Transition to revolutionary turmoil in Sri Lanka

[The following is a translation of an article that was originally published in German on Rote Fahne News, a media outlet of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany. The situation in Sri Lanka is one that communists must watch closely, and hopefully lead into a revolutionary, anti-capitalist direction. -NP]

For weeks, the masses in Sri Lanka have been on the streets demanding the resignation of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Over the first weekend of April, an overall social crisis erupted. This continues to mature and has reached a new stage on Monday. A revolutionary turmoil with civil war-like conditions has been developing for the last days.

Significant is the development in the working class. On April 28, there was the first nationwide general strike in 40 years, that one thousand trade unions had called for. This was followed by another general strike on May 6 which was supplemented by a so-called “hartal.” This meant that even small businesses were closed and the entire economy came to a standstill. Millions of workers all over the island stopped working, including workers in free trading zones, hospitals, schools, administrations and transport.

The self-employed, the rural poor, and small business owners joined in. Workers joined together across ethnic and religious lines, that is, Sinhalese and Tamils, Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. This is of particular importance because for decades, especially in times of crisis, the rulers in Sri Lanka pursued nationalist and ethnic divisions, which also had an effect. This means that the class consciousness of the working class is developing against this division.

This growing self-reliance of the working class moved President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to impose a state of emergency again that same evening. This allows him to deploy the military, impose curfews and censorship, make arbitrary arrests, and ban strikes and protests. Head of Government Mahinda Rajapaksa gathered hundreds of government supporters on Monday, set them against protesters and had them armed with sticks and clubs. This incited a mob which attacked peaceful anti-government protesters in Galle Face Green park, in central Colombo. Eight people were killed and 219 were injured.

As a result, thousands of people flocked to the park despite a curfew and massive police and military presence, and hundreds of thousands took to the streets across the island. Among others, employees of the national hospital in Colombo and postal workers spontaneously stopped working in protest against this government action. As a result, Mahinda Rajapaksa and the entire cabinet resigned on Monday evening! After his resignation, thousands of protesters tried to enter his house. After he was evacuated with his family, they moved to the naval base in Trincomalee on the northeast coast because they suspected the Rajapaksa family was staying there. According to the Associated Press, 104 buildings and 60 vehicles were set on fire by anti-government protesters. Pro-government groups were chased by protesters. Buses carrying government supporters were smashed and set on fire. Houses of government supporters were attacked and some stores were set on fire.

Repressive measures against the masses are intensifying. Military and police have been ordered to shoot “lawbreakers” and “looters” in the open streets. Since Wednesday, armored vehicles have been driving in the streets of the capital Colombo and troops have been patrolling. However, the masses are not deterred by curfew, shooting orders, or open repression. Even the resignation of the head of government, Mahinda Rajapaksa, which was supposed to have a calming effect, has not calmed the situation. It is a predominantly spontaneous revolutionary uprising of the masses.

In a telephone conversation, a comrade from the Frontline Socialist Party (FLSP) reported on the current situation in Sri Lanka: “The demonstrators were attacked by the government in a public area. The president is not ready to step down. Everyday the situation is getting worse for the masses. Inflation is at 30 percent and mainly affects fuel, gas and food. One can speak of a revolutionary crisis. At the beginning, it was a spontaneous movement. The next two to three weeks are crucial. Work is being done to turn the movement into a social revolution. The FLSP is growing and we are gaining many new members. We are trying to unite the working class. I want to tell the German comrades that there is a possibility of a revolutionary uprising.”

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