People's Democracy

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


No. 41

October 14, 2012



Agrarian Problem, Party Organisation and

Comrade Sundarayya


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 late Comrade L B Gangadhara Rao, former Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M)  on Comrade P Sundarayya.


IT is already twenty days Comrade Sundarayya passed away; yet it is proving difficult to live with the fact that he will not be with us any more and amidst us. Birth and death are part of life and as materialists, we know it; still, it is not easy to overcome the grief when a great leader like Sundarayya had departed from us.


My close relation with Comrade Sundarayya has, over the decades of collective functioning with him, matured with greater intensity. More than the death of my own father and other friends and relatives, Comrade Sundarayya’s death has shaken me. I was personally present at Apollo Hospital in Madras during those fateful days when he was struggling against a deadly disease and having seen him in such a situation, my agony was beyond words. Reminiscences of my individual association with him and the time I spent in building mass movements along with him overwhelmed my thoughts.’


Several friends have written about his qualities and personal traits; they wrote about his simplicity, selfless service, sacrifice, intense study, devotion and heroism. I propose to deal with Sundarayya’s special attention to spheres of ideology and organisation.


Comrade Sundarayya had made an intense study of agriculture and its crucial role in the Indian communist movement. It was his deep knowledge and scientific study of Marxism-Leninism that prompted him to pay such special attention to agriculture.


Our Party programme has made it clear that the tasks of bourgeois democratic revolution cannot be fulfilled in the event of capitalist class leading the national liberation movement. The document made it further clear that only the leadership of working class party and worker-peasant alliance can contribute to successful conclusion of the people’s democratic revolution and march towards socialism. These are our revolutionary experiences as well.


The Chinese Communist Party applied this thinking in practice and achieved great successes in their revolution. Mao used to pay great attention to the study of rural problems. The Chinese revolution was successful, with the peasantry playing the main role.


Credit goes to Comrade Sundarayya for having undertaken such a close study of the agrarian problem in India, with a Marixst-Leninist understanding. One cannot over-emphasise the crucial importance of agrarian problem in our country. Ours is a country where 80 per cent of the people live in villages, and a very large percentage of them continue to live as landless agricultural labourers for decades; landlordism has ruled over them and exploited the farming community. More than the organised working class and employees, it is the village people that bore the brunt of poverty, ignorance and remained unorganised; their problem is crucial and complicated as well. It was to such a problem that Comrade Sundarayya addressed himself.


It is therefore not accidental that it was Comrade Sundarayya who was the first person to have organised an association for agricultural labourers. He has also played a leading role in the formation of the all India Kisan Sabha in 1936. Thus, on the one hand, he had undertaken an intense study of the agrarian problem; on the other, he had organised the peasants and agricultural labourers under their banners. He himself has admitted that Lenin’s writings “to the rural poor’ greatly influenced his thinking. Truly, he understood Lenin’s writings on the subject properly and contributed to a better understanding by the Party of the agrarian problem.


The Telangana peasants’ armed struggle is the culmination of the understanding of agrarian problem by Comrade Sundarayya. He undertook a deep study of the land problem under the jagirdari system of Nizam’s rule. He further studied the role of relation with people in the rural areas and organised the people against exploitation. He was personally present on the scene and led that historic struggle without any compromise.


He made a significant contribution in formulating the Party’s policy about building a new social system and new relations in the rural areas, besides organising distribution of ten lakh acres of land from which landlords and jagirdars and deshmukhs were thrown out during the process of the Telangana struggle.   


Not only in taking forward the Telangana struggle to new heights, but also in organising its withdrawal due to some historical circumstances, he proved his mettle. He personally met the guerilla squad leaders in the forests and discussed the issue with them. As secretary of the Nallamala area committee of the Party, I know personally the efforts put up by Comrade Sundarayya to explain to the guerilla squad as to how withdrawal became inevitable and under what circumstances. He took personal interest to assist those who were subjected to repression and to secure legal assistance for those implicated in cases by the government.




Comrade Sundarayya made a major contribution to the Indian revolutionary movement by authoring a book about Telangana peasants’ armed struggle, not only presenting a complete and comprehensive history but also outlining the lessons of that struggle. If he could write this book nearly two decades after the struggle, it only underscores his knowledge and grip over this historic struggle as also on the agrarian problem. This book was translated into Chinese and was published in China.


His study of agrarian problem did not stop with that. He secured detailed information through house-to-house survey of two villages of Anantavaram and Kaza villages in Guntur district in 1975-76 and analysed the same. He authored another publication Rural poor and land distribution, which mirrored the changing social, economic scene in those two villages. This book too was published in the Chinese language. The very fact that the Chinese party, itself a mine of knowledge, understanding and information and rich in experience in such struggles, got these publications translated into Chinese and got them published, is a proof of the invaluable character of Sundarayya’s writings.


There was no agricultural labourers’ conference at the state level which he did not attend; he always gave his time, energy, assistance and guidance to the movement. He played a valuable role in extending the base of this movement during the past, particularly during the last decade. During his visit to China last October, the Chinese comrades presented him with translations of his writings. More than the publication of his writings in Chinese language, he was happy about the comprehension of Chinese party and its realisation of the importance of this aspect in Indian peoples struggle.




He concentrated all his determined attention to the building up of a really revolutionary party, even as he fought the revisionist, opportunist and left adventurist trends which raised their head from time to time. During his 12-year tenure as the general secretary of the CPI(M), he strove to achieve it and spent every minute of his time in that direction. The movement in Andhra Pradesh was in a state of boiled milk turning cold. When he came back to Andhra from his responsibilities at the centre, he endeavoured to resurrect and revive the Communist movement in the state, widen the base, improve it organisationally and preserve the revolutionary standards.


His greatest attribute is his love and affection to Party workers. He can reel out just like that from his memory thousands of names of Party workers in different districts. He used to make personal enquiries of their health, their domestic problems and helped them to the extent possible in case of real need. It was this personal attention that enthused the Party cadres. He did not give any scope for compromise in areas like Party organisation and observance of revolutionary standards. He did not spare even higher-ups in case of any lapse; he never tolerated indiscipline and anti-party organisational trends.


I have said earlier that he has shaped many a Party worker and leader. But that did not stop him from taking action against anyone of them who broke discipline. The action taken against Omkar was a concrete instance. It was Sundarayya who paid special attention to shaping him as a seasoned Party leader and helped him in every respect. But once alien class tendencies developed in him and he wanted to build Party with the assistance of anti-social elements, Sundarayya did not shirk to take action against him. He used to turn livid with anger when Party cadres turned into such elements. During the recent years, he concentrated his attention to setting right the Party organisation. He worked with the sole aim of building a revolutionary party, which doesn’t give scope for any alien class tendencies. He noticed the influence of bourgeois parliamentary tendencies on the Party and stressed the need to keep aloof from them. As a part and parcel of strengthening the Party organisation, he organised training classes for branch secretaries. It was a new experience for the Party to have organised such training classes for over a thousand of them. He came to the conclusion that such classes should be conducted after making a thorough study of the organisational structure and its weaknesses.


Youth were mobilised to shape them into revolutionary workers. Andhra Pradesh party had a glorious past and it was on the top of all state units of the Party at one time and this glory has to be restored and the Party should be able to stand on its own legs – this was his preoccupation during the last days of his life. Unfortunately, he died before achieving it. His absence will undoubtedly be felt by the Party. But, we have the fortune of a collective Party leadership, which worked alongside him. There are the high traditions which he left behind. Revolutionaries with long innings as well as young and fresh Party cadres are there. Work will go on to achieve his ideals. To build a strong movement in Andhra Pradesh – this is the best homage we can pay to him.


He worked for the Party all the 24 hours; he never thought of himself; Party was always in his thoughts. He had amassed a wealth of experience. We pleaded with him many times to put down in writing all his experiences for the benefit of posterity. Much as he would like to do, he was always pre-occupied with pressing work. At last, he started on that work in the recent period. His reminiscences were recorded up to a point. Efforts are underway to put them in print so that the youth will be benefitted from his rich experiences.


One word before I conclude. All of use are Communists. Programme and policy are one and the same for all of us; yet, there are bound to be some differences in levels among the Party workers as well as leaders. Our ideology is the same, but everyone does not receive the same respect and attention. Khruschev might have taken out the body of Stalin from the Mausoleum, but he could not erase the thoughts about Stalin from the minds of millions all over the world; Stalin continues to receive the same respect and reverence from the people. No one shed a tear when Khruschev died. There are some like that in our history as well.


We must accept that Sundarayya had a special place and there are special reasons if lakhs of people turned up at Vijayawada to have a last look at him and if people and press gave him a pride of place in the history of Andhra Pradesh. Our youth should march ahead in the direction of acquiring at least some of the attributes of such a great leader.