Crisis and Self-Sufficiency: The Left and Its Challenges During the Long 1960s in Sri Lanka

  • Devaka Gunawardena (Author)
  • Ahilan Kadirgamar (Author)


This paper argues that Sri Lanka’s leftist movement encountered structural challenges while attempting to transform Sri Lanka’s dependent economy during the long 1960s. This process culminated in the global economic crisis of the 1970s. The predominantly Trotskyite left initially championed import substitution industrialisation in the period after Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948. Eventually, during the crisis of the 1970s, it was forced to radicalise its approach. It began to focus more on achieving self-sufficiency in key agricultural products. The left’s reflexive bias toward industrialisation, however, undermined its attempt to reconceive development from an agrarian perspective. The left experienced an enduring setback during the elections of 1977, which ushered in the neoliberal transformation of Sri Lanka. The article explores the consequences of the left’s historical neglect of the agrarian question during the long 1960s and the fateful implications of its delayed engagement with rural communities.


Sri Lanka, leftist movements, Agrarian Studies, development transitions, Marxism