Impact of October Revolution in British India and Manipur
- Part 2 -

Dr. Malem Ningthouja *

'Centenary of the Great October Revolution'  at University of the Philippines, Manila
'Centenary of the Great October Revolution' at University of the Philippines, Manila

Impact of October Revolution in British India and Manipur
Presented on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Great October Revolution
May 5-6, 2017
University of the Philippines, College of Law,
Manila, Philippines

(Paper presented on behalf of Malem by Windel Farag-ey Bolinget of Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

Between 1925 and 1927, the party worked with broader fronts of worker and peasant parties to serve as legal cover. Their influence grew rapidly among the Bombay textile workers from 1926 onwards. In the meanwhile, several peasant and worker fronts/ parties were set up in Bengal, Punjab, and Bombay. May first began to be celebrated as Labour Day from 1927 onwards in Bombay. It became celebrated widely in other parts of British India.

In due course of time, communist activities expanded from the workers of Bombay to the jute workers of Bengal and the railway employees of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The communists temporarily moved away the AITUC to run a parallel radical trade union christened as All India Red Trade Union Congress, from 1931 onwards. However, it could not function due to repression and arrest of the leaders and had to merge with AITUC in 1935.

Mentioned may also be made of the charismatic Indian Socialist revolutionary figure such as Bhagat Singh, whose individual heroism and martyrdom at young age had made him a legendary figure today. He was a member of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) and was instrumental in establishing Naojawan Bharat Sabha in 1926. The objective of the Sabha to achieve "a completely independent Republic of Workers and Peasants in India," suggested their inclination towards the revolutionary ideals of the Soviet.

The HRA, which was rechristened as Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in August-September 1928, could not survive through the 1930s due to heavy repression. It failed to revive and became extinct forever. But the commitment of the cadres towards communist revolution expressed in their literary works, their forms of democratic struggles in the jail, and revolutionary messages noted down in the prison note books and correspondence letters exemplify the influences of the October Revolution and Soviet initiatives in 1920s.

Indirect Impact on Manipur in different time

The impact of the October Revolution in Russia was not immediately felt in the princely state of Manipur. Manipur, then, was ruled by the combined forces of British authority and feudal monarchy. Although there had been sporadic resistances to feudal excesses and colonial oppressions, the influence of communism manifested in mass democratic movement began to take organizational shape only after the end of the Second World War. So, there was a gape in time and the magnitude of impact.

Communism is believed to be introduced into Manipur by comrade Hijam Irabot. Originally a destitute orphan, in the later stage of his youth he enjoyed feudal prerogatives due to matrimonial relation with the ruling monarch. However, he took to a reformist course directed against feudalism. He began his political career as a social reformer in 1934. He played important roles in resisting feudal oppressions and colonial exploitations. He was arrested several times and exiled for political dissent and democratic stands.

While his frustration with the system was growing, in 1942 he became attracted to communism while he lived with Bengalese communists in Sylhet Jail (now in Bangladesh). After that he spent several years in Assam, Bengal and Sylhet, where he took part in communist activities among peasants, youths and students. He was introduced to the Communist Party of India. He attended the party's first and second congresses in 1943 and 1948 and became a member of the party. He fought election to the Assam Provincial Legislatures Assembly in 1946 and the Manipur General Assembly in 1948.

The political conditions prevalent in Manipur was not favorable to him. He was regarded a threat to the bourgeoise democratic system that was established after the independence in 1947. He was also a suspect in the eyes of the rulers of the Dominion of India who had planned to annex Manipur and other Northeast regions for geo-strategic regions. When popular resistance to the Couplan plan of creating a Purbanchal State turned into a violent scuffle, he was falsely implicated and arrest warrant was issued against him.

To escape arrest, he went into underground and later on constituted an underground communist front on 29 October 1948. The party adopted the BT Ranadive (CPI) line of armed insurrection and began sporadic guerilla armed insurrection. In Burma, he established contacts with different communist armed groups towards constituting a common united front. However, he died on the way to Manipur, in the jungle, due to tropical fever and infection on 26th September, 1951. In the meanwhile, all other leaders were arrested and the important ones were jailed for several years in the jails outside Manipur. When a general amnesty was announced, the rest became over ground, joined parliamentary lines and became renegades. The first phase of communist insurrection, thus, came to an abrupt end.

In the adjoining Naga Hills and Tuensang Areas there were Nagas under the leadership of AZ Phizo, under the banner of Naga National Council, fighting for independence from India. They were somewhat inspired by Chinese communism but soon, due to their full adherence to Christianity and because of their close connection with churches in Europe, they adopted Christian Democracy as the guiding principle of advocating ethno-nationalism.

There was a long gape in the growth of a second generation of youth who would adhere to socialism in Manipur. But in 1964 a new generation of youth who believed in proposed national democratic revolution of Manipur was formed. But they devoted more in organizing socialist study circle and mass organization among the educated youths. While they remained inactive politically and militarily for some years, in the late 1970s, different groups of youths who believed in armed 'national democratic revolution' formed three different parties. They subscribed to Marxists Leninist Maoist thought and began to advocate national liberation and social emancipation. Many of them were reportedly influenced by the principle of New Democracy, national liberation movement in Vietnam, armed resistance movements in Burma and elsewhere.

To what extent these claims of ideological stand along New Democracy are true can be discussed seriously. Their achievements, weakness, defeats and failures can be discussed separately. Instead of going further, it may be summed up with the observation that the October Revolution did not have immediate impact on Manipur in its historical time of the first two decades.

However, after several decades, there were trickled down inspirations that came indirectly in different periods of time that came through inspirations generated as a result of information about revolutionary movements and people's democracy in various Asian countries that were more or less a continuation of the revolutionary legacy of the October Revolution.


The contemporary era of domination and plunder by imperialism that functions through collaboration of the monopoly finance capital with subordinate regional bourgeoisie and local reactions who are dependent on the share of imperialist loots is marked by subjugation, oppression, instabilities, insecurities, unrests and destructions in various forms across the globe. The historical context of 1910s that necessitated revolutionary initiatives towards achieving world peace vis--vis imperialist wars, social equality and justice, national liberation and social emancipation remained unchanged in the first two decades of the 21st century.

The struggle to achieve People's Democratic Revolution is still relevant in the advanced countries, underdeveloped countries and oppressed regions. Stalin rightly pointed out, "Capitalism may become partly stabilized, it may rationalize its production, turn over the administration of the country to fascism, temporarily hold down the working class; but it will never recover the "tranquility," the "assurance," the "equilibrium" and the "stability" that it flaunted before; for the crisis of world capitalism has reached the stage of development when the flames of revolution must inevitably break out, now in the centers of imperialism, now in the periphery, reducing to naught the capitalist patch-work and daily bringing nearer the fall of capitalism."

It is high time that we celebrate the centennial of the October Revolution not merely for the symbolic triumph of the Soviet in 1917 but for paving the way to building a united front of the revolutionary forces to defeat imperialism, its fascist variations and local reactions.

Long live the national democratic struggle of the Filipino peoples against imperialist plunders and local reactions

Long live people's democratic movement

Dr. Malem Ningthouja
Chairperson, Campaign for Peace and Democracy (Manipur)
6th May 2017

Concluded ...

* Dr. Malem Ningthouja wrote this article for
The writer is Chairperson, Campaign for Peace and Democracy (Manipur) and can be contacted at mningthouja(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was posted on May 12, 2017.

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