Left Book Club


The Left Book Club was established in the context of the rise of fascism in Europe and the economic depression, when the need for the dissemination of left-wing politics was keenly felt among British intellectuals. It was an immediate success on its establishment, with 6,000 subscriptions after a month and a membership of 40,000 by the end of its first year. With links to the Communist Party of Great Britain, the LBC was explicit in its advocacy of a left-wing politics. It published books on a wide range of subjects, ‘from farming to Freud to air-raid shelters to Indian independence’ (Laity, p. ix), aiming for accessibility and education. The titles, many of which were newly commissioned, were sold to LBC members at discounted prices. Despite its attempts to bring politics and literature to working-class people, its activists were largely privileged men and women. The LBC organized summer schools and trips (including to the Soviet Union) and held lectures and rallies focused on political events such as the Spanish Civil War, with members also hosting local meetings to discuss the books.

Clearly espousing an anti-imperial stance, the LBC published books by Rajani Palme Dutt and Ayana Angadi, as well as by Santha Rama Rau and Bhabani Bhattacharya. In late 1936, authorities in India began to intercept Left Book Club books despatched (via the Phoenix Book Company) to members in India on the grounds that they contained ‘extremist propaganda’, and the India Office requested reports on the LBC’s activities. Evidence suggests that there were LBC Indian student discussion groups (such as the one formed by Promode Ranjan Sen Gupta, who was under government surveillance), and later an Indian Branch of the LBC, and that these groups attempted to subvert the censorship of LBC material in India. Further, in late 1937, there is evidence that Victor Gollancz, supported by Nehru, was attempting to start a Left Book Club in India in order to circumvent the ban (L/PJ/12/504, pp. 8, 10–11, 18–19). 

Published works: 

There were LBC editions of over 200 works. These include:

Attlee, Clement, The Labour Party in Perspective (1937)

Barnes, Leonard, Empire or Democracy? A Study of the Colonial Question (1939)

Bhattacharya, Bhabani, So Many Hungers! (1947)

Brailsford, H. N., Why Capitalism Means War (1938)

Brailsford, H. N., Subject India (1943)

Brockway, Fenner, German Diary, 1946

Burns, Emile, What is Marxism? (1939)

Cole, G. D. H., The People’s Front (1937)

Cripps, Stafford The Struggle for Peace (1936)

de Palencia, Isabel, Smouldering Freedom: The Story of the Spanish Republicans in Exile (1946)

Deva, Jaya (Ayana Angadi) Japan’s Kampf (1942)

Dutt, R. Palme, World Politics, 1918–36 (1936)

Dutt, R. Palme, India Today (1940)

Gollancz, Victor (ed.), The Betrayal of the Left (1941)

Horrabin, J. F., An Atlas of Empire (1937)

Koestler, Arthur, Scum of the Earth (1941)

Laski, Harold, Faith, Reason and Civilisation (1944)

Marquard, Leopold, The Black Man’s Burden (1943)

Mulgan, John (ed.), Poems of Freedom (1938)

Orwell, George, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

Rao, Santha Rama, Home to India (1945)

Russell, A. G., Colour, Race and Empire (1944)

Snow, Edgar, Red Star Over China (1937)

Spender, Stephen, Forward from Liberalism (1937)

Strachey, John, The Theory and Practice of Socialism (1936)

Strachey, John, Federalism or Socialism? (1940)

Webb, Sidney and Webb, Beatrice, Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1937)

Woolf, Leonard, Barbarians at the Gate (1939)

Monthly journal: Left News


L/PJ/12/504, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 8

Secondary works: 

Dudley Edwards, Ruth, Victor Gollancz: A Biography (London, 1987)

Hodges, Sheila, Gollancz: The Story of a Publishing House, 1928–78 (London, 1978)

Laity, Paul (ed.), Left Book Club Anthology (London: Victor Gollancz, 2001)

Lewis, John, The Left Book Club: An Historical Record (London, 1970)


This file consists of correspondence and reports relating to the Left Book Club and its ‘Indian connections’, with information on the Britain-based Indians involved in the LBC, the connections between LBC activists and Indian anti-colonialists, and attempts to ban LBC material from entering India.

Date began: 
01 Feb 1936

A Left Book Club Discussion Group has been formed in London for Indian students, with Promode Ranjan SEN GUPTA, 7, Woburn Buildings, W.C., as secretary.

In this connection it may be stated that in the 22.5.37 issue of “Time and Tide” there was published a letter from Dharam Yash DEV. In it he protested against the censorship of books exercised by the Government of India, with particular reference to Left Book Club literature. He contended that books not normally banned in India are seized by Customs when they are imported in the L.B.C. edition.

Precise date began unknown: 
Key Individuals' Details: 

Rajani Palme Dutt (on the LBC panel of speakers), Victor Gollancz (founder and publisher), Harold Laski (commissioning editor), Sheila Lynd (worked for LBC), Betty Reid (worked for LBC), Emile Burns (on selection committee), John Strachey (instrumental in foundation of Club and commissioning editor).


This note on Indian students in Britain involved in the Left Book Club is suggestive of the way in which left-wing networks transgressed cultural and ‘racial’ boundaries, bringing Indians and Britons together in pursuit of their political ideals. The censorship of LBC material in India is further indicative of the intersection of the Communist ideals associated with the Club and the anti-colonial ideologies that were a threat to the Government of India. The protest against this censorship by Indians in Britain emphasizes the importance of Britain as a site of anti-colonial activism by South Asians.


Ayana Angadi (Jaya Deva) (his Japan’s Kampf was an LBC book), Bhabani Bhattacharya (his So Many Hungers! was an LBC book), Miss Bonnerji (Indian branch of the LBC), Amiya Bose (Indian branch of the LBC), Ben Bradley, Stafford Cripps (instrumental in foundation of Club), Dharam Yash Dev (wrote a letter in the 22/5/37 issue of Time and Tide protesting against the Government of India censorship of LBC books), Promode Ranjan Sen Gupta (organized a Left Book Club discussion group for Indian students in London), Mahmud-us-Zaffar Khan (Nehru’s personal secretary – liaised with Gollancz in relation to his attempt to set up an LBC in India), Cecil Day Lewis (spoke at LBC meetings), Jawaharlal Nehru (supported Gollancz’s attempts to set up an LBC in India), George Orwell (his The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia were LBC books), Sylvia Pankhurst (spoke at LBC meetings), Santha Rama Rau (her Home to India was an LBC book), Paul Robeson (spoke at LBC meetings), Ellen Wilkinson (supporter of the LBC).

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1948
Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/504, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Papers of Sir Victor Gollancz, Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

Precise date ended unknown: 


Henrietta Street
London, WC2E 8PW
United Kingdom
Involved in events details: 

LBC national rally, Royal Albert Hall, London, February 1937

Conference on civil liberties in India, London, 17 October 1937

Indian National Army Defence Committee


The formation of the Indian National Army Defence Committee was announced at a Subhas Chandra Bose memorial meeting held by the Indian Independence Union on 22nd September 1945 at Caxton Hall  (the same location where Udham Singh assassinated Michael O'Dwyer in 1940). It was set up to help raise money for a 'Subhas Memorial Fund' to assist families and members of the Indian National Army awaiting trial in India. The Fund was opened with donations of £300.00, which had been largely raised amongst the committee. The committee was in contact with the Indian National Congress and members of the Defence Committee in India and asked for the cooperation of all Indian organizations in the UK and abroad.

The Indian National Army Defence Committee also wanted to raise awareness of the Indian National Army and their part in India's independence struggle. It held a meeting at the Indian Workers' Association in Birmingham in November 1945. The Cambridge Majlis also set up an Indian National Army Defence Council. Its president was Subrata Roy Chaudhury.

The committees sought to raise funds so that the prisoners could secure the best possible defence team in their trial. In their appeals to the Indian community in Britain the committee described the former INA members as 'true patriots who had done what they thought best in the interests of India'.

Date began: 
22 Sep 1945
Key Individuals' Details: 

Subrata Roy Chaudhury (president), D. P. Choudhury (hon. treasurer), Dr D. N. Dutt (President). Dr M. D. Thakore (hon. secretary)


Swami Avyaktananda, Mrs Radha Rani Borkar, Karan Singh Chima, Mrs May Dutt, N. Ghose, Fazal Hossain, Akbar Ali Khan (IWA), Dr K. D. Kumria (Swaraj House), Mohan Lall, Ali Mohamed, Chai Jan Mohamed, Nianat Ali Nur, Dr K.M. Pardhy, Dr D. R. Prem, Maini Jagdish Rai, Dr Diwan Singh, D. V. Thamankar, Dr C. B. Vakil, Dr Sorab B. Warden.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/770, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras


46 Museum Street
London, WC1A 1JL
United Kingdom

Lawrence & Wishart


Lawrence & Wishart is a London-based publishing company. It was formed in 1936 through the merger of the Communist Party’s official publisher, Martin Lawrence, and the liberal and anti-fascist family-owned publisher Wishart. From its foundation, it specialized in publishing left-wing political fiction, drama and poetry, as well as non-fiction such as working-class histories and the works of Karl Marx, in the context of the economic depression, and the rise of fascism and the Second World War. It also produced the bi-annual literary anthology New Writing. After the War, it went on to publish early work by renowned leftist scholars including Eric Hobsbawm and Edward Thompson, and to translate the work of Antonio Gramsci.

In 1935, Wishart had published Mulk Raj Anand’s novel The Untouchable after it was rejected by some nineteen publishing houses. Its acceptance by Wishart was no doubt in part a product of the novel’s endorsement by E. M. Forster. Two of Anand’s subsequent novels were then taken on by Lawrence & Wishart, as was the work of Indian Communist Rajani Palme Dutt’s, whose brother Clemens translated work by Marx and Engels for the firm.

Published works: 

A selection of works published from 1936 to 1950:

Anand, Mulk Raj, Coolie (1936)

Anand, Mulk Raj, Two Leaves and a Bud (1937)

Beauchamp, Joan, Women Who Work (1937)

Britain Without Capitalists (1936)

Caudwell, Christopher, Illusion and Reality (1946)

Chen, Jack, Japan and the Pacific Theatre of War (1942)

Cornforth, Maurice, Science versus Idealism (1946)

Dutt, Rajani Palme, Britain in the World Front (1942)

Dutt, Rajani Palme, Britain’s Crisis of Empire (1950)

Engels, Friedrich, Dialectics of Nature, trans. Clemens Palme Dutt, preface by J. D. S. Haldane (1940)

Fox, Ralph, France Faces the Future (1936)

Gorky, Maksim, Culture and the People (1939)

Haldane, J. B. S., Science and Everyday Life (1939)

Klingender, Francis Donald, Marxism and Modern Art (1943)

Kuczynski, Jurgen, Hunger and Work: Statistical Studies (1938)

Lenin, V. I., Selected Works (1936-8)

Lenin, V. I., What is to be Done? (1944)

Lenin, V. I., Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1948)

Lindsay, Jack, A Handbook of Freedom (1939)

Marx, Karl, Selected Works, ed. by Clemens Palme Dutt (1942)

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, Selected Correspondence, 1846-1895 (1941)

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich, The Communist Manifesto [1933] (1948)

Pollitt, Harry, Serving My Time (1940)

Reeves, Joseph, A History of Rochdale Cooperation, 1844-1944 (19434)

Slater, Montagu, New Way Wins (1937)

Stalin, Joseph, Foundations of Leninism (1940)

Stalin, Joseph, Marxism and the National and Colonial Question (1947)

Wolton, Douglas G., Whither South Africa? (1947)

Date began: 
01 Jan 1936
Precise date began unknown: 

Mulk Raj Anand, Clemens Palme Dutt, Rajani Palme Dutt, Friedrich Engels, E. M. Forster, Ralph Fox, J. B. S. Haldane, V. I. Lenin, Jack Lindsay, Karl Marx, Harry Pollitt, Montagu Slater, Joseph Stalin.

Pulin Behari Seal


Pulin Behari Seal was born to Ganga Das Seal of Sadarghat, Chittagong, Bengal, in 1899. He came to Britain for higher education, attending the University of Cambridge where he studied mathematics. He quickly showed himself dedicated to the struggle for Indian independence, first attracting the attention of the authorities in 1922 when campaigning for the Lascar Welfare League.

After graduating from Cambridge, Seal sought employment without much success. He offered his services to the Labour MP George Lansbury, and applied for a research scholarship at the London School of Economics, proposing to write a thesis on the history of Ireland. His return to India in 1924 could well have been precipitated by a lack of funds. A few months later he was back in London as representative of the Swaraj Party and foreign correspondent of the Calcutta-based newspaper Forward (edited by C. R. Das), which later became New Forward and then Liberty.

On his return to England, Seal established himself firmly as a radical political activist as well as a journalist. In 1925, he debated successfully against Michael O’Dwyer on the subject of self-government in India at the University of Leeds Student Union. He was an active member of the London branch of the Indian National Congress, and highly critical of the Simon Commission Report, as well as the Round Table Conferences – both for being ‘anti-Indian’. In 1926, he founded the Oriental Press Service, a service for supplying Indian news to British and US publications and British news to Indian publications. This enabled him to disseminate information (and propaganda) between the two countries, potentially helping to forge links between the British Left and Indian activists. For example, in 1928, he sent photographs of Indian mill strikers and their families living in impoverished conditions for publication in one of the outlets of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Critical of the Labour Party (he claimed their attitude to India was no better than that of the Conservatives), as well as of less radical Indian organizations, Seal aligned himself more closely with the Communist Party, associating with Shapurji Saklatvala in particular. Yet evidence suggests his relationship with the CPGB also had its tensions. With other Indian activists, including Surat Alley and Sasadhar Sinha, he organized a committee to coordinate Indian political groups, the Indian National Committee, and held political meetings at the Café Indien (later known as the India and Burma Restaurant) in Leicester Square. He was also a leader, along with Subhas Chandra Bose’s nephew, Amiya Nath Bose, of the Committee of Indian Congressmen.

Seal was considered an ‘extremist’ and a deeply suspect character by the British Government, particularly because of his support of Subhas Chandra Bose and alleged pro-Axis leanings during the Second World War. He was on the list of people who should be arrested in the event of invasion – and was threatened with arrest in 1942 when the police discovered, in the possession of one Marie Brett Perring, documents reportedly written by Seal that ‘glorified’ Subhas Chandra Bose and alleged widespread disaffection in the Indian Army. In 1946, when Seal was back in India, a note was issued to all ports indicating that his arrival into Britain should be reported immediately (L/PJ/12/186, p. 145). He was also debarred from attending functions held under the auspices of the Office of the High Commission for India.

Seal travelled to and from Europe on numerous occasions, and worked as the diplomatic correspondent in England for the Independent French Agency during the early 1940s. He was also a writer, securing a contract deal with the publishing firm Sidgwick & Jackson for ‘An Indian Who’s Who’. In addition, he founded two travel companies: Orientourist Ltd and later the East-West Travel Company which organized luxury tours to India. Despite his obvious energy and ability to turn his hand to a range of tasks, he was often beset by financial difficulties, moving frequently between different flats or hotel rooms, with his wife Judith (Jessie) Stuart and their three children. In 1941, his failure to pay rates led to his arrest and the threat of imprisonment if the money was not forthcoming within seven days. Fortunately, one of Seal’s many connections – possibly one S. E. Runganathan, advisor to the secretary of state for India – paid his debt.


L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras, p. 141

Date of birth: 
11 Feb 1899

This Indian Political Intelligence file contains numerous reports on the political activities of Pulin Behari Seal from his arrival in Britain in the 1920s until the late 1940s when India became independent. The following extract is from a Metropolitan Police Report (no. 308, dated 10 October 1945).


Surat Alley, A. C. Bannerji, Vernon Bartlett, Duke of Bedford, Wedgewood Benn (Secretary of State for India), Amiya Nath Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose, Fenner Brockway, Reginald Bridgeman, Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee (Seal asked him for financial assistance), Khitish Chatterji, Gurdit Singh Dara, Motiram Gajanan Desai (Indian editor of the Sunday Worker), Clemens Palme Dutt, W. N. Ewer, David Thomas Raymond Jenkins, B. M. Jolly, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Dr J. Kanga, Vishna R. Karandikar, Krishna Datta Kumria, George Lansbury, Vajid Mahmood (lived with Seal for a period), Colonel C. l’Estrange Malone (former MP), Niharendu Data Mazumdar, S. P. Mitra, Art O’Brien (Irish Republican), Ambulal Jhaverbhai Patel (lived with Seal for a period), Andrew Rothenstein, K. B. Roy, M. N. Roy, Shapurji Saklatvala, B. Khalid Sheldrake, Sasadhar Sinha, Tarini Prasad Sinha, Soumyendra Nath Tagore (allegedly planned assassination attempt on Hitler, made a trip from Boulogne to Folkstone with Seal), Nathalal Jagivan Upadhyaya, J. Vaidya, C. B. Vakil.

Cafe Indien, Imperial Hotel (stayed there on visits to London when based in Wales), Independent French Agency, Indian Committee for Central European Refugees (secretary), Indian Journalists' Association Abroad (president), Indian Association, International News Service, League of Nations, National Trade Union Club, Sidgwick & Jackson.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Various Indian newspapers, including Forward

Various British newspapers

Various publications of the British Left, especially the Communist Party of Great Britain


Pulin Behari Seal…continues to reside with his family at 45, Gower Street, W.C. He has no regular employment, and is often impecunious; at the moment, however, he seems to be out of debt. He obtains money by hawking information in Fleet Street, and by borrowing as opportunity permits.

During the past few months, Seal has been taking an active part in various Indian extremist organisations, especially the Committee of Indian Congressmen and its subsidiary, the Council for the International Recognition of Indian Independence. He is president of the C.I.C., but since the return to India in October last of Amiya Nath Bose, the movement has almost ceased to have any influence in Indian politics in this country. Seal has become a discredited member of the Indian community, and even his former associates in the C.I.C have forsaken him.

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History (London: Pluto, 2002)


Seal’s poverty, referred to in numerous reports by the Indian Political Intelligence, is suggestive of the sacrifices he was prepared to make in the cause of Indian independence. Despite his privileged background and University of Cambridge degree, he was constantly struggling to make ends meet while conducting his campaigning, in various forms, for a free, independent India. His lack of popularity among other Indians in Britain, alluded to in the above report, emphasizes the different degrees of radicalism endorsed and practised by Indian activists, as well as the different factions that existed within this community. Despite the report’s dismissal of the Committee of Indian Congressmen, an organization that Seal led, Seal’s combination of journalism and activism nevertheless highlights the potential of the written word in general, as well as this particular means of communication, as a tool of transformative politics.

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/186, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

Involved in events: 

‘No More War’ demonstration, Hyde Park, 28 August 1923

Meetings of the London Branch of the Indian National Congress

Naval Disarmament Conference, 1930

Second World War

City of birth: 
Roshangiri, Chittagong, Bengal
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Roshangiri, Chittagong, Bengal
Current name country of birth: 


Redcliffe Gardens Earl's Court
London, SW5 0DU
United Kingdom
51° 29' 20.6124" N, 0° 11' 23.874" W
Bessborough Street
London, SW1V 2JD
United Kingdom
51° 29' 20.6304" N, 0° 8' 0.7332" W
Fulham Park Road
London, SW6 4LH
United Kingdom
51° 28' 23.4012" N, 0° 12' 27.6984" W
Precise date of death unknown: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1920
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

c. 1920 – May 1924, December 1924 onwards, with short periods spent in France and other European countries


26 Oxford Terrace, Edgware Road, London

49 Cambridge Terrace, Edgware Road, London

6 Beaufort Gardens, Brompton Road, London

45 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, London

17 Edith Grove, Chelsea, London

4 Hill Terrace, Great Orme, Llandudno

‘The Old Pioneer Stores’, Glan Conway, Denbighshire

Alhambra Hotel, Coram Street, London

47 Gwendwr Road, London

45 Gower Street, London

16 Woburn Square, London

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