M. N. ROY'S life is the stuff thriller novels are made of. Fired by patriotic zeal, he joined the revolutionary movement at the tender age of 14. During World War I, he tried to get arms for Indian revolutionaries from Indonesia, China, and Japan. Dodging the British, Chinese and Japanese police with a forged French passport in the name of Father Martin, he reached the USA. Once there, he began to call himself Manabendra Nath Roy or M. N. Roy for short. He assumed so many more identities and aliases, in his long adventurous life, that people forgot his real name: Narendra Nath Bhattacharya.
Inspired by the daredevilry of firebrand revolutionary V. D. Savarkar, he himself led a life as exciting as that of his childhood idol. Quite early in life, he read Bankim Chandra's Anand Math. The book had a profound impact on the young man. Roy studied for a while at National College, when Sri Aurobindo was Principal. He soon joined the Yugantar group - an organisation that believed in violent revolution. As he indulged in more and more revolutionary activities, he began to figure prominently in police records. When the situation became an impossible one for him, he was forced to flee the country.
Having reached the USA, he started studying socialism, and was back to his revolutionary ways. When the USA joined World War I, there were orders to have him arrested. Fearless as ever, he jumped the bail and fled to the neutral Mexico, along with his American wife Evelyn Trent, under an assumed name of Manuel Gomes. Over there he organised a Socialist party, which later became the first Communist Party outside the Soviet Union. He became so popular there that the President of Mexico took him as his non-official adviser.
When Lenin heard of the exploits of Roy, he invited him to Russia. Travelling once again under an assumed name, he reached Russia for the second International Congress of Communists. Lenin was actually expecting a wizened old man from the east, but he was surprised to see a young and robust six-footer instead. Lenin was sufficiently impressed by his intellectual depth and called him the symbol of revolution in the East. Not the man to be overawed by big personalities, M. N. Roy was bold enough to speak out his mind whenever he disagreed with Lenin. He was asked to write for Pravda, the Party organ; was elected member of the Presidium; and was sent to Tashkent to lead the revolution. In fact there was also a proposal to send him as Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan so that he could guide the revolution in India. After Lenin's death, differences cropped up between him and the Communist leadership in Russia, and he left for China in 1926 to lend his strength to the revolution there.
He returned to India in 1930, and was arrested and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. At the end of his prison term, he joined the Indian National Congress, but at the outbreak of World War II, left the Congress and formed the Radical Democratic Party in 1940. By that time, his political philosophy had begun to show signs of change. He began to drift away from Marxism, and drew closer towards New Humanism.