Communist Party

League Against Imperialism


The roots of the League Against Imperialism (LAI) lay in the Second Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) in July 1920, which considered the formulation of a colonial policy, and included a debate between Lenin and Manabendra Nath Roy, founder of India’s Communist Party. Some years of debate over the viability of an international union to fight imperialism followed. A joint meeting of the Workers’ International Relief and the Committee Against Atrocities in Syria in February 1926 resulted in the formation of a League Against Colonial Oppression, a precursor to the LAI.

In Brussels in 1927 the LAI was officially founded in the presence of key international political figures, including Jawaharlal Nehru, General Secretary of the Indian National Congress. Shapurji Saklatvala had attended the meeting in the House of Commons to decide on the British delegation, but was not himself present in Brussels, although his name was added to the minutes. Messages of support for the LAI were sent by Albert Einstein, Victor Margueritte and M. K. Gandhi. A Sino-Indian declaration of solidarity, drafted by Nehru, was signed at the congress. The League’s stated aim was to ‘deter imperialist governments from oppressing weak nations’.

Just two months after the Brussels Congress the Government of India banned LAI literature from entering India, but the All-India Congress Committee recommended in May 1927 that the Indian National Congress (INC) seek membership of the LAI, ratified in December 1927. Controversies over the exact political affiliation of the LAI continued for some years, and by 1931 many members had left or been expelled from the League. In April 1930, Nehru, stung by condemnation of the Delhi Manifesto by members of the LAI, directed Congress to cease all correspondence with the LAI; Nehru was expelled from the LAI the following year.

The LAI in Britain consistently exploited the Labour Party’s uncertain commitment to the anti-imperialist cause, offering a practical alternative to socialist rhetoric. Furthermore, the LAI claimed that economic troubles in England including rising unemployment were directly related to capitalist investment and involvement in Empire. The British Section of the LAI was held to be one of the most active, particularly in its India operations. These included streams of resolutions, petitions and articles as well as demonstrations and meetings. One such meeting in October 1928 in Limehouse Town Hall protested against the Labour Party’s participation in the Simon Commission, and was attended by Tarini Sinha, member of the Indian Office of the ILP, Sarojini Naidu and Maulana Mohammed Ali, members of the INC.

Ultimately, suspicions of the LAI’s Communist affiliation brought about its downfall, alongside the difficulties of aligning various nationalist movements with different forms of socialism. In December 1931 the LAI’s headquarters in Berlin were raided, and the League then moved to Paris for some months before settling in London. By the mid-1930s, however, the League was barely an international organization, membership had fallen in most countries, and the decision to cease activities was taken early in 1937.

Published works: 

Report of the National Conference of the League Against Imperialism, British Section, February 1931. (London: The League against Imperialism, 1931).


Report of the National Conference of the League Against Imperialism, British Section, February 1931 (London: The League against Imperialism, 1931), p. 13

Other names: 

Precursor: League Against Colonial Oppression
Original title: League Against Imperialism and For National Independence

Secondary works: 

Bush, Barbara, Imperialism, Race and Resistance: Africa and Britain, 1919-1945 (London and New York: Routledge, 1999)

Haithcox, John Patrick, Communism and Nationalism in India: M. N. Roy and Comintern Policy, 1920-39 (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1971)

Hargreaves, John D, ‘The Comintern and Anti-Colonialism: New Research Opportunities’, African Affairs 92.367 (Apr. 1993), (Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society), pp. 255-61.

Howe, Stephen, Anticolonialism in British Politics: The Left and the End of Empire, 1918-1964 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)

Jones, Jean, The League Against Imperialism, Socialist History Society Occasional Pamphlet Series No. 4, (Preston: Lancashire Community Press, 1996)

Saville, John, ‘Reginald Bridgeman,’ in Joyce M. Bellamy and John Saville (eds.) Dictionary of Labour Biography, VII (London: 1984), pp. 40-50.


A snapshot of the attitudes and motivations of the British Section of the LAI. This extract is on contemporary interpretations of the movement towards independence in India

Date began: 
10 Feb 1927

In the discussion… a delegate from the Indian Freedom League said that Labour Party leaders in Britain had deserted the struggle against imperialism, but that in India Gandhi had created a psychology of revolt which will never die, even if Gandhi and the leaders of the Indian National Congress were to betray the struggle by compromise with the British Government. Other speakers showed that the great movement of mass revolt in India had arisen not because of Gandhi, but in spite of his policy and that Jawaharlal Nehru, who had said that Indian should not discuss conditions of self-government while British troops remained in India, was now supporting Gandhi in negotiations with the Viceroy. The Congress leaders had done nothing to establish the League in India, although this was proposed at Brussels in 1927.


Indian Delegation, 1927 Brussels Congress:

Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, J. Naidu (Association of Indians in Central Europe), A. C. N. Nambiar (Association of Indian Journalists), Jawaharlal Nehru (member of Executive Committee of LAI), Bakar Ali Mirza (Indian Oxford Union), Tarini Sinha (Indian Office of the ILP),

English Delegation, 1927 Brussels Congress (selected members):

Reginald Bridgeman, Shapurji Saklatvala (member of LAI)

LAI in Britain: Ben Bradley (secretary 1934-40), Bhabani Bhattacharya, Fenner Brockway (chairman, 1928), Clemens Palme Dutt (member of the executive committee of the British Section of the LAI)

Date ended: 
01 Jan 1937
Archive source: 

The International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. Their main website,, gives a list of materials relating to the LAI

Precise date ended unknown: 

Clemens Palme Dutt


Clemens Palme Dutt was the elder brother of Rajani Palme Dutt. Both were active in the Communist Party of Great Britain. Clemens worked as a journalist, translator and editor, in particular of the works of Marx and Engels. The brothers’ Communist ideals were influenced from an early age by their father Dr Upendra Krishna Dutt’s activities as a doctor in a working-class part of Cambridge. While at university, Clemens and Rajani were involved with the Socialist Club where both came to the attention of the British authorities and remained under constant surveillance. Both brothers were founding members of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB).

In the 1920s, both brothers were writing for Labour Monthly and for a time Clemens took over from his brother as editor. In the 1920s, he became actively involved with the Indian independence movement. Working as a journalist in London, he wrote in particular on India and the Indian independence struggle. In July 1923, he visited Berlin from Moscow, where he became closely associated with M. N. Roy, who was heading the Indian section of Comintern. He returned to London later that year under instructions from Comintern to assist Shapurji Saklatvala. In 1925, the CPGB established its own colonial bureau, which Clemens Palme Dutt headed. The bureau attempted to form connections in India, Palestine, China, Egypt and Ireland. He became the link between the CPGB colonial bureau the Comintern’s Indian section and Indian Communists in Europe and India. In 1927, together with N. J. Upadhyaya and Ajoy Banerji, he founded the Indian Seamen's Union in London. By then he was also on the London Council of the Workers' Welfare League of India, working in close cooperation with Saklatvala. During this period Palme Dutt visited Liverpool several times to help with the organization of Indian seamen by local Communists active in the port.

In March 1928, Clemens Palme Dutt was asked by Reginald Bridgeman to join the Executive Committee of the British Section of the League Against Imperialism. In 1928, Palme Dutt returned to Moscow as a member of a sub-committee of the Executive Committee of the Comintern to advise on the Indian situation. In the 1930s, he worked on the editorial staff of the Daily Worker, the organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and acted as the Chairman of the Indian Section of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He also represented the Indian Seamen’s Union on the Executive of the League Against Imperialism. Palme Dutt worked as part of the Meerut Prisoners’ Defence Committee. In August 1930, he replaced Percy Glading as head of the Colonial Department of the CPGB. In 1930, together with Saklatvala, he helped to found the Workers' Section of the London Branch of the Indian National Congress. In June 1931, he was part of a sub-committee of the Colonial Bureau of the CPGB to organize Indian students in Britain.

In late 1931 he moved to Berlin and later to Moscow where he met Violet Lansbury (daughter of George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the early 1930s) whom he married in 1936 and with whom he had a daughter. During the Spanish Civil War, Palme Dutt worked together with Krishna Menon and the India League to collect donations for an ambulance for Spanish Republicans. By early 1939 Palme Dutt, his wife and daughter had returned to Britain permanently. He continued to work for the CPGB, addressing meetings and writing articles.

Published works: 

Biology: An Introductory Course for Casses and Study Circles (London: Labour Research Department, 1925)

Labour and the Empire (London: Communist Party of Great Britain, 1929)

As editor and translator:

Engels, Friedrich, Herr Eugen Duehring’s Revolution in Science-Anti-Duehring, trans. by Emile Burns and ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Martin Lawrence, 1934)

Engels, Friedrich, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy...With an appendix of other material of Marx and Engels relating to dialectical materialism, ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Martin Lawrence, 1934)Engels, Friedrich, The Housing Question, ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Martin Lawrence, 1935)

Marx, Karl, The Poverty of Philosophy, with an introduction by Frederick Engels, ed. by C. P. Dutt and V. Chattopadhyaya (London: Martin Lawrence, 1936)

Frolov, Yury Petrovitch, Pavlov and his School. The Theory of Conditioned Reflexes, trans. by C. P. Dutt (London: Kegan Paul & Co., 1937)

Critique of the Gotha Programme...With Appendices by Marx, Engels and Lenin, ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1938)

Engels, Friedrich, Dialectics of Nature, trans. by C. P. Dutt (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1940)

Marx, Karl, Selected Works of Karl Marx, ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1942)

The Soviet Worker Looks at the War: Selections from the Moscow Fortnightly War and the Working Class, ed. by C. P. Dutt (London: Labour Monthly, 1944)

Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, Weissbuch der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands ueber die muendliche Verhandlung im Karlsruhe ('The Karlsruhe Trial for banning the Communist Party of Germany'), trans. by C. P. Dutt (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1956)

Date of birth: 
15 Apr 1893

Robert Page Arnot, Olive Budden, Ajoy Banerji, Reginald Bridgeman, Rose Cohen, Claud Cockburn, Shripat Amrit Dange, Upendra Krishna Dutt (father), Rajani Palme Dutt (brother), Pazl Elahi, Percy Glading, Don Phillip Rupasangha Gunawardena, W. M. Holmes, Douglas Hyde, George Lansbury, Harold Laski, V. K. Krishna Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sylvia Pankhurst, Picasso, M. P. Rathbones, M. N. Roy, Bill Rust, Shapurji Saklatvala, Pulin Behari Seal, Mohamed Ali Sepassi (Khushi Mohammed), Philip Spratt, Robert Stuart, John Strachey, N. J. Upadhyaya.

Communist Club, Battersea; Communist Party of Great Britain; Indian Bureau; Indian Seamen’s Union; Meerut Prisoners Defence Committee; National Union of Journalists; Workers' Welfare League for India.

Contributions to periodicals: 

Daily Worker

Labour Monthly

Secondary works: 

'Announcement of Death', The Times (14 April 1975), p. 24

Owen, Nicholas, The British Left and India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007)

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

Archive source: 

L/PJ/12/28, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

L/PJ/12/29, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras

KV2/2504, National Archives, Kew

KV2/2505, National Archives, Kew


Involved in events: 

Meerut Conspiracy Trials

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 


Cambridge, CB1 2PY
United Kingdom
52° 11' 46.9428" N, 0° 11' 55.4748" E
Date of death: 
01 Apr 1975
Location of death: 
Goring on Thames

Cambridge, London.

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