People's Democracy

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


No. 37

September 16, 2012


Marching on Socialist Path is the

Real Tribute We Can Pay to Sundarayya



B V Raghavulu



THERE have been many prominent political leaders in Andhra Pradesh but Sundarayya stood above all of them. Despite being a Communist leader, he is equally respected by all sections of the people irrespective of their political leanings. That is the reason why lakhs of people paid homage and participated in Sundarayya’s last journey on May 19, 1985


A person’s worth cannot be measured by the number of years he lived or the high posts he held or by the massive amounts of money he accumulated. The yardstick is how far has that person’s work contributed to changing the society for the better and whether there is something in his work that can be emulated by future generations. Sundarayya dedicated his entire life for the cause of people, society and Communist movement.  Many aspects of his life are worth emulating even today.


Sundarayya’s life of struggle began with his revolt in 1930 against the feudal practices prevalent in his village. He displayed deep hatred for the feudal customs and practices. He stood with dalits and other backward castes in the fight for equality. He removed from his name ‘Reddy’ which denotes the caste to which his family belonged. He organised all-caste common inter-dining in his village. He fought for the rights of dalits to draw water from the common well in the village. He ran a groceries shop for dalits. He facilitated inter caste marriages. He always stood for equal treatment of women.   


In spite of the work of that generation, even today the remnants of feudalism are strongly entrenched in society mainly due to the weakness in our freedom struggle and the compromising nature of ruling classes post independence. Like the British who used caste and religion for their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy, the present day neo-liberal rulers are also using identities like caste, religion, sect, region etc to further their exploitation and to maintain their hegemony. We cannot prevent the divisive tendencies of identity politics without constantly waging struggle against the existing remnants of feudalism. If the Communist movement compromises with the remnants of feudalism, the people’s movement not only cannot go forward, but will be weakened greatly. One cannot be a Communist if one does not fight against such feudal remnants like caste oppression, communalism, patriarchy etc. That is why the kind of hatred shown by Sundarayya against these feudal practices, the kind of spirited, committed struggle he put up against them is the need of the hour.


Sundarayya was a relentless fighter in the cause of people. He was in the forefront of important struggles led by the Communist movement. First is the heroic Telangana Peasant Armed Struggle, which stands out as the foremost struggle during the freedom movement. Ten thousand village militia members and 2000 regular guerillas fought against Nizam razakars at first and against 50 thousand strong army of union government later. Over 4000 comrades were martyred in this heroic struggle conducted from 1946 to 1952. Ten thousand activists were sent to jails and 50 thousand people were detained in police camps. All these extraordinary sacrifices did not go in vain. It resulted in dethroning of the feudal Nizam government and merger of Hyderabad state into Indian union. Around Ten lakh acres of land were distributed to the peasantry. Forced labour and the system of Bedhakal were abolished. It gave an impetus to the movements for formation of linguistic states. It is because of that heroic movement’s legacy that our Party continues to have a mass base in Khammam and Nalgonda districts.  The astounding results – 45 out of 100 seats in Telangana area of Hyderabad state - achieved by the Communists who fought in 1952 elections under the banner of Progressive Democratic Front were because of this struggle. Sundarayya as the secretary of Telangana Communist Committee led the armed struggle heroically for four years amidst cruel repression and murders unleashed by the razakars and the Union Army. That is why Sundarayya is loved and respected as one of their own family members in almost every village and house in Telangana.  The experience and the lessons of this great peoples struggle were summarised in Sundarayya`s book Telangana Peoples Struggle and Its Lessons written in 1972.


The second struggle is the 1934 historic Peasant Protection Yatra held in coastal Andhra Pradesh under the guidance of Sundarayya. As Party secretary, Sundarayya played a key role in this struggle also. Hundreds of cadre conducted the ten-month long padayatra from Ichapuram to Madras, covering a distance of 2433 Km and 525 villages, rousing the people against the injustices of re-settlement policy. They addressed four and half lakh people in over 500 public meetings. They submitted a memorandum on farmers issue to Madras Assembly. This programme greatly helped in strengthening our base among the peasantry. It also played a key role in the formation of All India Kisan Sabha.


When we talk of Sundarayya, we mainly remember him as a leader of struggles. But he was also a great parliamentarian. He was elected to Rajya Sabha in 1952. He acted as the leader of opposition for three years, upto1955. After being elected to Andhra Assembly in 1955, he functioned as the leader of opposition in the state assembly for 12 years, till 1967. He was in state assembly again from 1978 to 1983.


Sundarayya was unique to the parliament even in those days. He went to parliament on cycle, with files tied to the carriage at the back. When he was a member of the state legislature, he not only used to go to the Assembly on cycle, but when needed, even to the chief minister’s house too, which astonished everyone.




With his 20 years of personal experience in parliament and assembly, he clearly understood the role and limitations of the parliamentary activities in Indian revolutionary movement. He stood as a role model of how a Communist parliamentarian should be. He showed by practice how a people’s representative can lead a simple life. How a Communist parliamentarian must undertake thorough study before making comments, make sharp but responsible criticism, make alternative and constructive suggestions, reflect outside people’s struggles inside the house. He showed by example how not to fall prey to parliamentary allurements. Today, when even some people’s representatives from Communist parties are also falling prey to the inducements of bourgeois parliamentary system, there is a greater need to take Sundarayya’s parliamentary life as a role model.


Sundarayya believed that social service activities are as important as people’s struggles in advancing the revolutionary movement. Sudarayya always emphasised the necessity of providing healthcare to the poor by communists. As a young boy, Sundarayya trained himself in first-aid methods, and provided basic health care in his village. He encouraged his brother Dr Ramachandra Reddy to set up People’s Hospital in 1953 and continued to guide it until his death. Today that hospital is being run as a model people’s hospital by a Party trust. This 250-bed hospital with 40 doctors and 250 staff is providing yeoman services to the poor and middle classes. Over two and half lakh people avail out- patient services in a year.  Over 250 doctors, who were trained in this hospital over the years, have started hospitals in all parts of the state and are rendering affordable healthcare to people and are helping the people’s movements in various ways.


In 1971, when the prices of essential food grains sharply increased, apart from agitating for control of rising prices, in order to expose the government’s failure and to provide some relief to people, the Communist Party ran shops in which rice was sold at one rupee per kg. In Gannavaram area, which was represented by Sundarayya in the state assembly, Party activists ran these cheap ration shops in 39 villages for three months. Later, this was replicated across the state. The activists bought paddy from farmers and after processing in rice mills, sold it to the poor. They proved that it is indeed possible to sell rice at Rs 1 per kg even after all expenses are taken into account. This programme brought tremendous pressure on the government to take measures against black marketeers.


He was always in the forefront in organising relief activities during natural calamities. Around 10,000 persons perished due to severe cyclone in Diviseema region of Krishna district in 1977. Nearly 100 villages were completely wiped out. Human and cattle corpses were lying around all over. Our cadre worked hard day and night for 30 days and performed tasks from removing the corpses to rendering medical aid to the survivors. Our Party played a great role in mobilising cadre, collecting relief material and providing assistance to the affected people. Sundarayya personally supervised the relief effort.


The point to be noted is that Sundarayya felt that these were not just service-oriented activities. They were also a means to rouse the consciousness of the masses against the policies of ruling classes. He felt it was a wrong trend within the revolutionary movement to view this activity as unimportant.


We can learn a lot from Sundarayya on how to keep our links live with people when our Party is politically isolated. During 1942 Quit India movement, our Party was politically isolated in Andhra Pradesh. There was massive disinformation campaign that Communists were betrayers. Those days it became difficult even to hold public meetings. In such a situation, the special effort made by the Party was successful in defeating the ruling class attempts to alienate the people from us. Notable in this effort was the removal of silt from Bandaru irrigation canal that had affected nearly Six lakh acres of arable land. For 20 days in May 1944, around 4000 leaders and cadres of the Party successfully completed the work on a war footing. Sundarayya carried earth loads on his head. The photograph of Sundarayya supervising the work leaning on his cycle at the canal site remains a symbol of that great effort even today. The people appreciated this effort of the Party by saying only Communists can accomplish such tasks.


When faced with unfavourable circumstances, Sundarayya was always in the forefront of safeguarding the Party and people’s movements with courage, determination and confidence even at a time when many others succumbed to confusion and loss of confidence. Two particular occasions in this context can be cited. Some within the Party developed cold feet and left the movement following the severe repression unleashed by the Indian Union Army to crush the Telangana armed struggle. But Sundarayya played a great role by remaining with the armed squads and gradually withdrawing the struggle. He took great care to see that the Party and the cadre were safeguarded during this process. After withdrawal of the armed struggle, from underground itself, Sundarayya went to console the families of martyrs. The kind of effort he put in for a decade after withdrawal of the armed struggle to get the cases against underground cadre removed, to get those in jails released or to help the martyrs’ families is, in one word, amazing.


There was a severe disappointment within the Party after the electoral losses suffered in Andhra region in the 1955 elections. While the Party won 41 seats with 21 percentage of votes in 1952, it only got 15 seats with 31percentage of votes in 1955. Instead of recognising the importance of the increase of vote percentage, a part of the leadership became despondent. Steeped in debts, the Party was not even in a position to maintain whole-timer cadre. The main leadership, utterly demoralised and unable to face this situation, gave a call to the cadres to give up fulltime Party work and to take up other occupations for their livelihood. Sundarayya strongly opposed this attitude and gave confidence to the cadre by mobilising funds and helping their sustenance during that difficult period.




It is a well-known fact that Sundarayya was an exceptional organiser. Even in his formative years, his talent for organisation was evident. At a young age of 20 years, he toured the entire Andhra region and formed many communist branches and groups. In 1935 when he was only 22, he prepared the ground for Communist movement in Kerala by touring around the state and holding discussions with important leaders of the freedom movement. That is why he is renowned as the builder of Indian Communist movement in South India. It is because of such role that he was taken into the Central Committee in 1934 itself, in which position he continued up to his death and into the Polit Bureau in 1942. He was a pioneer in organising the first Agriculture Labour Union in 1932 in his village. Sundarayya played an important role in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha in 1936. He was a founder member and assistant secretary of AIKS and he also played a key role in establishing the Party all India centre in New Delhi in 1955. He was at the forefront of the formation of the CPI(M). After 1964, as Party general secretary, Sundarayya utilised his organisational talents in taking the Party forward amidst various obstacles.


I got an opportunity to observe him directly after 1976 when he chose Andhra Pradesh as his main place of work. Sundarayya’s organisational effort during this period helped in putting the Party back on rails and take it forward. The Party in the state was weakened due to 1964 split, the 1967 Naxalite disruption, the divisive movements of separate Telangana and Andhra in 1969 and 1973 respectively. Because of these disruptions, the Party faced acute dearth of trained and committed cadre. To surmount this handicap, immediately after the Emergency in 1977, by conducting classes in five places across our state for 2800 cadre who worked fearlessly during Emergency, he gave a fillip to the growth of the Party. Separate classes were held for agricultural labour front cadre for ten days each at two different locations. To improve the work of branch secretaries at the village and factory level, three 7-day schools were conducted for them in Vijayawada in 1980. Feeling that the weakness in trade union front was a major drawback of the Party in the state, he undertook a deep study and prepared a plan to overcome the situation. His report was discussed in the TU state conference in 1981 and a ten-day school was conducted for the TU cadre who were involved in implementing the report. The ten-day political schooling for activists in student front has become a regular practice. This orientation given by PS is followed even now in our state.




Sundarayya was opposed to the trend of succumbing to spontaneity, be it by individuals as Communists or collectively by Party committees. His work method was to chalk out a plan as per concrete conditions and work according to it. He used to stress the importance of this method particularly for functioning of committees. Sundarayya never believed that the Communist movement can go forward because of individuals, no matter how talented they were. He was of the opinion that the Party as a whole must act as ‘organiser par excellence’. If committees themselves act as effective organisers, then the weaknesses of individuals can be overcome and the movement can move ahead.


Sundarayya gave a lot of importance to imparting political education to those who participated in the struggles and movements. At the beginning of the Communist movement in the state, Sundarayya organised a one month long political school under the aegis of Congress Socialist Party in Kothapatnam in 1937. The next year, another month long school was organised in Manthenavari Palem. Students of these two schools later on became famous as Communist Party cadres and leaders. His emphasis on political training through schools continued up to his death, as explained earlier with regard to Andhra Pradesh. In the present situation of depoliticisation of people, especially youth and students, penetration of ideas of identity, market fundamentalism into the minds of vast sections of the society, to equip our cadres and leaders much more importance is to be given to political education than was given in the days of Sundarayya.


The attention and affection he showed towards cadre was well known. Many persons came into the Communist movement after being inspired by him. He used to pay great attention for training the cadre and educating them. He used to render necessary help to the cadre after observing their economic, health and family conditions.  Recognising the importance of the student front in providing cadre for the revolutionary movement, he took keen interest in developing the student movement and great care in nurturing the cadre coming from this section. The amount of attention paid by Sundarayya on students is much more needed now. After the onset of neo liberalism and the collapse of socialism in some countries, the flow of new cadre from the student front had appreciably slowed down. To reverse the present trend, we need to follow Sundarayya’s foot steps in paying much more attention in attracting, educating, deploying the cadre from the students.


Sundarayya always emphasised that a proper cadre policy is essential for a Communist Party and without that it cannot continue as a revolutionary party. When the cadre system of the Party was sought to be demolished by a wrong trend in AP in 1955, Sundarayya fought against it and worked for retaining the cadre. He prepared a Cadre policy in 1977, covering aspects in a detailed manner such as who can be taken as whole timers, their wages etc. Even today that policy is guiding the Party in these aspects. We are today trying to expand and strengthen the Party across the country, to spread into new sectors of activity and new sections of people. That is possible only when we have a proper Cadre policy. We have to learn a lot in this respect from Sundarayya.


Sundarayya used to patiently try to correct the mistakes and wrong trends in cadre while utilising their capacities. But at the same time, he used to act very sternly against those who violated Party discipline and acted against the line of the Party. He did not hesitate to suggest removal of prominent leaders of the Party in Andhra Pradesh when they violated discipline and acted as though they were above Party. Even when he differed severely with the decisions of the Party, he would implement them without any hesitation. The way he worked as one among us in the state movement from 1978 even after working as the all India general secretary of the Party was amazing. His work was marked with utmost discipline and collective functioning. The extreme Left wing organisations published a book containing documents about the differences Sundarayya had within the Party on certain policy issues in the run up to Jalandhar Congress. Their intention was to create confusion within the Party but Sundarayya stood by the agreed line of the Party and foiled their attempts.




Sundarayya used concrete study and vast knowledge as a tool for advancing the movement. He thoroughly studied land relations in 1936 and prepared a report to help develop the Kisan movement. He authored a book on ‘Land question’ in 1977 after conducting an intensive survey in the villages of Kaja and Ananthavaram in Guntur district. He analysed the situation of agricultural labourers in a class for the cadre working in that front, only after collecting data regarding the wage rates, production expenses, prices of produce etc. He wrote a book Comprehensive Water resource Plan for Andhra Pradesh in 1981, outlining concrete suggestions on proper and equitable utilisation of the water resources in AP to fight the divisive controversies created by the ruling parties. His 1944 book People’s Rule in Visalandhra detailing plans for the all round development of the Telugu people in a united state had greatly enthused the movement for a united linguistic state in those days.


Sundarayya was one of the top leaders who played an important role in applying Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of the country and charting out an independent line for the Marxist Party. Sundarayya never hesitated, or compromised in opposing what he thought was ideologically wrong. He exhibited equal firmness while combating revisionist or extremist trends within the Party. Sundarayya never had a good opinion about those who did not take a stand this way or that way in ideological struggles and preferred to remain neutral for a long time. He did not like when many comrades adopted such a position during the Naxalite disruption in Andhra Pradesh. He felt such attitude has greatly harmed the movement. He hated opportunism, sycophancy, boastfulness and cowardice. He used to say that it is understandable if comrades reveal secrets unable to bear the police torture. But it is inexcusable if they spill secrets just in fear of police or after meekly surrendering.


No one could intimidate Sundarayya. When S A Dange threw a challenge in the national council meeting of the Party in 1957, keeping Sundarayya in mind, saying that some leaders are campaigning against Khrushchev accusing him of adapting a revisionist path; if they have guts they must say it here. Sundarayya immediately got up and without any hesitation or fear asserted that Khrushchev was indeed following a revisionist path! Another instance of his fearlessness was evident when he, in a Congress public meeting in 1935, challenged Tanguturi Prakasam, a big nationalist leader then, for telling lies about Soviet Union. An angry Prakasam shouted “who is that fellow” but didn’t say anything further as the young man said “I am Sundarayya.”  


Till his last breath, Sundarayya spent every second, every paisa and all his energies for the sake of people and people’s movement. He led a very simple life. He underwent family planning operation not to have children because he felt he could not devote time for their upbringing as his life and time would be spent on movements.


The importance of the values practiced by Sundarayya and his lifestyle is much more important today at a time when the neo-liberal ideology is on the offensive. Consumerism and individualism has spread all over. Pompousness, extravagance have become benchmarks of greatness and prestige. Corruption, cheating, subterfuge, demagogy etc have become acts of brilliance and dynamism. Repression, exploitation, loot of public wealth have become acceptable avenues of amassing wealth. On the other hand, cooperation, solidarity, benevolence, tolerance, caring etc are being perceived as traits of the incompetent. Today, man and nature are also seen as tools for profit. It is becoming increasingly clear how such values and thoughts are pushing the society, the future of humankind and the stability of nature to the brink of disaster. How they are spreading a feeling of disappointment and helplessness among the people is also evident today. Unable to understand the roots of this dire situation, people are falling prey to the influences of fundamentalist, sectarian and divisive forces.


It is not possible to strengthen the Communist movement without weakening the hegemony of these reactionary values on the people. Communist Party will not be able to inspire anyone if it compromises and adjusts with neo-liberal values and lifestyles in the name of objective conditions, or citing the reverses to Socialist project, or in the name of Socialism not achievable in the immediate future. Sundarayya’s life unveils before us a path of uncompromising struggle against feudal bourgeois values and in favor of Socialist values.


If one imagines how a Socialist human being would be, we can easily say he or she would be like Sundarayya. His life shows how a Socialist human being can organically grow even in the womb of a capitalist society. But, if only a few persons’ lives are like this, it would be insufficient. Communist Party itself must grow as a seedling embodying the values of Socialism within the womb of capitalism. Only then can we unveil the vision of a new society before the youth and people. Only then can we enthuse and inspire future generations.


Marching on that path only is the real tribute we can pay to Sundarayya.