Book Review
On India: Articles and Book Reviews
By Clemens Palme Dutt
R B Enterprises, Kolkata 2016, Pages 160. Price INR 199

On Clemens Palme Dutt’s Book

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

Clemens Palme Dutt (1893  1975) is a name that every student of Marxism is acquainted with. He translated no fewer than 44 pieces. Besides the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, he translated into English Y. P. Prolov’s ‘Pavlov and his school’ as early as 1937, J. V. Stalin’s ‘Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR’ (edited and translated with Andrew Rothstein) and perhaps many other works anonymously. His translated works include Marx and Engels’s The German Ideology (1932, pp. 94-451), the two classic pieces by Engels, Anti-Duehring and Dialectics of Nature (both in 1934), Marx’s small but significant work, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1937), two of his early polemical works, The Poverty of Philosophy (with Virendra Chattopadhyaya) published in 1960, and The Hoily Family, Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks, vol. 38 in the his Collected Works (1963). He was also associated with Marx-Engels Collected Works Projectas long as he was alive. Some people of course would recognize him as the brother of Rajani Palme Dutt, the famous author of several significant historical works including India To-day. But to a large number of readers, Clemens’s claim to be remembered is as translator, and nothing else.
  However, this is highly unfair, for Clemens was more than a translator. However spectacular his credit may be for having translated both from German and Russian with equal felicity, works ranging from politics to philosophy, the man was no less colourful than any communist connected with the Third International. A look at his life printed in this book or a glance at the entry on the web will reveal the range and significance of his activities. He was a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (now defunct). In the registration form for 1955 his card number is given as 00/3. Iin place of Date of Joining Party, he writes ‘foundation’. He was also a member of the National Union of Journalists. Moreover, he was one of the founders of Labour Monthly, which was edited by his brother, Rajani. Right from its foundation in 1921, Clemens contributed articles and book reviews dealing with India, her struggle for Independence, the strike movement, the role and leadership of the Indian working class, Indian peasant through official spectacles, some lessons of the wool and textile struggle, and the colonial question and war. He also wrote on Italian Fascism (1943), the French political situation (1944) and War moves over the Middle East (1959), as also on the significance of Charles Darwin (1959) and even about the theories of alienation (1972).

   No name/s of the editor/s is/are given by the publishers of the book under review. So, it is to be assumed that they themselves conceived the plan, searched, found, selected and succeeded in printed the 14 essays from Clemens Dutt’s not very small list of writings – all relating to India published in Labour Monthly between 1925 and 1929. The publishers have rightly regretted:
Unfortunately, unlike R.P.D, C.P.D’s role in the history Indo-British communism is never adequately discussed or critically evaluated. He has been mentioned in passing in a number of histories of the British Communist Party as having a function in Indian affairs in the 1920s, but his unparalleled role as an organizer and propagandist is never mentioned. His name appears in countless editions of the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin as translator, but nobody cares to know about his colourful political life and education. Even after rendering such great service to the International and the Indian communist movements, he remains an unsung figure.

R B Enterprises, Kolkata, deserve to be congratulated on publishing this book. May we hope that in near future they would also bring out a selection of C.P.D’s works which would include,  among other things, his review of V. Gordon Childe’s Social Worlds of Knowledge which begins famously with: ‘This Hobhouse Memorial Trust Lecture, with its rather unintelligible title . . .’ (Labour Monthly, June 1950, p.288)?

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Oct 23, 2019

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya [email protected]

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