People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 38

September 28 , 2008



Comrade P Ramamurti, the freedom fighter and one of the pioneers of the communist movement was born on September 20, 1908 in Chennai. His father Panchapakesa Sastri, a Sanskrit scholar and his mother Seethalakshmi belonged to Veppattur village in the Thanjavur District. PR did his schooling in Hindu High School, Triplicane and then in National School, Allahabad. He completed his graduation in Banaras Hindu University. Ramamurthy was attracted by various national leaders and gravitated towards the Congress party. He attended the Lahore Congress in 1929 when he was only 21 years of age. He worked in the Congress party and then became a Congress Socialist before founding the first unit of the Communist Party in the then Madras province in the year 1937 along with P Jeevanantham, A S K Iyengar, B Srinivasa Rao, C S Subramaniam and others.

In the interim period, he organised tramway workers, railway employees and other mill workers throughout the state. He led temple entry movement for upholding the rights and dignity of dalits. The colonial government had imprisoned him many times and he was implicated in Madras conspiracy case and Madurai conspiracy case. He served rigorous imprisonment for four years with N Sankaraiah and K T K Thangamani in the Madurai conspiracy case. Throughout his life, he spent about nine years in jail and five years in underground. After national independence he was elected to the Madras provincial assembly and had an illustrious career of a legislator highlighting the plight of the common man. When revisionism reared its head in the Indian communist movement, he fought against all deviations and became part of the reorganising effort of the party which became the CPI(M) in 1964. He was one of the nine members of the first Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) and came to occupy important positions in the Party till he passed away on December 15, 1987.

When the Centre of Indian Trade Unions was formed in the year 1970, PR became the natural choice to be its founding general secretary. He fought against the invasion of multi-national companies and conducted an enlightened campaign in parliament and outside against the BHEL-Siemens deal. Such struggles protected the PSUs from being poached by the MNCs, as a result of which we are able to legitimately take pride about our Navratna PSUs, BHEL being one amongst them. Along with comrade B T Ranadive, he had championed for a confederation of all central trade unions in the country. National Campaign Committee of Trade Unions and other similar platforms were his brainchild. His role was significant in forging united movement of all trade union centres and conducting various general strikes throughout the nation on important national issues since the early seventies. He was not only a politician and a trade union leader, he was endeared by all sections of the community to which he had done invaluable services over six decades. PR was a legend of his time and for any student of serious politics, his life and sacrifices will be an inspiring guide to be referred often.