M N Roy 1924

Letter to Ramsay Macdonald, London

Taken from Communism in India – Unpublished Documents, edited by the late Subodh Roy. National Archives of India J & P(S) 293. The letter to the Sec. of State to India was acknowledged. There is no evidence that it was even received by the Prime Minister. There is no evidence of a reply to Roy either. It may well exist in the British National Archives as well. – Note by transcriber Ted Crawford.

21st Feb 1924.
The Right Hon'ble J. Ramsay Macdonald, Prime Minister of Great Britain,


(Copy to the Secretary of State for India)

Right Hon'ble Sir,

The undersigned is an Indian who believes in the right of every people to be free. Since 1905 I participated in the movement whose object is to conquer this right for the Indian nation. Consequently I had to suffer all sorts of prosecution and persecution at the hand of British Government in India. Finally in 1915 I was obliged to leave my native land, in order to escape extreme penalties of law. Since then, I have lived in forced exiles, which, however, did not render me immune from persecution. I have been persistently hunted down by the agents of the British Government who do not hesitate to bring pressure upon the authorities of other countries in contravention of the codes and usages of International law giving the right of asylum to political offenders. Nevertheless, I have gone on doing, according to my convictions, my share in the struggle for the freedom of the Indian people.

Being a socialist, I do not subscribe to the programme of Indian nationalism which bases itself simply on the rivalry and antagonism between the native and foreign capital. I hold that India should have an autonomous national government, because without it normal progress and prosperity of her people in general cannot be attained. From this point of view I make common cause with the movement of bourgeois Nationalism. But at the same time I am of the opinion, that the National Government should be made really democratic by giving ample protection to the economic interests of the toiling masses. The common people, however, will have very little political right and economic protection from the National Government if they do not prepare from now to defend their class interests. This can be done only if they will participate in the Nationalist movement not as a mere adjunct of the native bourgeoisie, but as an independent social factor organized and fighting on the basis of their class interests. Our programme places the Nationalist movement, not on the basis of racial issues nor of capitalist antagonism, but on the wider basis of economic interest and social emancipation of the masses of the population.

This programme has brought on me the epithet of “Bolshevik Agent” in addition to other previous accusations. You know how freely this epithet is used by imperialism. The paper published by us as well as anything else written by me or my comrades are branded as “Bolshevik propaganda” and proscribed in India. The circulation, reading and possession of such literature is punishable. This literature is devoted to the propagation of programme whose outlines are given above. I take liberty of sending under separate cover specimens of our publications for you to judge if they contain anything more or less than ordinary nationalist and socialist programme. Literature of similar and much more revolutionary nature is allowed to be published and circulated in Great Britain and her self-governing colonies, not to mention other independent countries. In one word, socialist literature is prohibited in India. We accepted the situation as natural hitherto; but it is also natural for us to expect that it should be changed under a socialist Government.

Now, Right Honourable Sir, as a socialist and representative of the British proletariat, you must agree that is no crime to claim the right of self-determination for one’s country nor does simple socialist propaganda become “subversive Bolshevik propaganda” as soon as it comes to India. Indian socialists and Indian working class are entitled to have their international affiliation. There are many who are adherents of the British labour party and of the International to which you belong. There may be others who prefer other international working class organisations.. It is a mere question of opinion, and today the socialist Movement of no country is free from this difference of opinion. Therefore the fact of my membership of the Communist International cannot reasonably deprive me of the right of living and working in India, when adherents of the same International are not deprived of the identical rights in Great Britain.

The advent of Labour Government in Britain encourages in us the hope that the position will be changed. We expect that those working for the advance and welfare of the Indian working class will not be persecuted under a Labour Regime as before. Therefore I beg you:

1. To cause the ban to be raised from our paper, The Vanguard, from books and brochures written by me and’ other holding identical views as well as all kinds of socialist literature freely circulated in every civilized country; and

2. To give me the permission to return to India without becoming the object of persecution for alleged offences committed in the past. I should draw your attention to the fact that my political views have undergone a radical change since I left India in 1915.

What I solicit is an amnesty from the alleged charges made against me in the past. I suppose the declaration made by his Majesty the King-Emperor in 1919 concerning Indian political offenders can be applicable to me. When I return to India I will of course, be prepared to take the consequences of my action the future.

I will appreciate it very much if I am given the passport to come over to England, there to discuss with the India Office the question of my return to India.

Expecting a favourable and early reply.

I remain, etc.
Sd/- M.N. Roy.

Zurich, Switzerland
February 21, 1924.

N.B. My lawyer, Dr. C.A. Hitz Bey, Nationalrat, Turnerstr, 19 Zurich has been instructed to receive the reply to this communication in my behalf.