Vol. XLI No. 09 February 26, 2017

History of the Communist Party in Kerala – A Project of the CPI(M)

K N Ganesh

HISTORIES of the Communist movement in Kerala have been written by several scholars, as well as by the leading comrades of movement, such as EMS Namboodiripad and NE Balaram. Histories of various class and mass movements in Kerala, such as trade union movement, kisan movement, students movement, teachers movement and the NGOs are also available. Autobiographies and biographies of several leading comrades, throwing light on various aspects of the history of the Party have also been published. Despite the richness of the information available on the movement, no comprehensive history of the Party, a narrative from its incipient days to the present has been published. The Kerala state committee of the CPI(M) is undertaking the publication of such a history, according to the decision of the Party state conference.

Several district committees of the CPI(M) such as  Kasargod, Kannur and Kozhikode have already undertaken to write the histories of the all-India Party. It is the experience of writing these histories that has provided the inspiration for this project. It was also clear that writing the history of the Party cannot be delinked from the socio-economic and political history of Kerala. All the upsurges that have paved the way for the formation of modern Kerala such as social reform and anti-caste movements, peasant and workers struggles, national movement, the movement for the formation of the unified Kerala, cultural struggles and all the socio-political tendencies and struggles that took place after the formation of Kerala state in 1956 had influenced the formation and growth of the Communist Party and all the mass movements led by the Party. Hence, collection of materials and preparation of the text has to be done on a larger canvas with the co-operation of professional historians who have worked on Modern Kerala History, apart from senior comrades who have led the Party and the movement through the thick of the numerous struggles. Since the Party and the CPI(M) has been elected to the state government six times since the formation of Kerala, such an effort also will have to address the numerous socio-economic problems faced by the state, which the Communist Party has tried to address and find a solution.


The proposed history will address three objectives:

1)           It will provide an interconnected, objective and chronological account of the socio-political tendencies and processes that led to the formation of the Communist Party in Kerala, the factors that led to its growth and consolidation and the class and mass movements led by the party, its role in the political processes and the government, the ideological struggles within the Party  that led to the formation of the CPI(M) and the emergence of the Naxalite movement, ideological and political struggles with the ruling classes, including the struggle that it wages against the ruling class economic policies and the struggle against the communal forces.

2)           It will provide clear accurate descriptions of all the events related to the processes indicated above, and provide information on the participation of the leading comrades in the events, and the roles that they played.

3)           It will attempt a comprehensive documentation of all the materials, manuscripts, documents, and oral information, including visual and auditory materials, that will be kept as an archive for future by scholars, Party comrades and interested persons.


The history is proposed to be written in five volumes organised in the following chronological order:

1.   The socio-economic and political processes leading to the formation of the Communist party in Kerala-upto 1940.

2.   Growth and consolidation of the Party along with the class,  mass and ideological struggles led by the Party from 1940-1952.

3.   Formation of Kerala state, the first Communist ministry and ideological struggles that led to the formation of the CPI(M) –


4.   Growth of the CPI(M), the United Front governments and role played by CPI(M) in changing all-India political and economic context – 1964-1991.

5.   Processes of economic liberalisation and communalisation and the role of the CPI(M) in Kerala.

The content indictors for all the volumes have been developed. Although the text particularly in the last two volumes will concentrate on the CPI(M), it will be done in the overall context of the entire Communist and Left  movement in Kerala. The first volume of the history is proposed to be brought out on the centenary of the October Revolution.

                      MATERIALS COLLECTION

                     Proposing to undertake the publication of a vast history project within such a short duration is surely an onerous task. Apart from the published books and sources on the subject, a vast amount of materials lay scattered in a number of archives, personal collections, revenue records, court records, jail records, as well as collections of various communist parties, both at the centre and the state. Records of the struggles conducted by the Party as well as the class and mass organisations will have to be collected at the local level for which the memories and recollections of the participants of the struggles or their close associates and descendants will have to be tapped. The experience of writing the district histories of the Party showed us that there are ways and means by which people retain and recall the memories of the major struggles and incidents in their locality, which can be compared with the information retained in the archives or any other official sources. The political, social and cultural means of propaganda and agitation, and the extent and pattern of people’s participation, including the nature of those who did not participate can be gathered from the locality. Uncovering materials from all sources can be done only in the form of a campaign in which the entire Party participates.

Modalities of the campaign are being worked out as follows:

1.           Constitution of the organising committees and academic committees, incorporating teachers and professors interested in the project at State and District level. Conduct of preparatory workshops providing the necessary orientation for the conduct of the project.

2.           Constitution of Party History committees at the area level to develop the setting and atmosphere for the material collection in the campaign mode.

3.           Constitution of local level study groups who will undertake the collection of materials in each locality from the materials on the Party. Class and mass organisations, political activities including LSGs and the government and the struggles conducted will be collected.

4.           Besides there will be state level research group and district academic group, which will be involved in collecting the  materials from various state and national archives, official records and also materials from various record collections such as Archives of Contemporary History (JNU) and Ajoy Bhavan, besides the state level collections of the CPI(M) and the CPI.

The entire campaign is thus visualised as a campaign not only for material collection, but also as an educative experience where  those who are involved in the campaign are to tread the paths used by those who built the Party and movement, and learn from them.

The materials collected will be used by a drafting committee who would write the history, and the materials will be preserved in the EMS Academy, which will function as archives.

The state and district organising committees have already started functioning and a state level workshop was organised on February 4-5 at EMS Academy, which was addressed by Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and state secretary and S Ramachandran Pillai, Polit Bureau member. The organisation of the district level workshops is underway and is to be completed by the end of March 2017.