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Comrade Shripad Amrut Dange

Written By Unknown on Monday, 12 September 2011 | 05:29

Comrade Shripad Amrut Dange


Birth: 10 October 1899                         Death: 22 May 1991

Shripad Amrut Dange was a founding member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and a stalwart of Indian trade union movement.

Dange was born in a family of Deshastha Brahmins, a sub-caste of Brahmins, in Nasik. He was expelled from college for organizing a movement against compulsory teaching of the Bible. Early in his life Dange was exposed to conditions of workers when he undertook voluntary work in the textile mill areas of Mumbai. Dange was drawn into active politics by the fervor of nationalist movement against the British rule in India. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the earliest proponent of Swaraj (complete independence) greatly inspired young Dange. Later when Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, Dange gave up his studies and joined the Independence movement.

Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, Dange became interested in Marxism. Dange grew increasingly skeptical about Gandhism; especially of Gandhi's promotion of cottage industries, as the sole solution for India's economic ills, while overlooking possibilities of modern industrial economy. He also disliked what he believed was an excessive emphasis on religious and moral considerations and reliance on the goodwill of individuals to effect change. He came to believe that only a revolution involving the solidarity of the workers, peasants, and army could bring down foreign rule and with it, capitalism.

Dange bought the English weekly, Socialist, the first Indian Communist journal, in 1922. In 1925 he became one of the founders of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Dange was arrested on several occasions, including the 1929 Meerut Conspiracy case, and spent most of 1924 to 1942 in jail, where he attempted to continue political activities even though the Communist Party was banned by 1939. In 1943 he was elected president of the All India Trades Union Congress (AITUC) in recognition of his work.

Dange was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly as Communist candidate in 1946, and became chairman of the CPI. He was elected to the Second Lok Sabha in 1957 from Bombay City (Central) Constituency of the State of Bombay. Dange along with S.M. Joshi, N.G. Gore and P.K. Atre fought relentlessly for Sanyukta Maharashtra, a struggle that cost a lot of lives. Finally on May 1, 1960, pre-dominantly Marathi-speaking State of Maharashtra was born. Later, disputes within the party over the Sino-Indian War of 1962, when Dange supported the position held by Jawaharlal Nehru, and the scandal of the so-called Dange Letters, which suggested that Dange had betrayed the party in return for release from prison, led to the breakaway of leftists who then formed the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Dange resigned from the chairmanship of the party in 1978.

Dange is regarded as a pioneer of the trade union movement in India, as well as one of the key figures in Indian Communism. He was more a practitioner than a Marxist intellectual. He also published his major work, India from Primitive Communism to Slavery, a Marxist analysis of Indian history, in 1949.

Dange died at a Bombay hospital on May 22, 1991. He was given a State funeral by the Maharashtra State government. He was survived by his wife Ushatai and daughter, Roza Deshpande. On December 10, 2004, The Indian Parliament honoured him when Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India unveiled his statue along with other left leaders such as Acharya Narendra Deva and A. K. Gopalan in Parliament House. The 9-feet high bronze statue of Dange, sculpted by Vithoba Panchal, has been donated by the labor organization, Shramik Pratishthan, Mumbai.

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