Marxists Internet Archive
SHRIPAD AMRIT DANGE
(1899 - 1991)
Shripad Amrit Dange (10 October 1899 – 22 May 1991) was a founding member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and a leader in the Indian trade union movement. During the British Raj, he was arrested by the British authorities for communist and trade union activities and was jailed for a total of 16 years.
Born into a Marathi Brahmin family in Nashik district in Maharashtra, in his youth Dange worked alongside his father in the Bombay Stock Exchange. Increasingly interested in politics, he left his studies after the death of his father and joined Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement. However, he soon grew sceptical of Gandhism, and started to orient toward Marxism. In 1921, wrote a pamphlet called Gandhi vs Lenin, which brought him to the attention of future Indian communist leaders such as M.N. Roy. Also impressed was Mumbai flour mill owner and libertarian journal publisher, R.B. Lotvala, who sponsored Dange’s study of Marxism for several years.
In 1925 Dange was present at the foundng of the Communist Party of India at a meeting in Kanpur. In 1950 he became part of the CPI's politburo, and in 1962 he was named party chairman. Among his wider political successes were his election as a member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly from 1946-51, and as a member of the second and fourth Lok Sabhas from the Bombay City Central constituency. He is credited with successfully spearheading the formation of Maharashtra State in 1960.
After India's Independence, a series of events and controversies like the Sino-Soviet split, the Sino-Indian war, and the revelation -which Dange denied- that while in jail, he had written letters to the British Government, offering them cooperation, led to a split in the Communist Party of India, in 1964. The breakaway Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) emerged stronger both in terms of membership and their performance in the Indian Elections.
Dange remained the Chairman of the "official", pro-Soviet, CPI. However, by the late 1970s a majority within the party came to oppose Dange's political line of supporting the Indian National Congress and Indira Gandhi, the then Congress Prime Minister. Denge stepped down from the leadership of the party in 1980, and was subsequently expelled from the CPI in 1981.
He then joined the All India Communist Party (AICP), which had been founded in 1980 by his daughter, Roza Deshpande, and a group of disaffected CPI militants who favored continuing cooperation with Congress. In 1987 he followed the AICP in merging into the Indian Communist Party to form the United Communist Party of India. Despite the merger, the UCPI, and Denge himself, grew increasingly marginalised in the Indian Communist movement.
Shripad Amrit Dange died in Mumbai in May 1991 at the age of 91. He was accorded a state funeral by the Maharashtra state government.
[For a booklet-length biography with foto selection see also: Comrade S. A. Dange, by the Lok Sabha Secretariat (New Delhi, 2004)]
WRITINGS OF S. A. DANGE
1921: Gandhi vs. Lenin