R. Palme Dutt

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R. Palme Dutt
Rajani-Palme-Dutt (cropped).jpg
Palme Dutt, 1943.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain
In office
October 1939 – June 1941
Preceded byHarry Pollitt
Succeeded byHarry Pollitt
Personal details
Rajani Palme Dutt

19 June 1896
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Died20 December 1974(1974-12-20) (aged 78)
Political partyCommunist (CPGB)
(m. 1922; death 1964)
RelativesOlof Palme (first-cousin, once removed)
EducationThe Perse School
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
OccupationEditor of Workers' Weekly

Rajani Palme Dutt (19 June 1896 – 20 December 1974), generally known as R. Palme Dutt, was a leading journalist and theoretician in the Communist Party of Great Britain. His classic book India Today heralded the Marxist approach in Indian historiography.[1]

Early life[edit]

Rajani Palme Dutt was born in 1896 on Mill Road in Cambridge, England. His father, Dr. Upendra Dutt, was an Indian surgeon, his mother Anna Palme was Swedish.[2][3] Anna Palme was a great aunt of the future Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme.[4] His sister was the statistician Elna Palme Dutt, who went on to become an official of the International Labour Organization in Geneva. He, along with his older brother Clemens Palme Dutt, was a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Dutt was educated at the Perse School, Cambridge and Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a first-class degree in Classics, after being suspended for a time because of his activities as a conscientious objector in World War I, during which his writing was deemed subversive propaganda.[5]

Dutt married an Estonian, Salme Murrik, the sister of Finnish writer Hella Wuolijoki, in 1922. His wife had come to Great Britain in 1920 as a representative of the Communist International.[5]

Political career[edit]

Dutt joined the Labour Research Department, a left-wing statistical bureau, in 1919. The following year, he joined the newly formed Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and in 1921 founded a monthly magazine called Labour Monthly, a publication that he edited until his death.

In 1922, Dutt was named the editor of the party's weekly newspaper, the Workers' Weekly.[5]

Dutt was on the Executive Committee of the CPGB from 1923 to 1965 and was the party's chief theorist for many years.[6]

Dutt first visited the Soviet Union in 1923, where he attended deliberations of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) relating to the British movement.[5] He was elected an alternate to the ECCI Presidium in 1924.

Following an illness in 1925 which forced him to stand down as editor of Workers' Weekly, Dutt spent several years in Belgium and Sweden as a representative of the Comintern.[5] He also played an important role for the Comintern by supervising the Communist Party of India for some years.

Palme Dutt was loyal to the Soviet Union and to Leninist ideals. In 1939, when the CPGB General Secretary Harry Pollitt supported the United Kingdom's entering the Second World War, Palme Dutt who promoted Stalin's line and forced Pollitt's temporary resignation. As a result, he became the party's General Secretary until Pollitt was reappointed in 1941, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union cause a reversal in the party's attitude on the war.

His book Fascism and Social Revolution presents a scathing criticism and analysis of fascism, with a study of the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and other countries. He defined fascism as a violent authoritarian, ultranationalist and irrational theory: "Fascism is antithetical to everything of substance within the liberal tradition."[7]

After Stalin's death, Palme Dutt's reaction to Khrushchev's Secret Speech played down its significance, with Dutt arguing that Stalin's "sun" unsurprisingly contained some "spots".[8] A hardliner in the party, he disagreed with its criticisms of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and opposed its increasingly-Eurocommunist line in the 1970s. He retired from his party positions but remained a member until his death[9] in 1974. According to the historian Geoff Andrews, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was still paying the CPGB around £15,000 a year "for pensions" into the seventies, recipients of which "included Rajani Palme Dutt".[10]

The Labour History Archive and Study Centre at the People's History Museum in Manchester has Palme Dutt's papers in its collection, spanning from 1908 to 1971.[11]


  • 1920: The Sabotage of Europe[12]
  • 1920: The Two Internationals
  • 1921: Back to Plotinus, Review of Shaw's Back to Methusela: A Metaphysical Pentateuch
  • 1921: Psycho-Analysing the Bolshevik, Review of Kolnai's Psycho-analysis and Sociology
  • 1922: The End of Gandhi
  • 1923: The British Empire
  • 1923: The Issue in Europe
  • 1925: Empire Socialism (pamphlet)
  • 1926: The Meaning of the General Strike (pamphlet)
  • 1926: Trotsky and His English Critics
  • 1928: Indian Awakening
  • 1931: India
  • 1931: Capitalism or Socialism in Britain? (pamphlet)[13]
  • 1933: Democracy and Fascism (pamphlet)
  • 1933: A Note on the Falsification of Engels’ Preface to “Marx’s ‘Class Struggles in France”
  • 1934: Fascism and Social Revolution
  • 1935: The Question of Fascism and Capitalist Decay
  • 1935: British Policy and Nazi Germany
  • 1935: The British-German Alliance in the Open
  • 1935: For a united Communist Party : an appeal to I.L.P'ers and to all revolutionary workers
  • 1936: In Memory of Shapurji Saklatvala
  • 1936: Anti-Imperialist People's Front in India, written with Ben Bradley
  • 1936: Left Nationalism in India
  • 1938: On the Eve of the Indian National Congress, with Harry Pollitt and Ben Bradley
  • 1938: The Philosophy of a Natural Scientist
  • 1938: The Philosophy of a Natural Scientist, a Rejoinder to Levy
  • 1938: Review of Marx & Engels on the U.S. Civil War
  • 1939: Why this War? (pamphlet)[14]
  • 1940: Twentieth Anniversary of the Communist Party of Great Britain
  • 1940: India Today
  • 1947: Declaration on Palestine, at the Empire Communist Parties Conference, London on 26 February to 3 March 1947
  • 1949: Introductory Report on Election Programme
  • 1953: Stalin and the Future
  • 1953: The crisis of Britain and the British Empire (new and revised edition 1957)
  • 1955: India Today and Tomorrow
  • 1963: Problems of Contemporary History
  • 1964: The Internationale
  • 1967: Whither China?


  1. ^ Ahir, Rajiv (2018). A Brief History of Modern India. Spectrum Books (P) Limited. p. 15. ISBN 978-81-7930-688-8.
  2. ^ Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Of a Certain Age: Twenty Life Sketches, Penguin Books, pp. 135, 2011
  3. ^ Faruque Ahmed, Bengal Politics in Britain – Logic, Dynamics & Disharmony pp. 57, 2010.
  4. ^ Henrik Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss. En biografi över Olof Palme, Stockholm: Norstedts, 2010; p.659
  5. ^ a b c d e Colin Holmes "Rajani Palme Dutt", in A. Thomas Lane (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of European Labor Leaders, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995; vol. 2, p.284
  6. ^ Francis Beckett Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party, London: John Murray, 1995
  7. ^ Roberts, Edwin A. (1997). The Anglo-Marxists: A Study in Ideology and Culture. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780847683963.
  8. ^ Rajani Palme Dutt - Biography Archived 15 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ J. Callaghan, Rajani Palme Dutt. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1993.
  10. ^ Geoff Andrews, Endgames and New Times, The Final Years of British Communism 1964–1991, Lawrence and Wishart, London 2004, p. 94
  11. ^ Collection Catalogues and Descriptions, Labour History Archive and Study Centre
  12. ^ Dutt, R. Palme. "R. Palme Dutt Archive". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  13. ^ Dutt, Rajani Palme (1931). Capitalism or socialism in Britain?. Communist Party of Great Britain.
  14. ^ Dutt, Rajani Palme (1939). Why this war?. Communist Party of Great Britain.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
New publication
Thomas A. Jackson as editor of The Communist
Editor of Workers' Weekly
Succeeded by
Preceded by Editor of the Daily Worker
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Acting General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain
Succeeded by