Marilynne Robinson (Kelly Ruth Winter)
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Humanism was the particular glory of the Renaissance. The recovery, translation, and dissemination of the literatures of antiquity created a new excitement, displaying so vividly the accomplishments and therefore the capacities of humankind, with consequences for civilization that are great beyond reckoning.Ad Policy
The disciplines that came with this awakening, the mastery of classical languages, the reverent attention to pagan poets and philosophers, the study of ancient history, and the adaptation of ancient forms to modern purposes, all bore the mark of their origins yet served as the robust foundation of education and culture for centuries, until the fairly recent past. In muted, expanded, and adapted forms, these Renaissance passions live on among us still in the study of the humanities, which, we are told, are now diminished and threatened. Their utility is in question, it seems, despite their having been at the center of learning throughout the period of the spectacular material and intellectual flourishing of Western civilization. Now we are less interested in equipping and refining thought, more interested in creating and mastering technologies that will yield measurable enhancements of material well-being—for those who create and master them, at least. Now we are less interested in the exploration of the glorious mind, more engrossed in the drama of staying ahead of whatever it is we think is pursuing us. Or perhaps we are just bent on evading the specter of entropy. In any case, the spirit of the times is one of joyless urgency, many of us preparing ourselves and our children to be means to inscrutable ends that are utterly not our own. In such an environment, the humanities do seem to have little place. They are poor preparation for economic servitude. This spirit is not the consequence but the cause of our present state of affairs. We have as good grounds for exulting in human brilliance as any generation that has ever lived.
The antidote to our gloom is to be found in contemporary science. This may seem an improbable stance from which to defend the humanities, and I do not wish to undervalue contemporary art or literature or music or philosophy. But it is difficult to recognize the genius of a period until it has passed. Milton, Bach, Mozart all suffered long periods of eclipse, beginning before their lives had ended. Our politics may appear in the light of history to have been filled with triumphs of statecraft, unlikely as this seems to us now. Science, on the other hand, can assert credible achievements and insights, however tentative, in present time. The last century and the beginning of this one have without question transformed the understanding of Being itself. “Understanding” is not quite the right word, since this mysterious old category, Being, fundamental to all experience past, present, and to come, is by no means understood. However, the terms in which understanding may, at the moment, be attempted have changed radically, and this in itself is potent information. The phenomenon called quantum entanglement, relatively old as theory and thoroughly demonstrated as fact, raises fundamental questions about time and space, and therefore about causality.
Particles that are “entangled,” however distant from one another, undergo the same changes simultaneously. This fact challenges our most deeply embedded habits of thought. To try to imagine any event occurring outside the constraints of locality and sequence is difficult enough. Then there is the problem of conceiving of a universe in which the old rituals of cause and effect seem a gross inefficiency beside the elegance and sleight of hand that operate discreetly beyond the reach of all but the most rarefied scientific inference and observation. However pervasive and robust entanglement is or is not, it implies a cosmos that unfolds or emerges on principles that bear scant analogy to the universe of common sense. It is abetted in this by string theory, which adds seven unexpressed dimensions to our familiar four. And, of course, those four seem suddenly tenuous when the fundamental character of time and space is being called into question. Mathematics, ontology, and metaphysics have become one thing. Einstein’s universe seems mechanistic in comparison. Newton’s, the work of a tinkerer. If Galileo shocked the world by removing the sun from its place, so to speak, then this polyglot army of mathematicians and cosmologists who offer always new grounds for new conceptions of absolute reality should dazzle us all, freeing us at last from the circle of old Urizen’s compass. But we are not free.
There is no art or discipline for which the nature of reality is a matter of indifference, so one ontology or another is always being assumed if not articulated. Great questions may be as open now as they have been since Babylonians began watching the stars, but certain disciplines are still deeply invested in a model of reality that is as simple and narrow as ideological reductionism can make it. I could mention a dominant school of economics with its anthropology. But I will instead consider science of a kind. The study of brain and consciousness, mind and self—associated with so-called neuroscience—asserts a model of mental function as straightforward, causally speaking, as a game of billiards, and plumes itself on just this fact. It is by no means entangled with the sciences that address ontology. The most striking and consequential changes in the second of these, ontology, bring about no change at all in the first, neuroscience, either simultaneous or delayed. The gist of neuroscience is that the adverbs “simply” and “merely” can exorcise the mystifications that have always surrounded the operations of the mind/brain, exposing the machinery that in fact produces emotion, behavior, and all the rest. So while inquiries into the substance of reality reveal further subtleties, idioms of relation that are utterly new to our understanding, neuroscience tells us that the most complex object we know of, the human brain, can be explained sufficiently in terms of the activation of “packets of neurons,” which evolution has provided the organism in service to homeostasis. The amazing complexity of the individual cell is being pored over in other regions of science, while neuroscience persists in declaring the brain, this same complexity vastly compounded, an essentially simple thing. If this could be true, if this most intricate and vital object could be translated into an effective simplicity for which the living world seems to provide no analogy, this indeed would be one of nature’s wonders.
* * *
Neuroscience has, as its primary resource, technology that captures images of processes within the living brain. Fear lights up a certain area, therefore fear is a function of that area, which developed for the purposes of maintaining homeostasis. It prepares the organism to fight or flee. Well and good. But fear is rarely without context. People can be terrified of spiders, dentists, the Last Judgment, germs, the need to speak in public, the number 13, extraterrestrials, mathematics, hoodies, the discovery of a fraud in their past. All of these fears are the creatures of circumstance, of the history and state of health of a specific brain. They identify threat, interpreting an environment in highly individual terms. They, not threat in the abstract, trigger alarm, and they are the products of parts of the brain that do not light up under technological scrutiny and would elude interpretation if they did. If they are not taken into account, the mere evidence of an excitation has little descriptive and no predictive value. A fearful person might take a pill, faint, or commit mayhem. The assumptions behind the notion that the nature of fear and the impulses it triggers could be made legible or generalizable for the purposes of imaging would have to exclude complexity—the factor that introduces individuality with all its attendant mysteries. In fairness, however, the neuroscientists seem well content with the technology they have, extrapolating boldly from the data it yields. Refinements that introduced complication might not be welcome.
This all appears to be a straightforward instance of scientists taking as the whole of reality that part of it their methods can report. These methods are as much a matter of vocabulary as of technology, though the two interact and reinforce each other. Here is an example. Neuroscientists seem predisposed to the conclusion that there is no “self.” This would account for indifference to the modifying effects of individual history and experience, and to the quirks of the organism that arise from heredity, environment, interactions within the soma as a whole, and so on. What can the word “self” mean to those who wish to deny its reality? It can only signify an illusion we all participate in, as individuals, societies, and civilizations. So it must also be an important function of the brain, the brain aware of itself as it is modified by the infinite particulars of circumstance, that is, as it is not like others. But this would mean the self is not an illusion at all but a product of the mind at other work than the neuroscientists are inclined to acknowledge. Of course, the physical brain is subject to every sort of impairment, the areas that light up during imaging as surely as any others. Impairments that seem to compromise the sense of self may be taken to demonstrate that it is rooted in the physical brain, that same fleshly monument to provident evolution the neuroscientists admire, selectively. If the physical disruption of the sense of self is taken to prove that the self is an experience created by the physical brain, then there are no better grounds to call its existence into question than there would be to question equilibrium or depth perception. Obviously, there is a conceptual problem here—equilibrium does not “exist” except in the moment-to-moment orientation of an organism to its environment. Say as much of the self, mutatis mutandis, and it is granted the same kind of reality.
* * *
But to take a step back. It is absurd for scientists who insist on the category “physical,” and who argue that outside this category nothing exists, to dismiss the reality of the self on the grounds that its vulnerabilities can be said to place it solidly within this category. How can so basic an error of logic survive and flourish? There is a certain Prometheanism in this branch of science that would rescue us mortals from entrenched error—for so it sees the problem of making its view of things persuasive. For this reason—because questions might seem a betrayal of science as rescuer—its tenets enjoy a singular immunity from the criticism of peers. And its proponents feel confirmed by doubts and objections on the same grounds, that their origins and motives can be taken to lie in a hostility to science. On scrutiny, the physical is as elusive as anything to which a name can be given. The physical as we have come to know it frays away into dark matter, antimatter, and by implication on beyond them and beyond our present powers of inference. But for these scientists, it is a business of nuts and bolts, a mechanics of signals and receptors of which no more need be known. Their assertions are immune to objection and proof against information. One they dismiss and the other they ignore.
The real assertion being made in all this (neuroscience is remarkable among the sciences for its tendency to bypass hypothesis and even theory and go directly to assertion) is that there is no soul. Only the soul is ever claimed to be nonphysical, therefore immortal, therefore sacred and sanctifying as an aspect of human being. It is the self but stands apart from the self. It suffers injuries of a moral kind, when the self it is and is not lies or steals or murders, but it is untouched by the accidents that maim the self or kill it. Obviously, this intuition—it is much richer and deeper than anything conveyed by the word “belief”—cannot be dispelled by proving the soul’s physicality, from which it is aloof by definition. And on these same grounds, its nonphysicality is no proof of its nonexistence. This might seem a clever evasion of skepticism if the character of the soul were not established in remote antiquity, in many places and cultures, long before such a thing as science was brought to bear on the question.
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I find the soul a valuable concept, a statement of the dignity of a human life and of the unutterable gravity of human action and experience. I would add that I find my own soul interesting company, if this did not seem to cast doubt on my impeccable objectivity. This is not entirely a joke. I am not prepared to concede objectivity to the arbitrarily reductionist model of reality that has so long claimed, and been granted, this virtue. The new cosmologies open so many ways of reconceiving the universe(s) that all sorts of speculations are respectable now. We might have any number of other selves. If most or all these speculations are only flaunting new definitions of the possible, the exercise is valuable and necessary. Possibility has been captive to a narrow definition for a very long time, ourselves with it, and we must expect to blink in the light. These new cosmologies preclude almost nothing, except “the physical” as a special category. The physicality enshrined by neuroscientists as the measure of all things is not objectivity, but instead a pure artifact of the scale at which, and the means by which, we and our devices perceive. So to invoke it as the test and standard of reality is quintessentially anthropocentric.
I am content to place humankind at the center of Creation. We are complex enough, interesting enough. What we have learned, limited as we must assume it to be, is wonderful even in the fact of its limitations. This is no proof, of course. Be that as it may. It is not anthropocentricity that is a problem here, but the fact that it is unacknowledged and misapplied, and all the while imputed to the other side of the controversy, as if it were, eo ipso, a flagrant error. The objectivity claimed by neuroscience implies that it is free of this bias. Yet there could be no more naive anthropocentricity than is reflected in the certainty and insistence that what we can know about the nature of things at this moment makes us capable of definitive judgments about much of anything. That we have come to this place is not a failure of science but a glorious achievement, the continuous opening of insights that science itself could never have anticipated. Nothing can account for the reductionist tendencies among neuroscientists except a lack of rigor and consistency, a loyalty to conclusions that are prior to evidence and argument, and an indifference to science as a whole.
This kind of criticism is conventionally made of religion. I am not attempting some sort of rhetorical tae kwon do, to turn the attack against the attacker. My point is simply that neuroscience, at least in its dominant forms, greatly overreaches the implications of its evidence and is tendentious. Its tendency is to insist on the necessity of a transformation of our conception of human nature—to make it consistent with a view of reality that it considers clear-eyed and tough-minded, therefore rational and true. Its ultimate argument seems to be that we all really know better than to subscribe to the mythic foolery that sustains us in a lofty estimation of ourselves and our kind. The evidence it offers is secondary to this conclusion and inadequate to it, because it is based in a simplistic materialism that is by now a nostalgia. The profound complexity of the brain is an established fact. The depiction of a certain traffic of activation in it can only understate its complexity. One might reasonably suspect that the large and costly machines that do the imaging are very crude tools whose main virtue is that they provide the kind of data their users desire and no more.
Is it fair to say that this school of thought is directed against humanism? This seems on its face to be true. The old humanists took the works of the human mind—literature, music, philosophy, art, and languages—as proof of what the mind is and might be. Out of this has come the great aura of brilliance and exceptionalism around our species that neuroscience would dispel. If Shakespeare had undergone an MRI, there is no reason to believe there would be any more evidence of extraordinary brilliance in him than there would be of a self or a soul. He left a formidable body of evidence that he was both brilliant and singular, but it has fallen under the rubric of Renaissance drama and is somehow not germane, perhaps because this places the mind so squarely at the center of the humanities. From the neuroscientific point of view, this only obscures the question. After all, where did our high sense of ourselves come from? From what we have done and what we do. And where is this awareness preserved and enhanced? In the arts and the humane disciplines. I am sure there are any number of neuroscientists who know and love Mozart better than I do, and who find his music uplifting. The inconsistency is for them to explain.
* * *
A type of Darwinism has a hand in this. If evolution means that the species have a common ancestry and have all variously adapted and changed, that is one thing. Ovid would not object. If it means that whatever development is judged to be in excess of the ability to establish and maintain homeostasis in given environments, to live and propagate, is less definitive of the creature than traits that are assumed to reflect unambiguous operations of natural selection, then this is an obvious solecism. It is as if there are tiers to existence or degrees of it, as if some things, though manifest, are less real than others and must be excluded from the narrative of origins in favor of traits that suit the teller’s preferences. So generosity is apparent and greed is real, the great poets and philosophers toiled in the hope of making themselves attractive to potential mates—as did pretty well every man who distinguished himself by any means or tried to, from Tamburlaine to Keats to anyone’s uncle. (Women have little place in these narratives—they are the drab hens who appraise the male plumage.) This positing of an essential and startlingly simple mechanism behind the world’s variety implies to some that these pretenses, these very indirect means to the few stark ends that underlie all human behaviors, ought to be put aside, if only for honesty’s sake. So, humanities, farewell. You do not survive Darwinian cost-benefit analysis.
If there is a scientific mode of thought that is crowding out and demoralizing the humanities, it is not research in the biology of the cell or the quest for life on other planets. It is this neo-Darwinism, which claims to cut through the dense miasmas of delusion to what is mere, simple, and real. Since these “miasmas” have been the main work of human consciousness for as long as the mind has left a record of itself, its devaluing is a major work of dehumanization. This is true because it is the great measure of our distinctiveness as a species. It is what we know about ourselves. It has everything in the world to do with how we think and feel, with what we value or despise or fear, all these things refracted through cultures and again through families and individuals. If the object of neuroscience or neo-Darwinism was to describe an essential human nature, it would surely seek confirmation in history and culture. But these things are endlessly complex, and they are continually open to variation and disruption. So the insistence on an essential simplicity is understandable, if it is not fruitful. If I am correct in seeing neuroscience as essentially neo-Darwinist, then it is affixed to a model of reality that has not gone through any meaningful change in a century, except in the kind of machinery it brings to bear in asserting its worldview.
A nematode is more complex than a human being was thought to be 50 years ago. Now biology is in the course of absorbing the implications of the fact that our bodies are largely colonies of specialized microorganisms, all of them certainly complex in their various ways and in their interactions. It is the elegance of nature that creates even the appearance of simplicity. The double helix as a structure expedites fluent change, modifications within the factors it contains or that compose it, which baffle determinist associations with the word “gene.” Elegance of this kind could be called efficiency, if that word did not have teleological implications. I think the prohibition against teleology must be an arbitrary constraint, in light of the fact that we do not know what time is. It is not respectable to say that an organism is designed to be both stable as an entity and mutable in response to environment, though it must be said that this complex equilibrium is amazing and beautiful and everywhere repeated in a wealth of variations that can seem like virtuosity regaling itself with its own brilliance.
I am a theist, so my habits of mind have a particular character. Such predispositions, long typical in Western civilization, have been carefully winnowed out of scientific thought over the last two centuries in favor of materialism, by which I mean a discipline of exclusive attention to the reality that can be tested by scientists. This project was necessary and very fruitful. The greatest proof of its legitimacy is that it has found its way to its own limits. Now scientific inference has moved past the old assumptions about materiality and beyond the testable. Presumably it would prefer not to have gone beyond its classic definitions of hypothesis, evidence, demonstration. And no doubt it will bring great ingenuity to bear on the questions that exceed any present ability to test responses to them. It seems science may never find a way to confirm or reject the idea of multiple universes, or to arrive at a satisfactory definition of time or gravity. We know things in the ways we encounter them. Our encounters, and our methods and assumptions, are determined by our senses, our techniques, our intuitions. The recent vast expansion and proliferation of our models of reality and of the possible bring with them the realization that our situation, on this planet, and within the cocoon of our senses, is radically exceptional, and that our capacity for awareness is therefore parochial in ways and degrees we cannot begin to estimate. Again, to have arrived at this point is not a failure of science but a spectacular achievement.
* * *
That said, it might be time to pause and reflect. Holding to the old faith that everything is in principle knowable or comprehensible by us is a little like assuming that every human structure or artifact must be based on yards, feet, and inches. The notion that the universe is constructed, or we are evolved, so that reality must finally answer in every case to the questions we bring to it, is entirely as anthropocentric as the notion that the universe was designed to make us possible. Indeed, the affinity between the two ideas should be acknowledged. While the assumption of the intelligibility of the universe is still useful, it is not appropriately regarded as a statement of doctrine, and should never have been. Science of the kind I criticize tends to assert that everything is explicable, that whatever has not been explained will be explained—and, furthermore, by its methods. Its practitioners have seen to the heart of it all. So mystery is banished—mystery being no more than whatever their methods cannot capture yet. Mystery being also those aspects of reality whose implications are not always factors in their worldview, for example, the human mind, the human self, history, and religion—in other words, the terrain of the humanities. Or of the human.
Now we know that chromosomes are modified cell by cell, and that inheritance is a mosaic of differentiation within the body, distinctive in each individual. Therefore the notion that one genetic formula, one script, is elaborated in the being of any creature must be put aside, with all the determinist assumptions it has seemed to authorize. Moreover, the impulse toward generalization that would claim to make the brain solvable should on these grounds be rejected, certainly until we have some grasp of the deeper sources of this complexity and order, the causal factors that lie behind this infinitesimal nuancing. The brain is certainly more profoundly individuated than its form or condition can reveal.
So if selfhood implies individuality, or if our undeniable individuality justifies the sense of selfhood, then there is another mystery to be acknowledged: that this impulse to deny the reality, which is to say the value, of the human self should still persist and flourish among us. Where slavery and other forms of extreme exploitation of human labor have been general, moral convenience would account for much of it, no doubt. Where population groups are seen as enemies or even as burdens, certain nefarious traits are attributed to them as a whole that are taken to override the qualities of individual members. Again, moral convenience could account for this. Both cases illustrate the association of the denial of selfhood with the devaluation of the human person. This would seem too obvious to be said, if it were not true that the denial of selfhood, which is, we are told, authorized by the methods of neuroscience and by the intentionally generalized reports it offers of the profoundly intricate workings of the brain, persists and flourishes.
There are so many works of the mind, so much humanity, that to disburden ourselves of our selves is an understandable temptation. Open a book and a voice speaks. A world, more or less alien or welcoming, emerges to enrich a reader’s store of hypotheses about how life is to be understood. As with scientific hypotheses, even failure is meaningful, a test of the boundaries of credibility. So many voices, so many worlds, we can weary of them. If there were only one human query to be heard in the universe, and it was only the sort of thing we were always inclined to wonder about—“Where did all this come from?” or “Why could we never refrain from war?”—we would hear in it a beauty that would overwhelm us. So frail a sound, so brave, so deeply inflected by the burden of thought, that we would ask, “Whose voice is this?” We would feel a barely tolerable loneliness, hers and ours. And if there were another hearer, not one of us, how starkly that hearer would apprehend what we are and were.
|M. N. Roy|
Manabendra Nath Roy
|Born||Narendra Nath Bhattacharya|
(1887-03-21)21 March 1887
Changripota, 24 Parganas, Bengal Presidency, British India
|Died||26 January 1954(1954-01-26) (aged 66)|
Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India
|Alma mater||Bengal Technical Institute, Communist University of the Toilers of the East|
|Occupation||Revolutionary, radical activist, political theorist, philosopher|
|Organization||Jugantar, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of Mexico,|
|Movement||Indian Independence Movement|
Indian revolutionary movement
Manabendra Nath Roy (21 March 1887 – 24 January 1954), born Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, was an Indian revolutionary, radical activist and political theorist, as well as a noted philosopher in the 20th century. Roy was a founder of the Mexican Communist Party and the Communist Party of India. He was also a delegate to congresses of the Communist International and Russia's aide to China. Following the rise of Joseph Stalin, Roy left the mainline communist movement to pursue an independent radical politics. In 1940 Roy was instrumental in the formation of the Radical Democratic Party, an organisation in which he played a leading role for much of the decade of the 1940s.
In the aftermath of World War II Roy moved away from Marxism to espouse the philosophy of radical humanism, attempting to chart a third course between liberalism and communism.
Narendra Nath "Naren" Bhattacharya, later known as M. N. Roy, was born on 21 March 1887 at Arbelia, located in the North 24 Parganas of West Bengal, near Calcutta (Kolkata).
The Bhattacharyas were Saktabrahmins – a family of hereditary priests. Naren's paternal grandfather was the head priest of the goddess Ksheputeswari in the village of Ksheput, located in the Midnapore district of West Bengal. Naren's father also served for a time in priestly capacity there, although the large size of his family – he being one of 11 siblings – forced a relocation to the village of Arbelia and a change of occupation.
Following the death of his first wife, the elder Bhattacharya married Basantakumari Devi, the niece of Dwarkanath Vidyabhusan and was appointed as a teacher of Sanskrit in the nearby Arbelia English school. The couple had a total of eight children, including the fourth-born Naren.
Naren Bhattacharya's early schooling took place at Arbelia. In 1898 the family moved to Kodalia. Bhattacharya continued his studies at the Harinavi Anglo-Sanskrit School, at which his father taught, until 1905.
Bhattacharya later enrolled at the National College under Sri Aurobindo, before moving to the Bengal Technical Institute, where he studied Engineering and Chemistry. Much of Bhattacharya's knowledge was gained through self-study, however.
Towards the end of the 19th Century revolutionary nationalism began to spread among the educated middle classes of Bengal, inspired by the writings of Bankim and Vivekananda. Naren Bhattacharya was swept up in this movement, reading both of these leading luminaries extensively.
According to one biographer, Roy gained an appreciation from Bankim that true religion required one not to be cloistered from the world, but to work actively for the public good; Vivekananda reinforced this notion of social service and further advanced the idea that Hinduism and Indian culture was superior to anything the western world could offer.
With his cousin and childhood friend Hari Kumar Chakravarti (1882–1963), he formed a band of free-thinkers including Satcowri Banerjee and the brothers, Saileshvar and Shyamsundar Bose. Two other cousins of Bhattacharya and Chakravarti — 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 Samiti in Chinsura started frequenting Bhattacharya group.
In July 1905 a partition of Bengal was announced, scheduled to take effect in October. A spontaneous mass movement aimed at annulment of the partition emerged, giving radical nationalists like Naren Bhattacharya and his co-thinkers an opportunity to build broader support for their ideas. Following his expulsion from high school for organising a meeting and a march against the partition, Bhattacharya and Chakravarti moved to Kolkata and joined in the active work of the Anushilan.
Under Mokshada's leadership, on 6 December 1907 Bhattacharya successfully committed the first act of political banditry 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, Bhattacharya 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, Bhattacharya decided to see that exceptional Dada and got caught for good.
The Howrah-Shibpur Trial (1910–11) brought Bhattacharya closer to Jatindra Mukherjee.
The Indo-German conspiracy
Many Indian nationalists, including Roy, became convinced that only an armed struggle against the British Raj would be sufficient to separate India from the British empire. To the furtherance of this end, revolutionary nationalists looked to a rival imperial power, that of Kaiser Wilhelm'sGermany, as a potential source of funds and armaments.
In August 1914 a massive European war erupted between Britain and Germany. Expatriate Indian nationalists organised as the Indian Revolutionary Committee in Berlin made an informal approach to the German government in support of aid to the cause of anti-British armed struggle in their native land. These contacts were favourable and towards the end of the year word reached India that the Germans had agreed to provide the money and material necessary for the launch of an Indian war of independence from British rule. Revolution seemed near.
The task of obtaining funds and armaments for the coming struggle was entrusted to Naren Bhattacharya. Bhattacharya was dispatched first to Java, where over the next two months he was able to obtain some limited funds, albeit no armaments.
Early in 1915, Bhattacharya set out again, leaving India in search of vaguely promised German armaments which were believed to be en route, somewhere on the Pacific. Roy would not see his homeland again for 16 years.
The actual plan seemed fantastic, as Bhattacharya-Roy later recounted in his posthumously published memoirs:
"The plan was to use German ships interned in a port at the northern tip of Sumatra, to storm the Andaman Islands and free and arm the prisoners there, and land the army of liberation on the Orissa coast. The ships were armoured, as many big German vessels were, ready for wartime use. they also carried several guns each. The crew was composed of naval ratings. They had to escape from the internment camp, seize the ships, and sail.... Several hundred rifles and other small arms with an adequate supply of ammunition could be acquired through Chinese smugglers who would get then on board the ships."
At the last minute, money for the conduct of the operation failed to materialise and "the German Consul General mysteriously disappeared on the day when he was to issue orders for the execution of the plan," Bhattacharya recalled.
Disgusted but still holding out hope, Bhattacharya left Indonesia for Japan, hoping to win Japanese support for the independence of Asia from European imperialism, despite Japan's nominal alliance with Great Britain. There he met with Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen, who had escaped to Japan following the failure of a July 1913 uprising in Nanking.
Sun Yat-sen refused to assist Bhattacharya in his task of organising anti-British revolution in India, instead expressing faith in the ultimate liberating mission of Japan and his own powerlessness owing to British control of Hong Kong, Sun's base of operations in South China. Efforts to raise money from the German Ambassador to China were likewise unsuccessful.
Bhattacharya's activities soon drew the attention of the Japanese secret police, who were concerned about Bhattacharya's efforts at fomenting revolution. Upon learning that he was about to be served formal notice to leave Japan within 24 hours and not wishing to be deported to Shanghai, Bhattacharya immediately set about leaving the country overland through Korea. He tried to make his way from there to Peking (Beijing), but by this time he was spotted and identified by the British secret police, who detained him. Only through a stroke of good fortune was Bhattacharya able to win his release from the police, due to the British Consul General's ill ease with holding a British subject indefinitely without having formal charges first been preferred.
Further efforts to raise funds for armaments from the German consulate at Hankow resulted in a further tentative agreement. However, this plan also came to naught owing to the size of the commitment, which had to be approved in Berlin, according to German Ambassador to China Admiral Paul von Hintze. Bhattacharya determined to take his plan for German funding next to the German Ambassador in the United States, before heading to Germany itself. Employees of the German embassy were able to assist Bhattacharya in obtaining a place as a stowaway aboard an American ship with a German crew, bound for San Francisco.
Although they knew he was on board the ship, British authorities stopping the vessel in international waters were unable to locate Bhattacharya in the secret compartment in which he was hurriedly hidden. In an effort to throw the British off his trail – and in an effort to obtain more suitable accommodations for the long trans-Pacific voyage, Bhattacharya stealthily disembarked at Kobe, Japan.
In Kobe Bhattacharya made use of a false French-Indian passport previously obtained for him by the Germans in China. Posing as a seminary student bound for Paris, Bhattacharya obtained an American passport visa, bought a ticket, and sailed for San Francisco.
During his stay in Palo Alto, a period of about two months, Roy met his future wife, a young Stanford University graduate named Evelyn Trent. The pair fell in love and journeyed together across the country to New York City.
It was in the New York City public library that Roy began to develop his interest in Marxism. 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 the Communist Party of Mexico in 1919, the first Communist Party outside Russia. The Roys lodged a penniless Mikhail Borodin, the Bolshevik 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 World Congress of the Communist International, held in Moscow during the summer of 1920.
A few weeks before the Congress, Vladimir Lenin personally received Roy with great warmth. At Lenin's behest, Roy formulated his own ideas as a supplement to Lenin's Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and the Colonial Questions.
Material from Roy's pen was published by International Press Correspondence (Inprecor), the weekly bulletin of the Communist International. Roy served as a member of the Comintern's Presidium for eight years and at one stage was a member of the Presidium, the Political Secretariat, the Executive Committee, and the World Congress.
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 Mohandas K. 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 Joseph 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 to a fiasco. Roy returned to Moscow where factions supporting Leon Trotsky and Grigory 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 Nikolai 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 Inprecor announced Roy's expulsion from the Comintern, almost simultaneously with Bukharin's fall from grace.
Roy returned to India for the first time in December 1930. Upon reaching Bombay, Roy met leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Bose, the former of whom recalled that despite significant political differences, "I was attracted to him by his remarkable intellectual capacity."
Roy's political activity in India proved to be brief, on 21 July 1931 he was arrested in Bombay on an arrest warrant issued in 1924. Roy was taken to Kanpur to face charges under Section 121-A of the Indian Penal Code, "conspiring to deprive the King Emperor of his sovereignty in India."
No trial was held in open court; rather, the proceedings were conducted inside the jail in which Roy was held. Roy was allowed neither trial by jury nor defense witnesses, nor was he allowed to make a defense statement. Proceedings were conducted from 3 November 1931 until 9 January 1932, at which time Roy was sentenced to 12 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Roy was taken immediately under armed guard to Bareilly Central Jail for completion of his sentence managing, however, to smuggle out the defence statement which he was not allowed to present in court. This disallowed declaration was published in full by Roy's supporters in India as My Defence, and in abridged form in New York as I Accuse.
Roy was unapologetic for his advocacy of the use of armed struggle against British colonialism, in his own defence declaring
The oppressed people and exploited classes are not obliged to respect the moral philosophy of the ruling power.... A despotic power is always overthrown by force. The force employed in this process is not criminal. On the contrary, precisely the guns carried by the army of the British government in India are instruments of crime. They become instruments of virtue when they are turned against the imperialist state.
Roy filed an appeal in his case to the Allahabad High Court, but this was dismissed on 2 May 1933 – although Roy's sentence was at the same time reduced from 12 years to 6 by the court. Roy ultimately served 5 years and 4 months of this term, sitting in five different jails. Dismal prison conditions took a severe toll on Roy's health, and he suffered lasting damage to his heart, kidneys, lungs, and digestive tract as a result of his time behind bars. Roy also lost several teeth, was frequently feverish, and suffered constant pain from a chronically infected inner ear.
Despite his imprisonment, Roy still managed to contribute to the Indian independence movement. A steady stream of letters and articles were smuggled out of jail. He also wrote a 3000-page draft manuscript provisionally titled The Philosophical Consequence of Modern Science. His followers, including A. A. Alwe, formed the Bombay Provincial Working Class Party in 1933 to continue his work while he was imprisoned.
Released in November 1936 in broken health, Roy went to Allahabad for recovery, invited by Nehru. Defying the Comintern order to boycott the Indian National Congress, Roy urged Indian Communists to join this Party to radicalise it. Nehru, in his presidential address at Faizpur session in December 1936, greeted the presence of Roy, as
...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 was welcomed by progressive leaders like Bose and Nehru, unlike Gandhi, and the staunch Communists who accused Roy of deviation.
In marrying Ellen Gottschalk, his second wife, "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....
With the declaration of World War II, Roy (in a position close to that of Sri Aurobindo) condemned the rising totalitarian regimes in Germany and Italy, instead supporting England and France in the fight against fascism. He severed connections with the Congress Party and created the Radical Democratic Party in 1940. Gandhi proceeded to foment Quit India in August 1942. In response The British imprisoned without trial almost the entire Indian National Congress leadership within hours. Roy's line was clearly different from that of the mainstream of the independence 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 independence only in a free world. Subhas Chandra Bose took the pro-active stance that The enemy of my enemy is my friend; escaping house-arrest and India he formed the Azad Hind Provisional Indian Government in Exile and allied with the Japanese brought the Indian National Army to India's doorstep.
Sensing India's independence 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 ten-year plan, and drafting a Constitution of Free India (1944).
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.
Death and legacy
A lecture tour to the USA was to be suspended, as Roy died on 25 January 1954.
Beginning in 1987, Oxford University Press began the publication of the Selected Works of M.N. Roy. A total of 4 volumes were published through 1997, gathering Roy's writings through his prison years. Project editor Sibnarayan Ray died in 2008, however, and the Roy works publishing project was therefore prematurely terminated.
The house where he lived during the time he spent in Mexico City, today is a private nightclub that bears his name: M.N.Roy.
- ^This date found in the Dictionary of National Biography and accepted by Sibnarayan Ray, In Freedom's Quest: Life of M.N. Roy (Vol. 1: 1887–1922). Calcutta: Minerva Associates, 1998; p. 14. This is based on the diary of Dinabandhu. Samaren Roy in The Restless Brahmin claims that Bhattacharya was born on 22 February 1887 in Arbelia.
- ^ abcdRay, In Freedom's Quest, vol. 1, p. 14.
- ^ abcdef"Manabendra Nath Roy," Banglapedia
- ^ abRay, In Freedom's Quest, vol. 1, p. 15.
- ^Ray, In Freedom's Quest, vol. 1, pp. 15–16.
- ^Sealy's Report in Terrorism in Bengal, Vol. V, p. 17.
- ^ abRay, In Freedom's Quest, vol. 1, p. 16.
- ^V.B. Karnik, M.N. Roy: Political Biography. Bombay: Nav Jagriti Samaj, 1978; pp. 11–12.
- ^M.N. Roy, Jatindranath Mukherjee in Men I Met, reprinted from Independent India, 27 February 1949. Sibnarayan in vol. I, p. 19 quotes Bhattacharya farther: "all the Dadas practised magnetism: only Jatin Mukherjee possessed it."
- ^ abcdeM.N. Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs. Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1984; p. 3.
- ^ abRoy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 4.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, pp. 4–5.
- ^ abcRoy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 5.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 6.
- ^ abRoy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 7.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 8.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 9.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 10.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, pp. 12–13.
- ^ abcRoy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 14.
- ^Roy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 16.
- ^ abcRoy, M.N. Roy's Memoirs, p. 18.
- ^Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 1917–1941. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; p. 46.
- ^Diary of Lala Lajpat Rai, 1914–1917[permanent dead link], [[ National Archives of India |National Archives]], New Delhi
- ^Goebel, "Geopolitics," pp. 488-490.
- ^Sibnarayan, vol. 1, pp. 93–94
- ^"M.N. Roy Dead,"The Hindu, 29 January 1954.
- ^Sibnarayan, III/pp57-58
- ^ abcSibnarayan Ray, "Introduction to Volume IV," Selected Works of M.N. Roy: Volume IV, 1932–1936. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997; p. 3.
- ^Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (Nehru)| The Bodley Head, London, 1936; pp, 154, 218.
- ^Ray, "Introduction to Volume IV," pp. 3–4.
- ^ abcdefRay, "Introduction to Volume IV," p. 4.
- ^M.N. Roy, "I Accuse!" From the Suppressed Statement of Marabendra Nath Roy on Trial for Treason Before Sessions Court, Cawnpore, India. New York: Roy Defense Committee of India, January 1932; pp. 11–12.
- ^ abRay, "Introduction to Volume IV," p. 11.
- ^Roy, Subodh, Communism in India – Unpublished Documents 1925-1934. Calcutta: National Book Agency, 1998. p. 240
- ^Tribune, Lahore, 24 and 27 December 1936, quoted by Sibnarayan, III/p323
- ^Karnik, M.N. Roy, p. 86.
- ^op. cit, Vol. III-Part I, 2005, p. 320
- ^V.B. Karnik, M.N. Roy, p. 104
- ^Selected Works of M.N. Roy, Edited by Sibnarayan Ray,[permanent dead link] UO Libraries, University of Oregon, janus.uoregon.edu/
- Note: Adapted from "A Checklist of the Writings of M.N. Roy" in M.N. Roy's Memoirs. Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1984; pp. 607–617.
- La voz de la India (The Voice of India). Mexico City: n.p., n.d. [c. 1917].
- La India: Su Pasado, Su Presente y Su Porvenir (India: Its Past, Its Present, and Its Future). Mexico City: n.p., 1918.
- Indien (India). Hamburg: Verlag der Kommunistischen Internationale, 1922.
- India in Transition. With Abani Mukherji. Geneva: J.B. Target, 1922.
- What Do We Want? Geneva: J.B. Target, 1922.
- One Year of Non-Cooperation from Ahmedabad to Gaya. With Evelyn Roy. Calcutta: Communist Party of India, 1923. —Imprint probably fictitious.
- India's Problem and Its Solution. n.c.: n.p., n.d. [c. 1923].
- Political Letters. Zurich: Vanguard Bookshop, 1924. —Alternate title: Letters to Indian Nationalists.
- Cawnpore Conspiracy Case: An Open Letter to the Rt. Hon. J.R. MacDonald. London: Indian Defence Committee, 1924.
- The Aftermath of Non-Cooperation: Indian Nationalism and Labour Politics. London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1926.
- The Future of Indian Politics. London: R. Bishop [Communist Party of Great Britain], 1926.
- Our Task in India. n.c.: Bengal Committee of the Revolutionary Party of the Indian Working Class, n.d. [c. 1932].
- "I Accuse!" : From the Suppressed Statement of Manabendra Nath Roy on Trial for Treason before Sessions Court, Cawnpore, India. New York: Roy Defense Committee of India, 1932. —Title of unexpurgated Indian edition: My Defence.
- Congress at Crossroads, by a Congressman (M.N. Roy). Bombay: Independence of India League, [c. 1934].
- On Stepping Out of Jail. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, n.d. [c. 1936].
- Letters by M.N. Roy to the Congress Socialist Party, Written in 1934. Bombay: Renaissance Publishing Co., 1937.
- The Historical Role of Islam: An Essay on Islamic Culture. Bombay: Vora, 1937.
- Presidential Address of M.N. Roy, United Provinces Youths' Conference, 29 and 30 May 1937, Sitapur. Bombay: R.D. Nadkarni, n.d. .
- Materialism and Spiritualism: Presidential Address of M.N. Roy at the 3rd Session of the Madras Presidency Radical Youths' Conference, Held at Madras on 25 July 1937. Bombay: R.D. Nadkarni, n.d. .
- My Crime. Bombay: Ramesh D. Nadkarni, n.d. [c. 1937].
- The Russian Revolution: A Review and the Perspective. Calcutta: D.M. Library, n.d. [c. 1937].
- Presidential Address of Com. M.N. Roy, First Rajputana-Central India Students' Conference, Benwar, 1 and 2 January 1938. Bombay: n.p., n.d. .
- All-India Sugar Mill Workers' Conference, Gorakhpur, Held on 30 April and 1 May 1938: Presidential Address by Manabendra Nath Roy. Gorakhpur: n.p., n.d. .
- Fascism: Its Philosophy, Professions and Practice. Calcutta: D.M. Library, 1938.
- On the Congress Constitution. Calcutta: "Independent India" Office, 1938.
- Our Differences. With V.B. Karnik. Calcuta: Saraswaty Library, 1938.
- Our Problems. With V.B. Karnik. Calcutta; Barendra Library, 1938.
- Gandhi vs. Roy: Containing Com. Roy's Letter to Gandhiji, the Latter's Reply and the Former's Rejoinder. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, 1939.
- Heresies of the Twentieth Century: Philosophical Essays. Bombay: Renaissance Publishers, 1939.
- Presidential Address by M.N. Roy at the First All-India Conference of the League of Radical Congressmen, Poona, 27 and 28 June 1939. Bombay: n.p., n.d. .
- Tripuri and After. Nasik: Radical Congressmen's League, n.d. [1930s].
- Which Way, Lucknow? By a Radical Congressman (M.N. Roy). Bombay: M.R. Shetty, n.d. [1930s].
- The Memoirs of a Cat. n.c. [Dehra Dun]: Renaissance Publishers, 1940.
- Whither Europe? Bombay: Vora, 1940.
- The Alternative. Bombay: Vora, 1940.
- From Savagery to Civilisation. Calcutta: Digest Book House, 1940.
- Gandhism, Nationalism, Socialism. Calcutta: Bengal Radical Club, 1940.
- Science and Superstition. Dera Dun: Indian Renaissance Association, 1940.
- Materialism: An Outline of the History of Scientific Thought. Dera Dun: Renaissance Publishers, 1940.
- World Crisis (International Situation). (contributor) Ahmedabad: Gujarat Radical Democratic People's Party, 1940.
- The Relation of Classes in the Struggle for Indian Freedom. Patna: Bihar Radical Democratic People's Party, n.d. [c. 1940].
- Science, Philosophy and Politics. Moradabad: J.S. Agarwal, n.d. [c. 1940].
- A New Path: Manifesto and Constitution of the Radical Democratic Party. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, n.d. [c. 1940].
- Twentieth Century Jacobinism: Role of Marxism in Democratic Revolution. Patna: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. [c. 1940].
- Some Fundamental Problems of Mass Mobilization. Calcutta: D. Goonawardhana, n.d. [c. 1940].
- My Differences with the Congress: Speech at Allahbad University, 27 November 1940. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, League of Radical Congressmen, n.d. [c. 1940].
- On Communal Question. With V.B. Karnik. Lucknow: A.P. Singh, n.d. [c. 1940].
- Culture at the Crossroads: Cultural Requisites of Freedom. Calcutta: Leftist Book Club, n.d. [1940s].
- Radical Democratic Party's Message to the USSR. Calcutta: D. Goonawardhan, n.d. [1940s].
- Presidential Address by Com. M.N. Roy at the Maharashtra Provincial Conference of the Radical Democratic Party held at Poona on 22 and 23 March 1941. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, n.d. .
- The Ideal of Indian Womanhood. n.c. [Dehra Dun?]: Renaissance Publishers, 1941.
- Problem of the Indian Revolution. Bombay: Rajaram Panday, 1941.
- All-India Anti-Fascist Trade Union Conference: Presidential Address by M.N. Roy: Lahore, 29–30 November 1941. Lahore: M.A. Kahn, n.d. .
- Scientific Politics: Lectures in the All India Political Study Camp, Dehradun, May and June 1940: Held under Auspices of All-India League of Radical Congressmen. Dehra Dun: Indian Renaissance Association, 1942.
- Freedom or Fascism? n.c. [Bombay?]: Radical Democratic Party, 1942.
- India and the War. (contributor) Lucknow: Radical Democratic Party, 1942.
- This War and Our Defence. Karachi: Sind Provincial Radical Democratic Party, 1942.
- War and Revolution: International Civil War. Madras: Radical Democratic Party, 1942.
- Origin of Radicalism in the Congress. Lucknow: S.S. Suri, 1942.
- Library of a Revolutionary: Being a List of Books for Serious Political Study. Lucknow: New Life Union, for the Indian Renaissance Association, 1942.
- This Way to Freedom: Report of the All-India Conference of the Radical Democratic Party held in December 1942. (contributor) Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1942.
- Nationalism: An Antiquated Cult. Bombay: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. [c. 1942].
- Nationalism, Democracy, and Freedom. Bombay: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. [c. 1942].
- Letters from Jail. n.c. [Dehra Dun?]: Renaissance Publishing, 1943.
- The Communist International. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1943.
- What is Marxism? Bombay: n.p., 1943.
- The Future of Socialism: Talk to the Calcutta Students' Club, November 1943. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, n.d. .
- Poverty or Plenty? Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1943.
- Indian Labour and Post-war Reconstruction. Lucknow: A.P. Singh, 1943.
- Indian Renaissance Movement: Three Lectures. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1944.
- The Future of the Middle Class: Lecture Delivered in Poona on 29 May 1944, in the Annual Spring Lecture Series. Patna: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. .
- Constitution of India, A Draft: Endorsed and Released for Public Discussion by the Central Secretariat of the Radical Democratic Party. Delhi: V.B. Karnik, 1944.
- Your Future: An Appeal to the Educated Middle Class. Issued by the Radical Democratic Party. Lucknow: Radical Democratic Party, 1944.
- Planning a New India. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, n.d. [c. 1944].
- National Government or People's Government? Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, n.d. [c. 1944].
- Constitution of Free India, A Draft by M.N. Roy: Endorsed and Released for Public Discussion by the Radical Democratic Party. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1945.
- The Last Battles of Freedom: Being the Report of the Calcutta Conference of the Radical Democratic Party, 27 to 30 December 1944. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. .
- Post-War Perspective: A Peep into the Future. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1945.
- Future of Democracy in India: Being the Full Text of a Speech Delivered at a Public Meeting Held at the Town Hall, Lucknow, on 6 October 1945. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. .
- The Problem of Freedom. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1945.
- My Experiences in China. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1945.
- Sino-Soviet Treaty. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1947.
- Jawaharial Nehru. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. [c. 1945].
- INA and the August Revolution. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1946.
- Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1946. —Published in German in 1931.
- A New Orientation: Statement on the International Situation. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1946.
- A New Orientation: Review and Perspective of the International Struggle for a New World Order of Democratic Freedom, Economic Prosperity, and Cultural Progress. Dehra Dun: Radical Democratic Party, Bengal, 1946.
- New Orientation: Lectures Delivered at the Political Study Camp Held at Dehra Dun, from 8 to 18 May 1946. With Phillip Spratt. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1946.
- Radical Democratic Party Conference Inaugural Address: Bombay, 20th, 21st, 22 Dec 1946: Presidential Address and Resolutions. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, n.d. .
- Principles of Radical Democracy: Adopted by the Third All-India Conference by the Radical Democratic Party of India held in Bombay, 26 to 29 December 1946. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1947. —Attributed to Roy.
- Leviathan and Octopus. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, n.d. .
- Asia and the World: A Manifesto. Delhi: Radical Democratic Party, 1947.
- Science and Philosophy. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1947.
- New Humanism: A Manifesto. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1947.
- Beyond Communism. With Philip Spratt. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1947.
- A New Approach to the Communal Program: Lecture Delivered at the International Fellowship, Madras, 22 Feb 1941. Bombay: V.B. Karnik, n.d. [c. 1947].
- The Russian Revolution. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1949.
- India's Message. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1950.
- The Rhythm of Cosmos: Inaugural Address of the Second All-India Rationalist Conference at Tenali held on 9 and 10 Feb 1952. Tenali: n.p., n.d. .
- Radical Humanism. New Delhi: n.p., 1952.
- Reason, Romanticism and Revolution. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1952.
- The Way Ahead in Asia. n.c.: British Information Service in Southeast Asia, n.d. [c. 1950s].
- Crime and Karma, Cats and Women. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1957.
- Memoirs. Bombay: Allied Publishers, 1964. —Reissued 1984.
- R.K. Awasthi, Scientific Humanism: Socio-Political Ideas of M.N. Roy: A Critique. Delhi: Research Publications in Social Sciences, 1973.
- Shiri Ram Bakshi, M.N. Roy. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1994.
- N.R. Basannavar, 'The Indian in the Comintern'. University of Bristol Dissertation 2007
- G.P. Bhattacharjee, Evolution of Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy. Calcutta: Minerva Associates, 1971.
- M.N. Roy and Radical Humanism. Bombay: A.J.B.H. Wadia Publication, 1961.
- Phanibhusan Chakravartti, M.N. Roy. Calcutta: M.N. Roy Death Anniversary Observance Committee, 1961.
- Prakash Chandra, Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy. Meerut: Sarup & Sons, 1985.
- Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, Leftism in India, 1917–1947. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2007.
- Ramyansu Sekhar Das, M.N. Roy the Humanist Philosopher. Calcutta, W. Newman, 1956.
- B.N. Dasgupta, M.N. Roy: Quest for Freedom. Calcutta: Firma K.L. Mukhopadhyay, 1970.
- Niranjan Dhar, The Political Thought of M.N. Roy, 1936–1954. Calcutta, Eureka Publishers, 1966.
- S.M. Ganguly, Leftism in India: M.N. Roy and Indian Politics, 1920–1948. Columbia, MO: South Asia Books, 1984.
- Dharmadasa Goonawardhana and Debassaran Das Gupta (eds.), Royism Explained. Calcutta: Saraswaty Library, 1938.
- Michael Goebel, "Geopolitics, Transnational Solidarity, or Diaspora Nationalism? The Global Career of M.N. Roy, 1915-1930,"European Review of History 21, no. 4 (2014), pp. 485–499.
- D.C. Grover, M. N. Roy: a Study of Revolution and Reason in Indian Politics. Calcutta: Minerva Associates, 1973.
- John Patrick Haithcox, Communism and Nationalism in India; M.N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920–1939. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971.
- V.B. Karnik, M.N. Roy: Political Biography. Bombay: Nav Jagriti Samaj, 1978.
- Usha Krishna, M.N Roy and the Radical Humanist Movement in India: A Sociological Study. Meerut: Chaudhary Charan Singh University, 2005.
- B. K. Mahakul, "Radical Humanism of M.N. Roy," Indian Journal of Political Science, vol. 66, no. 3 (July 2005), pp. 607-618. In JSTOR
- Kris Manjapra, M.N. Roy: Marxism and Colonial Cosmopolitanism. Delhi: Routledge India, 2010.
- Giles MiltonRussian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot, Sceptre, 2013. ISBN 978 1 444 73702 8
- Innaiah Narisetti (ed.), M.N. Roy: Radical Humanist: Selected Writings. New York: Prometheus Books, 2004.
- R.L. Nigram, Radical Humanism of M.N. Roy An Exposition of his 22 Theses. n.c.: Indus Publishing Co., n.d.
- Robert C. North and Xenia J. Eudin, M.N. Roy's Mission to China: The Communist-Kuomintang Split of 1927. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963.
- Vishnudeo Narain Ojha, M.N. Roy and His Philosophical Ideas. n.c. [Muzaffarpur]: Shankhnad Prakashan, 1969.
- Alok Pant, Indian Radicalism and M.N. Roy. Delhi: Adhyayan, 2005.
- Govardhan Dhanaraj Parikh (ed.), Essence of Royism: Anthology of M.N. Roy's Writings. Bombay: Nav Jagriti Samaj, 1987.
- Ramendra, M. N. Roy's New Humanism and Materialism. Patna: Buddhiwadi Foundation, 2001.
- Sibnarayan Ray, In Freedom's Quest: Life of M.N. Roy (Vol. 1: 1887–1922). Calcutta: Minerva, 1998. —No other volumes issued.
- M.N. Roy: Philosopher-Revolutionary: A Symposium. Calcutta: Renaissance Publishers, 1959.
- Dipti Kumar Roy, Leftist Politics in India: M.N. Roy and the Radical Democratic Party. Calcutta: Minerva, 1989.
- Trade Union Movement in India: Role of M.N. Roy. Calcutta: Minerva, 1990.
- Samaren Roy, The Restless Brahmin: Early Life of M.N. Roy. Bombay: Allied Publishers, 1970.
- The Twice-Born Heretic: M.N. Roy and the Comintern. Calcutta: KLM Private, 1986.
- B.S. Sharma, The Political Philosophy of M.N. Roy. Delhi, National Publishing House, 1965.
- Sita Ram Sharma, Life and Works of M.N. Roy. Jaipur: Sublime Publications, 2010.
- M. Shiviah, New Humanism and Democratic Politics: A Study of M.N. Roy's Theory of the State. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1977.
- Reeta Sinha, Political Ideas of M.N. Roy. New Delh: National Book Organisation, 1991.
- Sada Nand Talwar, Political Ideas of M.N. Roy. Delhi: Khosla Publishing House, 1978.
- J.B.H. Wadia, M.N. Roy, The Man: An Incomplete Royana. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1983.
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