R. Palme Dutt
Palme Dutt, 1943.
4th 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)
Highgate, London
Political partyCommunist (CPGB)
(m. 1922; died 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, and briefly served as its fourth general secretary during World War II from October 1939 to June 1941. His classic book India Today heralded the Marxist approach in Indian historiography.[1]

Early life

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] Dr. Upendra Dutt belonged to the family of Romesh Chunder Dutt.[4] Anna Palme was a great aunt of the future Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme.[5] 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.[6]

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.[6]

Political career

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India Today, 1947 Edition, published by People’s Publishing House, Bombay, India.
India Today, 1947 Edition, published by People’s Publishing House, Bombay, India.

Dutt made his first connections with the Socialist Movement in England during his school days, before the outbreak of the First World War. He was expelled from Oxford University in October 1917 for organising a socialist meeting. He joined the British Labour Movement as a full time worker in 1919, when he joined the Labour Research Department, a left-wing statistical bureau. Together with Harry Pollitt he was one of the founder members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1920. In 1921 he founded a monthly magazine called Labour Monthly, [4] a publication that he edited until his death.

In 1922, Dutt was named the editor of the party's weekly newspaper, the Workers' Weekly.[6]

Dutt was on the executive committee of the CPGB from 1923 to 1965 and was the party's chief theorist for many years.[7]

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.[6] 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.[6] 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 the Stalinist line. In 1939, when the CPGB General Secretary Harry Pollitt supported the United Kingdom entering World War II, Palme Dutt promoted Joseph 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."[8]

After Stalin's death, Palme Dutt's reaction to Nikita Khrushchev's Secret Speech played down its significance, with Dutt arguing that Stalin's "sun" unsurprisingly contained some "spots".[9] 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[10] 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 1970s, recipients of which "included Rajani Palme Dutt".[11]

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.[12]

India Visit

RPD Portrait at PPH, Jhandewalan, Delhi

R. Palme Dutt was of Indian lineage from his father’s side. The British Indian Government in 1946, permitted RPD for the first time since 1921 to visit India. He visited India as a special correspondent for the Daily Worker. During this four months long visit he spoke at several rallies in different cities of India, organised by Communist Party of India. During this time he also interacted with many workers of the Communist Party, and also senior leaders including PC Joshi. During this visit he also met several important leaders of India including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Stafford Cripps. He was also invited by newly built All India Radio for a broadcast. [13] [14] His visit had such a profound effect upon Indian Communists, that when they established the headquarter of their “People’s Publishing House (PPH)” in Jhandewalan of Delhi, between 1956 - 1958,[15][16] they named the building as “R. Palme Dutt Bhawan” in the honour of RPD.[17] On the second floor stairs of this building, hung a portrait of RPD, that was clicked in the year 1946. This photograph was hung there until very recently, and is now perhaps moved to CPI headquarters at Ajoy Bhawan.



  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. ^ a b Dutt, R. Palme (1947). India Today (Dust Jacket, Blurb biography). Raj Bhuvan, Sandhurst Road, Bombay 4: People’s Publishing House.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  5. ^ Henrik Berggren, Underbara dagar framför oss. En biografi över Olof Palme, Stockholm: Norstedts, 2010; p.659
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Francis Beckett Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party, London: John Murray, 1995
  8. ^ Roberts, Edwin A. (1997). The Anglo-Marxists: A Study in Ideology and Culture. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780847683963.
  9. ^ Rajani Palme Dutt – Biography Archived 15 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ J. Callaghan, Rajani Palme Dutt. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1993.
  11. ^ Geoff Andrews, Endgames and New Times, The Final Years of British Communism 1964–1991, Lawrence and Wishart, London 2004, p. 94
  12. ^ Collection Catalogues and Descriptions, Labour History Archive and Study Centre, archived from the original on 13 January 2015, retrieved 12 February 2015
  13. ^ "RPD Travel Notes" (PDF). Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  14. ^ "RPD India Visit" (PDF). Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  15. ^ "End page Address Section" (PDF). New Age Weekly. October 1956.
  16. ^ "New Age Advertisement Address" (PDF). New Age Weekly: 6. October 1958. Retrieved 27 March 2024.
  17. ^ Gupt, Anand (2007). Delhi ki Communist Party ka Itihaas (History of Communist Party of Delhi). Urdu Bazaar, Jama Masjid, Delhi 110006: Communist Party of India, Delhi State Committee. p. 70.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  18. ^ Dutt, R. Palme. "R. Palme Dutt Archive". marxists.org. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  19. ^ Dutt, Rajani Palme (1931). Capitalism or socialism in Britain?. Communist Party of Great Britain.
  20. ^ Dutt, Rajani Palme (1939). Why this war?. Communist Party of Great Britain.
Media offices Preceded byNew publicationThomas A. Jackson as editor of The Communist Editor of Workers' Weekly 1923–1924 Succeeded byJ. R. Campbell Preceded byIdris Cox Editor of the Daily Worker 1936–1938 Succeeded byDave Springhall Party political offices Preceded byHarry Pollitt Acting General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1939–1941 Succeeded byHarry Pollitt