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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2009 > June 2009 > Remembering E.M.S. Namboodiripad on his Birth Centenary

Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 27, June 20, 2009

Remembering E.M.S. Namboodiripad on his Birth Centenary

Monday 22 June 2009, by SC


More than eleven years have passed since E.M.S. Namboodiripad breathed his last in Thiruvananthapuram on March 19, 1998. Yet it seems as if it was only the other day that one walked into his room in the party office in the Capital for a refreshing conversation as one used to have with him and two of his party colleagues occupying leading positions in the CPI-M as Polit-Bureau members, B.T. Ranadive and M. Basavapunnaiah. They were the three stalwarts of the Indian communist movement, all of them renowned Marxist theoreticians whose life-long passion had been realisation of the ‘Indian revolution’. With their demise a whole age—an age which had produced, besides the aforementioned stalwarts, such eminent Communist revolutionaries as Muzaffar Ahmad, S.A. Dange, P.C. Joshi, P. Sundarayya, Ajoy Ghosh, S.V. Ghate, Dr G. Adhikari, Bhowani Sen, Somnath Lahiri, Abdul Halim, Bankim Mukherjee, A.K. Gopalan, S.G. Sardesai, C. Rajeswara Rao, Bhupesh Gupta, C. Achutha Menon, C.K. Nayanar, P.K. Vasudevan Nair—came to an end. Thereafter two other dedicated and selfless Communists, Benoy Chowdhury and Indrajit Gupta, passed away and only recently we lost Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the person who succeeded EMS as the CPI-M General Secretary. The only Communist leader of eminence of those days still with us is Jyoti Basu. They gave up everything for the cause of the party and the goal of building a socialist society, a goal which remains unfulfilled to this day.

EMS was all that and more. He was undoubtedly the tallest figure in the Indian communist movement by dint of being a combination of an ideologue and a mass leader—an uncommon combination indeed, something absent in his contemporaries with the exception of S.A. Dange, P.C. Joshi and P. Sundarayya. But Namboodiripad was different and perhaps that is precisely why he came closest to being regarded as a national leader from among the frontranking Communists in the country.

EMS shot into international prominence when he headed the first Communist Government to come to power through the ballot in an Indian State (Kerala) in 1957. One is reminded of those days when he was warmly received at Palam Airport on his first visit to Delhi as the Kerala Chief Minister, and this writer—then a schoolboy of 12—had pinned on EMS’s shirt a badge (he had prepared the previous night) bearing the hammer and sickle and the words: “Long Live the Communist Government in Kerala”, only to receive an affectionate hug from the person who would live to be respected as the patriarch of the Indian communist movement.

The country and the world have undergone stupendous changes in these 52 years. EMS himself had traversed a long distance since those heady days of 1957. The current situation is vastly different even from what prevailed in the seventies and eighties when one was privileged to have frequent meetings with BTR, MB and EMS at the CPI-M headquarters in New Delhi. And yet it is the memory of that crisp morning at Palam Airport that remains indelible in one’s mind—in spite of the fact that five decades separate the present from that day. Why? Because in EMS’ smiling eyes one had seen at that time the first rays of the future, a future of hope and optimism for the continually suppressed and yet intensely resilient toiling people of our varied and diverse landmass. Even today it is that future which beckons us to surmount the phenomenal difficulties attempting to block our collective advance and thereby smother our dreams of a new India.

EMS had throughout the post-independence period tried to give shape to Left politics in India. Twentyone years ago in 1988, he sought to draw a line demarcating the Left stand from the position of the BJP. Even though there was some blurring of that dividing line in the aftermath of the 1989 Lok Sabha poll when both the Left and the BJP extended support from outside to the V.P. Singh-led National Front Government at the Centre, that policy of EMS has stood the test of time as the latest developments conclusively prove.That policy was succinctly spelt out in an article he had exclusively written for Mainstream Annual 1988. One would like to conclude this humble tribute to the grand old man of Indian communism with the following words of EMS from that article, words that retain their significance and validity even after twenty years:

“The differences between the Centrists and a party like the BJP may for the time being be papered over in the interests of the electoral unity of the Opposition. They would, however, come up prominently during the election campaign and particularly after the campaign ends in success. The question will then come: what policies will be pursued by the new Government? The Left will press for policies based on the principles of secularism and radical democracy. The BJP for its part will fight for its own approaches and policies. Will this not result in the same type of conflict in and come to the same end as the Janata Government of 1977-79?

“Political developments of the period that began with the fall of the Indira Gandhi Government in 1977 have made it clear that those who oppose and fight the Congress are of different categories—Left and Right, secular and communal, those who stand for and oppose national unity on the basis of State autonomy, etc. It is idle for anybody to hope that all these can be brought under one omnibus united front, or that a Centrist force can pursue a policy of ‘equidistance’ with these forces.”

On the occasion of E.M.S. Namboodiripad’s birth centenary (he was born on June 13, 1909) we remember him by reproducing that article “Indian Left Today”. We also carry tributes to EMS from Ashok Mitra, Kuldip Nayar and Prabhat Patnaik that appeared in The Kaumudi (E.M.S. Namboodiripad Global Edition in English—October-December 2008) from where those are being reproduced with due acknowledgement.


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