(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 22, 2009
COMRADE PRABHAKAR SANZGIRI: A CREATIVE MARXIST
WITH the demise of Comrade Prabhakar Sanzgiri on March 9, 2009, the Left movement, the CPI(M) and the CITU in Maharashtra have lost one of their extraordinary leaders. Born on September 25, 1921, he joined the Communist Party in 1941. Sanzgiri devoted 68 of his 87 years to the Communist movement with great devotion. For most of this period, he was one of the front rank leaders of the Party and CITU. A former state secretary of the CPI(M) and former member of its Central Committee, former state president of the CITU and its former all India vice president, former editor of the state Party weekly Jeevanmarg and an MLA and later MLC of the Party – he fulfilled all these responsibilities with capability for a prolonged period. His faith in Marxism-Leninism remained unshaken till the end.
The most valuable contribution of Sanzgiri to the Left movement in Maharashtra was in the form of a creative Marxist thinker. Four of his path breaking books – Anuchya Antarangat (Inside the Atom), Manavachi Kahani (The Story of Man), Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar – A Marxist Appraisal and Charvak te Marx (From Charvak to Marx) not only made a great impression in Maharashtra, but most of them were also translated in many Indian languages and they reached large parts of the country. In each of these books, he creatively analysed the subject under discussion from a Marxist standpoint. Through these books, not only did he ideologically nurture contemporary Left activists, but he also left a treasure trove for coming generations.
For two decades, from 1989 to 2009, he was the editor of the Party’s weekly Jeevanmarg. His editorials and his column called Prasangic Paramarsh (Review of Current Events) became very popular. The distinctive feature of Sanzgiri’s style of writing was that it was extremely simple, precise and caustic. This period of two decades saw major changes and challenges in the world, in our country and in the state.
The early nineties saw the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. This was undoubtedly the biggest setback to socialism in the 74 years since the Great October Revolution of 1917. Bourgeois ideologues immediately launched a shrill campaign that ‘Marxism is dead, Socialism is finished’. They loudly proclaimed the ‘end of ideology’ and the ‘end of history’. This ideological onslaught affected some Communist parties around the world to such an extent that they even removed the word ‘Communist’ from their names.
It was at such a time that the 14th Party Congress of the CPI(M) was held at Chennai in January 1992. In its special resolution “On Certain Ideological Issues”, the Party Congress, while firmly defending Marxism, also analysed this collapse of socialism. But even before this Party Congress – and also later – Sanzgiri wrote several penetrating articles and editorials in Jeevanmarg in which he strongly defended the validity of Marxism and launched vitriolic analytical attacks on the revisionism and liquidationism of Khrushchev and Gorbachev respectively. Sanzgiri’s writings during those times are of great relevance for Marxist activists and scholars even today.
During that same period, two major changes took place in our country. On the one hand, the Congress government inaugurated the policies of imperialist globalisation, widening the economic and social divide and eclipsing national sovereignty. On the other hand, communal forces increased their influence by demolishing the Babri Masjid and inciting communal infernos across the land. In 1995, these diabolical forces came to power in Maharashtra and in 1998 they managed to wrest power in the country. Sanzgiri did not merely analyse these twin challenges in his writings; he launched a broadside attack on them and called upon the Party and the Left to strengthen their resistance to both.
The caste system in India was another special subject of Sanzgiri’s study. He had read widely and thought deeply about it. Comrade B T Ranadive, in his celebrated work “Caste, Class and Property Relations”, had already dealt with the issue in some detail. Comrade E M S Namboodiripad had also made a deep study of the caste question and had written abundantly about it. By carrying forward their work with his own seminal contribution, Sanzgiri helped to change the attitude of the Party in Maharashtra on caste and social issues. His work on this question is reflected in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar – A Marxist Appraisal and From Charvak to Marx, and also in his preface to the biography of veteran Communist leader Comrade R B More, written by his son Comrade Satyendra More.
Sanzgiri had also made a study of the nationalities question in India. He used to stress that the Party and the Left must make a Marxist evaluation of the great progressive figures in Maharashtra – Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and others – and must strive to carry forward their legacy.
The CPI(M) publishing house in Maharashtra – Janashakti Prakashan – will undertake the task of compiling and editing the multifaceted writings of Sanzgiri in Jeevanmarg and elsewhere and will publish them in book form after the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.
LEADER OF THE
But Sanzgiri never was merely a Marxist theoretician. He had completely absorbed Lenin’s dictum that Marxism is a guide to action.
And that is why he began his political life in the early nineteen forties as an AISF activist who faced the brutal lathi charges of British seargents in the freedom struggle. He was a brilliant student, but soon after completing graduation, under the influence of Marxism, he chose to become a full time worker of the Communist Party. After that there was no looking back.
Sanzgiri thereafter remained in the forefront of numerous struggles and campaigns. These included the strike struggles of the Mumbai textile workers, the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, the Goa liberation struggle, the bitter inner-Party struggle against revisionism, the resistance to the Shiv Sena, the establishment of the CITU among the working class of Bhandup, the intense struggles of the CEAT workers, agitations of peasants and agricultural workers in Beed and Pune districts, the battle against the Emergency, the struggle for the renaming of the Marathwada University after Dr Ambedkar, work in the state assembly and the legislative council, struggles on questions of drought and land, the agitations by slum-dwellers and the formation of the Bhadekaru Kriti Samiti, the formation of the Janashakti Co-op Credit Society, campaigns against globalisation and communalism, the successful joint struggle for ousting Enron, and the constant efforts to forge Left and secular unity.
After Sanzgiri’s election as state secretary of the CPI(M), one of his important initiatives was the organisational plenum of the Party at Nashik in January 1991. It was attended by E M S Namboodiripad and Sitaram Yechury. The main contribution of this plenum was that it uncovered the historical reasons for the stagnation of the Party in Maharashtra and suggested remedies. In later years, efforts were made to rectify the defects, but much more still remains to be done.
As the leader of the CITU, Sanzgiri took great pains to build up the Bhandup CITU centre and guided the trade union movement in Maharashtra. But his distinctiveness was that he was also well versed with the problems of the peasantry and the agricultural workers. In 1992, it was he who drafted an excellent resolution on “Tasks on the Kisan Front” and placed it for discussion before the Party state committee. Along with Central Committee resolutions on this question, this resolution also helped to give direction to the peasant and agricultural workers movement in Maharashtra.
His commitment to worker-peasant unity was reflected in the initiatives he took in several struggles of the rural poor. But it was also evident from one other decision that he took many years ago. To provide wages to full time workers on the agricultural labour front in Maharashtra, he started the practice of the CITU Bhandup centre giving a big sum to the Party state committee every year. This initiative still continues today.
As a leader and teacher of the Party, Sanzgiri was instrumental in building activists of the Party throughout Maharashtra. The several study classes that he took, especially for young student-youth activists of the Party over the years, helped to build a new generation of Communist cadre in Maharashtra. He naturally paid special attention to his beloved Bhandup centre, where he built up a capable leadership team, which stood by him through thick and thin.
Sanzgiri’s simple living, restrained nature, immense study, capacity for work and his concern for cadres are all qualities worthy of emulation. In the last four or five years, although he had serious health problems, he never once complained about them to anyone. In all his life and work, his wife and comrade, Suman Sanzgiri, stood by him like a rock and so did the members of his family.
In the one year since the last state conference of the Party at Nandurbar, we have lost four senior Party leaders – Comrades P B Rangnekar, Gangadhar Appa Burande, Madan Phadnis and now Prabhakar Sanzgiri. A generation that went through the travails of the freedom struggle, that faced the repression of the Congress regime, and that had boundless faith in Marxism-Leninism and the Communist Party, is now departing from the scene. This greatly increases the responsibility on all of us of the next generations.
On behalf of the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee, the state Party journal Jeevanmarg and on behalf of all the Party members in Maharashtra, I pay respectful homage to Comrade Prabhakar Sanzgiri and share the grief of his family. Red Salute to Comrade Prabhakar Sanzgiri!