Rajani Palme Dutt



Dutt, Rajani Palme (1896-1974)

Born in 1896, Dutt was a leading figure in the Communist Party of Great Britain from the beginning and for most of his life. His father was an Indian doctor living in Britain and his mother was Swedish, a relative of Olaf Palme, a former Prime Minister of Sweden.

A brilliant student, and unexpected cartoonist, Dutt was suspended from Oxford for opposing the First World War and, in 1920, joined the newly formed Communist Party. He founded and edited the magazine Labour Monthly—not an official Party journal—from 1921 until his death. Dutt married Salme Murrik, a Comintern functionary, early in life. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the CPGB from 1923 until 1965, and was the party’s chief theoretician for many years, being the author of many books. He also played an especially important role in assisting the Communist Party of India in becoming established in its early years.

Throughout, Dutt was especially vigilant over loyalty to the Soviet Union. In 1939, when Harry Pollitt initially supported Britain’s entry into World War II, it was Dutt who was foremost on the central committee in arguing the line that the war should be opposed, which resulted in Pollitt’s temporary resignation as General Secretary. Dutt also differed with the Communist Party’s opposition to the Warsaw Pact intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. By this stage, he had retired from party leadership roles but remained a member until his death in 1974.

From Graham Stevenson

Further Reading: R. Palme Dutt Archive