P. Krishna Pillai (1906 -1948)
P. Krishna Pillai is the founder leader of the Communist movement in Kerala. His life, style of social and public work, leadership, humanism and above all his communist ethics will always be a textbook for all generations to learn and imbibe. Popularly known as ‘Comrade’ , Krishna Pillai was born in 1906 in Vaikom. He became an orphan at the age of fourteen. He went to Allahabad at the age of 21 to learn Hindi and returned to work as an activist of Dakshin Bharatha Hindi Prachar Sabha. When he took the position of flag bearer in the march from Vadakara to Payyannur to participate in the salt sathyagraha in January 1930. Krishna Pillai’s life became intertwined with modern Kerala’s history.
He was in the forefront of organizing the national movement, Congress Socialist Party and late the Communist Party in Kerala. Krishna Pillai became a part of all these movements which came into being in the onward course of progressive Kerala. These was hardly any nook or corner in the state where he had not set foot, ushering in the minds of change and proclaiming the spirit for struggle.
Krishna Pillai was the Secretary of the first Communist group formed in Kozhikkode in 1937. he had to do many jobs for a living. At the same time he was active in Hindi teaching and in the national movement. Suffering and imprisonment became part of his life. He was one of the Pioneers in organizing the coir workers in Alappuzha, cotton mill workers in Kozhikkode, Beedi and weaving workers in Kannur and the peasants in Malabar.
He participated in the secret conference in Pinarayi - Parappuram which saw the birth of Indian Communist Party unit in Kerala and became its first secretary. He travelled extensively across the state. He could recall by name almost all the important activists of the party in Kerala. Moving from one village to another he recruited cadres into the party and set up underground shelters for the party workers when the party was banned. His legendary life came to an end during one of his underground days. Krishna Pillai became inseparable from the working class movement and the life of ordinary people in the state. The undying spirit of a Communist could be seen in his last moments also, when he was bitten by a snake on 19 August 1948. while he was staying in an underground shelter in Kannarkattu is Alappuzha. The last words uttered by him ‘Comrades, Forward!’ are a constant source of inspiration for the Communists in Kerala then and now.
E.M.S Namboodiripad (1909 -1998)
Com. EMS was a Marxist thinker who analysed closely the happenings around him based on a clear understanding that politics is something which controls and influences the entire spectrum of human life.
EMS was born into a aristocratic landlord family (Elamkulam) in Palakkad on 13 June 1909, in an era when feudalism ruled the roost in the country. His father was Parameswaran Nampoodiripad and his mother was Vishnudatha. EMS (Short for Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran) started his public life by taking part in the struggles for social reforms in his own upper - caste, Brahmin community. He became an active worker of the Namboodiri Yogakshema sabha in his student days. Later he entered the political arena as a congress worker. While he was studying for BA in St. Thomas College, Thrissur. He quit the college to participate in the civil disobedience movement against the British rule, He courted arrest violating the law. After he was released, he became a full time congress worker. He became the secretary of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) in 1934 and during 1938 -40. Later he worked in the Congress Socialist Party and then joined the Communist party. He was a member of the first communist party group formed in Kozhikode.
It was in 1934 that EMS , along with other left-wing leaders of the Kerala Pradesh congress party like P. Krishnapillai, A.K Gopalan and Keraleeyan, formed the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) in Kerala. He was the All India Joint Secretary of the CSP from 1034 to 1940. he was one of the founder members of the Communist party in Kerala attending the Pinarayi - Parappuram Conference in 1939. He became a member of central committee of the Communist Party of India in 1941 and a member of the Polit Bureau in 1950. he was acting General Secretary of the party during 1953 - 56. Later he was the General Secretary of CPI(M) for 14 years.
He was first elected to the Madras Province Assembly in 1939. He became the first Chief Minister of the Communist party Government in Kerala in 1957. He was also Chief Minister of Kerala during 1967 - 69.
The contributions made by Com. EMS in the practical application of Marxism - Leninism in the Indian context are unforgettable. His inventions in politics was not limited to the boundaries of our country. He closely observed the happenings in the international Communist movement and carried his astute analysis of the events to the people of the country, especially Kerala through his writings which broadened their understanding.
EMS’ ability to analyse the issues in the context of their interrelationship and change and explain things in a simple language was of immense value for the political education of the working class movement. No field was alien to him. His uncanny scholarship and style were visible in all his interventions in the political, social and cultural spheres of modern Kerala.
Com. EMS was an inseparable part of the social and political changes in modern Kerala. His contribution in the campaign for the formation of a Kerala as an integrated linguistic state based on its culture, politics and society changes is unparalleled. The book ‘ Kerala : Motherland of Malayalis’ published by him in 1940’s put forward Kerala as a modern linguistic state. When Communist party came to power in the newly formed state of Kerala in 1957, the party entrusted the task of leading the first Government to Com. EMS. He took up this challenging and complex task for which there was no precedent in the world history. But he could fulfill this task quite remarkably setting the course for the future development of the state. The reforms initiated by the EMS- led ministry in the agrarian relations, in education, in health and in social welfare sectors, played an important role in the transformation of Kerala from a feudal dominated backward state to a modern state.
Com. EMS became the Chief Minister in the coalition Ministry which came to power in 1967 and continued the policies of the first ministry. Both these Governments remained as the models of governance for the future left -led governments in the state.
Com. EMS died on 19 March 1998.
N. C Sekhar ( 1904 – 1986)
N. C. Sekhar (Narayanan Pillai Chandrasekharan Pillai) was one of the four members of the first Communist group formed in Kerala. He was born on 2nd July 1904 in Venganur near Thiruvananthapuram. He joined the Congress Party at the age of sixteen and participated in the non - co-operative movement in 1921. N.C became an inmate of Swaraj Asram in 1921.
After his release from imprisonment in Kannur jail as part of the civil disobedience movement in 1930, N.C Sekhar returned to Thiruvananthapuram as a changed man. During his prison days the interactions with the fellow jail mates (especially the volunteers of Hindustan Seva Dal) had convinced him that Congress Party was the political representative of the capitalists. The idea for setting up a secret Communist Organisation took shape in his mind. That is how, a secret organisation named Communist League was formed in 1931 by N.C. The knowledge he gathered about the Bolshevik revolution and the experience during his prison days were the inspiration behind this step.
In 1934, N.C shifted to Malabar region and worked as a leader of the Congress Socialist Party. He was entrusted the task of organising trade unions of workers by the party.
N.C was sent to Coimbatore in 1939 with the aim of building up the Party base there. He was arrested there along with eight others and charged in a conspiracy case. He was imprisoned for six and a half years. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha from 1954 to 1960.
N.C Sekhar was suspended from the Communist Party in 1960. Later he became a member of CPI (M) in 1964, but was expelled from the Party in 1967. He died in 1986 in Kannur.
K. Damodaran (1912 - 1976)
K. Damodaran is one of the founder leaders of the Communist Party in Kerala. He was a member of the first Communist Group formed in Kozhikode. Along with E.M.S, Damodaran played a prominent role in starting and running weekly organ (Prabhatham) of the Congress Socialist Party in Malabar. When Communist Party became the ruling party for the first time through elections in the Malabar District Board in 1953, Damodaran was the Secretary of the Malabar Committee. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha later.
Damodaran was known as one of the great theoreticians in the Communist Movement in Kerala. His play ‘Pattabakki’ was a path breaker in the Malayalam drama and had contributed immensely to the growth of the peasant movement in Malabar. Damodaran was a multilingual scholar and had translated many books from Russian to Malayalam. The best known of his works is ‘Indiyude Atmavu’ and in English, an excellent exposition of Indian culture and philosophy from the ancient times. Damodaran was a great orater also. He died on 3rd July 1976.