National Sections of the L5I:

Stop the genocidal “final offensive” against the Tamils

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Statement by the League for the Fifth International 23 April 2009

The Sri Lankan Army is poised for a final offensive, a genocidal onslaught against the last remaining Tamil enclave in the North East of the island. The passing of the government's ultimatum for surrender adds urgency to the situation. Tens of thousands of Tamils, now almost completely defenceless, face the prospect of a bloodbath at the hands of a government army that has repeatedly shown itself willing to slaughter civilians, men women and children, with no compunction. This is confirmed by independent witnesses such as the Red Cross who report repeated army artillery barrages into the so-called “safe zones”.

Around the world, but particularly effectively in London, mass demonstrations against the government of Mahinda Rajapakse have finally forced governments and media to at least comment on the increasingly desperate plight of the Tamils. However, they stop short of condemning the Sri Lankan army's actions and make a pretense of neutrality by equating them with those of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) the longstanding leadership of the Tamil nationalist movement. Beyond that, the USA, UK, EU and other major powers have sided with Rajapakse and condemned the LTTE as “terrorists”.

sThe League for the Fifth International unconditionally supports the right of the Tamils to national self-determination and secession from Sri Lanka and, therefore, the military struggle of the LTTE to achieve independence. There can be no equivalence between the acts of an oppressive state seeking to crush a justified liberation movement and the actions of those fighting to end national oppression. No matter how bloody and how barbaric the suppression of the LTTE proves to be, it will in no way mark the end of the Tamil struggle for self-determination. In fact, it will only serve to ensure a greater commitment to continue that struggle by all possible means. Throughout Sri Lanka, the war against the LTTE has been used to justify the oppression of all criticism of the government. Army and police roadblocks restrict free movement and are designed to intimidate the entire civilian population. In the cities, the distinctive white vans, widely believed to be used to abduct and "disappear" political activists, go about their grisly business. Meanwhile, government controlled media lavish praise on Rajapakse and glorify the barbaric actions of the army.

Rarely has Karl Marx's observation that a nation that enslaves another can never itself be free been more clearly confirmed. There can be little doubt that a final onslaught in the northeast will be echoed by increased discrimination against the Tamil population in other parts of the island. Rajapakse will seek to use his "victory" to strengthen his own position in preparation for imposing an austerity programme to pay for the war and to defend the profits of big business in the face of a global economic crisis. Encouraging Sinhala chauvinism to divide the population of the island will be one of his main weapons in ensuring that the workers and farmers of Sri Lanka, Sinhala and Tamil, will pay for this crisis of the capitalist system. Today, we call not only on all Socialists but, indeed, all democrats, in Sri Lanka to oppose Rajapakse's offensive.

We demand:

• An immediate ceasefire by the Sri Lankan army and its immediate and unconditional withdrawal from the Tamil-majority areas claimed as Tamil Eelam
• Control of those areas by a democratic Tamil militia
• The lifting of all restrictions on movement into the Tamil areas and of the ban on independent reportage
• An end to the imprisonment of Tamil refugees from the war zone in what amount to concentration camps
• An immediate lifting of the blockade of the Tamil areas to allow in food and medical supplies

Urgent and essential as these demands are, they cannot resolve the issue of Tamil self-determination. The oppression of the entire Tamil population has disfigured Sri Lankan society ever since independence. By dividing the great majority, the working class and farmers, both Tamil and Sinhala, it has ensured the rule of the island's tiny capitalist class and its continued subordination to the dictates of the imperialist powers and their agencies such as the IMF and World Bank. It is ultimately the failure of the Sri Lankan Left to overcome this division by a principled fight for the recognition of the right of the Tamil people to self-determination that has allowed this division to be maintained.

The LSSP, which was originally committed to this principle, betrayed it when it entered into a coalition government with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1964 and thus collaborated in the denial of Tamil rights. Predictably, this not only demoralised its Tamil supporters but the whole of the working class movement and allowed the later Bandaranaike government to impose its reactionary policies. When these generated a revolt, particularly amongst the youth, it came under the leadership of the JVP. Like the Chinese Maoists from which it drew its inspiration, this party had no programme for the achievement of socialism through the revolutionary mobilisation of the working class organised in workers' councils but, instead, relied on a strategy of rural insurrection. Such a strategy was always doomed and, despite the heroism of many of its cadres, ended in bloody defeat.

The JVP responded by reaching for the only other strategy known to Maoism, popular front class collaboration with the very bourgeois forces it had previously attacked. To strengthen itself in the eyes of its new allies, it resorted to Sinhala chauvinism and, by its success, further divided the working class it claimed to lead. Now, support for the economic sacrifices demanded by Rajapakse to maintain his war effort has driven away much of the JVP's working class support.

Today, as Rajapakse prepares his economic war, the working class of Sri Lanka is divided and leaderless. The League for the Fifth International and its Sri Lankan section, the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka, call for the founding of a new workers' party in Sri Lanka. This Party must be built around a programme that combines defence of the rights of the Tamil people to self-determination with the struggle for working class power based on workers' councils and defended by workers' militia, the programme of permanent revolution.

International Secretariat of the League for the Fifth International

April 22, 2009

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