People's Democracy

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


No. 3

January 25, 2009


E Balanandan: A Resolute  Working Class Leader

Prakash Karat

E BALANANDAN died at the age of 84 after serving the working class movement for over 65 years. His journey began in 1941 when, as a metal worker, he formed a trade union in his factory in Aluva. Before that, driven by poverty, he had taken itinerant jobs as a teenager. Balanandan played a notable role in building the trade union movement in Kerala. He was the first secretary of the Kerala state committee of the CITU when it was founded. Having joined the Party in 1943, he travelled the long and arduous road to emerge as a Communist leader with firm Marxist-Leninist conviction. He suffered beatings in jail and underwent the rigours of underground life.

Balanandanís life was epitomised by his work in the working class movement. As a CITU leader in Kerala, he was known for his stress on building united actions, for the broader unity of the working class movement. Later in his long stretch as part of the all India CITU leadership, he constantly worked for the united actions of the working class. In his role as a legislator in the Kerala state assembly and later as a member of parliament, he used the parliamentary forums to raise working class issues persistently. Having been an electrician, he had a special affinity to the Electricity Employees Federation, of which he was the president for a long time.

It was his working class outlook which saw his revolutionary convictions being unshaken by the end of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism in Russia. He was in no doubt that capitalism as an exploitative and predatory system can and must be overthrown. He never wavered in his belief that socialism is the only alternative.

As the president of the CITU, in every speech to the general council, he would draw attention to the crisis-ridden nature of the world capitalist system and take heart from the working class resistance to the neo-liberal policies. In his last days, he witnessed the severe crisis gripping the global capitalist system. He must have had the quiet satisfaction to see his belief in the unsustainability of finance-driven imperialist globalisation, confirmed.

In his quarter century of work at the Party centre, Balanandan belonged to the collective leadership which faced the ideological challenge thrown up by the setbacks to socialism in the 1989-1991 period. He stood for analysing the situation from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism. He contributed to formulating the Partyís positions countering anti-Marxist ideas and efforts to dilute Marxist ideology. He did not fall prey to mere trade unionism and firmly believed in the Communist partyís leading role in the working class movement.

A remarkable lesson to be learnt from Balanandanís life as a Communist and working class leader is how he equipped and educated himself. With little formal schooling, having dropped out at class VIII, he schooled himself through the struggles of the working class and by self-study. His is an example of how a working class leader emerges.

Balanandan was known to all of us affectionately as Swami. I worked with him for twenty years since 1985 when I joined the Party centre. In these two decades, Swami was not just a comrade but a friend. He had a quality of endearing himself to all those who came in contact with him. His joviality and good humour made him a lovable person. He faced his last years of illness stoically and with fortitude. While departing this world, he would have had the fulfilment that he had made an immense contribution to the Communist Party and the working class for whom he devoted everything.