13th day of November 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the November heroes in Sri Lanka. The heroes who sacrificed their precious lives during one of the darkest period in our country (1987-1990) are sacredly referred to as ‘November heroes’. We commemorate them every year not just as a token gesture, but to inspire younger generation to lead by example and learn valuable lessons from their struggle to bring about a better society. To honour them truthfully we ought to focus on the essence of their struggle. We may generalise that the struggle of the November Heroes was anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and against the repressive Capitalist State. It is important to look at the historical circumstance in order to understand the true nature that made their struggle inevitable. In the late 70’s, the first elected executive President JR Jayewardene’s UNP regime had introduced neo-liberalism relinquishing many years of Keynesian State Welfare policies.
Inevitably these reforms led to resistance from the people who were antagonised by the changes which were taking place. The Student Movement and Trade Union Movement in Sri Lanka were among the groups that steered such resistance. The Jayewardene regime reacted to developing resistance by merciless crack down on the student movement and the Trade Union movement. The regime unleashed paid thugs, bicycle chain gangs and pro-government vigilantes to deploy brutal attacks on those movements. The State also unleashed terror in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, displaying a harsh and utter shameful nature of regime’s barbarity by setting the landmark Jaffa public library on fire in the time of the District Development Council elections. Such ruthless acts led to escalation of the separatist violence in those areas which in turn led to further repression.
The Jayewardene regime sought to undemocratically extend the duration of Parliament (taking advantage of overwhelming majority they had in the parliament) by means of the infamous Referendum. In the meantime then Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was an alternative or the only true opposition to the prevailing undemocratic system. The Jayewardene regime was quick to identify JVP as a political force and a threat and wanted to suppress the movement by any means. The regime also used the communal violence committed against the Tamil people living in Sinhala majority areas as a scapegoat to proscribe the JVP blaming for escalating the situation. In fact the instigation of violence against the Tamil people was orchestrated by the regime. President Jayewardene went to the extent of getting then Inspector General of Police Frank Silva to prepare a false report implicating the JVP for the unrest in order to justify his actions. As matters in the country turned worse, India became heavily involved in the pursuit of its hegemonic agenda while pretending to be the protector of the Tamil people.
The regime of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi twisted President Jayewardene’s arm to enter into the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord signed in Colombo amidst strong opposition and people taking to the streets and rioting which were brutally thwarted . Under the said Accord, Indian troops occupied the North and East, and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which created Provincial Councils was enacted amidst opposition. The 13th Amendment itself was extracted from the Indian Constitution with some of the provisions thereof being verbatim reproductions of their Indian counterparts. The JVP was proscribed in this situation, which was, then an underground movement vehemently opposed these developments leading all the way to an armed struggle against the dictatorial and repressive capitalist regime. The struggle was essentially both anti-Capitalist, anti-Imperialist and against Indian occupation. In this precarious situation even though there were shortcomings and miscalculations in the application, some of them fatal leading to an ultimate defeat, we need to bring our attention and appreciate the salient points of importance in the struggle of the November Heroes. The movement which originated in opposition to the class collaborationist, opportunist policies of the old Left Parties never wavered from its non class collaborationist position even under severe repression. The heroes resisted all pressure of compromising with one or the other Bourgeoisie political party even in the face of unbearable repression. Though they could have arrived at compromise to get the proscription lifted, they refused to give up their values or struggle. They never wavered from their chosen path of class struggle and never fell into Parliamentarianism. This persistence of our November Heroes may be compared with the practices of other contemporary left movements.
The Italian Communist Party which was at the time the largest communist party in Western Europe gave up the path of class struggle and discarded Marxism-Leninism, the only true ideology of the Proletariat while calling it a dead branch. Even in countries close to us, Left parties fell into Parliamentarianism and Class Collaboration abandoning the path of class struggle. Parties adopted coalition politics forming alliances with sections of the Bourgeoisie which they identifies as “progressive”. More recent examples of Left or rather pseudo-Left political parties and movements embracing Parliamentarianism and Class Collaboration are provided by Syria of Greece and Podemos of Spain. In contrast, the JVP which was formed way back in 1965 and posed unambiguous opposition to the parliamentarianism, opportunism, and class collaborationism of the Old Leftist Parties, it is paradoxical now fell into the same abyss subsequently to its re-building after been decimated in the period of white terror in 1989.
It embarked on that path of class collaborationism by assisting to sustain the regime of Chandrika Kumaranatunga in 2001 by devising the Probationary Government concept. Thereafter, the JVP slid further down the path of opportunism and revisionism when it formed the so-called “United Peoples Freedom Alliance” with the SLFP, under which it contested the Parliamentary General Elections 2004, and accepted four Cabinet Ministerial Portfolios and four Deputy Ministerships in the People’s Alliance Government. The JVP campaigned vigorously for Mahinda Rajapakse in the Presidential Elections held in 2005, subsequently at the next Presidential Election the JVP was instrumental in promoting former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka as a “common candidate” against Mahinda Rajapakse. Commander Fonseka was ironically the common candidate of the JVP and of the UNP who had massacred the November Heroes. In the most recent episode of betrayal of its founding policies and the values of the November Heroes, the JVP covertly backed Maithripala Sirisena at the recent Presidential Election and has covertly become part of the bourgeois mechanism by accepting positions in the executive apparatus while pretending to be an opposition party. Its mantra now switched to a campaign of eliminating corruption and cleaning up the Capitalist system rather than taking up the class struggle and practicing proletarian politics. In those circumstances it is our inviolable responsibility to take up the banner of class struggle, the truly meaningful way to commemorate the November Heroes.
The Frontline Socialist Party has commemorated November heroes under the context that the country need a real genuine and revolutionary left movement to defeat the imperialism, neo liberalism and developing oppressive bureaucratic regime and lead the oppressed to socialism.