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Workers’ International News, December 1944


Statement of Indian Trotskyists on Trial


From Workers’ International News, Vol.5 No.7, December 1944, p.15.
Also published in Socialist Appeal, December 1944, p.3. [1]
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Below is the full text of a statement made in the magistrate’s court at Kandy, Ceylon on Feb. 8 of this year by Comrades N.M. Perera and Philip Gunawardene, leading members of the Lanka Sama Samaja (Trotskyist) Party, who were tried and sentenced to prison on charges arising from their escape in 1942 from a British concentration camp.

I was arrested on the 8th of June 1940. I was kept in detention till the 7th of April, 1942. No specific or precise charges were ever made against me. I was not tried before a court of law. My colleagues and I refused to appear before the Advisory Committee – that mockery of judicial tribunals.

Why were we kept in detention? I challenge the right of Sir Andrew Caldecott, agent of the Bank of England and tool of the capitalist class of Britain, to issue a warrant for my arrest and detention. What right has the ruling class of Britain to rule over this island except superior force? Britain has as much right to rule over the people as the Nazis to rule over the people of Denmark and Norway, or the Japanese imperialists to rule over Formosa and Java. NO MORE. The British ruling class came to this island as pirates and have remained here as plunderers. The British Empire was built up by perjury by day and forgery by night.

Ever since my return to this island in 1932, my colleagues worked with ceaseless endeavour to disseminate the idea of scientific socialism among the petty bourgeois intelligentsia and the advanced sections of the working class. The spontaneous labour movement which displayed tremendous vigour and militancy in the twenties had spent its force in the stagnant waters of trade union politics by the early thirties. After three years of work in the propagation of Marxism, we had developed a sufficiently large nucleus, imbued with the ideas of scientific socialism, that we were in a position to launch the Lanka Sama Samaja Party, in December 1935. The history of the party is known to the people of this country. Suffice it to say that it put itself at the forefront of every struggle against imperialism and the capitalist class in this country ever since the party was founded.

The leadership of the LSSP from its very inception refused to come under the leadership of the Stalinist Communist International and remained loyal to the principles Lenin and Trotsky stood for in their day. In March 1940 the party, under the influence of the teachings of Trotsky expelled the Stalinists who were trying to smuggle into the party Stalinist contraband. In 1942 the LSSP became a section of the Fourth International, founded by Trotsky and comrades of the International Left Opposition.

When the Second Imperialist World War broke out in September, 1939, the party characterised the war as an imperialist war and took a revolutionary defeatist line. My colleagues and I continued to intensify the class struggle and the fight against British imperialism. War is the continuation politics by other means, i.e. by more forcible means. The character of the war is determined by the class that conducts the war. The war was and remains an imperialist war for markets, for sources of raw materials, for colonies. The “democratic” powers and the Axis powers are fighting to determine which group shall dominate the world. Democracy and Fascism are but two sides of the same coin. Over-ripe and decadent capitalism develops into Fascism when the working class fails to overthrow capitalism and set up, its own form of government – the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The Party refused to change its characterisation of the war on the entry of the Soviet Union into the war. It was quick however, in defining the war as an imperialist war on the part of every country involved in it except the Soviet Union and China. The Soviet Union is a workers’ state, though deformed. Thus the Soviet Union is fighting a progressive war in defence of the gains of the October Revolution. The Party supports the Soviet Union in this war and is doing everything in its power to enable the working class to render every independent assistance to the Soviet Union in this war. It stands for military victory against the counter-revolutionary forces of Hitler’s Europe.

We support the war of the Chinese workers and peasants for national liberation from the yoke of Japanese imperialism, But the party works for the defeat of British imperialism in this war by the forces of the colonial masses and the working class of Britain.

The war has set in motion social and political forces that the ruling classes of the warring imperialist powers never bargained for. Fascism is already tottering in Europe thanks to the hammer-blows of the Red Army. But Fascism is taking shape in Great Britain and America.

The fate of the Empire of the Mikado is sealed. The paper houses of the Mikado will go up in flames. But the working class in Japan is likely to settle accounts with the landlords and the capitalists of the Rising Sun – not the armed forces of America and the British Empire. Before this war is over civil war will spread over Europe and Asia. The Soviet Union will play a dominant part in the shaping of the world in the coming years.

Revolutions are on the order of the day. There is no room to believe that the European working class has not benefited from its experiences since the October Revolution in 1917. In the wake of the fall of Fascism working class revolutions will break out in Europe. The fall of Japanese imperialists will give rise to colonial revolution. Lenin characterized this epoch as the epoch of wars and revolutions.

I escaped from prison in April, 1942, for the purpose of helping the tiny group of Fourth Internationalists in India to build a party of the working class that can take advantage of the crises in Indian society that are breaking out in rapid succession. My colleagues and I timed our escape to be in India at one of the most important crises in her history. We are glad that we were able to play an infinitesimally small part, no doubt, in the movement that took place in India from August 1942.

We were arrested on the 15th of July 1943. After spending five long months in the jails of British Imperialism in India, we are back in the dungeons of British Imperalism in Ceylon. Time is with us, IMPERIALISM IS DOOMED, THE FUTURE IS WITH THE WORKING CLASS. The working class of Ceylon under the leadership of the Sama Samaja Party will play its part in the coming years.



1. In fact those on trial were, of course, Ceylonese or Sri Lankan Trotskyists.

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