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Sri Lanka: Working class beginning to move forward
Srinath Perera, United Socialist Party (USP - CWI, Sri Lanka)
A one-day protest general strike held on 21 May was a significant step forward for the working class in Sri Lanka.
It was called by the Coordinating Committee of the Trade Union Alliance as a warning shot against the huge hike in electricity tariffs by President Mahinda Rajapaksa's government.
Although the strike was not a complete success, it nevertheless sent a powerful message to the autocratic regime in this country.
In fact, the 21 May action was the first national token strike since the defeat of the historic July 1980 general strike.
In that respect it represents the beginning of a new era for the Sri Lankan working class.
Although the trade union alliance tirelessly worked round the clock to make the strike a success, its inability to reach out to important layers of the working class, mainly in the public sector and also in some private sector establishments, was visible.
The betrayals of the so-called radical, traditional trade union leaders of the LSSP and CP - who wavered initially and then tried to sabotage the strike - impacted on the majority of the working class who were bewildered by the government's massive anti-strike propaganda and frightened by various threats and intimidation from the bosses.
The different trade union leaders, linked to different political parties, are now being pushed to come together and take joint decisions to win the demands of the working class.
This unity must be consolidated by forming, at national level, a democratic workers' convention to discuss future plans, the problems faced by the working class, and to take common decisions on future action.
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