National Sections of the L5I:

War and neoliberalism in Sri Lanka and the tasks of revolutionaries

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A disaster faces the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. War and economic instability is causing suffering of the Sri Lanka masses and only socialism can offer a way out.

The key factor for this crisis is that the present capitalist rulers are incapable of introducing even a temporary solution to national question within the capitalist framework. In the governments rush to crush the Tamil Tiger insurgency, Tamil and Muslim people’s living areas are being ruined by the aerial attacks of the Sri Lankan air force. At the moment nearly 400,000 people were displaced as the Sri Lankan government launched military operations under the slogan of “combating terrorism” Tamil people have fallen into starvation and are dying. The price of essential foods is 50% higher in north and east than in the south. As infant milk product’s high prices, parents face a critical problem of how to feed their children.

As a result of the war situation, people of the country will be affected either directly (by the fighting) or indirectly (by the looming economic catastrophe). The government has budgeted 1250 billion rupees (Rs) to spend on the war. This amount is around 30% of the country’s entire annual income. Around Rs 380 million is being spent on the war daily. The cost of providing for the growing refugee population caused by the civil war has spiralled, but the government has been reticent to put any significant sum aside for them. Many refugees are living in fear and have experienced severe psychological trauma from the fighting in the Tamil areas.

In this context, the government’s future path faces sharpening contradictions. To hide the government’s problems, it had exaggerated the military operations which had been done in the eastern province for last four months whilst carrying out a pogrom against the Tamils in the capital city Colombo.

After the air attacks of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) over Colombo, the war has moved in a new direction. It had a huge impact on the government’s military machine, and gave them the opportunity to increase military expenditure. They have said that they need new military aircraft and technology to facilitate night mission bombings. The government has asked for foreign aid to increase its military strength. But this is not a simple task and it has led to complications for their foreign policy. The Sri Lankan government has asked China and Pakistan for military assistance, which has enraged India, the regional power, which is now applying tremendous pressure on Sri Lanka to co-operate with it and not go over to the Pakistan rivals.

It is hard for anyone to come forward with criticisms of the war or organise a meeting against the war. If they do they are often subjected to physical harassment and attack. Sinhalese communalist forces condemn the very idea of a political solution to the war and they accuse people who stand on behalf of peace as LTTE supporters. They conduct campaigns against any devolution of power and against the ceasefire agreement, which was signed in 2002 between the prime minister (now the opposition leader of SL parliament) and LTTE leader Prabhakaran. The communialists campaign in favour of the military intervention against the Tamils. The government medias give favourable coverage to the racist communalist campaigns of the Sinhalese. Dissenting and minority voices are clamped down on by the censors and the police.

Sri Lanka records the highest inflation rate in South Asia. This is a death threat to the way of life of ordinary people across the country. The inflation rate was 17.7% in June in 2006 and now it has increased to 20%. The main reason to increase inflation rate of Sri Lanka is mismanagement of central bank’s financial policy. Instead of increasing manufacture of goods and service in Sri Lanka, central bank artificially print money and drop them into transaction. if the goods and service’s price were 18% between 2002 to 2004. Now it has increased to 45%. It goes without saying that the inflation rate getting increase continuously.

The present military spending has contributed to this huge economic crisis. In this context, government leaders repeatedly say that Sri Lanka has achieved 7.4% of economic growth. But these growth rates have not benefited the poor masses, instead they represent the growth of profits and wealth for the bourgeoisie. In neighbouring India we heard it has achieved 9.2% of economic development at last year. But it is clear that this growth hasn’t trickeld down to the poor massed in India. A good example of this was the defeat of the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP) at the last General Election which occurred during this economic boom. The new government, the Indira Congress carried on with the policies of neo liberalism to help bolster economic growth, but this led to a debt spiral for poor farmers. Unable to repay their debts the suicide rate amongst farmers increased dramatically in states like Rajahsthan. At the last local government election, the ruling party was defeated in most of the local bodies. Ecomomic growth does not lead to a life of plenty for the workers and poor!

The present rulers of Sri Lanka don’t include the north and east of the country in their economic reports. The best example of this is the annual report of the central bank. According to the report, in 1993 GDP was $500 and after eleven years in 2004, it was $1000.When they analyse these facts and figures, ordinary people weren’t benefiting by even one penny. For example, an ordinary worker gets Rs 6000/- as a monthly wage where as an executive officer gets Rs 50000/- as a monthly wage. So there is a huge gap between workers and executive grades. According to the head of central bank, economic benefits have spread through limited area where close to Colombo. There is no any logical foundation on these figures. If there is a real growth, it would surely reach to everyone in society.

The reason for these appalling circumstances is that the present coalition government is carrying through the programme of capitalist globalisation. They already have planned to privatise water and sell of the electricity board to foreign companies. The country’s economic growth is deeply dependent on foreign aid and investment, reinforcing Sri Lankas position as a semi colony in the world system. We provide cheap labour for garment makers like Next in Britain and the profits for the sale of clothing go to the capitalists abroad, not into our local economy.

Although the Sri Lankan government are under pressure from US and British ‘envoys’ to end the fighting in order to make Sri Lanka more attractive for foreign investment the government is also under real pressure from reactionary right wing Sinhalese communalist forces to carry on the war and defeat the LTTE. The ruling party the Sri Lanka Freedom party have brought forward a weak compromise agreement that will please no one and solve nothing. It cannot answer the needs of the oppressed Tamils nor will it appease the communists Buddhist forces that want the Tamil resistance smashed.

It is clear that the leaders of the capitalist parties have no serious programme to end the war and improve the living conditions of the Sri Lankan people. So we as a proletarian force, must do all we can to lead society towards socialism in order to avoid the disaster capitalism is leading it towards. We need to win the working class, the urban and rural poor, the progressive youth to a plan of action to address the twin evils of economic hardship and war. This must centre on the following demands.

• An immediate ceasefire, all government forces out of the Tamil areas. Divert the vast sums misspent on war to a massive programme of public works, building schools, hospitals, housing, infrastructure (power, sanitation, roads, etc)
• Self determination for the Tamil people, up to and including the right to form a separate state if they wish. Equal civil rights for Sri Lankans of all ethnic communities
• To beat inflation the workers movement must establish committees of trade unionists and consumers to monitor price rises and set wage levels to fully compensate for them. We demand a sliding scale of wages linked to a workers and poor people’s cost of living index. .
• Complete nationalisation under workers control of all financial institutions, banks and conglomerates.
• An end to all privatisation of essential services and utilise (water , electricity etc)
• Renationalise all privatised industry under workers control, for a massive investment in public work schemes to tackle unemployment and poverty.
• We demand that the trade union leaders lead a serious united struggle for workers rights and to improve the living and working conditions of the poor. We also call on the unions at local and rank and file level to establish committees of delegates to plan to organise the struggle.
• We call on the union federations to launch all out action, up to and including a general strike, to win a general rise in wages for public and private sector workers, protected by a sliding scale of wages.

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