The Founders of the CPI(M) Chronicle of Nine Inspiring Lives
“AUR Bhi Gam Hain Zaamane Mein Mohabbat Ke Siwa” (There are other pains in the world than those of love), wrote Faiz Ahmed Faiz after reading the Communist Manifesto.
N Rama Krishnan’s book The Founders of the CPI(M) depicts the lives of nine dedicated individuals who took to their heart those pains and sufferings and braved all adversities and tumults in their fight to build a party for the working class and the toiling masses. It brings forth brilliant pieces of information about the works of the nine members elected to the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) in its Seventh Congress, 1964; the nine communists, who showed the way to a new life, to genuine freedom, social justice, peace and well being.
Many of them came from affluent families. Some had outstanding academic records. All of them willingly embraced the path of struggle and sacrifice with a dream in their hearts; the dream of a liberated world. And life was never a bed of roses for them. Every essay in the book is a structural presentation of the life of a communist, a life of herculean work and selfless struggle.
Comrade P Sundarayya, one of the founders of the Communist Party in Andhra Pradesh and South India was a colossal leader of the peasant movement in our country. In his early days when he joined the freedom struggle, he had already started the fight against caste system. He led the historic Telangana struggle. He was the general secretary of CPI(M) from 1964 to 1978. His supreme qualities as a revolutionary and as a human being inspired all who came in contact with him.
Promode Dasgupta was one of those brave sons of Bengal who plunged into the turbulent stream of revolutionary freedom movement in their youth. He soon became an active member of the Anusilan Samity and was imprisoned by the British. In his prison days, he came across the ideas of Marxism-Leninism and joined the Communist Movement after his release from the jail. PDG will be remembered for his glorious role in the united party against tendencies of revisionism that emerged as a political danger following the ideological struggles in the international communist movement in 1950’s. Though he himself never contested elections, he played an important role in using parliamentary struggle as an important weapon in mass movements. Of tremendous importance for the Left movement in Bengal was PDG’s capacity of coalition building based on principled stand.
From his youth, AK Gopalan joined the fight to uphold the principles of equality and social justice. This prompted him to participate in the temple entry movement of the Harijans waging a struggle against casteism. Starting from Khilafat and Civil Disobedience, AKG took part in all the movements led by Mahatma Gandhi till the formation of the Congress Socialist Party in 1930. He believed that mass movement should raise economic demands of the people. It was from the Congress Socialist Party that AKG started working in trade unions. His entire political life was a fascinating amalgamation of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles. On one hand he was jailed a number of times and had suffered the worst of circumstances under the State’s repressive machineries, while on the other hand his role as a member of parliament fetched him admiration from all quarters. The speech that he made in the Lok Sabha immediately after the imposition of the state of emergency in 1975 has become a landmark in the parliamentary history of India.
A man of encyclopedic education, a firm Marxist, BT Ranadive tirelessly explored the theory of scientific socialism to equip the working class with the knowledge necessary to overcome the changing realities of an antagonistic society. In 1927, he stood first in the MA examination in the Bombay University. But instead of pursuing a career in the academic field, BTR devoted all his endeavors to studies in the field of Marxian philosophies. In February 1946, BTR played a major role in organising a general strike in support of the Naval Mutiny. BTR became the general secretary of the CPI at its Second Congress in 1948. He continued to be esteemed as an outstanding figure in Indian communist movement. He became the founder president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) from its start in 1970. A fiery orator and revolutionary, BTR led many glorious struggles of the working class.
Upholding Marxist philosophy against left sectarianism and right revisionism, M Basavapunnaiah was one of the greatest Marxist theoreticians of India. He played a leading role in Telengana peasant struggle. With inexhaustible energy, he actively participated in the peoples’ movement. He was one of the few Communist leaders from India who met Joseph Stalin in person to discuss about the future path of the Communist Party in the national and international sphere. As editor of People’s Democracy, MB regularly wrote on ideological issues in his columns. With a deep understanding of the international developments, MB was also the key person in maintaining bipartite relationships with the Communist Parties across the world. He played a crucial role in building up the CPI (M) as a mass revolutionary party in India.
P Ramamurti, another great leader of the peoples’ movement, had numerous influences that made him choose the path of mass struggle. As a young boy, he was influenced by the activities of Mahatma Gandhi on one hand, while on the other hand the martyrdom of Jatin Das and Bhagat Singh kindled his imagination. In his early days, he joined the Harijan Seva Sangh. Then followed his days in the Congress Socialist Party, and eventually he joined the Communist Movement. As a leader of the Communist Party, Ramamurti also played important roles in parliamentary politics, initially in the Tamil Nadu assembly and then in the Lok Sabha. He also wrote the preliminary draft of the Party Programme which was then enriched by collective efforts of Ramamurti, M Basavapunnaiah and Harkishen Singh Surjeet and finally adopted in the 7th Party Congress in 1964. A stalwart leader of the working class, P Ramamurti was also the founder general secretary of the CITU.
Born into a small peasant family in Punjab and, inspired by the socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singh, Harkishen Singh Surjeet hoisted the Indian tri-colour at the Hoshiarpur district courts on the first anniversary of the martyr’s execution - and was sent to a reformatory school for juvenile offenders where he remained detained until 1934. In the mid-1930s he joined the Communist Party of India. The seven and a half decades-long political life of HKS began by playing a pioneering role against the British rule before emerging as a national leader of the CPI and later the CPI(M). His total commitment to the fight against religious fundamentalism and regional separatism is unforgettable. He was the general secretary of the CPI (M) for 13 years. His courageous stand against the Khalistan movement will inspire people for generations. His ever present willingness, to work for greater cooperation among all secular democratic forces paved the way for growth and development of Left movement in India.
One of the greatest Marxist thinkers of all times, EMS Namboodiripad was born in a rich landlord family in Kerala. During his student days, he organised the youth to fight for the right to dignity of the Brahmin women who at that time had to lead the life of slaves in the interiors of their homes. As a young man, EMS fought against various age old social evils like untouchability. This eventually led his way to participate in the freedom movement. Like other communist leaders, EMS also went through repressive State machineries like physical attacks and imprisonment. In 1957 the Communist Party got majority in the assembly election in Kerala and the government was formed with EMS as the chief minister. This was the first time in history that a Communist Party was elected to form the government. This remarkable achievement happened under the leadership of Comrade EMS. Later on during his tenure as the general secretary of the CPI(M), he worked for strengthening the Communist and working class movement all over the country.
One of the tallest leaders of the Communist Movement in India and across the world, Jyoti Basu was born in an affluent Bengali family, and completed his barrister course in England. While studying abroad, he came in close contact with the Communists in Britain, and that proximity changed the course of his life. After coming back to India, instead of pursuing a successful career in legal profession, he joined the struggle of the toiling masses to break the historic chains of exploitation and avarice. He joined the Communist Party and started working among the railway workers. He got elected to the provincial assembly from Railway workers constituency in 1946. The semi-fascist terror that was unleashed in West Bengal during the Congress rule in 1970s was not easy to surmount. But under Jyoti Basu’s leadership, the party fought back and was elected to form the state government in 1977. Jyoti Basu became the chief minister and continued to head the state for the next 24 years with overwhelming support from the people. He created history in the Indian parliamentary democracy as the longest serving chief minister. The land-reforms and other progressive acts of the Left Front government under his leadership have lived down to become landmarks in the socio-economic history of Bengal. Jyoti Basu is also regarded as one of the tallest leaders of the trade union movement. He was the vice-president of CITU since its inception in 1970 till his death. Also as a chief minister, Jyoti Basu stood strongly for the trade union rights of the workers.
N Rama Krishnan had worked at parliamentary office of the CPI(M) for quite a long period and had personal acquaintances with all these leaders. This experience certainly helped him in penning certain personal details and some exceptional traits in each of them. The merit of the writer is that he has gone through copious documents and had delineated these biographical sketches with concrete objectivity and pointed reference to the social context. Rama Krishnan’s meticulous use of party documents, memoirs, autobiographical accounts etc reveals the thoroughness that comes from deep involvement.
The book is an excellent source of information but that is not all. It tells us of the sweat and tears, the blood and bruises, the pain, suffering and endless sacrifice that went behind the making of CPI (M). Nothing could shake the conviction and confidence of these stalwarts of peoples’ movement in the Marxist-Leninist ideology and nothing could deter them from doing their utmost to further the struggle for socialism in India.
The biographical sketches provide indispensable illumination of the path that we need to take in order to open doors to new horizons of thought and action in all areas of our struggles. The book is a must read not only for sympathisers and activists of the CPI(M), but also for all ‘fellow travellers’ in this path of struggle to build a new heaven on earth.