By Kanam Rajendran
26th December 2021 marks the 96th foundation day of CPI. Throughout the history of India CPI has played a crucial role on different occasions in leading the people through unerring paths. The sacrifices of our comrades and the resistance of the party against imperial Britain, amidst the ban imposed by colonial law, cannot be encrusted by anyone. In this era where the government stands for the capitalists by the capitalists and of the capitalists it is indispensable for us to evoke the memories of historical movements and actions by CPI. In the search for a secular, people centric alternative to counter fascism we have enormous examples how CPI stood for the people and fought for their welfare. We have set examples of an excellent government and struggles for the rights and wellbeing of the people. Our fight against fascism and capitalism will never end.
The October Socialist Revolution of 1917 was the luminarium for people in the darkness of capitalism and colonialism. The oppressed people all over the world were enlightened seeing the working class of Russia awaken against oppressors. Communist parties and socialist groups were formed in the countries which were brutally suppressed under colonialism. In India too trade unions, socialist organizations and communist groups were organized. Recognizing the evils of imperialism, war and the necessity of an alternative, communist groups met at Kanpur in 1925. On December 26, 1925 Communist Party of India was formed in Kanpur. The formation of CPI was a result of numerous events. People recognized that there is a need for a party which would stand against imperialism, war and complete independence.
In the month of December in 1939 Congress Socialist Party in Kerala was reformulated as Communist Party of India at a conference held at Pinarayi, a village in Kannur district of Kerala. Even though this reformation was a very lucid event, the developments towards this were not a bed of roses. The economic depression which happened all over the world had a severe impact in places like Kerala (which was divided into 2 princely states and British Malabar). The spirit of anti-imperialism gained strong momentum. But the parties of those days, including Congress and Congress Socialist Party, were unable to contain this, which led to the formation of CPI in Kerala. Soon after formation the party was banned by the imperial colonial power. The anti-war, anti-imperialist positions of the party were a real threat to the feudal and imperialist nexus. The party developed through its underground activities. Trade union, peasant, social reformation movements were spearheaded by the party in Travancore, Kochin and Malabar states. Many comrades were tortured by the police. As Comrade N.E. Balaram highlighted it was during the ban which lasted from 1940 January to 1942 July 24 the party gained an organized structure throughout Kerala. This provided nourishment for the workers and peasant movements. The uprisings of Punnapra-Vayalar, Karivalloor, Morazha, Kayyur, Sooranadu ,Menachery, Kadakkal ,Anthikad, Amballur, Kuttamkulam, Kavumbai and various other known and unknown places under the leadership of CPI marks our struggle against feudalism, colonialism, social evils like untouchability, imperialism and our indisputable commitment towards workers, farmers, national liberation and peace.
Every movement the party created aimed at liberating the country from the clutches of British imperial power. The role of CPI in the national independence movement cannot be denied by anyone. When the country gained independence many of our party leaders were still in jails. They hoisted the Tricolour in the jails. The next mission of the party was to carry forward the spirit and ideals of Indian independence movement. The party faced serious suppressions during the period of ban imposed due to Calcutta thesis of left adventurism. In 1950 party rectified this mistake by dropping left adventurism and reclaimed the roots among the masses.
Soon after independence, organizing the states was a herculean task for the union government. CPI was the first party to put forward the demand for reorganization of the states on linguistic basis. After a series of political events including the tragic demise of Potti Sreeramulu, who held fast to death demanding Andhra Pradesh state, it was decided to form states on linguistic basis. The organization of states caused tensions in different parts of the country. But it was almost peaceful in Kerala.
Congress leaders like Pattam Thanu Pillai were against a unified Kerala. But CPI took a stand that the state of Kerala should be formed with areas with Malayalam speaking majority. A booklet named Onnekaal Kodi Malayalikal was published by the party. It was written by EMS Namboothiripad. When the union government appointed Instrument of Accession committee Com. C. Achuthamenon and K.C.George appeared before the commission where Justice Fazal Ali, Sardar Panikar enquired about the economic stability the state can have after its formation. The two delegates of CPI Achuthamenon and K.C.George, who were among the finest intellectuals and mass leaders of the state, were able to provide crystal clear answers to all the doubts the commission had. The report published by the commission recognized a unified Kerala state. On November 1st 1956 the state of Kerala was formed by the amalgamation of 2 princely states and British Malabar. Elections were declared in the unified Kerala in 1957.
Under the excellent leadership of M.N. Govindan Nair and C.Achuthamenon, who was the then party state secretary and who drafted the election manifesto, CPI made history and became the epicentre of global attention. The manifesto of Communist Party “Aiswaryapoornamayaoru Keralam Kettipadukan” (Towards Building A Prosperous Kerala) is still a very valid document for building a prosperous state. M.N Govindan Nair with his excellent analytical skills and strategies on socio political issues had predicted the victory of party. He was the brain behind campaign and candidate selection. Since he took over the helm of elections Achuthamenon became the state secretary. We won the maiden Kerala legislative assembly election of 1957 and became the first communist government to attain power through ballot.
The first CPI ministry was enriched with distinguished leaders who excelled in different squares of politics. EMS Namboothiripad became the Chief Minister. C. Achuthamenon held the portfolio of Finance and Joseph Mundassery took over education portfolio. V.R. Krishna Iyer became minister for Law, T.V Thomas was the minister for Employment Labour and Transportation.
The budget of 1957-58 scripted a new history. C. Achuthamenon had a far sighted plan to build a prosperous Kerala. He evaluated every sector deeply and came with the best methods to reform them. The budget focused on industrialization, distribution of land, irrigation programmes for increasing crop production. The minimum wages act was extended all over the state to ensure that income of employed people is increased. Along with the formation of new public sector industries and funding the existing ones the government provided encouragement for industries in private sector too. Overall, the government aimed at uplifting the people by developing efficient public sector, public health, education and other basic facilities. In short, the government placed an example of how “a people’s government” should fulfill the aspirations of the people. The government of 1957 was the answer to the question of how a communist state government should work within a bourgeois framework.
The Education Bill of 1957 and Land Reform Bill triggered reactionary forces, religious fundamentalists, casteist and right-wing parties. As a result of revivalist movement unleashed by right wing parties in Kerala, Nehru government dismissed the communist ministry by violating all federal and democratic principles.
The experiences of 1957 were the foundation to the government which would transform the whole state – The coalition government of 1969-79 which included CPI. Comrade C. Achuthamenon who became the Chief Minister was the person behind the Kerala model. He envisaged multi layered programmes which moulded the Kerala Model of Sustainable Development. During his tenure the revolutionary land Reforms were implemented in 1970.The most striking legacy of the coalition government was that the government put an end to landlordism and its hegemony over farmers and tenants. Private forests were nationalized by the government without paying any compensation. Under the leadership of M.N Govindan Nair One Lakh housing scheme was introduced and homeless people were given homes. Kerala attained surplus electricity and Idukki Hydroelectric project was carried forward. The coalition government established nearly 50 public sector enterprises. Number of auspicious educational institutions sprouted under the innovative governance of C. Achuthamenon. CUSAT, Sri Chithira Institute of Medical Science and Technology, Centre for Development Studies, Centre for Earth Science Studies became the centres of excellence. KSFE which plays a crucial role in the state’s economy were established by this government.
Civil Supplies Corporation which ensured that no one remained hungry during lockdowns by ensuring ample and adequate supply of food grains and pulses is also a contribution by the government of 1969-79.
The BJP led government had already induced deteriorating economic conditions which got worse due to Covid. The only state in India to survive the pandemic along with ensuring the well-being of its people was Kerala. Kerala won appreciation from all over the world. The Kerala model once again received global appreciation. Kerala was well equipped with public hospitals and welfare schemes. What made Kerala capable of building the welfare oriented public apparatus? The answer is the progressive measures based on the welfare reforms built up by left governments. The coherent public sector, health systems, food and civil supplies of the state are the legacy of the government. The achievements of Kerala were acknowledged by NITI AAYOG. The LDF government which came into power in 2016 won the hearts of people and was re-elected by them in the assembly election of 2021. In the election mandate LDF had promised to constitute a New Kerala by building a knowledge-based economy. For this we will be looking forward to enhance digitalization with people’s participation and also to equip the human development.
The historic role of the Communist party today is to build a broad democratic secular alliance against Savarna Hindutva fascism of BJP and corporates which is the real threat to the very existing democratic structure and the secular social fabrics. The party is committed to strengthen the working class – farmers unity and carry forward the struggles based on the experiences of the recent victory of farmers’ struggle. (IPA Service)
The writer is CPI Kerala State Council Secretary.