communist Party was formed in 1943, Dr. Wickremesinghe who pioneered the founding of the party, aimed at socialism from the time of the first State Councils. He pioneered the formation of the LSSP in 1935 as well as the Communist Party in 1943 and led the people’s struggle for independence and socialism.
Dr. Wickremesinghe worked to create a public opinion in the country by presenting ideas on free education and free health services in the State Council. The Left Movement, including the Communist Party, fought for full independence while so-called ‘official national leadership’ was fighting for constitutional reforms.
The Communist Party and LSSP led the general strikes of 1945, 1946, and 1947, and through these struggles the demands for full independence were advanced. Workers were able to win rights such as the eight-hour working day, pension, leave and overtime-payment etc. through those struggles.
The Communist Party pointed to the need for an anti-imperialist front at the Fourth National Congress of the Party held in 1950, and presented the national development plan called ‘Idirimaga’ at the 5th National Convention in 1955. The 1953 ‘Hartal’ led by the LSSP, the Communist party and the working class movement, was a major struggle of the working class movement in Sri Lanka.
It was in the context of the foregoing that led to the formation of the Bandaranaike government in 1956.
The government that came into being in 1956 has taken various progressive measures, such as; 1. Nationalization of important businesses
- The removal of British army camps from the country
- Accepting Sinhala as the Official Language
- Establishment of diplomatic relations with socialist countries
- To embark on a non-aligned foreign policy
While accepting the Sinhala language as the state language was the right thing to do, with the failure of the Tamil language to take proper place, our party strongly presented to the country of possible issues that could arise from the situation. The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) too was a strong advocate for recognition of Tamil language.
The demand of private sector strikes led by the Ceylon Federation Trade Unions in 1957/58 was to establish a provident system. As a result of these struggles, the Employees Provident Fund was established.
Establishment of diplomatic relations with socialist countries
It was during this period that diplomatic relations with socialist countries, including the Soviet Socialist Union, began. The Communist Party exerted profound pressure to establish those links. The effects of those relations were immediately felt by the country. At the same time, a non-aligned foreign policy was established in the country.
Various industries were established in Sri Lanka as donations or with aids from socialist countries. The steel factory, the Modara flour mill, the Kelani tire factory, the pre-fabricated concrete factory, at Narahenpita and Ekala, textile factories at Tulhiriya, Pugoda and Minneriya, the Yakkala Metal Factory were some of those industries gifted by socialist countries. These industries were the basis of the industrial sector in Sri Lanka.
Relationships with the socialist world opened up significant opportunities for Sri Lanka to produce professionals. The Soviet Union produced the largest number of professionals for the country other than the higher education sector in Sri Lanka. The Soviet Union alone has trained at least 5,000 doctors, engineers and other professionals in this country. Sri Lankan professionals were trained in other socialist countries also. The Communist Party made a concerted effort to launch this program.
Cultural Relations with the Socialist World
The Communist Party played a pioneering role in establishing cultural ties with the socialist world in various fields. Russian and Soviet literature is a large part of world literature. It was the Communist Party that initiated the program to translate Russian and Soviet literature into local languages and bring them to Sri Lanka at affordable prices.
The Communist Party worked to enhance the understanding and friendship of the people by introducing the greatest Sri Lankan writer and other writers, the great Gandharva, the great musician and the great dancers to the socialist world.
Period of 1970-1991
The Communist Party functioned in the United Front government established in 1970. During this period, Sri Lanka became a Republic, fulfilling political independence. In 1977, the then government, including the Communist Party, suffered a crushing defeat. The government came to power in that election used the 6/5 parliamentary power to introduce the executive presidential system and later a proportional electoral system.
It was during this period that neo-liberal economic policies were introduced to the country. As the Left, including the Communist Party, was systematically strengthening its forces against neo-liberal attacks and the July 1980 general strike was erupted. It was the first great battle against the neo-liberalism in the country.
Meanwhile, the ethnic problem that was escalating in the country was gradually turning into a war. In ‘Black’ July of 1983, the Communist Party was banned on false charges and its leaders were imprisoned for months.
Meanwhile, the socialist countries of Europe, including the Soviet Union, collapsed in 1991. This situation caused a major setback for Communist and Labor parties around the world.
1991 – To date
With the collapse of the socialist world a uni-polar world was emerged. On the other hand, the neo-liberal economic policies spread throughout the world. Some economists have predicted that the end of history has come to be, capitalism as the last stage of social development.
But a different kind of growth was taking place in China. After the death of Comrade Mao Zedong in 1976, Deng Xiaoping came to power. Deng, observing that the economies of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries were not moving forward, opened up a social-market economic system, including the market, the public sector, and the planning.
The neo-liberal program that began in 1978 have been the world’s dominant economic policies for more than 40 years. Some of the biggest problems faced by the world following 40 years of neo-liberalism are as follows;
- Increasing global warming
- The International Refugee Issue – Over 75 Million
- The spread of international terrorism
- Increasing Poverty
- Deepening Inequality
- Increased insecurity.
When it comes to Sri Lanka, the following serious problems are easily seen;
- Continuously declining national income as a percentage of GDP.
- Expenditure on imports have increased several times the export income.
- Collapse of foreign exchange reserves.
- Rapid increase of debt
- Economic crisis
- Widening gap between haves and have–not and deepening social inequality
- Social crisis.
- Political crisis.
China through the Social-Market Economic System of the 40 Years;
- has become the second economic power in the world.
- is the owner of the largest foreign exchange reserve in the world.
- has been the largest producer.
- has become the world’s leading exporter and importer.
- has become the largest market in the world.
- becoming the first country to eradicate poverty.
The Communists continued to struggle despite the difficult conditions. On one hand, in the face of the neo-liberal crackdown, at times worked within governments and introduced social reforms. The Communists devoted themselves to achieve a political solution to the ethnic problem. The Communists worked in many ways to get the Tamil language to the status of the official language and to make the recognition a reality in the country.
During this period, the Communists of Sri Lanka intensified the battle of ideas against neo-liberalism. The Kovid 19 Pandemic has shown the world how neo-liberalism is an ineffective, impotent and harmful program. In this situation, the Communists are discussing their political ideologies at the election stage of the 2020 parliamentary election and demand that the neo-liberal economic policies are replaced with alternatives.
Dr. G. Weerasinghe [MD – USSR, MSc, MD, FRCP (Glasg.)]
Secretary, International Affairs,
Communist Party of Sri Lanka
National List Candidate, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna