COMRADE Muzaffar Ahmed was born on 5 August 1889 in Sandwip in the district of Noakhali, Bangladesh. He was the youngest son of his parents. He had his schooling first in a madrassa and later in 1906 in the lower class of Cargil High school in Sandwip. In 1910, Muzaffar Ahmad left the Cargil high school and joined the Noakhali district school and in 1913 he passed his matriculation examination from there he went to Calcutta and joined the Mohsin College Hooghly.
The Muslim, working-class context within which Muzaffar found himself, is an important element that shaped his political ideas. Interaction with the urban poor in the late 1910s and early 1920s was instrumental in Muzaffar Ahmad's political transformation. The encounters between his intellectual milieu and popular upheavals propelled him towards Left politics. While he came to Calcutta initially to become a writer, the larger context of the city and his own struggles made him a political activist. The Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917, the Khilafat and Non-cooperation movements in the post-war period, played a major role in this transformation.
Muzaffar Ahmad, along with Nazrul Islam jointly edited the Bengali daily Navyug. During this period, his attention was turned to the problems of workers and simultaneously he was also attracted to Marxist literature. He wrote many articles on the lives of the toilers of India and especially about the lives of sailors and on the political and economic demands of the working class. In 1922, Nazrul Islam brought out a bi-weekly Dhumketu and Muzaffar Ahmad wrote a number of articles in it on various political problems of India. From the very beginning of his political life, he concentrated on organising workers and propagating communist ideology among them.
Muzaffar Ahmad became a whole timer in 1918 and remained one till his last day, December 18, 1973. His first area of work as a full timer was in the Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Samiti (Bengal Muslim Literary Society). By November 1921, year and half after he had decided to turn to politics, Muzaffar came into contact with Marxist literature. The first Marxist books he could purchase illegally were Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power; Left wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder; People's Marx and an abridged edition of Capital. This was Muzaffar’s introduction to Marxism-Leninism. The national movement aspirations expressed in Hindu revivalist form was an enormous obstacle in the way of Muslim youth joining the common stream in large numbers. In these conditions not only was talk of secularism a taboo it virtually constituted a blasphemy. In this situation, to move forward to historical materialism and communism and remain faithful to them to the end of one's life was a feat to be performed only by Muzaffar Ahmad.
Muzaffar Ahmad went about organising the Communist Party in the colonial-feudal tract of India. To suggest that the task was daunting will be an under-statement. Hazard was Muzaffar Ahmad's constant companion. He spent a total of more than 20 years of life in jail both in British and independent India and 8 years underground under extremely difficult circumstances. He was first detained under Regulation III of 1818 Act and subsequently in the Kanpur Bolshevik Conspiracy Case. Immediately on his release on grounds of severe illness, he attended the Kanpur Communist Conference and upon his return from Kanpur, Muzaffar Ahmad took over the responsibility of building the communist party. He also assumed responsibility as editor of Langal (which subsequently changed its name to Ganabani) and gave prominence to discuss the problems of Marxist philosophy, international communist movement and revolutionary working class movement.
Muzaffar Ahmad attended the meeting of communists held in Mumbai in May 1927 and was elected a member of the executive committee. He also attended the conference of the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) held in Kanpur in March 1927. He was elected vice-president of the AITUC. In the third conference of the Bengal Workers and Peasants Party (1928), he was elected general secretary. In January 1929, a secret meeting of the communists was held in Calcutta to discuss the resolutions and decisions of the Sixth Congress of the Communist International. Muzaffar Ahmad was one of the initiators of this meeting.
Muzaffar Ahmad was the main accused in the Meerut Conspiracy Case. He spent his prison sentence in Naini Central Jail in UP and subsequently, he was kept in solitary confinement in Darjeeling, Burdwan and Faridpur jails. Inside the jails, he undertook hunger strike twice to win the rights granted to all political prisoners, like access to newspapers, periodicals and write letters. He was released from Faridpur jail after completing his jail sentence. After he was released from jail, he was interned in his birthplace Sandwip island. Thereafter, he was interned in Midnapore district and was finally set free on June 24 1936.
After his release, he paid particular attention to building the Kisan Sabha. He took initiative in building the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). At the first conference of the AIKS, he was elected vice president. In 1936, when hundreds of comrades were released from jail in Bengal, he established contact with them and assigned them concrete work for building up the Party in the districts. In 1937, Muzaffar participated in the movement for the release of political prisoners and for the repatriation of the national revolutionaries detained in the Andamans. From 1937 to 1943, he worked for building the Party throughout the country. Not only in India, but in neighbouring States like Nepal and Burma too he made special efforts to form Communist parties.
After independence, Communist Party was declared illegal in 1948 and Muzaffar Ahmad was arrested under the Defence of India Act. He was released after 6 months. Immediately after his release, he was again arrested under the Preventive Detention Act. When he was freed from the Alipur jail he was again served with an order externing him from Calcutta. He then resided in the town of Nabadwip and worked underground from there. It was in 1940, while working at the underground office of the Party, with comrades whom he used to call his nephews that he came to be known as Kaka babu. He is affectionately and respectfully referred as Kaka babu in both the Party circles and outside.
The two basic tasks to which Muzaffar Ahmad accorded greatest priority were: spreading of Marxist thought and ideology through books, journals, periodicals and newspapers and keeping the closest possible contact with the masses and working among the widest sections of the people. Writing in Ganabani (1935) he extorted the youth: “Forsaking aristocracies of wealth, of knowledge, of land ownership and caste, young men will have to work among the peasants and workers by becoming one of them, if freedom is what they want”. It used to be his constant refrain to the workers, particularly the younger ones that sustained work among the masses is the first essential precondition to build up a communist party, capable of accomplishing revolution.
Muzaffar Ahmad participated in all the Party Congresses since its inception, except the Calcutta Congress in 1964, because he was in jail and the Madurai Congress (1972) because of his illness. While arrested and in jail for Meerut conspiracy case, he was elected to the Central Committee in 1933. In all the subsequent Congresses of the Communist Party, except the one in 1948, Muzaffar Ahmad was elected to the Central Committee and remained its member till his death.
Muzaffar Ahmad played an important role in guiding the publication of Party papers and books. He used to emphasise that the Communist Party cannot grow without its own mouthpiece. He was the guiding spirit in building up the Ganasakti press. He was one of the organisers of the National Book Agency. He guided and advised the running of various party papers like Janajuddha, daily Swadhinata, evening daily Ganasakti, weekly Desh hiteshi, monthly Nandan and Ek Sathi (organ of the women’s organisation).
Muzaffar Ahmad was a voracious reader and encouraged all who came into contact with him to read more and more. In the midst of his extremely busy routine, he found time to hear with infinite patience the personal problems of a comrade, regularly enquire about the health of an ailing comrade and try to arrange for his proper treatment, help sort out the problem in a district organisation or console the brave members of a martyr’s family.
Muzaffar Ahmad was extremely humble and loyal to Marxism-Leninism throughout his life. Humble, he was, but he was equally firm in his fight against both right-opportunism and left-sectarianism. Muzaffar Ahmad used to be obsessive on the matter of party discipline, to enforce which he would be both obdurate and merciless. This was the ingrained Leninism in him.
Muzaffar Ahmad knew what history was about. He helped create it. It is still taking shape.