National Sections of the L5I:

Sri Lanka: Vote Socialist – and prepare to fight!

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On April 8th Sri Lanka goes to the polls in a parliamentary General Election. The Socialist Party of Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan section of the League for the Fifth International is standing in two districts, Ratnapura and Hambantota, as part of the Left Liberation Front electoral alliance which also includes the Nava Sama Samaj Party (section of the Fourth International) and the Tamil National Liberation Alliance. Each party is standing on its own programme.

Statement of the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka

The workers and farmers of Sri Lanka are facing an economic crisis. Whoever wins the election, the situation for the people will continue to worsen. The workers and poor farmers are already facing falling living standards and the situation is set to get worse. Before, the government said that rising prices were caused by the costs of the war. They promised that if people tightened their belts to win the war, then peace would bring prosperity and better living standards but all this has proved to be a deception.

Because of the costs of the war and the global economic crisis, the government had to negotiate a loan from the IMF. The IMF agreed to loan $2.6 billion but only on the condition that public subsidies for the necessities of life are withdrawn and there are cuts in wages for public sector workers. At the same time, as everybody knows, prices in the markets are rising, workers have been forced to strike to defend their wages in industry after industry.

Although the war is over, the government is still financing an army of 300,000 soldiers. During the war that took 25% of the state budget. Now, on top of that, debts to foreign agencies are reported to equal 90% of national income. In these circumstances, it is guaranteed that the people will be facing severe hardship in the immediate future. The election will not change these basic facts.

President Rajapakse has done everything possible to ensure his own victory. That is why his main opponent, General Fonseka is under arrest. The national media have been little more than an advertising campaign for him ever since he broke the ceasefire with the LTTE. Even the main opposition parties, UNP and JVP, have spent most of the last two years proclaiming their loyalty to Rajapakse. As a result, neither of them can mount a serious campaign against him. Even if, by some miracle, either of them were to win, their economic policies would be much the same.

But, if the election offers no opportunity to prevent the economic crisis, it can provide the opportunity for the working class to prepare for that crisis. That is why the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka is standing in these elections under the symbol of the umbrella of the Left Liberation Front. The LLF brings together a number of political organisations that agree on the need to fight back against the policies of the government and the bosses. The SPSL believes the election campaign can be a major step towards building the Front into a new party, a party of the working class, fighting for the interests of workers and the oppressed.

We will not judge our success in these elections by the number of seats won, or even the number of votes. For us, success means alerting as many workers as possible to the threats facing them, it means explaining the need to organise workers for mass actions – demonstrations, pickets, strikes - to defend their living standards, their homes and their rights. It means popularising the demands and slogans of the workers’ movement against the dictates of the government and the bosses.

A programme for socialism

The presidential system has damaged the democratic and human rights of the people. Rajapakse has used the system to ignore Parliament and has governed by relying on his brothers and his extended family. During the war, the presidential system was used to crush the democratic rights of the people through the Emergency Powers Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Using these powers, Rajapakse suppressed the free media and restricted the democratic rights of the people. In peace time the same powers will be used to stop workers defending their wages, jobs and rights.

Repeal the Emergency Powers Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for the restoration of full democratic rights to all media.

Stop the abductions and killings by government-backed death squads. For a workers' inquiry into all disappearances and abductions.

Withdraw all military forces from the Tamil lands, full freedom of movement for all refugees currently held in camps, resettlement of all Tamil communities under the administration of elected workers' and farmers' councils.

Resolve the national question by recognising the right of self-determination of the Tamil people.

For an emergency programme of reconstruction in the war zones under the democratic control of the communities involved. For the restoration of full trade union rights in the former war zones.

Fully equal status for the Tamil and Sinhala languages, full citizenship rights for plantation workers. For a programme of construction of housing, schools and infrastructure in the plantation settlements, under the control of the communities themselves.

For price controls on everyday necessities, for a sliding scale of wages to protect income against inflation as calculated by the workers' own organisations.

Recognition of full citizenship and civil rights for all communities and equal access to all public amenities, irrespective of language, ethnicity or creed.

Tax the rich and the big corporations to fund the extension of health, education, housing and transport services under workers' control.

Nationalise the assets of the multinational corporations and impose controls on the transfer of funds out of the country.

Coordinate the struggles of the workers and the oppressed through the building of workers' and farmers' councils. For a workers' and farmers' government responsible to a national congress of workers' and farmers' councils.

We call on all the socialist organisations and the trade unions and all those who oppose chauvinism and communalism to join with us during the parliamentary elections, and in the struggles that will follow, to build a new, mass workers' party committed to the overthrow of capitalism in Sri Lanka as part of a new, Fifth International, a World Party of Socialist Revolution.