People's Democracy

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


No. 10

March 04, 2012




Intensify Struggles;

Strengthen CPI(M) and the Left


Venkatesh Athreya


THE 20th state conference of the Tamilnadu unit of the CPI(M) was held from February 22-25, 2012 in the port city of Nagappattinam, a city which has seen many a militant struggle against class and caste oppression under the leadership of the communist movement. The successful conference ended with a massive rally and public meeting on February 25, when the entire city and its neighbourhoods turned colourful and festive, with a sea of red flags.


The conference began on the morning of February 22 with revolutionary and patriotic music rendered by the Bank Employees’ Art Troupe (BEAT). This was followed by rousing receptions accorded to the comrades who brought torches named after the martyrs of the communist and working class movement from various parts of the state to the conference. Senior veteran of the Party and the kisan movement, G Veeraiyan, received the torch commemorating the martyrs of the village of Keezhavenmani where, in the course of a militant struggle for higher wages and against caste oppression, fourty-four agricultural labourers –old men, women and children - were torched to death by landlord goons on December 25, 1968 after being locked up inside a hut by them. N Varadarajan, Central Committee member and a senior leader of the Party, received the torch in memory of Comrade Lilavathy of Villapuram in Madurai, who was killed by anti-social elements while fighting for water supply for the poor. N Sankaraiah, a veteran freedom fighter and senior leader, and chairperson of the Central Control Commission of the Party, received the torch in memory of the martyrs of Chinniyampalayam textile workers’ struggle who were sentenced to death by hanging. A A Wahab, a very senior leader of the Party who had played a crucial role in building the Party in the districts of Madurai and Theni and in the successful running of the Party daily Theekkadir, received the torch in memory of the 22 martyrs killed brutally by the police in Salem jail in 1948.


The Party flag was hoisted by R Umanath, a former member of the Polit Bureau and a senior veteran of many class battles, now in his early nineties. The martyrs’ torches were brought to the conference dais by the leaders of the Nagappattinam unit of the Party, A V Murugaian, Mali, MLA and Marimuthu. The conference began with an open session after all the leaders and delegates paid floral tributes at the Martyr’s Column.


P Shanmugam, K Kamaraj, Moosa, R Velmurugan and S K Ponnuthai were unanimously elected to act as the presidium of the conference. Balakrishnan read out the resolution paying homage to leading comrades and to various personalities in public life with significant contribution to democratic movements and to society, who had passed away since the last state conference of the Party in 2008. V Marimuthu, chairman of the reception committee, welcomed the gathering. Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M), delivered a brief but pithy inaugural address.  D Pandian, secretary of the Tamilnadu state committee, greeted the conference on behalf of the CPI.




Following the open session, G Ramakrishnan presented the political-organisational report of the state committee to the conference crisply, taking just under an hour. The report identified three important organisational tasks for the Party: Expansion of the Party and mass and class organisations under its leadership; building and upholding the unity of the Party at all levels; and raising the ideological and political level and quality of the Party members. The report also dealt in detail with the important political issues of Sri Lankan Tamils, Mullai Periyar   and Koodankulam nuclear plant and the Party’s interventions on these issues.


The report pointed out that the Party and mass organisations led by it had taken up many people’s issues and won several significant victories. The victory of the more than a decade-long struggle, under our leadership, of the tribal women of Vachathi for justice against the perpetrators of atrocities on them was a historic one. The Party and the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) led by it had carried on a relentless struggle against all forms of untouchability in the state and won several successes, be it the breaking of the ‘Untouchability Wall’ at Uthapuram near Madurai and other places or temple entry struggles elsewhere. The Party had also been instrumental in obtaining a sub quota for the most oppressed arundhathiyar community within the reservation for scheduled castes. It had taken up the issue of homestead land and the grant of pattas for the landless poor. It had successfully exposed and fought the land mafias seeking to grab lands across the state. It had taken up issues of inequality along the axes of gender, caste and tribe, besides taking up many class issues. These and many other struggles on local and larger people’s issues had helped expansion of the mass and class organisations led by the Party, though not to a commensurate extent. The membership of mass and class organisations led by the Party had increased by nearly 22 per cent between 2007 and 2011. But the membership of the Party had grown only by 4.6 per cent. This needed to be reflected upon.  Another important feature of the report was that it reviewed the experience of the Party in implementing the tactics of united front for over a decade now. While presenting these and other key aspects of the report, Ramakrishnan invited the delegates to focus on the three key organisational issues as well as the question of proper implementation of united front tactics.


Nine and a quarter hours were allotted for discussion on the report. Eighty-nine delegates including eight women comrades took part in the discussion. An encouraging feature of the discussion was that a number of young comrades took part in it. The discussion was marked by the commitment of all participants to building and consolidating the unity of the Party and to the urgent task of expanding the Party and the class and mass organisations led by it. The level of discussion showed considerable political maturity as well as the effectiveness of comrades in communicating their ideas.


In a brief but succinct reply to the discussion on behalf of the state committee, Ramakrishnan appreciated the quality of the discussion and summed up its main points. He provided the state committee’s collective response to the discussion. After his reply, the report was adopted by an overwhelming majority.


Prakash Karat and Polit Bureau members S Ramachandran Pillai, K Varadharajan, Brinda Karat and B V Raghavulu were present at the conference and closely followed the discussion with the help of instantaneous translation provided by a team of translators. Their presence and participation reflected the importance of the work in Tamilnadu in the context of the emerging tasks of the Party at the national level in the coming years.


Prakash Karat, both in his opening remarks to the delegates’ session and in his concluding remarks following the adoption of the conference report, dealt with a number of important political and organisational issues and challenges facing the Party and the Left in the country and in Tamilnadu. He responded to specific points that came up in the discussions in the conference on such key issues as Sri Lankan Tamils, Mullai Periyar and Koodankulam.  His remarks on these issues and his clarification of the questions raised were very helpful. He also elaborated on the issue of united front tactics and on the question of expansion of the Party and mass and class organisations led by it.




The credentials committee report of the state conference tells us that a total of 632 comrades took part in the conference as delegates and observers. Of the 599 delegates elected to attend the state conference, 598 took part, while 32 out of the 34 observers nominated attended the conference. 99 of the delegates and observers taken together, about 16 per cent of the total, were women.  Of the total of 632 participants, 360 were fifty years or younger. The youngest comrade was just 18 years and 8 months old while the senior-most comrade, N Sankariah was 90 years old. There was no non-literate person among the participants, and only 20 had not gone beyond primary school. A remarkable feature was that 243 participants were graduates or post graduates, including a few with doctorate degrees.




The conference elected a new state committee with provision for 82 comrades. Seventy-nine comrades were elected at the conference and the new state committee was authorised to fill the remaining three seats later. The new state committee met and unanimously elected G Ramakrishnan as the state secretary. It also unanimously elected a new state secretariat of 15 comrades. Besides Ramakrishnan, the secretariat members are: T K Rangarajan, U Vasuki, A Soundararajan, P Sampath,  K Balakrishnan, K Thangavel, P Selva Singh, M N S Venkataraman, N Srinivasan, Noor Mohammed, A Lazar, P Shanmugham, N Gunasekharan and K Kanakaraj.


The conference elected 49 delegates to the all India Party Congress unanimously.


The state conference passed thirty-five important resolutions on important issues facing the people of the state and the country. In the key political resolution, the conference gave a call to all Party units to prepare for and successfully carry out a programme of mass picketing on March 27, 2012, against the anti-people neoliberal policies pursued by the central and the state government, which are causing havoc in the lives of the people.


The conference concluded with a huge rally and public meeting in Nagappatinam on February 25 evening. It was attended by a very large gathering.  The massive procession that preceded the public meeting and culminated in it was both inspiring and colourful, with Red volunteers and more than a hundred thousand women and men, most of them from the ranks of the rural and the urban poor, walking with their heads held high in the district where the Red Flag lives on in the hearts of lakhs of people.



There were several moving moments in the conference. On the first day of the conference, senior comrades who had served the Party and the people for many decades and made significant contributions to the growth of the Party and mass and class organisations under its leadership were honoured. These comrades included Mythily Sivaraman, a national leader of AIDWA, participant in many working class struggles under the leadership of the CITU and a well-known intellectual and writer of both books and pamphlets.  Some of the comrades honoured were ninety years and older and many others were in their late seventies and eighties. These comrades had served the Party in various capacities and at various levels. Common to them was their exemplary dedication to the cause of the people and their continuing commitment and urge to contribute despite advancing years, indifferent health and other constraining circumstances. The delegates showed their appreciation of the fine work of these veteran comrades by warm and sustained applause, as each comrade came to the dais to be honoured on behalf of the conference by senior national and state leaders of the Party.


A particularly moving moment came when the wife and the parents of Comrade J Navalan, a member of the Tiruvarur district secretariat of the Party and a crusader against social evils and illicit liquor, murdered a year ago by anti-social elements, came on to the dais to be honoured by Prakash Karat. All the delegates stood up spontaneously and applauded with tears in their eyes, as they saw Navalan’s wife and his parents raise their clenched fists and declare their commitment to the Red Flag, facing bravely the tragedy that had befallen them.  A similar moment came on the last day of the conference when the children of Comrade Veluchamy of Namakkal district, who had been martyred while battling usurious money lenders in Tiruppur, came on the dais. Again, the delegates rose as one to honour the memory of Veluchamy.


Two eminent Tamil writers, who have won the Sahitya Academy Prize in recent years for their literary creations, Melanmai Ponnusamy and Su. Venkatesan, were honoured at the conference.


An exhibition depicting the struggles and achievements of the communist movement was organised in connection with the conference. There was brisk sale of Marxist and progressive literature at the book stalls located at the conference venue.