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America & Marxism
An opportunity seemed to present to JP to go to the US for higher studies. He was assured that students from poor families could work their way through college. JP wrote to Prabhavati requesting her to accompany him. She refused and JP too realized that he could not support her abroad. However JP’s departure was delayed for a year by his mother’s clinging, affectionate opposition as well as her failing health. JP left India in 1922 and he was to be plunged in to entirely new experiences. JP reached San Francisco in October 1922 via Japan. He had his education in US for seven years from 1922-1929. In the beginning, JP worked in the fruit ranch setting out grapes to dry in the sun to be made into raisins in the factory. Then he joined the University of California at Berkley. He lived in a rented room, earning by working in restaurants, waiting at the tables; or washing dishes and by taking up odd jobs on Sundays. During the vacation, he again looked for work in the country-side.
JP began to find himself more interested in sociology than in science and to view his career in a different light. Because of his expectation of national revolution in India, he did not consider that a study of science would assist him much in his work as a revolutionary. Hence he enrolled himself in the social sciences at Wisconsin University, being the most progressive University in the US due to the influence of Robert La Folette. By day and night he poured over the writings of the bourgeoisie social scientist and radicals – Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Plekhanov and Rosa Luxemburg. He read the three volumes of Das Kapital and everything available in English that Marx had written. He came to regard Marx then, as one of the greatest minds of the human race for his path finding work in Sociology. His intellectual interests were greatly broadened by the contacts with a group of Marxist-Leninists of the Madison home of a Russian Jewish tailor. He remained attentively alive to the writings of sociologists throughout the world. His studies proved so engrossing that he did not write to his family members or friends for a year and they became exceedingly worried about him. However, he did write to Prabhavati, telling her that he had received an invitation to study in the Soviet-union, making again a personal request to accompany him on his visit to a Moscow. Prabhavati again refused to go with him. Finally JP was dissuaded by his father Braj Kishore from India for going to Moscow and becoming a Bolshevik. He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts. He was granted a post graduate scholarship. The subject of his thesis for his Master of Arts was “Social Variation”. It was declared the best paper of the year. In it, he took the Marxist view point of dialectical & historical materialism. Then he planned to continue his studies until he had completed his Ph.D. But his dream did not become a reality, because he learnt that his mother was so ill from dropsy that she was bedridden. In the US in Wisconsin, he got acquainted to the writing of M. N. Roy that made on impact of his political mind and even aroused in him a suspicion of Gandhian thought. He read Roy’s writings like “The Aftermath of Non-co-operation”, “India in Transition”. Naturally M. N. Roy had a great hand in moulding his thought and leading him to communism as a confirmed Marxist. Finally, he returned to India convinced that he central problem of human society was inequality of wealth, property, rank, culture and opportunities and the passage of time never obscured it’.
JP left for India in September, 1929 and reached India in November, 1929 at the age of twenty-seven, after seven year’s stay in the US. His wife Prabhavati was living with Gandhi and had taken the vow of celibacy. JP respected his wife’s decision. During this period the Nationalist Movement had reached its peak of frenzy. Gandhi was preparing for the next phase of struggle after independence. JP went to Wardha to see Gandhi and he met Jawaharlal Nehru also there. Jawaharlal Nehru was impressed by him and invited him to come to Allahabad and head the labour research department of INC. When JP returned to India in 1929, he was not interested in leading a comfortable life. He was determined to devote whole of life for the good of the people. Though JP was practically a committed Marxist, he was convinced that the communists in India must join the main stream of the struggle for National Liberation even if it was under the hegemony of the so-called bourgeoisie. On his way back to India, he had met Clemenus Dutt, brother of Rajni Palme Dutt and other communist leaders in London and discussed with them the issue of India’s freedom & revolution. JP, who had read Lenin’s famous “Colonial thesis” calling upon the communists in the “Slave” countries to take active part in the national freedom struggle, was not convinced of Dutt’s argument. Later when JP joined the nationalist freedom movement, he was surprised to find that Indian communists were following the line which Clemenus Dutt advocated. JP could not understand the rationality of the fight against the INC (Indian National Congress) which was fighting for the freedom of the country.