ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Marginal’ History of Satyabhakta

Vernacular Communism

Satyabhakta’s engagements with communist politics, the Hindi print public sphere, and workers’ movements in the Gangetic heartland often intermeshed caste, gender, and nationalism, with an indigenous communism. Signifying a strand of the Hindi literary project, he represents some of the suppressed traditions of left dissent, and takes us back to debates between internationalism and nationalism, materialism and spiritualism, class and caste. Even if his ideas were, at times, amateur, they provide us with the everyday lived realities of communist lives, and utopian dreams of equality, which need to be taken into account and historicised seriously.

 

Satyabhakta’s historical significance is that he turned many old revolutionaries towards Marxism and mass movements … If any one person can be credited with being the founder of the communist party, he is Satyabhakta.

— R Sharma (1982: 397, 407)

In February (1926), (MN) Roy wrote to a correspondent in India denouncing (Satya) Bhakta as a government spy. In April, he and his group were expelled from the party.

— Haithcox (1971: 46)

These quotes convey two antithetical views of Satyabhakta (1897–1985), a leading Hindi journalist of early 20th century north India, and founder of the first Indian Communist Conference (ICC) at Kanpur in 1925. This paper attempts to trace, what Alan Wald (2002: 72) calls the “force field” of communist movements, through the “paradoxical and discrepant” figure of Satyabhakta, who represents a “minoritised” and “marginalised” strand of vernacular communism, and his layered engagements through the Hindi print public sphere of late colonial India.

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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2021

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