Growth of Leftist Parties
During the Donoughmore period of political experimentation,
several leftist parties were formed. Unlike most other Sri Lankan
parties, these leftist parties were noncommunal in membership.
Working-class activism, especially trade unionism, became an
important political factor during the sustained economic slump
between the world wars. The first important leftist party was the
Labour Party, founded in 1931 by A.E. Goonesimha. Three Marxistoriented parties--the Ceylon Equal Society Party (Lanka Sama
Samaja Party--LSSP), the Bolshevik-Leninist Party, and the
Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL)--represented the far left.
All three were divided on both ideological and personal grounds.
The Soviet Union's expulsion of Leon Trotsky from the Communist
Party after Lenin's death in 1924 and Stalin's subsequent
decision to enter World War II on the Allied side exacerbated
these differences, dividing the Communists into Trotskyites and
Stalinists. The LSSP, formed in 1935 and the oldest of the Sri
Lankan Marxist parties, took a stance independent of the Soviet
Union, becoming affiliated with the Trotskyite Fourth
International, which was a rival of the Comintern. Most LSSP
leaders were arrested during World War II for their opposition to
what they considered to be an "imperial war." Although in more
recent years, the LSSP has been considered a politically spent
force, gaining, for example less than 1 percent of the vote in
the 1982 presidential elections, it has nevertheless been touted
as the world's only successful Trotskyite party.
The CPSL, which began as a Stalinist faction of the LSSP that
was later expelled, formed its own party in 1943, remaining
faithful to the dictates of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union. The Bolshevik-Leninist Party was formed in 1945 as another
breakaway group of the LSSP. The leftist parties represented the
numerically small urban working class. Partly because these
parties operated through the medium of trade unionism, they
lacked the wider mass appeal needed at the national level to
provide an effective extraparliamentary challenge to the central
government. Nonetheless, because the leftists occasionally formed
temporary political coalitions before national elections, they
posed more than just a mere "parliamentary nuisance factor."
Data as of October 1988