Communicating Communism: Social Spaces and the Creation of a “Progressive” Public Sphere in Kerala, India
Communism arrived in the south Indian state of Kerala in the early twentieth century at a time when the matrilineal systems that governed caste-Hindu relations were crumbling quickly. For a large part of the twentieth century, the Communist Party – specifically the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – played a major role in navigating Kerala society through a developmental path based on equality, justice and solidarity. Following Lefebvre’s conceptualisation of (social) space, this paper explores how informal social spaces played an important role in communicating ideas of communism and socialism to the masses. Early communists used rural libraries and reading rooms, tea-shops, public grounds and wall-art to engage with and communicate communism to the masses. What can the efforts of the early communists in Kerala tell us about the potential for communicative socialism? How can we adapt these experiences in the twenty-first century? Using autobiographies, memoirs, and personal interviews, this paper addresses these questions.
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