Kerala: One of the few places where a communist can still dream

The Washington Post reports: On a recent morning in southern India, one of the world’s last true-believing communists rose to speak in a place where communists can still whip up the masses and win elections.

Thomas Isaac, the finance minister for the state of Kerala, gazed out at a crowd of hundreds who had gathered to honor the founding father of Kerala’s Communist Party, a man killed by a snakebite while organizing farmworkers whose dying words were reputed to have been: “Comrades, forward!”

A row of hammer and sickle flags fluttered in the wind. People raised clenched fists in a “red salute” and chanted “Long live the revolution!”

“We are trying to build our dream state in this fascist India!” Isaac began, and in so many ways it was still true.

A century after Bolsheviks swarmed the Winter Palace in Petrograd, Russia (now St. Petersburg), the Indian state of Kerala, home to 35 million people, remains one of the few places on earth where a communist can still dream.

The Bolsheviks, inspired by Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” had set out to build a new kind of society, a workers’ paradise in which property and wealth would be owned in common. That revolution began in the fall of 1917 and gave rise to the Soviet Union and a movement that would sweep across one-third of the world, inspiring new followers, erasing borders and filling gulags. Eventually, it would be undone by stagnant economies, pressure from the West and the alienation of its own people.

What remains today are five nominally communist nations. In Cuba, the revolution survives mostly as a decrepit museum piece. The communist parties of China, Vietnam and Laos preside over largely autocratic forms of runaway capitalism. In North Korea, communism has become a nuclear-armed cult of personality and police state.

But in Kerala — far from the high-stakes maneuvers of the Cold War and nearly 2,000 miles from the Indian capital of New Delhi — history has taken the most unexpected of detours. [Continue reading…]

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