Legendary Comrade Sunder Navalkar of Mumbai turns 100

A landmark of one of the most remarkable activists of our land who at even at 100 illuminates spark of Liberation

Sunder Navalkar

Comrade Sunder Navalkar turning 100 on September 16th this year. was truly a landmark in the Indian Communist revolutionary Movement. It was symbolic of a spirit burning like an inextinguishable light, traversing the most turbulent of Oceans or steepest mountains. Even from the depths of despair or a grave she would lift the moral of the workers. There is hardly an adjective than can do complete justice to her impact on the working class and how she could knit a scattered force into an army. There could be no better exponent or living prove that Marxism Leninism is not dead and buried and that spiritualism an integral part of Socialist ideology.

It was Sunder Navalkar who sowed the seeds of the Naxalite movement in Maharashtra. With Sunil Dighe and Laxman Pagar she founded the Maharashtra Commitee of the C.P.I.(M.L)that demarcated from the revisionist left of the C.P.I and C.P.M.With the meticulous skill of a surgeon and bravery of a soldier she galvanised the workers into launching resistance through the United labour Union. Her impact was felt at important junctures like the historic Railway workers Strike of 1974,Dalit Panther movement of 1970 and emergency in 1975.A major crystallization of democratic resistance to expose the nefarious trends to breed fascism were confronted at the very roots by Comrade Navalkar.From late 1970’s she was one of the pioneering comrades in confronting the rightist or neo-revisionist trends within the C.P.I.(M.L.) itself like that of Vinod Mishra and Satya Narayan Singh.In December 1978 the Central Team of the C.P.I.(M.L.) was formed of which Sunder Navalkar wa s one of the principal architects. Few comrades made such a contribution in sowing the seeds of mass line in India.

Through the pages of revolutionary Journal Jasood Sunder Navalkar as it’s editor dipped her ink to ideologically attack the politics of the autocratic Indian ruling classes and combat revisionism at the very grassroots. With deep insight and dialectical precision she condemned the attacks of the state machinery on people’s movements, the communal riots incited by politicians like in Bhiwandi in 1984,the distortions of the bourgeoisie on the practice of Socialism, the nefarious attack of globalization on the lives of people etc.Unlike most trade union ;leaders she placed great stress on political education and set up workers schools to imbibe Marxist-Leninist education .At every public meeting magazine ‘jasood’ would be sold which proved her commitment to eradicate economism within the workers movement. I can never forget the meeting her Union held in 1991 after the fall of the USSR to defend Socialism in Dadar in Mumbai.nor the one son the 30th anniversary of Naxalbari in 1997 and the one on 50th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution in 1999.From an a constituent within the revolutionary trade unio camp it would be a different cup of tea attending a meeting addressed by Sunder Navalkar.Her voice simply shimmers like an echo. in sparkling the flame of Mao thought. When in the mist of organizing a worker’s agitation ,pandemonium was literally created in the hearts of the ruling classes and police forces who were shaken to the brink. Some of the most notable strikes she launched were at the Bombay Stock exchange building where tremors were caused to the profiteers.,against the Air India management and against Shapoorji Palonji construction group.The permanency of Air India workers wa s principally won as a result of Navalkar’s efforts.In 1997 in a meeting many workers narrrated the tale of her contribution to politically guiding them to establish the victory of the red flag in struggles. As a cadre in the 1990’s I recount a leader of the Indian Federation of trade Unions praising the manner in which Navalkar organised the construction workers. In those times economism was not only rampant amonsgt the Congress and revisionist Unions but also within the democratic revolutionary camp in which legalist tendency was a predominant feature.After the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 She was instrumental in guiding workers to write a political document. based on developing mass political resistance and combat forces to defeat the Hindu reactionary state.

She blended the grammer of Leninism with the day to day class struggles at a level few comrades ever did.

I can recollect few comrades whose voice could shimmer the very essence of the politics of naxalbari as Sunder Navalkar.It created the impact of thunder and lightning as a revolutionary student leader,Amitabh,in Bihar told me.

Sunder Navalkar had remarkable mastery over Leninism and her guidance played a principal role in propelling the mass line within the C.P.I.(M.L.) Central Team .With the skill of a surgeon she combated Right opportunism and the ‘Left’ adventurist tendencies prevailing earlier in the 1970’s.She maintained the water tight discipline of a secret party but still was one of the most influential and impactful comrades in illuminating the spark of Leninism or Naxalbari politics at the very base. With great ideological clarity she refuted counter revolutionary trends like the ‘ Revolutionary Internationalist Movement’. ‘open party functioning’ and replacing era of ‘Leninism’ with ‘Maoism.’ Although tooth and nail defending the erstwhile C.P.I.(M.L.)Peoples War group she had subtle admiration for the T.Nagi Reddy trend or the UCCRI(M.L.) in Mumbai. Whatever her differences she upheld the contribution of Shanka Guha Nyugi as an immortal one in Chattisgarh.Within the revolutionary camp she was critical of the Maoist trend that neglected urban work.

No revolutionary paper in the history of India has lasted for the duration of Marthi magazine  ‘Jasood’ which is printed till this day. I wonder whether ever has a revolutionary journal ever in history been edited by a person 100 years old..In my view no Indian paper so tenaciously defended the essence of Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought as Jasood.

This journal illuminated the flame of Marxism Leninism Mao Tse Tung thought in the hearts of cadres.This year is the 47th anniversary year of the journal’ Jasood’. which was inaugurated in May.1973.No journal ever in Mumbai has so consistently defended the polemics of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung Thought as Jasood.For 47 years it has defended Mao Thought in every aspect-be it trade union movement., peasant movement, essays on Lenin,Marx,Stalin and Mao, exposing communalism, exposing state repression in Kashmir etc.I deeply appreciate the essay sin the journal defending Lenin, Stalin, Mao on his 100th anniversary,25th and 30th anniversary of Naxalbari,1982 millworkers strike,1974 rail workers strike, Defending Socialism after collapse of USSR.Exposing the nefarious designs of Hindu Communal fascism in 1992 in demolition of the Babri Masjid etc.

In 1993 he published the national programme for youth which most analytically asessed the role and programme of the Indian youth in the new democratic revolution.

In the last 2 decades she raised her bold voice and dipped her pen with utmost vigour against fascism like few, not underestimating it .With great humility she acknowledged the efforts of all the groups within the revolutionary camp, be it Red Star,Janashakti. or Nagi Reddy groups, even if principally she defended the Maoist trend. She was vehemently critical of terminology of ‘Maoism’ replacing Mao thought and to the last tooth defended the C.P.I.(M.L.) formed in 1969.

Ofcourse no person is without errors .Whatever her towering achievements left sectarianism was expressed in her teachings and practice. She was reluctant in adopting any positive stance to Marxist-Leninist outside the pro-Charu Mazumdar camp and erroneously branded Tarimela Nagi Reddy camp as revisionists or rightists. Most vehemently she opposed her organization C.T from merging into the C.P.R.C.I.(M.L.) in 1994.Thus only the Punjab section of the Central Tea group could merge into the all-India organisation with the Nagi Reddy group.2 decades ago the Central Team group became scattered or split into regional groups .In Mumbai earlier she was very adamant in undertaking joint campaigns with Chandra Pulla Reddy section. We must however remember that no person can be perfect and even Marx, Lenin and Mao were not devoid of errors.

Above all it is hard to name a comrade who expressed such a human touch as Navalkar radiating the very essence of Marxism-Leninsm -Mao Thought ,which is love. Most relentlessly she would stoop down to any problem faced by a worker displaying utmost humility.



“The Central Leadership of the C.P.I(M.L)failed to resolve correctly certain questions of policy regarding mass line ,military line and style of work. Instead of devising correct CT Marxist Leninist policies in the light of objective analysis, the central leadership started divicing such policies subjectively. Consequently our revolution receive setrbacks.The Central leadership gradually deviated from the very ideological foundation of the party. They revealed a sectarian, individualist and bureaucratic trend. The failed to mobiles all the sincere C.R’s in he party,through ideological persuasion and political struggle. Although the 8th Congress of the C.P.I(M.L),boldly drew a clear line of demarcation between Marxism and Revisionism, upheld the correct general orientation and path of Indian Revolution, yet adopted certain left adventurist policies on the questions of mass and military line.It asserted that mass struggles and mass movements wee indispensable and that the principal contradiction was that between feudalism and the broad masses.

It is significant that later in their April 1993 issue of Liberation they wrote, ‘The C.P.I(M.L) had failed to understand the significance of consistent struggle of ideological, political nature within the party and outside for further quantitative and qualitative consolidation of revolutionary forces in and around he C.P.I(M.L)Early success led them to sectarian politics and organizational authoritarianism. They failed to realize the significance of consistent struggle in each and every activity of party leadership brought forth from C.PI.and C.P.M. Revolutionary broadness and flexibility was replaced by authoritarian principles .The leadership failed to realize the dimension of the converging process of revolutionaries in and around the party. Opportunist onslaught within the party gave rise to organisational centralism.

“The heroic ideological struggle through concrete actions leading to armed agrarian upsurge by the peasntry ,the main force of revolution gave birth to the re-organised Communist Party-the Communist Party of India(Marxist Leninist)In 30 years the party has split into several fractions. Some of them claim to be he party while othrs operate as part of the party.Many Communist revolutionaries are divided inj these gropups.There has been failure of Communist Revolutionaries to evaluate correctly the original/correct formulation on which the structure of he party was built.The time is most suited for the true communist Revolutionaries to merge with he whole.i.e.with the “C.P.I.M.L”. and form the centre to take up the responsibility of the Indian Revolution which is New Democratic and principally an armed agrarian revolution. We must establish the monlolithic Centre of democratic Centralism which was lost after 1972.9When the original C.P.I.M.L disintegrated)The All India Revolutionary Centre(re-esatablish the 8th Central Committee) of the party must be re-established.”

Quoting their report on work on the Trade Union Front, “Contract labourers were given greatest importance in our work. Being migratory labour great efforts wee made amongst construction workers.I 1984 he Constructin workers historically rebelled against the govt,to win their dearness allowance. They also fought against contract labour.A Red Union was formed which was steered by our ranks. We differentiated our methods opf work from the Revisionsits. Ilegal forms of struggle were adopted like Gherao,flash strike. Despite being migratory, the construction workers could perform painstaking work,when organized. Through protracted work class consciousness was created, who could now lead and fight struggles against the Government and management forces and take the command of any situation under the banner of the Red Union.

Workers should now choose their own union through the secret ballot. Keeping the secret ballot demand ,we pressurized the Govt.deploying all forms of struggle(Flash Strikes,indefinite Gheraos,Systematic postering and leafleting,Newspaper coverage tc.)Though the management and the paper Unions engaged in goondaism and filing legal cases against the Union,t he workers strength and determination overcame it and the management was compelled to surrender.

However the work in the yellow Unions was slow.


After the 1992-1993 post Babri-Masjid Communal riots the group in it’s article on Communalism stated, “The need of the hour is to tear apart the complete mask of the reactionary ruling classes and he real face of the Communal fascist agents and parties through enhancement of class struggles and organizations. Our party observes that the reactionary ruling classes and all shades of Communal forces have miserably failed to rally the common masses. The communal fascist forces have no connection with the masses ,but posses better striking power. Only by developing combat forces, enhancing class struggles sharper and sharper and building mass struggles can we isolate such forces. We need to strengthen the unity of the common masses in day to day movements and class struggles against the ruling class and the fundamentalist agents, develop combat forces amongst the masses ,in mass struggles under the leadership of revolutionary forces.”


“Some forces, in the name of taking opportunity of open activity make the whole party apparatus work openly I the name of the party, and organize mass programs and movements under the party banner. They fail to understand that the task of the party is to lead the masses in the path of protracted Peoples War. Only when masses come to realize the party politics through day to day movements. class struggles under the revolutionary leadership of the party, then only the party forces, can move like a fish in water of masses, even when they have become completely exposed. Any short-cut system of building closer association with the people by presenting the party banner and identity will open the whole party forces to the enemies. The reaction ill remain superficial. The revolutionary party presents itself directly and openly to the masses in it’s own ways and actions but dose not expose it’s cadres to the enemies. Revolutionary methodology must be adopted to lead the masses and present the party.Consistent work must be done in leading the masses in their struggles and organizations.”


The Central Team condemned participation in elections “It has been proved time and again that participation in Indian elections has failed to boost revolutionary struggles, on the other hand it has counterposed the revolutionary development of peoples Movements. The movements of Satya Narayan Singh and Vinod Mishra are the best example. Even the treacherous diversion of the Telengana Armed Struggle to parlaimentarism was a historic lesson. Forces today that oppose participation plead for participation in the future.”


“Some people in the Communist Revolutionary Camp find fault with Marx,Lenin-Stalin-Mao and advocate petit-bourgeois formulas.( like Maoism or New Left ideas.)They put forward new concepts above the shoulders of Mao Tse Tung. Such people fail to understand that their partial knowledge of social development and revolutionary struggle can be developed only through practicing the teachings of Marx.Lenin-Stalin-Mao.”


“Without sharpening the contradiction between the broad masses and feudalism, the contradiction between Imperialism and the broad masses cannot be strengthened. We must ideologically combat those who place Imperialism as the principal contradiction. Such people advocate an anti-Imperialist Front, patriotic Democratic Front Etc.They dilute the significance of anti-feudal struggle. Groups like the C.P.IM.L (Red Flag) and the Indian Peoples Front (Vinod Mishra)are the best Examples. Such Groups have changed the principal contradiction as between” alliance of imperialism and feudalism on the one hand and the broad masses on the other”, or between ” imperialism and the broad mases.”We have to defend the formulation that the contradiction of feudalism with the broad masses is the principal contradiction with tooth and nail.”

Harsh Thakor -I was a graduate of Elphinstone college in Mumbai in 1990 history and Politics.Initially with democratic rights organisation Lokshai Hakk Sanghatana in 1984 and later joined ranks of different communist revolutionary groups.After service in Taja Air caterers resumed activities on workers front in Mumbai where began freelance political writing for frontierweekly anti-imperialist camp blog and later naxal revolution.Later started writing for blog democracy and class struggle for around 6 years till it has become inactive and again frontier weekly and now Ottos War Room.For six years almost every month travelled around India to attend and report democratic events travelling to Punjab 3-4 time a year and also frequently to Delhi.Telangana and Kolkata.and Uttar Pradesh Specialize in research on massline of T Nagi Reddy and polemic sof Maoism.Written extensively on masline,Maoism and peasant struggles in Punjab.For almost 10 years firsthand experience of struggles in Punjab.

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