Rajarshi Dasgupta works on the political and intellectual history of modern Bengal. His major area of research concerns the vernacular reconstruction of Marxism in the late colonial period, which is the topic of a forthcoming book. His more recent work has tried to engage with the afterlife of the partition refugees in Bangladesh, and their place in the making of the postcolonial nation-state. He is currently a Fellow in Political Science at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta.
The paper aims to do a revisionist reading of communist politics in the late colonial India, particularly at the time of its foundation in Bengal, where it has turned hegemonic of late. The early years are often seen as a contrast when communist politics purely meant revolution. However, I would like to argue that communist politics was equally about the construction of a certain selfhood for a section of the middle class, in keeping with their social hierarchy. The paper will talk about what went into the making of such a selfhood I shall refer to as ascetic masculinity, in terms of practices central to communist lifestyle. A selection of sources ranging from activist memoirs to a forgotten dispute in the communist party will help to outline this politics, which remains untroubled in much of postcolonial scholarship. Apart from offering a nuanced understanding of the history of communist movement in India, such a reading will imply a reconfiguration of our experience of modern subjectivity in terms of power seldom if ever recognized.