Well irrigated paddy fields and rich economy, as shown in Telugu cinemas come to one’s mind whenever there is any reference to East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh (AP) in India which are part of central coastal region of the state where canal irrigation and capitalism arrived earliest, thanks to a record 3.5 km long Dowlaiswaram barrage on river Godavari, and 1.2 km long one on river Krishna, both built in 1850-55 period, by British Engineer Arthur Cotton , worshipped by the landed gentry, also in Sanskrit slokas. This cinematic view is perhaps true for the rich, but not for the poor. The real and rather ugly part of the socio-economic landscape of the region is marked by semi-feudalism of a modern kind (with plenty of tractors), most of the agriculture being under tenant cultivation, a subtle land-lord system not seen much but felt deep, landless peasantry, well-observed caste hierarchy, old and traditional industries (like rice, sugar and edible oil mills) with capitalist exploitation managed by feudal mindset (no unions are allowed), scant development of higher and modern industries- and of the life of people is marked by rampant unemployment and under-employment, poverty- hidden and open- illiteracy, superstition and intoxication.
This is the highly paradoxical landscape in which Comrade Koneru Subhash Chandra Bose, respectfully and affectionately called as Com.Bose, spent most of his life. He was a committed and highly respected working-class and trade union (TU) leader and communist revolutionary (CR), who dedicated almost all his valuable time and energy for the cause of poor workers and rural poor and for organising the CR movement in both the districts. Studying the life, work and experiences of Com.Bose, and of the movement he led, would help us see the real picture of the lives of the workers and people, the anti-people policies of the rulers and the practical realities of working-class and communist movement in this region.
As a close comrade-in-arms who worked with him for over 20 years, I wish to recollect and share the valuable memories of his life and work and pay tributes to him, one generation senior to me, on this occasion of his 76th birth anniversary. We never cared to know birthdays, but now our phones remind us. Com.Bose was born on 20-02-1946 and passed away at age of 66 on 20-12-2012.
It is ten years since he died, but his memories are still fresh and greatly cherished by workers, for valid reasons: Bose, a middle peasant youth from Krishna dt, migrated to and worked as a worker for decades in adjoining West Godavari (WG), soon became a militant, popular, incorruptible and rare working class leader, who developed a proletarian outlook and way of life. Unlike many other leaders, he was a dedicated and militant trade union leader, a patient organizer, and a skilled negotiator. He intimately knew hundreds of workers as well as their families, and hence was a keen reader of workers’ pulse. He was an unchallenged workers’ leader for almost 30 years in and around Tadepalligudem, an agri- commerce centre, in WG dt.
He was soft spoken but was a communist with deep and firm convictions, with a keen observation of the political scene. He had little personal life other than as a communist and workers’ leader. He was known for his simple life, sacrifice, political acumen and commitment to workers’ cause. He was never found alone, even in an early morning walk; some worker would be with him always, narrating his woes, and even his family problems. In the later part of his life, he was unwell, down with diabetes and associated problems he did not care about. But even when he was too weak, he would go to his factory, lie down on a bench and address workers’ problems. His integrity and commitment were such that even officials would not mind it. Managements corrupted TU leaders, but his salary was often drastically cut as he frequently missed his duty to serve the workers and the Union, and to ensure even simple food was a problem to him and his small family (wife and only son) , though he was free from any vices. He ate in workers’ homes often, irrespective of caste hierarchy which others practised.
He died like that only, a couple of hours after he met some workers in his morning walk. He died like a text book proletarian, without owning even a hut or a small plot, a rarity among TU leaders, some of whom had become millionaires long ago. This was noted and stressed by hundreds of workers, even as his dead body was taken around in a memorable and emotional procession before cremation.
Com.Bose was born in Polukonda, a village near Gudivada town in Krishna District of AP, once a stronghold of Andhra communist movement. It had its unseen imprint on young Bose though his own village and parents (Venkata Ratnam and Eshwaramma) had strong Congress roots. The village was known for factional fight between two groups of the then ruling Congress party in the district, led by the dominant Kamma community. Father of Com.Bose, Venkata Ratnam, was a middle-peasant of the same community and followed one of the factions believing that that faction was led by honest leadership. He was such an honest, selfless and patriotic person that the villagers used to call him as “Gandhiji”: He named his elder son as Subhash Chandra Bose and younger as Shivaji. The opponent faction was wielding the power and the brothers of Ratnam sided with that faction. There was constant pressure on Ratnam to shift loyalties to the other faction, which he stubbornly declined. Therefore his family had faced many difficulties, disadvantages and discrimination. Bose passed PUC, and a teacher training diploma course and could have become a government school teacher had his father shifted loyalties to the powerful Congress faction and taken their help. Both the father and son opposed that idea and Com.Bose had left that village and in the 1970s, joined as a clerk in an edible oil factory (Foods Fats and Fertilizers Ltd., presently renamed as 3F Industries Ltd.; it was among the biggest organized industries of the district) at Tadepalligudem, known for paddy farming, rice mills and agri commerce . Thus Com.Bose did not choose to take advantage of his caste and social back ground and stood up as an independent and honest man with determination. Ever since, he deserted his class and community affinities (underwent de-class and de-caste process), joined the bottom most ranks of the proletarian class, completely identified with them, lived and died in the revolutionary movement for the cause of their emancipation, firmly adhering to communist revolutionary ideology.
Com.Bose played a key role since 1970s in uniting and organising the workers of FFF Ltd into a strong union. For some time, the union there functioned under the leadership of AITUC (associated with CPI) and some individuals having loyalties to Congress. They could not provide proper leadership and failed in building a strong movement which could withstand the suppression by the management. The area Bose hailed from had good influence of communists and young Bose was following developments. Young, energetic and dynamic as he was Com.Bose worked day and night in the activities of this union and simultaneously searched for correct political ideology and leadership to guide the working-class movement.
In early 1980s he came in touch with the CRs led by Com.D.V.Rao and Com.T.Nagireddy. He was a student of a unique 3-day political class for communist cadres of coastal Andhra by Com DV Rao, and he never looked back. He did a good study of the history of Indian communist movement, understood the differences in the lines being followed by the CPI, CPI(M), various groups of CPI (ML) and the Communist Revolutionaries functioning under the banner of UCCRI-ML. He came to the conclusion that the revolutionary mass line formulated and developed by Com.D.V.Rao and Com.T.Nagireddy (founders of UCCRI-ML) is the correct revolutionary line applicable to the concrete conditions of India, joined UCCRI-ML, developed and worked with a small team that included Coms Sitaramayya, Simhachalam, Nune Vara Prasad and others, apart from dozens of TU associates and political sympathizers. The team went beyond their union work. Despite limited schooling, they had good political education, and became workers’ leaders and political speakers in their own way. Trade unions are schools of socialism, Lenin wrote. That was sought to be realized unlike in other TUs, even of leftists, which were seats of pure economism and class collaboration.
The team worked to develop democratic rights movement and set up a unit of OPDR in the area. It championed issues and problems of the people beyond TUs with a Rights perspective, new to the area. They helped to develop a student movement , and set up Democratic Students’ Organization in the area. Of note was a mass movement by students, including girls, in Tadepalligudem against a gambling den permitted by NTR Govt beside a woman’s college in November 1983. Ultimately it was closed there thanks to the movement.
The DV Rao’s ‘orientation classes,’ as they were known, he attended were a turning point in his life: Regular and unparalled ideological struggle, among workers and other people, through various means and activities, was carried out by the political and trade union cadres led by Com.Bose on different occasions in the region – against the anti-worker, anti-people, dependent, autocratic, exploitative, pro-imperialist, pro-landlord, national chauvinistic and jingoistic policies of the governments and against the revisionist, neo-revisionist, left-adventurist, opportunist, disruptive, divisive and class-collaborationist policies and practices of different communist parties and so called revolutionary groups. These activities shaped and steeled a new CR com. Bose, and he lived and died like that only.
Significantly typical and independent revolutionary political work had been done since 1983 (NTR Time) during several Parliament and Assembly elections by fielding candidates on behalf of CRs, propagating the mass revolutionary politics. Painstaking work done by Com.Bose in realising the tough tasks during these campaigns was beyond description. Dozens of workers led by him cycled their way around scores of villages for weeks in this work, and held street-corner meetings there. Like so many workers, I had my first experience in one such political campaign later in early 1990s, and addressed rural poor.
Working together with all other leaders of FITU like me, Com.Bose extended his best services in organising several conventions and conferences of different mass organizations as part of revolutionary political work like State conferences of India-China Friendship Association (ICFA), of Democratic Students Organisation (DSO) and of Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights(OPDR) and meetings commemorating the communist revolutionary leaders Com.D.V.Rao and Com.T.Nagireddy and well known revolutionary poet Jwalamukhi, in both the Godavari Districts, in which hundreds of workers and people of different sections actively participated and which received much acclaim. Within ten days after DV died (on July 12, 1984), Bose and his team organized a well-attended memorial meet on July 20. Its significance can be seen when we note hardly 50 people including workers reportedly attended such memorial meet, when BT Ranadive died, in Bangalore where CITU (he founded) then had more than one lakh members. That was the economism of CPI-CPM which CRs shunned.
The genuine mass (agrarian) revolutionary line that emerged and flourished during the historic Telangana People’s Armed Struggle (1946-51) faced several disruptions, beginning with the withdrawal of the struggle, by many wrong lines and trends like revisionism, neo-revisionism and left-adventurism. The herculean task of protecting its legacy and formulating it into a full-fledged mass revolutionary line was accomplished by the great CR leaders Comrades D.V.Rao and TN. Even the line developed by Com.D.V.Rao faced disruptions and the followers of this correct line had to do incomparably strenuous political and ideological work to take the line to the masses and develop movement in tune with that line. In Andhra region and particularly in the two Godavari districts, given the aforementioned scenario, this became more and more arduous. Com.Bose’s real contribution actually lies in taking this line to the people of these two districts and in making remarkable efforts to reorganise the communist revolutionary movement in this region along the said line. He did commendable work in secretly organising distinctively educative and enlightening political classes to active cadres from workers and rural poor by the great leader Com.D.V.Rao himself, when he was underground.
Com.Bose and his team made efforts to organise rural poor and to build Grameena Pedala Sangham (Organisation of the Rural Poor) that has a perspective to develop agrarian revolution with the key slogans of “land to the tiller” and “abolition of land lord system”. They toured and surveyed dozens of villages, and held an Area Conference of GPS on October 20, 1994, attended by about 300 rural poor and workers. Com Bose in his speech said that even capitalists had their FICCI etc, bank officers and police had their associations, but rural poor had none in this area. Left parties had some, but they had a rich peasant orientation; in practice they neglected landless poor and their land issues. Tenancy was a distinct form of landlord system- semi-feudalism or serfdom – that operated here, it was identified. Tenancy laws made decades ago remained on paper, till date, oral tenancy being the only form, and mode of exploitation. Several problems of rural poor were taken up in the surrounding villages of Tadepalligudem with Com. Bose playing an important role.
Stranglehold of class collaborators broken
Following the guidance of UCCRI-ML, Com.Bose approached around 1985 Com.Vuppuluri Subbarao (1924-98), a veteran leader of communist and working-class movement in the state and a stalwart in trade union movement. By that time, Com.VSR came out of CPI(M) and was working independently, having founded the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FITU). Together they broke bureaucratic model of TU leaders, and represented a new kind of democratic leadership that was loved and always accessible to workers. A strong workers movement was built and organised in FFF Ltd., the major industry at Tadepalligudem under their joint leadership and the workers achieved several benefits like implementation of enactments such as ESI, PF, Bonus and Overtime wages, job security and hike in wages for every three years.They were made applicable also to hamalis (loading workers) for the first time in the area. It took more than 20 years to break FITU’s leading position for the CITU being nurtured by the management as a rival TU; they used all unscrupulous means, including casteism that Bose shunned, as in General Elections. Though he was the key leader and builder, mostly he was not the President or General Secretary, but developed others into leadership, a rarity in unions. After death of Bose, the next generation worked hard, and won back the TU polls since 2016 ; such were the strong foundations he laid. Till date, hundreds of workers and their families remember both these leaders with great reverence and respect.
Com.Bose’s work and leadership was not confined to workers’ movement in just FFF Ltd where he worked. He organised and led unions of workers of several industries situated in and around Tadepalligudem Town and in the two Godavari districts and fought for the rights and benefits of hundreds of workers. His militant leadership in Delta Oil Mills (Prattipadu) led to a prolonged movement which could achieve several benefits to the workers. However, the industry was closed as the management failed to pay Bank loans and workers fought against the closure under Com.Bose’ leadership.
Bose the dare-devil leader led militant struggles of workers of several Rice Mills in the adjoining Prattipadu (WG dt) area braving violence by the goons of feudal managements of the mills and police actions. He needed and used to be escorted and protected by vigilant and militant workers. Leaders from AITUC and CITU led unions of the workers of majority of these Rice Mills for many years but, more because of their class collaboration, could not achieve even implementation of labour laws like ESI,PF and Bonus etc . These workers could get all such benefits only after the struggles led by Com. Bose. That broke the stranglehold of class collaborators. The workers in this sector still cherish and celebrate his memory.
He led unions of workers and their militant struggles like strikes etc. also in the industries like NCL Ceramics (Dommeru) and Regent Agro Ltd. ( Gowripatnam), rice mills in Nidadavolu etc in West Godavari district for securing better wages and working conditions to hundreds of workers and against illegal and unjustified Lock-outs and Closures. It was not so easy as landlords (in Dommeru, for instance,) brought all kinds pressures on workers to keep away from unions, particularly from FITU. False criminal cases (attempt to murder) were foisted against him and he faced imprisonment also during these struggles which caused deterioration of his health. He avoided evasion of detention, and used his jail term to embolden and educate his fellow detained young workers. He was always imparting political awareness among workers.
Com.Bose became the State President of FITU in 1996 when Com.VSR (founder of FITU) was alive; Such democratic and revolutionary traditions of encouraging, training and developing next generation leaders were practised and nurtured by Com.VSR. Com.Bose continued in the same leadership position in FITU and sincerely discharged the said responsibilities with dedication till he breathed his last. As the key leader of FITU and with the consistent guidance from UCCRI-ML, he played an important role in protecting the organisation and its movement after the demise of Com.VSR (1998) and implementing its core ideals of fighting against bureaucratic and corrupt leadership practices in trade union movement, implementing democratic leadership methods, educating workers against economism and developing revolutionary political consciousness among the workers.
As president of FITU he also extended his valuable services and leadership to the struggles of workers in several industries in East Godavari District like Godavari Fertilizers (Kakinada, particularly among contract workers), Sugar Mills in Pithapuram, Deccan Sugars (Samalkot), Bharat Motor Parcel Service(BMPS),R.A.K.Ceramics(Samalkot) and APSRTC etc. He made great endeavours for making success every All India Strike, called by Central Trade Unions opposing anti-worker and anti-people policies of the governments, and using such occasions for educating the workers with correct revolutionary politics.
Com.Bose was instrumental in bringing together Com.Vuppuluri Subbarao and UCCRI-ML and securing the valuable support and guidance of the latter for the working-class movement going on under the banner of FITU. Com.VSR took up deep study of the revolutionary line, work and experiences of UCCRI-ML, developed friendly and close relations with it and worked together to develop revolutionary political consciousness among the workers. FITU owes much to Com.Bose in this regard.
With economism as a stumbling block, Bose made painstaking efforts to educate workers. On one such occasion, he organised classes for all workers in batches to educate them on matters of wage labor, capital and surplus value, analysing the company’s balance sheets. That was an eye opener for workers who had earlier regarded the management as kind employers who provided jobs: A class in itself being transformed into a class for itself. FITU developed class consciousness with such methods.
Com.Bose took active part in the campaigns of OPDR for protecting the Democratic Rights of people, particularly workers, rural poor and tribals and their struggles from the onslaught of repressive measures by the ruling classes and the governments. He was part of a fact-finding and defence Committee led by OPDR which had made memorable and effective help to the Girijans (tribals) of far away Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts who were subjected to severe repression when they took up genuine revolutionary struggles during 1990s for land and other rights. A few workers from his place took leave and went all the way to help the adivasi movement and Girijana Sangham. FITU strives to develop worker-peasant unity in practice.
Com.Bose was an embodiment of honesty, selflessness, sacrifice, hard-work, perseverance and strong conviction in communist revolutionary ideology. He was very determined and courageous. He became diabetic during his forties itself and suffered many health problems which could never deter and deviate him from his work for the cause of workers and people. His zealous attitude and painstaking practice still remain a great source of inspiration for the workers and leaders of FITU and activists of UCCRI-ML. He was highly respected and deeply loved by many workers and other poor people belonging to different castes including SCs and BCs not just as their leader but as an elderly person like a father in their families; this was not easy or routine as casteism is nurtured and practised even among workers, and by TU leaders. He helped a number of families of workers and poor people in resolving their family and other disputes saving them from the exploitation of middlemen, police and local bigwigs. Com.Bose was nominally on the rolls of employment in FFF Ltd. factory, but in reality he worked almost like a full-timer in the movement earning practically no income for a long time which brought many a hardship to his family. He lived a very poor and simple life residing in a small rented house and died penniless. His wife, despite all the sufferings and hardship, extended her cooperation to him. His only son could not get better education and any good remunerative employment. He (son of Bose) and his wife are eking out their livelihood by doing petty jobs and rearing their two children with meagre incomes. Chronic and ill-managed diabetes took the life of Com Bose, all of a sudden, when he was 66 years old. Hundreds of workers, people, activists and leaders deeply mourned, and some of them wept like children, when Com.Bose passed away and paid glorious tributes to him following his inspiring and unforgettable last journey.
It is quite natural that workers respected Com.Bose. But it is indeed a great surprise and so inspiring, says the present State President of FITU Com JVVSN Raju, that Com.Bose earned so much fame and respect among different classes of people in Tadepalligudem Town and its surrounding villages despite the notable facts that he was a non-local, not belonged to any caste dominant in that region and stood in firm opposition to all ruling class parties. This became known when FITU leaders met several people during some campaigns conducted after Com.Bose passed away. Leaders like Sitaramayya and Simhachalam (workers in FFF Ltd.) had worked along with Com.Bose as his Comrades in Arms all along his life and revolutionary work and did their best in taking forward his ideals and making success the movement he led. Several next generation leaders and activists were inspired and trained by Com.Bose like Com.Kumar Raju and Com.Bhaskararao, Com.Appanapalli and Com.Rambabu and they did and are doing commendable work in the working-class movement.
I could never find suitable words to explain the comradely relationship I enjoyed with Com.Bose as part of our work in the working class, as a CR of UCCRI-ML and as General Secretary of FITU. It was a difficult, memorable and valuable political and trade union work, working shoulder to shoulder, in a period of liberalization when TU movement was being undermined by Govt and courts, aided by class collaborationists. The huge loss and profound pain I suffered due to untimely death of Com.Bose still haunts me. Though I am twenty years younger than Com.Bose, he treated me with much respect and was quite appreciative of my work never betraying any attitude of superiority or seniority. He lived in my house for several months and became an affectionate father to my wife and loving grandfather to my children. They still can’t forget him and come out of the grief caused by his demise. Communist revolutionary movement in our country has produced many great comrades like Com.Bose and its full success needs yet thousands more such comrades. FITU is striving its best to take forward the revolutionary work left behind by Com.Bose.
See also articles by Ch.S.N.Murthy:
“Com.Vuppuluri Subba Rao (1924-1998), veteran working class leader of AP”
“New Labour Codes On Wages, Social Security And Occupational Safety And Health:
Ch.S.N.Murthy is General Secretary of Federation of Independent Trade Unions-FITU and a functionary of UCCRI-ML founded by great communist revolutionary leaders Com.D.V.Rao and Com.T.Nagireddy.