Amid strikes and mass protests against the Rajapakse government in Sri Lanka, the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC) has called on Kuppusamy Annamalai, leader of the ruling Tamil Nadu state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to May, the 1st. Annamalai attended the May Day meeting of the CWC in Nuwara Eliya as the special envoy of the Hindu Supremacist Government of India.
After attending the CWC May Day celebrations, Annamalai traveled to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka to meet officials of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). It came as millions of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim workers, farmers and students in Sri Lanka went on strike against the government of President Gotabhaya Rajapaks over fuel shortages, power cuts, rising prices of essential foodstuffs and escalating attacks on living standards.
CWC officials did not try to hide, but reveled in their ties to India’s BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Annamalai came to Sri Lanka as a representative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party. We invited Annamalai here as a sign of goodwill towards them, CWC Vice President Bharat Arulsamy told reporters.
The CWC’s invitation to the BJP exposes the reactionary politics of the CWC and the role of union bureaucracies like the CWC. He defends the positions of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) in Sri Lanka. Fighting to end the theft of workers by the ruling elites requires the independent mobilization and organization of the working class into grassroots action committees, organized independently of the unions, uniting workers across national borders in a struggle for socialism.
The claim that Annamalai traveled to Sri Lanka to help Tamil tea plantation workers, who for 170 years lived on starvation wages in tiny huts, is a fraud. Annamalai is a former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and now leader of the BJP in the state of Tamil Nadu. But the BJP oversees the detention of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India in squalid camps, opposes attempts to protect workers from COVID-19 through science-based health policies leading to millions of deaths, and serves as a military proxy for US imperialism against China.
The BJP government is brutally suppressing strikes against protests by Indian workers and peasants and has pursued a policy of blatant legal discrimination targeting Indian Muslims.
The CWC invites BJP officials to its events because, like the TNA, it is upset and terrified by the growing rise of the working class in Sri Lanka. He is determined to strangle the movement and bind the working class to the executive presidency of the Rajapakse regime.
Days before welcoming Annamalai to Nuwara Eliya for May Day, Arulsamy boasted of the CWC’s support for President Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who has been charged with war crimes for the mass murder of Tamil fighters and civilians at the end of the community war of 1983-2009. Arulsamy boasted: Our late leader Arumugam Thondaman supported Gotabhaya Rajapakse to come to power. Thondaman had given his full support to the government of Mahinda Rajapakse in 2005. Since then we have been supporting the government of Gotabhaya.
The CWC, while formally referring to the working class in its name, is essentially a bourgeois political party operating as a yellow union among plantation workers in the hinterland of Sri Lanka. The role they play, given the central role of tea exports in the Sri Lankan economy, is to ensure that workers harvest as much tea for the lowest wages possible. It has a notorious history of betraying the struggles of plantation workers and, like all bourgeois parties and trade unions in Sri Lanka today, it is deeply discredited.
The anti-government protests that have erupted in Sri Lanka are part of a global upsurge in the class struggle. The tens of millions of deaths and the breakdown of global supply chains due to the disastrous official mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the constant threat of imperialist war and the international price spike are causing massive anger around the world. .
Across the Indian subcontinent, political protests and strikes are on the rise. As protests continue in Pakistan over the US-backed impeachment of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Modis BJP government has faced mass protests against anti-Muslim legal measures, protests against farmers and the strikes of hundreds of millions of workers in India.
The CWC’s alliance with the BJP is a warning to Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslim workers in Sri Lanka, including plantation workers, and workers everywhere. The CWC’s decision to invite a BJP official who is a former high-ranking police officer makes it clear that it is not seeking to unify the struggles of Sri Lankan workers with those of workers in India and around the world. On the contrary, this union works with the most reactionary political forces in an attempt to divide the working class along national and ethnic lines.
The strongest warnings must be issued about the BJP. The Modi government observes very nervously the increasingly militant and politicized struggle of the Sri Lankan workers against the Rajapakse clan. It will not tolerate such a struggle indefinitely, as the BJP itself is terrified of facing an insurgent working class movement in India.
Working people in Sri Lanka must never forget how in July 1987 India’s Congress-led government Rajiv Gandhis struck an Indo-Sri Lankan pact and then helped slaughter opposition to the government’s austerity measures. right wing of the United National Party.
So-called Indian peacekeepers have arrived in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north with some relief supplies. However, they soon started massacring thousands of innocent Tamils. The Sri Lankan army, which was fighting Tamil nationalist groups in the north and east, was released to quell the struggles in the south. There they massacred over 60,000 Sinhalese.
There is no doubt that the CWC, like the TNA, is discussing plans for a new Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Significantly, the CWC, which also supported the communal war against the Tamil minority peoples in the north and east waged by the government of President JR Jayewardene from 1983, backed the Indo-Lankan pact of 1987 Additionally, he was directly implicated in state repression of young plantation workers during the Communal War of 1983-2009.
The key issue facing workers in Sri Lanka and India is to unify the struggles of the working class against starvation, mass infection and the threat of war imposed by capitalist governments in the region. This requires a break with bourgeois organizations like the CWC, the building of rank-and-file independent committees, and the unification of Sri Lankan and Indian workers of all ethnic and religious backgrounds in a struggle for socialism.
The CWC, led by Soumyamoorthy Thondaman since the early 1950s, has its headquarters in Colombo 7, an ultra-rich district. His great-grandson, Jeevan Thondaman, is the current secretary of CWC. The leadership of the CWC is appointed by the heirs of Thondaman, who amassed fortunes in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu.
Other plantation syndicatesP. National Union of Thigambarams Workers, Mano Ganesans Democratic People’s Front, Democratic Congress of Workers, National Workers’ Union, Hinterland People’s Front and Janatha Vimukthi-linked Ceylon Plantation Workers’ Union Peramuna (JVP) are no better. All are industrial executors of the state, seeking to get as many export dollars as possible while leaving workers with the lowest wages possible. They fear the danger that the overthrow of Rajapakse would pose to their own privileges.
The class allies of the Sri Lankan workers are not the Indian bourgeois BJP, but millions of workers in India and around the world. Workers and youth must be mobilized independently of these decrepit national bureaucracies, in organizations like the SEP-backed Sri Lankan Plantation Action Committees, to oppose imperialist war and the looting of workers by the bourgeoisies, on the basis of a struggle for socialism.
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