After more than a decade of anticolonial revolutionary activities across India, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, and a three-year sojourn in Russia during the revolutionary years, M.P.T. Acharya returned to Berlin in late 1922 and soon joined the anarcho-syndicalist International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) and the International Anti-Militarist Bureau against War and Reaction (IAMB). Throughout the next three decades, Acharya became India’s premier anarchist and a staunch pacifist, working closely with many of the most prominent figures in the international anarchist movement, including Alexander Berkman, Rudolf Rocker, Diego Abad de Santillan, and Augustin Souchy, but his life and work has remained forgotten in South Asian anti-colonial as well as anarchist historiographies.
Paying attention to transnational interactions in the interwar period, the project engages Acharya’s activities and thoughts in conversation with broader political developments such as the Indian struggle for independence, pacifism, non-violence, Gandhism, and anarchism. Focusing primarily on three themes: anticolonialism, pacifism, and anarchism, the project pursues several arguments. First, exploring Acharya’s transition from militant anticolonial nationalist to anarchist pacifist as well as his debates with Gandhi’s thoughts, I argue that his staunch anti-militarism charts a new path towards understanding non-violence in relation to anticolonialism and challenges the dominant focus on Gandhi and satyagraha in India. Second, I argue that Acharya’s turn to anarchism opens new avenues of inquiry into the global reach of anarchism in the interwar period, expanding our understanding of the processes of globalisation. What is more, it challenges conventional narratives of leftist influences on the Indian liberation struggle and moves towards libertarian socialist rather than Marxist or militant strands. The overall ambition of the project is to uncover the ways in which Acharya wove anticolonialism, pacifism, and anarchism into a unique articulation of political resistance to oppressive state power, be it imperialist, Bolshevist, or capitalist. Pursuing these arguments, it brings the Indian independence movement into much closer conversation with anarchism than previously assumed by historians.