In Memoriam: Com. Ajith Surendra Valentine Rupasinghe (“Surendra”) (14/2/43 – 3/4/17)

I know that it has been a while since I posted on this blog and that for all intents and purposes this blog is dead, however, there have been two deaths in the International Communist Movement that I felt needed to be noted. Both of them were important figures in the international Maoist movement before they abandoned RIM-style Maoism in favour of Avakian’s New Synthesis. The first was Com. Ajith Surendra Rupasinghe, General Secretary of the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist), and the second was Com. Amir Hassanpour, who was a sympathizer of the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Once again both of these two comrades passed without any comment from the international Maoist movement. And as with Com. Jorge Palacios, I think it is inappropriate that the international Maoist movement to so easily forget two comrades who made contributions to the international communist movement. So in this post I will post about Com. Surendra and in the next one, I will dedicate it to Com. Amir Hassanpour.

I had a brief correspondence twice with Com. Surendra over the years. The first time was about my series on Avakian’s new synthesis. He had written a long response to my articles, which I faithfully reproduced here. I never did however, respond to his article. I felt at the time that there really was no point given that he was an ardent supporter of Avakian’s line and I a detractor. I regret not responding to him. We likely would not have convinced one another, but it was a missed opportunity for some principled line struggle over issues that were central to the international Maoist movement at the time. The second time was years later when I tried to collect together materials for a Selected Works collection of Com. Shanmugathasan’s writings. Com. Surendra was interested in helping with the project. However, besides some initial interest I was unable to work on the project due to other obligations. Again this was a missed opportunity.

Anyways, unlike Com. Jorge Palacios, who was forgotten by both Maoists and Avakianists alike, at least Com. Surendra was remembered by the latter. So I have reposted below an article from A World to Win News Service that commemorates his death. However, I do affirm that his death was heavier than Mt. Tai.

27 April 2017. A World to Win News Service.

It is with great sadness that A World to Win suraendra-ajith-rupasinghe-1-colombotelegraphNews Service learned of the recent death of Ajith Rupasinghe, generally known as comrade Surendra, a revolutionary communist leader from Sri Lanka.

Comrade Surendra was living in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s when he first became a revolutionary, originally introduced to communism by his older brother Kumar who travelled to the U.S. from Sri Lanka to share his discoveries with Surendra.
Like many others, comrade Surendra came forward politically during the exuberant years of the revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and early ’70s and the great social transformations being made through the Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Tsetung. Surendra also went through the bitter experience of seeing Mao’s socialist China transformed into a capitalist monstrosity. Surendra worked with the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA in the second half of the 1970s and notably attended Bob Avakian’s 1978 speech denouncing and exposing the counter-revolutionary coup in China following Mao’s death.

Surendra had been pursuing doctoral studies in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he had also been propagating revolutionary politics. In the final stages of his PhD work, a faculty committee demanded that he water down his work – as he described it, “they demanded I get on my knees” – and change what he was saying because of the way it exposed this system of global capitalism-imperialism. He refused.

Comrade Surendra returned to Sri Lanka. As a well-educated young man, Surendra could have chosen many paths for his life, yet he chose unswerving dedication to the cause of emancipation. He joined what was then known as the Ceylon Communist Party (CCP) led by comrade N. Sanmugathasan, a long-time communist leader who had played an early and outstanding role in denouncing the counter-revolutionary coup in China and who was part of the early efforts to regroup Maoist forces that resulted in the founding the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) in 1984.

Surendra became a key CCP activist and took part in numerous struggles the party led among the masses in Sri Lanka, for example in the Hatton area, among the tea workers who toiled in conditions of near slavery on the country’s tea plantations established under British colonial rule. Even today many recall Surendra’s role in these activities. For a number of years in the early 1980s, Surendra lived in a fishing village in the Ratmalana district.

Following the death of comrade Sanmugathasan in 1993, comrade Surendra became the leader of the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist), the name the party adopted in 1991. Surendra was one of far too few people in the world who fought to uphold what Mao had brought forth. He also fought to help regroup communists in the world around Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Comrade Surendra was an enthusiastic supporter of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and actively took part in the activities and campaigns of RIM. He was particularly known for his firm support for the People’s War in Nepal from the very beginning until the Nepalese party leadership abandoned the revolutionary path in favour of participation in a “restructured” reactionary state. A betrayal that Surendra justly and forcefully condemned.

During this whole period Surendra fought to organize people in Sri Lanka for revolution under very difficult conditions and tried repeatedly to re-establish a communist vanguard. He was a tireless editorialist, writing many thought-provoking articles on different aspects of communist theory, practical revolutionary activity and philosophy. He was a determined opponent of the Sri Lankan ruling class and distinguished himself by being one of very few voices from the Sinhalese community that consistently supported the rights of the Tamil people and exposed the vicious repression and genocide of the Sri Lankan state aimed at the Tamil political organizations and population.

What distinguished Surendra from some others who had also tried to carry forward the revolutionary communist banner after the death of Mao was his enthusiastic, passionate welcome to the emergence of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian. In the last decade of his life in particular, Comrade Surendra carried out serious study of Avakian’s works and defended the new synthesis both in Sri Lanka and internationally through his writings on the Internet. As the former Maoist movement “divided into two”, Surendra took a clear position in favour of the future, the new synthesis of communism. Comrade Surendra’s defence of the new synthesis was in no way an empty declaration of allegiance. His many writings sought to critically examine different aspects of the new synthesis and explore their implications. Selections from his writings need to be popularized in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.

Comrade Surendra courageously battled on to the very end of his life in the face of a very difficult situation in Sri Lanka and internationally. Despite increasingly serious health conditions and vicious attacks on his personal milieu by powerful reactionary forces, he remained unflinching in his devotion to the cause of humanity. He did not live to see the fruits of his energies, but we are quite confident that many of the seeds he planted will sprout.

Comrade Surendra’s contributions to revolutionary communism, in Sri Lanka and in the world, will live on as women and men come forward to battle imperialism and reaction and come not only to be inspired by the revolutionary determination of leaders who went before them but also look to the scientific understanding that directed and energized comrade Surendra and which he contributed to popularising. As Surendra himself put it in the months before his death, “All genuine communist revolutionaries around the world must rise up to expose, critique, and overthrow this accumulated pile of rotting revisionist garbage and undertake the task of defending, applying, and advancing the new synthesis, as the basis for reconstituting the international communist movement and preparing our ranks, the advanced forces and basic masses for an unprecedented great leap forward towards achieving the new world rising on the horizon, as a matter of life and death for the future of communism.”

Surendra will be missed and we must help people carry on his work.

 The editors, A World to Win News Service

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