Buddhadeva Bhattacharya

Origins of the Revolutionary Socialist Party

THIS BROCHURE deals with two limited but important questions pertaining to the origins of the RSP a non-conformist marxist-leninist party. It is generally well known that the RSP or Revolutionary Socialist Party of today historically evolved by way of ideological and political transformation in the middle and late thirties from the Anushilan Samiti as a national revolutionary party and grew up as an independent marxist-leninist toiling people's party. But in dealing with this transformation we are confronted with two major questions why did the Anushilan Samiti, acknowledged to be the premier revolutionary organization of India—an all-India revolutionary party with its organizational network throughout the country having its headquarters in Bengal— in spite of its being influenced by the ideology of communism and the historic October revolution of 1917,1 take such a long period of time (nearly two decades from the early twenties to the late thirties) in reorientating itself, and secondly, why the majority of the Samiti leaders and workers did not think it proper in the light of their experience and revolutionary tradition, to accept official communism, the line advocated by the Communist International, and join the Communist Party of India which stood for unquestioned loyalty to the directives and policy-lines of the CI, and opted for non-conformist marxism, the organizational form of which found its expression in the formation of the Revolutionary Socialist Party in March 1940.


The Sarniti which originally came to be founded in Calcutta in 1902 as a revolutionary cultural and youth organization and since then played a pivotal and central role in the growth and development of the anti-imperialist national revolutionary movement in the country passed through many phases.2 As has been observed by an eminent participant,

The Anushilan was...never lacking in dynamic revolutionary self-confidence for adapting itself to changing historical conditions, national as well as international, nor in imbibing newer and more progressive socioeconomic ideas according to the demands of the changing times. It has never hesitated to throw overboard the dross and dead wood of old, outworn ideas and leadership, outmoded tactics and technique of struggle, that had lost their relevance in the conte't of newer problems thrown up by changed objective circumstances.3

As is well known, the entire Indian revolutionary movement, including the Anushilan Samiti as an integral part thereof, underwent profound changes of outlook and methods in the interwar years under the impact of the new mass movements and revolutionary forces released by the first world war both nationally inside India as well as internationally.

Comintern and Anushilan

Besides the impact of the phenomenal mass movements launched by Gandhi, the other major factor which came to affect the Anushilan movement and Anushilan thinking was the influence of the world communist movement and marxist ideology and that of various currents and cross-currents in the movement in later years.4 The Anushilan Samiti never became a part of the Communist International (Comintern) in a formal sense. But its contacts started as early as 1922.

As is known to the students of the history of freedom movement in India, many Indian revolutionaries who were abroad during wartime and had been active in securing armed assistance from Germany and Turkey during the first war met in Moscow after the October revolution on the invitation of the Communist International.5 Both M. N. Roy and Abani Mukherji who took the initiative in setting up the Communist Party of India in 19216 were Anushilan men in their early political life. Both of them wanted thereafter to contact Indian revolutionaries. Roy through Nalini Dasgupta (another Anushilan member) whom he sent to India and Mukherji smuggled himself into India in person, Eventually it so happened that both Mukherji and Dasgupta came to find shelter in Dacca headquarters of the Anushilan Samiti7 altough both of them were working at cross purposes.

The Anushilan leadership was not ideologically converted to marxian socialism at the time. They only wanted to strengthen their contacts with Moscow for securing material help, money and arms, from the bolsheviks and the Comm. tern.8 It was therefore arranged that some inner-core men like Ramesh Acharya would be sent to Moscow with Abani Mukherji at the time of the latter's return to Russia.'9 But this plan fell through because of Acharya's arrest and detention and Abani Mukherji went back alone. Gopen Chakravorty of Anushilan went to Russia in 192310 The senior Anushilan leaders, particularly Narendra Mohan Sen amongst them, clearly felt the necessity of reorientating the style of the work of the party and they emphasized the need for approaching the masses of the people, particularly the toilers —the workers and peasants.11 Some initial steps were taken in that direction. But much success could not be registered because of the new repressive measures of the government against the revolutionaries on the plea of the 'resumption of crime.' In order to crush the 'outbreak of revolutionary crime' a number of revolutionary leaders were arrested. Subhas Chandra Bose 'who was believed to be behind the plots to assassinate Sir Charles Tegart' was arrested under Regulation III of 1818. In 1924 the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance (subsequently put on the statute books as B.C.L.A. Act) was promulgated and most of the: effective members of the Anushilan Samiti, along with revolutionaries of the Jugantar group, were arrested under the Ordinance and under Regulation III.12

'Immediate Action' Groups and HSRA

At about this time a growing impatience developed among the younger members of Anushilan and also among those belonging to non-Anushilan local or district-level groups (many of the latter group had by that time federated themselves under the name of Jugantar) for 'immediate action.' But the senior leaders of all parties, especially of Anushilan,. 'bad by this time come to regard 'immediate action' programme as adventurist and basically harmful to the cause of armed revolution on the basis of their past political experience. This difference of opinion among the senior leaders and the junior activists did not immediately create splits in different parties that came later. But some 'actions' followed.13 The conflict, however, abated for the time being because of large-scale arrests made following the promugation of the B.C.LA. Ordinance in October 1924. After the general release of revolutionaries in 1927-28, the controversy took a sharper form and eventually the united Advance' Group of Anushilan and Jugantar was formed round about 1928-29 which stood for for 'immediate action.14 The Chittagong Group of Surya Sen which was responsible for the heroic armed uprising had active contacts with the 'Advance' Group.

All these groups had common agreement among themselves about organizing armed resistance on the Irish model. Romantic accounts of the heroic action of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) stirred the imagination of the young Indian revolutionaries in the twenties. The Chittagong Uprising was clearly patterned on the IRA model, The Hindusthan Socialist Republic Association (which we are going to discuss immediately) also had contacts with the 'Advance' Group. It also thought on those lines more or less. But it engaged itself in the main in organizing politically demonstrative type of armed 'terrorist' action, like the famous Assembly bomb explosion of 1928 or retaliatory terrorism, like the Saunders Murder of Lahore as vengeance for Police Superintendent Scott's lathi charge on Lala Lajpat Rai at the time of Simon Commission demonstration.

In 1923 the Anushilan Samiti deputed Jogesh Chatterji to reorganize revolutionary activites in northern India. In his autobiography we read:

...the formation of another party as an offshoot of the Anushilan took place in the village Bholachang of Braharnanbaria subdivision in Tipperah district, East Bengal. In the presence of Pratul Ganguly, Narendra Mohan Sen. Sachindra Nath Sanyal, whom Amulya Mukherji escorted from Mymensing. the Hindustan Republican Association was formed.15

The name was later changed in September 1928 to Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA. The latter was also known as Hindustan Socialist Republican Army.16 The addition of the word 'socialist' later indicated a vague radical social orientation in the thinking of the younger people under the leadership of Bhagat Singh and others who came to reorganize the old party under the new name, rather than any strict marxist-leninist class struggle orientation.16a The most distinctive trend during this period has been characterized as 'terro-socialism' by Mazumdar.17

This background has been given only to mention that during the twenties and early thirties in spite of the attraction the revolutionaries felt towards socialist ideals the national revolutionary movement relapsed into romantic impetuosity of 'immediate action' without carrying masses with it. Subjective attraction forwards socialism was coupled with petty-bourgeois romantic revolutionism. It was only during the mid and late thirties that national revolutionaries could realize that revolution is not merely heroic armed action but the direct, active and conscious intervention of masses in public affairs.


1. For a comprehensive analysis of the influence of the October Revolution on the national revolutionary movement, see Abinash Dasgupta, Lenin Thea Maha Biplob-O-Bangla Sambod Sahitya (in Bengali), Calcutta Book House, Calcutta, 1970 Gautam Chattopadhyay, Communism and Bengal's Freedom Movement, vol. 1 (1917-29), People's Publishing House, New Delhi, 1970, pp. 37-47.

2. For an overview, see Tritlib Chaudhuri, 'Historical Role of Anushilan Samiti in the Indian Revolutionary Movement,' in 75th Anniversary of Anushilan Samiti (a souvenir), 1977, pp. 25-69 for phase-wide development up to 1929, sec Buddhadeva Bhattacharyya (ed.), Freedom Struggle and Anushilan Sansiti, vol. 1, Anushilan Samiti 75th Anniversary Celebration Committee. Calcutta, 1979.

3. Tridib Chaodhuri op. cit., pp. 31-2,

4. ibid., p. 66.

5. Muzaffar Ahmad, Amar Jiban-o-Bharater Communist Party (in Bengali), National Book Agency Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, 1969, p. 71.

6. ibid., pp. 33-4 M. N. Roy's Memoirs, Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Bombay, 1964, pp. 464-7. For details, see C. Adhikari (ed.), Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India, vol. I (1917-1922), People's Publishing House, New Delhi. 1971, pp. 230-3,

7. Nalinikishore Guha, Banglay Bipabbad (in Bengali), A. Mukherjee & Co. Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, 1376 B. S., p. 221.

8. Tridib Chaucihuri, op. cit., p. 66 Satyendra Narayan Mazumdar, In Search of a Revolutionary Ideology and a Revolutionary Programme. A Study in the Transition from National Revolutionary Terrorism to Communism, People's Publishing House, New Delhi, 1979, p. 153.

9. Tridib Chaudhuri, op. cit., p. 66.

10. For Gopen Chakravorty's own account of his journey, see Gautam Chattopadhyay, op. cit., pp. 129-30.

11. Tridib Chaudhuri, op. cit., pp. 66-7; Pratul Chaudra Ganguly, Biplabir Jiban-darshan (in Bengali), Rahindra Library, Calcutta. 1383 B.S., p. 328.

12. H. N. Mitra (ad.), Indian Quarterly Register, 1924, vol. II, p. 160 H. VT. Hale. Political Trouble:in India 1919-37, Chugli Publications, Allahabad, 1974, pp. 7-11.

13. Kali Charan Ghosh, Jaqaran-O-Bisphoran (in Bengali), vol. II. Indian Associated Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, 1380 B.S., pp. 481-500.

14. Bhupendra Kishore Rakshit-Roy, Bharate Sashastra Biplab (in Bengali), Rabindra Library, Calcutta 1380 B.S, pp. 243-5 Bralendra Chandra Des, Anushilan Samitir Biplab Prayas (in Bengali). Calcutta, 1977, pp. 72-3.

15. Jogesh Chandra Chatterji, In Search of Freedom, Calcutta. 1967, pp. 208-9.

16. Manmathanath Gupta, History of the Indian Revolutionary Movement. Somaiya Publications Pvt. Ltd., Bombay, 1972, p. 94; J. N. Vajpeyi, The Extremist Movement in India; Chugh Publications, Allahabad, 1974, p. 233. For documents of the HRA and the HSRA, see H. W. Hale, op. cit., pp. 201-20.

16a. Tridib Chaudhuri, op. cit., p. 68. According to Bipan Chandra, '...the revolutionary terrorists succeeded in arriving at a socialist understanding of society, the state, nationalism, imperialism, and revolution. On the other hand, the total mechanism of revolutionary political action and organization escaped them.' See his 'The Ideological Development of the Revolutionary Terrorists in Northern India in the 1920's' in B. R. Nanda (ed.), Socialists in India, Vikas Publications, Delhi, 1972, pp. 163-89. The sentences quoted above are in p. 189. See also J. N. Vajpeyi, op. cit., pp. 233-4.

17. Setyendra Narayan Mazumdar, op. cit., pp. 168-208.

Next chapter  |  Contents

Marxism and Anti-Imperialism in India   |  Marxists Internet Archive