30th January 2023 marks the 100th Birth anniversary of Com. Satyanarain Singh. He has been one of the most influential leaders of the communist revolutionary movement in India; has been among the leaders who helped shape this movement in the country. We observe his Birth Centenary to mark his contributions to the communist revolutionary movement and to underline that these remain relevant to the communist revolutionary movement of the country.
Com. Satyanarain Singh (SN or SNS as he was referred to in his life) was born on January 30, 1923 in a peasant family in village Dhamar, close to Ara, in the then Shahabad district (now in Bhojpur district). That was the time when struggle against British colonialism was sweeping across the country. Young SN was not left untouched and started participating in the freedom movement including in the Quit India movement launched by Congress in 1942 and which was quite strong in Bihar. He also came in contact with Congress Socialist Party (CSP); and with communists working in CSP and joined the Communist Party. He left his studies before matriculation to join the freedom movement like many of his contemporaries who sacrificed their all in the freedom movement. Forced by family circumstances he joined Air Force ground staff.
In 1946 during his training in the Air Force, he refused to salute the Union Jack, the symbol of British colonial rule in India. He was court-martialed and sentenced to two years’ prison term. Released in 1948 he devoted himself to the communist movement. That was the time when a wave of peasant struggles was sweeping across the country and Great Telengana Armed Struggle had emerged as the mainstay of the most advanced struggle of the peasantry under the leadership of the then CPI. Young Com. SN worked among the peasantry in old Shahabad district (comprising of Bhojpur, Buxar, Rohtas and Kaimur now) especially among landless and poor peasants. While organizing these peasant sections and rousing them in struggle he faced attacks from landlords and their henchmen and in one such attack was left for dead. However, Com. SN survived and made important contribution to the communist revolutionary movement of the country.
After working for some time in Shahabad district he was transferred to work in Jharkhand (then South Bihar) to primarily work among industrial workers in the region. A large number of workers from erstwhile Shahabad and Saran districts were working in TATA industries in Jamshedpur. At that time workers’ organization in the then South Bihar was expanding on a large scale and their struggles were coming forth in different sectors. Com. SN, with his gift for integration with masses and outstanding oratorical skill (for which he was widely acclaimed) soon emerged as an important leader of the workers’ movement in the region. He was among the leaders who led the historic struggle of the Tata workers in 1958. The Govt. launched severe repression on this struggle. Forces of the State and Central Govt. including Army were deployed. Four workers were killed and 114 injured by police. Com. SN was arrested along with other leaders in what came to be known as Jamshedpur conspiracy case. He along with other leaders was convicted and sentenced for five years. It was in the course of building workers’ movement, TATA steel workers’ struggle and his arrest and imprisonment in the course of that struggle, that Com. SN became an immensely popular and loved leader of workers of the region. In that period SN was active among the workers in coal mines in Dhanbad, copper mines in Rakha, Ghatsila, Moubhandar and Musabani, organized workers of HEC, Ranchi, Sindri Fertilizers to name some prominent ones. He also led movement and organization in other TATA industries and ancillary industries in Jamshedpur.
After his release, Com. SN again started working in the then South Bihar. At that time a serious ideological political struggle had been going on in the international communist movement owing to the domination of Modern revisionism in the leadership of CPSU (B) and Soviet Union. This struggle was also intense in Indian communist movement. SN was a strong supporter of the revolutionary line being put forth by Communist Party of China under the leadership of Com. Mao Zedong. During India-China War in 1962 Com. SN was among those who opposed Dange’s line of capitulation to Indian ruling classes and opposed national chauvinism being unleashed then. In that period Com. SN spent a good many years in jail. He did put this long jail period to good use to extensively educate himself living the old saying that jails are colleges and universities for the revolutionaries. Due to his extensive knowledge in various fields and command over English and Hindi, few could believe that he had received little formal education, having left studies while he was in Ninth standard.
When CPI (M) was formed in 1964, Com. SN became part of it. Com. SN was among the prominent leaders in Bihar who joined the CPI (M). He was associated with the state work during CPI (M) period and played an important role in the state CPI (M). For some time he was also Dhanbad district secretary of CPI (M). CPI (M) interlude was however short lived because CPI(M) too followed parliamentary path. Peasant armed struggle in Naxalbari shook the Indian communist movement as a revolt against parliamentary path. It became a turning point in the history of the Communist movement in India and drew a line of demarcation between revolutionary Marxism and revisionism and neo-revisionism. Com. SN, who was struggling for revolutionary line inside first CPI and then CPI(M), came out in support of Naxalbari peasant uprising and mobilized several comrades in then Bihar (now Bihar and Jharkhand) in support of Naxalbari struggle. He was among the prominent leaders of CPI (M) from outside West Bengal who came out in support of Naxalbari.
When communist revolutionaries came out or were expelled from CPI (M) they set up All India Co-ordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (AICCCR) in November 1967. Com. SN was convenor of its Bihar Committee and a member of AICCCR. AICCCR firmly upheld Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and gave a call to build Naxalbari type of struggles. Com. SN moved to implement this Call in Bihar. Under his leadership Bihar comrades built armed struggle in Mushahari area of Muzaffarpur district. This struggle soon engulfed large rural areas both nearby and distant. From Surajgarha in Darbhanga in the east to West Champaran in the west, Mushahari struggle expanded into a vast zone of struggle. A large number of comrades became martyrs in this struggle. Com. SN wrote articles highlighting various features of this struggle. Besides this armed struggle in North Bihar, peasant struggles came forth under his leadership in Central Bihar as well from Paliganj in Patna to Kurtha & Karpi (near Jehanabad) and also in other areas of Bhojpur, Gaya and Rohtas districts. Com. SN was fully engrossed in leading peasant struggles in Bihar.
Com. SN was clear that communist revolutionaries should form a Party based on Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong as ideological guide, with programme of New Democratic Revolution and path of Protracted People’s War. He was among those who advocated forming the Party and fought for it in the AICCCR. He debunked the idea that a Communist Party should be built only from cities and struggle of industrial workers. When AICCCR decided to form the Party it was named CPI (ML), a name suggested by Com. SN. SN was among the members of its COC of CPI(ML) with Com. Charu Mazumdar as General Secretary formed on Lenin’s Birthday on April 22, 1969. The Party held its Eighth Congress in 1970 (first after Naxalbari). Com. SN was elected to the Central Committee and Politburo of the Party in 1970 Party Congress. Com. SN played a prominent role in 1970 Congress, drafted Party’s programme and also presented it before the Congress.
With call for Naxalbari type of struggles, armed struggles were built in Mushahari, Debra Gopiballabhpur, Lakhimpur Kheri and Srikakulam, the latter reaching highest level in terms of people’s participation. Indian state marshaled all forces at its command to suppress the revolutionary struggles. The struggling areas were encircled, large contingents of security forces were employed and infamous cold-blooded killings of revolutionary leaders and cadres were resorted to on a large scale. Areas of struggle suffered setbacks which was not unexpected. This called for deep study of the situation in different areas and evolving of correct approach to advance armed struggle and revolutionary movement drawing on the rich experience furnished by struggles since Naxalbari uprising. However the leadership could not effectively meet this challenge and placed one-sided emphasis on advancing not retreating, on sacrificing not preserving the forces; abandoning path of protracted people’s war and pursued path of quick victory. Left mistakes piled up in this course.
Com. SN who had played an important role in struggle against revisionism and neo-revisionism started opposition to this ‘Left’ deviation. His struggle against ‘Left’ deviation commenced on the call on annihilation of rich peasants equating them with landlords. Com. SN considered this as deviating from the programme of New Democratic Revolution. This struggle later expanded to other aspects of ‘Left’ deviation including line of individual annihilation of class enemies and organizational expression of ‘Left’ line in the form of individual authority. In the course of this, Central Committee of CPI (ML) was made functional (revived) on November 7th 1971 and Com. SN Singh was elected its General Secretary. Com. SN played a very important role in fighting ‘left’ deviation inside CPI (ML) and establishing mass line. However, he too came out of the ‘Left’ line only gradually. A product of this struggle was Self-Critical Review of the Central Committee of CPI (ML). Com. SN was seeking to establish mass line for pursuing path of armed struggle. But the setbacks suffered by the movement had led some to challenge the very path of armed struggle. Com. S.N. Singh attacked such comrades’ positions calling that trend as “throwing baby with the bath water”. Among several articles written by him in that struggle, articles titled “Smash the revisionist onslaught against the Party” is particularly important. This struggle showed that Com. SN was struggling for revolutionary mass line. While he opposed ‘Left’ deviation, in the course of this struggle he was firm against liquidationism and right opportunism.
CC, CPI (ML) under the leadership of Com. S.N. Singh took up the task of uniting communist revolutionary forces which had been divided mainly in the course of struggle against ‘Left’ deviation and embarked on pursuing principled unity efforts based on revolutionary mass line. He often said “politics, not the parentage should be the basis of unity.” Hence his unity efforts encompassed revolutionary forces both from CPI (ML) and outside CPI (ML). Several CR groups united with CC, CPI (ML) led by Com. SN including those from Punjab-Himachal, J&K and Andhra Pradesh. The most important unity of the period was unity between CPI (ML) led by Com. S.N. and APRCP led by Com. C.P. Reddy. “Having reached common understanding between the two parties on all major points of programme, tactics and party building, we have decided to unite into a single party” their Unity statement had stated further expressing the belief that all communist revolutionaries in our country “too will come forward to unite in the CPI(ML).” This unity was followed by unity with a Bihar organization and with Unity Committee, CPI (ML) the latter resulting in formation of PCC, CPI (ML).
While pursuing unity efforts with other CR organizations, Com. SN led the Party into developing class struggle and revolutionary movement. Com. SN also corrected the approach of boycotting the mass organizations especially TUs and party comrades started working among different TUs. However, the focus of the Party remained in the rural areas. However, as the contention of the two superpowers intensified and crisis of India ruling classes deepened, Indira ruling Congress embarked on suppressing the people’s movements with brute force. 1974 strike by the railway workers was crushed with the use of Army and severe repression was let loose against struggle of peasants, workers and students. Due to intensification of contradictions among two superpowers, the Indian ruling classes also suffered divisions. A section of the ruling classes started opposing despotic rule of Indira Congress. They too were subjected to repression. Com. SN grasped the essence of these intensifying contradictions and led the Party to oppose Indira’s rule and opposed repression against the opposition parties. He said that so long as Indira Gandhi attacks them and they oppose Indira Gandhi, we will oppose Indira’s attacks against them.
These contradictions intensified further and led to imposition of Internal Emergency on June 26, 1975. CPI (ML) led by Com. S.N. Singh condemned the “personal despotic rule” of Indira Gandhi and called for united struggle against the Emergency. At that time this thinking was prevalent among many CR organizations that there is no difference among the ruling class parties and hence there was no reason to call for united struggle against Indira’s Emergency rule. Underlying this hesitation was an understanding, even now prevalent among some CR organizations that in a semi-colonial, semi-feudal country there is no danger of fascism or fascist rule as all ruling class parties are fascist. Several organizations refused to differentiate between fascist repression practiced by ruling class parties and fascism. Com. S.N. Singh and under his leadership CPI (ML), called for struggle against Indira fascism. For this he was attacked both from the ‘left’ and the right. However, stand of CPI (ML) led by Com. S.N. Singh proved correct. This has been a very important contribution of Com. S.N. besides struggle against revisionism and neo-revisionism and for mass line within CPI (ML). This contribution of Com. S.N. is even more significant as India reels under fascist rule of RSS-BJP and faces the danger of imposition of fascist system over the country.
Com. S.N. laid great emphasis on the struggle for democratic rights. He played an important role in the formative period of PUCL and had been a member of its National Executive. His efforts contributed to bringing the issue of release of Naxalites from prisons on agenda.
Com. S.N. had been a prominent TU leader in the then South Bihar. However, boycott of TUs by CPI (ML) for some time snapped links of leading comrades including Com. S.N. with ordinary workers though a number of communist revolutionary workers from Jamshedpur went to work for the revolutionary movement. Later CPI (ML) corrected this erroneous position and CPI (ML) cadres worked in different TUs as there was no condition of communist revolutionaries forming Unions under their leadership and also a large number of cadres in different states were in jail. After Emergency, Com. S.N. proposed forming a revolutionary TU Centre and such a Centre was formed at its founding conference held in Guwahati in 1978. It was correctly understood that working class unity will not be achieved by CRs not forming their TU centre as ruling classes have already divided the workers. Unity of workers could only be achieved by intensifying working class struggles and revolutionary TU centre will play an important role in increasing influence of revolutionaries among workers and forging unity of workers under concrete conditions of working class movement in India. Com. S.N. also had comprehended the importance of struggle for federalism and rights of state for the revolutionary movement in India. This was reflected in his attitude to Punjab problem when Mrs. Gandhi implemented her diabolical design. Under his leadership CPI (ML) also corrected earlier erroneous attitude towards elections considering election in India a question of strategy of Indian revolution and reaffirmed Leninist position on that question that participation in elections is a tactical question.
A sharp polemicist and a renowned orator, Com. SN always cherished participation in people’s struggles. After Emergency, he organized workers of Uranium mines in Singhbhum district. Com. S.N. also supported the struggle of CISF jawans in 1979 for better pay, working conditions and recognition of their Association and participated in support actions. This struggle resulted in clashes when Army attempted to disarm CISF personnel in Bokaro on June 25, 1979 in which several jawans were killed.
Com. S.N. was always forthright in admitting his errors. When he got convinced that his assessments were wrong and had been proved so, he never hesitated in admitting his mistakes and offering his self-criticism. In this he was always guided by Com. Lenin’s advice to communists “The attitude of a political party towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how correct the Party is” to also ascertaining the reasons for it and analyzing the condition which led to it. He was also quite conscious of the harm that his mistakes had brought to the communist movement. Not only he offered self-criticism for his role in the ‘Left’ mistakes while correcting them, he admitted his mistake in 1979-80 split in the then PCC, CPI(ML). He forthrightly commented that it was the rightist approach in assessment of the international situation which was crucial to formulation of his positions in 1979. He wrote in that tone in his document “Oppose Both the Superpowers” in 1983. While correcting ‘Left’ mistakes, he had committed some right mistakes in late 1970s. Having come to that conclusion regarding his 1979 line he initiated unity efforts with Com. CP led organization. This quality of Com. S.N. i.e. of accepting his mistakes and making attempts to correct them, though not very common among revolutionary leaders, is worthy of emulation both in avoiding errors and correcting them when discovered or proved. Com. S.N. was however very firm that unity of CRs should not mean negating formation of CPI (ML) or forming a new Party.
On his Birth Centenary CPI (ML)-New Democracy pays homage to former General Secretary of CPI (ML) and one of the foremost leaders of the communist revolutionary movement in India. CPI(ML)-New Democracy will organize Birth Centenary programmes at many centres. We also call upon other CR organizations to join in the observation of S.N. Birth Centenary to hold high the struggle against revisionism of all hues, for revolutionary mass line, mobilizing the people for New Democratic Revolution and advancing on the path of protracted people’s war to make NDR victorious in India. We also call for building a broad people’s movement against fascist rule of RSS-BJP and against imposition of fascist system. Remembering Com. S.N. is to remember a life of complete devotion to communist revolutionary movement, observing strategic firmness and tactical flexibility and be alive to the problems faced by the revolutionary movement in India and solve them taking Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought as our guide.
Com. SN had died on October 21, 1984 in Vishakhapatnam. He died in harness.
Long Live the Revolutionary Legacy of Com. S.N. Singh!
Hold High the banner of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought!
Make NDR victorious advancing on the path of people’s war!
Mobilize the people for all round defense of democratic rights!
CPI (ML)-New Democracy