He was born before the October Revolution in Russia, saw the rise and fall of the world’s first socialist State and others that followed, was witness to subsequent changes in the global political order. But Samar Mukherjee’s faith in Marxism was unwavering, his dedication to the cause remaining steadfast even in the face of all the odds.
Described once by another Marxist great, Jyoti Basu, as “God’s Own Man” Samar Mukherjee, a veteran of the Communist movement in the country, was the epitome of sincerity to the cause.
On the occasion of his centenary birthday on November 7 last year Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat recalled that much of Samar Mukherjee’s salary and allowances when he was MP would be taken over by the party, yet be would deposit every year a cheque for the party fund. He exemplified what the life of a Communist should be.
He lived a spartan life, long years of it in a commune, in Howrah and then in Kolkata; he was dedicated to the party, contributing all his energies to whatever task it assigned him. One who never “overate” or “overslept”, some in the party remember.
Such was his commitment to the cause that the CPI (M) leadership had decided to do what it had done only once before in its history: officially celebrating the birthday of a leader. The first was that of another pioneer in the Communist movement, Muzzaffar Ahmad who died in 1973. When it was Samar Mukherjee’s turn to be felicitated he had turned 100.
Considered the “living history of the Communism in India” Samar Mukherjee will be remembered for his dedication to the cause of workers and peasants, that of the deprived people as a whole. From freedom fighter to a stalwart of the Left movement in the country, the journey was a long one indeed.
Samar Mukherjee who joined India’s struggle for Independence as a student — once thrown out of school for protesting against the Simon Commission — became a member of the Communist Party of India in 1940. When the party split in 1964 he joined the CPI (M) and was actively involved in its State and national organisational matters. He was a member of the party’s Polit Bureau for 14 years till 1992 and was also the first chairman of its disciplinary body, the Central Control Commission.
He was a key personality in the trade union movement in the country and one of the architects of the historical railway strike in 1974. He was at the vanguard of the struggle for the protection of civil liberties and democratic rights during the Emergency.
Soft-spoken, he was seldom heard to have raised his voice, not even when making a strong assertion or putting forth a forceful argument in the Lok Sabha, recalls CPI (M) central committee member Mohd Salim who describes Samar Mukherjee as one of another generation.
A kind-hearted person, he encouraged newcomers to Parliament who looked up to him as leader of the party there; one who took up national issues with the same fervour as he did those more specific to his constituency, Howrah or State, West Bengal.
Samar Mukherjee belonged to that generation of Communist leaders who renounced comforts and had a singularity of purpose. As much as is his life was an inspiration to his younger comrades it is a lesson for them in discipline and commitment as the movement to which he belonged negotiates the twists and turns of changing times.