The lessons of the 1953 mass uprising (hartal) in Sri Lanka By Saman Gunadasa

2 September 2020

A mass semi-insurrectionary uprising, popularly known as the “hartal” (a strike coupled with a general stoppage of work and small businesses), erupted in Sri Lanka 67 years ago on August 12, 1953. It shook the ruling class of the island to the core and marked a political turning point.

Sri Lanka's governing UNP cabinet in 1952

Photo: WSWS

Lacking a genuine revolutionary leadership, that is a Marxist-Trotskyist party, the uprising was defeated by the right-wing United National Party (UNP) government. This bitter experience has powerful lessons today for the working class in preparing for its revolutionary struggles ahead.

LSSP leader NM Perera addressing a mass protest in Colombo's Gall Face Green in opposition to a UNP budget

Photo: South Asia socialist Action 

Internationally, the year 1953 was tumultuous. Workers’ uprisings erupted in East Germany and Czechoslovakia in June against the Stalinist governments installed by the Soviet bureaucracy. Then in August came a near two week-long general strike of four million French workers against austerity measures.

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