(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 28 , 2008
Birth Centenary Homage To Comrade P Ramamurthy
M K Pandhe
THE birth centenary celebration of Comrade P Ramamurthy, one of the front rank leaders of the Indian Communist movement and an outstanding trade union leader is being observed in a fitting manner all over India. His valuable contribution to the revolutionary movement in the country is being remembered during these celebrations and a pledge is taken to carry forward the tasks left unfinished during his lifetime.
The birth centenary celebrations are being observed by the CITU by holding meetings, seminars and trade union classes by the CITU affiliated unions in co-operation with friendly organisations. Hundreds of meetings were organised on the question of globalisation and its impact on the working class, the history of the trade union movement, Indo-US nuclear deal and principles of socialism. Tamilnadu state committee of CITU organised series of broad based programmes throughout the year in all the industrial centers.
The inauguration of the birth centenary celebrations was done at Kolkata on September 20, 2007 in a massive meeting which remembered P Ramamurthy’s contribution to the working class and the trade union movement in India. While inaugurating the ceremony, Jyoti Basu, vice-president of CITU, paid glowing tributes to P Ramamurthy whose untiring efforts played an important role in building a united trade union movement in India. On the same day at Madurai, Comrade Ramamurthy’s life size stature was unveiled by Prakash Karat CPI(M) general secretary in a well attended meeting.
The finale of the celebration will be held at Chennai on September 23, 2008 which will be attended by all secretariat members of the CITU. The Tamilnadu state committee of CPI(M) and AIKS and other mass organisations have arranged programmes between September 20-23, 2008 to pay respectful homage to the valiant memory of this great departed leader of the toiling masses of India.
Panchapakesa Ramamurthy was born in Chennai on September 20, 1908. His father who was a Sanskrit scholar died when Ramamurthy was only three years old. He had his studies in Hindu High School in Chennai. As a school boy, he was impressed by great nationalist poet Subramanya Bharati and joined his prabhat pheris in 1919. When in 1920 Mahatma Gandhi gave a call to boycott schools Ramamurthy left his school and went to Allahabad without informing family to attend a national school. However, he returned to Chennai and completed his school final examination in 1926.
Comrade Ramamurthy joined Presidency College at Chennai but faced difficulties due to his political activities. So he joined Benaras Hindu University which had nationalist outlook. In 1927, he joined the ‘Simon Go Back’ campaign. He became member of Bhagat Singh’s Bharat Nawa Jawan Sabha and actively participated in its programmes. In 1929, he attended Lahore Congress and participated in first Independence Day celebration on January 26, 1930.
After his graduation in 1930, Ramamurthy joined the campaign to boycott foreign goods at Benares and was imprisoned for six months by the British court. After his release, he returned to Chennai and carried forward freedom movement. When in 1932 Mahatma Gandhi gave a call for civil disobedience movement PR was once again awarded nine months rigorous imprisonment.
In 1933, Ramamurthy attended Kolkata session of the Congress which was prohibited by the British government. Mounted military police attacked the delegates. Ramamurthy was severely whipped by the mounted police but he bravely faced the repression. In the same year PR came across Marxist literature illegally brought into India and was attracted towards Marxist Philosophy.
In 1934 Ramamurthy helped P Sundarayya in a sedition case when they became friends - Ramamurti attended Patna Congress in the same year. At the initiative of Jaiprakash Narayan, a meeting of left wing Congressmen was called which was attended by Ramamurthy. He, for the first time met Krishna Pillai and EMS Namboodiripad in the meeting. After returning to Chennai PR along with A S K Iyengar formed Madras Presidency Radical Youth League. P Sundarayya was present in its conference.
In 1936, when second conference of Congress Socialist Party was held at Meerut, PR participated in it. Since the Communist Party was banned in 1934 it was decided to work in the Congress Socialist Party and several communist leaders were elected in the National Executive Committee. Ramamurthy organised the Congress Socialist Party in Madras Presidency and started working among the trade unions in Madras city. Soon he spread his activities in other parts of Tamilnadu including Madurai and Coimbatore.
In 1937 Provincial Assembly election campaign, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru addressed a big rally at Madras. PR translated his speech in Tamil, but after the rally he was arrested. However, in the elections, Congress Party was elected and Rajaji became chief minister of Madras Presidency. PR led several trade union struggles during Rajaji’s tenure in defence of workers.
Ramamurti joined the Communist Party of India in 1937. In the year 1939, when Subhash Chandra Bose contested the post of president of the Party despite open opposition of Gandhiji, PR mobilised support for Bose from Tamilnadu. Ultimately Bose was elected with comfortable margin.
However, the Second World War broke out in September 1939 and Communist party declared the war as an imperialist war. Some Communists were arrested for their opposition to war by Rajaji government under Defense of India rules. In 1940, the Congress Socialist Party expelled communists from the party and communists had to come out openly against war. Several communists were arrested and Ramamurthy was put under house arrest.
MADRAS CONSPIRACY CASE
Ramamurthy escaped from his house and joined the illegal party centre at Madras and illegal literature was produced demanding freedom for India. The centre was attacked by police and the communist leaders were involved in Madras conspiracy case. In 1941, PR and others were sent to four years imprisonment at Bellary Jail. Ramamurthy took classes on Marxism in jail despite harrowing living conditions.
In June 1941, Fascist Hitler treacherously attacked Soviet Union and the character of war changed with the formation of new alliance. The communists characterised war as peoples war and the British government ordered the release of communists all over India. PR was also released from jail.
On August 8, 1942 Ramamurthy and other communist leaders attended the meeting of the AICC at Mumbai. The next day a resolution on Quit India was moved. Communists moved amendments stressing the need to defeat fascism. The amendments were lost and Gndhiji gave a call for ‘do or die’. The Congress leaders were arrested and communists campaigned demanding the release of Congress leaders. In Tamilnadu, two Congressmen were sentenced to death when a committee to defend them was constituted with Rajaji as the president and Ramamurthyas the secretary. Ultimately, the death sentence was committed to life imprisonment by the Privy Council. Ramamurthy extensively campaigned to explain Communist Party’s policy in Tamilnadu. In 1946, the Congress leadership of AICC decided to expel communists including Ramamurthy. The communists however defended their case effectively.
In 1946, Ramamurthy was involved in textile workers’ struggle in Madurai. During the struggle attempt was made on his life by employer’s hirelings but was saved due to vigilance of workers. However, he was involved in Madurai conspiracy case by the British government and was released on the eve of independence.
Ramamurthy attended Second Party Congress of the Communist Party in 1948 after which there was repression on communists and PR had to go underground during the period. He was among the critiques of the sectarian policy of the party. In 1951, he played an important role in inner party discussion and analysed the situation arising out of sectarian understanding and he was appointed as the secretary of state organising committee in Tamilnadu. He was still underground but was arrested by police.
PR contested assembly elections from North Madurai constituency and won the elections from prison. After his release, he was elected as the leader of opposition in Madras legislative assembly and made important contributions in assembly debates.
In1952, Ramamurthy married Ambal and had two daughters, Ponni and Vaigai.
In 1953, at Madurai Party Congress Ramamurthy was elected as a member of the Central Committee and Polit Bureau. He also worked as editor of Central Party weekly New Age in 1954. He became a national leader of AITUC during this period.
STRUGGLE AGAINST REVISIONISM
During late fifties and early sixties Ramamurthy played a leading role in the struggle against revisionist policies of the CPI and contributed a great deal in the formation of CPI(M) in 1964. He also opposed Dange’s reformist and undemocratic policies in AITUC.
In 1966, in the Mumbai AITUC conference, Ramamurthy made a scathing criticism of Dange’s policies and contested the post of general secretary. Though he was defeated, the message of opposition to Dange’s policies was clearly spelt out. He also put forth a proposal of platform of trade union unity which was adopted unanimously by the AITUC conference.
Comrade P Ramamurti along with Comrade B T Ranadive and Jyoti Basu, played a key role in exposing class collaborationist policies of Dange till 1970 when it was clear that Dange was determined to split the AITUC. When the CITU was formed in May 1970, Ramamurthy was elected as general secretary of the organisation. He toured extensively all over India to build CITU in all the states.
When government of India formed National Council of Trade Unions with INTUC, AITUC and HMS, Ramamurthy helped in constitution of United Council of Trade Unions which developed working class struggles against Congress government’s anti-working class policies.
During emergency in 1975, Ramamurthy played an important role in opposing Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial policies. In 1978, when the central government brought Industrial Relations Bill to suppress trade union movement, Ramamurthy played an important role in brining together entire trade union movement including INTUC. The bill thus died a natural death.
In 1981, Ramamurthy played a leading role in formation of National Campaign Committee of Trade Unions which organised first nationwide strike on common issues facing the working class. Ramamurthy also intervened effectively in 80-day long struggle of the public sector workers. His tireless efforts have also resulted in formation of Committee of Public Sector Trade Unions in 1985.
Ramamurthy attended several international conferences as a representative of AITUC and CITU and expressed his views on the international situation. He resolutely opposed the WFTU policies when it was abjuring class struggle in the later stage of Soviet rule. His powerful speech in the ILO conference against apartheid was appreciated by all.
He was twice elected to Rajya Sabha from Tamilnadu and once to Lok Sabha from Madurai. In his well-appreciated speeches, Ramamurthy exhibited his powerful debating skills in defending the interests of the working class and the toiling masses.
Due to his failing health, Ramamurthy had to shift to Chennai from Delhi. However, he continued to remain active despite physical difficulties. On the day of his passing away, he was to inaugurate the DYFI conference at Chennai. He died in harness on December 15, 1987.
Ramamurthy’s passing away was a great loss to the communist movement in India. In the trade union movement, he was among the tallest leaders and fought relentlessly for militant policies of class struggles.
The birth centenary year of Ramamurthy is an occasion to review the profound contribution made by this versatile leader whose contribution to the trade union and revolutionary movement in India will always be remembered.