Statement to the Ceylon Criminal Justice Commission
by the slain leader and founder of the JVP
2 November 1973
Chairman and Members of the Commission,
A representative of one social class is addressing the representatives of another social class. That is what is happening here. A representative of the exploited and oppressed proletariat is addressing the representatives of the exploiting and oppressing class. We should not forget that the living really with transpires here is a struggle for the fulfilment and class interests of two opposed social classes. Although I have been designated the 'thirteenth suspect' by this Commission in the present inquiry, the Chairman himself has stated that I am the chief suspect. That begin so it will be necessary right at the beginning to tell you who I, the thirteenth suspect, am. I am a Marxist-Leninist. I am a modern Bolshevik. I am a proletarian revolutionary. Marxism-Leninism is a clear doctrine. In no way is a terrorist. As a proletarian revolutionary, however, I must emphatically state that I am committed to the overthrow of the of the prevailing capitalist system and its replacement by a socialism system.
To disown capitalism which had turned grey, reactionary and obsolete in the course of human social development, to say that this system must be replaced with the fore as befitting the latest and noblest historical stage in the course of the development of human society, and to act accordingly, is an no way a conspiratorial act. I am not a conspirator in the context of the development of history. I am no conspirator in the context of the development of society and humanity.
Honourable Members of the commission: May I make one request to begin with? I have been subjected to every possible indignity and harassment at the hands of the ruling class and have been for several years the target of numerous defamations, slurs and slanders, mudslinging and character assassination and all this without any protection from the law. The only request that I make of you, is to respect my right to express my innocence freely and without any let or hindrance. The ruling clique of capitalists will gag me for a long period, if not for all time. In these circumstances I do not wish to blame myself for not saying all that I have to say before you now. I beseech that I be not gagged.
This suspect, who s making use of his right to state the facts that will prove this innocence, does not intend under any circumstances to refrain from saying what he has to say. This capitalist institution has been used against me in a somewhat heavy way. I am not surprised. I know that the ruling class sets up its instructions to serve the needs of capitalism. Pleading my case before this Commission could be considered a futile exercise if it simply provided a legal cover for the unscrupulous and arbitrary decision, and the disgraceful course of action, on which you have embarked. But I intend to explain the historical process, which led to the most furious, the most barbarous and the most widespread human slaughter that has taken place in the recent history of our country.
Honourable Members of the Commission: 'The noblest, the most valuable, the greatest and supreme treasure that a man has is his life. He lives only once. He should spend that life in such a way that his dying moment he will have no cause for regret, repentance, shock or sorrow; in such a way that he could really be happy in the thought to having sacrificed his life advancing the development, the liberation and the victory of mankind- the people of the whole world. I agree with this aspiration and do not wish to have reason for sorrow should the capitalist ruling clique cut my life in the prime of my youth.
I have no regret whatsoever about my life and fate in store for me. I hope to tell you everything concerning the history of the April incidents, without any qualms about possible reprisals against my person. The charges made against us are grave. We have been charged with the breach of Sections 114 and 115 of the Penal Code. According to the writ issued to you by the then Governor General, and also according to the indictment served on us, the period at issue is that between the beginning of 1968 and the end of 1971. It is said that during the period we concept criminally to overthrow the Government of Ceylon. It is said that we have 'waged war against the Queen' of have a betted such acts. Similarly, the opening submissions of the State Prosecutor have attempted to show that the birth of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna was in itself tantamount to a conspiracy. What we actually said and did during this period is the crux of the matter; accordingly my own views and conceptions are as much the subject of inquiry as anything else.
Mr. Chairman: There was a time when Ceylon was a direct colony f the British on which, it used to be said, the sun will never set. When the second imperialist war was raging, these colonies were trampled under the yoke of Admiral Geoffrey Layton's war chariot; the colonial government engaged in a ruthless suppression of the leaders and proscribing their parties (the Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the United Socialist Party); the masses were full of sorrow and ranked by oppression; colonial troops were ransacking the Island and autocracy was in complete command, with capitalists raking in more and more profits and revolutionaries languishing in jail. It was in such a sad and dark time, similar to the present, that I was born in Tangalle, in July 1943. I grew up in Kottegoda, a small village in the Matara district. I was admitted to the Goda Uda Government Primary Boy's School in the middle of 1947, where I received primary education until 1953.
When a whole country's progress is obstructed, when the forward march of an entire nation has been halted, when a whole people find themselves poised on the brink of a dark abyss, it is not difficult to understand why just and honest men will show no signs of fear as they enter prisons and suffer untold hardship, face constant harassment and even scarifies their lives for the purpose of saving their country and their people from that national calamity. After the second imperialist was the administration of this country was handed over to the local capitalist class, as part of a neo-colonist stratagem entered their youth. We inherited by this time a vast reservoir of experience form our parent society. It was this social experience that pushed toward the path of revolution.
In 1954 I was admitted to the Goda Uda Government Senior English School. That same year this School was transformed in to Sinhala Language School. It was there that I obtained my secondary education. I found myself drawn towards the Communist Party as a result of the massive agitational campaign against imperialism and capitalism conducted throughout the South by my political mentor Comrade Dr. W. A. Wickramasinghe, the present General Secretary of the Ceylon Communist party, and also as a result of the experience I had from society. It was during these days that I first read the Sinhala edition of that historic document of Marx and Engels, The Communist , though I must admit that at the time I failed to understand them correctly. I learnt the ABC of politics at the propaganda rallies and Youth Comrade seminars of the Communist Party. I am grateful to Comrade Dr. Wickramasinghe for this.
As a member of the communist Youth League I took part in political activity for the first time in my life with a sense of feeling and understanding. In July 1959 when I was studying science for the GCE (O Levels) I had to leave my school because of the shortage of school of science teachers and enter Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda. In December of that year I passed the GCE (O Level) exam in science.
At the general Elections of 1960, the Ceylon CP entered the fray with 53 candidates - the highest number it had ever put forward at an election in its entire history. At it was a small party I had to focus all my endeavours on its election campaign. The experience I gained in this election campaign in remote areas like Aparakka, Dandeniya, Urugamuwa and Radampola was considerable. One day, after the elections, I read a news item in the magazine Soviet Land to the effect that the Soviet Premier, Khrushchev, who was no on a tour of Indonesia in the middle of 1960, would shortly be opening an International University in Moscow for the benefit of youth from the colonial countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. By this time I was finding it difficult to continue higher studies due to economic factors. During the 1947 General Election activities of the communist candidate for Hakmana, Comrade Premalal Kumarasiri, found his jeep forcibly stopped by reactionaries. He was abducted and beaten up, an experience that left him a permanent invalid. My family found it materially impossible to finance higher education for me. At my own wish I applied for entrance to the proposed new People's Friendship University of Moscow.
On wining a Medical Degree Scholarship. I left for Moscow on 25 September 1960. After the preliminary examination held there I was admitted to the Faculty of Philology on 1 October 1960, to learn the Russian language. At seventeen, I was then the youngest student at the university and I cannot forget the great assistant my Soviet teachers extended to me. I studied Russian till June 1961. In addition, I attended the lectures on world History and Historical Materialism held there in the English language. I refer here with gratitude to the well-known soviet Historical Professor Metropoliski. Had I not been his pupil, it is possible that I would not be here before you today. It was this great man's ideas that helped me to understand how I could be greater service to mankind in this present era, by giving up my love for medical science and becoming a revolutionary rather than a doctor.
In June 1961 I passed with distinction the final examination in the Russian language and was accordingly selected a member of the University delegation that was to visit Soviet Georgia in August. In the meantime I spent the first month of the summer holidays (July 1961) in Soviet Moldavia. During that month I worked as an agricultural worker in a village in the Torspol District of the Soviet Moldavian Republic and also on a nearby State farm. This was the first employment I ever had. During this month we had the opportunity, ever evening after work, to see the other farms, factories and electric power stations in the area. It would be completely true to say that it was here that I was convinced of the evil of the privet property system and the value of the collectivized opportunity to live and work and exchange views with the Soviet working class and to see and understand the victories of socialism.
On 1 September 1961 I commenced my medical studies. In the same educational year I studies, as additional subjects, Political Science ad Russian Literature at this university. In the same month I was elected Deputy General Secretary of the Union of Ceylonese Students in Russia and accordingly I had to engaged myself in student welfare work too.
At the time of the 22nd Congress of the CPUS I witnessed the differences of opinion which were boiling and brewing within the international Communist movement burst their seams and spill out into the open. By this time we were feeling dissatisfied with the policy and programme of the Ceylon Communist Party of which we had become staunch followers due to our meagre knowledge of Marxism. We felt that rightist and social-democratic tendencies had become the predominant force inside the Ceylon CP. We thought that the Ceylon CP was degenerating into a social democratic party and that to save the Communist Party from this disaster we should launch an ideological rectification campaign within it. Together with the present National Organizer of the Communist Party, Comrade K. P. Silva, who has then on a visit to the Soviet Union, and the late Comrade Dharmakeerthi, I took the initiative of setting up a 'Marxist Education Circle' for the benefit of Ceylonese students.
During the summer holidays of 1962 I came back to Ceylon, but returned to the Soviet Union with my confidence in the Communist Party shattered still further. In September 1962 during my second year in the Medical College, my interest in medical Science to a Secondary place, I had the opportunity of discussing the Chinese Communist Party's position in the Sino-Soviet ideological conflict with comrades like Murad Aidit, a close friend of mine and brother of the then leader of the Indonesian CP, the late Comrade D. N. Aidit, and Comrade Che Ali who was an Indonesian students union leader. As a result of these discussions I left that I was in a position to agree with most of the view put forward by the Chinese CP and accordingly I found myself on the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet dispute. This in no way means that I become anti-Soviet. This conflict appeared to us at the outset as a fraternal ideological struggle between the Chinese and soviet parties wit the common object of arriving at a correct programme. I did not then realize that it was to develop into a conflict between enemies. I thought it would remain a fraternal debate. I did not like the idea of having two conflicting and contradictory voices in the international communist movement. However I admitted the fairness of having two voices, one right and one wrong, rather than having only one voice and than one wrong. But what was most unfortunate here was that, though there were two voices, both these voices happened to be wrong.
At this moment I would like to raise a question which of vital importance in relation to this trial, namely, the view of Marxists is regard to peace and violence. I do so because the question of violence is related to most of my evidence. The two most important issues of connection between the Soviet and Chinese Parties were the following problems: the question to transition from capitalism, and the question of relations between the capitalist and socialist systems in the present world. Member of the commission, our view concerning the transformation from capitalism to socialism has become a subject of your inquiry. Therefore I will explain it in some detail.
Whether a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism is possible has been subject of keen and heated controversy within the world communist movement and the international working class for a fairly long time. It was suitably answered as far back as 1847 by the young Engels. In his treatise, Principles of Communism, he poses this question as follows: ' Can privet property be peacefully abolished?' and gives the following reply:
It would be desirable if it this could happen, and the communists would certainly be the last to oppose it. Communists know only too well that revolutions are not only useless but even harmful. They know all too well that revolutions are not made intentionally and arbitrarily, but that everywhere and always they have been necessary consequence of conditions which were wholly independent of the will and direction of individual parties and entire classes. But they also see that the development of the proletariat in nearly all civilized countries has been violently suppressed, and that in this way the opponents of communism have been working towards a revolution with all their strength. If the oppressed proletariat is finally driven to revolution, then we communists will defend the interests of the proletarians with deeds as we now defend them with words.
Engels's answer is quite clear. We who are Marxists, we who are revolutionaries are most desirous of seeing state power peacefully transferred from the hands of the exploiter capitalist ruling class to the hands of the proletariat. We would be very glad to receive peacefully from the few owners of property the means of production and hand them over to the custody of the entire people. If a peaceful abolition of the system which is based on the exploitation of man by man could be easily and readily brought about we would have no objection. If class distinctions in society can be abolished without any conflict and in a friendly manner we would have no reason to object. In fact, we communists would most certainly prefer peaceful methods for the realization of our objects, for the establishment of communism on behalf of all mankind so that antagonistic class distinction no longer exist, where the disgraceful process of man exploiting man no longer exist, where all the means of material production are vested in society as a whole and where the noble policy of 'from each according to his ability, to each a according to his needs' is actually practised. However it must emphatically stated that it is not proletarian revolutionaries who have to decide whether the proletarian socialist revolution will take place peacefully or will necessitate the use of violence.
Marx has shown clearly that the exploiting, property-owning class has never voluntarily abandoned its ruling power nor its privileges at any time in history. Not a single property owning class can be out from the entire globe which has bowed its head peacefully when confronted with the verdict of history embodied in the needs and will of the majority and given up its privileges voluntarily. The class which hold state power consolidate its property system. In order to protect their property there will be no cruel or disgusting crimes against the oppressed masses which these capitalist ruling classes will not commit.
The capitalist classes make use of their unlimited power in this society to subordinate members of the oppressed classes to bourgeois ideology. If the threat of an independent ideology development is observed within the rank of the proletariat, the ruling classes realize the danger and employ all their customary methods to destroy it. They will infiltrate their agents to mislead and entice it toward them and to win over degenerate and traitorous individuals within it. They will seek by every devious means ideologically to disarm this independent movement inside the proletariat. They will resort to disgraceful slanders in order to divide and humiliate it, its policies and its disciplined members. When all these effort fail, they seek its destruction through capitalist laws, Courts, prisons, repressive rules and regulations and, in the end, even restore to violent attacks and massacres. This is the truth, tested out in the annals of the class struggle.
The state machine is an institution brought into being as a result of the emergence of class divisions based on the system of private property and the resulting class conflict. It arose and developed as a powerful weapon necessary for the ruling class in power to repress and govern the proletariat it exploits. Without the assistance of this institution - the state machine - which is the creature of the class needs and interests. It has never been impartial. In any society where a class system exists the state machine safeguards the interests of one class. It serves one class. The state machine in a feudal society is the class weapon of the capitalist class. In a capitalist society it is the weapon of the capitalist class. In a socialist society, of course, the dictatorship of the proletariat is at the service of the proletariat. The entire history of present-day society bears witness to the fact that whenever the proletariat, together with other oppressed groups in society, tries to secure its rights or change the existing social system by peaceful means, the exploiter classes, which represent a tiny minority in society, always act to protest their property system but completely negating and annulling the peaceful struggle of proletariat by the use of violence.
We Marxists are proletarian revolutionaries. We do not conceal this fact from anyone. We hope for a complete revolutionary change of the existing social system and act with that goal in view. Ours is not the role of sitting on the fence with folded arms waiting for the day when this capitalist system is taken for burial on the shoulders of others; this capitalist system has bequeathed suffering and oppression to the working class of this country, which is over three million strong. It has made poverty and want the sole inheritance of the middle and lower peasants who comprise more than half the population of this country, it has become the fount and source of each and every contemporary social problem that the bulk of the nation suffers. The socialist revolution in a country can be hastened or delayed depending on the degree to which objective conditions are ripe and subjective conditions, i.e. consciousness, organization and leadership, have developed.
Counter-revolutionaries resort to violence. Therefore to ensure the safe delivery of the new social system, it becomes necessary for proletarian revolutionaries to resort to revolutionaries violence against the violence employed by the capitalist class.
The fundamental issue is the question of state power. The main task in any social revolution is the destruction of the capitalist state and the creation of a proletarian state, in other words, the dictatorship is the essential precondition for the transition to a socialist system. No socialism can be built without the proletariat first capturing and later consolidating state power. To retain state power the capitalist class will use violence. We Marxists are not preachers of violence. We only predict the certainty of violent acts in the course of the revolution. We prophesy that the decaying ruling classes, to prevent the forward march of society through a socialist revolution, will resort to counter-revolutionary acts of violence.
CHIEF JUSTICE FERNANDO: If a burglar comes to you for advice, you may tell him: 'Well it may be necessary for you to carry a revolver because the owner of the house might also have a revolver.' Under our law you cannot carry a revolver in those circumstances.
THIRTEENTH SUSPECT: You have a good knowledge of your law. I have is of the view I hold and of the things I have said and done. What we have said and done have been presented here in a completely distorted form. but when the entire truth is made known, you will be able to take any course of action the law allows.
After I was cured of an illness in February 1964, the doctor advised me to take leave one term. I decided to spend this leave in Ceylon and arrived back on 24 March 1964. During the latter half of 1963 the Ceylon Party split into Russian and Chinese wings. My political mentor Dr S. A. Wickramasinghe remained in the leadership of the Russian wing, but I took the side of the Chinese wing in accordance with the policies and view I held. I even sent my congratulations from Moscow to the congress of the Chinese wing.
JUSTICE ALLES: Would it be correct to say that you were refused a visa to return to Russia?
THIRTEENTH SUSPECT: After my return to Ceylon I worked as a sympathizer of the Chinese wing. During this period I was invited by a number of student unions and other public associations from several districts to speak to them on socialism and about the Soviet Union. I was questioned by the audiences on the factors which led to the Sino-Soviet polemics and answered these questions from the Chinese point of view. For this reason the local leaders of the pro-Moscow Party became angry with me. In August 1964, when I applied for a visa to return to the Soviet Union, the Soviet refused my application without giving any reasons. At the time I was taking a greater interest in political work in Ceylon. That is the answer to the question posed by Justice Alles.
JUSTICE FERNANDO: Why did it surprise you? When they today I admit that the Soviet Union is a workers' state. I will always defend the onslaughts of the capitalist class. But there are theoretical problems that divide the Soviet Union from us. They are family problems. If you attack the Soviet Union I shall defend it. But reserve the right to criticize openly and state the difference between the Soviet Union and us.
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A REPORT ON THE 1971 UPRISING BY FRED HALLIDAY