People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 30, 2012


Comrade Sundarayya: An Inspiration to Lakhs of People


Harkishan Singh Surjeet




The 20th Congress of the CPI(M) adopted  a resolution on the observance of  the birth centenary of Comrade P Sundarayya. It called for a year-long observance from May 1, 2012. As a part of this, we are reproducing the article written by Comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet on Comrade P Sundarayya.


COMRADE Sundarayya is no more. It is not only communists that remember him always; the working class, the millions of toiling masses will preserve his memories for long. Those who fought for independence and who are struggling against imperialists, colonialists and neo-colonialism, will never forget him.


There are many leaders in the Communist Party who fought for the working class, for social revolution for decades together and who proved their revolutionary mettle in times of great difficulties and Communist Party is proud of those comrades. But Comrade Sundarayya is one above all of them. He is a people’s man; he has those organisational capabilities required of a revolutionary, based on Marxism-Leninism. He has inspired not hundreds but thousands to dedicate themselves to the fight for national liberation, for socialism and for the ultimate goal of communism. Different party leaders who spoke at the funeral function, paid homage to Comrade Sundarayya as “a person about whom Andhra people are proud because he is one who practiced what he preached.” He came from a landlord family and started his political life at a very early age. At the age of 17 itself, he gave up his studies, got attracted towards national freedom movement, participated in satyagraha struggle in 1930 and very soon, came towards Marxism-Leninism. After he got in touch with Amir Hyder Khan, he joined the Communist Party. Hyder Khan, now very old, is in Rawalpindi in Pakistan under Zia’s rule. It is a proof of communist Sundarayya’s devotion and steadfastness that he was taken into the first Central Committee of the party constituted after the comrades were released in the Meerut conspiracy case. Almost immediately thereafter, he took up the responsibility of organising the party in the southern states.


Great communist leaders like late A K Gopalan and CPI(M) general secretary EMS Namboodiripad were attracted towards the Communist Party after being influenced by Comrade Sundarayya. And they joined the party in a society ruled by feudal and semi-feudal relations and when communists were not allowed to function openly. They communicated secretly the message of the party. Comrade Sundarayya has vast experience in such activities.


Young Congressmen were disappointed with Gandhiji’s policies after the non-cooperation movement of 1930-32 and they decided to form Congress Socialist Party. Comrade Sundarayya was one who built that party in Andhra. When differences arose within the Congress Socialist Party as to whether they should follow the path of scientific socialism, the Andhra branch under the leadership of Comrade Sundarayya chose the path of scientific socialism and transformed itself into the Communist Party.


Socialists, communists and leftist Congressmen felt the need for a separate organisation for farmers and formed the All India Kisan Sabha, of which Sunarayya was one of the founder members. He worked for some time as joint secretary as well. He worked with a Marxist understanding among the farmers and he understood the revolutionary role of agricultural labourers in the agrarian revolution. He started organising them, and Sundarayya is the very first person in the whole country who constituted a separate organisation for agricultural labourers. Even as he was busy organising the working class and farmers and enrolling them in separate organisations, it did not stop him from nor he lagged behind in his activities inside the Congress. For some time, he was a member of the AICC as well.


He, along with many others, was the target of attack of the government after the start of the Second World War in 1939. Evading arrest, he continued with party activities. But, within the next two and a half years, he had to take up a difficult job of mobilising the people against fascist danger. Fascist Germany and the militarist Japan occupied France and many other countries. Anglo-American armies had to retreat from vast areas in Europe, Asia and Africa. It was during this period that the Andhra unit of the party played a great role in keeping the flag of working class internationalism flying.


The world has won a great victory against fascism. Socialism, which was confined to one country, became a movement capable of challenging imperialism. It was in this background that the Communist Party had to shoulder the responsibility of providing leadership to the post-war upsurge among the people.


It was just at this juncture that Comrade Sundarayya, along with Comrade Basavapunnaiah and Comrade Rajeswara Rao, had to provide the party’s leadership to the Telangana peasant struggle against feudal landlords and their defender, the Nizam of Hyderabad. The Telangana people’s armed struggle was the brightest chapter in the history of Indian peasants’ struggle. Hundreds and thousands who laid down their lives in this struggle against feudalism were in the forefront of not only the peasants’ movement, but in the Communist Party itself. Sundarayya was in the forefront of this epic struggle.


The Telangana struggle brought to the fore many ideological problems relating to strategy and tactics and the answers to these problems are intertwined with the strategy and tactics of Indian revolution itself. During these four to five years of Telangana struggle, Comrade Sundarayya did not merely remain at the helm of this strug0gle; he was among the guerrillas and shared their joys and sorrow, victories and failures. The heroic people of Telangana had to face not only Nizam’s armies and razakars but also the armies of the union government which perpetrated untold atrocities on Telangana peasants.


A situation developed when it was not possible to continue with the struggle any more. It became a problem, involving the very lives of hundreds of comrades. How to withdraw from this situation and how to do it, with as little loss as possible, became a problem. Comrades Sundarayya and Basavapunnaiah proved their capabilities in such a situation. There was no question of taking any step whatsoever without consulting the guerrilla squads. It was in fact a political and ideological struggle. I attended such meetings towards the end of 1951. Comrade Sundarayya discussed for two full days and nights with a view to bringing all the comrades on to one line. It was the confidence that Sundarayya built among the guerrillas during the struggle period that acted as a key factor in finding a solution.


The scene shifted to parliament and that forum had to be utilised to safeguard the achievements of the Telangana peasant struggle. Winning 18 seats in Andhra, the Communist Party of India’s flag has flown high and it became the first opposition party in parliament.


The party switched over to legal activities, opened the party’s new central office in Delhi and conducted the parliamentary party’s activities. Here too, Sundarayya brought into play his organisational skills. Along with his other responsibilities, he became the leader of the communist group in parliament. Till he resigned his parliamentary seat in 1955, he fulfilled this responsibility with great skill and dedication.


When Andhra region was separated from Madras state and was constituted into a state in 1954, the Communist Party threw a challenge to the Congress. The party had to face all the bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces which rallied under the banner of the Congress party. One remembers today how the Communist Party assumed the leadership of the people’s upsurge against the seven-year Congress-rule and the election campaign the followed. The forces split into two strong groups. The party won a few seats, but 34 per cent of the voters voted for the Communist Party; it won 47 per cent of the votes in as many as 100 constituencies.


A new chapter opened up in the history of the Communist Party. A section in the party utilised the election defeats to advocate policies of class collaboration with the Congress. Comrades Sundarayya, M Basavapunnaiah, Moturu Hanumantarao, Nanduri Prasadarao, myself and some others strongly opposed this liquidationist trend with all our mite in the Central Committee meeting held in June 1957. We formulated an alternate document which was discussed inside the party for eight months.


It is this struggle that led to the party’s split in 1964. Our attempts to restore democratic centralism inside the party didn’t succeed. The party had to be reorganised. We organised the seventh party congress in October-November 1964 and adopted a new programme. The 21 years history of the party since then has proved that the step we took at that time was in the right direction. Comrade Sundarayya played a crucial role in these developments. He continued as general secretary of the CPI(M) till 1974, that is, until he decided to concentrate his activities and work in Andhra party. It was a tough time for the party at that time.


Immediately after our congress, the government launched raids and imprisoned many of us for eighteen months. While the party was fighting revisionism earlier, it had to simultaneously fight against left adventurism as well since 1967. The party got split again in 1968. Party leaders, cadres and workers in large numbers in some states including Andhra Pradesh, joined the naxalite groups. The party, basing itself on Marxism-Leninism, continued its activities in defence of the interests of working class, and marched from one victory to another, defeating the rightist and leftist trends.


It was in this period that Marxist-led governments were formed in Kerala and West Bengal. These governments have acted as a focus and enthused millions of workers and toiling people fighting against the bourgeois-landlord rule. During this period the Marxists had to face the semi-fascist repression in West Bengal; the party was also subjected to severe police raids in Kerala and Tripura.


Comrade Sundarayya’s health had started deteriorating from 1963 when he suffered from severe ulcer. We could save him by sending him to the Soviet Union for treatment. A part of his stomach was removed and he carried on for another twenty-two years But, he was a tireless worker and he did not know what rest is. Whether it is political, economic or organisational problem, he used to study every problem deeply. The year 1981 saw another spell of deterioration in his health. A year and a half before that, he was admitted in a nursing home in Madras, where he waged a life-and-death struggle by sheer will power, and aided by treatment, he was able to overcome. Just a month ago, there was again a serious deterioration in his health and he was back to a nursing home at Madras.


We were receiving news about improvement in his health from time to time. Just 24 hours before his death on Saturday morning, he was discussing with Dr Seshareddi as to what his plans were for the ensuing year. When he was being taken for dialysis, he oozed blood, necessitating immediate operation. He was not able to withstand the pain and passed away at 06.10 hours on Sunday. His wife, Leila Sundarayya, was beside him at the time he died.


Everyone who heard about his death, including communists and those who held differing political views, were taken aback. Thousands of people who lined up in villages en route from Madras to Vijayawada when his body was being taken to Vijayawada, the lakhs of people who gathered in Vijayawada to pay homage and to participate in the last rites and the meeting thereafter, are a proof of the fact that Comrade Sundarayya represented not only the communist movement in Andhra Pradesh and rest of the country, but the national movement itself.


I had 40 years of close association with Comrade Sundarayya. Though I saw him once or twice during 1938-39, I actually met him in Bombay in 1945. I was immediately attracted to him by his simplicity and his way of talking and discussion. We came closer since then. It is not beyond truth to say that he influenced me greatly during those days. We were holding the same views on ideological and political issues. I was excited about the Telangana peasant struggle. I, along with a number of comrades in Punjab, supported the line of Andhra comrades. I was pressed upon to join the Polit Bureau in the 1953 Madurai party congress. When I tried to argue that my joining the Polit Bureau harms the interests of Punjab movement, he shot back saying that Punjab revolution cannot be a separate one from the Indian revolution and revolution in Punjab cannot succeed without the success of Indian revolution itself. I moved still closer since then. Since 1955, there was not a single problem on which myself, Sundarayya and Basavapunnaiah differed.


We remained together even after the split. Differences of opinion cropped up among us on several occasions and we entered into heated arguments. But these did not affect the revolutionary ties that bound us.


In fact, the same thing can be said of the Polit Bureau functioning as a whole. We have suffered together for too long, sailed together in the conduct of revolutionary movement, and these experiences kept us together.


A large number of comrades inside the communist movement do not have the qualities of Comrade Sundarayya. His confidence in communism, his belief in the leadership of the Communist Party in the working class movement, his love and affection towards cadre, his regard to colleagues, his lifestyle as a real revolutionary – these qualities are a must for all communists who are dedicated to the cause of social revolution. He had made over all his property to the party after he joined it. At the time of his death, he had only one property, and that is the party. He did not succumb to bourgeois influences. It was the same Sundarayya in 1937 and today. He loved people and it gave him great satisfaction to be among the people. To learn from the people is his philosophy. He applied Marxism-Leninism to the existing conditions. He was able to win over every single person whom he met during the 55 years of his political life, whether they be communists or non-communists. Everyone remembers him as a committed Marxist, as a freedom fighter, as a selfless party worker dedicated to the cause of the exploited people; they preserve his memories. Physically, he is not amidst us. But his work, his selfless service will always inspire those working for the same cause.