We’re creating a working class consciousness

21 July 2020 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Pani Wijesiriwardena

  • It’s through a socialist revolution that the rights of those victimised can be ensured
  • We fight for a cause that will help the working class

Socialist Equality Party (SEP) candidate Pani Wijesiriwardena, who is contesting the upcoming 2020 Parliamentary Elections, talks about the importance of a socialist revolution, providing the working class with solutions for issues regarding democracy and eradicate ethno-religious extremism in the country during an interview with the Daily Mirror.

Excerpts: 


QWhy is the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) only contesting elections in the Colombo, Jaffna and Nuwara Eliya districts? 


There is a particular reason for that. If we had enough physical and human resources we would contest elections in all districts. Therefore we had to select the districts from which we are contesting. We have chosen the districts which we think would be useful in our campaigns. Our party is involved in a continuous revolution. This urges both farmers and the youth to rally around the working class to topple the capitalist system. What we do is connected to the international socialist revolution. We need the support of the farmers, but the leadership will be handled by the working class. A socialist revolution provides the working class with the solutions for issues regarding democracy. These issues are overlooked by the capitalist economies. Besides, it’s only through a socialist revolution that the rights of those victimised can be ensured.   


The working class forms the base of this socialist revolution. Colombo is thus chosen as it is the epicenter of the working class. To address the national issue we have chosen Jaffna district. We have chosen the Nuwara Eliya district because it represents farmers and estate workers. Given this theoretical background we have chosen these three districts.  


QAlthough SEP’s party policies and principles are attractive, you have not been able to attract the masses; especially the working class. Why? 


When we take the socialist movement into account we clearly mention that the SEP works as the representative of the only global socialist movement which follows the ideologies of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.   


There was a strong socialist Trotskyite movement in Sri Lanka in the 1940’s. When the Sama Samaja Party (SSP) was founded in 1930’s it didn’t belong to either the Marxist or Trotskyite movements. It was in 1942 that the real Marxist movement was established in the Indian subcontinent. It was called Bolshevik-Leninist Party of India (BLPI). Subsequently Both BLPI and the SSP had formed a strong socialist movement with the working class in Sri Lanka. The SSP was the party that represented the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) as the Sri Lankan branch and called itself Trotskyites. 

 
A youth group who were proponents of the ICFI principles and were against Pabloism formed our party in 1967.   
The SSP also abandoned the working class and farmers in the South. This created a space for the JVP to emerge. The Tamil speaking working class in the hill country and farmers were also abandoned. This also made Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) stronger. Because of these confusions and the shattered trust we have not been able to become a strong revolutionary party yet. We are making all attempts through the World Socialist Website in creating a working class consciousness.   


QHow does your party differ from other leftist parties like FSP and NPP?


 First we need to consider certain facts to asses and characterise a particular party. First the history of the party should be analysed. Secondly, we need to look at what classes and what social needs that a particular party takes into consideration; like whether they are the needs of the working class, the middle class or the upper class. This is the parametre that we use to identify the difference that exists between the SEP, FSP and NPP. We formed this party as the revolutionary communist party in 1967. It was in 1996 that the Party was renamed as the SSP. Throughout history we have been following Marxist ideologies and theories. The working class has been the driving force behind the socialist revolution. We strongly adhere to that. Even when JVP was formed in 1965 they claimed that the socialist revolution was possible through farmers while disregarding the working class.   


QDuring the 2015 and 2019 Presidential Elections you gained a lesser number of votes. In a context where you have had a minimal vote base in both the 2015 and 2019 Presidential Elections, what are the expectations you have for the 2020 Parliamentary Elections?


Our movement doesn’t solely focus on securing seats in Parliament. We fight for a cause that will help the working class to overthrow the Capitalist System and capture the state power. The working class consciousness implies that the problems cannot be solved without fighting for this change. 


QWhat is the advantage of public-ownership which would be under the control of the working class? 


Today production is socialised. Each one of us contributes to the production in some way. But the ownership regarding the medium of production and the ownership of the production itself is handled and utilised by a few capitalists for profit gains. When this is handled by the working class production will be done aiming needs and not profits. The wealth or income generated by production is enjoyed by a few capitalists. When the production is under public ownership which is controlled by the working class, they handle it democratically and work towards the common good.   


QWhat are your plans to obtain the support of workers, young people and rural people in Sri Lanka for your political campaigns as mentioned in SEP’s 2020 manifesto?


Since January we have been conducting many meetings and programmes to discuss on how we could tackle challenges during these trying times amidst the pandemic. We are formulating solutions for issues that young workers and rural people are facing.   


QAt a press briefing of the SEP held on July 03 it was highlighted that some persons who claimed to be intelligence officials had attempted to retrieve personal information from some of the SEP candidates in Jaffna. How do you view this incident? 


Retrieving one’s personal information forcibly is a violation of human rights. This time military involvement is rampant throughout the country. Even globally the socialist movement has been intimidated and challenged in different ways.  

QHow does SEP address ethno-religious extremism in the country? 


Racial politics emerge when the capitalist system experiences crises. You don’t find any political party like ours in the Sri Lankan political history that has worked hard to eradicate the ethno-religious extremism.   


QWhat kind of a philosophy do you propose to develop the country? 


Social inequality should be reduced first when developing the country. Housing, education and employment issues should be resolved when a country seeks development. Development doesn’t mean merely constructing roads and buildings. People should be given access to their basic rights. The economy should be reconstructed –from a profit based economy to production based economy. It should be done not only in Sri Lanka, but throughout world.   

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