BACK TO PREVIOUS PAGE

Origins of the JVP

 

In the middle of 1967, according to a prior agreement, a comrade whose name I cannot disclose and comrade Sanath came to my mother's house in Hunnandeniya. We had a discussion there related to our future course of action. As a result of this, at the end of 1967 a discussion was held by several of our sympathizers and ourselves. The discussion was of historic importance since it paved the way for the emergence of a new political movement - the Janatha Vimukhti Peramuna. There was a special reason for conducting these discussion over this period. A new political trend had grown on an international level and was gaining ground even in this country.

 

After the killing of comrade Che Guevara in Bolivia, and through the Tricontinenntal Congress and OLAS, this trend received world - wide Embassy in Ceylon had various speeches and texts by comrades Castro and Guevara printed in Sinhala and widely distributed throughout this country. Among these were Castro's History will Absolve Me and The Second Declaration of Havana, The Path the Latin American Revolution Should Take, Those Who are Not Militant Revolutionaries Are Not communists and From Moncada to Victory. As a result of this many of our sympathizers felt that Ceylon should take the same path and emulate the heroic example of Che. The essence of this view was that under present conditions the revolution can take place without a revolutionary party. This view rejected the Leninist conception of the necessity of a fully-fledged revolutionary organization for the victory of the proletariat and the socialist revolution. According to this view the betrayal of the Old Left Movement in the face of capitalist repression had created a situation where a revolutionary party would not be formed; revolutionaries should commence the armed struggle so that the oppressed masses would be awakened by the sound of gun-fire, a process which would rally them behind the revolution. The same comrades maintained that political classes, discussions, agitational campaigns and ideological struggles to organize the proletariat as a class and fight for the revolution. Were either impossible or unnecessary. Those who wanted to follow the Cuban road had not even property understood it themselves. They held the mistaken view that the revolution was lunched, fought and won by eleven men with guns, they did not realize that broad sections of the masses - the Llano organization and the 26th July Movement - had been mobilized against the cruel Batista dictatorship. This false concept was completely rejected at the Kallarawa discussion. We defeated the petty - bourgeois adventurism which had developed behind the cover of the Cuban model and discussed what to do next. The innumerable negative examples we gained within the Old Left Movement and the breakaway pro-Chinese grouping, which claimed to be revolutionary, and our considerable experience of the international communist movement became useful to us as the basis of our discussions.

 

Tasks of the Revolution in Ceylon

We held, first, that the views we had in regard to the development of the Ceylonese revolution, when we were in the Chinese wing, we held that the present stage of the revolution was that of struggle for a people's democracy. At the Kallarawa discussion we rejected that view. What was relevant for Ceylon was a socialist and not a people's democratic revolution. I must explain why we rejected the concept of the people's democratic revolution.

 

This concept was copied the copied by the Ceylonese Party from the leadership of the former Third (Communist) International and from China. On an analysis of the present nature and stage of social development in Ceylon and the international nature of capitalism, we came to the view that the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal tasks of the revolution in colonial and semi-colonial societies can be carried out only by attending to the socialist tasks, since in the epoch of imperialism (the extension of capital internationally) no anti-imperialist task can over be effectively completed without socialism. The uncompleted and neglected tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution, such as national independence, agrarian revolution and democracy can only be accomplished through a socialist revolution. They can be carried out only by the proletariat.

 

To argue that a new democratic stage exists between the capitalist system and the socialist system is to ignore the principles of social development and mutual class relationships. World capitalism, taken in its entirety, has developed sufficiently to provide the objective conditions suitable for a socialist revolution on a global scale, and therefore socialist tasks are the order of the day even in the underdeveloped countries of the world.

 

At the same discussion we argued that a proletariat revolutionary party must be established. However, there cannot be a Marxist party without Marxists. What has the Old Left Movement done during the course of thirty years and more to develop Marxists? It was quite apparent that the Old Left leaders had succumbed to capitalist ideology and paid scant attention to the question of providing the working class with a basic Marxist ideas in Sinhala. Although they conducted a political class or two on certain subjects in a haphazard and irregular fashion, they did not provide the working class vanguard with systematic political education. They took no serious steps to rise and maintain political consciousness within their own ranks. As a result, when they turned the Right, there was no strong group of Marxists to fight back effectively, and most of their members followed suit.

 

Political Education

 

I say all this to try and show you the context in which our five education classes came into being. Considering the negative experiences we had gained through the OLD Left, we realized that to provide the people with a knowledge of Marxism, a correct, simple, established method should be adopted so that they would be able to grasp the subject readily. I am going to conduct these five lessons here. I will only give you a brief introduction.

 

The first class was on the subject: 'Economic Crisis'. At it is the mode of production or the economy of a social system on which other structures rest, we realized the importance of making a fundamental analysis of the economy. We analysed the economic situation, its crisis, its origin, its causes, its development, its future and its inevitable consequences. We explained that the economic crisis in colonial and semi-colonial societies is in the process of being transformed into a political crisis, that before long it would result in a great national calamity and how the only way of escaping this calamity was to take the forward path of class struggle, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and hasten both socialist industrialization and the collectivization of agriculture.

 

The second class was entitled: 'Independence - a neo-colonial stratagem'. This provided a basic Marxist interpretation of the socio - economic - political meaning of the change of flags the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Lion that took place on 4 February 1948. In this class we explained that what was received was neither full independence nor economic independence. We showed how the strategy of British imperialism necessitated a neo-colonial device to protect is colonial investments and property from the rising tempest of anti-imperialist liberation struggles resulting from the change in the international relationship of forces at the conclusion of the Second Imperialist War. We maintained that political independence without economic independence was a sham.

 

The third class concerned the way in which Indian expansionism affected Ceylon. The idea of 'Indian expansionism' was first put award by the Chinese Communist Party. The editorial board of this party's daily newspaper, Renmin Rebao, published two articles entitled 'The Chinese - Indian Border Struggle and the Nehru Doctrine'. These gave a lengthy expose of the class needs of the Indian ruling class and its basic philosophy, and argued that the a Indian capitalists aimed at spreading their economic and political dependence over their smaller neighbours. This process was named 'Indian expansionism'. In our class we discussed how this affected our country. We explained the class needs of the powerful Borah capitalists in this country; the way in which these compare with Indian expansionism; the racist politics they engage in for the purpose of keeping the estate workers of Indian origin separate from the rest of the working class and under their own heel. We stated that the capitalist class had misled the estate workers of Indian origin and trapped them, and we determined to rescue these workers from the ideological grip of the capitalists. However, we had no cadres among comrades of the national minorities were fruitless.

 

The forth class was on ' The Left Movement in Ceylon'. The purpose of this class was to learn the lessons from the unhealthy experiences of the Old Left and understand the reasons for its failure. Here we criticized the policies and programme of the Old Left from the 1930s onwards. This was done primarily so that we could learn the lessons of pervious defeats.

 

The fifth class was the most important class. As there have been incorrect references to it, I expect to take some time to speak about it. It involved burning questions of the Ceylonese Revolution. The fifth class was originally referred to as ' The Path to Socialism in Ceylon'. Later on, after the text The Path the Latin American Revolution Should Take become well known, certain persons referred to this class as ' The Path the Ceylonese Revolution Should Take'.

 

After the publication of Che's Guerrilla Warfare certain of our sympathizers, as well as members of other groups, thought of seeking solutions to the prevailing economic crisis by similar methods. Two other books appeared in Sinhala at this time: Lin Piao's Long Live the Victory of People's War and Mao Tse-tung's Selected Military Writings. Some sought to apply the remedies prescribed in these volumes. The Chinese wing and their supporters thought that the Ceylonese revolution should be a repeat of the Chinese revolution, with protracted war moving from the countryside to the towns. There were others, especially those groups that broke away from the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, who advocated the example of the Russian Revolution. It was these factors which led us to prepare the fifth class.

Our purpose was to defect mechanical materialist concepts and show how incorrect and unscientific they were, and also provide our supporters with correct ideological tools. Through this class we intended to make a fundamental analysis of the experience gained by the international working - class movement in the class struggle, starting from the Paris Commune of 1871, up till the present time. We explained the difference between social reform serve the capitalist class and revolutions the proletariat. We showed how the path a revolution had taken in one country in a certain period and under different conditions and how, therefore. Socialist revolutions do not follow a single uniform path, but vary their paths depending on the time, the pace and the conditions peculiar to each occasion. In this way we demonstrated that the Chinese Revolution was difficult from the model of the Russian Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution was different from them both, and that therefore it was possible to see the emergency of a model different from previously cited experiences.

 

This class, like the other four, was political, theoretical and philosophical. If you want me to conduct these classes in full, I an ready to do it. It has been stated that there was something secret about these classes. Therefore if you want me to conduct the fifth class on its own in full I am ready to comply. [Justice Fernando declines the offer. His words are not clearly recorded in the Court record. ]

 

At the Kallarawa discussion we agreed that, after these classes were held, those who showed political interest or keenness and were ready to go ahead should be further educated, and that this should be done in educational camps where theoretical classes on Marxist economics and Marxist philosophy would be conducted. I want to make it clear that we did not expect anyone to become a Marxist by following these five basic classes. They were merely a bridge to draw people away from the influence of bourgeois ideology and closer to Marxism.

 

From 1968 onwards I began holding classes all over the country. They took place at the rate of two or three a day or night, depending on the times at which people could attend. During this period I began to visit the Land Development Department LDD-work-sites in various parts of the country and hold classes for the workers there. We managed to start political work in the to start political work in the Land Development Department Worker's Union. For this reason the first classes I held mostly for worker comrades, peasants and sections of youth.

 

During the year 1968 I held classes in eighty different work sites of the LDD. At the same time I conducted political classes for workers and clerks in the Colombo office of the LDD and in many private places. With the increasing demand for classes there was a corresponding need for more people to conduct them. Towards the end of 1968other comrades began to conduct political classes. One question needs to be explained at this stage.

 

A large number of persons brought before this Commission have been young. Why did these youths seek connections with the JVP? I will attempt to explain this. The new situation cared by the general crisis of capitalism; the lessons learnt via the Sino-Soviet ideological battle; the new echo of the Cuban revolution which resounded throughout the world after the death of comrade Guevara; the clamour of OLAS; the struggle of the Indo-Chinese people , in particular, of the Vietnamese, as well as other circumstance, generated a new wave which had repercussions not only in Asia, Africa and Latin America, but even in Europe and North America - the bastions of modern capitalism. This radicalism will find it necessary to protest against the exiting social system. It is no secret that by 1968 the working class movement had been misled internationally by a reformist leadership and left demoralized and dispirited before the capitalist system. It is no longer a matter of controversy that the working classes of France and Italy were thrust away from the path of class struggle into the backwaters of class collaboration. They were ideologically disarmed by the decadent, increasingly reformist leadership of the Communist Parties in the face of a capitalist onslaught. What happened in colonial and neo-colonial countries like ours was no different.

 

The leaders of the Old Left in Ceylon were reformists who had their heads filed with Fabian ideology. These leaders, though they called themselves Marxists, were in reality guided by the writings of Laski and Keynes, and invariably betrayed the aspirations of the workers. They tied the trade-union movement to their brand of reformist, parliamentarist politics. The final betrayal was the abandonment of the 21 demands, which destroyed the United Workers' Trade Union and the United Left Front by open collaboration with the capitalists. This historic class betrayal left the working, class discouraged and demoralized. Under the UNP government a generalized bitterness developed, and both students and young workers began to demonstrate their hostility. On several occasions during this period (1968 - 9) the Peradeniya University students clashed with the armed forces. Students from Colombo University crashed into the Parliament building and declared that it was nothing more than a den of thieves. In 1968 a number of youths who had attended our classes entered the universities, and by the end of that year we succeeded in winning over a large section of sympathizers of the Russian and Chinese wings inside universities and schools.

 

The Right to Rebel

 

As a Marxist I have held, and still hold, the view that a people has the right to rebel against an arbitrary government. This is not a view held only by Marxists. Throughout history, people believing in various ideologies and religious have accepted the right of a charge, before you, of rebelling against the Queen's government, of attempting to rebel, of abetting a rebellion, and conspiring to rebel.

 

Honourable Chairman, some time ago o learnt that as far back as 1949 the people of Britain led by Oliver Cromwell rebelled against their monarch, Charles I, an ancestor of the present Queen of English. They wanted him off the throne and they succeeded. On that occasion the British people held by the view that to rebel against an oppressive regime was fair and just.

 

No doubt you are aware of how in 1778 the American rebellion under the leader ship of George Washington succeeded against the Britain empire. You are also aware of the 1789 events in is that even before the advent of Marxism people in various countries held the view that they had the right to rebel. In your capacity as judges you may have had occasion to read Vindicia Contra Tyrannos, written under the pseudonym of Stephanus Junius Brutus, in which it is stated not only that there should be insurrections against autocratic governments, but even that they should be led judges! The fact that liberal thinkers have supported the right to rebel is illustrated vividly in the French Declaration of the right of Man. A passage in it reads: ' When a government violates the right of the people, insurrection is for them the most sacred of rights, the most imperative of duties.' A glimpse into our own history will show Mahawansa, Chulawansa and other works record innumerable popular insurrections against cruel rules. We are not the first to be charged with rebellion against the Queen's government. Similar charges were brought against Keppetipola Adikarama and others in 1848. This demonstrates that the right to rebel was accepted the view that people have the right to rebel against an oppressive regime. I still hold this view.

 

The next question before you is whether we did rebel during the month of April1971. I will give you my answer in detail.

 

In this social system the privileged classes are the imperialists and their local lackeys. In this system there are a number of problems that have been growing for a long time. You know that a free education system began in this country when we were children. A large number of us from both rural and urban areas had an opportunity is almost on a par with developed countries. This is obvious when you compare Ceylon with India, Pakistan and Nepal. This has given a considerable impetus to the development of a proletarian consciousness and a proletarian political education. According to government statistics the number of children attending school was 3,500,000 and of these 270,000 leave school in search of employment every year. 50,000 have had an education up to senior level. To say that the remaining 220,000 had received a lesser education means that under this social system they have no prospects of employment above that of ordinary wage earners and labourers. Every year about 220,000 semi-educated persons enter society as serfs and labourers. This process has continued since the end of the 1950s. increasingly many university graduates also found it difficult to obtain jobs become general labourers.

 

According to government statistic issued in 1969 - 70 there are 3,333,000 wage -earners in this country. 56 percent of these were rural workers and 26 percent were estate workers working on the tea, rubber and coconut plantations. The urban workers numbered 18 percent. Over the last seven years the economic, social and political problems confronting these three groups of workers have been increasingly acute.

 

The condition of the peasantry within this social system requires special attention. In the rural areas the lower peasants suffer from the problems of landlessness. An official report of the Kandyan Peasantry Commission appointed by the Bandaranaike government stated that 180 Kandyan families live in each two-acre zone. Ninety families would thus live on one acre. This gives you an idea of the enormity of the problem of landlessness in certain areas. Within this social system utter misery and destitution have become the common lot of the villager. And we find that only 4,000 of the more than 2,000,000 families in this country have a monthly income of Rs. 1,000 and over. [ 1 = Rs. 30 ] Government figures confirm this fact. In brief, two million families have a low income and lead a miserable life. It is under these social conditions that the political unrest unrest arose which led to the April incidents.

CONTD TO NEXT PAGE 

JVP HOME PAGE

A REPORT ON THE 1971 UPRISING BY FRED HALLIDAY