People's Democracy

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


No. 17

April 28, 2013


Concrete Analysis of Concrete Conditions

is the Living Essence of Comrade P Sundarayya


Sitaram Yechury


COMRADE P Sundarayya's contributions to India's freedom struggle, to the founding and building of the Communist Party and the revolutionary movement in India and his contributions in the process of the evolution of the post-independent secular, democratic, Indian republic are both numerous and significant. Much of this is recorded in history. It is impossible to deal with the myriad contributions he made for advancing the peoples' struggle for liberation in India in a short article. I would therefore, choose to confine myself to four aspects of his life and work which have not only contributed to modern India as we have it today, but are also important areas for the future that should move towards a socialist India.




The first relates to his contribution to the national question in India and thereby to the evolution of the political structure of modern India. At the time of our independence and partition, India had British colonial administered territories and over 666 kingdoms or as what are called 'princely states'. The question of the integration of the princely states into the Indian State had to be tackled and though this process was largely successful, it has left behind problems that continue to plague our country like the Kashmir issue. When our Constitution was adopted in 1950, after such integration was completed, its first article defines our country as, “India, that is, Bharat, is a Union of States”. The question naturally arose as to how these states were to be formed or demarcated. Though in 1928, Motilal Nehru commission had recommended that the Congress Party organisation should be based on the linguistic principle, Jawaharlal Nehru as the prime minister initially favoured efficient administrative units to be considered as the basis for states reorganisation, advancing the famous, A,B,C,D...states proposal.


It is in this context that Comrade Sundarayya's pamphlet, Vishalandhralo Prajarajyam (Peoples' Rule in Unified Andhra), made an epochal contribution in bringing onto the country's agenda the question of linguistic states. Carrying forward the Marxist understanding of language being one, not the only one, of the important components that constitute a nationality, PS and the Party characterised India as a multinational country united in the struggle for freedom against British colonialism, and argued for linguistic reorganisation of the modern Indian republic. This led to a big peoples' movement in the then three Telugu speaking regions for a unified state for the Telugu speaking people. The movement reached a crescendo when Potti Sriramulu was martyred after a prolonged hunger strike for this cause.


This agitation had its repercussions in other areas as well. The movements for Aikya Kerala and Samyuktha Maharashtra, were led, amongst others, by Communist leaders. It was these popular powerful peoples' movements that eventually forced the Indian ruling classes to accept the linguistic reorganisation of the Indian states. The political map of modern India thus emerged in 1956, a full nine years after independence.


Such a political unity of different nationalities that constitute our country to flourish, according to PS' vision, needed the other crucial element, i.e., prajarajyam or peoples' rule. In its absence, it would be perfectly possible for conflicts and contradictions to emerge between the linguistic states and within. In the absence of prajarajyam, the Indian ruling classes seek to utilise such conflicts in order to deny the status of real autonomy to the states in their drive to have a centralised unitary State structure that will facilitate a more intensified class exploitation. Such conflicts between the states and within the states, like the case of backward regions like Telangana, Vidharbha etc, will also be utilised by the ruling classes to keep the unity of the people divided and disrupt the strength of the unity of the working people against their class rule. In other words, the ruling classes always use such conflicts and contradictions to consolidate their class rule, deny the people their basic democratic rights and the states, the required autonomy. It is this issue of centre-state relations which PS highlighted in the CPI(M)'s memorandum to the National Integration Council in 1968.


Further, PS as the general secretary initiated the amending of the Party Programme, deleting the clause, “the right of all nationalities for self-determination”. This was finally formalised at the 9th Party Congress in Madurai in 1972. Once again applying the principle of 'concrete analysis of the concrete conditions', Party had come to the conclusion that the Marxist-Leninist conception of the right of all nationalities for self-determination does not apply to the concrete conditions of India as that was directed against a particular oppressor nation and its ruling classes. In case of our present day Indian Union, the Party then concluded that this slogan is neither directed against imperialism as was the case before political independence, nor against any oppressor nation since such a nation was absent in such form. Explaining this, the Party document says that “the different linguistic and sub-national currents and the struggle for their economic advance is not a struggle against one oppressor nation in the Indian union, but is a part of the common struggle of all the nationalities of the country for the liquidation of economic dependence and backwardness. This common struggle will be facilitated by the preservation of Indian unity. On the other hand, growth of fissiparious forces will help the ruling classes to disorganise and disrupt the fighting people”.


It is this unity of the working people, whose strength will create the prajarajyam, where such tendencies like centralisation of power, deliberately keeping certain areas within various states backward, exploiting the conflicts and contradictions, which are currently done by the ruling classes to consolidate their rule, will cease. PS' life and work will continue to be an inspiration to establish such a prajarajyam in India.




The second issue, which is closely connected with achieving the ideal of prajarajyam, that PS contributed to the nation's agenda was on the question of land. The glorious Telangana armed struggle of which he was one of the undisputed pre-eminent leaders, which liberated more than 4000 villages for more than three years, virtually establishing prajarajyam and destroying the tyrannical feudal order of the Hyderabad Nizam by distributing land to the tiller brought onto the centre stage the issue of the abolition of the zamindari system. Conterminously, militant land struggles were taking place in other parts of the country like, Punnapra Vayalar in Kerala, the Warli Adivasi revolt in Maharashtra, the anti-betterment levy movement in Punjab, the Tebhaga movement in Bengal, the Surma valley struggles in Assam, etc, on land question. All these land struggles were led by the Communists all across the country. It was these struggles that eventually forced the Indian ruling classes to legislate the Zamindari Abolition Act. In practice however, this Act has never been implemented (as the landlords were part of the ruling class alliance) except in the Left-ruled states and Jammu and Kashmir.


PS' contribution to the land question was not confined only to the abolition of the feudal landlordism. He also demonstrated during the years of prajarajyam in Telangana, that by giving land to the tiller, the productivity of both land and labour increased significantly. He thus demonstrated the economic benefits of land reforms and that it was not merely a humanitarian objective guided by the principles of egalitarianism, however laudable and necessary it is.


As a digression, consider why the roots of democracy are stronger today in India than in Pakistan or Bangladesh (which is lately showing a greater commitment to democracy but yet vulnerable) when all belonged to the same Indian sub-continent under British colonialism. The abolition of zamindari, even though mostly on paper, created the basis for the formation of a vast mass of working people and the middle-class, who over a period of time, learnt the value and advantages of democratic rights. This is one of the factors that went into the successful defeat of internal emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975. Neither Pakistan nor Bangladesh undertook any significant efforts to eliminate landlordism in their countries.


While we are proud that in the Left ruled states land reforms were implemented, we must realise that the land that has been distributed was that land that was earlier illegally held by the landlords above the ceiling limits. It is this land that was taken over under the land ceiling act and distributed to the landless. But the basic task of 'land to the tiller', still remains to be accomplished. PS' life and work must continue to be the inspiration to move forward for completing the democratic agrarian revolution.




Thirdly, PS' contribution on the question of social justice and struggles against social oppression were also profound. At a personal level, he demonstrated his commitment by dropping the caste affix of 'Reddy' from his name. This inspired many generations, including mine, to drop the caste identity in the name. Apart from treating the struggle against social oppression as an integral part of the struggle for prajarajyam, PS demonstrated in practice that the most effective way of achieving this is by establishing, to use his favourite phrase, 'unity of the toilers'. During the course of the Telangana struggle, it was this unity of the toilers that not only achieved its success and glory, but pushed to the background the issues of caste and social identities. In today's conditions we find a rising consciousness among the socially backward sections and dalits against the social oppression that continues to be mounted against them. This is a very positive feature. At the same time, we also note tendencies of attempts being made to confine this rising consciousness within the parameters of the concerned caste or a social identity. This tends to separate these sections from the general democratic movement. This also has the danger of pitting one socially oppressed group against the other. Hence these are negative trends that will only strengthen the ruling class efforts to consolidate their rule.


Learning from PS' life and work, we must strive to integrate these sections into the general democratic movement. This can happen only when the general democratic movement and the Party as a whole champions these issues of social oppression alongside those of economic exploitation. This is the only way to build the worker-peasant alliance, the axis of our revolution.




Finally, PS always used to keep reminding all of us that a correct political line is necessary but not the sufficient condition for advancing the revolutionary movement. Unless there is a strong organisation, even a correct political line would remain meaningless as the Party would not be able to take its understanding to the people. An organisation must ensure that the people by themselves start raising the same slogans that the Party gives for advancing the revolutionary movement. In order to achieve this, it is often necessary to study the concrete conditions. For instance, during the course of land struggles and from that experience, PS identified the potential contradiction between the rich peasantry and the agricultural labour, while the former would want to depress the wages, the later would struggle for an increase. Having both of them under the fold of the same organisation, will render the advance of that mass organisation ineffective. On the basis of such concrete analysis of concrete conditions, PS argued for and set up a separate agricultural workers' union from the Kisan sabha.


Likewise, he identified among the vast masses of Indian youth, there are the educated and a larger section of uneducated. While the educated have their students' organisation, there was none existing for the uneducated. He thus initiated the formation of the youth organisations. In this manner, he made concrete contributions to the organisation structures that became necessary to consolidate the unity of the toilers.


Another aspect of his contribution to the dialectical linkage between the political line and organisational practice was his emphasis in conducting concrete studies to understand the continuing process of class differentiation that was taking place in society. Drawing from Lenin's inspiration, who prior to the success of Russian revolution undertook a concrete study of the differentiation of the peasantry in Russia, with the development of capitalism, PS had conducted detailed study of villages to both understand the differentiation taking place and the implications it has for the political line and organisational practice. Unfortunately, such a process has not proceeded in the manner that was required to strengthen the revolutionary movement in India today. This needs urgent correction.


This is particularly so in the period of neo-liberal economic reforms. Let me illustrate by an example. Some decades ago, say for instance an important role was played by the teachers' organisation and movement in developing the Party. Compared to the salaries they were drawing, say, three decades ago, these have multiplied manifold today. It is only natural that with such incomes, their interests in the Sensex and the illusions that neo-liberal reforms will make the Sensex go higher giving them greater returns are bound to increase. A class differentiation is taking place. I hasten to add there is nothing personal against the teachers! They play an important role in changed circumstances. Needless to add, the teachers today are facing new types of problems that affect their livelihoods and the struggles on these issues are rising. It is under such conditions that the concrete analysis of concrete conditions must be made to fine tune our immediate slogans and methods of agitation and protests.


The late CPI general secretary Inderjit Gupta used to lament that at one point of time, if one boarded a train at Delhi to go to Kolkata, on either side of the railway line, every MLA and MP was a communist. What is the state today? Superficial explanations like the splits in the communist party, etc., etc., will not explain the change, neither comprehensively nor scientifically. A concrete analysis of the class differentiation that is taking place is required to be done to understand why those who once followed the Red flag have today moved over to other bourgeoisie parties.


There are other issues as well, like for instance, the growing impact of social media and social networking. We have seen how these had an impact upon two entirely different peoples' mobilisations at the Tahrir Square in Egypt and the ongoing Shahbaag movement in Bangladesh. These issues need to be examined not merely to understand, but utilising them for advancing the revolutionary movement in our country.


It is clear that from these four issues that I had chosen to dwell on, that PS' life and work were guided by what Lenin once said: “concrete analysis of concrete conditions, is the living essence of dialectics”. Today, on his birth centenary, as we pay homage to him, we must redouble our resolve to embrace this inviolable Leninist principle and contribute to advance the revolutionary struggle.


Red Salute Comrade P Sundarayya.