Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 4


Sydney Wanasinghe (1932–2007)

Sydney Wanasinghe died on 28 April 2007, at his Colombo (Sri Lanka) home. He was a long serving member of the LSSP (Lanka Sama Samaja Party), a member of its old guard, and remained a socialist until the end of his life.

Revolutionary History warmly appreciated the work he published, jointly with Wesley Muttiah, (to whom we are indebted for assistance with this notice) on the history of the LSSP and its struggles, which grew eventually to 6 volumes, Britain, World War 2 and the Samasamajists (1996), The Bracegirdle Affair (1998), We Were Making History: The Hartal of 1953 (2002), Socialist Women of Sri Lanka (2006), Two Languages, One Nation, One Nation, Two Languages (2006) and the last being an anthology of the speeches and articles of Dr. Colvin. R. de Silva (to be reviewed in the next issue of Revolutionary History). In addition Wanasinghe and Muttiah edited The Case for Socialism (2004). Wanasinghe also republished in 2006, Hundred Days in Ceylon under Martial Law by Armand de Souza criticising the colonial government’s response to the 1915 communal riots.

He graduated from the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, where he first became an activist, selling party papers in villages around Peradeniya. After graduating he taught at Carey College, Colombo, later working for the State Distilleries Corporation and the National Savings Bank. He served on the LSSP’s Central Committee and Political Committee, and at one time represented the district of Wellawatte North on the Colombo Council.

He organised the publication of an impressive sequence of pamphlets for the Young Socialists, including Luxemburg’s On the Spartacus Programme, Social Reform or Revolution, What is Economics?, The Mass Strike, The Junius Pamphlet and Trotsky’s My Flight From Siberia, Marxism and Science, The Problems of Life, The Struggle for State Power and Whither Russia? He was for a time the editor, publisher and principal writer of the Young Socialist.

His detailed knowledge of the history of the movement was often called upon by academic historians, and in 1999 he contributed an obituary for Mark Bracegirdle to the London Independent. He owned an enormous collection of books, documents, pamphlets and other material on the LSSP and ran the Suriya bookshop specialising in left-wing publications. As a scholar of the Sinhalese language he had translated and published pamphlets in that language, including material by Che Guevara.

Though often unwell recently he was planning further publications in Sinhalese. He was at work on his computer when taken ill on the 26th, two days before his death. He leaves a wife, daughter and two grandchildren, to whom we extend our condolences.

J.J. Plant

Updated by ETOL: 31.10.2011