Tribute to Sushital Roy Chowdhury

Sushital Roy Chowdhury

Earlier this year on 13th March, we commemorated the 50th death anniversary of Comrade Sushital Roy Chowdhury,,who died in mysterious circumstances in 1971. Formally he is declared to have died out of heart attack. Few comrades as valiantly waged a crusade to confront left adventurism fostered by the C.P.I.(ML)led by Charu Mazumdar and establish the massline.Sadly even today sections of the Indian revolutionary camp negate his contribution.

It is most praiseworthy how he weathered the most stormy seas in his lifetime to become a central commitee member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) ,overcoming all the hurdles of revisionism within CPI and CPM. Within the ranks of CPI (ML) most methodically and dialectically he exposed the flaws of aspects like ‘Annihilation of the class enemy ‘ and upholding ‘China’s chairman is our chairman and abandoning of mass organizations and movements. Comrade Sushital teaches us how defective the formation of the CPI (ML) was in 1969.and how practice of democratic centralism was violated. The reading of the writings of Comrade Sushital,are a must for all cadres, in grasping the grave errors of left adventurism and essence of mass line. With undaunting courage Comrade Sushital confronted the trends leaning towards terrorism and authoritarianism within the party. He made a notable contribution in exposing how the working class in urban areas was completely isolated or neglected.

Noone wishes to belittle the political contribution of Comrade Charu Mazumdar as the architect of Naxalbari,,but his glaring errors still have their stamp on the Communist movement, infecting the base of massline. I wish comrades like late Suniti Kumar Ghosh had thrown more light on the significance of the struggle waged by Sushital as well as Amit Bhattacharya in his book ‘Storming the Gates of Heaven’


Born in 1917 in Allahabad of United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), comrade Sushital Roy Chowdhury(SRC) gained baptism into the Indian Communist Movement at a very tender age. In 1943, he became the secretary of the Hoogly District Committee and in the Tebhaga days organized a strong peasant movement throughout the district.

In the late forties, he was transferred to the Calcutta District Committee. Comrade SRC was a prolific writer. In those days, people used to wait eagerly for his write-ups in Swadhinata and Matamat. During the inner party struggle followed by the India-China war, comrade SRC joined the pro-Chinese left faction. In 1964, he joined the CPI (M) and was elected to the editorial board of Deshhitaishi, the Bengali weekly organ of the Bengal Unit of the CPI (M). He was also a member of the CPI (M)’s West Bengal State Committee.

In 1965, he wrote a series of philosophical articles in a progressive journal called Chinta. There he openly challenged the party’s programme as revisionist. In those days, along with comrades Asit Sen and Saroj Dutta, comrade SRC formed the Marxist-Leninist Institute, an inner party ideological study circle. In 1967, for bestowing his active support to the peasant guerrillas of Naxalbari, comrade SRC was expelled from the CPI (M).

After his expulsion, comrade SRC and other like minded comrades (comrades SD, Asit Sen, etc.) joined comrade Charu Majumdar, and founded the CPI (M-L). After the formation, he was elected to the Central Committee and the Polit Bureau. He was also appointed the Editor-in Chief of Deshabrati and Liberation, the CPI (M-L) Bengali and English organs.

In 1970, comrade SRC developed a few ideological differences with the party’s central line. He criticized the party’s view regarding the evaluation of the Bengal Renaissance.
Comrade SRC died of a heart attack in early 1971.


The document ‘Problems and Crises of Indian Revolution’ written by Sushital Roy Chowdhury in November 1970, is a masterpiece, in terms of championing trend of mass line. Arguably no document written by any comrade in that era so surgically penetrated left deviation At the very core he exposes the concept of annihilation, authoritarianism and disrespect to democratic party functioning. He makes most striking contrast between the teaching s of Chairman Mao with the practice of the C.P.I. (M.L) .The work was classical in terms of linking the essence of mass line and Marxism-Leninism Mao Tse Tung Thought with the deviationist methods adopted by the party. Giving utmost respect to the cognitive process of Marxism, it penetrates the root of left deviation. He mentions how ultra left deviation took place within the Cultural Revolution itself in China and how the history of the Communist movement itself ,deviations are rooted or originate within the party leadership itself. To me it is part of a treasure house of any Marxist cadre or intellectual delving into Naxalbari history.

Sushital stated how it was a predominant trend in journal ‘Deshabrati” to exaggerate intensity of actions.

Arguably one drawback of  this work of Sushital Roy Chowdhury was his inability to guage how the formation of the party was defective, in April 1969 and how mass line was vitiated before 1970 Party Congress itself. He negated the mass line of Nagi Reddy  and DV Rao,terming it as centrist. He was also unable to detect traces of left deviationist trends within the writings of Lin Biao.The document quotes some of Lin Biao’s important military writings on peoples War.

Sushital reflected on the struggle between the 2 lines within the party itself. He also felt a centrist attack was coming from within a party itself. He underlined how in essence centrism was a manifestation of revisionism itself. In his view many a time centrism robbed a genuine revolutionary movement, and trapped it from breaking away from the clutches of revisionism.

2 deviationist trends were summed up. The first was on some comrades terming annihilation as the starting point of guerrilla war but not a higher form of class struggle. The other comrades conducted class struggle for seizure of landlords land and property-but did not wage the war of annihilation. It made the cadres degenerate.

“We have tried to develop the army in some areas without class struggle and have failed. Without class struggle-the battle of annihilation -the initiative of the poor peasant masses cannot be released, the political consciousness of the fighters cannot be raised, the new man cannot emerge, the people’s army cannot be created. Only by waging class struggle-the battle of annihilation -the new man will be created; the new man will defy death, and will be free from all self interest. And with this death defying spirit he will go close to the enemy,snath his rifle, avenge the martyrs and the people’s army will emerge.’

“The annihilation of class enemies is the greatest danger of the reactionaries and revisionists world over. Why am I against taking up fire arms now? The use of firearms at this stage, diffuse or dilutes the initiative of the peasant masses. Only by starting the battle with their conventional weapons, the common landless and poor peasants will come forward with bare hands and join the battle of annihilation. A common landless peasant, grounded down by age old oppression, will se the light and avenge himself on the class enemy. This would pave the way for the peasant masses to join the guerilla fighters, and strike a telling blow of people’s upsurge across the entire country. After the initiative of the peasant masses to annihilate the class enemy with bare hands or home made weapons, has been released and the peasant’s revolutionary power.”

“We have poured much of our blood in Srikakulam and we have spilled much blood of the enemy. Yet the class enemy exists there. Unless we throw the class enemy out of the land. a new consciousness. a new confidence cannot arise. We cannot then go to the enemy and snatch his rifle. It is the class struggle that can solve the problem of building the people’s army.”

“The C.P.I. (M.L) instead of mobilising the broad peasant masses in broad based mass movements, form guerrilla units by a conspiratorial method. It was stated that once class struggles were developed by forming the party units, they would be transformed into guerrilla units. In the 2nd phase it was said on the contrary that the intellectual comrade would form a guerrilla unit by recruiting someone without any knowledge of the party unit. Instead of carrying on political propaganda for a long time and striving to build up class struggles, it was argued that it would be wrong to put too much stress on the importance of intensive propaganda. Another manifestation of bourgeois thinking is to exaggerate the importance of actions and deny the importance of political propaganda. This is what chairman Mao called militarism.’

Charu Mazumdar called for abandoning a mass demonstration in support of Cambodia. He propogated that the Chinese experience did not have to be duplicated to wait for a sustained period in towns and called for red terror in the towns. Students were called to destroy educational institutions, libraries and laboratories; emulating Ludddite methods. The imperative nature of protracted people’s war was diffused. The US agression against Cambodia was regarded as the mark of the beginning of the third world war.

The document projected how the party neglected conducting extensive mass work among proletarian masses in towns so that cadres from among workers may be sent to villages. It failed to initiate solidarity movements in towns with worker’s participation.It also took no steps to properly establish a secret party organisation with select cadres to lay the base for work.

Most clinically Sushital illustrated how the ugly head of authoritarianism penetrated the very heart of the party and vitiated practice of Mao thought. No dissent was tolerated and an comrade who raised important questions was rebuked. Charu Mazuumdar’s worked was in effect the final say. The document of the Bihar State Comitee was categorized as ‘revisionist. ‘There were powerful trends of projecting Charu Mazumdar as the sole authority and redressing no other viewpoint.Readers of Deshabrati observed that that many an important declaration was published as ‘Comrade Charu Mazumdar “exhortation.In most cases the state secretary was not even informed. beforehand. Even the request to issue these instructions the name of the state commitee was rejected. On the formation of the Peoples Army “Formation of the people’s army on the soil of India’ was not considered in the party commitee ,not even in the politburo.nor even the state commitee.”Party Committee system was completely violated. Chairman Mao has repeatedly warned us against the trend of monopolising of the conduct of affairs and solving of important problems by any individual and making the membership of the party committee as nominal. The Party Commitee system is an important institution for ensuring collective leadership and preventing any individual from monopolising of the conduct of affairs.”

The C.P.I. (M.L) compared the anarchic actions of the students and youth in educational institutions with the May 4th Movement in China. It also placed the hoisting of red flags over the factories and educational institutions, on par with the historic Kharkov movement. It also claimed that in Bengal thousands of poor peasants joined the guerrilla units. In actual fact the Party Committees were not educated to undertake basic investigation and analysis of the number of active supporters, opponent and neutrals and must not decide problems subjectively and without basis.

In the document Sushital quoted many a Writing of Mao ,Deshabrati organ and a few of Lin Biao.

Sushital quoted Mao “It is imperative for the revolutionary ranks to turn the backward villages into advanced, consolidated base areas, into great military, political economic and cultural bastions of the revolution from which to fight their vicious enemies who are using the cities for attack son rural districts, and in this way to gradually acheive the complete victory of the revolution through protracted fighting; it is imperative for them to do so if they do not wish to compromise with imperialism and it’s lackeys but are determined to fight on, and if they intend to build up and temper their forces, and avoid decisive battles with a powerful enemy while their own strength is inadequate.”(The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party Dec,1939)

Sushital wrote in  Deshabrati “Guerilla War is basically the higher stage of class struggle and class struggle is the sum total of economic and political struggles. While propagating politics, comrades working in peasant areas should never minimize the neccessity of raising a general slogan of economic demands. Unless the broad peasant masses are involved in the movement it willl not be possible to bring the backward peasants to the stag of grasping political propaganda, and their hatred against class enemies cannot be kept alive.”(Deshabrati August1st,1967)

“Unless the peasants are made to participate in broad based mass movements, it will naturally take time for the politics of seizure of power to strike firm roots in the consciousness of the peasant masses. As a result there may be a trend towards putting arm instead of politics in command. Aries of peasant’s armed struggle can be developed only by successfully applying under political leadership., the four weapons-the peasant’s class analysis ,class struggle, investigation and practice.”(Deshabrati,October 17,1968)

“There are advanced and backward sections even within the revolutionary classes. The advanced section grasps the revolutionary principles quickly and the backward section naturally takes longer time to absorb political propaganda. That is why the necessity of waging economic struggles against the feudal class exists and it will be there in future also. Hence the need for the movement of seizure for crops. The forms this struggle will take in an area will depend on its political consciousness and organization.”(Deshabrati )

“In India this revolution would triumph only if we wage protracted and arduous struggle. Citing the fact that imperialism and social imperialism will come forward to arrest the revolution in India, it is contended that it is nothing but a blind flight of imagination to think of an easy victory in this situation.”(Deshabrati)

Sushital quoted Lin Biao”In the enemy occupied cities and villages, we combined legal with illegal struggles, united the basic masses and all patriots, and divided and disintegrated the power of the enemy and his puppets so as to prepare ourselves to attack the enemy within coordination with operations from without when conditions were ripe.”

Quoting Chairman Mao”The Revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilising the masses and relying on them.”

“Every comrade should be taught to arouse and develop the consciousness of the people in conformity with the levels of consciousness, to help them get organised gradually on the principle of sheer voluntariness, and to help them conduct step by step all the necessary struggles warranted by the internal and external conditions of definite time and place.”

“To destroy the enemy means to disarm him or deprive him of power to resist and dose not mean to destroy every member of his forces physically.”

“If there is no contradictions in the party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the party’s life would come to an end.”(On Contradiction,August 1937)

“We should carry on constant propaganda among the people on the facts of world progress and the bright future ahead so that they will build their conference in victory. At the same time we must tell the people and tell our comrades that there will be twists and turn sin our roads.”(On the Chungking Negotiations Oct.7th,1945)

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has travelled around India and written on blogs like ‘Democracy ad Class Struggle’, ‘Ottos War Room’ and ‘Frontier Weekly.’ Mainly written on politics of mass line in Communist Movement, Maoism, peasant struggles but also on blogs on Cricket and films.

Email- [email protected]

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