In Kerala, which is bracketed with Bengal over the politics of communist power, the leaders came up through revolutionary struggles, often bloody. E.M.S. Namboothiripad was a lone exception in that he was the scion of a landlord family. But he too turned to communism through the social revolution that sought to end the feudal-reactionary traditions that plagued the Namboothiri community.
Bengali communism, on the other hand, was shaped by leaders who came up through academic study rather than struggles at factory gates and paddy fields. It could be said that the flames of revolution were lit in Bengal by sparks brought from Oxford and Cambridge. A family had to be not just well-to-do but fairly rich to send a young member to England in the 1930s and 1940s. Many rich Bengali families did that. And many of the bright young men turned unexpectedly to radicalism in repudiation of their class background.
Aurobindo Ghosh and Subhas Chandra Bose might have carved out a brand of radicalism all their own. But a host of others like Bhupesh Gupta and Jyoti Basu and Hiren Mukherjee and Arun Bose and Mohit Sen and Indrajit Gupta returned from Oxbridge as Communists—as did Nikhil Chakravartty and his wife-to-be, Renu.
It will be invidious to draw a distinction between peasant communism and university educated communism, but the intellectual conversance of the early leaders did give Bengal’s communist movement a sheen its parallel streams in Kerala or Andhra did not have.