International Committee of the Fourth International
Fourth International Vol. 15 No. 1 (March 1988)

Revolutionary Communist League Central Committee Statement on the Death of Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya

The Revolutionary Communist League Central Committee announces with great sorrow the death of Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya, a leader of the International Committee of the Fourth International and general secretary of the RCL, on December 18, 1987 of a heart attack.

The passing away of this dedicated and implacable Trotskyist fighter who was in the forefront of the leadership of the struggle for the world socialist revolution has left a void which no single individual could fill.

Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya came to the party office on December 18 as usual at 9.00 AM. After starting to write an article, he went out for a while to tea and returned to his table at about 10:30 AM. Then, having sent a comrade to fetch Comrade Wije Dias from the party press, he lay down complaining of chest pains. A few minutes later, he went back to his writing.

While at his work, he fell off his chair all of a sudden. Two comrades took him to the general hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival.

Untimely death snatched Comrade Keerthi from our midst at a point when his political and theoretical abilities were reaching fruition, a point at which his intervention in the arena of the world class struggle had become historically important.

He played an extremely important role, together with the leadership of the Workers League of the USA, the Socialist Labour League of Australia and the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter of West Germany, in defeating the Healy-Banda-Slaughter renegades of Great Britain who tried to destroy the International Committee from within.

Comrade Keerthi exposed the so-called independence granted by imperialism to colonial countries after 1945 to be nothing other than a device whereby the petty bourgeoisie was tied to the state in order to keep the proletariat in check. He pointed out that the states created by compromise between imperialism and the national bourgeoisie during the postwar period inherently embodied great nation oppression of small nations as a means of keeping the working class divided.

Another contribution made by Comrade Keerthi was the exposure of the treacherous role of the renegade Michael Banda as the servant of the Indian national bourgeoisie.

Comrade Keerthi, basing himself on Trotsky’s position that the Stalinist bureaucracy could act as a vehicle to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, pointed out that Gorbachev represented such a restorationist tendency.

These among other theoretical contributions of Comrade Keerthi sprang from the very axis of his political life, which was a relentless struggle for proletarian internationalism against the political hegemony of the national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie. The entire political work of the RCL was based on the fight for the independence of the working class and against chasing after the petty-bourgeois “masses.”

This was an enrichment of the International Committee’s heritage acquired in the struggle against the revisionist clique of Michel Pablo, who rejected the revolutionary role of the working class and capitulated to the petty bourgeoisie.

In the 1950s, the ICFI reaffirmed its fundamental perspective: “In the present epoch of wars and revolutions, the highest stage of capitalism, one in which imperialism is putrefying, the working class alone is the revolutionary class and is capable of putting an end to the shackle of private ownership of property and state boundaries, thus freeing the productive forces, and advancing to a new stage of human culture; the crisis of human culture can be resolved only by establishing sections of the ICFI revolutionary parties in every country, defeating the Stalinist bureaucracy.”

Such a revolutionary internationalist cadre was established in Sri Lanka at the founding congress of the RCL in May 1968 on the basis of the struggle carried out by the ICFI in the period from 1962 to 1963 against the attempts by the Socialist Workers Party of the USA to set up a reunification with the Pabloite United Secretariat, abandoning the lessons of the struggle against Pabloite revisionism.

Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya was elected general secretary at the founding congress of the RCL and continued in this position up to December 18, when he died at his desk.

He had intervened actively in the struggle to establish the Trotskyist party of Sri Lanka, fighting against the Pabloite tendencies represented by the LSSP (Revolutionary) and the “Sakti” group in the period from 1967-68, and was foremost among the group of young people who rallied around Comrade Spike (Wilfred Pereira), who led the struggle of the ICFI in this country.

Comrade Keerthi was barely 20 years old when he was elected to the leadership of the Trotskyists who had emerged out of the struggle against the world historic betrayal of 1964, when the LSSP leaders had entered into the coalition government with the bourgeois SLFP, with the connivance of the Pabloite United Secretariat.

He had entered the struggle for Trotskyism at the tender age of 17, while still a college student, discarding the prospect of a university career. Rejecting the easy life of a bourgeois intellectual, this young man took up the gigantic task of building the world party of socialist revolution. He marshalled his powerful intellect, skills and talents with unshakable determination, undaunted by the innumerable enemies and rose to giant stature as a conscious leader of the working class, giving expression to the strength of the proletariat.

His firm belief in the world historic destiny of the proletariat found expression in the boundless attention he paid to every party task. He fought to instill in every comrade the same confidence and commitment.

A Scientist of the Class Struggle

The source of the immense passion that he invested in his tasks lay in the absolute clarity that he had in its world historic significance. He was a scientist of the class struggle, in the fullest sense of the word. He fought consciously to grasp the class contradictions which constituted the laws of motion of the society he lived in, the place he occupied in their midst, and the objective forces behind this thinking, as well as the path through which the objective was reflected within himself.

He spent more than half his brief life fighting for the International Committee of the Fourth International, the world party of socialist revolution, and the program and the perspective of permanent revolution. He studied closely the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, as well as the other Marxist thinkers. His knowledge of them was extensive. He tried to fashion his life after the great teachers of the working class. He held with contempt petty politicking for short-term gains. His politics constituted the struggle to lead the working class to seize power based on the scientifically cognized laws of motion of society.

The articles written by Comrade Keerthi in his struggle to develop and build the International Committee and the RCL during 21 years from 1966-87 were published in the party newspapers and newspapers of the ICFI and the Fourth International magazine.

Among his pamphlets in Sinhala were: The Class Nature and Politics of the JVP, Reply to V. Karalasingam, In Defense of the Fourth International, and How the Tamils Were Betrayed.

Against Healy, Banda and Slaughter, who supported the Indian Army that intervened to crush the Bangladesh liberation struggle during 1971, a struggle was undertaken by Comrade Keerthi and the Revolutionary Communist League to develop the theory of permanent revolution. Once this struggle was begun, Healy, Banda and Slaughter started to work to destroy the revolutionary leadership of the RCL and decided at the ICFI’s Tenth Congress to expel the RCL.

But the Trotskyists of the ICFI, with Comrade David North at their head, managed to defeat the Healy, Banda and Slaughter gang and Comrade Keerthi gave his fullest collaboration in the international struggle to build the Socialist Labour League, the Trotskyist organization of India. He played a key role in this struggle.

The renegades have entered into open alliances with Stalinist, reformist and national bourgeois agents. Gerry Healy traveled to the Soviet Union on official invitation to participate in the seventieth anniversary celebrations of the October Revolution. Michael Banda covered up preparations by the Indian bourgeoisie to invade Tamil Eelam and has now totally capitulated to the Sinhala racist petty bourgeoisie and Tamil petty-bourgeois nationalist LTTE.

Sheila Torrance is prostrate before the Islamic revolution of Khomeini. Cliff Slaughter is finding a path to capitulate to British imperialism through the Labour bureaucracy. All these people vie with each other in their hatred of the ICFI.

All of them have lined up against the political revolution in the Soviet Union and other workers’ states, worshipping Gorbachev as the leader of the political revolution.

The motive force that has driven this bunch of revisionists into an open alliance with reaction and brought together the Stalinist bureaucracy with the imperialists is none other than the power of the working class being driven into the arena of struggle by the aggravating world crisis of capitalism.

Once More We Pledge

The greatest confirmation of the Trotskyist program during the last year has been the counterrevolutionary alliance of the Congress government of India and the UNP government of Sri Lanka to defend the bourgeois state of Sri Lanka from the working class and the Tamil liberation struggle and the support of the Stalinist, Lanka Sama Samaja and revisionist leaders.

The tragic loss of the service of a leader of the caliber of Keerthi Balasuriya at the verge of the now unfolding struggle is a great loss to the entire world working class.

We pledge that we shall join hands with all the comrades of the International Committee and that we shall train and be trained to accomplish this task along the path that was mapped out by Comrade Keerthi Balasuriya.

We call upon all workers, oppressed and youth to join the Revolutionary Communist League and be trained as fighters of the world party of socialist revolution.

That is the greatest tribute that one can pay this noble fighter of the world socialist revolution.