Comrade V B Cherian Lal Salaam!

Workers Unity Zindabad!

Inquilab Zindabad!

Comrade V. B. Cherian, Vice President of the NTUI and President of the
NTUI Kerala State Council passed away after a long fight with
ill-health in Kochi yesterday evening. He was 68 and is survived by
his wife, a daughter and a son and several thousand comrades in Kerala
and throughout the country.

VBC, like most of his generation, was active in the student movement
as the undivided Communist Party was coming apart. Trained as an
electrical engineer he joined the Communist Party of India (Marxist),
CPIM under the leadership of Com. EMS Namboodiripad.

He was a long standing fighter for trade union democracy and a
champion of the working class movement as the core of the communist
party. Even as the trade union was being divided up by the two
principal communist parties and the Centre for Indian Trade Union
(CITU) had just been formed, in the early 1970s he led the organising
of the Cochin Shipyard Employees Union as a union independent of both
the CPIM and the CITU. The understanding he brought to the
working-class movement was that when the left parties were divided,
the trade union had to be autonomous of the parties, since every
section of the working-class consists of multiple political tendencies
and therefore cannot be tied to the politics of any one party. He was
elected the first General Secretary of the Cochin Shipyard and
remained its President until his end. The union is an upstanding
example of militancy and democracy within the autonomous trade union

At one time considered a young-turk within the CPIM he was Political
Secretary to the Home Minister from 1980-81 when the position was
considered the key link between the party and the Left Front
Government. When the party went into opposition, VBC returned to trade
union work, organising unions in the Kalmassery-Kochi industrial belt.
In 1995 he was elected a National Secretary of the CITU.

He diverged strongly with the CPIM leadership on the question of
autonomy of the trade union from the party. He pressed hard on the
need for trade union democracy as the key to the building of a strong
and militant working class movement. He strongly argued that the trade
union had to occupy the opposition space in a capitalist society if
the rights of the working class has to be defended and advanced. For
this, he was charged with indulging in anti-party activity. He refused
to deny his association with the ‘Save CPIM Forum’ in the second-half
of the 1990s. He said ‘I cannot deny that I stand for democracy in the
organisation’. He was expelled from the party in 1998. The expulsion
dragged on until the Party Congress in 2003 and was in violation of
the party’s own rules. Following this he formed the ‘EMS-AKG People’s
Forum’ with over 2000 comrades and several unions that followed him
out of the CPIM. The forum sought to bring together like minded
members and former members of the CPIM. However this effort was less
successful since others were more interested in electoral politics
rather than the issue of lack of democracy in the party and trade
union they had all built together.  In 2007 the forum merged with the
Marxist Communist Party of India to form the Marxist Communist Party
of India United (MCPIU) of which VBC became a member of its politburo.
In the MCPIU, VBC successfully led the debate on the need for autonomy
of the trade union. The MCPIU, acknowledging the position, took a
decision to respect the democratic right of trade unions to decide on
their affiliation.

In 2006, soon after the formation of the NTUI, the unions under the
leadership of VBC joined the NTUI and rapidly guided the process of
forming the NTUI Kerala State Council in January 2007 which was the
first NTUI state council to be formed. For VBC the NTUI represented
the crystallisation of a trade union organisation that brought
together the militant, democratic and united spirit of the working
class. For him the principle of ensuring the co-existence of multiple
political tendencies and trade unions occupying the opposition space
were central to ensuring democracy in the working class movement. As
VBC guided and shaped the growth of the NTUI in Kerala he was guided
by the understanding that unless both regular and irregular workers
were united in struggle, the movement would always remain divided. In
this he laid an enormous emphasis on bringing migrant workers into the
union fold. The NTUI Kerala State Council was the participant in Asia
One – the Asia to Gaza Caravan – of 2010. For him these were struggles
not just about solidarity but important for building, within the
working class, the capacity to fight regionalism, nationalism,
discrimination and religious and other forms of bigotry within society
all of which capital uses to divide the working class. For these
values, even in the advance of the just concluded General Strike, he
continued his struggle not just to bring other autonomous unions in to
the NTUI but strived to build unity with other unions including the

For VBC everything was a fight against imperialism. He took his fight
against ill-health with the same energy that he brought to the
working-class movement. He sought seeking indigenous therapy over
patented multinational medicines. For him this was as much a product
of the scientificity of dilectical materialism.

His passing away is a loss to us in the NTUI as also to the working
class movement and the communist and other progressive movements in
the country.

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)
B-137, First Floor, Dayanand Colony,
Lajpat Nagar IV,
New Delhi 110024
Telephone: +91 11 26214538
Telephone/ Fax: +91 11 26486931
Email: [email protected]