The streets of the island of Sri Lanka are being shaken by popular protests. Working people have taken revenge on fascist Mahinda Rajapaksa, who sent his thugs to a vacant lot, attacked peaceful protesters and set fire to protest camps. Rajapaksa’s ancestral residence in Hambantota, his official house in Colombo and many other places have been set on fire due to public anger. Rajapaksa party cadres are being beaten and chased across the country.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, who fanaticized the Sinhalese people with ethnic hatred and massacred the Eelam Tamils en masse, has resigned and fled and is unable to say where he is.
Those who have narrated that “there is no possibility of class unity beyond the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka” are now worried about the future of their ethnicity politics. Working people from all walks of life, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Christians, are fighting hand in hand.
All the ethnic-religious fanaticism that the ruling class has perpetuated over the years to protect its own interests is now being cleared up in the course of the class struggle.
While all this encourages us, it is a bitter truth that the imperialists have limited this to their purpose, in the absence of the leadership of a revolutionary party to take the popular uprising to the next level.
The cause of Sri Lanka’s current political-economic crisis is not only the failure of the neo-liberal policy implemented in the country in the 1970s; It is the result of the ongoing rivalry between the US and China in the South Asian region.
The US-led Western imperialists have deliberately intensified the foreign exchange crisis in order to overthrow the pro-Chinese Rajapaksa government and bring their loyalists to power.
We explained this in an article in Puthiya Jananayagam (New Democracy) Tamil magazine last October, entitled “Sri Lanka reeling under debt: Western imperialists desperate to dominate by intensifying the crisis!” Since there was no revolutionary party with a popular base in Sri Lanka to intervene and influence the spontaneous people’s struggle, the US program was progressing successfully from the outset. The US used the struggle to create a crisis for the Rajapaksa clique.
The majority of the ruling class media has consistently echoed the one-sided notion that Sri Lanka is facing the economic crisis because of China’s debt trap. Opposition parties in the United States have blamed Mahinda Rajapaksa’s pro-China policies for the crisis.
The failure of the neo-liberal policy is not the talk of the masses except the Left and the Liberal Democrats. Since then, US’s actions to exacerbate the crisis have not been exposed. The protest was therefore limited to demanding Gotabaya’s resignation – “Gota Go Home”. The United States used this.
At one point, Mahinda Rajapaksa fell at the feet of the United States and surrendered in order to maintain his rule. And he accepted the United States’ sentence.
Mahinda Rajapaksa initially rejected the opposition’s idea of borrowing from the IMF to recover from the economic crisis, but later set up a committee of his own to negotiate with the IMF.
Ajith Nivard Cabraal, a Chinese loyalist and close friend of Rajapaksa, who was the governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, was ousted and replaced by Nandalal Weerasinghe, a former IMF executive. Dismissed Ajith Nivard Cabraal was strongly opposed to borrowing from the IMF; He was the one who encouraged borrowing from China.
Mahinda Rajapaksa reshuffled his cabinet on April 18 in the name of ‘tackling the economic crisis’ to dispel the stigma among the people such as “family rule” and “corrupt rule”. A new cabinet of 17 members was formed and Basil, Chamal and Namal Rajapaksa were left out.
In the parliament, Mahinda surrendered, and said that the delay in borrowing from the IMF was wrong and that the crisis was due to some of his wrong decisions.
But people are not ready to believe any of these dramas. The struggles for the resignation of the Prime Minister and the President continued.
Despite his surrender, the United States did not help Rajapaksa because he had lost the moral support of the people and was not ready to fully trust the Rajapaksa mob. In talks with the IMF, it was agreed to pay between $ 300 million to $ 600 million, but the funds were not released until Rajapaksa’s resignation. In this way, the United States intensified the crisis.
Despite pro-US Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed as Prime Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa continues to be the President. Mahinda Rajapaksa congratulated the new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. By connecting all this, we can understand that a pre-planned conspiracy is being orchestrated.
Gotabaya did not invite Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the opposition, who said that he would agree to an interim government if Gotabaya agreed to step down within a specified period; Instead, he made Ranil Wickremesinghe, the only MP of his party, as the Prime Minister.
None of the opposition parties accepted this. They have ignored Gotabaya’s call for the opposition to come forward to support Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government. Because the people did not abandon the demand for the resignation of Gotabaya as President. The struggles still continue. No one ever had the courage to go beyond the mood of the people and act opportunistically.
But the United States, the mastermind of the game, has welcomed Ranil Wickremesinghe. US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung has said that “Ranil’s appointment as PM, and the quick formation of an inclusive government, are first steps to addressing the crisis & promoting stability. We encourage meaningful progress at the IMF & long-term solutions that meet the needs of all Sri Lankans”.
Not only the United States but also India as a regional power was trying to take advantage of this crisis. For this purpose, food items, essential items including petrol and diesel, were sent to the country. It has lent more than $ 3 billion to Sri Lanka since the beginning of this year.
A day after Ranil’s inauguration (13.05.2022), Gopal Baglay has been appointed as High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka and the Modi government had held talks with Ranil Wickremesinghe. A deal may have been struck to allow Ambani-Adani in looting Sri Lanka in return for India’s aid.
Therefore, there has been no change in the structure of government or in selling the country to the imperialists, except that the US-backed puppet regime in Sri Lanka has taken responsibility instead of China.
We are hearing that the people’s struggles are continuing for the resignation of Gotabaya. Yes, the demands of the protests are limited only to Gotabaya’s resignation. Nevertheless, the ruling classes are appalled by the class unity that has evolved by breaking up the ethnic divide through these struggles. State repression is accelerated.
At the beginning of the protest, the Sri Lankan military said it “supported” the peaceful protests against the government. The US ambassador also expressed support for the protests. But after people retaliated against Rajapaksa’s violence, they have been shouting that ‘violent people’ should be suppressed. The main reason for statements like this is because that their project was successful.
But the question we need to consider is whether these insurgent people’s struggles are advancing towards a revolution. The answer is no. Perhaps if the struggle intensifies, Gotabaya may resign to quell it. If not, the struggle will be brought to an end. The revolutionary forces must take full responsibility for this plight.
Whether it was the Arab Spring in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, or the pink wave of neo-liberal policies in Latin American countries, they brought about regime change. The existing state structure was not overthrown and a revolution to establish a people’s state did not happen.
Sri Lankan situation teaches us that no matter how utterly the objective crises erupt, no matter how favorable they may be to the revolution, there can be no social change without a revolutionary Communist Party that can lead the people. The world proletariat is longing for a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist party with a popular base; Even Sri Lanka too is longing.
Editorial Board, New Democracy.