The Communist Party of Great Britain archive

Rajani Palme Dutt papers
dutt, ranjani
Date published: 
November 2008

Series CP/IND/DUTT: The papers of R. Palme Dutt (1896-1974), theoretician, thesis draughtsman and unfailing guardian of the 'international line', are one of the most important deposits.
Dutt had many critics, who alleged that he was concerned less with collective endeavour and effectiveness than with ensuring that his own views were recorded, for future vindication if not always immediate enactment. There is an interesting parallel in this regard with criticisms sometimes made of Tony Benn by Labour Party colleagues, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Benn's and Dutt's are among the best documented careers in their respective parties. Already, before the opening of the CPGB archives, there were made accessible in the British Library some thirty-odd bulky volumes of Dutt's draft theses, articles and correspondence. To these should be added not just the twenty-five boxes catalogued as Dutt's papers, but many of the files
on party congresses and leading committees which are in fact Dutt's own. For
the formal party line, Dutt's papers are a major source; and for the years 1924-36, when Dutt lived in Brussels but served from afar on the CPGB's central committee, they provide a particularly full record of his necessarily written interventions. Dutt had a formidable intellect, whether or not he always employed it wisely, and was also prepared to propound his beliefs in wider intellectual milieux. There is consequently an illustrious correspondence, sometimes grimly revelatory of his Stalinist mentality, that takes in literary, cultural and political figures like Max Eastman, Bertrand Russell, Harold Laski and Augustus John. There is also much that attests to Dutt's active anti-colonialism, as well as the beginnings of an autobiography and materials relating to his wife, Salme. More sensitive documents relating to Dutt's early manoeuvrings with Salme and Harry Pollitt were entrusted to Pollitt's official biographer, John Mahon, and are now available in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford.