The previous articles to the series “How The Indian Communists Embraced Islamists?” are as follows –

Part 1 – How the Indian Communists embraced Islamists?

Part 2 – How the Indian Communists embraced Islamists? – Part 2

Part 3 – How the Indian Communists embraced Islamists? – Part 3

Part 4 – How the Indian Communists embraced Islamists? – Part 4

Part 5 – How The Indian Communists Embraced Islamists? – Part 5

1926: COMMUNISTS ATTACK MUSLIMS

Islamic Communism

M N Roy’s determination to appropriate the social content of the openly religious Mappila rebellion in Malabar suggests that extreme communalism could be a legitimate point of reference as long as it is distinguished by a sufficiently radical thrust.

The Manifesto on the Hindu-Moslem Unity and Swaraj, written by both Roys and published in the Vanguard in October 1923, is one of the most often-cited communist texts on the issue. (1) The pamphlet blasted Gandhi’s non-cooperation, the primary error of which had been that an “unreliable ground,” that is, “religion was allowed to play the chief part in the movement.” Also, the khilafat movement finally began to appear as problematic— but too late, as considerable revolutionary laurels had been bestowed upon its militantly anti-British pan-Islamism. With the khilafat Islamic anti-imperialism fast transforming the political scenario, Roy now identified it as a culprit for the current debacle, a “foregone conclusion of such an ill started a movement.” (2)   At the same time, another article in the Vanguard had vaguely deemed khilafat leader Mohamed Ali the “better revolutionary” than Gandhi. (3)

From the early 1930s onwards, leftist Congress leaders increasingly insisted on British departure as the only solution to the communal problem. Therefore, Roy clung to the conspiratorial character of such ‘non-revolutionary’ communalism: “Anonymous persons” hired “goondas […] to start trouble,” which could be done “by such simple means as playing Hindu music before a Mussulman mosque; by Mussulmans slaughtering a cow before the enraged eyes of Hindu worshippers; by sensational reports of kidnapping of children of one community by the other.” (4)

Roy had attacked the veteran nationalist and Hindu Mahasabha leader Lala Lajpat Rai in 1925 for denying the necessity of communal unity for the attainment of independence. (5) Rajani Palme Dutt (1896–1974), CPGB theoretician, confirmed Roy’s positions in his 1926 oeuvre Modern India.

Armoured cars outside the police HQ in Calcutta, April 26, 1926

Differences to Roy began appearing as early as 1924: Annoyed by Roy’s reticence to comment straightforwardly on the issue, the Socialist published an open letter to Roy from J. P. Begerhotta, a member of the INC Working Committee and a future CPI secretary, in September 1924. It emphasised that “all efforts should be made to abolish religious influence from the people. Hindu- Muslims unity cannot be successful until everybody is well-fed, and religious bigotry is removed.” (6). At the Kanpur communist conference, Singaravelu had responded by attempting to reconcile communism with ‘reasonable’ religiousness. But the 1926 Calcutta riots gave rise to a more compelling way of addressing communalism.

There were eleven riots in Bengal in 1926 that spanned its eastern and western regions and the two capital cities and its urban and rural sectors, including the peasantry, landlords, merchants, bhadralok, and the working class. In what was then the largest riot in the subcontinent, the April riots in Calcutta were spread over a month from 2 April to 9 May with a ten-day break between 13-21 April. It also marked a new height in the limits of horror for those times: 110 killed and 975 injured. In his speech on the communal conflict in the legislative assembly in 1926, Lala Lajpat Rai stated that there must be a ‘transition’ to parity before absolute unity could be achieved. Thus Hindus must master a level of physical power equivalent to the Muslims before the country could hopefully be united to throw off the colonial yoke. (7)

Simmering tensions in the city had erupted in early April in attacks by Muslims on Marwari traders. Assertions of communal identity during the non-cooperation movement and notably the communally uneven participation in the political and administrative sphere had profoundly strained the coexistence of the two significant communities. Not only the bhadralok, the Bengali Hindu middle-class faced with Muslim competition for jobs in the public services and feeling increasingly threatened in its privileged position, had embarked on a sustained process of communalisation. The influx of work migrants from more communalised areas on the upper Ganges introduced another volatile element. The early abrogation of C R Das’s Hindu-Muslim Pact for the sharing of seats in administration and public employment and the campaigns for the upcoming elections for the Legislative Council also fed into the atmosphere of tension. (8)

The riots originated in an Arya Samaj procession playing music in front of a mosque during Ramadan. However, what happened in several episodes during the following month constituted the worst colonial India had seen of communal violence in decades. Over a hundred people died, the most significant part within the first couple of days. Besides religious buildings, rioters also attacked and burned numerous houses and shops. Regular troops had to be called in to restore a tenuous order. (9)

The Calcutta communists around Muzaffar Ahmad re-edited the Manifesto on the Hindu-Muslim Unity and Swaraj. They distributed it as one of the few voices of religious neutrality in the city’s highly charged atmosphere. The Manifesto’s editors avoided open anti-religious criticism, just as its authors had done. After all, public pronouncements of anti-religiosity had meant inviting trouble already in the past: Earlier in the same year, the renowned lawyer and author Abul Hussain had publicly accused Abdul Kader, a student activist of the communist-led Workers’ and Peasants’ Party of Dhaka, of offending Muslim sentiments and had warned him not to do so henceforth. (10)

The Calcutta communists appropriated the ideological status quo for their project of emancipation. The Manifesto did not emphasise peace and restraint but closed with a call to take the fight to the rich, who after all were responsible for the predominance of religious ideology: (11)

Fatalism, fanaticism, submission, superstition, obedience and faith, the offsprings of religion, are the offensive weapons in the hands of the oppressors; poverty, miseries, self-renunciation, sacrifices are the consoling factors ordained by faith for the poor and oppressed. Our rich people […] are committing the highest treason on a broad day and tormenting the poor by invoking the aid of God. The people are still very ignorant, and they are kept so by our religious leaders as one of the essential conditions of their own power.

This conclusion carried a meaning significantly different from the original Manifesto. The 1926 Calcutta outbreak had been more extensive in magnitude than the riots of 1923. The latter had been more akin to isolated occurrences and could more plausibly be traced to small groups of instigators. Hence, in its context, the reprint signalled not a reaffirmation but a departure from Roy’s understanding of communalism. Ahmad’s comments in Langal (“Plough”), the Bengal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party’s organ, spelled out the shift at the peak of the riots: (12)

The upper strata of society have all along been plundering the lower ones. The looting which has today taken place in Calcutta under the thin cover of Hindu-Moslem dissension is but the reaction from that spoliation. The matter for regret is that the affair has floated before our eyes tinged with [sic!] a religion-communal line.

Langal’s constant attacks against communalised nationalist politics led to a perceptible drop in the paper’s sales. The insertion of Hindu Pyarimohan Das’s name as an editor alongside Ahmad, intended to counteract Langal’s reputation as an anti-Hindu paper, could not turn the tide. (13) It did not help that criticism of Muslim identity politics continued to figure less prominently in its pages. Even the re-edition of Roy’s Manifesto exhibited this general trend: An added excursus on the historical role of Islam called on the subcontinent’s Muslims to join “heart and soul” in the struggle for freedom and blamed reactionary elements in Islam on the institution of the caliphate. At the same time, the creed’s historical roots resonated more positively -“the rise of Arabs under the banner of Islam was the rise of mass consciousness under the slogan of equality, fraternity and brotherhood”. Such positions scared off Hindu readers while failing to attract Muslims. Police reports noted the sharp fall in the sales of Langal and remarked equally satisfied that its successor Ganavani initially had to be distributed for free to maintain an audience. (14)

Allison

Systematic communist efforts to organise the labour class began around 1926. Following the 1924 V Comintern congress’s call to set up a broad-based left movement—notably in the trade unions—under communist participation, the CPGB actively participated on the subcontinent. Between 1926 and 1928, it dispatched “emissaries,” British communist agitators, to India on long-term missions to organizationally assist the CPI comrades. Among others, George Allison, Philip Spratt, and Benjamin Bradley encouraged the formation of trade unions and regional Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties (WPP), communist-controlled mass organisations open to social activists and left nationalists. Among these emissaries, notably, Spratt proved to be an “industrious and capable ally,” and communist trade union activity took a sharp upturn. (15)

Allison (1895-1953) was a founding member of the British Communist Party and was a member of the central committee for a long time. Like many early Communists, Allison hailed from Scotland. In the identity of his alias, Donald Campbell, he was one of those celebrated Communists prosecuted for illegal entry into India, arising from events in 1927 and 1928 that would lead to the infamous 1929 Meerut conspiracy trial. He was also the leader of the British Minority Movement in the late 1920s as its secretary. Allison was charged under the Incitement to Mutiny Act and sentenced to three years of penal servitude in November 1931 to spread Communism among sailors – after the mutiny.

Philip Spratt (1902 – 1971), sent by the British arm of the Communist International (Comintern), to spread Communism in India, became a friend and colleague of M.N. Roy. He was among the chief accused in the Meerut Conspiracy Case; he was arrested on March 20, 1929, and imprisoned. As a result of his reading during his time in jail and his observation of political developments in Russia and Western Europe at the time, Spratt renounced Communism in the early 1930s. After India gained independence from the British, he was among the lone voices – such as Sita Ram Goel – against the well-intentioned and fashionable leftist policies of Nehru and the Indian government. He was the Editor of MysIndia, a pro-American weekly, and later of Swarajya, a newspaper run by C. Rajagopalachari.

Benjamin Francis Bradley (1898–1957) was also sentenced in the Meerut Conspiracy case. His imprisonment in 1929 provoked an enormous outcry, and in Britain, according to Stephen Howe, “probably inspired more left-wing pamphlet literature than any other colonial issue between the wars”.

His father was a “time-keeper” at a Motorworks and a night-watchman at a warehouse. n 1921 Bradley signed up to work as an engineer in India under a two-year contract. During his time in India, he worked in the Rawalpindi area where he worked supervising a large workshop. Once he returned to Britain in early 1923, he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), Bradley returned to India in the Autumn of 1927, travelling with fellow CPGB activist Philip Spratt to Bombay. Bradley became an Executive Committee member of both the All India Trade Union Congress, the Workers and Peasants Party, and the Vice-President of a newly formed mill workers union which reached a membership of 50,000 by the end of 1928.

The British emissaries complemented indigenous efforts to establish legal front organisations after the Kanpur Conspiracy Case. A month before the 1925 Kanpur communist conference, Nazrul Islam and Halim had been among the founders of the Labour Swaraj Party in Bengal. Two years later, it was converted into the Bengal branch of the WPP on the initiative of Spratt and Bradley. The latter had also taken part in the formation of the Bombay WPP. The Punjab branch came into existence by converting the Ghadarite KKP into a WPP unit a couple of months later. In UP, a young activist called Puran Chandra (P. C.) Joshi (1907–1980) presided over forming a UP WPP unit in 1928.

Ben Bradley

These Communists were involved in conducting trade union business along communal lines. In January 1929, the Transport Workers’ Union of Bengal, a WPP-affiliated radical union, demanded leave on “official religious holidays”. British reports record another case of the Kirti Dal, a Sikh-only trade union from Calcutta. It closely cooperated with the WPP in Bengal and counted Abdul Halim, a core member of the Calcutta CPI unit, among its leaders. (16)  Founded in 1932 in Ahmedabad, where the Gandhian Ahmedabad Labor Union (ALU) dominated the labour scene, the CPI-supported Mill Mazdoor Union consisted almost exclusively of Muslims who had not been absorbed into the largely caste-Hindu ALU. (17)    The congruity of communist peasant and worker unions in South India with caste and religious groups has been diligently researched. (18)

Bombay had developed into a hub of communist activity by the late 1920s. The local CPI around Shantaram Savlaram Mirajkar, R. S. Nimbkar, K. N. Joglekar, and—once released from prison in 1927—Dange successfully organised workers and conducted strikes. However, during and after the resounding victory in the general strike of the city’s textile workers from April to October 1928 that communist labour activity shot to real prominence.

Kranti (“Revolution”), the organ of the Bombay WPP, in July 1927 recounted a speech of the Madras Trade Union Congress’s president, Narayan Rao Joshi. He underlined that the working class had “no religion, caste or nationality or anything.” Instead, increasing the power of worker organisations and improving economic conditions counted as the workers’ “religion.” (19)   In the same spirit, Narayan Malhar Joshi, leader of the AITUC’s reformist wing, averred that the proletarian class was the workers’ caste. Yet, such categorical declarations could not do away with unwelcome religious identity patterns. On the occasion of Muharram 1927, Kranti issued a call to the “Musalman and Hindu people” to preserve communal peace and emphasised that the WPP welcomed “people of all religions.” (20)

The rejection across communities of the offer of Shaukat Ali, head of the local khilafat committee, to provide strike funds only for Muslim workers strengthened communist trust. Kranti’s message that the distinction between “Hindu or Musalman […] does not exist in the law of loot of capitalism” seemed to stick.  (21)  At the beginning of 1929, the GKU (Girni Kamgar Union) was the strongest, most prestigious, and best-organised trade union in Bombay. The communal riot of February 1929 burst into this communist success story.

The riot’s prelude occurred in mid-January: Striking oil workers had attacked Muslim Pathan blacklegs. The Pathans had not only repelled the assailants but pursued them to their quarters, where they had rioted and looted. (22)  In the aftermath, rumours that the Pathans were kidnapping children quickly spread among Hindu workers, leading to a “manhunt for Pathans” on February 3. Two were killed. (23) On February 4, the unrest spread to the mill area, where over 30,000 workers had struck work, armed themselves, and commenced another “manhunt for Pathans.” (24)

The following day, the municipal government called in the army to restore order. Shaukat Ali announced the organisation of Muslim self-defence, and on February 7, it was now Hindus who were “battered to death.” The latter, however, did their best to even the balance: A large crowd, originally having resumed work, responded to anti-Pathan rumours by striking work anew and rushing out to seek revenge. 490 During the following days, the riots spread over the city to defy a curfew and patrolling armoured cars. In total, over a hundred deaths were reported. (25)


Saklatvala

In the British Parliament, the Indian born communist MP, Shapurji Saklatvala, alleged that the Pathan money lenders charged exorbitant interest rates up to 400% to the working-class borrowers. The Under-Secretary of State for India Earl Winterton Edward Turnour replied to Saklatvala, on February 11, 1929: (26)

“On 7 December, there began under Communist leadership, a strike of the workmen at the oil companies’ installation, mostly Hindus. The oil companies engaged Pathan workmen in place of the strikers. Several fracases arose between strikers and Pathans, culminating on 18 January in the organised murder of three Pathan watchmen of New China Mills by mill hands, not oil strikers. From 2 February, an entirely baseless rumour arose that Pathans were kidnapping children to sacrifice them on the foundations of a bridge under construction in Baroda. On the 3rd and 4th, there were sporadic assaults and murders of isolated Pathans. On the 5th, the leaders of a large body of Pathans, who till then had shown great forbearance, were asking the Police Commissioner for protection when some Pathans started rioting. The police had instructions to ask for military assistance if and when it was required. At this point, the police did ask for 100 British troops, and these were sent to their aid. The rioting spread between mobs of predominantly Hindu mill hands and small bodies of Pathans. A European police officer, Deputy-Inspector Priestley, was killed while endeavouring to prevent one such riot. On this same day (the 6th), isolated murders and assaults continued in various parts of the city.

“On the 6th, a further 100 British troops were posted to the city. During that afternoon, rioting became Hindu-Mohammedan, as the Mohammedans were incensed at previous and continued attacks by Hindus on Pathans. Mobs of either community, primarily composed of hooligans, assaulted individuals and groups of the other community. On the night of the 6th, one battalion of British troops from Poona and two companies from Deolali arrived, besides additional armed police. On the 7th, Hindu-Mohammedan mobs renewed rioting in various parts of the city throughout the day and till late at night. On the 8th, the situation appeared much quieter in the morning, but rioting broke out again in the evening, with looting and assaults by Hindu Bhaiyyas and Ghatis. On the 9th communal rioting continued, and some attacks were made by Hindus on mosques and by Mohammedans on Hindu temples, and during the afternoon, looting and arson began, but comparatively, minor damage was done. An Indian Infantry battalion from Santa Cruz was brought into Bombay on this day, and the Chief Presidency Magistrate published orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five persons in public places and prohibiting the movement or presence of anyone between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the street area comprising practically the whole city north of the fort.

“On the 10th till noon, the situation was reported to be quieter. The Auxiliary Force had been embodied. During the whole period, mobs have been committing assaults and murders of individuals. Mobs gather and disperse into the lanes and houses before the police and military patrols can reach them, or remain ostensibly peaceful so long as the patrols are in the neighbourhood. Pickets are posted at selected centres, and patrols accompanied by magistrates are continually on the move in the disturbed areas. Military and police had to fire a few rounds on 14 occasions to disperse the mobs. The maximum number of rounds reported fired on any one occasion is 11. Up till the 8th, three persons were reported killed and 16 injured by this firing. Up to yesterday, no report had reached the Bombay Government from the hospitals whether any of the latter had died. Later reports as to firing are not yet available owing to the disturbed conditions. The total casualties reported up to noon on the 1Untilere 112 killed, and about 400 injured. Nearly all these are victims of the mob. Regarding Saklatvala’s question on disturbed conditions, I may add that Bombay for many years. Some are British subjects, some are not. As a community, they are law-abiding and normally give no trouble to the authorities. The Pathans in Bombay are engaged in many occupations, moneylending among them.”

Police during Mumbai riots, 1929

Battered with trade union communalism, the communist response was apologetic. Dange was convinced that the “imperialists and their agents […] decided to involve […] the whole city in a furious communal rioting.” The imposition of a curfew and the efforts to nail down the culprits were only a “smoke-screen” to obscure the true originators. These “agent provocateurs had directed the huge crime of a communal strife.” Among them counted Shaukat Ali, “who, once an anti-imperialist, is now the active paid agent of imperialism, planted in the bourgeois national movement to disrupt it by communal dissensions.” (27)

Similarly, Mirajkar asserted that the riots had been “deliberately staged by the British Government.” Ranadive traced the disturbances to the British administration’s desire to attack the “powerful arm of the working class” by engineering a “serious Hindu-Muslim riot to smash the class solidarity.” (28)  Under Dange, the communist focus had shifted to Hindus, from Islam. Roy was getting sidelined.

The adamant communist determination to externalise the source of the riots queerly coexists with the endeavour to deny outbreaks among workers altogether. This effort falls flat even on the plane of textual immanence. Dange’s appraisal was that the workers were “exceptionally free from the Hindu-Muslim feeling” and that they had become “class-conscious and not caste-conscious.” (29)  It is tempered by his own admission that only communist intervention had prevented them “from being excited into a suicidal fury.” (30)  This was a shaky claim.

The British communist Clemens Palme- Dutt* ambiguously summarised in late 1929 that the events of 1928–1929 had left “no ground for uncertainty as to the advance of the revolutionary tide there.” (31)

Clemens Palme-Dutt

In Ghate’s recollection, a lone example of admitting uncertainty and first-hand experience into the picture, the “superior proletarian morality” takes more concrete shape:

One day such a situation was created that we did not know what to do: [the workers] became very militant. […] They said they wanted to kill some Muslims […] The workers would not return [to work] because all sorts of rumours were being spread [such as their wives being abducted during their absence]. (32)

Ghate’s perception was acute enough to admit the fact of disturbances between Hindu and Muslim workers and that they had been “provoked by the workers themselves, not by the management,” which had sought to maintain peace and keep production going. (33)

The “great harm” mentioned by Dange had been done to communist notions of the working class no less than anything else. The outbreak dismayed the Bombay activists, who felt the need to support the best inside ‘their’ workers against empirical evidence. Mirajkar later explained: “Whatever Tata may say, he is always wrong, whatever worker says, he is always right.” (34)  This kind of allegiance undercut the realisation of the Bombay workforce’s communal undercurrent.

There had been severe religious friction already in 1927, and it was common to accuse blacklegs of soiling the heritage and the prestige of the Marathas and Shivaji himself. Both references had a distinctly Hindu colouring, with Shivaji being a directly anti-Muslim symbol. (35)  Once the GKU had consolidated itself in the wake of the general strike, debates on caste reared their head, sparked by the simultaneous non-Brahmin movement. The response among Bombay communists was similarly unfavourable. Dange, a Brahmin himself, intensely distasted the non-Brahmin movement, which he had accused of “unpatriotic and narrow-visioned” petty-bourgeois outlook and “Fascist terror” against Brahmins as early as 1922. (36)

Only a government assault on the movement fostered détente and restored unity: the arrest of the communist leaders for the Meerut Conspiracy Case in March 1929.

A similar diffusion characterised much of the communist ingredient in the ferment of radicalism leavening in the 1920s. According to Shashi Joshi, CPGB Member of Parliament, Shapurji Saklatvala had “struck the right tone” with the communists by identifying himself as a “Tilakite extremist” during his visit subcontinent in 1927. (37)    Before the 1929 riot, even the Ali brothers, protagonists of the khilafat movement, had by no means been ostracised from the fold of those with whom the communists—including the khilafat sceptic Dange—maintained political and personal ties: When Dange came out of jail in 1927, the “friends and admirers” assembled to welcome him included many khilafat volunteers led by Shaukat Ali himself. (38)

Apart from increasing trade union activity, the efforts to establish a proper communist party remained negligible. Following its turn towards the East, the Comintern had realised that no revolution, neither proletarian nor national, would take place in the colonies and ‘backward’ countries without mobilisation of the peasantry. In the eastern tracts of Bengal, Muslim peasant leaders like Shamshuddin Ahmad and his brother Afsaruddin were about to prove that Muslim tenants and middle peasants could indeed be mobilised against landlords, trading, and moneylending interests if those were identified as Hindu interests. As a result of the greater appeal of an agitation inclusive of religion, peasants’ organisation materialised in communally segmented bodies. The Bengal WPP, the best-run and numerically most vital section, found itself running against an impenetrable wall in the minds of the Muslim East Bengal peasantry, which by the late 1920s increasingly gave a communal answer to the social question.514 It was impossible to find a secretary for the peasant section in 1928. (39)

Unable to penetrate to the lower stratum of rural society and maligned by the Hindu Mahasabha as protectors of Muslim communalism, the communist movement remained barred from access to either community of agrarian society. Conversely, the communal polarisation of politics took its toll on the WPP. Between 1926 and 1928, the Bengal unit’s Executive Committee lost all its Muslim members. (40)

Convening in July and August 1928, the VI Comintern Congress introduced a sea change in the policy of communist parties. Its political thesis declared that the capitalist system had developed to its final stage and faced imminent collapse. Communists everywhere cut ties with the ‘reactionary’ bourgeoisie and wage all-out struggle. This explicitly included ‘reformist’ leftists and social democrats—the “social fascists.” (41)

The consequences of this realignment were drastic. It isolated the communists and led to a loss of social and political foothold: In Europe, the Comintern line prevented united action against fascist groups, immensely facilitating the takeover of the Nazi Party in Germany. In India, the severing of ties with bourgeois nationalism “that had betrayed the freedom struggle by the suspension of non-cooperation in 1922” and moderate leftists were doubly felt. Not only did the communists boycott the widespread civil disobedience movements of the early 1930s, but also did they dissolve their links with all “counter-revolutionary” sections of society. (42)  This spelt the end for the WPPs.

The VI congress also heralded the end of M N Roy’s career in official communism just as the Comintern finally adopted the gist of his long-time anti-bourgeois stance. Having risen steadily in rank, Roy had become a senior operative and expert on Asia by the second half of the 1920s. However, his tussle with Abani Mukherji and refusal to cooperate with Stalin in the latter’s efforts to oust the Trotskyite opposition from the Comintern led to his speedy downfall. Unable to attend the VI congress because of illness, Roy was not re-elected into any significant body. In 1929, the Comintern expelled him to contribute to the paper of the “rightist” German communist opposition around Ernst Brandler and August Thalheimer. (43) Returning to India in 1930, Roy’s involvement in politics continued on communist lines, in a separate organisation—the “Roy group of communists,” or “Royists.”

References – 

1. It appears to have been Evelyn who wrote the text, and Roy only published it: Innaiah, Evelyn Trent, 21, 113.

2. Manifesto on the HRoyalistsslem Unity and Swaraj,” Vanguard, 1 October 1923. Rajani Palme Dutt, Modern India (Bombay: Sunshine Publishing House 1926), 117–19, 124–6

3. Hasan Ibn Sabah, “The Release of Mohamed Ali,” Vanguard, 15 September 1923

4. What Lies behind Hindu-Muslim Discord?,” Vanguard, 15 August 1924

5. “Unity,” Vanguard, 15 November 1924

6. CPI(M), History of the Communist, 81.

7. War Over Music: The Riots of 1926 in Bengal, P K Dutta, Social Scientist, Vol. 18, No. 6/7 (Jun. – Jul., 1990), pp. 38-48

8. Joya Chatterji, Bengal Divided, 3, 13–14

9. Home/Poll/1926 11/VII, 4083–132

10. Chattopadhyay, An Early Communist, 166.

11. WBIB File 35/26 SL 2/1926, 64–5

12. Langal, 9 April 1926

13. Chattopadhyay, An Early Communist, 200

14. WBIB File 35/26 SL 2/1926, 66

15. Petrie, Communism in India, 108

16. Meerut Conspiracy Case, 1929–32, p 489, Sarkar, Modern India, 62

17. Subodh, Communism in India 1:302, 393

18. Robin Jeffrey, “Matriliny, Marxism and the Birth of the Communist Party in Kerala, 1930–1940,” Journal of Asian Studies 38 (1978): 138–40, K Kannan, Of Rural Proletarian Struggles: Mobilisation and Organisation of Rural Workers in South-West India (Delhi: Oxford University Press 1988), 94–125

19. What is the Religion of the Worker?,” Kranti, 30 July 1927

20. Manifesto of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Party to the Youth Conference,” in Meerut Conspiracy Case, 1929–32

21. Thoughts. Treacherous to the People, of Delusive Patriots,” Kranti, 16 July 1927,

22. The Times of India, 14 January 1929

23. The Times of India, 3 February 1929

24. The Times of India, 4 February 1929

25. The Times of India, 8 and 11 February 1929

26. HC Deb 11 February 1929 vol 225 cc8-13

27. Dange, Selected Writings 3:237, 242, 253.

28. Shantaram Savlaram Mirajkar (interviewee), recorded by Hari Dev Sharma (interviewer), 8 August 1974, NMML-OHP, AccNo 433, 85–6

29. Dange, Selected Writings 3:242 , 248–9.

30. “Statement of S. A. Dange,” 1270

31. Clemens Dutt, “The Role and Leadership of the Indian Working Class,” Labour Monthly 11, no. 12 (1929):741

32. Ghate (interviewee), 53–5.

33. Ibid., 57–8

34. Mirajkar (interviewee), 60

35. Roy, “The Calcutta Riot,” Masses of India, May 1926

36. Socialist, 25 November 1922, quoted in Bakshi, Indian Freedom Fighters, 48–51

37. Joshi, Struggle for Hegemony in India 1:182–3.

38. Release of Mr. Dange,” Kranti, 28 May 1927

39. CPI(M), History of the Communist, 169 (quote); WBIB File 210/27 SL 23/1927

40. WBIB File 320/26 SL 310/1926

41. Wayne Price, The Abolition of the State: Anarchist and Marxist Perspectives (Bloomington, IN: Author House 2007), 152–4.

42. CPI(M), History of the Communist, 146.

43. Ray, In Freedom’s Quest, vol. 3.1

Clemens Palme Dutt: He was the elder brother of Rajani Palme Dutt. Clemens worked as a journalist, translator and editor, in particular of the works of Marx and Engels. The brothers’ Communist ideals were influenced from an early age by their father Dr Upendra Krishna Dutt’s activities as a doctor in a working-class part of Cambridge. Both were founding members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

In the 1920s, both were writing for Labour Monthly and for a time Clemens took over from his brother as editor. In July 1923, Clemens visited Berlin from Moscow, where he became closely associated with M. N. Roy, who was heading the Indian section of Comintern. He returned to London later that year under instructions from Comintern to assist Shapurji Saklatvala. In 1925, the CPGB established its own colonial bureau, which Clemens headed. The bureau attempted to form connections in India, Palestine, China, Egypt and Ireland. He became the link between the CPGB colonial bureau, the Comintern’s Indian section and Indian Communists in Europe and India. In 1927, together with N. J. Upadhyaya and Ajoy Banerji, he founded the Indian Seamen’s Union in London.

In 1928, Clemens returned to Moscow as a member of a sub-committee of the Executive Committee of the Comintern to advise on the Indian situation. worked as part of the Meerut Prisoners’ Defence Committee. In August 1930, he replaced Percy Glading as head of the Colonial Department of the CPGB. In 1930, together with Saklatvala, he helped to found the Workers’ Section of the London Branch of the Indian National Congress.

In late 1931 he moved to Berlin and later to Moscow where he met Violet Lansbury, daughter of George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the early 1930s, whom he married in 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, Clemens worked together with V K Krishna Menon and the India League to collect donations for an ambulance for Spanish Republicans.

(Courtesy – Hamlet in Monsoon)

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