Forward to a workers and small farmers government in Sri Lanka

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SRI LANKA is facing a revolutionary upheaval as workers and young people took to the streets over the weekend demanding the immediate resignation of the right-wing president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his entire government.

The mass movement erupted as the country is gripped by the worst economic crisis in its history leading to massive increases in food prices, petrol, prolonged power cuts lasting up to 13 hours, and imports of food and medicines cut due to the inability of the government to find the funds for them.

Sri Lanka faces a massive foreign debt of £21 billion – while having just £1.7 billion of foreign reserves in the bank – making debt repayments impossible and forcing the country into bankruptcy

The inability to pay for food imports has caused the price of essentials like rice and milk powder to triple, and school exams being cancelled because there is no paper or ink.

Last Friday, Rajapaksa imposed a state of emergency across the country as mass demonstrations involving tens of thousands erupted in the capital Columbo with protesters storming the president’s house along with the homes of several government ministers. With public anger at fever pitch, dozens of MPs withdrew support from Rajapaksa’s coalition government including 16 from his own party, the SLPP.

On Sunday night all 26 members of the Sri Lankan cabinet resigned leaving just the president and his brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, still in office.

Instead of the regime change demanded by the people however, by Monday morning four of the key supporters of the government had been reappointed in a desperate attempt to form a unity government to quell the rapidly increasing uprising that the army and police have failed to suppress.

As one protesting teacher told the press: ‘This is an utter joke, we need the entire government to get out’ adding: ‘We have not been protesting to elect the same corrupt government back to power.’

Although a long time coming, the speed of the complete political and economic collapse of Sri Lanka has been accelerated by the impact of the Covid pandemic, which has the lucrative tourism industry, and the massive hike in food costs resulting from imperialist sanctions on Russia.

Food inflation alone hit an eye-watering 30.2% in March. In this crisis situation, the Rajapaksa government turned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) begging for a bail-out.

However, the IMF is showing a marked reluctance to plough the billions required to keep the collapsing Sri Lankan economy afloat.

The IMF has noted that the policies it would demand any government to impose in return for a bail-out to reduce its foreign debt ‘are neither economically nor politically feasible’.

The IMF is clearly reluctant to try to impose the usual measures of forcing privatisation, and cuts to services and wages that accompany its bail-outs on a country that is completely bankrupt and whose people are rising up and demanding real change.

In January, the IMF warned that ‘vulnerable, emerging markets with massive debts’ faced going bankrupt.

Sri Lanka is the sharpest example of this massive crisis that is engulfing nations across the world and posing point blank the issue before workers and the masses that capitalism is a bankrupt system that cannot sustain life but can only offer starvation while the capitalist class lives in luxury.

What is clear is that the only way forward for the workers and masses in Sri Lanka is not just the cosmetic change of bringing down Rajapaksa but of taking power and bringing in a workers’ and small farmers’ government.

This will expropriate all the factories and plantations, along with nationalising the banks and putting them under workers’ control as part of building a socialist society. The only answer to the world crisis of capitalism is the world socialist revolution to put an end to capitalism once and for all.

This means building revolutionary sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in Sri Lanka and in every country to lead the fast-developing world socialist revolution to victory.