The Communist Party pointed to the need for an anti-imperialist front
- The Communist Party played a pioneering role in establishing cultural ties with the socialist world in various fields
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 education in Great Britain, joined the Communists led by Dr. Wickremesinghe. They carried out many 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; to achieve full independence and establish socialism in Sri Lanka.
The party 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.
The government that came into being in 1956 has taken various progressive measures, such as;. 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 and to embark on a non-aligned foreign policy.
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.
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.
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.
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 languagesand bring them to Sri Lanka at affordable prices.
With the collapse of the socialist world a uni-polar world 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.
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 and Political crisis.
China, through the Social-Market Economic System of the 40 Years, has become the second economic power in the world.
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.
During this period, the Communists of Sri Lanka intensified the battle of ideas against neo-liberalism. The Covid-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.
(The writer is a Secretary, International Affairs,
Communist Party of Sri Lanka and a National List Candidate representing the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna)