03 September 2020

Comrade U. Sambasiva Rao, well known among his comrades and friends as ‘Usaa’, passed away on the early hours of 25th July in a Hyderabad private hospital. As soon as the information was received, I posted a brief condolence message which stated: “Usaa Passes Away: A Great Loss to the Revolutionary Movement: Com. U. Sambasiva Rao, known to all his close comrades as Usaa, left us. He was admitted to hospital in Hyderabad three days ago after he was tested positive to Covid19. He joined the ranks of communist revolutionaries following the Naxalbari Uprising and was part of the UCCRI (ML) stream. But he had differences with the leadership on the approach of communist movement to the question of caste system and on the importance to be given to caste annihilation. As this difference could not be resolved even after a plenum, he left UCCRI in 1987 and from that time was spearheading this question. Later when com. Sathyamurthi left the CPI(ML) People’s War on the same question, they worked few years together. But as SM decided to join the BSP, he criticized it as an opportunist line and left him.

We met in 2011 and started our discussion on the caste question, in which we had basic agreement, as Red Star was already thinking of launching the caste annihilation movement (CAM). We became ideologically closer on most of the basic questions and started working together in different fields in later years. Presently he was one of the conveners of CAM with responsibility for coordinating the work in South India. He was president of OPDR Telengana committee. He was also president of the broad based Anti-Fascist Movement, Telengana. He was very active in the struggle against alien trends among the CRs and attended the Seminar on caste question during the 11th Congress of the CPI(ML) Red Star.

Unexpectedly, when he passed away on 25th July early morning in a Hyderabad hospital one week after he proved positive to Covid19, immediately a statement was issued which concluded with thee words “It is difficultnot only to me, but to the very large number of comrades active in all fields to think that Usaa will not be with us anymore. Red Salute to Usaa whose departure is a great loss to the whole revolutionary movement”. Our comrades in Telengana and AP reported that many condolence meetings were held, and messages from large number of comrades and friends, colleagues, leaders of other political, cultural, social and democratic rights activists were received showing how much importance they give to his contributions to the communist movement in general, and especially to his tireless efforts to bring the discourse on the approach towards the caste system by the communist movement in our country. A joint effort is already started by his close friends and activists to bring out a memorial issue as early as possible including his contributions in different fields written by comrades who know him for decades as well as reports of his activities in different fields including the caste annihilation movement (CAM), OPDR, and Anti-Fascist Front, Telengana.

During our long discussions during 2011-12, almost 25 years after he left the UCCRI, Usaa explained that his debate was on ideological questions, mainly focusing on the extent of influence of caste question in the socio-cultural-political reality in India. Though the struggle was bitter, he had no personal criticism against any of the old leaders. His fight was ideological, he repeated. Born in a backward caste family, from the childhood itself he could feel the bitterness in the caste divided society and the sufferings of the people belonging to SCs/STs and BCs under Brahmanical, Manuvadi system. He joined the Marxist-Leninist movement for creating a new society, egalitarian in every sense. Degeneration of Soviet Union even after almost four decades of socialist transition had proved that giving answers like ‘everything will become all right once the working class capture power’ is not sufficient. If China also could degenerate to capitalist path even after the Cultural Revolution, the struggle against all inequalities, not only economic, but caste, gender like inequalities also should start from the pre-revolutionary phase itself. It was when these feelings were becoming stronger, the Karanchedu massacre of dalits took place in 1985. Immediately after the massacre, Usaa prepared a press statement with the title “Condemn the massacre of Dalits by Kamma upper caste landlords.” That the party leadership did not like it, he felt from their attitude and words. 

By this time, there were heated discussions on the contributions of Dr. Ambedkar, especially on his paper of 1936 on “Annihilation of the Caste”, were taking place. Usaa started studying more of Ambedkar’s works, and the approach of the neo-Ambedkarites. One of these trends had taken Ambedkar’s critic of the communist party’s (CPI) refusal to take up the caste question in relation to the class formation in India when he discussed with its leadership in 1936, to anti-communist positions; upholding identity politics. For them the protection of dalit identity and reservation were main planks of dalit liberation; they became part of the ruling class politics, like BSP, most sections of Republican Party etc; another school of identity politics, who were also taking anti-Marxist positions, and influenced by the post-modernist theories like ‘theory of de-construction.’ pursued the line of NGO politics promoted by imperialist think tanks. But Usaa’s position was different.

He wrote more profusely on these questions and tried to put forward the Bahujan line with Marx-Phule-Ambedkar ideology, calling for unity of dalits, Adivasis and BCs with all revolutionary classes in the concrete situation created by the publication of Mandal Commission Report, and RSS parivar’s reaction to it by intensifying the Brahmanical-Manuvadi offensive for Ram temple issue, putting it in the forefront. In the complex situation then, on the one hand, the Congress and other ruling class parties were competing with each other to strengthen their vote banks using the caste and religion. The CPI(M) led Left Front parties and many of the CR organizations, in spite of these new challenges were refusing to go beyond repeating the old dogmatic positions that class struggle shall resolve all problems. Any discussion about Ambedkar’s approach based on annihilation of the caste system, or linking caste annihilation with class struggle was anathema to them. While taking up these studies, Usaa had allied with many forces including com. Sathyamurthi, who had left the CPI(ML) People’s War mainly on the approach to caste question. Many of these allies had later deviated to ruling class positions. But Usaa, as he used to say, showing his writings during this period, did not abandon Marxist positions; he was trying to apply it to Indian conditions. As Marx himself had pointed out, the European mode of production and class formation cannot be mechanically applied everywhere. Usaa argued that the Indian communist movement has failed to comprehend the caste-class relation in India. When comrades raise questions, the dogmatic leaderships become irritated and get them expelled through mechanical application of ‘democratic centralism’. Since Usaa had questioned them, even after his death they are coming out with slanderous statements in the name of condolence!

The history of October Revolution teaches that Lenin could lead it to victory by building the Bolshevik party by waging uncompromising ideological struggle against the right opportunist Mensheviks as well as the anarchist Narodniks, and mobilizing the working class and its allies, the oppressed classes and sections for revolution. So, in Indian conditions only through this ideological struggle we can put revolutionary Marxism in the leadership, unite all genuine communist forces and build a powerful communist party. And, if we have to unite the basic masses, the working class and oppressed masses, we have to fight against the Manuvadi caste system, which divide them. It calls for developing a correct approach towards caste annihilation along with class struggle; it basically means developing a comprehensive, all embracing understanding about class struggle. So, more than ever, as we are passing through a critical phase which demands that the working class should make revolution, the central agenda before them is to overthrow the imperialist system and their junior partners in power in countries like ours, to develop the socialist alternative at global level. At this critical juncture, we should learn from mistakes, and making concrete analyses of the vast changes that have taken place, and are taking place, develop Marxist-Leninist teachings according to these present conditions, and use it as our guide to action.

When our discussions reached this stage, he made his position clear. He will try to study more about the Marxist writings on class struggle; but his long experience of working inside the Marxist parties, and his evaluation of most of these organizations including the Naxalite organizations, he is yet to come across an organization with such a concept of class struggle. So, if Red Star is calling for advancing the struggle for caste annihilation as part of class struggle with such an understanding, he shall work with the CAM. But he will continue the discussion on caste-class relation in the Indian socio-economic formation, which is a complex question. When he came to Kolkata in September last year to participate in the “open dialogue to form a revolutionary left coordination” as a step towards unity of the CR forces to build a powerful Bolshevik style communist party capable of leading the antifascist struggle towards people’s democracy and socialism, and with the immediate task of working as a revolutionary left core to inspire, mobilize the broad based anti-fascist movement, participating in the debate he called for such bold experiments with concrete understanding of the Indian situation to achieve system change with anti-brahmanical, anti-Manuvadi approach. As we were staying together we could continue our discussion on the working of the CAM and other people’s movements.

Usaa was a Marxist and revolutionary in the true sense. Through his ideological, political work, mobilization of the masses, and the struggles he led, and even in his family life after marrying a Brahmin woman who was also working with the party, he has left behind a rich experience which the younger generation can emulate. For me, and for many other comrades and friends of Usaa it is still difficult to believe that he with his broad smile and simple life, always eager to cook something non-vegetarian for his comrades in his house where he was living alone after his wife’s death, which he had turned in to a centre for studies and publications, including a studio for social media work including preparing U tube, it is difficult to think he will not be there when I go to Hyderabad next time.

The Communist movement in India has a history of almost a century after the salvos of October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to the people of India who were engaged in the national liberation struggle against the British colonialists. It is a complex and chequered history.