MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of People
Siddaman, K. (1923 - present?)
Worked in Madurai as a tailor. Joined Bolshevik Leninist Party of India during WWII. His shop in the center of Madurai served as the “post office” and meeting place for the BLPI. Remained sympathetic to the Trotskyists his entire life. Living in ill health in Madurai.
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
Šik, Ota (1919-2004)
Czech economist and politician. He was the man behind the 1968 economic liberalization plan and was one of the key figures in the Prague Spring.
Šik was born in the industrial town of Plzeň, Czechoslovakia. Before the Second World War Šik studied Art at Charles University of Prague, and studied politics after the war.
Following the German annexation of the Sudetenland, and the partition of the whole nation in March 1939, Šik joined the Czech Resistance movement. However, he was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940 and sent to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. At Mauthausen Šik’s fellow inmates included Antonín Novotný, the future president of Czechoslovakia who was succeded by the leader of the Prague Spring Alexander Dubček, and Dubcek’s father, Stefan.
The connections that Šik made at Mauthausen proved useful in his post-war political career. In the early 1960s he attempted to persuade the harline president, Novotný, into loosening his rigid adherence to central planning, which had been crippling the economy. Šik, who by this point was an economics professor and member of the Communist party, wanted to bring market elements into central planning, to relax price controls and to promote private enterprise in the hope of kick-starting the stagnant economic climate. It was around this point that Šik was elected to the party’s central committee and was made head of the economics institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences.
Šik’s reforms were launched in 1967, before Dubček came to power, bet were heavily watered down by party apparatchiks who worried about losing control of the factories. The only palpable, and certainly the most popular, result of the reforms was the appearance of private taxis on the streets of Prague. In December 1967, at a party meeting that was a precursor to Dubček’s coup a month later, Šik publicly denounced Novotný’s regime. He demanded a fundamental change to the Communist system and a new leadership, two decades before Mikhail Gorbachev he announced that economic reform could not be separated from fundamental political change. By this point Czechoslovakia had the lowest living standards in the Soviet bloc, whereas previously it had been the economic backbone of the Habsburg empire.
Following Dubček’s successful coup, Šik was made a deputy prime minister in April 1968 and he was the architect of the economics section of Dubček’s action programme. Šik claimed that if his policies were followed then Czechoslovakia would be on an economic par with neighbouring Austria within four years. However these plans were never followed out after the Prague Spring was brutally ended in August of the same year by the tanks of the Red army.
When the tanks rolled into Prague Šik was on holiday in Yugoslavia, with the threat of arrest looming he never returned to his homeland. Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviet Communist Party’s propaganda machine singled Šik out for particular attention. In August 1968 TASS issued a press release calling him an agent of U.S. imperialism and “one of the most odious figures of the right-wing revisionists.”
Šik left Yugoslavia in October 1968 and moved to Switzerland. He became an economic professor at the University of St. Gallen in 1970, he held the post until he retired in 1990. Even after the Velvet Revolution Šik never returned to the Czech Republic, he became a Swiss citizen and lived there until his death.
See Ota Šik Archive.
de Silva, Colvin Reginald (1907– 1989)
Party pseudonyms: C.R. Govindan, Lily Roy, Dias (Diaz).
Born Randombe village, near Balapitiya (Southern Province), Ceylon. Educated St. John’s College, Panadura, Royal College, Colombo, and King’s College, University of London. Studied law at Lincoln’s Inn. Secretary, Ceylon Students Association in London, 1926. Visited the USSR, 1931. President, Wellawatte Mills Union, 1932. Founding leader, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 1935. President of Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 1935-39. Jailed 1940; escaped and went to Bombay, 1942. Worked in Bolshevik Leninist Party of India groups in Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, 1942-45. Attended BLPI conference, 1944. Central Committee, BLPI, 1944-47; and General Secretary, BLPI. Delegate to BLPI conference, 1947; attended BLPI conferences, 1948. Member of Ceylon Parliament, 1947-52 and 1956-60. International Executive Committee, Fourth International, 1948. Minister,Plantations, Constitutional Affairs, LSSP-SLFP-CP United Front government, 1970-75. Author: Ceylon Under the British Occupation, 1795-1833 (1942), Socialism Reaffirmed (1944), The Why and the Wherefore (1952), Hartal! (1953), Outline of the Permanent Revolution: A Study Course (1955), Their Politics – And Ours (1954), Lessons of the Local Government Elections (1955), The Failure of Communalist Politics (1958), Fifty Years of Public Life (1982), and Party and Revolution (1974).
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
de Silva, P.H. William (1908– 1988)
Party pseudonym: Karunatatna.
Born Batapola (Ambalangoda), Ceylon, son of a wealthy professional and land-owning family. Educated St. John’s College, Panadura, and University College, Oxford. Joined the India League and a Marxist study group with other Ceylonese students, London. Returned to Ceylon and joined LSSP. Jailed at Bogambara and Badulla, 1943-45. Member of Parliament, 1947 and 1953. Leader, All-Ceylon Estate Workers Union. Vice President, All-Ceylon Congress of Samasamaja Youth Leagues. Split from LSSP, October 1953, joined VLLSP, and became member Central Committee. Founding leader, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP). Minister of Industries and Fisheries, SLFP-MEP coalition government, 1956-59. Member of Parliament, 1960. Vice President, SLFP. High Commissioner to Canada, 1970.
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
de Silva, Susan (Mrs. George Caldera)
Party pseudonym: Martin
Born Ceylon, probably Burgher in background. Joined the Ceylon Labour Party of A.E. Goonesinha. Subsequently joined the South Colombo Youth League. Married George Caldera, joint secretary of the South Colombo Youth League. Activist in Suriya Mal movement. Founding member, Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 1935. Owned the Red Lion Café. Attended the Indian National Congress session, Tripuri, 1939. During WWII worked in the underground with R.W. Amaradasa Fernando. Became pro-Stalinist, quit LSSP, and applied for membership in CP, 1948. Admitted to CP, 1952. Later withdrew from politics and lived on her family’s plantation.
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
Sinclair, Upton (1878-1968 )
American socialist, novelist, essayist, playwright, and short story writers. His most famous books is The Jungle (1906), which brought about a government investigation of the meatpacking plants of Chicago, and change in the food laws.
Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a liquor salesman and drank himself to death; his mother came from a relatively wealthy family. When Sinclair was ten, the family moved to New York, and he started to write dime novels at the age of 15. In 1897 he enrolled Columbia University, while producing one poorly paid novelette per week.
By 1904 Sinclair was moving toward a realistic fiction. He read Socialist classics and became a regular reader of the Appeal to Reason, a socialist-populist weekly. He was never a Communist, but he was often portrayed as a violent revolutionary. In 1934 he resigned from the Socialist Party.
He gained fame in 1906 with The Jungle, a report on the dirty conditions in the Chicago meat-packing industry. Jurgis Rudkus, the protagonist, is a young Lithuanian immigrant. He arrives in America dreaming of wealth, freedom, and opportunity. Jurgis finds work from the flourishing, filthy Chicago stockyards. First he likes his work, and is astonished when his comrades hate it. Gradually his optimistic world vision fade in the hopeless “wage-slavery” and in the chaos of urban life, and he becomes a criminal, and then a Socialist.
The book won Sinclair fame and fortune, and led to the implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. It had the deepest social impact since Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. President Theodore Roosevelt received 100 letters a day demanding reforms in the meat industry and Sinclair was called to the White House. The proceeds of the book enabled Sinclair to establish and support the socialist commune Helicon Home Colony in New Jersey.
See The Jungle.
Siriwardena, Coddipiliarachchi Don Reginald (1922– 2004)
Party pseudonym: Hamid
Born Ratmalana (Colombo suburb). Educated St. Thomas College, Mount Lavinia; Ananda College, Colombo; and Ceylon University College. Joined Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 1939. Conducted study classes for LSSP during the war. Left party in 1946. Journalist, Ceylon Daily News until early 1960s. Senior English Teacher, Royal College, Colombo. Founder, English Department, Vidyalankara College, Kelaniya. Writer, poet, and playwright. Wrote screen plays for the award-winning film, Gamperaliya (1965) and Golu Hadawata (1969). Founded Civil Rights Movement after the 1971 JVP insurrection. Awarded Gratien Prize for best writer in English, 1995. Editor, Nethra (International Centre for Ethnic Studies). Author: Equality and the Religious Traditions of Asia (1987), The End of a Golden String (1989), Waiting for the Soldier (1989), To the Muse of Insomnia (1990), Addressing the Other (1992), Poems and Selected Translations (1993), Octet: Collected Plays (1995), The Lost Lenore (1996), Among My Souvenirs (1997), Working Underground: The LSSP in Wartime (1999), The Pure Water of Poetry (1999), and The Protean Life of Language: Four Studies (2001). Co-Author: Communication Policies in Sri Lanka: a Study (1977).
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
Sittampalam, V. (1911 – 1946)
Born Epoh (Malaysia), son of P. Vallipuram, and elder brother of Vallipuram Sachithanandam. Educated Jaffna College, Vaddukkoddai, Ceylon. Joined the Jaffna Youth Congress in the 1930s. One of the early Tamil Marxists in Ceylon. Organized the Tobacco Workers Union and Omnibus Union in Jaffna. Founding member of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, 1935. Practiced law in Jaffna. Married Gemma Singham. Worked with Edmund Samarakkody and Willie Jayatilleke to organize the strikes on the plantations in Uva Province during the 1939-40 strike wave. Challenged the communal politics of G.G. Ponnambalam in the North. Died of pneumonia. Author: Communalism or Nationalism: A Reply to the Speech Delivered in the State Council on the Reforms Despatch (1939), opposing G.G. Ponnambalam’s demand for Sinhalese-Tamil parity in the State Council.
Compiled by Charles Wesley Ervin
Sirola, Yrjö Elias (né Sirén) (1876-1936)
Finnish socialist politician, teacher, and newspaper editor. He was prominent as an elected official in Finland, as minster of foreign affairs in the 1918 Finnish revolutionary government, as a founder of the Communist Party of Finland, and as a functionary of the Communist International.
Born November 8, 1876 the son of a minister, Yrjö Elias Sirola graduated from university in 1896 and went to work as a school teacher in Finland. He joined the Social Democratic Party in 1903 and served as an editor of the Kansan Lehti (“Newspaper of the People”) from 1904 to 1906 and as an editor of the Helsinki Työmies (“Workman”) from 1906. In 1905, Sirola was appointed as Secretary of the SDP, a role which enabled him to play an active part in the general strike of that year. Sirola also wrote several books on social and political themes and translated works by August Strindberg and Karl Kautsky to Finnish.
Sirola was elected as a member of the parliament from the SDP from 1907 to 1909. He was forced into emigration by the Tsarist government, however, landing in America. There he worked as a professor of social science at the Finnish Socialist Federation’s Work People’s College in Smithville, Minnesota.
The March 1917 Revolution in Russia brought Sirola home to his motherland, where he again served as a Social Democratic parliamentary deputy in 1917 and 1918. He was a leader of the radical left wing of the party who supported the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in November 1917 and who sought to emulate Lenin’s results in Finland.
On November 11, 1917, Sirola arrived in Petrograd with his comrade Evert Huttunen, where he met with Lenin at Smolnyi about how radicals in Finland might aid the Bolshevik uprising and about revolutionary prospects in Finland. Lenin was fearful that troops loyal to the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky would be pulled from Finland to crush the Bolshevik uprising. He urged the Finns to initiate a general strike in an effort to emulate the Bolsheviks in their seizure of power. Sirola and Huttunen took the opposite impression from this meeting with Lenin than the one which the Russian leader had intended, however, interpreting the Bolshevik grip on power as being extremely tenuous and believing it dangerous for the Finnish SDP to build its plans around the survival of the Bolshevik government. This cautious perspective was shared by the SDP’s parliamentary group, but radicals in the party pushed the revolution forward nonetheless, calling a general strike for November 14. Sirola was one of three SDP leaders to exercise general control over the strike arrangements.
As one historian has noted:
“The instructions for the conduct of the strike required that in each community a revolutionary council would be set up with full authority over all workers’ organizations, above all the Red Guard, which was to be the executive arm of the workers’ power. The Red Guard would work with the militia in keeping order, mount guards and patrols, arrest dangerous enemies of the workers, confiscate liquor stocks, and stop the spread of rumors. The instruction ended with the standard injunction that ‘during the general strike, order and discipline must be preserved irreproachably. It must be remember that revolution is not the same as outrage and anarchy.’”
Each community experienced the general strike that launched the Finnish Revoluionary Government in a different way, ranging from complete inaction to Red Guards nailing shut the doors of stubborn businessmen who defied the strike. The success of the action generated pressure among the working class to move to a full seizure of power in emulation of the Bolshevik seizure of power a week earlier. Sirola still held that the armed seizure of power was premature, however. He argued at a meeting of the SDP’s Revolutionary Council convened in the early morning hours of November 16 that “the position in Russian and the eventual attack of the Germans” was decisive and that the prudent course of action was to pressure parliament into making concessions, guaranteeing action on food and granting and back wages to those who participated in the general strike action. The parliamentary delegates taking such a cautious position were in a minority, however, and at 5:00 am the Revolutionary Council voted 14-11 in favor of seizing power. The Revolutionary Council was reorganized, with Sirola and the parliamentary group (the minority) refusing to take part. Two hours later their nerve of the majority failed them, however, and the newly reorganized Revolutionary Council backed away from armed insurrection, in favor of an aggressive push for concessions from the bourgeois parties.
As Anthony Upton notes:
“In effect Sirola had won and emerged as the leading figure on the morning of 16 November; his policy, that of stepping up the pressure until they got a government that would satisfy the basic demands on food and guarantee immunity from reprisal, was adopted. On his suggestion, they decided to take over the railways, close the law courts, and compel all the agencies of central and local government to cease activity... There was also an attempt to satisfy the restlessness of the Red Guard by assigning to it a new task: It was to begin systematic searches for hidden stocks of food, if possible with the authorization of local Food Boards, but if necessary without...”
On their own authority the Red Guard began arresting and jailing bourgeois notables, however, and the drive towards revolution careened forwards. On November 18, a group of angry railway workers came to see the SDP leaders, telling party leader Kullervo Manner to his face “you have betrayed the workers, the strike must go on until a socialist government is established.” The Strike Committee met that same night and declared in favor of a socialist government and that the Red Guard must stay armed until this was achieved and “all power is taken into the workers’ hands.” The conservative government headed by P.E. Svinhufvud refused to make concessions to the socialist opposition, with parliament voting down proposals to lower the voting age and to grant the vote immediately to tenant farmers. A new cabinet was put together by Svinhufvud which did not include a single socialist, a body confirmed by parliament on November 24 by a vote of 100 to 80. Parliamentary maneuvering was met with spontaneous armed actions by Red Guard in various localities in which some 34 people were killed, mostly victims of Red Guard violence. This increasing hostility created an impenetrable barrier between the two sides. With the conservative parliamentary majority intent upon disarming the Red Guards and establishing a monarchical form of government, the nation descended into civil war.
On January 19, 1918, a pitched battle broke out between Red Guards and the conservative Protective Corps of Viipuri, which Russian troops coming to the aid of their allies in the fight.  Fighting spread with the Red Guards beginning the seizure of Helsinki on the night of January 27/28. White forces headed by General Carl Mannerheim controlled the northernmost five-sixths of Finland, while the Reds controlled the Southernmost region, containing approximately half of the country’s population and including the cities of Pori, Turku, Tampere, Riihimäki, Helsinki, Kotka, and Viipuri. A Finnish Revolutionary Government was declared, in which Sirola served as Commissar of Foreign Affairs.
The civil war proved to be a one-sided affair, with the superior officer corps and materiel of the White forces under Mannerheim winning the day. By the spring of 1918, with the Red government clearly on the road to military defeat at the hands of the Whites, Sirola coordinated the evacuation of the leadership of the revolutionary government. On April 7, a meeting of Finnish socialists took place in Petrograd, at which various settlement plans were discussed, with Sirola setting up an office in Petrograd to look after the refugees already beginning to arrive three days later. Evacuation became official policy on April 14, 1918. Historian Anthony Upton notes
“The choices before the socialist leaders were unconditional surrender, a glorious fight to the finish in Finland ending in almost certain martyrdom, or a prudent withdrawal with a view to a future return. It was not a difficult choice to make, and did not mean, as their detractors had always claimed, that they were weak and cowardly men who betrayed their faithful but deluded followers. They were Marxists, and could see their defeat as only an episode in the class war, which always continued, and their duty was not to indulge in glorious gestures of defiance, but to persevere in the struggle.”
The Finnish Socialist Republic finally fell on May 15, 1918.
Sirola was involved in establishing the Finnish Communist Party at the end of August 1918 in Moscow. The governing Central Committee of this new organization established itself in Petrograd, where it launched a daily newspaper and magazines in Finnish and Swedish and put into print over 40 pamphlets during its first year. Underground organizations of this new party were established inside Finland, where they distributed literature and conducted propaganda work.
In January 1919, he was the Finnish CP’s signatory to the call for the formation of the Communist International and in March of that year he was a delegate to the founding convention, held early in March 1919. At the founding convention of the Comintern, Sirola delivered the report on the Finnish revolution:
“Although not adequately prepared politically or militarily for such a struggle, the workers held their ground at the front for three months, while at the same time doing a great deal behind the lines to organize social and economic life.
“That first revolution by the Finnish proletariat was defeated. The willingness to sacrifice and the courage of the comrades, men and women, who fought in the Red Guard and the invaluable aid given by our Russian comrades were not enough to repel the onslaught launched by the international gangs of White Guards led by Finnish, Swedish, German, and Russian officers. At the end of April, German imperialism tipped the balance by committing regular army troops to the fight. The White Guards were then able to block the plan to evacuate the revolution’s best surviving forces to Russia.”
In the wake of the Finnish uprising and its bloody aftermath, in which over 11,000 prisoners of the victorious Whites died of starvation, disease, or execution, Sirola had clearly cast his lot with revolutionary methods as opposed to parliamentarism:
“For too long, we...were imbued with the ideology of a ‘united’ workers’ movement. Only after the revolution did the split become unavoidable. There was a sharp polarization. The bourgeois dictatorship in Finland gave the extreme right wing of the old Social Democracy ‘freedom’ of organization and of the press for the express purpose of pacifying the workers. These traitors did their best to defeat the revolution the Finnish proletariat had made the previous year and to propagandize for a peaceful workers’ movement functioning through parliament, trade unions, and cooperatives.... But the admonitions of those bourgeois lackeys are alien to the masses, who are tormented by prison, hunger, and poverty. The workers’ memories of the White Terror are still fresh, and they can see the living example of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia.”
Sirola also represented the Finnish party at the meetings of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI). While he was not a delegate to the 2nd World Congress of the Comintern in 1920, he did attend the 3rd World Congress in 1921 and in June 1922 took part in the 2nd Enlarged Plenum of ECCI. People’s Commissar of Education in the Soviet Republic of Karelia, close to the Finnish border.
Sirola was a representative of the Communist International to the US Communist Party from 1925 to 1927, replacing Sergei Gusev. While in America, Sirola used the pseudonym “Frank Miller.”
In 1930 Sirola left his position as a functionary of the Comintern to become People’s Commissar of Public Education in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Karelia. Sirola also taught periodically in Leningrad at the Communist University of the National Minorities of the West in the department for Finns and Estonians and at the International Lenin School in Moscow.
Yrjö Sirola died a natural death on November 18, 1936, just prior to the onset of the secret police terror of 1937-38 in the Soviet Union.
An educational institution of the Finnish Communist Party, named the Sirola institution after Sirola, existed in Vanajanlinna after the end of the war until the end of the 1980s.
1. Branko Lazitch and Milorad M. Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern: New, Revised, and Expanded Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Instiution Press, 1986; pg. 431.
2. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 431.
3. C. Jay Smith, Jr., Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1958; pg. 26.
4. Anthony F. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980; pp. 146-147; Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, pg. 26. Smith emphasizes Lenin’s advocacy of a general strike as a diversionary tactic, Upton indicates Lenin sought his Finnish comrades to make a direct bid for power.
5. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 147.
6. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 150.
7. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pp. 150-151.
8. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 151.
9. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 155.
10. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 157.
11. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 157.
12. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pp. 157-158.
13. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 162.
14. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 162.
15. Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922, pg. 28.
16. Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922, pg. 34.
17. Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922, pg. 36.
18. Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922, pg. 38.
19. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 495.
20. Upton, The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918, pg. 496.
21. Yrjö Sirola, “Report on Finland” (March 2, 1919), Founding the Communist International: Proceedings and Documents of the First Congress, March 1919. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987; pg. 71.
22. Sirola, “Report on Finland,” pg. 71.
23. Sirola, “Report on Finland,” pg. 71.
24. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 432.
25. Sirola, “Report on Finland,” pg. 70.
26. Historian Jay Smith noted in a 1958 monograph that of 73,915 prisoners in the hands of the White Finnish Government on July 5, 1918, “no less than 11,783 were dead by the beginning of November.” Executions made up a tiny fraction of this total, with the deaths of the great mass “the result of malnutrition, aggravated by the filthy conditions of the prison camps.” Smith indicated that there was no evidence of a deliberate attempt by White authorities to engage in systematic homocide by starvation and disease. Smith, Finland and the Russian Revolution, 1917-1922, pg. 88.
27. Sirola, “Report on Finland,” pp. 70-71.
28. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 432.
29. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 432.
30. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 432.
31. Lazitch and Drachkovitch, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern, pg. 432.