People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April 29, 2012



The Glorious Legacy of P Sundarayya


B T Ranadive


May 1, 2012 marks the birth centenary of the Comrade P Sundarayya, former general secretary of the CPI(M) and an outstanding leader of the Indian Communist Movement. On this occasion we are publishing the speech given by Comrade B T Ranadive at a special memorial meeting held at Vijayawada on May 20, 1985, a day after the death of Comrade Sundarayya. In this illuminating speech, Com Ranadive brilliantly sums up the revolutionary experience and lessons of P Sundarayya’s life and work for the entire Party.   


NOW, we are here to pay tributes to our outstanding leader Comrade P Sundarayya. After the death of P Sundarayya, perhaps there is none in the Party or outside who have not felt his loss. Our Party shares fully the grief of Comrade Leila, the inseparable companion of P Sundarayya. The loss of an outstanding leader is a very deep loss no doubt, particularly multiplied, if our Party, Party leaders and cadres do not understand why we are feeling the loss and why he had become such an outstanding leader of the Communist movement and our Party.




It is not given to every Communist to become an outstanding leader. It is not given to every cadre to become an outstanding leader of the Party. Only when you specialise and distinguish yourself in an outstanding service to the Party and that of Marxism – Leninism, then alone you would become an outstanding leader. It is given to every Communist to become a better and better Communist, to become a better and better worthy Party member and better and better Party leader. That is why, all of us must master the various facts and facets, qualities that makes an outstanding leader of our Party.


All of us know, how Sundarayya began his life as a young freedom fighter for the cause of the country and for the cause of the freedom of our people. There are several people in the country who began their political life as freedom fighters, but did not become outstanding Communists. There are several other leaders who came over to Communism through anti-imperialist struggle but, either they did not remain with Communism till the end, or failed to become outstanding Communist leaders. There are several others who during the freedom struggle felt deeply for the common man, peasants, agricultural workers and harijans, but they failed to reach the highest level in the Communist movement.


When Comrade P Sundarayya came over to Communism and became an adherent to Marxism, to Leninist ideology, he immediately grasped the basic dialectical principles without which the revolutionary movements could not go ahead.


The facts that are taken for granted today by our several thousand Party members are the existence of the Communist Party and its necessity for revolution; they were not accepted at that time. What was the situation in India at that time? After the success of the Russian Revolution, several Communist groups spread all over the country, each in its own way, tried to put forward the ideals of Communism and each working in its own way. You are aware in the Kanpur Conspiracy case, several Communists were arrested and sentenced to jail. Even after that, several attempts were made to form an all-India Party. But nonetheless, the industrial groups continued to function in their own way. By 1929, the famous Meerut Conspiracy case took place charging the Communists with attempts to organise the revolution against the British empire. This was the time when already young Communists, the individual Communists and their groups succeeded in organising large scale trade union movement. But, yet, they failed to form into a single Communist Party. Even among individual Communists, who are working honestly and facing the British jails, instinctive acceptance of a common centralised all-India Party of the working class was not properly accepted. Sundarayya, entering the Party at that time, understood along with many others, that all the talk of revolution in the country will be futile without an all-India Communist Party. He also understood, whatever may be your strength in the mass organisations, whatever we may do to build our mass organisations into big mass organisations, unless they are led properly, guided properly by a centralised Party, all mass struggles will end in futile achievements. It was the time when bit by bit, state by state, centre by centre, the Party is to assert it priority and the superiority of the Party over the mass organisations. Comrade P Sundarayya along with other colleagues made most valuable contribution in asserting the principle of primacy of the Party itself. For 50 years or more, he struggled to build a real Communist Party devoted to the cause of the people, cause of the Socialism and have an iron discipline which no other Party can claim. Describing the inner discipline of the Communist Party, Lenin had said: Our discipline is most severe, even more severe than the military discipline because it is voluntarily accepted by every Communist. It is such a discipline of the Party, which Comrade Sundarayya tried to build, such a disciplined Party here and elsewhere and he, like a true Communist and true Marxist-Leninist, was always dissatisfied at any lapse of principle regarding the organisation or discipline in the Party. It is because of the disciplined Party and the idea of their discipline, that it was able to lead the glorious struggle for the agrarian revolution of the Telangana peasants. But for the organised leadership of the Party, but for the ideology, but for the slogans it evolved, such an upsurge in the peasantry would have dissipated in various directions. The Telangana struggle again proved that unless the inner fight, the fighting spirit of the peasantry is harnessed to the revolutionary ideology of the Communist Party, to the revolutionary ideology of the agrarian revolution, it splits itself and splinters into useless things. Only three decades back, India had an experience. The peasantry in Malabar rose in revolt. But there not being an ideology and a Party there, the government and other reactionary forces were able to convert it into a movement of inner fights and even communal riots. Now, we are able to see what Comrade P Sundarayya fought for and what our Party is fighting for. This is to build an all India class Communist Party. When we see our achievements and if we have to carry forward our achievements, if we have to pay good tributes to Comrade P Sundarayya, can we put our hand on our hearts and say that what Comrade P Sundarayya has been fighting for over five decades had been achieved? We have to say no. The revolutionary discipline in the Party for which we started our struggle five decades back and for which Comrade P Sundarayya devoted all his energy, is yet to be properly formed. Sometime back, our Party itself came to the conclusion that certain wrong federal tendencies are developing inside the Party which have to be fought commonly and unitedly to ensure that the heritage of Comrade P Sundarayya is carried forward.


The fight for the Party principles, the fight for the superiority of the Party over every thing else and the fight for revolutionary discipline in the Party are the fights Comrade P Sundarayya has fought and this great contribution of Comrade P Sundarayya made him an outstanding leader of the Party.




Ideology, and the correct line alone does not lead to any results. If a man sits at home and goes on preaching the principle of superiority of the Party, the principle will have no meaning and the man will have no meaning. After all, every revolutionary principle is to be made acceptable principle of the masses and has to be carried to the people and has to be made the heritage of masses. Ideology without personal courage, ideology without the personal contact with masses, ideology without being with the masses, has absolutely no future anywhere. Every revolutionary step is supposed to have the personal courage, that personal devotion to carry forward the tasks of the ideology and without that thing, ideology cannot work. Sundarayya had that courage, that devotion so that he was not just a teacher of that superiority principle but was always active among the people, cadres, and masses to ensure the victory of the principle.


Not only regarding the Party principle, regarding every activity of the Party – tactics of the Party, the mass organisation, building up popular organisations and on every issue – he was among the people, so that Communism and the daily struggle of the masses and the Communism and the daily growing consciousness of the people were increasingly untied through him. A revolutionary does not become a full revolutionary unless he has a strong and total opposition to everything the old society represents – its culture, religion, caste system. Whatever may be the tactics he employs, but in the heart, there must be a burning fire to destroy the present society and erect a new society. In the course of our revolutionary struggle, we have to enter into alliance and into tactical understanding with several forces; many of these forces stand for the present social order. Many of you may not criticise them. That, of course, we have to do. But, in our heart, the direction of our struggle must be towards changing this entire society.


The Communist Party and the Communist ideology from the beginning took a defiant stand against all feudal social institutions like religion and demanded that the people should be freed from the influence of these social institutions. In its announcement of programme or platform, it never compromised with any of these principles, any of these institutions though for tactical purpose, it had to adopt different tactics on different occasions.   


Sundarayya shared this hatred for these feudal institutions perhaps long before he came over to Communism. In his early days when he joined the freedom struggle, he had already started fight against the caste system and the ostracism of harijans. It required a great individual personal courage in those days for a young man to stand in opposition to the entire upper class village and demand that he is entitled to treat harijans on equal terms. This defiant spirit to challenge the injustice of the entire old institutions stood in him firmly when he came over to Communism and when his outlook became much more broadened, challenging every aspect of the present social system. Many of our comrades, Party leaders and cadres shared this opposition to all these old social institutions which are reactionary.


But, yet, in a major chunk of the ranks of our Party, there is not a burning hatred for these institutions.


In our everyday Party life and Party activity, we have to keep in mind this heritage left by Comrade Sundarayya along with all other things. We must not forget the fight against these feudal institutions because our revolution itself is partly anti-feudal.


The outstanding period of his life, which also marked in the earlier period, was Comrade P Sundarayya’s continuous fight in defence of Marxism-Leninism and the Party of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine.


When Comrade P Sundarayya joined the Communist Party, the task initially was much easier because we had to fight anti-Communist tendencies outside and we had to gather growing Communist groups together on the basis of common ideology. The immediate task was to unify all the Communists on the basis of a common platform and common programme and on the basis of common outlook and attitude towards the nationalists and anti-imperialist struggle and on the basis of how to develop the leadership of the working class for the agrarian revolution during the course of this struggle.




But, subsequently, when the Party became big and new developments began to take place in the country, there were vacillations inside the Party also. The inner-party struggle became sharp after the achievement of independence. In all newly liberated countries, at one stage or the other, certainly the inner-party struggle does take place, because of the very composition of the Party. Our biggest inner-party struggle took place in 1962 or 1964 or a little bit earlier; for five to ten years, it had been going on. It was the struggle between the two wings of the Communist Party of India as it was there. What was the essence of this struggle and inner-party difference?


As Stalin pointed out, “The inner-party differences often echo the feelings of the different sections of the people outside the Party. They are the reflections of the bourgeois influences within the Party. It happened in India in the same form. What to do with the Congress government? How near it is? How distant it is?


Why did it happen? It happened because during the course of anti-imperialist struggle, as it is bound to happen in any colonial country, a large number of anti-imperialist honest elements from the middle-classes and petty bourgeoisie found place inside the Party. While remaining honest, they unconsciously identified Communism and Socialism with the struggle against imperialism and achievement of independence. When the question of carrying forward the victory of anti-imperialist struggle to the stage of the democratic revolution and to the stage of relieving the peasantry from exploitation came up, then they began to show vacillations. Now it is not the direct struggle against imperialism. It is the direct struggle against the bourgeoisie-landlord combination of our own country.


The condition of these sections in the Party is similar to the condition of Arjuna during the Mahabharat war. Seeing the Kaurava army, he said, these are my Mamas and Chachas, how can I fight with them. The revisionists in the Party developed the same phobia. After-all, they are Nehru Chacha and Patel Mama, how can we fight with them. It is a clear case of bourgeoisie influence inside the Party which was recognised by some of our leaders like P Sundarayya, M Basavapunnaiah and others. And serious fight has gone on, and in 1964 it came to an end. The Party has split into two. Here an uncompromising role along with others was played by Comrade P Sundarayya in defence of purity of Marxist-Leninist doctrine in defence of Marxist-Leninist Party and fight against revisionism. This was one of the main contributions which Comrade P Sundarayya made in our fight against revisionism. Without this fight, a genuine

Marxist-Leninist Party would not have survived in this country.


Comrades, you must ask yourself a question why only some leaders of the Party were able to carry on this fight while other leaders deserted this fight. The difference lies in the fact that some leaders, a section of the Party and leadership were able to understand and master the application of Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of India and were firmly wedded to defend the basic truths and principles of Marxism while others neglected their study and wanted to sacrifice the basic principles in the name of practical politics. Now the question comes because all of you are paying genuine tributes to Comrade P Sundarayya, will you be able to defend the heritage which Comrade P Sundarayya leaves behind? That is, are you, personally, individually in your own capacity, capable of defending the Party of Marxist-Leninist doctrine and carry on the burden which Comrade P Sundaryya left on us? Of course, the answer is no. Because such defence can be made only by those who make it their lifetime business to go on studying the Marxist-Leninist doctrines and draw inspiration every day and every minute of their life. Lenin once said, he alone is a real Marxist who makes Marxism a part of his inner-consciousness, that is Marxism and Marxist reaction must come automatically. Very few among our Party cadres and Party members can justify this to say that they are devoting that much time to the study, restudy and restudy of Marxism-Leninism which would ensure the complete defence of the Party of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine. To be able to pay a genuine tribute to the memory of Comrade P Sundarayya, all of us must resolve to study and restudy the Marxist-Leninist doctrine.




Another part, which perhaps is now commonly accepted and perhaps the testing time has not come, is the question of proletarian internationalism. Our Party is a Party which believes in proletariat internationalism and the unity of the entire working class of the world in the common fight against capitalism for the establishment of world socialism. You obviously also understand and that is how the various contingents of the international movement act, each Party has its own work in its own nation, but, it must continue to work as a contingent of the single world order. There were many Socialists, some of them Communists who were contemporary to Comrade P Sundarayya, but afterwards, we do not find their name either in Socialist or Communist movement. There were parties of various socialist roots which later on either merged in Lokdal, Janata or some of them in Congress. The distinguishing mark of these parties is that some of them have honest people, but they could not establish a proper link between India’s struggle for freedom and the international working class and socialist movement.


Sundarayya came to the Communist Party and along with it accepted the discipline of Communist international, has well understood that the struggle for India’s independence, the struggle for Socialism in the world and the struggle of the other countries for freedom are all linked in the single chain – the chain of fight against world imperialism. Forty years back, ours was the only Party which correctly understood this relationship and of course, faced the comments from other parties like Indian National Congress. Only a few days back, all our critics, including the ruling Congress Party, were celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the anti-fascist victory of Soviet forces over Fascism. Now, everybody accepts, that it was an earth-shaking event which led to the changing of the entire shape of the world, the complete elimination of the British empire and a complete abolition of old colonial system. Our Party foresaw this fury and told the people the direction in which we had to move. In this proletarian outlook, Sundarayya played an outstanding role in keeping the Party on the correct path. But, still more severe test came when the India-China conflict began in 1962. At the time, the Party was still one. But, only those people who took a correct proletarian stand like P Sundarayya and Basavapunnaiah and others were jailed by the Congress government. This section of Communists were called Chinese agents. This happens every time when you take a correct proletarian stand. This fight, which our Party put up, which created proper proletarian international outlook, is of importance in the life of the Communist movement. If this fight was not there, the Party would have become a chauvinistic Party, completely anti-Chinese Party divorcing itself from the great victory of Chinese revolution.


It was an acid test for our courage and proletarian internationalism as the fight was not only against the ruling Congress government but we had to cross swords with such a big Party like the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.


We all pay high tributes to what CPSU is doing today. It has guarded its Socialism and it is fighting Reagan’s war-mongerism. But at that time, we had to criticise that great Party also for its failure to understand what has happened on India-China border. Once again, the question comes up when one has to show courage to criticise the very big Party, to stand in defiance of the ruling Party here and also at the expense of some misunderstanding with the people of our own country. This courage comes from the firm belief in proletarian internationalism. The same leadership did not show any vacillation in expressing its differences with the Communist Party of China when they appeared to go wrong. Once again, it came from the innate loyalty to the basic principles of Marxism-Leninism, such qualities were in abundance in P Sundarayya and other leaders.


To honour the memory of Comrade P Sundarayya, we have to carry forward this understanding of internationalism and strengthen it in the minds of all our Party members.


Comrade P Sundarayya along with others took a very prominent and leading role in not only fighting the right revisionism in the country but also the Naxalite dogmatism and Naxalite Left-Sectarianism. These are the reflections of two tendencies in the international Communist movement – the revisionism on one hand and the sectarian dogmatism on the other hand.


For standing face to face with the big parties, who in our understanding are committing mistakes, our Party got alienated from both sides and Comrade Sundarayya was singled out for leading the Party in this. When we were taking this stand, Comrade Sundarayya was the general secretary of our Party and he had to bear the burnt of attack and abuse from both sides. It is because of this quality of standing firm for the basic principles of the Party that when Party Congress took place in Calcutta, Comrade Sundarayya was unanimously elected the general secretary of the Party.


One cannot forget the historic struggle of the Telangana peasants while talking about Comrade P Sundarayya. It was the most glorious part of the history of our Communist movement. The lessons of this struggle were not completely mastered either in Andhra or anywhere else. Its pride is not properly shared by all our Party members. The book which Comrade P Sundarayya has written on Telangana struggle will go a long way in teaching our people as to what great heights our Party and the people of Telangana reached during the course of this struggle.


There you come to grips with the common people and you see what is made up of common man and woman when they are fired by Marxian ideology and by the ideology of agrarian revolution. Heroes are not born or drawn from the drawing rooms. Heroes are not produced only through study circles. Heroes and heroines are born when the revolutionary ideology becomes the weapon of the common man and they arise from the common man. Then you see a qualitative change in these persons who are down-trodden yesterday and would not open their mouth and put up with oppression. Then you see the fire of revolution and fire of hatred burning in them and they become qualitatively different human beings. That is what the Telangana struggle did to the peasantry of Telangana. Then the revolutionary slogans of the Party become the slogans of the masses.


Stalin long ago said, the tactical slogans are meant to see that the slogans of the Party become the slogans of the masses.


In Telangana, we followed the tactics which resulted in the slogans of the Party becoming slogans of the agrarian masses. This movement also showed that when the revolutionary ideology of the working class and its Party is wedded to the fighting spirit of the peasantry, the real revolutionary movement is born. That leadership we could not have given without the Party, ideology of the working class and the Party bracing up the ideology of the working class. Combined with the revolutionary outlook and the revolutionary tactics of the working class movement in the agrarian revolution is the lesson that can be drawn from Telangana and Comrade P Sundarayya’s life. If that lesson is mastered, our movement would become ten times more powerful. Can we be able to do it? Then, we have to take the corresponding tactics of the present period so that the two revolutionary forces – the working class movement and ideology and peasant unrest and ideology, can come together. That is very important because our Party programme also says that unity of the workers and peasants is the axis of the people’s democratic front.


Comrade P Sundarayya was able to score all these achievements because of certain special qualities in him. I have already talked about his devotion, his mingling with the masses. Perhaps there is no other leader of the CPI(M) who was moving so much with the masses, who was for the masses, from the masses and with the masses; Comrade P Sundarayya and A K Gopalan are the two leaders who are always with the masses. That is why, though he was implementing and carrying forward the Party line, because he was in the masses, he was able to awaken more and more masses and became an outstanding leader of the implementation of Marxism-Leninism.


Another distinction in Comrade P Sundarayya is his passion for details. Comrade Sundarayya would not speak unless his brief was complete. He would like to make a thorough study of every problem facing him and only on the basis of that study and the details he mastered, he would venture to give guidance. For him, Party work was always planned work. It must be planned properly, executed properly, and implemented properly. Even for an ordinary thing, he would say as if you want to do this thing, what is the Party membership and influence there? The whole idea was to find out whether the Party is in a position to guide this or that thing must be firmly decided on how Party exists and it carried on its work.    


Another great quality of Comrade P Sundarayya is his complete accessibility to the Party cadres and members. It is because of this together with all rewards he received, he earned the confidence of the Party members, cadres and people outside the Party and he became the outstanding leader of the Party. Implementation of Party line alone would have not made him an outstanding leader. Personal sacrifice and characteristics alone would not have made him an outstanding leader. The combination of devotion towards Party line, simple life and availability to the cadres has made Comrade P Sundarayya a complete outstanding leader.


To pay tribute to his memory is to endeavour every time to become one like him, who would be equally efficient in discharging all the tasks the Party sets on us. How his personal influence also extended beyond the Party was seen yesterday when so many lakhs of people attended his funeral. The masses loved him and the other Party leaders respected him. But, it is a privilege of our Party and our ranks to carry forward the heritage left by him. Let us all be worthy of it.