Research and study of ideologies of social and national emancipation and their application to conditions within imperialist society

Message of condolence from Hugh Goodacre on the passing away of Comrade Suneet Chopra. Message to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). 10 April 2023.


Dear Comrades, family and friends of Suneet,

It is hard for me to say what it means for me that Suneet has passed away, since he played such a central part in some of the most impressionable years of my life. His influence was not only political but personal. It was also permanent and enduring: he not only introduced me to the application of Marxism in my political work but was a close personal friend – he also introduced me to the woman I married, as well as to his own family.

We first met when I entered London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) as a post-graduate student in 1967, at which time I was a kind of anarchist and general troublemaker and, after a single unsuccessful year of study, a drop-out. I then quite unthinkingly accepted a job in an oil company in the Middle East – Suneet wrote a poem denouncing me! But I soon dropped out of that as well and returned to postgraduate study. Dropping out had, however, by then become systemic in my life, and soon I was back in limbo, from which I did not really fully emerge for some years.

I attempted to set up a distribution company for the so-called ‘underground press’ – an umbrella term which included hippy, anarchist and some quite progressive publications. That soon went bust, of course, having for some months operated from Suneet’s kitchen table; for I had been – understandably – thrown out of my previous lodging and parked myself in his flat.

The ever-tolerant Suneet, who was at that time working as a schoolteacher, would return from work and try to get me to see the error of my ways. He encouraged me to attend meetings of communist organisations, which I began to do, and, encouraged by my latent attachment to the Chinese communist tradition – which dated back to my undergraduate days at Cambridge – he gradually eased me away from the hippy underground and towards taking the Marxist path. He also drew me back to some academic activity at SOAS, then the scene of a flourishing radical culture involving scholars such as Biplab Dasgupta and Stephan Feuchtwang, organiser of the Seminar on Anthropology and Imperialism.

Of course, Suneet was also a wonderful personal friend as well as a political mentor. We shared many friends and acquaintances, at SOAS and elsewhere. Also, at this time I met Nina and Madhu while they were in London. Suneet was always someone who would come to the help of those who were lost in life, and I was of course far from alone in benefitting from this; it was the same for my future wife, Jeannine, to whom he introduced me in 1969. Even in later years, when staying with him in Delhi, I saw that he always surrounded himself with a small following of people of various backgrounds who were drawn to his magnetic personality and, of course, through that, were drawn to his political standpoint as well.

It was a tough experience for me in 1972 when I accompanied Suneet to the airport for his departure to India. I had come to see him as a kind of permanent institution, and there were now so many things I had to face on my own. And it was not for quite a number of years that I saw him again, when he came to Europe for a conference, and briefly visited London. By that time, I had become deeply involved in communist politics, particularly in solidarity with People’s Korea and in solidarity with the Irish Republican Movement, in close collaboration with Comrade Keith Bennett, a collaboration which remains central to my political activities today. While in London, Suneet suggested that I visit India for the 12th Party Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), of which he had by that time become a prominent member. That visit lasted nearly a month and was one of the most memorable political experiences of my life.

I stayed with Suneet in his flat in Delhi near the CPIM headquarters, where I became a frequent visitor, and where Suneet introduced me to the Party’s leaders. I was able to conduct extensive interviews and discussions with such legendary figures of Indian communism as Comrades EMS Namboodiripad, BT Ranadive, and others, as well, of course, as Harkishan Singh Surjeet, with whom I had already become well acquainted in London. It was also at that time that I made contact with more youthful personalities such as Comrades MA Baby, Sitaram Yechury and others too numerous to mention.

Besides the privilege of meeting such historical leaders in Delhi, I accompanied Suneet on his tours of Haryana and Rajasthan promoting the work of the forthcoming Congress which was about to take place in Kolkata. We visited towns, large and small, and villages. Everywhere we went, Suneet made speeches and gave talks, met people, opened exhibitions about the Party’s work, released doves of peace, hoisted flags, cut tapes to open new premises, and many other formal and informal actions. All this activity surrounding the preparations for the Congress showed how deep the party had penetrated among the working and oppressed people of India. The reception Suneet received from people everywhere was really heart-warming. That experience alone was enough to convince me that he must have been one of the most loved personalities in the whole of India.

When we eventually attended the Congress itself in Kolkata, the experience was overwhelming; this was an experience we shared with comrades from London, Harsev and Preet Bains, to whom Suneet had introduced me, and who have been close comrades of Suneet throughout their very active political life.

In subsequent years I met up with Suneet on two further visits to India, on one occasion in connection with campaigning against the war on Iraq, and on another occasion for a congress of the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AAPSO), which I attended along with the General Secretary of its affiliate, the British Afro-Asian Solidarity Organisation, Mohammad Arif. The opening address for that congress was delivered by Rajiv Gandhi, who was then Prime Minister, and the closing address was given by the First Minister of West Bengal, Comrade Jyoti Basu.

I wish I had managed to sustain better contact with Suneet in later years, but at any rate I never fell totally out of touch. There was always some degree of personal contact between our respective families. For example I met up with Nina and Ashok during their visits to London, as well as a visit by Nandita and Niraja, followed later by an extended period of study here by Nandita, and a visit to India by my daughter Su, who met up with Suneet and family and also introduced them to my nephew Liam, who now has Indian citizenship. I regard all of these, as well as Madhu and Rajan and their family, as part of my own family, and I have been thinking of them these past few days with deepest sympathy for the loss they have suffered.

I am far from alone in Britain in remembering Suneet. Besides Harsev and Preet and their many comrades in Britain in the Indian Workers’ Association and the Association of Indian Communists, there are also quite a number of old timers from SOAS and from London’s communist political life in the 1960s who have been in contact with each other in the past few days, exchanging memories of this memorable personality and comradeship.

There are many, many more pages I could write about Suneet, and indeed pages that I may write in the future, but for now, I must leave it at that, and send my condolences and best wishes to his comrades, his family, and his friends, in the firm belief that Suneet’s life and work will never be forgotten.

With comradely salutations,

Hugh Goodacre

Director, Institute for Independence Studies