Shirin M Rai and Anand Prakash: Indian Debates on the International Left: Selected Writings of Lajpat Rai (2021)

About the book

The book will specifically contribute to the Left historiography through revealing the arc of international communist debates presented here. By rendering visible the issues that affected communist parties and state socialist societies, through the writings of an insider/outsider, we can revisit the history of the Left in India.

The book will shed new light on the Indian Left’s engagement with international communist debates. Rai’s interest was in the sustainability of socialist ideas and ideals through an honest critical engagement. In a time of an entrenchment of neoliberalism, populism thriving posing grave challenges for the majority of the people, we need a critique of capitalism that is able to think outside the box and connect the national with the international and be at the same time, self-critical. We find clues to such a politics in the writings of Lajpat Rai; he is fiercely critical of the lapses that occurred in the thinking of Communist parties and particularly in that of their leaders and impatient with the deliberate double talk. He wanted scholars and left activists to rethink established leftist positions and seek inspiration in experiment and creative thought.

The contemporary relevance of these debates is significant as the Left finds itself largely without a sharp response to the rise of right-wing populism in India; a failure of the Left to recognize challenges emanating from a strongly integrated and organized finance capital on the one hand, and the increasingly self-aware identity politics on the other. Democratic opposition rather than a bureaucratized thinking needs to be the backbone of any meaningful Left struggle. The book underlines the spirit of debate and the role of the Left intelligentsia in comprehending from a sharply egalitarian socialist angle the ever-shifting paradigms of an unstable world and helping bring about progressive change.

Table of contents


Introduction: Many Shades of Red: A personal reflection on the life and times of Lajpat Rai

Shirin M Rai

PART I: Dilemmas and Challenges for the Left Intellectual

  1. The Left Intellectual
  2. Making Best of Both Worlds
  3. Responsibility of the Intellectual

PART II: Debates among the International Left Parties: The Challenge to Conformity

  1. Traditional Communist Parties
  2. From Polycentrism to Disarray?
  3. Proletarian Internationalism and the Socialist Camp

PART III: Latin American Movements: The Rise and Fall of the Left

  1. Cuba’s Way
  2. Castro Unmasks Peking
  3. Cuba: Pressures to Conform
  4. Peaceful Transition to Socialism: The Prospect in Chile
  5. Responses to Chilean Coup
  6. Uruguay: Rule by Military Proxy

PART IV: Indochina and the USA: Solidarities and Betrayals

  1. Vietnam and the Socialist World
  2. Vietnam and the ‘Third Communist Front’
  3. Vietnam: Whither the Paris Peace Accords
  4. Nixon’s Tactics in Indochina


About the author and editors

Lajpat Rai taught Economics at Zakir Hussain College, University of Delhi. He was the author of Latin America: A socio-economic study. He wrote many articles in journals and magazines of the Left on issues of Left politics in India and the international communist movement. He was a peace activist, working to re-establish relations between India and China through his work with the Indo-China Friendship Society, of which he was president for several years.

Shirin M Rai is Professor in the department of Politics and International Studies and the Director of the Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development. Her latest book is Performing representation: Women members in the Indian parliament (with Carole Spary), 2019. She is currently working on a book – Depletion: The human costs of caring.

Anand Prakash taught English Literature in Hansraj College, Delhi University. His published books include Marxist Literary Theory; Wuthering Heights: An interpretation; Muktibodh in our time (co-authored, Lokmitra); Text and performance: A theoretical view (co-authored). His edited volumes include Approaches to literary theory: Marxism; Nineteenth century thought; Modern Indian thought; Interventions; and Republicanism in Shakespeare.

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