The rise of the national-popular and its limits: communism and the cultural in Kerala
AbstractThe emergence of the communist movement in Kerala, India in a society that was characterized by immense divisions of caste and class is significant for understanding social transformation. What is of particular importance is the ways in which the communist activists who spoke the language of a supposedly alien ideology engaged with a populace that was predominantly agrarian and poor. This paper will look at the communist engagement with certain aspects of culture, specifically songs, folk arts and theatre, in the initial years of the movement and argue that something akin to a national-popular will was constructed, which broke down many existing hierarchies and created new unities. But this engagement was equally characterized by many contradictions and spectacular failures which dented the emerging national-popular. The cultural, and the communist engagement with it played a crucial role in laying the seeds of a substantive postcolonial democracy but only in relative terms and without necessarily conferring on the most exploited classes equal rights.
Keywords: national-popular, communist movement, culture, Kerala
Nissim Mannathukkaren is with Dalhousie University, Canada and his research interests are focused on left/communist movements, development and democracy, modernity, the politics of popular culture and Marxist and postcolonial theories. He is the author of TheRupture with Memory: Derrida and the Specters that Haunt Marxism, and has publications in journals like the Journal of Peasant Studies, Third World Quarterly, Journal of Critical Realism, International Journal of the History of Sport, and Economic and Political Weekly.