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Living in Marxist Dream: A Disillusioned Long March

Uttara Chakraborty

By Anuradha Roy
Primus Books, New Delhi, 2014, Rs. 1595.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 2 February 2016

This book as the author claims ‘draws upon her PhD dissertation written more than a quarter of a century ago’. She fears that the definition of ‘cultural history at that time was rather narrow and the broad spectrum that is attached today to this branch of historical study was unknown those days’. She apologizes for the narrative style of her compendium which she admits is ‘overburdened with data’ and is apprehensive about the ‘readability of the book’ because she admits that her ‘youthful enthusiasm as a researcher’ led to a kind of ‘data fetishism’. Anuradha Roy need not be anxious about this; the book with its overwhelming information and exhaustive narrative reaches the status of a primary source. After all, the historian is essentially a story-teller narrating the tales of a past time. One may however mildly wonder at the title of the book. Should the title Cultural Movement of the Communists be more appropriate? Communism is the application of the theory of Marxism. The Marxists who believed in implementing the theory into a movement, whether political or cultural, should necessarily be Communists. Anuradha narrates the story of the activists who at a significant time in Bengal’s / India’s history began a movement with the aim to radicalize society. This radicalization should of course be according to their belief through a Communist revolution. The aspiration to change the society was to be accompanied by a change in cultural sensitivity. The activists therefore were to be vanguards not only of a political movement, but of a new cultural movement as well. So writers, artists, singers composers and of course the actors and dramatists having the same earnest belief in Marxism were all involved in creating, presaging phenomenal changes in their respective fields. As Raphael Samuel observed in his History Workshop Journal the activist is also the historian for they craft history for the future. Anuradha is bringing into light these activist-historians and trying to situate them in the narrative of Communism in Bengal. The book is divided into four long chapters including a longish introduction and a conclusion. The first chapter begins with a comprehensive discussion of the background against which the Communist movement was broadening out towards an extensive political vista with a cultural agenda. The period 1936–1952 were critical years which experienced a fascination with the Soviet Union, the rise of Fascism/Nazism and the Second World War. However ...

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