top of page

Communist Movement In Kerala

The history of Communism in Kerala, until the establishment of an independent Communist party in 1940, was the history of its struggle against foreign domination and for the introduction of political, economic and social reforms along with the Congress party. The communist groups had already begun to feel that apart from the workers and peasants party it was necessary to organize an independent Communist party. Thus the first central organization of the Communist party in India was formed in 1933 and its activities were intensified under the General Secretary-ship of P.C. Joshi. Though declared unlawful they managed to issue a monthly magazine ‘Communists’ and a number of pamphlets. In Kerala, while working within the Congress, the Communist leaders like P.Krishna Pillai, E.M.S.Namboodiripad, K.P.Gopalan, Moyyarath Sankaran, and others, built their own ideology among workers, peasants, students and intellectuals, thus laying the organizational foundation for the future Communist Party.

The lineage of the Communist party of India in Kerala can be traced to the left tendencies within the Congress as well as non-Congress movements and the crystallization of the former in the Congress Socialist Party. Kerala came to Communism through Congress socialism. The Communists in Kerala were successful in linking their class and mass organizations with the national movement and emerged as the unquestionable leaders of the national movement during the post-war revolutionary upsurge. Many of the leaders who led a radical leftist movement in Kerala came under the influence of the Marxist-Leninist ideology in the thirties particularly after the termination of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

The Communist leaders like P.Krishnapillai, E.M.S.Namboodiripad, A.K.Gopalan and many others participated in the mainstream of national movement as ardent followers of the Indian National Congress. However gradually they shifted their ideological commitment to Marxism- Leninism.

The secret Kerala branch of the communist party started functioning from 1937. Through study classes and pamphleteering, it apparently intended to teach the new-comers the official policies and programmes of the socialist party and thus they were slowly converted into communists. When the Second World War broke out on 1st September 1939 India was declared a co-belligerent without her consent. The situation created by war intensified the ideological struggle between the left and right wings inside the Indian National Congress.

In December 1939, a crucial and secret meeting of some 90 prominent workers of Kerala Congress Socialist Party met at Pinarayi in Tellicheery to consider the formation of communist party.They decided on a transformation and to linkup with the popular agrarian and working class struggle against the economic crisis and sufferings brought out by the world war. The formation of the party was declared on 26th January 1940 through the writings on the walls by using tar. The supreme concern of Communism was the final perfection of humanity in a classless society. The prominent leaders like P.Krishnapillai went underground to organize the party as it was under ban. The first job of the party was to mobilize the people and bring peasant organizations and trade unions together for a united action against the government. While the communist party in Kerala is part of a national organization, from the beginning it enjoyed a great deal of autonomy to accommodate local conditions.

The ideological change following the inception of the Communist party made the Karshaka sangham a militant organization. They were against the oppressive measures of the government and its wartime activities, and thus the Communists in Kayyur started a revolt in March 1941. It was thus the transformation of an illiterate and oppressed peasantry in a remote village like Kayyur evolved into a group of politically organized people and they were brought into the mainstream of freedom struggle.

In the pre-independence days the Communists merely represented the radical wing within the Congress, and disagreed with the national leadership over the political, economic and social reforms to be introduced in Kerala. When the ban on the Communists was lifted on 26thJuly 1942, the Communist party began to function in Kerala as a lawful party. The August Resolution and subsequent agrarian and political struggles initiated by the Communists finally led them to extremism after independence. After independence, famine situation continued, essential commodities were highly priced, weavers had no proper work and the ration system was controlled by the wholesale merchants. The immediate result of this situation was continuous starvation and rural poverty. The peasant activists and Communists alerted the people against such situation through meetings, protests, jathas etc.. It was against the background the Second Congress of the Communist party met at Calcutta from 28th February to 6th March 1948. The party chose B.T.Ranadive in place of P.C.Joshi as its secretary. The communists continued their work mainly among the peasants and workers and followed the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.

When the Communist party came to power in Kerala in 1957, it framed lot of measures for the development of different sectors especially to the agricultural field. In the general election the Communists secured maximum number of seats to the legislature. The first and the most remarkable success of the ministry was the gathering together of eleven outstanding politicians and professionals who were uniformly imaginative and efficient. Every one of them had a reputation of being incorruptible and knowledgably. The Chief Minister E.M.S Namboothirippadu, though only 48 was among the top leaders of the Indian Left. The next in the list was C.Achutha Menon who was of great intellectual capacity and impeccable character. VR Krishna Iyer who later rose to be a judge of the Supreme Court was already a legal luminary. Health Minister A.R Menon was one of the senior most freedom fighters and a popular surgeon. The education minister Prof. Joseph Mundassery was an eminent Sanskritised literary critic an activist in the teachers and co-operative movement and an eminent educationist with many remarkable books to his credit. The Speaker of the assembly Sankara Narayanan Thampy was also a legendary figure in the freedom struggle and a professional lawyer.

The high percentage of literacy rate, acute political conscious which created by the leaders like P.Krishnapillai, A.K.Gopalan and E.M.S.Namboodiripad, the chronic unemployment among the educated, the intense population pressure on land and a lack of industrial enterprises to relieve that pressure, all constituted a fertile soil for Communism. Further there was ideological commitment for a social and economic egalitarianism which leads to the growth of Communism in Kerala.



bottom of page