People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April 29, 2012



An Extraordinary Communist Leader


Prakash Karat


MAY 1, 2012 marks the birth centenary of Putchalapalli Sundarayya. It is an occasion to commemorate the life and work of an extraordinary Communist leader.  P Sundarayya, PS as he was popularly known, was a product of the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal movements in the two decades leading up to India’s independence.  Joining the freedom struggle at the young age of 17, Sundarayya began his political journey from being a Congress activist to a committed Communist. 


As in the case of many other militant freedom fighters who became Communists, Sundarayya revolted against the caste system.  One of his first public actions as the young boy was  to sit on a hunger strike in his village to protest against the caste discrimination practiced against dalits.


Sundarayya was recruited to the Communist Party by Amir Hyder Khan, the first Communist to visit South India.   He saw the potential of a revolutionary in the young student.  From then began the remarkable revolutionary path of PS.  Looking back with the long view of history, PS will be recognised as one of the builders of the Communist Party. He became a member of  the Central Committee of the Party in 1936 at the young age of 24.  This was the first Central Committee of the centralised re-organised Party.  He was assigned the task of organising the Party in South India.  As EMS Namboodiripad has written in the `History of the Communist Party in Kerala’, it was P Sundarayya who played the key role in recruiting the first  batch of Communists in Kerala.  In Andhra Pradesh, his home state, PS worked tirelessly to build the Party and attract the young radical elements from within the nationalist movement. It was due to his pioneering and strenuous work that the foundation of the Communist movement was laid in Andhra Pradesh.  PS was intimately associated with the first group of Communists in Tamilnadu who were then part of the Madras province which included parts of Andhra Pradesh. 


Later, PS played a key role in the formation of the CPI(M). He became the general secretary of the Party at the founding Seventh Congress in 1964.  For twelve years, PS served as the general secretary of the Party and devoted all his energies to building the Party as a Marxist-Leninist organisation.  The `Task on Party Organisation’ adopted by the Central Committee in 1967, which sets out the blueprint for a revolutionary organisation, bears his imprint. 


P Sundarayya made a major contribution to developing the strategy of the agrarian revolution.  He was one of the founding members of the All India Kisan Sabha in 1936, when he became a joint secretary. He was one of the first to recognise the importance of organising the agricultural workers and their role as the rural proletariat. His leadership of the Telangana armed struggle of the peasantry is legendary. His book, `The Telangana Armed Struggle and its Lessons’ provides the most comprehensive account of this historic struggle.  Later, he continued to study various aspects of the agrarian situation and the classes developing in the countryside.  As late as the mid-seventies, he organised a survey of villages in Andhra Pradesh to get a scientific understanding of the land question and the agrarian classes. He was fully convinced that without an agrarian revolution which  emancipates the poor peasants and agricultural workers, there can be no completion of the democratic revolution in India.


PS was an ardent defender of the Marxist-Leninist ideology and principles. He struggled against revisionism within the Communist movement and fought equally vigorously against the `ultra-Left’ deviation.  The man who led the Telangana peasant guerilla struggle could easily discern the Left-adventurist and petty-bourgeois revolutionism of the Naxalite movement.


Sundarayya’s other great quality was in the nurturing and development of cadres for the Party and the movement.  In all the leadership positions that he held at various levels and times, he would identify potential cadres, assess their abilities and after recruiting them, nurture and develop them.  Successive generations of activists were moulded and reared as Communist cadres because of this unique capacity of PS.


There were a number of Communist leaders of PS’s generation who were self-sacrificing and  devoted, but Sundarayya stood out amongst them for his simplicity, sense of sacrifice and total commitment.  Sundarayya cycling for miles at a go in the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, trudging through thick jungles in Telangana for days and leading a disciplined life for years in jail – there were very few  who could match his  physical stamina  and endurance. He was selfless as far as the Party was concerned and, by example, could get others to emulate him.  It was due to this simplicity and sacrifice that many non-Communists in Andhra called him a “Communist Rishi”.


The 20th Congress of the Party has called for a year-long observance of the birth centenary of P Sundarayya.  This centenary year should be utilised for a campaign to build and strengthen the Party.  The Polit Bureau will soon announce the programme for this observance.