Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 30 August 2009





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

CP-VLSSP United Front and inauguration of the SLFP

D. A. Rajapaksa

A. P. Jayasuriya

D. S. Gunasekera

Philip Gunawardena, who left the LSSP with his supporters at the party conference held on May 14, 1950 forcibly took over LSSP party headquarters on the following day with the assistance of harbour workers. They evicted all the others but did not do any harm to Robert Gunawardena who was there with his hand bandaged because of an injury. This incident became the subject matter for the daily cartoon in ‘Lankadipa’ titled ‘Apoorva Sahodarayo’ in Sinhala meaning ‘strange brothers’.

Phillip Gunawardena claimed that his group was maintaining the continuity of the LSSP formed in 1935. He branded the united party formed with the merger of the LSSP and the BSP as the ‘Nava Lanka Samasamaja Party’ (new LSSP). The national newspapers followed suit and it came to be known as the NLSSP.

The party headed by Philip issued its journal as the ‘Viplavakari Samasamajaya’ as such it came to be known as the

Jayaweera Kuruppu

George R. de Silva

Badi-ud-din Mahamud

T. B. Ilangaratne

Viplavakari Lanka Samasamaja Party (VLSSP) as distinct from the NLSSP. The VLSSP comprised mainly of the working class whereas all the powerful party cadres were found in the NLSSP. Soon the VLSSP was faced with financial constraints.

The VLSSP could not maintain forcibly taken party headquarters for long and its journal too came to an abrupt end. The VLSSPcould not keep pace with its rival counterpart, the NLSSP. In the meantime the attitude of Philip Gunawardena towards Trotskyism too underwent a change.

In 1938 Leon Trotsky expected that within 10 years millions all over the world would adopt Trotskyism and Trotskyites would seize power in Soviet Russia. These never materialised. On the other hand Stalin by whatsoever the manner was able to develop Soviet Union to become a world power. Besides China became a Communist country in 1949 and Communism was spreading fast in Asia, American continent and even in Europe. The whole world began to be divided into two camps and Soviet Russia headed the socialist bloc.

Trotskyism was found only in a few countries like Sri Lanka and Bolivia and among a handful in countries like France and USA. The LSSP in Sri Lanka was the strongest Trotskyite mass movement in the whole world! Philip found that there was no meaning to stick to Trotskyism any more. Although he acknowledged that there were some good aspects in Trotskysim, he found that in the prevalent situation it was a spent-force.

In 1950; the economy in Sri Lanka improved as prices of our rubber and other export items fetched higher in the world market. The Korean boom was a blessing to the country. Instead of using the balance of payments to develop the country, the UNP government reduced the subsidised price of rice to 25 cents a measure and put down the prices of other consumer goods. At that time the subsidised price of rice was 36 cents a measure and there was no agitation to reduce it. It was a step taken by the UNP to win the next election. In the long run it retarded the progress of the country as moneys could have been used for the development of the country.Nevertheless the UNP government became popular as the prices of consumer items went down. At this time Philip realised that there should be a united front of the Leftists if the UNP were to be ousted. The LSSP was not amenable to such a unity as it wanted to form a workers’ and peasants’ government under its own leadership. Accordingly Philip Gunawardena turned towards the Communist Party. By this time Philip had given up Trotskyism and there was no hindrance for him to come to terms with the CP.

In April 1951 a united front between the CP and the VLSSP was formed. Its aim was to work for the establishment of a government that would constitute an alliance of all anti-imperialist and anti-UNP forces under the leadership of the working class. Such a government was to have a close understanding with the Soviet Union and the Communist China.

The LSSP denounced the CP-VLSSP United Front as a vague formation without a proper objective to overthrow capitalism. They branded it as a capitulation of Philip Gunawardena to Stalinism. The LSSP had enough reasons to take offensive against the move that brought together two of its rivals and thereby become a formidable challenge to its own supremacy in the Left.In 1951, there was another significant event in the political arena in Sri Lanka. The Sinhala Maha Sabha of S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike with a national agenda was a powerful force in the UNP. There was a general feeling that S. W. R. D. Bandaranike would succeed D. S. Senanayake as the Prime Minister. However there was a strong group in the UNP that abhored nationalism and wanted to prevent S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike attaining power.

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike could foresee it. He summoned a conference of the Sinhala Maha Sabha at Madampe and got a series of resolutions approved to direct the government towards national aspirations. The UNP headed by D. S. Senanayake refused to accommodate them. Thereupon in July 1951 S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike resigned from the post of Minister of Health and Local Government and joined the opposition in Parliament.

When S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike crossed over to the opposition, D. A. Rajapaksa, the father of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the MP for Beliatta at the time, too followed him. Later A. P. Jayasuriya, D. S. Gunasekera, George R. de Silva and Jayaweera Kuruppu too joined S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. On September 2, 1951, S. W. R. D. together with the MPs so crossed over inaugurated the SLFP. Independent Socialists like H. Sri Nissanka MP and other progressives outside Parliament like T. B. Ilangaratne and Badi-ud-din Mahamud too joined ranks with S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike to form the SLFP.

Philip could always visualise a progressive inclination in S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. That is why after the 1947 elections Philip made an attempt to form a government of progressives under him. As Bandaranaike has now crossed over to the opposition, Philip wanted to forge a unity among the progressives to defeat the UNP. At the annual conference of the LSSP held in December 1951 Philip distributed a pamphlet among its members to that effect.In 1950 with the merger of the LSSP and the BSP the party became stronger. The LSSP strengthened its youth leagues and prepared for the next general election. It aimed high and at the annual conference drew up a 14 point programme to form a workers’ and peasants’ government under its leadership. Withdrawal from the British Commonwealth, abrogation of defence and other agreements, grant of citizenship to all those who desired to be permanent residents, nationalisation of all banks and estates over 250 acres were highlights in its programme.

Although the LSSP was willing to come to some sort of agreement with the SLFP to defeat the UNP, it was not willing to come to any terms with the CP-VLSSP United Front. Philip Gunawardena, the Father of Trotskyism in Sri Lanka joining hands with the CP was a challenge to the LSSP and it did not like CP-VLSSP United Front gaining ground. All the efforts of Philip Gunawardena to unite the progressives to defeat the UNP failed.

At the 1952 elections, although steps were taken to avoid the clashes among the parties in the opposition, that did not come through. The SLFP clashed with the LSSP in 27 electorates. But the clashe between the LSSP and the CP-VLSSP United Front was reduced to 06.

The 1952 general election was held at a time favourable to the UNP. The UNP enjoyed prestige among people for winning the Independence as promised. As a result of the economic boom, prices of consumer goods had come down and the cost of living was low. Besides the Colombo Plan and the Gal-oya Development Scheme had made the UNP popular. The death of D. S. Senanayake called the ‘Father of the Nation’ swayed some voters to the UNP led by his son Dudley Senanayake.At the end UNP won 54 seats and got a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. The 1952 election was a setback to the Leftists. The LSSP contested 41 seats but could win only 9. The CP-VLSSP United Front could get only 4 and the SLFP won 9 seats.

The SLFP faced the 1952 elections without even one year after its formation. It had no time to get well organised for a general election. The SLFP winning 9 seats in its first attempt was an indication that it had the potentiality to be the alternative to the UNP. Its leader S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike became the Leader of the Opposition in the new Parliament.


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