Kesava Dev as a trade Unionist

Kesava Dev was acquainted with workers rights and privileges through the books he read on Russian Revolution. The first book of its kind that influenced him was, “Ten days that shook the world” by John Read. The Russian Revolution acted as an eye opener. Dev began to think about the plight of workers he used to meet every day. It was a time when there were only very few factories in Kerala. The owners of these factories employed every tactic to keep the workers under their command.

The first opportunity that Kesava Dev got to address the coir workers was at their annual meeting. Usually the owners or their binamys, who would only praise the management, addressed such meetings. Kesava Dev addressed the gathering “comrades”. He exhorted them to fight for equality, brother hood and their rights. Dev educated the workers about their privileges as workers.

He also addressed the Navel Workers Union. It was a difficult task to convince the uneducated workers of those days. Dev fearlessly advocated violent means to achieve the end, should it become necessary.

Dev became the Secretary of the Labour Association. His services as the Secretary helped the labour movement a great deal. It was under his leadership that the Empire Coir Industry went on strike for the first time. He thus became a full time trade Unionist. He wrote a booklet “Agniyum Spulingavum” which was meant to introduce socialism to the masses. He was a regular contributor in “Mahatma, a news paper published by Amsi Narayana Pillai. Dev’s association with the freedom struggle, his leftist leniency, his powerful style of speaking and writing and his rebellious attitude against conservatives all helped to make dev a staunch trade unionist at the early stages of the movement.

E.M.Sankaran Namboodiri writes “Kesava Dev has played a very creative role in the evolution and growth of the coir workers Union in Alleppey. This is a fact that the coir worker and the communists cannot forget”.

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