The Internationalist Moment: South Asia, Worlds, and World Views, 1917–39


Edited by: Ali Raza, Franziska Roy & Benjamin Zachariah

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    The years between the First and Second World Wars comprise a critical moment in the history of the world. In the aftermath of the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, individuals and countries sought new solutions and blueprints for a world of greater stability, equality, and interdependency. The League of Nations or the Communist International inspired many with their models, while other fora for international organization brought together an unlikely range of interests such as pacifism, Pan-Islamism, Pan-Asianism, national sovereignty, Aryanism, religious mobilization, various forms of anti-imperialism, demands for suffrage, the organization of youth movements, ideologies of feminism, birth control, socialism, communism, civil liberties, romanticism, temperance, nudism, eugenics, or fascism. Their divergent ends and objectives were held together, if temporarily, by a euphoria for the vastness and integratedness of the world and the desire and optimism to remake it and shape the future of humanity.

    The essays presented together in this volume are attempts to begin to understand these experiments in political and social mobilization that comprise the “internationalist moment,” through the lens of South Asians’ interactions with a wider world, and the wider world's interactions with South Asia. Histories of South Asia in the 1920s and 1930s have largely focused on local, community, and national narratives, and have only recently begun to break out of this mould. Earlier histories that have noted these international engagements have subordinated them to the narratives of Indian nationalism or of the particular ideological trends that have interested them, notably the histories of “international communism.” We believe that it is necessary to go further than this. What we present here is also intended to contribute to a growing but as yet inadequate field of the intellectual history of South Asia; and since ideas are notoriously unable to observe national boundaries, it is unsurprising that such intellectual histories cannot be confined to or by the entity “South Asia,” or to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling via C.L.R. James, “what do they know of South Asia, who only South Asia know?”1

    Why do we call this period the “internationalist moment”? That there were engagements, people, goods and ideas, crossing (proto-)“national,” state, and/or geographical boundaries before the period between 1917 and 1939 was obvious. But that period is also qualitatively important as a window of time in which an array of movements comprising mostly nonstate or supra-state actors were linking up with each other (often becoming more institutionalized in the process), a reminder that the contemporaneous term “international” has in more recent times been almost exclusively appropriated by states. The period under consideration is one in which frameworks for understanding the world and one's place in it included not only the local or national but also relatively distant elements as diverse as the work of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, fascism in Italy or Germany, or Bolshevism in the Soviet Union, as well as those events, tendencies, or trends that had a direct impact on distant places (such as the Great Depression). These frameworks of understanding the world as interconnected became part of the everyday. “Europe” or “America,” San Francisco, New York, Berlin, London, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, or Moscow were part of the worlds and world views of people not necessarily involved only in elitist discussions and “cosmopolitan” solidarities. This is also an indication that “internationalist” is itself far from an unproblematic category; there were many forms that internationalism could take, and the essays that follow explore some of these, including those that sought to build a strong potential state. The “moment” then faded away in the 1940s. The next phase of cross-border engagements, such as is evident in the Cold War, for instance in “non-alignment,” is an era of states acting within rather rigid rules of a post-Second World War “international”—by which is now meant “interstate”—order.

    Perhaps because of its once-close association with the proletarian internationalism of the Communist International (Comintern), “internationalism” has not been the favored term of recent historiography. Cosmopolitanism, transnational history, and global history are the buzzwords of our times. We shall not outline our differences with the approaches used therein in this preface, as we individually have divergent differences with them. Suffice it to say here that we are instead interested in what might be more usefully rendered in terms of relevant encounters and sites of engagement rather than impose retrospective categories on the historical actors and contexts that we study; we attempt to identify what might have been spaces, ways of making sense of the world, and modes of communication relevant to contemporaries. A picture emerges from the work presented here of a great flexibility of ideological tendencies: Our historical actors are able to put together for themselves, from the intellectual buffet of the interwar period, a set of ideas that is, at least to an observer in retrospect, far from internally consistent. This might be far more problematic in retrospect than it would seem to contemporaries; as ideologies settle down into recognizable and standardized forms, the uncertainty and ambiguity that begets them are forgotten.

    We would like to thank Daud Ali, Richard Immerman, and Mrinalini Sinha for their comments on some of the papers. We also thank Subhas Ranjan Chakraborty and Ranabir Samaddar for their comments on the manuscript.

    AliRaza, FranziskaRoy, and BenjaminZachariah

    1 C.L.R. James, Beyond a Boundary: A Social History of West Indies Cricket (London: Hutchinson, 1963), preface: “What do they Know of Cricket who only Cricket Know?;” borrowed from “And what should they Know of England who only England know?,” Rudyard Kipling, “The English Flag” (1891), Collected Verse of Rudyard Kipling (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1914), 128, though James’ borrowing is quite against the spirit of Kipling. “South Asia” is a clumsy abbreviation used in this book for the territories that are roughly congruent with the present-day states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh; this does not comprise all of the region bearing that name, but a rough congruence is all that this volume pretends to, especially when speaking of intellectual history.

    Introduction: The Internationalism of the Moment—South Asia and the Contours of the Interwar World


    There is a tide in the affairs of men

    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

    Omitted, all the voyage of their life

    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

    —William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, Act IV, Scene 3

    A little over twenty years is not a long time by historical standards. The internationalist moment can broadly be seen in terms of the unity of the period 1917–39, book-ended by the Russian Revolution and the Second World War. Beginning with the hope that humanity would create a new future for itself, with the help of movements linking up with each other, disregarding the sanctity of states, empires, and governments, it ended with movements diminished or destroyed, disorganized by and organized as states, at war with one another. That the moment passed bears no repeating. We are here, however, to recount the flood and not the shallows; and to place South Asia in the history of that internationalist flood, from which subsequently the ubiquitous narrative of “nationalist movement(s)” has wrested it.

    The internationalism of the times had a number of facets, and although in retrospect a number of classificatory labels suggest themselves—socialist, communist, fascist, Pan-Islamic—the sentiment (and it was often a sentiment) was far less differentiated, more amorphous, than these labels can describe. In a world of apparently infinite hopes and possibilities, individuals journeyed across the terrain of internationalist engagements, geographically and intellectually, while promiscuously drawing from all that these labels describe. The diverse ideologies floated at the time were not seen as mutually exclusive or opposed to one another, but were seen as converging and complementary routes toward a supra-political project that aimed at transforming the future of humanity and, in fact, humanity itself.

    At the same time, as movements attempted to resist the confines of states, states resisted and restricted the movements of movements, of people, and of ideas; this is the time of the institution of international—in this case meaning interstate—forms of control and surveillance, when cooperation between police forces, the institution of passport and visa regimes, and the restrictions on international travel that we have come to take for granted were made commonplace.1 Perhaps, then, the ironic outcome of the internationalist moment was that it created the conditions for its destruction, or at least for the destruction of the internationalism of a nonstatist variety; but we are getting ahead of our story here.

    This introduction sets out a context for the essays that follow. It makes a case for the distinctiveness of and relevance of our focus on the period under consideration; it outlines the contours and dynamics of the internationalist moment that we identify; and it sets out the principal approaches that we find useful, situating these in the light of current academic trends.

    The Moment(um) of Internationalism and the Nature of the Moment

    Why do we call it the “internationalist moment”? The period 1917–39 was of course not entirely without precedent in terms of the interconnectedness of the world and the engagement of South Asians with that world. Such engagements had long been in evidence in political and intellectual life before 1917. Notable among these were the 1905 Russo-Japanese War,2 the 1911–13 Balkan Wars,3 various nationalist movements and their intellectuals and heroes (Mazzini and Garibaldi,4 the Young Turks, Egypt,5 the Irish nationalist movement6). Intellectual engagements reached back to the mid-nineteenth century, incorporating Friedrich List on political economy,7 Theosophy and esoteric Christianity centered on India as the spiritual lynchpin of the world,8 an assumption taken on board by early (Hindu) nationalists, convinced of the special destiny of India in the world.9 Anarchism, socialism, the Suffragettes, Romanticism, various theories of nationalism and nationality10 were discussed by politically conscious circles in India and in exile.11 Revolutionary “terrorists” in Bengal and “extremist” nationalists were acquainted with events and literatures across the world.12 Iconic moments which brought these engagements into focus include Swami Vivekananda's colorful turbans at the Chicago World Congress of Religions in 1893 and his American lecture-tours thereafter;13 and Madame Cama's hoisting of an Indian national flag at the 1907 Stuttgart meeting of the Second International; the latter is also a reminder that among earlier attempts to create platforms and movements that transcended state boundaries, the most obvious were the First and Second Internationals.14

    The global arena also played host to a variety of political networks that engaged with South Asian politics. Movements and networks that did so included circles surrounding the clergyman J.T. Sunderland in the United States,15 and the Gaelic American, whose support of the Irish nationalist cause included space for other national liberation movements such as the Indian.16 Others were founded and run by South Asians themselves. The best-known and most celebrated example of this was the Ghadar Party that was founded in North America in 1913 and which issued a revolutionary call for the overthrow of the British Empire in India.17 Across the Atlantic, such efforts had already been preceded by Shyamji Krishnavarma, founder of the Indian Home Rule Society and India House in London in 1905, and a newspaper, the Indian Sociologist, whose intellectual deity was Herbert Spencer, posthumously appropriated for the Indian nationalist cause.18 Further eastward in Europe, the Berlin India Committee was founded in 1914, coordinated largely by Virendranath Chattopadhyaya, a former inmate of India House and co-worker of Shyamji Krishnavarma, who was among those of the “Berlin India Committee” who worked with the German government during the First World War in conspiring to end British rule in India.19 “Chatto” was joined from America by another former India Houser, Har Dayal, by now associated with the beginnings of the Ghadar Party, marking the renewed crossing of paths of old colleagues on different personal and historical trajectories.20

    Clearly then, there were a series of engagements between South Asia and the wider world prior to 1917, and many of these engagements became the basis for the interwar internationalism which is the subject of this book: Ghadar networks, the Berlin India Committee,21 the Irish connection.22 Lest it be forgotten, pre-existing networks coalesced or engaged with other networks. In particular, the Khilafat Movement was a continuation of a Pan-Islamic internationalism whose greatest success was at its moment of obsolescence at the end of the Ottoman empire;23 this particular internationalist sensibility was flexible enough to connect with an unlikely ally in the internationalism of the Bolshevik Revolution, as the Hijrat Movement was diverted by force of circumstance and a fast-moving geopolitics toward Soviet Central Asia.24

    The onset of the Bolshevik Revolution marked the beginning of an interwar moment that was qualitatively different from earlier and later phases of cooperation and movements across geographical and political boundaries. What differentiates this moment is the peculiar convergence of varying political and intellectual strands that prominently emerged to the fore in the immediate aftermath of the revolution. A conjunctural situation thus emerged that opened a window to internationalism, through which various breezes would blow before the window closed again.25

    The year 1917, therefore, stands out as the moment's defining moment. The October Revolution had a momentous impact on European politics; its shock waves also reverberated across the globe, and especially in colonized territories, with its call for the overthrow of imperialism and support for “national self-determination.” What is extremely important to note here is that the engagement of South Asians—and more generally “oppressed peoples”—with the Bolshevik Revolution was not necessarily an ideological or theoretically informed one. This was in other words the “Leninist Moment” within the internationalist moment, which was far more sustained and far-reaching than its “Wilsonian” counterpart;26 perhaps it is better to call it the Brest-Litovsk moment, after the Soviet declaration of its principles of peace and reconstruction of a postwar world.27

    The Bolshevik and Wilsonian declarations on national self-determination were accompanied by other intellectual and political trends related to world peace, international cooperation, universal suffrage, and women's rights. All of these emerged before or during, and merged decisively with the end of, the Great War. The war itself was decisive in the perceived destruction of the old world and the creation of the hopes and possibilities for a new one. After the cessation of hostilities, there was a heightened awareness of the interconnectedness of the world and a renewed hope for its future prosperity. A stumbling block for future peace and understanding was considered to be the petty, vested-interest-based politics of the “old guard” that had brought the world to the brink of destruction. Mere politics became associated with something “low” and linked to the “Western” system of states. Hence, we see a distrust of “politics” rather than a distrust of the state (seen as a necessary building block in the balance and progress of the world). The platforms we deal with here tended to view peace as something that would naturally flow from cultural encounters and real interhuman interactions that transcended ostensibly rigid political divisions. Keeping away from such disagreements based on “mere politics” was part of the etiquette of many of the cross-cultural meetings taking place. Where, before the war, a belief in a possible utopia of peace had often been somewhat romantic and optimistic, the postwar period was simultaneously marked by a darker and more dystopian undercurrent to visions and ideologies. The (elusive) program of disarmament at the level of institutional international politics was watched warily.

    There was also a greater realization of the importance of India to the world and the importance of the world to India.28 This was evident not just to intellectuals; a wider awareness of such interconnectedness was achieved not least through the experiences of large numbers of soldiers and laborers that were sent across the world in the service of the British Empire.29 The destruction of the certainties, social stability, and hierarchies of the old world by the new post-Great War world, in Europe and elsewhere, was an enabling factor in creating a new perception of the world. An earlier, narrower set of knowledge and experiences of interconnection among Indian elites, soldiers, or seamen (for it was the lascars who were the largest group of South Asian travelers across the world before the Great War), was far enlarged by the war.30

    It was the confluence and fusion of these trends which made the interwar period a particularly heady and exciting moment for political actors around the world. This era was marked by the spirit of internationalism which tied together the struggles of oppressed peoples (of various varieties) around the world. This was a spirit which enabled its actors to imagine themselves as citizens of the world. In their world-view, India was inextricably tied to struggles across the globe. Thus, an eloquent “Appeal to the Oppressed Peoples of the East” could be issued:

    Oh, sufferers of the East dreaming of freedom from iron, chains, it is your duty to follow the example of India.…

    India has offered thousands of sacrifices for freedom. India, which had been baked and burnt in the fire of repression, calls upon all the oppressed nations. It is your duty to heed its call and act.

    India proclaims by beat of drum that if you wish to free your homes, liberate your countries from the grip of tyrannical oppression, come, sympathize and unite with us, struggle for India's liberation and your freedom will automatically be won. It is India's freedom alone on which depends the honour and safety of your homes.31

    Quantitatively, the movement of people to places far away, though contested and obstructed by the vicissitudes of geography, by states, by passport and visa regulations, and international and imperial police forces, became more frequent in the interwar period, with Indians in motor cars stranded on the continent, or Indians on bicycles wandering around Europe or North Africa no longer uncommon incidents.32

    The internationalist moment was also marked, at least in its initial years, by the amorphous contours of its politics. This is not to suggest that “left” and “right” in the conventional sense did not matter, but rather that owing to the nearly seamless confluence of multiple political and intellectual trends, a number of political, intellectual, or social trends in the initial phase of the interwar period were difficult to neatly categorize or classify. Drawing clear boundaries between a variety of political and intellectual tendencies, upon which political and social actors of the times drew, was therefore no easy task for our actors, irrespective of whether they were placed in “international” or “national” contexts, or more often than not an amalgamation of the two. Toward the end of the 1920s a distinction between “fascists” and “socialists” began to be more strongly made, but this did not stop people from crossing the now-strongly-drawn battle lines between the two, or from wandering along these lines in a drunken straight line, not always conscious of the route.

    Conceptual Tools and Historiographical Perspectives

    Given this fluidity, where do we begin to place the internationalist moment in historiography? Terminologically, the contemporaneously favored term “internationalism” seemed apt for the purposes of this volume. Yet that term has not been in favor of late, perhaps because of its once-close association with the proletarian internationalism of the Communist International (Comintern).33 Instead, in what we might call a historiographical “scramble for the transnation,” new terminologies have taken center stage; “transnational” or “global” histories are written with a focus on a concern with “cosmopolitanism.”34 It is necessary, therefore, to explain our reservations about these terms, and about some of these debates, in which we do not intend to get entangled—without thereby implying that they might not be useful in some contexts (indeed, some of the essays in this volume engage with different uses of the terms), nor that the change is not in some respects refreshing.

    The historiography of South Asia has long remained centered on nationalism, with local or community histories as legitimate variants that are nevertheless related back to the national.35 In the 1980s and 1990s, even critical studies of nationalism treated each individual nationalism separately, devoid of context and interconnections: Even as one set of debates pondered the “modular” nature of nationalisms,36 or their “derivative” but nonetheless different natures, the “nation” managed to remain the point of focus.37 Earlier histories that noted the international engagements of South Asians nevertheless tended to subordinate these to the narratives of nationalism or of particular ideological trends that interested particular historians, notably the histories of “international communism.”38 There was very little to be found outside of these perspectives. Yet, as the beginnings of a breaking out of this pattern become discernible, old clichés of nationalist or communist historiography are in danger of giving way to new clichés of the transnational, the global, or the cosmopolitan, in which the old clichés still manage to survive.39 Most resilient in this regard have been the meta-narratives of nationalism. For instance, there remains an assumption that the route to “cosmopolitan” solidarities lie through nationalism, which thus becomes a necessary “stage” en route to a higher stage, or a necessary prerequisite for its transcendence.40 This is rather in the manner of the claim that a “transitional object,” psychoanalytically speaking, is required, before one can make the transition away from the mother/nation.41

    In contrast, this volume deals with unanticipated trajectories which cannot be reduced to nationalist tendencies: It deals with the everydayness of the internationalism of the time, which is difficult to reduce (or enlarge) to a larger-than-national entity, since it does not necessarily grow out of or transit through a national one. It is nonetheless the case that the internationalist moment exists in an age in which a national principle is for the first time acknowledged as axiomatic, and that many of the actors studied here are engaging in what they see as national liberation movements. However, the directions of national engagements, when they are national ones, are as often via the international as vice versa, or indeed via the international to the local and thence to the national (see the essay by Raza). As we believe the essays show, the boundaries, conceptually as well as spatio-temporally, of local, international, and national, are often so blurred that it makes perfect sense to speak of an internationalist engagement in the broadest possible terms that also makes perfect sense at the smallest possible level. Ironically, the internationalist moment was framed by the principle of nationalism, which at its moment of acceptance was already on the road to obsolescence for many.

    It would, then, be too easy to simply align our intervention with the growing literature on “cosmopolitanism.” “Cosmopolitan” is a paradoxical category—a priori it implies a utopian integratedness and participating in the world beyond the specific boundaries of one's own polis.42However, as soon as one tries to analyze it in specific terms, it becomes at best a “hyphenated cosmopolitanism,” thereby losing the flexibility the term implies.43 There has recently, however, been an insistence on giving the term “cosmopolitan” specific (and often normative) characteristics as an a priori, analytic category, robbing it both of its flexibility as an indicator of a being-at-home-in-different-contexts, as well as of its applicability to actual contexts.44 One of our questions here is what specific characteristics an interwar “cosmopolitanism” actually took, if one wishes to use the word at all, among South Asians in different spaces and contexts (see the essays by Stolte, Ramnath, Raza, and Roy). This, in turn, historicizes and complicates the idea of cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitanism in this view is not merely a state of being that is frozen in time and place; it is contingent on specific circumstances and contexts in which the interplay between parochialism (assuming that parochialism is noncosmopolitanism) and cosmopolitanism is far messier and complicated than is otherwise acknowledged. “[M]an's articulate misery or articulate delight has never been a respecter of frontiers.”45 This is the context for the transnational and international intellectual histories attempted here (there are views that suggest that intellectual history, a “history of ideas” and histories of “thought” or “thinking” are different things, but let us leave that aside for now).

    Another set of problems is posed by the prefix “trans-.” “Transnational” history, by marking every border-crossing as exceptional, tends to reify the very borders it claims to transcend. In contrast, the actors we are concerned treat this “transgression” as very ordinary and as a regular occurrence. One possible compromise, “translocal,” while avoiding the implication that anyone's framework of experience can be “national,” let alone “transnational,” begs the question of what a “locality” is, although it has the advantage of invoking a framework in terms of scale—the “local”—that a historical actor can actually experience, implying thereby that an actor with experiences of more than one locality might be considered to be translocal. “Transcultural” might pose the same problem as “transnational” with a different category, reifying “culture” instead; the boundaries of a “culture” are of course far more difficult to identify than the boundaries of the “national,” if the “national” is represented by a state. “Global” history, on the other hand, invokes a totality (what, then, is outside the “global?”) in a more or less utopian way of implying connectedness (often resting on the global circulation of goods and people), but requiring an externalist view on what it is that connects the world. A tendency, therefore, to discuss the retrospective normative aspirations of historians as if they were already the social realities of the pasts they study, a kind of wishful thinking that projects a cosmopolitan openness, a global consciousness or a transnational nationalism—even as the centrality of nationalism to the historians’ own consciousness remains unchallenged—should be resisted.46

    This refusal to partake of the terminology of our times is not merely a gesture toward (a modified) historicism47 (in that “international” would have made more sense to the times we refer to), but an attempt not to get entangled in a terminology which might actually distract from meaning. For after all, the same term could mean different things to different people, and different terms could mean the same thing, either to the same people or to different people. That much we ought to have learned from the debates of the last twenty years or so. “Internationalism” is not an unproblematic term either, and there were various varieties of internationalism to dispute and discuss in the interwar period; these must be addressed and disaggregated. Similarly, when contemporaries invoked the “cosmopolitan,” they typically meant no more than a broad openness to as well as awareness of being part of the world.48

    The sensibility of internationalism that forms the topos of this collection transcends what is usually considered “politics.” Yet it is always political in the wider sense of the term, not merely in the radical sense of there being nothing outside the political, but that the transformative projects described were aiming at a higher form of political involvement that included the personal and moral alongside the social and economic. Thus, as it was used contemporaneously, “internationalism” evoked an explicitly political project which cast a net that was broad and flexible enough to incorporate colonized and working class politics with scientific, literary, aesthetic, and gender sensibilities (see the essays by Ramnath, Jelnikar, and Anderson).

    An argument in detail with these frameworks often amounts to quibbling over terminology, and is outside the framework of this book; if glossed appropriately, any of the aforementioned terms can be bent to our purposes. More importantly, it is important to stress that thus far, there has been no attempt to identify and understand this internationalist moment from a South Asian perspective. Previous attempts at the integration of South Asian history into the world have been through the themes of trade and commerce, labor networks, and diasporas, or within a regional paradigm, such as the field of Indian Ocean studies.49 Taken together, these narratives, focused on earlier and different trends, provide a welcome respite from particularistic narratives that emerge as a consequence of examining retrospectively reified borders. Viewed this way, the “internationalist moment” provides another perspective on how South Asia was integrated with the world at large. Around this period in South Asia, as elsewhere, people were all too aware of the global “web” that wove the fate of peoples, nations, and states together.50

    These were not simply vague assertions or intellectual engagements, as had been some of the pre-1917 international engagements of South Asians; these were actual experiences of world events, whether perceived through traveling or by staying at home: The Great Depression did not require a trip to Germany or Wall Street for its effects to be felt.51 And lest we be in danger of implying that the borders and boundaries of the time weren't physical and didn't have an impact at all, we should clarify that this is not what we mean: Indeed, it was the paradox of living constrained lives in an interconnected world, of understanding the dichotomies of freedom and unfreedom, that made the world a connected place. As the world attempted to remake itself in the aftermath of the Great War, the opportunity to imagine alternatives to the old states-and-empires system, to mould the world anew, presented itself to many people. And a problem solved or question addressed in one part of the world quite logically lent itself to replication, and to discussions as to its replicability and applicability in new contexts. With the seemingly imminent collapse of the old order, the emergence of a new one seemed to be not only plausible but inevitable. A dizzying array of ideas and politics that accompanied these changes in world order had to be engaged with and made sense of, and the question was how to assist in the making of, and to find one's place in that order, for the option of simply adjusting to existing worlds seemed to have vanished.

    Our Contribution

    What binds the contributions in this volume together is their focus on “intermediate histories.” The “intermediacy” these essays refer to is not merely in terms of social and class positioning, though that too is featured prominently in our analysis. Our actors transcend the often unimaginatively drawn dichotomy between “elite” and “subaltern.” In other words, we are not examining the mythical “autonomous domain” of “subaltern” agency that the Subaltern Studies Collective introduced three decades ago.52 Rather, as has been pointed out, both “elite” and “subaltern” are relational and relative categories that are contingent on time, place, and context.53 As a result, we find the term “subaltern” unhelpful, and in most cases refrain from using it. Our actors frequently find themselves situated in multiple settings and involved in diverse engagements. This, in turn, implies that it is nearly impossible to situate them in fixed social categories.

    One of the key acts which makes movement across social categories possible is the act of traveling. This is one of the important themes which connects the contributions in this volume. As an act, traveling necessitates transmutation and enables an individual to reposition themselves in response to new and shifting contexts. Politics, personality, beliefs, undergo changes by close engagements with new and different worlds. This liminality also offers the prospect of freeing an individual from markers of class or caste that are otherwise bound up with an “original” social context. In turn, this freedom encourages new self-definitions and enables our actors to act as go-betweens between these ostensibly fixed categories. Thus, to return briefly to the elite/subaltern dichotomy, it is perfectly possible for an individual to be elite in certain circumstances and not so in others, and elite status in one context can easily evaporate in a new one. Examples might include an ordinary immigrant worker in the United States who becomes an important actor in the Soviet Union, where a different set of markers determine hierarchy and status,54 or a political exile from an affluent family in India who spends a precarious life in poverty wandering across the world: “member of a famous family in India, … [h]e was always hard up, his clothes were very much the worse for wear, and often he found it difficult to raise the wherewithal for a meal.”55

    Obviously, this is not to suggest that an individual has infinite freedom to reinvent themselves like the proverbial homunculus. Rather, it is simply to point out that changed contexts open up rifts into which the individual fits themselves with varying degrees of space to maneuver. Neither do we wish to suggest that such possibilities were restricted only to those who physically traveled (or indeed to suggest that all who did travel underwent these transformations). Indeed, it was perfectly possible to engage with new possibilities—though perhaps not to the same extent as itinerant individuals—whilst situated in a “local” context.

    There are of course other ways in which we can conceptualize “intermediate histories.” One of these is related to another aspect of traveling, that is, the traveling of ideas. Given the intellectual milieu of this period, mapping and classifying ideas can be tricky for the historian. Those who have done so, have inevitably confined their actors to a limited number of ideological boxes (communist, fascist, nationalist et al.), which do little to convey a sense of their untidiness or where they overlap with or merge into other intellectual impulses (see the essay by Zachariah). What is more important then, is to uncover, as our contributors do, how and in what shape and form ideas traveled to and from South Asia. It is also important to ask if there is a sense of a “common grammar” within ostensibly different discourses that enabled individuals to select certain elements from them and put them together. It follows then that the notion of a “derivative discourse” can make little sense unless we can ask, “derivative of what?” Since the idea of an “original” is highly problematic (ideologies are after all retrospectively constructed ideal-types), we need to suspend the usual judgment that we make on “copies” and “misreadings.” This is where these ideas become “intermediate” and this is also where their histories become “intermediate histories.” The late Michel Foucault might have referred to this as histories of thinking rather than as histories of thought.

    The amorphousness of these histories perhaps explains why they are so marginalized in South Asian historiography. A part of that also has to do with where such histories should adequately be located. Are they transnational or national? Are they local or global (or even “glocal” for that matter)? In this volume, we locate these actors in spaces that again, can be described as “intermediate”: We look at certain meeting spaces, often ephemeral and short-lived, where actors converge to engage with the ideas and politics that distinguish the internationalist moment. These are cities that are linked together through a unique geography of radical politics that transcends state frontiers, and also institutional spaces which serve as platforms for a variety of different agendas (see essays by Louro, Stolte). These sites of engagement also include a sense of the diversity of communication, the engagement with different publics and public arenas, and a sense that ideas travel with or without people. Thus, one's site or zone of engagement might be international without one's having traveled,56 or despite one's cosmopolitan credentials by virtue of travel might still be relatively parochial and nationalist. Also embedded within these spaces were possibilities of cross-“national” solidarities and (or as) affective encounters (see the essay by Jelnikar), and the fraught subjects of inter-“racial” intercourse, social, political, romantic, or sexual (Ramnath, Raza). And if “science” was often viewed at the time as universalist and neutral, and therefore axiomatically internationalist, the experiences of both world wars can be a useful corrective to such views: In the interwar period, scientific internationalists had consciously to hold on to their wider ideals of service to humanity against the specific claims made upon them by their nation-states, which they were all too aware had no such ideals (Anderson).

    The End(s) of the Moment

    It is important, though, not to overly romanticize this moment. For all the excitement and headiness that accompanied it, the internationalist moment also contained within it the seeds of its own destruction. Over the course of the interwar period, ideas of internationalism were battered by circumstances. Yet, given the fact that there were a variety of internationalisms, the end of this moment too had multiple beginnings, which were in a sense almost concurrent with the beginning of the moment itself, and arguably inherent in it. This might be a useful reminder that it would be too simplistic to see the internationalist moment as a somewhat homogeneous period frozen in time between 1917 and 1939, and instead to note that it contains within itself a number of shifts and departures, a number of “moments.”

    This was most starkly manifested in the gradual crystallization of hitherto diffuse and amorphous political strands within “national” and “international” politics. A polarization of politics eventually overwhelmed the possibilities of the internationalism of the era. Nationalism and internationalism co-existed for a time with re-armament and specters of another global confrontation growing, and the nation(-state) more often than not trumped internationalism. A growing trend could best be described as a disavowed internationalism,57 especially obvious in the case of the fascisms, whose interconnectedness and similarities, not to mention their conscious attempts at coordination or mutual imitation, were often hidden by their insistence on the particularities and glories of each particular nation.58 This went together with a social Darwinist vision of international relations (see essay by Roy). By the late 1920s, there was a widening gap between the extremes of the political spectrum.

    Another dynamic that contributed to an eroding of an internationalism “from below” is the successive institutionalization of formerly open-ended platforms, thus eventually rendering it into a state-led internationalism with the intermediate stage of parties (communists especially) vying for a hold over existing platforms, or creating their own exclusive ones. Perhaps one could take a paradigmatic example: The League of Nations was an early manifestation of the institutionalized forms of interstate “internationalism” that existed side by side with the more unstructured or nonstatist platforms, and the League and its associated agencies were sites of a larger attempt to control the more radical tendencies of states as well as nonstate actors in the politics of the interwar period, and channel it in more acceptable directions.59 The League's attempts to institutionally occupy spaces that were sought to be controlled by movements parallels the waning of internationalist networks via another dynamic, in which fora such as the League Against Imperialism (see essay by Louro) were sought to be taken over and controlled by state-sponsored entities (the Communists under the control of the USSR); “socialism in one country” and the increasing Stalinization of the communist movement led to the erosion of the consciously internationalist Comintern's autonomy and the gradual predominance of conventional statist foreign policy within a Great Russian chauvinist framework.60

    What also made the moment a finite one as far as contemporary actors were concerned was the widespread perception that the post-Great War era was one in which a soon-to-arrive future was being constructed—it was meant to give way to a new dawn (or doom) seen in the prevailing framework of linear historical development or a move toward an “age of freedom.”61 The longer it took, the less plausible this seemed. Depending on one's political perspectives, the emergence of the “Hitler state” in 1933 was the end of the achievement of many of these hopes.62 (Benoy Kumar Sarkar, the iconic academic admirer of fascism and Nazism, described Hitler as “Vivekananda multiplied by Bismarck.”63) The Great Depression threw states back into their own shadows, as protective and defensive blocs began to form, undermining any pretensions to speak for wider causes. The Hitler state was the apotheosis and reification of nationalism, but both trends also gave impetus to the internationalists of the time, where the immunity of the Soviet economy to the effects of the Depression inspired many to look closely at this new experiment, and the tragedy of Nazism managed to recreate, formally in the Popular Fronts and informally in wider groupings, a sense of urgency for the internationalists.64 Engagements with other events or movements were not as clear: If admiration for Mussolini had been widespread in India, the Abysinnian invasion of 1935 did not altogether create the revulsion against fascism that might have been expected in a country subject to imperialism, and long-admired Japan, whose defeat of Russia in 1905 had been seen across the colonized world as a vicarious victory for “the East” over “the West,” made it difficult for Indians to come up with unambiguous feelings when it was China that was at the receiving end of Japanese aggression. China had become a focal point of Indian anti-imperialist sentiment.65 A consistent internationalism of a nonstate variety, uncontaminated by thinking within nationalist boxes, would of course have made such distinctions as needed to be made between regimes and people infinitely easier than they were.

    In retrospect this period has been associated with the rise of “totalitarianism,” of both the communist and the fascist variety;66 yet, to view this era as “the totalitarian moment” would be to render it in simplistic terms that ignore the possibilities that were latent within it, of which our actors were all too aware. There was a sense of opportunity and destiny that marked the beginning of this moment, and a sense of the impending end of an opportunity, the closing of an important window, as it drew to an end, though different actors saw the end as having arrived at different points in time. The defeat of Republican Spain in the Spanish Civil War, the Munich Pact, and the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, watched in agonizing close-up by Indians in exile in Europe, among others by Jawaharlal Nehru as a correspondent for his own newspaper, the National Herald, and the Nazi-Soviet Pact that underlined the inevitability of another conflagration to all but the deliberately obtuse, were moments along the path to disenchantment.67 By the time the “low, dishonest decade” drew to a close with the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939,68 much of the optimism had long vanished.

    These developments can be exemplified by trajectories in Indian politics. The initial excitement that greeted the Bolshevik Revolution and the upheavals of the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movements soon gave way to parochial and communitarian divisions within mainstream political debate. Yet, there still remained considerable space for an inclusionary politics that was in touch with internationalist sentiments around the world. This was particularly true for the mid- and late 1920s when references to Bolshevik Russia were part and parcel of political discourse in South Asia, regardless of political tendency. Right-wing political leaders such as Lala Lajpat Rai welcomed developments in Russia,69 and the Hindu communalist Madan Mohan Malaviya celebrated the success of the Bolshevik Revolution (see the essay by Raza). Yet by the end of the decade, with the hardening of communitarian claims to the future “nation,” the deadlock over constitutional reform, and a slew of “conspiracy cases” which sought to criminalize “communism” in and of itself, the growing distance between “nationalism” and “internationalism” was evident in that the concerns and aspirations of an anticipated nation-state were increasingly viewed as distinct from and more important than the politics of internationalism. The internationalism of the working class, a central plank of left-wing thinking in theory, was undermined gradually in practice through the separate and combined working of state repression and the Stalinization of the international communist movement, which can be exemplified by the Meerut Conspiracy Case and the Great Purges, respectively (see the essay by Stolte). This was particularly evident with the outbreak of the Second World War and the divisions it caused within the political spectrum. By the end of the war, the very same Nehru who had insisted on the inseparability of international politics from domestic problems in India (see the essay by Louro) was denouncing the communists for privileging their internationalist commitments over their nationalist duties.70

    It would, therefore, be easier to identify the beginning of the internationalist moment than the point at which it ended for various players. With all these qualifications and differentiations of its internal dynamics, we would nevertheless stress the intrinsic unity of that moment. As moments go, it was perhaps a long moment, and it had its phases, as a moment that contained other moments. The term “moment” captures its immediacy, but also its fragility and transience; those who lived through it were aware of this, and of its potential waning.

    The Essays

    A brief outline of the essays we present here, beyond the oblique references to them provided above, is in order, if only to establish their relationship to the larger project. Benjamin Zachariah's contribution traces networks of itinerant Indians and their engagements with a wide array of political and social possibilities that are the hallmark of the internationalist moment. The essay raises methodological questions about the connections between international social histories and intellectual histories, as it tracks channels of ideas and ideological exchange via the movements of relatively unknown socialists, pro-fascists, Pan-Asianists, students and professionals of Indian origin, many of them lacking the ideological clarity demanded by intellectual histories of their actors. This exemplifies our larger point about the multiplicity and diversity of the international engagements of the times.

    Other essays flesh out the nature and extent of the internationalist connections. Michele Louro examines the making of the networks and intellectual exchanges that were constitutive of international anti-imperialism, tracing in particular Jawaharlal Nehru's role in building networks through the League Against Imperialism (LAI), an organization representing colonies, mandates, and dependencies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America as well as North American and European social reformers concerned with working class and racial equality. Nehru became deeply involved in the politics of the LAI, and his work on the executive council firmly established him as a pivotal partner in the international struggle against empires and in networks of solidarity beyond empires and imperialism that survived the demise of the LAI, notable among them being his contact with Roger Baldwin of the American Civil Liberties Union. A set of networks and a corresponding internationalist vocabulary of politics was thereby created and sustained: enabled, perhaps, by the organizational capacity of communist and communist-influenced individuals and organizations, but containing much that was merely, in the language of the “front organizations” themselves, merely “progressive.”

    Carolien Stolte examines a specific form of internationalist engagement, that of the South Asian trade union movement, with a specific geographical imaginary, that of Asia. In the interwar years, visions of an Asian continent united in the anti-imperial struggle played an important part in the political imaginary of many South Asian individuals and groups. Notable among these was the militant trade union wing of the All-India Trade Union Congress, inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution in general and the Asian policies of the Red International of Trade Unions in particular. Through the 1920s, their ranks swelled with returning revolutionaries trained in Tashkent and Moscow, who brought with them valuable networks. The trade unionists’ engagement with Asia was given further impetus by the exchange of trade union leaders, the establishment of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat at Hankou in 1927 and support from Soviet organizations of local strikes. The essay examines the Asian engagements of the militant trade union leadership in India in this period and the importance of revolutionary networks enabled and sustained by the communist movement.

    Ali Raza's essay follows on from Stolte's, dealing with the linkages between a regional leftist movement and the internationalist moment. He examines the varying political and intellectual strands that fed into the development of a regional leftist movement that, while operating in local contexts, situated its politics within a global shift toward revolutionary change. The varying political and intellectual strands that fed into the development of a regional Punjabi leftist movement sought legitimation in national as well as international registers. The interwar period was remarkable for providing a number of trajectories to political radicalism that often originated in the global arena. Among others, the networks of Ghadarites, organized in North America shortly before the First World War, of Muhajirs and Lascars, were quite distinctive in being rooted in local contexts that were nevertheless tied in with a global movement toward revolutionary change. This essay, then, highlights the internationalist dimension of a Punjabi leftist movement, broadly and non-ideologically construed, and encourages a reassessment of how regional politics is viewed in dominant historiography: perhaps the “regional” reaches the “national” via the “international,” or the “international” provides the impetus for the “regional” or the “national.”

    These last three essays, taken together, highlight the centrality of an international communist movement and its networks to South Asian political engagements in the interwar years, while at the same time demonstrating that such centrality cannot be understood in terms of the one-dimensional explanations either of financial support or ideological affiliation that many accounts rely upon; indeed, the importance of communists and communism in the period should not be confused with ideological faithfulness or clarity, and the nature of a broadly united-front-style politics, before and after the term was invented, and beyond the vicissitudes of Comintern policy and official party lines, needs to be noted more centrally.

    The two essays that follow move the focus away from communist-influenced networks and politics per se to return to some of the wider ambiguities and indeterminacies addressed by the first essay. Maia Ramnath brings in the question of interracial romantic and sexual relationships within the framework of international engagements, contrasting an example shortly before the window of “internationalism” opened with one written at the height of that “moment,” though set in a period before it. For both the writers she draws upon, the nationalist and feminist Madame Cama in her Paris-based journal Bande Mataram (1912), and Irish poet and patriot Brian Padraic O'Seasnain in New York's Independent Hindustan (1920), the notion of an anticolonial love depended upon where boundaries of self and other are drawn, and when crossed. The exemplification of internationalism through affective relationships between men and women illustrates the immediacy of the engagements of which we speak beyond the abstract or the explicitly political. That actual human relationships of love, sex, and politics were at the heart of a great many internationalist engagements and encounters is of course a truism; but it is hard to exemplify any of this via the ordinarily accessible documentary traces relied upon by historians. Ramnath, thus, is able to engage in an implicit debate with the few accounts of interpersonal encounters that we possess, notably Agnes Smedley's divergent accounts of her relationship with Viren Chattopadhyay, the one anguished and fictionalized, the other narrated as memoir and suitably toned down.71

    Franziska Roy points to the significance of international engagements among Indian “youth” and “volunteer” organizations, at the same time as their goals were expressed in terms of parochial objectives at home, the latter being framed largely with reference to the former. These movements were concerned with elements of national discipline: the question of mass mobilization, its success or failure. The (selective) international engagements of Indian nationalists connected with these programs of youth and volunteer mobilization points to what might be a common grammar of politics linked to a contemporaneous weltanschauung, which was shared by actors from a variety of backgrounds, and cuts across specific ideologies. The essay examines deeper structures and an implicit consensus among actors across organizations with avowed political differences, such as the Muslim National Guards, the Congress's Hindustani Seva Dal, the Khaksars, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, about the necessary structure of mobilization and form of organizations, and the factors of (assumed) progress or (dreaded) degeneration of nations and humanity at large—for instance, eugenics, social Darwinism, or organicist readings of the nation.

    Ana Jelnikar introduces a crucial comparative framework to our study of internationalism, in a study of a close, and rather one-sided, encounter between a Slovenian poet, Srečko Kosovel, and an Indian whom he never met, Rabindranath Tagore, who was most probably completely unaware of the former's existence. What is remarkable about this encounter is not just the fact that Kosovel read Tagore and took inspiration from him, but that the two shared a very similar set of preoccupations, at the core of which was a creative ideal of universality rather than the readily available nationalisms that were the easier choices at the time. Jelnikar contends that these similarities have a backdrop in structurally similar forces of political and cultural subjugation that both Kosovel and Tagore experienced, to illustrate which she situates Kosovel in his historical contexts and Tagore in his, illuminating the similarities at work in their creative and political expression. Thus, the similarities of an international context that unites two writers who never met could produce strong similarities in their world views such that the one could identify strongly with the other. While she acknowledges the limitations and occasional stereotyping of India in Kosovel's internationalism of “situational identification,” to use her term, Kosovel's ability to appropriate his fellow poet as an equal and not as a guru or an inferior Oriental is an indication of the importance of the internationalism of the times. In addition, this contribution is a reminder of the irrationality of nationalism in the age of nationalisms, and the difficulties inherent in the struggle to escape nationalist thinking even with the best of intentions.

    Robert Anderson tracks the internationalist engagements of a Bengali scientist, born the son of a small grocery-shop owner in East Bengal, whose achievements as a physicist and scientific educator connected well with his activities as a concerned public intellectual connected with economic planning, irrigation projects, and science policy. Meghnad Saha, in many ways, epitomized the need for traversing various moods of internationalism in the interwar period, starting of course from the dilemma of the scientist as structurally internationalist, aspirationally and ideologically operating within a scholarly community, with nonetheless a recognition that that community only existed in theory. An “Indian” or a colonial subject had to win internationalist credibility via imperial and often impenetrable institutions such as the Royal Society, which again was often the route to national importance. Saha was a participant in the optimistic internationalism of science in the 1920s, and his international expertise and recognition was closely connected to both a socialist vision and an activist conception of state intervention in the lives of its citizens, which were for Saha not separate from a national struggle for an independent state. The extent to which his political engagements and his scientific concerns affected, enabled or obstructed one another is addressed here. Political internationalism, in Saha's case, nearly succeeded in being the grounds for his exclusion from scientific internationalism. Anderson traces the career of Saha into the Second World War, where the contrast between the interwar years of nonstatist internationalisms and the era of strong states during and after the war is made clear. The receding of some of Saha's internationalist perspectives under pressure of practical politics, and his transformation into a statist thinker, even if a left-of-center one, follows the trajectories of the histories of the time.

    These essays are part of a wider attempt to reconnect South Asian history to the contexts within which it belongs, from which national histories detach it to its impoverishment. It may perhaps be added that to look at the assumed center from the perspective of the assumed periphery can not only add much to an understanding of what the periphery is, but renegotiate our understanding of the center as well.

    1 Radhika V. Mongia, “Race, Nationality, Mobility: A History of the Passport,” Public Culture 11, 3 (1999): 527–56; Radhika V. Mongia, “Historicising State Sovereignty: Inequality and the Form of Equivalence,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, 2 (2007): 384–11. For a history of this phenomenon in the “quasi-colonial states” of the Maghreb and the Middle East, see Martin Thomas, Empires of Intelligence: Security Services and Colonial Disorder After 1914 (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 2008).

    2 See, for instance, Amiya K. Samanta (ed.), Terrorism in Bengal: A Collection of Documents (Calcutta: Government of West Bengal, 1995), Volume I, 224; Steven G. Marks, “‘Bravo, Brave Tiger of the East!’ The Russo-Japanese War and the Rise of Nationalism in British Egypt and India,” in The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective, ed. John Steinberg et al. (Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2005), 609–27.

    3 The Balkan Wars had, for instance, in conjuncture with the Tripolitan war, led to fears among Indian Muslims regarding the future of the Ottoman Empire and the safety of the holy places of Islam, and were the direct impetus which led to the founding of the Anjuman-Khuddam-i-Ka'aba. Cf. Gail Minault, The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 22–23, 34–37.

    4 Peter Heehs, The Bomb in Bengal: The Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism in India 1900–1910 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993). See also excerpts from the Jugantar in Kabita Ray, Revolutionary Propaganda in Bengal. Extremist and Militant Press 1905–1918 (Calcutta: Papyrus, 2008), 48–49. A Bengali book on the lives of Mazzini and Garibaldi was also standard literature to be read by every member of the early Anushilan Samiti (along with one on Napoleon and another on George Washington): see RH Syned Hutchinson, DIG of Police, IB, Calcutta, May 1, 1914, “Note on the Growth of the Revolutionary Movement in Bengal, Eastern Bengal and Assam, and United Bengal,” Appendix C, “Rules for the Membership of the Anushilan Samiti,” in Terrorism in Bengal, ed. Amiya K. Samanta, Volume I, 272–74.

    5 K.F. Nariman, What Next (Bombay: Bombay Book Depot, 1934), see esp. Chapters 2 and 3.

    6 Michael Silvestri, “‘The Sinn Fein of India’: Irish Nationalism and the Policing of Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal,” The Journal of British Studies, 39, 4 (October, 2000): 454–86; Michael Silvestri, “The Bomb, Bhadralok, Bhagavad Gita, and Dan Breen: Terrorism in Bengal and its Relation to the European Experience,” Terrorism and Political Violence 21, 1 (2009): 1–27; Kate O'Malley, Ireland, India and Empire: Indo-Irish Radical Connections, 1919–1964 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008); Michael Silvestri, Ireland and India: Nationalism, Empire and Memory (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

    7 Bipan Chandra, The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism in India (Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1966).

    8 Any number of references coming from people with diverse views could be given here, from Tagore's pacifist pan-Asianism and its “eastern” virtues to the radical nationalists and their religious symbolism. See, for instance, the article in the militant paper Bande Mataram, March 2, 1908, stating that “India is the guru of the nations, the physician of the human soul in its profound maladies; she is destined once more to new-mould [sic] the life of the world and restore the peace of the human spirit. But swaraj is the necessary condition of her work and before she can do the work, she must fulfill the condition.” Quoted in Kabita Ray, Revolutionary Propaganda in Bengal, 132–33.

    9 Benjamin Zachariah, Playing the Nation Game: The Ambiguities of Nationalism in India (New Delhi Yoda Press, 2011), 88, 180–82.

    10 See Chetan Bhatt, Hindu Nationalism. Origins, Ideologies and Modern Myths (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2001), esp. pp. 7–15 on the impact of “Western” romanticist notions (Fichte, Hegel, Herder, Schlegel) on the conceptualization of the nation among Indian nationalists. Reading Savarkar's Hindutva or Golwalkar's We or our Nationhood Defined (which he himself claimed was based on Savarkar's Hindutva) one can see in both texts the importance not only of German romanticists but also British influences (which were in turn partly taken over from German ideas). V.D. Savarkar, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? (Nagpur: Bharat Publications, 1928); M.S. Golwalkar, We, or Our Nationhood Defined (Nagpur: Bharat Publications, 1938).

    11 See, for instance, the speech by the Congressmen Dr Nalinaksha Sanyal at the World Youth Peace Congress: “India and the World Youth” (Speech of Dr Sanyal at the Eerde Conference, August 19, 1928) in To the Youth of My Country, ed. Durlab Singh (Lahore: Hero Publications, 1946), 15–24.

    12 There was an intense engagement with strike movements and forms of passive resistance in Europe in the militant press of the time, predating Gandhi's Satyagrahas. See, for instance, articles in the Bande Mataram referring to practices of passive resistance to eighteenth century America and contemporary Europe (Bande Mataram, April 1907, in Kabita Ray, Revolutionary Propaganda in Bengal, 134–35).

    13 Gwilym Beckerlegge, The Ramakrishna Mission: The Making of a Modern Hindu Movement (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000).

    14 Amit Kumar Gupta, “Defying Death: Nationalist Revolutionism in India, 1987–1938,” Social Scientist 25, 9–10 (September–October, 1997): 3–27.

    15 On the circle of Christian American anti-imperialists cf. Alan Raucher, “Anti-Imperialists and the pro-India Movement, 1900–1932,” Pacific Historical Review, 43, 1 (February 1974): 83–110.

    16 Michael O'Dwyer, relating the Indian to the Irish troubles in his statement before the Hunter Committee, actually referred to the Sinn Fein as Irish “Swadeshists” who aimed for Irish “swaraj,” and following in the footsteps of their counterparts in Punjab had allied themselves with the enemy of the King. Cited in Verney Lovett, History of the Indian Nationalist Movement (London: John Murray, 1921 [1920]), Appendix V, 293.

    17 Maia Ramnath, Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); Harish K. Puri, Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University, 1993).

    18 Harald Fisher-Tine, “Indian nationalism and the ‘World Forces’: transnational and diasporic dimensions of the Indian freedom movement on the eve of the First World War,” Journal of Global History 2 (2007): 325–44.

    19 Nirode K. Barooah, India and Official Germany 1886–1914 (Frankfurt: Lang, 1977); Nirode K. Barooah, Chatto: The Life and Times of an Indian Anti-imperialist in Europe (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004).

    20 Horst Krüger, “Har Dayal in Deutschland,” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Orientforschung, X, 1 (1964):141–69.

    21 Frank Oesterheld, Der Feind meines Feindes ist mein Freund: Zur Tätigkeit des Indian Independence Committee (IIC) während des Ersten Weltkrieges in Berlin (unpublished Magisterarbeit, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2004).

    22 O'Malley, Ireland, India and Empire.

    23 See Gail Minault, The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Popular Mobilisation in India (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).

    24 For an account, see Shaukat Osmani, Historic Trips of a Revolutionary: Sojourn in the Soviet Union (New Delhi: Sterling, 1977), 3–36. See also Ali Raza's essay as follows.

    25 We are aware of the mixed metaphors here: the “window” that opens and closes comprises the “moment,” which is comprised of (sub-)“moments.” We should add here that the window we have in mind is that peculiar to Mediterranean and Indian imperial architecture: wooden shutters on the outside, with slats that can be raised and lowered, and glass on the inside.

    26 Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Compare, for an earlier and far more insightful analysis, Arno Mayer, Wilson vs Lenin: Political Origins of the New Diplomacy 1917–1918 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963 [1959]); for the engagement of Indian nationalists with the October Revolution, see Panchanan Saha, The Russian Revolution and the Indian Patriots (Calcutta: Man Sanyal, 1987), on the dissemination in contemporaneous press and literature see esp. pp. 110–37.

    27 E.H. Carr, International Relations Between the Two World Wars, 1919–1939 (London: Macmillan, 1947).

    28 The introduction to a 1922 publication reads “India is the centre of world politics and none can ignore importance of India in world politics. In short, [the author] has tried to show that world peace depends upon freedom of Asia through India independence and thus Indian question should attract keenest interest of the statesmen of all countries. He urges his countrymen to make the question of Indian independence an international issue.” Introduction “by an Asian Statesman,” Tokyo, Japan, June 15, 1922, to Taraknath Das, India's Position in World Politics (Calcutta: Saraswaty Library, 1922), 14.

    29 For a bibliographical overview of the available literature, see Franziska Roy and Heike Liebau, “Introduction,” in ‘When the War Began We Heard of Several Kings’: South Asian Prisoners in World War I Germany, ed. Franziska Roy et al. (New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2011), 1–14. On the Indian labor corps, see Radhika Singha, “Finding Labor from India for the War in Iraq: The Jail Porter and Labor Corps, 1916–1920,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, 2 (2007), 412–45. More extensive writing exists on the larger contingents of Chinese and African labor corps. On soldiers’ letters from the theatres of war, see David Omissi, Indian Voices of the Great War. Soldiers’ Letters, 1914–1918 (New York: St Martin's Press, 1999). Among the newest studies are Santanu Das's collection of essays dealing with engagements and involvement across the Empire: Santanu Das (ed.), Race, Empire and First World War Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). On Indian soldiers specifically, a newer study is Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy (London: Bloomsbury, 2014); see also Gajendra Singh, “The Anatomy of Dissent in the Military of Colonial India During the First and Second World Wars,” Edinburgh Papers In South Asian Studies 20 (2006): 1–45.

    30 Gopalan Balachandran, Globalizing Labour? Indian Seafarers and World Shipping, c. 1870–1945 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2012); Rosina Visram, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: Indians in Britain 1700–1947 (London: Pluto Press, 1986); Gopalan Balachandran, “Searching for the Sardar. The State, Precapitalist Institutions, and Human Agency in the Maritime Labour Market, Calcutta 1880–1935,” in Institutions and Social Change in South Asia, eds Sanjay Subramanyam and Burton Stein (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996), 206–36; Ravi Ahuja “Networks of Subordination: Networks of the Subordinated. The Case of South Asian Maritime Labour under British Imperialism (c. 1890– 1947),” in Spaces of Disorder in the Indian Ocean Region, eds Harald Fischer-Tiné and Ashwini Tambe (London: Routledge, 2008), 13–48; Franziska Roy, “South Asian Civilian Prisoners of War in First World War Germany,” in When the War Began, We Heard of Several Kings, eds Franziska Roy et al., 149–84, 51–95; Ali Raza and Benjamin Zachariah, “To Take Arms Across a Sea of Trouble: The ‘Lascar System,’ Politics and Agency in the 1920s,” Itinerario 36, 3 (December 2012): 19–38.

    31 G. Adhikari (ed.), Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India, Vol. 1 1917–22 (New Delhi: People's Publishing House), 138–37.

    32 There were regular articles on world tours by youth published in a variety of papers, the Bombay Chronicle being among the more interested ones. See also the column “adventures…” in the Volunteer, the journal of the Indian National Congress’ youth wing, the Seva Dal.

    33 There have been instances in which this term has been used by historians, but more often than not, rather loosely, as a label that is devoid of meaning. More recently, this term has been resuscitated by Emily S. Rosenberg who has drawn attention to prewar groups who called themselves “internationalists.” She points out how “internationalism” was conceived in many circles as an idea that sought to bind nation-states in peaceful coexistence through a parallel attempt to strengthen national and imperial borders. See Emily S. Rosenberg, “Transnational Currents in a Shrinking World,” in A World Connecting 1870– 1945, ed. Emily S. Rosenberg (Cambridge, Mass and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012). This is a useful corrective to the assumption that internationalism is merely the province of (in our period) the Third and Fourth Internationals: the decentering of statist perspectives that we refer to in this volume was not the only internationalism on offer.

    34 See, for instance, Sugata Bose and Kris Manjapra (ed.), Cosmopolitan Thought Zones: South Asia and the Global Circulation of Ideas (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Mrinalini Sinha, Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006); Kevin Grant, Philippa Levine, and Frank Trentmann (eds), Beyond Sovereignty: Britain, Empire and Transnationalism, c. 1880–1950 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2007). See also contributions to the Journal of Global History for a sense of the uses of the term “global;” and note the use of all three terms in the above titles. Is the “global” larger than the “transnational”?

    35 See Zachariah, Playing the Nation Game, 31–78, for a study of this tendency.

    36 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983); Partha Chatterjee, “Whose Imagined Community?” The Nation and its Fragments (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 3–13.

    37 Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (London: Zed Books, 1986).

    38 Most recently Sobhanlal Datta Gupta, Comintern and the Destiny of Communism in India 1919–1943 (Calcutta: Seribaan, 2006). Earlier, the ‘Indian revolutionaries abroad’ theme was important: see, for example, Tilak Raj Sareen, Indian Revolutionary Movement Abroad (1905–1920) (New Delhi: Sterling, 1979). For more specific references, see the essays as follows.

    39 For instance, Sugata Bose, A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006); or the collection of essays that comprise Bose and Manjapra (eds), Cosmopolitan Thought Zones, in which one of the contributors to this special issue also has a contribution: Benjamin Zachariah, “Rethinking (the Absence of) Fascism in India, c. 1922–1945,” 178–209.

    40 Benedict Anderson, Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination (London: Verso, 2005).

    41 Julia Kristeva, Nations Without Nationalism [1990] (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).

    42 Timothy Brennan, “Cosmopolitanism and Internationalism,” in Debating Cosmopolitics, ed. Daniele Archibugi (London: Verso, 2003), 40–50, argues that cosmopolitanism and internationalism are “theoretically incompatible”:

    a “unified polychromatic culture” and “world government” (cosmopolitanism) versus a “principle of national sovereignty” (internationalism) (41–42). This returns us to the point made above: that “international” has recently been appropriated by “states;” not to mention that where one stands in these debates depends very often on how one glosses the terms that one wishes to adopt or oppose. See also Stephen Vertovec and Robin Cohen (eds), Conceiving Cosmopolitanism: Theory, Context and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Pheng Cheah and Bruce Robbins (eds), Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998); Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).

    43 David Harvey, “Cosmopolitanism and the Banality of Geographical Evils,” Public Culture 12, 2 (2000): 529–64, 530.

    44 Sheldon Pollock, Homi K. Bhabha, Carol A. Breckenridge, and Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Cosmopolitanisms,” Public Culture 12, 3 (2000): 577–89.

    45 Peter Gay, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (New York: WW Norton, 2001 [1968]): 7.

    46 One of our central objections to much of the writing on transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, or globalism is its tendency to shrink the complexities of historical situations into an easy understanding of positive outcomes. For instance, Bose and Manjapra introduce the idea of a South Asian “cosmpolitanism” that overcomes the narrowness of identity, as does Nico Slate in describing the solidarities of Indians abroad with other oppressed peoples such as African Americans in the United States, but much of this appears as uncritically celebratory. See Kris Manjapra, “Introduction,” 1–19; Sugata Bose, “Different Universalisms, Colourful Cosmopolitanisms: The Global Imagination of the Colonized,” 97–111; or Nico Slate, “A Coloured Cosmopolitanism: Cedric Dover's Reading of the Afro-Asian world,” 213–35, all in Bose and Manjapra (eds), Cosmopolitan Thought Zones. Nico Slate, Colored Cosmopolitanism: The Shared Struggle for Freedom in the United States and India (Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2012) goes so far as to claim Lajpat Rai, the Hindu supporter of the Arya Samaj as a contributor to Negro liberties (pp. 40–41) and Swami Vivekananda, the misogynist supporter of caste distinctions, as an anti-racist (pp. 17–20). These are convenient readings in a book that collects diverse Indians who engaged with America in the same framework; but such feel-good readings do not stand up to scrutiny: the poet Sarojini Naidu demanded, from a Congress platform, the right of Indians to colonise East Africa at a time when British imperial officials were discussing the restriction of white settlement in the region, on the grounds of Indians’ allegedly superior civilization. Naidu was of course “cosmopolitan” in the classical sense of being at home in several contexts, but this was hardly solidarity with oppressed Africans. See Dhruba Gupta, “Indian Perceptions of Africa,” South Asia Research, 11, 2 (November 1991): 158–74. Ironically, Sarojini Naidu's brother was Viren Chattopadhyay, the organizer of the Congress of Oppressed Peoples in Brussels in 1927, and a consistent anti-imperialist in his international solidarities as well. The question of reading an intervention in its context rather than in terms of its retrospective resonances for historians or critics has echoes in Quentin Skinner's arguments about meaning and context: see Zachariah's essay in this volume for a discussion of the relevance of this framework.

    47 “Historicism” here is used not in Karl Popper's sense of the term, as in Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism (New York: Harper & Row, 1961 [1957]); the argument appeared under that title in 1944–45 in the journal Economica] or Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies (London: Routledge, 1945) 2 Vols, in which there is an end in the beginning, but in the sense attributed often to Leopold von Ranke on the historian's judgment not being imposed in retrospect on the past (though Ranke was reliant on ideas of God, the German people, or Destiny, among other things: see Leopold von Ranke, Geschichten der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 [Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1874]), the latter view modified by the understanding that the questions one asks are based on one's own interests; but a distinction between a contemporary and a retrospective judgment “as recognized by a historian” is maintained.

    48 The Amrita Bazar Patrika quoted Maulavi Abdul Hafiz Sharifabadi, the secretary of the Indian Seamen's Association, in 1923: the Association “was a cosmopolitan body, he said, as its laborers were not only simply confined to the Indian seamen, but there had been cases of seamen from other Asiatic countries who had been stranded in Calcutta and the Association had responded to their appeal for help in distress.” Clipping from the Amrita Bazar Patrika, December 25, 1923, in file on Indian National Seamen's Union, IB Files, West Bengal State Archives [WBSA], Calcutta, IB Sl. No. 135/1920, File No. 294/20, f.53. Indians in New York during the First World War were members of both the “Hindusthan Club” and the “Cosmopolitan Club.” IB Files, WBSA, Calcutta, IB Sl. No. 12/1915, File No. 102/1915, f.186.

    49 See, for instance, K.N. Chaudhuri, Asia before Europe: Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Visram, Ayahs, Lascars and Princes; Ashin Das Gupta, Malabar in Asian Trade 1740–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967); Rudrangshu Mukherjee and Lakshmi Subramanian (eds), Politics and Trade in the Indian Ocean World (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998); Ashin Das Gupta and M.N. Pearson, India and the Indian Ocean World 1500–1800 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987).

    50 For Nehru it was technological advance and science that had made the world interdependent. See Speech by Jawaharlal Nehru at the Students Conference held in Shraddhanand Park, Calcutta, September 22, 1928, in Durlab Singh (ed.), To the Youth of My Country, 76–90, see esp. 79. But even people with a less self-avowedly internationalist outlook, could not but feel the pull of the “world forces.” See for instance on the world forces and the necessity for “world mindedness,” Dr Shastri's speech at the Second Youth Conference held at Madras, over which he presided, speech reproduced in “The Indian Youth Conference,” The Volunteer, December 1927, 278–82.

    51 See, for instance, Dietmar Rothermund, India in the Great Depression 1929–1939 (Delhi: Manohar, 1992).

    52 Ranajit Guha, “On Some Aspects of the Historiography of Colonial India,” in Subaltern Studies I, ed. Ranajit Guha (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1982), 1–8.

    53 Partha Chatterjee coined the expression “the subalternity of an elite”: see Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

    54 See Amir Haider Khan's memoirs: Amir Haider Khan, Chains to Lose: Life and Struggles of a Revolutionary (2 vols, New Delhi: Patriot Publishers, 1988).

    55 Jawaharlal Nehru on Virendranath Chattopadhyay, in Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (London: Bodley Head, 1941 [1936]), 153.

    56 Dilip M. Menon, “A Local Cosmopolitan: ‘Kesari’ Balakrishna Pillai and the Invention of Europe for a Modern Kerala,” in Cosmopolitan Thought Zones, eds Bose and Manjapra, 131–55.

    57 We owe this phrase to Javed Majeed, from his talk at the workshop “Ideas, Ideologies and Intellectual Histories: Problems of Methodology and Sources,” Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, February 18, 2011.

    58 On this fascist coordination one might think of the Fascist International, modeled of course on the Comintern. See Michael Arthur Ledeen, Universal Fascism: The Theory and Practice of the Fascist International, 1928–1936 (New York: H. Fertig, 1972). See also Federico Finchelstein, Transatlantic Fascism: Ideology, Violence, and the Sacred in Argentina and Italy, 1919–1945 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), for writing from another historical context.

    59 See Stephen Legg, “Of Scales, Networks and Assemblages: The League of Nations Apparatus and the Scalar Sovereignty of the Government of India,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, NS 34 (2009): 234–53.

    60 The classic analysis of this dynamic is in Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography (Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1966 [1949]), in his two chapters on “Foreign Policy and Comintern,” 383–450.

    61 Dr Shastri's speech at the Second Youth Conference held at Madras, over which he presided, speech reproduced in “The Indian Youth Conference,” The Volunteer, December 1927, 278–82.

    62 For two contrasting South Asian responses to the Hitler State, see Benoy Kumar Sarkar, The Hitler State: A Landmark in the Political, Economic and Social Remaking of the German People (Calcutta: Insurance and Finance Review, 1933), and Soumyendranath Tagore, Hitlerism: The Aryan Rule in Germany (Calcutta: Ganashakti, 1934).

    63 Sarkar, The Hitler State, 13.

    64 Benjamin Zachariah, Developing India: An Intellectual and Social History, c. 1930–1950 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005), 28–43, 246–52.

    65 Benjamin Zachariah, Nehru (London: Routledge, 2004), 112–13, 159.

    66 For a recent intervention on the subject, see Slavoj Žižek, Did somebody say totalitarianism? Five interventions in the (mis)use of a notion (London: Verso, 2001).

    67 Zachariah, Nehru, 94–97.

    68 W.H. Auden, “September 1939,” New Republic October 18, 1939, 297, quoted from Nehru's own copy, in Jawaharlal Nehru Papers, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, Part V Nos. 46–55, f 3.

    69 Karuna Kaushik, Russian Revolution and Indian Nationalism: Studies of Lajpat Rai, Subhas Chandra Bose and Rammanohar Lohia (Delhi: Chanakya, 1984).

    70 Z.A. Ahmad's talk with Jawaharlal Nehru, June 1945, “not to be shown to anyone else without PC Joshi's [General Secretary, CPI] permission,” 1945/9, PC Joshi Archive, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

    71 Agnes Smedley, Daughter of Earth (London: Virago, 1979 [1927]); Agnes Smedley, Battle Hymn of China (London: Victor Gollancz, 1944), 12–24.

  • About the Editors and Contributors


    Ali Raza received his DPhil from Oxford University and is currently a Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin. His research centers on the history of leftist movements in undivided Punjab and in the states of India and Pakistan, and on their crossovers and interconnections with other intellectual and political ideas.

    Franziska Roy is currently a Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient. She studied law, philosophy, and history at Humboldt University of Berlin, completed her MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, and received her PhD from Warwick University. Her publications include the edited volume When the War Began, We Heard of Several Kings (2011) on South Asian prisoners of war during the Great War, and she has also published on aspects of the global entanglements of South Asia(ns) in the twentieth century.

    Benjamin Zachariah is a Research Fellow at the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Transcultural Studies at Heidelberg University. He studied history at Presidency College, Calcutta, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, and is the author of Nehru (2004), Developing India: An Intellectual and Social History, c. 1930–1950 (2005; 2nd edn 2012), and Playing the Nation Game: The Ambiguities of Nationalism in India (2011). His current research projects concern Indian exiles in Germany, the global communist movement, and interactions and interconnections among fascists in the interwar period.


    Robert S. Anderson is Professor of Communication at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He has been studying the social history of the sciences and technologies in India since 1965, and is most recently the author of Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India (2010).

    Ana Jelnikar is currently affiliated to the Research Centre of University of Primorska in Slovenia. She received her PhD at SOAS, University of London. In 2012–13, she was the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Fellow at Presidency University, Calcutta. Jelnikar is the translator of the first Slovenian edition of Carl Gustav Jung's Man and His Symbols, as well as eight collections of Slovenian poetry. Her recent publications include Look Back, Look Ahead: Selected Poems of Srečko Kosovel (co-translated with Barbara Siegel Carlson, 2010) and Meta Kušar's poetry collection Ljubljana (co-translated with Stephen Watts, 2010). Jelnikar is the cofounder of the annual Golden Boat International Poetry Translation Workshop in Slovenia, which she helped run between 2003 and 2009.

    Michele L. Louro is an Assistant Professor of History at Salem State University. She completed her PhD in History from Temple University, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on twentieth-century South Asia with interests in the intersections between Indian nationalism and internationalism. Her current book project, Comrades against Imperialism, situates the anticolonial nationalist politics of Jawaharlal Nehru in relation to the international anti-imperialist mobilizations and networks of the late colonial and interwar period. Research for this project has been funded by the U.S. Fulbright and the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy (CENFAD). She has been published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2013) and Third Frame: Literature, Culture and Society (2009).

    Maia Ramnath is currently Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies at Pennsylvania State University. From 2008 to 2012 she was Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow for Global Histories in the Draper Interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Thought program at New York University. She is the author of Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire (2011) and Decolonizing Anarchism: An Antiauthoritarian History of India's Liberation Struggle (2012).

    Carolien Stolte is university lecturer in Colonial and Global History at Leiden University. She studied History and South Asian Studies at Leiden, the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, and the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and received her PhD from Leiden University. Her research focuses on South Asian intellectual history from a transregional perspective. She is currently interested in histories of internationalism and regionalism during decolonization. In addition, she is managing editor of the journal Itinerario.

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