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Manabendra Nath Roy

Manabendra Nath Roy Narendra Nath Bhattacharya

Manabendra Nath Roy , 1887 – January 25, 1954), born Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, popularly known as M. N. Roy, was a Bengali Indian revolutionary, internationally known political theorist and activist, founder of the Communist parties in Mexico and India. He later denounced communism, as exponent of the philosophy of Radical Humanism. Oxford University Press, UK , has already published his works in four volumes and the fifth is in the press.
His father Dinabandhu Bhattacharya, a temple priest at Kheput, in Midnapore district, settled there after the death of his first wife, married Basantakumari Devi, the niece of Dwarkanath Vidyabhusan and was appointed teacher of Sanskrit in nearby Arbelia school. Essentially an auto-didact, beyond elementary schooling, Narendra had almost no formal education though, later, when he joined the National College under Sri Aurobindo and attended some courses at the Bengal Technical Institute, he obtained brilliant results.

Since his boyhood, Naren believed that knowledge is freedom, and “the urge for freedom is inherent in every man.” With his cousin and childhood friend Hari Kumar Chakravarti, he formed a band of free-thinkers including Satcowri Banerjee and the brothers, Saileshvar and Shyamsundar Bose. Two other cousins of Naren and Hari - Phani and Narendra Chakravarti - often came from Deoghar, where they went to school with Barin Ghosh. A mysterious Vedic scholar, Mokshadacharan Samadhyayi, active organiser of secret branches of the Anushilan in Chinsura, Serampore, Chandernagore, started frequenting Naren's group. By the end of 1904, Naren and Hari rented a room in the Anushilan building, 49 Cornwallis Street , Kolkata, where Naren's senior cousin Abinash Bhattacharya had joined Barin's faction, eager to initiate violent actions. Mokshada was a resident of the neighbouring Field and Academy Society. They seized the opportunity of anti-Partition agitations. Naren was a theist and earnestly studied, with Hari, the Bhagavad Gita, the Ananda Math and the Bhavani Mandir, along with writings of Vivekananda. During the tragic flood of 1908 in Orissa, Madhusudan Das published an article in The Statesman of Kolkata and received an immediate response from everywhere. Requested by Shashibhushan Raychaudhury, Barrister P. Mitter of the Anushilan delegated volunteers led by Hari Kumar and Naren; on their way back, they brought to Kolkata a good provision of seasoned bamboo sticks to be distributed in the regional units. Under Mokshada's leadership, on 6 December 1907 Naren successfully committed the first political dacoity, to raise money for the secret society. When arrested, he was carrying two seditious books by Barin Ghosh. Defended by the Barrister J.N. Roy (close friend of Jatindranath Mukherjee or Bagha Jatin) and the pleader Promothonath Mukherjee, he got released on bail, thanks to his reputation as a student and social worker.

Unhappy with Barin's highly centralised and authoritative way of leadership, Naren and his group had been looking for something more constructive than making bombs at the Maniktala garden. Two incidents sharpened their interest in an alternative leadership. Barin had sent Prafulla Chaki with Charuchandra Datta to see Bagha Jatin at Darjeeling who was posted there on official duty, and do away with the Lt-Governor; on explaining to Prafulla that the time was not yet ripe, Jatin promised to contact him later. Though Prafulla was much impressed by this hero, Barin cynically commented that it would be too much of an effort for a Government officer to serve a patriotic cause. Shortly after, Phani returned from Darjeeling , after a short holiday: fascinated by Jatin's charisma, he informed his friends about the unusual man. On hearing Barin censuring Phani for disloyalty, Naren decided to see that exceptional Dada and got caught for good. The Howrah-Shibpur Trial (1910-11) brought Naren closer to Jatindra Mukherjee. Naren was present when, at Kolkata, the German Crown Prince promised Jatindra arms and ammunition if there was a war between Germany and Great Britain . Indian revolutionaries in Europe led by Virendranath Chattopadhyay signed a bond of collaboration with the Kaiser's government. In 1915, Naren and Phani Chakravarti went to Batavia twice, in this connection. The project failed. After pursuing his search of arms through Asia, Naren reached Palo Alto , and changed his name to Manabendra Nath Roy to evade British intelligence.

International revolutionary

In New York , Roy met his future wife Evelyn Trent through Lala Lajpat Rai, who “had genuine respect” for the young man. His socialist transition under Lala owed much to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's essays on communism and Vivekananda's message of serving the proletariat. Bothered by British spies, Roy fled to Mexico in July 1917 with Evelyn. German military authorities, on the spot, gave him large amounts of money. The Mexican president Venustiano Carranza – and other liberal thinkers - appreciated Roy 's writings for El Pueblo. The Socialist Party he founded (December 1917), was converted into Communist Party of Mexico, the first Communist Party outside Russia . The Roys lodged a penniless Mikhail Borodin, the Bolshevic leader, under special circumstances. On the basis of a grateful Borodin's reports on Roy 's activities, Moscow was to invite Roy to the 2nd Comintern Congress in July 1920. A few weeks before the Congress, Lenin received Roy with great warmth. Generously desired by Lenin, Roy formulated his own ideas, as a supplement to Lenin's Preliminary Draft These o the National and the Colonial Questions.By adopting Roy 's Thesis, alternative to Lenin's, the Party consolidated Roy 's position among the orthodox communists. He started publishing in the Inprecor, the official journal. In May 1927, on two occasions, Stalin was to value Roy 's thesis to be “more relevant to the situation” than Lenin's.

Commissioned by Lenin to prepare the East – especially India – for revolution, Roy founded military and political schools in Tashkent . In October 1920, as he formed the Communist Party of India, he contacted his erstwhile revolutionary colleagues who, at this juncture, were hesitating between Radicalism (Jugantar) and Gandhi's novel programme. Close to the Jugantar in spirit and action, C. R. Das inspired Roy 's confidence. From Moscow , Roy published his major reflections, India in Transition, almost simultaneously translated into other languages. In 1922 appeared Roy 's own journal, the Vanguard, organ of the emigre Communist Party of India. These were followed by The Future of Indian Politics (1926) and Revolution and Counter-revolution in China (1930), while he had been tossing between Germany and France .

Leading a Comintern delegation appointed by Stalin to develop agrarian revolution in China , Roy reached Canton in February 1927. Despite fulfilling his mission with skill, a disagreement with the CCP leaders and Borodin led him to a fiasco. Roy returned to Moscow where factions supporting Trotsky and Zinoviev were busy fighting with Stalin's.

Stalin refused to meet Roy and give him a hearing at the plenum in February 1928. Denied a decent treatment for an infected ear, Roy escaped with Bukharin's help, sparing himself Stalin's anger. Shortly after Trotsky's deportation, on 22 May 1928, Roy received the permission to go abroad for medical treatment on board a Berlin-bound plane of the Russo-German Airline Deruluft. In December 1929, the Imprecor announced Roy 's expulsion from the Comintern, almost simultaneously with Bukharin's falling in disgrace.

Denouncing Communism

On reaching Mumbai in December 1930, Roy met leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Bose. Nehru was to write on Roy , “There was a great deal of difference between us, and yet I felt attracted towards him.(…) I was attracted to him by his remarkable intellectual capacity.” Arrested in July 1931, Roy was tried for several conspiracy cases, and he served six years' imprisonment. Smuggled out of jail, piles of his letters, manifestos, articles and a couple of books appeared, encouraging his group within the AITUC. He also wrote a 3000-page draft manuscript provisionally titled The Philosophical Consequence of Modern Science. Released (November 1936) with a broken health, he went to Allahabad for recovery, invited by Nehru. Defying the Comintern order to boycott the Indian Congress, Roy urged Indian communists to join this Party to radicalise it. Nehru, in his presidential address at Faizpur session (December 1936), greeted the presence of Roy , the veteran freedom fighter: "one who, though young, is an old and well-tried soldier in India 's fight for freedom. Comrade M.N. Roy has just come to us after a long and most distressing period in prison, but though shaken up in body, he comes with a fresh mind and heart, eager to take part in that old struggle that knows no end till it ends in success." From the podium Roy in his speech recommended the capture of power by Constituent Assembly. Unable to collaborate with Gandhi, however, Roy was to stick to his own conviction. In April 1937, his weekly Independent India appeared and rejoiced progressive leaders like Bose and Nehru, unlike Gandhi, and the staunch communists who accused Roy of deviation.

Radical humanism

In marrying Ellen Gottschalk, “ Roy found not only a loving wife but also an intelligent helper and close collaborator.” They settled in Dehra Dun . Roy proposed an alternative leadership, seized the crisis following Bose's re-election as the Congress President, in 1938: in Pune, in June, he formed his League of Radical Congressmen. Disillusioned with both bourgeois democracy and communism, he devoted the last years of his life to the formulation of an alternative philosophy which he called Radical Humanism and of which he wrote a detailed exposition in Reason, Romanticism and Revolution.

In his monumental biography, In Freedom's Quest, Sibnarayan Ray writes: "If Nehru had his problems, so had Roy . From early life his sharp intellect was matched by a strong will and extra-ordinary self-confidence. It would seem that in his long political career there were only two persons and a half who, in his estimate, qualified to be his mentors. The first was Jatin Mukherji (or Bagha Jatin) from his revolutionary nationalist period; the second was Lenin (...) The half was Josef Stalin..." Communism disregarded and hated man : Roy in his philosophy devised means to ensure human freedom and progress. Remembering Bagha Jatin who “personified the best of mankind”, Roy worked “for the ideal of establishing a social order in which the best in man could be manifest.” In 1947, he elaborated his theses into a manifesto, New Humanism, expected to be as important as the Communist Manifesto by Marx a century earlier.

Second World War and After

With the declaration of War – close to Sri Aurobindo's position - Roy condemned the rising totalitarian Germany and Italy ; he supported England and France to fight against fascism.; severed connection with the Congress; created his Radical Democratic Party (1940). Gandhi proceeded to foment “Quit India” in August 1942. Roy 's line was clearly different from that of the mainstream of the national liberation movement. According to Roy , a victory for Germany and the Axis powers would have resulted in the end of democracy worldwide and India would never be independent. In his view India could win her freedom only in a free world.

Sensing India 's freedom to be a post-War reality following the defeat of the Axis powers and the weakening of British Imperialism, Roy wrote a series of articles in Independent India on the economic and political structures of new India , even presenting a concrete 10-year Plan, and drafting a Constitution of Free India (1944).

A lecture tour to the USA was to be suspended, as Roy died on 25 January 1954.


  • Men I Met
  • Historical Role of Islam
  • India in Transition (1922)
  • India and War
  • Alphabet of Fascist Economy
  • Draft Constitution of Free India
  • People's Freedom
  • Poverty or Plenty
  • The Problems of Freedom
  • INA and the August Revolution
  • Jawaharlal Nehru: The Last Battle for Freedom
  • The Scientific Politics
  • The Russian Revolution
  • Beyond Marxism
  • New Humanism
  • Reason, Romanticism and Revolution

Books and Articles On M. N. Roy

  • G.D. Parikh, " Roy , M.N." in Dictionary of National Biography, Calcutta , 1974, Vol. III
  • Dr. Ramendra, M. N. Roy's New Humanism and Materialism ( Patna : Buddhiwadi Foundation, 2001)
  • "M. N. Roy" in Rationalism, Humanism and Atheism in Twentieth Century Indian Thought by Dr. Ramendra in collaboration with Dr. Kawaljeet.
  • Dr Prithwindra Mukherjee, Les origines intellectuelles du mouvement d'indépendance de l'Inde (1893-1918), PhD Thesis, 1976
  • Manabendra Nath Roy, The future of Indian politics, 1926, R. Bishop London.
  • Manabendra Nath Roy, Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China , 1946, Reprinted 1973, Hyperion Press.
  • Manabendra Nath Roy (with Philip Spratt), New Orientation, 1946, Renaissance Publishers, Calcutta .
  • Sibnarayan Ray (ed), Selected Works of M.N. Roy: Volume I: 1917-1922 , Oxford University Press.
  • Sibnarayan Ray, In Freedom's Quest in four volumes, Calcutta , 1997-2007
  • V.B. Karnik, M.N. Roy, National Book Trust, New Delhi , 1980
  • Samaren Roy, The Restless Brahmin, 1970
  • S. M. Ganguly, Manabendra Nath Roy: An Annotated Bibliography, 1993, K.P. Bagchi & Co., Calcutta .

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