(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 19, 2009
Comrade PS : An Autobiography For The Times
“Who is he?
What has he done,
the most humane
of all us humans?”
RECENTLY during the summer vacation, I had been to my home town and happened to meet a person who is more like a grandmother to me. Though it was supposed to be just a courtesy call, it turned out to be a real learning experience. She hails from a communist family and was thus closely acquainted with many stalwarts of the communist movement. Talking about many things, I mentioned in passing about the release of the autobiography of Comrade Putchalapalli Sundarayya, fondly called by many as Comrade PS, in English. I showed her a copy of the book that I was carrying. As she was well informed both about the life of Comrade PS and the book (Telugu version of which was released long back), she recalled some of her own cherished memories and asked me to read extracts from the book. And what a learning experience it really was, that journey with her to those days!
While she was really happy that the autobiography of Comrade PS was out in English, she was apprehensive as she was lamenting the reading habits of today's generation. What I had understood from her tone was her anxiety on whether this generation would utilise this opportunity and lap up the contents of this great book. When I had gently told her not to be so gloomy, she asked me about my personal reading habits and directed me to read certain portions from the book which I would like to quote. “Then I also read Chilukuri Veerabhadra Rao’s three-volume History of the Telugus. I was 13-year-old then. After that I read Chillarige Srinivasa Rao’s History of Maharashtra. Practically, I read all the history books that were available in Telugu. I also read many other books, including novels, stories and literature, which were available at the Gowthami Library. After school hours, I used to visit the library regularly. I used to sit there and read till it was time to pull down the shutters...The librarian there was an ordinary person. He used to express surprise over my reading saying that I was reading all the books which were there in the library. I used to say: ‘What’s the big deal in it? It’s good to read books.’”
Reading this paragraph was a big revelation and made me ashamed of, if I can still call as such, my ‘reading habit'. No wonder it was this reading habit that was responsible for making even his fiercest critics listen whenever he spoke, either in the legislative assemblies or outside of them. She had rightly said that it was due to efforts of comrades like PS that the views expressed by communists are given so much prominence even today. It is they, who have taught subsequent generations to study, work hard and be thorough with their facts.
Cautioning me not to confine the concept of study to only reading of books, she pointed to another paragraph in the book and showed how Comrade PS was not only an avid reader of the books but also of the society. It seems even during the days of the Telengana armed struggle, he had prepared a questionnaire and studied the land relations and classified Indian peasantry. Reminiscing her interactions with Comrade PS, she recalled how meticulous he used to be - his indepth study on various subjects and the various questions he used to ask. Turning to me, she asked me some questions concerning the nature of my work which I could not answer. This, in fact, made me contemplate about ‘study’, its true meaning and its implementation.
Our discussion subsequently veered towards the recent election results and the disappointment. She once again pointed me a paragraph in the book. Here, Comrade PS explains the days after the election defeat in 1955. “Results apart, another important dimension of the Andhra election was the unleashing of the worst ever anti-communist propaganda here after the turmoil of 1942-43…They used to peddle all lies against the communists, but that was the bourgeois way of attacking the Left. In one way, that exposed the hypocrisy of the so-called progressive intellectuals when real issues come up…One thing was that the landlords and their families took up an aggressive door-to-door campaign. Their womenfolk were out in the open distributing sarees and begging people to vote for the Congress…Ultimately, they all came together and went on the offensive since they feared that they would be swept out in the elections”. Isn’t this contemporary too? Asking me not to lose heart, she again pointed to Comrade PS’ response when a big leader of the Party had asked the active cadre to fend for themselves. “Okay, we have been defeated, but let’s consolidate our hold…We should build on it...” Isn’t this what we should be doing today?
With glistening eyes and fondness, she recalled Comrade PS’ concern and care towards cadre. She recalled many anecdotes where he had asked about her health and how he had gently admonished her husband for not taking enough care. She also stated that Comrade PS always used to ask the well-being of many comrades by name whenever he used to come to their village. She told me of a letter he had written from a hospital in Moscow where he had undergone gastrectomy and said that even in that letter he did not forget to enquire about the health of the comrades working in the Party press.
I remembered another paragraph where Comrade PS states, “I was always patient and attentive to the problems of Party activists. Be they physical needs or problems regarding organisational matters. Everything has to be taken care of. Or else they won’t look up to the leaders for any kind of help. Being seniors, we have to read their state of mind and suggest measures that could solve their immediate problems”. Reading this made me jealous of all those comrades who could get the care of such a great man.
Remembering those days when I used to go places and address rallies, I read with a sense of shame: “Leaders should not limit their roles to addressing rallies. They have to take out the time to meet the local cadre and sort out their problems, especially with regard to organisational matters. They have to monitor or review the implementation of Party programmes at the local level. Rather than addressing public meetings, I loved to spend a lot of time in the general body meetings. There we can have the chance to interact with the local leadership and cadre more closely and share their experiences as also their problems. Though the issues they may bring up may seem to be very small to the leaders but they would have their own impact on the cadre”. This once again points out the importance of time management. When a person of the stature of Comrade PS could wriggle out and squeeze time, nay give credence to interaction with cadre, why could not we?
Bringing me back from my chain of thoughts, she narrated anecdotes that speak about simplicity and humility of Comrade PS. She told me how Comrade PS had admonished some of the Party comrades who were shouting slogans, ‘Comrade PS zindabad’, when he had attended a meeting. She recalled with misty eyes what he had told them: “give those slogans when I remain a communist even at the time of my death and if the Party thinks that my body is worthy to be draped with a red flag…not now”. This immediately brought to mind one particular sentence in the book. “I feel that my services are not worth reckoning”. These words from a man who was the general secretary of the Party, who led the ideological struggle both against the right and left deviations and above all from one of the prominent leaders of the famed Telengana armed struggle! Thus, not surprisingly, he dismisses his cycle rides to the parliament when he was a member as just a matter of fact. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the word humility would be humbled when written along with his name!
When I had mentioned this to her, she concurred and stated that Comrade PS, in spite of his vast knowledge was always ready to learn from everyone. She said that he always used to exhort our comrades to learn from people. She asked me to read one particular paragraph. “The struggle for a correct Party line comes not out of your praise-mongering theoretical knowledge, but out of your own experience, how it affected the movement and in course of the struggle what issues came up before you. All I can say is that I have got some experience, be it the armed movement or organisational work”. This book thus contains the ideological debates that raged within the communist party and its evolution into a revolutionary party.
Borrowing from Mayakovsky, we can very well say
and the party
which means more
to history, their mother…
and you can’t but imply
Comrade PS’ autobiography is not only a must read but also an eye-opener for my generation who have not got the opportunity to see Comrade PS. So is it for all the subsequent generations who are increasingly becoming unaware of such towering personalities.
Comrade PS always used to emphasise on being well versed with our history - to learn from it, remould ourselves and shape our future. This book, thus, should be used as a guide for reinvigorating ourselves. Speaking in the second all India conference of the Students’ Federation of India, he concluded by stating: “There are revolutionaries in every state. Always remember their idealistic revolutionary life style…they have not come down to the earth from the heavens with superhuman powers. They too are ordinary people just like all of us. Read their life histories…if they had fought with so much determination and courage, we too could. We too would get this strength only when we always keep in our mind our aim to build a new society”. He carried this conviction firmly till his death and lived the life as a true communist.
Learning from the book means rectifying our mistakes and working for the change that he had strived all his life.
“This man was a human-
as human as anyone…
Rise in force!
Long live the revolution
With speedy victory
of all wars