M.P.T. Acharya, Anticolonialism and Anarchism, 1923-1954
Exploring the life of the Indian anarchist M.P.T. Acharya, covering issues of anticolonialism, anarchism, pacifism, and the Indian independence movement, this lecture opens a window onto the international anarchist movement in the interwar years, the history of anarchism in India, and how uncovering Acharya’s anarchist philosophy might help decolonise anarchism.
Lunch Lecture by IIAS fellow Ole Laursen from New York University, London (NYU London).
This lecture explores the life of the Indian anarchist M.P.T. Acharya, covering issues of anticolonialism, anarchism, pacifism, and the Indian independence movement, and opens a window onto the international anarchist movement in the interwar years and the history of anarchism in India. In late 1922, Acharya returned to Berlin, after a few tumultuous years in post-revolutionary Russia, and a few weeks later attended the founding meeting of the anarcho-syndicalist International Working Men’s Association (IWMA). After falling out with other Indian nationalists in the wake of the formation of the exiled Communist Party of India (CPI) in Tashkent, this Indian anarchist who was ‘striving on his own in the whole sub-continent to establish a movement’, as Albert Meltzer recalled, charted new territories as he straddled anticolonial and anarchist circles in the interwar years. Drawing on archival material from across Britain, India, the Netherlands, and Russia, this lecture traces Acharya’s steps from militant anticolonial nationalist to international anarchist. Discussing his place within the international anarchist movement, it fleshes out some of his key thoughts on anarchism, pacifism, and the Indian independence struggle, and situates him in relation to larger debates around decolonizing anarchism.
Dr Ole Birk Laursen is Lecturer in English at New York University, London. Interdisciplinary by training, his research concerns the literature and history of South Asia, anti-imperialism, and anarchism. He is co-editor of Reworking Postcolonialism: Globalization, Labour, and Rights (Palgrave 2015), Networking the Globe: New Technologies and the Postcolonial (Routledge 2016), and a special issue of SubStance: A Review of Theory and Literary Criticism (2017) on comics and anarchism. He is editor of M. P. T. Acharya, We Are Anarchists: Essays on Anarchism, Pacifism, and the Indian Independence Movement, 1923-1953 (AK Press 2019), Lay Down Your Arms: Anti-Militarism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Global Radical Left in the 1930s (On Our Own Authority! Publishing, 2019), and is currently writing a monograph entitled The Indian Revolutionary Movement in Europe, 1905-1918 (Liverpool UP, 2021).