MN ROY: The efforts of many Indian revolutionaries are being discussed when it comes to nation-building. We have a great history of leaders who were political militants and philosophers at the same time. Manabendra Nath Roy was the most successful Indian philosopher of the 20th century and a great speaker. He left India in 1915 for an anti-colonial rebellion in search of arms. In India, the idea of communism was not known till the time he brought it. He is known as the “Father of Indian Communism”.
Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, who changed his name later as Manabendra Nath Roy, was born on 21 March 1887 at Arbalia in Bengal. He was born in the family of priests. When in 1905, the partition of Bengal has announced it led to the birth of many radical revolutionaries along with Nath. His political career started at the age of 14 with an underground group called Anushilan Samiti. Later, he helped in uplifting the Jugantar Group under Jatin Mukherji.
The idea to use Germany:
His life went in flying from country to country with fake passports and changed the name in order to cause rebel against Britishers. When he left India in 1915 it was the time of World War I. The task to obtain funds and arms were given to Nath. His idea was to take arms collection from Germany in order to create insurgency against the colonial rule. But he was not able to secure arms and went to different places like Malay, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Korea, and China. Then, at last, he visited San Francisco, Unites States in 1916. During this time, his organization was destroyed in India along with the death of his leader.
The idea of Communism:
This is the phase when he renamed himself and thought to achieve something bigger and useful. Immediately he fled to California near Stanford University. Here he met Evelyn Trent his future wife, a graduate student at Stanford University.
He went to New York and started visiting the New York Public Library. He gained an interest in reading a book about Socialism. With his keen interest in socialism, he accepted it except its materialistic approach. Later, he got the idea of materialist philosophy also and he became a communist.
His major turn was started when he was in Mexico in 1920. There was the second Conference of Communist International. Many scholars were there. Lenin circulated his thesis and told delegates to criticize it. With Roy’s criticism, he urged him to write another draft for him. This led to making him superior in Communist International. He became a member of the four bodies of the Comintern in 1926.
Between these phases, he tried to turn Indian revolutionaries into Communists. He started convincing people that the only path towards liberation is communism. The Communist Party of India was constructed by him. He used large quantities of journals to publish this idea. He put forward the idea of economic progress that would not exploit the working class and lead to the betterment of masses. This gave the way for many workers and peasant movements. The outbreak of the Civil Disobedience Movement could be the episode that was responsible for the decline of communism in India.
In 1927, Roy made his visited China as a delegate of Communist International but the mission faced failure. In 1929, he was no more a member of Comintern.
His return to India: Roy’s Humanism
This episode was very empathetic for Roy. He returned in December 1930 and got arrested in July 1931 for the next 6 years. He utilized this time to study more systematically. His future wife Ellen Gottschalk from Germany helped him at her best. She was his best companion for the next years and gave him every publication to read and study. He re-examined Marxism. There were writings that he wrote in jail.
Communism and Capitalism disappointed Roy so New Humanism for him is now the only solution for individual freedom. There must be an economic reorganization of society. He considered himself a humanist after criticizing the values of Marxism. According to him if there would be a feeling of morality towards human beings than only any democracy can become efficacious. There is sovereignty in every individual and man is important with his aspirations. Roy’s Humanism is different from the French and German humanism of the 19th century. It depends on proper scientific, sociological and philosophical grounds. It openly challenged the state power that it has no right to impose absolute power on man. Social forces like human intelligence and aggregate of actions are most robust and substantial. There are rational and logical grounds for his theory which proved humanism is cosmopolitan in nature. The scope of modern knowledge is always witnessed in new humanism.
He also prepared various radical principles of democracy. In 1947, he published New Humanism- a Manifesto with 22 theses.
MN Roy disagreement with Marxism:
Roy did a critical analysis of Marxism in his own way. Undoubtedly, he praised Marx many times as a lover of freedom but rejected many of his points or sometimes modified them. According to him, the materialism of Marx is unreal and it neglected the creative role of human beings. The development of a society can not eventuate without human intelligence. There should be a parallel path of both ideas and physical materials. Marx’s economic interpretation of history was seemed to Roy as incomplete because before economical needs there are biological and every individual wants means of subsistence. Marxism holds the fact that human nature is not constant and it is also disapproved by Roy. He wanted Marx to consider 18th-century materialism that defines constant human nature. There are many clashes between them based on the sociology of class struggle and issue of the middle class.
The idea of the Constituent Assembly:
Constituent Assembly was composed of representatives who drafted the Constitution for India after Independence. For the very first time, this idea was proposed by MN Roy in 1934. He was the promoter of radical democracy. In 1935 it gained an official and formal demand by India National Congress. His broad mind and influence made everybody believe that it would be so crucial. In August 1940, it was accepted.
In 1946, he wanted to establish a sense of renaissance in Indians and started an Indian Renaissance Movement. In his last few years, he worked on the last major intellectual publication called Reason, Romanticism, and Revolution. This brought him closer to many Humanist groups. They all constituted an International Humanist and Ethical Union. However, under some circumstances, he was unable to in its inauguration at Amsterdam. On January 25, 1954, he died of a heart attack. His total lifespan is of 67 years.
Every prominent personality receives much critical analysis for their works so does MN Roy. The most significant ground to criticize is his Theory of New Humanism. Undoubtedly, it was based on human rights and their freedom but it is too idealistic and over-ambitious. Roy claimed that all living entities got their origins out of matter. But there was no logical proof to prove his claim. Roy didn’t want to use religion because it is a full-fledged hindrance in the development of intellectual thinking. His theories were disapproved of being utopian and unrealistic. On this side, he received a serious disagreement as religion promotes cultural, intellectual and overall growth. The ideas of radical humanism are more or less like imposing some parameters that should be followed otherwise no modernity would be achieved. Marxism provides an empirical account of knowledge and he seemed to neglect this account. Ultimately, it is seen against the creative role of human beings.
Creativity was the biggest weapon of Roy and he wrote so many important books using it. His years in jail were so fruitful. His letters to his wife were published as “Letters from jail” that outlined his thinking during those days. According to him, Materialism is so abstract in its epistemology. Roy supported his communist ideology through “Vanguard” newspaper since 1922 for the number of years. He gave many autobiographical and philosophical books.
His most chief and indispensable publications are:
- India in Transition
- What do we want, the labour party
- Open Letter to C.R. Das and Programme for the Indian National Congress
- Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China
- India’s problems and its solutions
- Rise, Romanticism, and Revolution
- Science and Philosophy
- On the congress constitution
- National government or people’s government
Materialism is a philosophy that everything including feelings, thoughts, and will be explained in terms of matter and we need to be more concerned with material rather than spiritual or intellectual values. Roy was the advocate for materialism because he strongly believed that “it is the only possible philosophy” as it contributes towards the real knowledge of nature as it exists. He insisted people live with the simplicity that would generate every joy in life. He molded the concept of traditional materialism into the contemporary scientific form. Roy interpreted Indian culture from a sociological perspective. To him materialism in Marxism is groundless. He was very much inspired by Bankim and said seclusion from worldly affairs does not work rather more active participation in affairs is usually beneficial. Even Vivekananda inspired and use this idea to advance the idea of Hinduism and Indian culture. He promoted free-thinking and struggle against colonization. As a materialist, he differed from vague glorification. In the most crux vision, he wanted to rename his materialism as “physical realism”.
Innovation was in the blood of MN Roy. He was a radical activist, confident leader, renowned writer, and political theorist. His contribution both nationally and internationally is highly acknowledged. With his recommendation of communism to Indians as a weapon of freedom struggle till the concept of radical Humanism, he was praised a lot. He coordinated with so many extremists in India and formed many free-thinking organizations. All-round development of human beings is the stepping stone towards a modern society. He supported renaissance with a colossal philosophical legacy.