Democratic Centralism

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Independent class policy

Bahu’s approach is fatal for the workers’ movement, which should have no trust in these parties or in bourgeois politicians in general. Workers should look to an independent class policy and rely upon their own strength and power. This also involves raising the need for a new mass party of the Sri Lankan working class. This is what the USP has advocated.

It is incredible to suggest, as CR does, that the USP merely puts forward the case for "pure socialism" or to bracket Siri with Bahu in implying that the former, like the latter, saw the "imminent" collapse of capitalism on every occasion. This is simply not true. Siri, for instance, supported the majority in the CWI against Ted Grant, who put forward the dogmatic position of the "imminent collapse" of capitalism following the world stock market crisis of 1987. (See ‘The Rise of Militant’ for an explanation.) CR is well aware that the USP, while advocating of course the ideas of socialism, of the democratic socialist planning of the resources of Sri Lanka, links this to a day-to-day programme, which is transitional in character. (See points from election leaflets appended).

CR shows just how far he has departed from a traditional Trotskyist approach when he writes that Siri, "believes that socialism is the answer to the problem, even the immediate problem in Sri Lanka". Socialism is the answer, not just for Sri Lanka or the neo-colonial world but for the whole of the globe for that matter.

Regarding the decline of the left, CR interprets this as a rejection of the ideas of socialism by the majority of the workers, peasants and left intellectuals. We strongly disagree with this. Of course, the world-wide ideological offensive against socialism, in the wake of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, had an effect in Sri Lanka. But this was more on the tops of the workers’ organisations than on the base and amongst the working class in general.

Important sections of the working class never reconciled themselves to the attacks on socialism, which went hand in hand with the implementation of neo-liberal policies. There was undoubtedly an additional factor in relation to the decline of the official Left and Bahu and Vasu were, and are, identified with the old Left leadership and organisation. They made big mistakes, both of an opportunist and an ultra-left character. Bahu and Vasu have failed to put forward a consistent, clear alternative socialist programme. Vasu, however, as CR has indicated, seems not to have gone as far as CR and Bahu in rejecting the centrality of socialism in a programme for the Left. He therefore could, and should, be encouraged to link up with the USP on such a programme.

Socialism or barbarism

Without such a programme, capitalism and imperialism threaten to drag Sri Lanka and the whole of humankind into an abyss. Rosa Luxemburg’s aphorism "Socialism or barbarism" formulated 100 years ago is the reality that confronts the working class and humankind today. Clearly CR does not believe that socialism is the "immediate" answer but is, like any bourgeois reformist, confident that significant lasting gains can be made within the framework of capitalism today. We beg to differ. However, we don’t just advocate socialism from a purely propaganda point of view and leave it there. We are believe that, objectively, the case for socialism has never been stronger, given the past failure of Stalinism as well as of capitalism in the 1990s and the first decade of the new century. Nevertheless, we are well aware that the consciousness of this on the part of the masses lags way behind objective reality.

CR wants to leave it there, merely concentrating on the small change of incremental reforms. We, on the contrary, seek to formulate demands which can act as a transitional bridge from the existing consciousness of the working class to the need to change society. This is not just a propaganda task but is linked to events which will be the most powerful factor in changing the consciousness of the masses. However, events alone are not enough. In Latin America today we have the elements of a pre-revolutionary situation in a number of countries with dual power in Bolivia, elements of this in Peru, and certainly in the revolution in Venezuela. But the masses are not conscious of this power, partly because of the collapse of Stalinism and the throwing back of consciousness worldwide. Our job, in Sri Lanka as elsewhere, is to advocate ideas and programmes that can further the struggle on a day-to-day basis and link these to the socialist transformation of society.

Capitalism as an aim!

This is now a closed book to CR, who clearly looks to others to do the job, as is clear in his comments on China. He speaks in the most laudatory terms of the evolution towards capitalism on the part of the former Stalinist elite. We can only quote here some of the choicer extracts from his document on this matter. He writes: "The Chinese Communist Party chose to reject the path of chaotic democratisation towards capitalism as in Russia. Under Deng, it also decided that stubborn Stalinism like in Cuba under the Castro regime was not an option. So it has been bringing in capitalism in stages".

He goes on to state: "Subsequent events in China confirmed the 'evolutionary viability' of Deng's strategy… There has been a veritable explosion of prosperity in China, benefiting Chinese people unevenly of course, like in all capitalist episodes. I have written about the negative aspects of this in many letters, so I will not talk about that here." Incredibly he then writes that the political history of the left, in which he includes all of those who come from the NSSP, including the USP, shows that they compare unfavourably with the Chinese Stalinists and ex-Stalinists who have taken the "capitalist road". This is because, "Political history from 1977 to 2004 shows that, it (the Left) has had the opposite experience of the Chinese: the historical evolution of Sri Lankan politics has invalidated its (the Left’s) conception of social change in no uncertain terms."

The clear implication of all this is that in the neo-colonial world, a stage of capitalism à la China is the preferred road because anything else is "utopian" in the modern era. While he makes a few comments on the "negative aspects" of the return to capitalism in China, the full horrors that confront millions of people because of this process is discounted as a detail by CR. There was nothing "inevitable" about the return to capitalism in China. That was also the case in the former Stalinist regimes of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.