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Fourth International, May-June 1952



The Ceylon Elections


From Fourth International, Vol.13 No.3, May-June 1952, p.95.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following letter from a friend in Ceylon gives some of the highlights of the May 26-30 general elections on the island. It fills in some of the details which explain how tho ruling capitalist party, the United National Party, won an overwhelming victory and the reasons for the loss of some 5 seats in the new parliament by the Lanka Samasamaja Party, Ceylonese section of the Fourth International:

* * *

COLOMBO, June 16 – This year we (the Lanka Samasamaja Party) had to face the full strength of the organized bourgeoisie, using every weapon in their possession and control against us – the press, the priests, the police and almost everywhere the state apparatus.

No analysis of the voting figures would be valid without the assumption that the votes were honestly counted. But that is precisely what is being questioned by wide sections of the population. Charges have been made that there was widespread ballot paper rackets and they have been openly made in the newspaper Trine. I personally am of the opinion that important substitutions did take place.

The bourgeoisie was far more organized in 1952 than in 1947.

Although in each electoral district, the total number of voters increased, in most cases the Left vote was deliberately not registered. The Indian vote (numbering thousands in the plantation areas) was excluded by government disfranchisement. Few if any of these votes would have gone to government candidates.

The daily press kept up a tremendous barrage against us ... The Left was supposed to be out to destroy democracy and religion – and the English-speaking middle classes were stampeded to the polls. Most of them were class conscious enough to have a bourgeois reaction to our program. As one of our comrades put it: “They rallied to save the 250 acres they do not have and the 2,000 rupees they hope to get.”

The Catholic priests went all out against us: sermonizing, canvassing, even driving cars on election day to bring voters to the polls. It was proclaimed a mortal sin to refrain from voting. And they got a response, especially from many women and the middle classes. In predominantly Catholic; areas the voting booths were in Church compounds. Some Catholic workers openly flouted all instructions and even hung up red flags in front of the churches. Some of the top-ranking Buddhist monks made pronouncements against us but that was partially counteracted because poorer Buddhist monks worked openly on our side ...

In each electoral district we received the Left vote whereas the UNP was able to scoop the “dead” i.e., the non-political vote. In most areas our vote remained steady in comparison with 1947. In view of the above, the actual vote we obtained is a tremendous achievement. The main division is as follows:




of total vote













SLFP [1]




Thus the UNP has a large majority in the parliament, 70 scats together with allied groups out of a total of 101. But this is no indication of their actual strength in the country. Our slogan of a Samasamaja Government (i.e. a Workers and Peasants Government) has polarized the country: the class conscious workers together with large sections of the peasantry on the one side, the bourgeoisie, the middle classes and the lumpenproletariat on the other. Our propaganda went over so well that the press is devoting columns to attacks on Colvin de Silva, outstanding LSSP leader, knowing full well that his very defeat in the election has raised his standing in the minds of the masses.

We all consider our job in the election a job well done. There has been no demoralization – on the contrary it is difficult to restrain our militants from immediate action. ... The country has been polarized and parliament will not be the arena for the next wave of mass struggles.


1. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party, a bourgeois party headed by former Health Minister Bandaraneike, which split away from the ruling UNP a few months before the elections.

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Last updated on: 14 April 2009