About the Book
In February 1933, a seriously ill and emaciated prisoner was carried out of an ambulance on a stretcher and put on a ship about to sail from Bombay to Europe. When the same man boarded a KLM fight in Calcutta for Europe in November 1937, he was the president elect of the Indian national congress. The year 1933 to 1937 witnessed the transformation of a radical leader into a statesman. This volume brings together the letters, articles, and speeches from a fascinating though somewhat unusual and relatively neglected, phase of the career of Subhas Chandra Bose. An extraordinarily wide array of topics and themes are touched upon and explored in his works of this period imperialism, nationalism, fascism, communism, psychology, philosophy, spiritually, urban planning, travel Gandhi, Ireland, love and more.
About the Author
Sisir Kumar Bose (1920-2000) founded the netaji research bureau in 1957 and was its guiding spirit. A participant in the Indian freedom struggle, he was imprisoned by the British. After independence he wrote as well as edited biographies, memoirs, monographs and research papers on netaji’s life and times.
Sugata Bose is Gardiner professor of history at Harvard University. He is the author of several books on economic, social and political history including a hundreds horizons the Indians ocean in the age of global empire and his majesty’s opponent Subhas Chandra Bose and Indian struggle against empire.
In February 1933, a seriously ill and emaciated prisoner was carried out of an ambulance on a stretcher and put on the ship S.S. Gange that was about to sail from Bombay to Europe. When the same man boarded a KLM flight in Calcutta for Europe in November 1937, he was the President-elect of the Indian National Congress. The years 1933 to 1937 witnessed the transformation of a radical leader into a statesman. This volume brings together the letters, articles, and speeches from a fascinating, though somewhat unusual and relatively neglected, phase of the career of Subhas Chandra Bose. An extraordinarily wide array of topics and themes are touched upon and explored in his works of this period-imperialism, nationalism, fascism, communism, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, urban planning, travel, Gandhi, Ireland, love, and more.
A greater part of these years of enforced exile in Europe (in particular from March 1933 to March 1936) were spent as an unofficial ambassador of India's freedom. Despite being in poor health and having to undergo a gall-bladder operation in Vienna, Subhas Chandra Bose travelled tirelessly across the continent, organizing and addressing bilateral friendship associations in various European countries as well as Indian student organizations in different European cities. He visited Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Rumania, Switzerland; Turkey, and Yugoslavia. An itinerary of his travels can be reconstructed on the basis of his numerous letters to Naomi C. Vetter. He returned to India briefly in 1934 on learning that his father' was critically ill-arriving too late to see him alive-and went back to Europe soon after the Funeral. In March 1936, he was placed under immediate arrest by the British authorities upon his return to Bombay in defiance of a government ban. He spent a year in detention and was permitted to return to active political life only after the provincial elections of April 1937 under the 1935 Government of India Act, of which Bose was a strong critic. Mahatma Gandhi's choice of Sub has Chandra Bose as Congress President became known at the time of the meeting of the All India Congress Committee in Calcutta in October 1937. The following month, of his own volition and with Gandhi's blessings, he left on a trip to Europe. Between 1933 and 1936 Bose had been given to believe that he was barred from visiting Britain. On this occasion he included a visit to London and had meetings with British political leaders, especially those belonging to the Labour Party.
Two books written by Subhas Chandra Bose in this period have been published already as volumes 1 and 2 of the collected works. These are an Indian pilgrim, his unfinished autobiography written during a ten-day stay in Badgastein, Austria, in 1937, and the Indian struggle, his study of the Indian independence movement since 1920, written in 1934. In addition to his political views expressed in many of the nearly 200 letters published here, this volume contains a number of Bose's major political essays. The most detailed exposition of his political philosophy prior to his presidential address at Haripura is the speech-often referred to as 'the London thesis'-entitled 'The Anti Imperialist Struggle and Samyavada delivered in absentia at a political conference in London on 10 June 1933. It contains an appreciation and critique of Gandhian Satyagraha and an enunciation of the ideal of Samyavada. Attracted by European political experiments in socialism, Bose nevertheless preferred to use the old, Buddhist, Indian term to articulate his ideology of a socialism suited to Indian conditions, one that invoked equality in an atmosphere of balance and harmony.
Throughout his European sojourn Bose was a keen student of international politics. While he was somewhat impressed by the organizational prowess of fascist (and communist) parties and movements, he developed what Kitty Kurti has described as a 'deep contempt' for Nazis in Germany. He made repeated public protests against racism in Germany, especially anti-Indian racism. On his departure from Germany in early 1936 he denounced the 'new nationalism' in a letter to Dr Thierfelder as not only 'narrow and selfish, but arrogant'. In a letter to Kitty Kurti in 1937 he regarded the Japanese to be 'the British of the East'. Like Gandhi and Tagore, he seemed to have held a slightly more favourable view of Italy under Mussolini-'whatever one thinks' of the man as he pm it to Naomi Vetter-but he did have brushes with the Italian authorities. Bose's interpretations of the rapidly changing scene of international relations in the 1930s can be found in his letters to Amiya Chakravarti and his essays on 'Europe-Today and Tomorrow' and 'Japan's Role in the Far East', among others. Always lurking at the back of the mind of this staunch anti-imperialist was a search for points of weakness in Britain's worldwide imperial domination.
A high point of his years of exile in Europe was his visit to Ireland during which he had three meetings in Dublin with Eamon de Valera. His interest in Ireland is evident from his letters to E. Woods and his articles 'The Visit to Dublin: A Note' and 'Impressions of Ireland'. Bose's favourite European city was undoubtedly Vienna and he took a special interest in the politics of its socialist municipality. Bose's abiding concern about municipal affairs and the development of Calcutta is reflected in his letters to Santosh Kumar Basu and A.K. Fazlul Huq and his article 'Vienna, Prague, Warsaw and Berlin'. Czechoslovakia is a country whose politics and culture Bose found particularly fascinating. He developed a personal rapport with the Czech President Edouard Benes and the scholar of India Professor V. Lesny. He enjoyed visiting Czech health resorts and wrote an article on 'Karlsbad and Other Watering Places of Czechoslovakia.
While showing unflinching dedication to promoting the cause of Indian independence, Subhas Chandra Bose took pure joy in travelling and discovering new places and people. He found the time to reflect and write on a great variety of subjects. He wrote about religion to Dilip Kumar Roy and Anil Chandra Ganguly, psychoanalysis, Jung and Freud to Kitty Kurti and political philosophy in his exchanges with Romain Rolland. He showed great support and solicitude to Jawaharlal Nehru during the critical illness of his wife Kamala and gave full vent to his light-hearted humour as well as profound humaneness in his letters to his sister-in-law Bivabati Bose and to Mr. and Mrs. Dharmavir and their daughter Sita Dharmavir. After his release from detention in 1937 he spoke and wrote more directly on various aspects of Indian politics. Of particular interest to students of modern history and politics would be his article on 'The Pros and Cons of Office Acceptance' and his statements on Bengal and Punjab.
Although Subhas Chandra Bose's years of exile contributed much to the development of his personality and qualities of leadership, his absence from India and Bengal was much to the detriment of nationalist politics. This was more so since from 1932 to 1936 his brother and closest political comrade Sarat Chandra Bose was also in prison. Not only was their boldness of vision sorely missed during the second phase of the civil disobedience and revolutionary movements between 1932 and 1934, but no other leader had their generosity and foresight to stem the deterioration in Hindu-Muslim relations during these critical years. Several setbacks had been suffered already on these fronts by the time the Bose brothers returned to the centre stage of Indian politics and tried to turn matters around.
The years of Subhas Chandra Bose's enforced European exile have not been studied as intensively as some other phases of his life and politics. Interested readers should consult the following studies for more information and analysis on the period 1933-7: Leonard A. Gordon, brothers against the raj: a biography of Indian nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (Delhi and New York, 1990), chapter 7 entitled 'Ambassador of India in Bondage'; Krishna Bose, Itihaser sandhane (In Search of History), in Bengali (Calcutta, 1973) and Sisir K. Bose, et al (eds.), a beacon across Asia: a biography of Subhas Chandra Bose (Calcutta, 1973), chapter 2. There is also Kitty Kurtis vivid memoir of meetings and conversations in the mid-1930s, Subhas Chandra Bose as I knew him (Calcutta, 1969).
One important set of letters written by Subhas Chandra Bose between 1933 and 1937 is not part of this volume. In early 1934 Bose met the woman whom he was later to marry. Emilie Schenkl assisted him when he wrote the Indian struggle in 1934 and in his political activities in Europe between 1933 and 1936. Bose corresponded with her during his travels in Europe and wrote very frequently after his return to India in 1937. These and other letters to Emilie Schenkl written in the post-1937 period constitute the separate, special volume 7 of the collected works.
The editors wish to thank all friends and colleagues of Subhas Chandra Bose who deposited his letters to them in the archives of the Netaji Research Bureau. Particular mention must be made of the late Naomi C. Vetter whose collection formed one of the earliest and most precious set of documents preserved by the Bureau. Many friends in Europe helped in the gathering of materials. Dr Miloslav Krasa, formerly Director of the Oriental Institute in Prague, was especially helpful with papers in Czechoslovakia. The late Dr Alexander Werth and Dr Lothar Frank rendered sterling service in Germany. Krishna Bose and Leonard A. Gordon, who know this period in Subhas Chandra Bose's life better than anyone else, made sure that this volume is as definitive as possible. Mr. Naga Sundaram's intricate knowledge of the archives is an extraordinary resource which the editors have drawn upon in full measure. Mr. Kartik Chakraborty typed many early drafts of the manuscript diligently. Sarmila Bose and Sumantra Bose have supported this enterprise at various stages. The Editors wish to thank again Netaji"s wife Emilie Schenkl and their daughter Anita Pfaff for having assigned the copyright in all of Bose's works to the Bureau and for the encouragement they have always given to the Bureau's work. The Bureau is especially pleased to have an agreement with Oxford University Press, Delhi, for the distribution of this and other volumes of the Collected Works and wishes to thank Mr. RukunAdvani of for his interest and support. Finally, it remains to mention that the publication of this volume has been supported by a grant from the Ministry of Education of the Government of India.
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