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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 1, December 22, 2012 [Annual 2012]

The Truth About DMK

Thursday 3 January 2013

by S. Mohan Kumaramangalam

The recent victory of the DMK in the Tiruchengode by-election has once more drawn all-India attention to this party. Naturally, throughout the country and even in Tamilnad itself, these questions are being asked with increasing concern: What is this party? What is its past? What is its programme? What do its victories in the general election and more recently in the Tiruchengode by-election mean for the future of our people?

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is not merely a post-independence phenomenon, a party born after the achievement of freedom in 1947. Its leader, C.N. Annadurai, claims that its past tradition goes back right to the year 1916, when Sir Thyagaraja Chettiar formed the Justice Party (called the South Indian Liberal Federation). That party was openly and unashamedly the party of the supporters of British rule in India. It was backed by the biggest land-lords and by the Chettiar capitalists whose money-lending business in South-East Asia flourished under the control and protection of the Union Jack.

Discredited in 1937

This party attempted to utilise the natural discontent of the non-Brahmin middle class in Madras Presidency against the monopolising of jobs, particularly government jobs, by the Brahmin community of the South, who took earliest to education, being the baboos of the British from the beginning. It was this discontent of the non-Brahmin middle class at not being able to secure their rightful place in government employment or even in the professions that was taken advantage of by the Justice Party to try and keep the vast non-Brahmin majority in the South away from the national struggle. For some time it succeeded, but later, particularly after the 1920s, when the liberation movement of the Indian people under Gandhiji’s leadership reached out into the countryside, the Justice Party, became more and more the isolated party of reaction, of the landlords and Chettiar capitalists. The culmination was in the elections held in 1937 under the 1935 Constitution, when even under a limited franchise the stalwarts of the Justice Party were routed throughout the State.
By 1939 it was obvious to all who wanted to see the writing on the wall that the Indian liberation movement was growing enormously in strength and influence and, reaching out for power, was threatening the very heart of imperialist rule in India. Looking back in historical perspective, it is seen that this was why, as a diversion and as an attempt to disrupt the rising and powerful indepen-dence movement, the Muslim League in 1940 adopted the Pakistan resolution, the goal of division of India. Clearly this was an imperialist tactic to disrupt and divide the freedom movement.

Almost at the same time as the Muslim League adopted Pakistan as its goal, the Justice Party adopted as its goal the creation of Dravidastan, namely, the separation of the Presidency of Madras (as it existed at that time) from the rest of India, to be ruled as a separate dominion with the King of England as its head. Thus the demand for Dravidastan was in a sense a variant of the demand for Pakistan, and it is no accident that in the rise of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the 1962 elections the Muslim League was its closest and most resolute ally; this remains so even today.

During the Second World War, the Justice Party was imperialism’s loyal ally. Annadurai was a paid propagandist of the National War Front. The Viduthalai, the communal daily which was the mouth-piece of the Justice Party, became the official organ of the National War Front.

In 1944, after the conference at which the Justice Party turned itself into the Dravida Kazhagam, according to their own admission, Sir A.T. Pannirselvam, one of the oldest leaders of the Justice Party and most loyal toady of the British, proceeded to England with a secret plan for the establishment of Dravidastan. Pannirselvam died when his plane crashed on the way, and Dravidastan was thus still-born. In 1947, August 15 was observed as a day of sorrow by the Justicites turned Kazhaga-mites. However, in 1949 the Dravida Kazhagam split into two organizations following a quarrel between E.V. Ramaswami Naicker and Annadurai on personal matters. The wing under the leadership of Annadurai became the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (meaning Dravidian Progressive Federation) though its ideology and programme remained unaltered.

Talk of UN Too

In the 1952 general election the DMK did not contest as a party, but promised and gave support to candidates of any party as signed a pledge to fight for Dravidastan if elected. In 1956, at its provincial conference, the DMK passed a resolution to the effect that it would take the Dravidastan issue to the United Nations. In the 1957 elections the party set up its own candidates and won fourteen seats.
In 1962, however, the DMK did not dare to contest on the slogan of separatism. But after the elections, the increased votes and seats gave them the temerity to bring the slogan of Dravidastan to the fore once again. According to the party’s top leaders and press, the DMK is expected to secure a majority in the State in the next general election. Then, they say, it will not be difficult to declare Tamilnad a separate State; their proclaimed plan anticipates that the Centre will resist the declaration, resulting in civil war conditions in the South. According to them, this cannot be put down by Delhi at that stage, and as a consequence the issue of Dravidastan will go to the UNO. This in a nutshell is their plan of action. This plainly is quite in keeping with the pro-imperialist line with a 46-year history of which Annadurai is so very proud.

During the last ten years, the DMK has been astutely utilising all the weaknesses of Congress policy and has grown to be the principal opposition to the Congress in Tamilnad. It has done this by skilful use of the discontent of ordinary people against Congress policy in all its aspects. It is well known that though considerable industrial advance has been achieved in our country, the fruits of that advance, of the increased wealth created in the country, have not gone into the hands of the millions of the ordinary people but have substantially gone into the hands of a small group of big capitalists. Thus the index of profits has risen from 100 to 168 during the first two Five-Year Plans, whereas the index of wages has remained almost static, if it has not been actually going down in 1961-62.


Moreover, the DMK has also played cleverly on the desire of the people of Tamilnad for greater use and development of their own language. It has made use of the anti-Hindi feeling of the people. It has developed a distorted history of Tamilnad in order to rouse parochial passions and chauvinism against the North. It plays up regional economic disparities, falsely asserting that Tamilnad and the South are backward economically, while Tamilnad is in fact one of the most developed regions in India.

Intensifying the longstanding conflict between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, difficult for persons outside Tamilnad to appreciate, was also one of their principal tactics and remains so, though lately, as a result of Rajaji’s intervention, this has been formally pushed into the background.

Apart from all this, one of the principal reasons for the growth of the DMK is that the progressive forces, the patriotic elements in Tamilnad, those who fought against British rule, did not play any effective role in stemming the growth of this anti-national organisation, in exposing its pro-imperialist past and its demagogic present.

On the contrary, the Congress under Kamaraj’s leadership, by its toleration of the propaganda of the leader of the Dravida Kazhagam, Ramaswami Naicker, who was given licence as it were because he supported Kamaraj, imparted respectability to the Dravida Kazhagam’s ideology, which is in no way different from that of the DMK. In fact, the DMK was even praised by the Congress as a safe alternative to the inconvenient opposition of the Communists in the Legislature. In the Education Department in particular, books that distorted the historical traditions of the Tamil people and gave a chauvinistic interpretation to Tamil history became the rule. Also, the Education Department and the schools were riddled with DMK teachers preaching its ideology. It can indeed be said without fear of contradiction that not a single student in Tamilnad’s schools between 1947 and 1962 was given a proper idea of the struggle of the Indian people, including the people of Tamilnad, for freedom—the epic struggle which has been the greatest unifying factor for the peoples of India. In contrast, the emphasis in school textbooks has been on a separate people, Tamils, with a separate language, culture, and economy. The result is the emergence of a generation who are perhaps the principal support of the DMK today, and who know little or nothing of the glory of the national movement, of the way all the people of India fought together and wrested freedom.
The other progressive parties however cannot escape responsibility, because at various stages they also failed effectively to expose the separatist ideology of the DMK, they compromised and even joined hands with the DMK for the sake of immediate temporary gains such as seats in the Legislature. The result has been that there has been no effective opposition to the DMK during the last decade.

Reactionary Offensive

The rapid growth of the DMK was really in 1957-62. It is no accident that it was in this period that extreme reaction in our country launched its counter-offensive against the national and democratic movement. Taking advantage of the glaring weaknesses in Congress policy and in particular of the discontent of the masses over the failure of the Congress Government to improve their living conditions, the reactionary elements throughout the country began to attack the policy of building heavy industry, the policy of expanding the public sector, and the policy of agrarian reform—limited and restricted as the implementation of these policies was under Congress leadership. The spearhead of the reactionary offensive was the Swatantra Party.

It was not unnatural therefore that in the 1962 general election in Tamilnad there was virtually an alliance between the Swatantra Party on the one hand and the DMK and the Muslim League on the other. This was also seen in the Tiruchengode parliamentary by-election, where the aging founder of the Swatantra Party, C. Rajagopalachari, made a special appeal to the voters in the constituency, where he founded his own ashram years ago, to vote for the DMK After the result was announced, he congratulated the people on having defeated the Congress and enabled the DMK to win. All this shows that the DMK is merely another wing of the reactionary army in our country: what one may call the Tamilnad variant of Indian reaction, attempting to drag India backwards from progressive social and economic policies, thus making it easy prey for imperialism.

Though in practice closely banded with the Swatantra Party and the Muslim League, the DMK attempts, with the wonted demagogy of parties of this calibre and character, to present itself as a progressive socialist party. It has included in its programme the demand for nationalisation of textile mills, cinema theatres and all transport buses. It promised in its election manifesto five acres of land to every Harijan and reduction of the price of rice to a rupee for three measures form the present price of Re 1.25 nP a measure. In their speeches, the DMK leaders—anybody who can mount the rostrum and talk his head off is a leader in this fantastic party—mouth the most radical slogans and promise everything under the sun. That this is demagogy pure and simple will be evident from the fact that at no stage has the DMK fought effectively or sincerely in the interests of ordinary people on any issue whatever.

Another characteristic of the party, which reminds one of Hitler’s fascist set-up, is the leader-worship that has developed in the organisation. Everything hinges round Annadurai, who has been popularised throughout the State as Anna (elder brother). Servile adulation to an astonishing extent can be seen in the functioning of the organisation, everybody hanging on the words of Annadurai and nobody having the courage or even the right to sit in judgment on his view or to contribute towards the determination of any decision. Equally degenerate is the manner in which the DMK has cut away from the traditional political standards of sacrifice in our country. Over all these years political work has been looked upon as service to the country. Persons who made money out of politics faced moral censure. But in the DMK it is considered correct and proper for every leader to charge a fee, varying according to his popularity, for each speech; and many have become wealthy men in this way.

Price “Struggle”

The recent agitation against high prices also highlights the essential character of this organisation. The DMK leadership took advantage of the discontent among the masses of people at the spiralling prices of essential commodities to launch a “struggle” in the form of picketing in front of government offices. But with the usual uncons-tructive attitude of a demagogic Rightist party, they put forward no concrete proposals regarding how the prices should be brought down. In their speeches in the Assembly the DMK representatives completely failed to pin-point the evils of the price policy of the Congress or point out the manner in which the situation could be remedied. On the contrary, they began to popularise the so-called struggle, not as one against rising prices but as the first step towards the achievement of Dravidastan.

When the “struggle” took place, after the arrest of the top leaders, rowdy elements in the party took charge of the situation in Madras City and at other important centres in the State and in a planned manner attacked public property—buses, telephone booths, etc.—and North Indian institutions like the United Bank of India, the Jain Maternity Hospital, Marwari marriage pandal, etc. Thus ended the epic struggle against high prices!

The DMK leaders hastened to disavow what their followers had done. On the very day of picketing, the Secretary of the DMK in Madras personally apologized to the Commissioner of Police, and DMK newspapers later did their best to disown the rowdy incidents. But it is not that easy to gloss over what actually happened, because the concentration of violence on North Indian institutions clearly showed that either the rowdies had adopted the DMK ideology or the DMK ideologists had become rowdies.

Equally bankrupt was the conduct of the DMK members of the Assembly who were not arrested. Thirtysix out of the fifty MLAs were outside prison, but they neither went to the Assembly nor campaigned among the people against high prices. They just kept quiet. The only conclusion to be drawn from this strange conduct is that they were afraid that if they went to the Assembly they might not be in a position to answer the criticism levelled against them, and that if they went to the people they would get something other than cheering because of the violence and rowdyism let loose in their “struggle”.

Reasons for Success

Despite all this, however, the result of the Tiruchengode by-election demonstrates beyond doubt that they have been able to develop their separatist movement. This traditional Congress seat was won by them by rallying around themselves all the reactionary elements, particularly the Swatantra Party and the Muslim League. In contrast, the Congress put up an unpopular candidate who could not even rally the support of all Congressmen. The Communist Party adopted an attitude of neutrality. All these factors undoubtedly facilitated the victory of the DMK candidate and greatly enhanced the morale of the organisation which had been weakened after its price struggle fiasco.

Only the totally complacent or utterly stupid can fail to see the menace to Indian democracy and unity which the DMK represents. Its true reactionary character was tellingly brought out by what happened on February 22 this year, the last day of Annadurai’s electioneering at Kancheepuram. On that day, at the final rally before the poll, Annadurai stood on the dais flanked by Rajaji, leader of modern Indian reaction, and Sir A. Ramaswami Mudaliar, whose record as a loyal servant of British Raj must not be completely forgotten. Thus the two streams, modern Indian reaction and traditional pro-Imperialism, united on a single platform, that of Annadurai’s DMK, to carry forward and develop internal and external reaction’s conspiracy to block India’s march to Socialism and disrupt democracy.
The DMK contamination is felt in all spheres, of activity, literary and cultural, political, social and educational. We can ignore this chauvinistic, anti-national, anti-socialist menace only at our peril.

Unity of all democratic and honest people to fight against this danger threatening our people is urgent and vital if imperialism’s forty six-year-old conspiracy is to be defeated. And surely the hearts and minds of our people, steeped as they are in their love for their country and their desire to see it advance proudly along the road of independence and progress, are sound and firm to afford the guarantee that such a unity will triumph.

(September 1, 1962)

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