ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interrogating Populist Tendencies within the Left Rhetoric in Kerala

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there has been an increasing shift from class-based politics to politics based on mobilising “people” within the left-wing political praxis and rhetoric. Such tendencies are visible even within the left rhetoric in Kerala. In the particular context of Kerala, this process is enmeshed with sub-nationalist sentiments and concerns around vikasanam (development). It is possible that this tendency can metamorphose into different directions, depending on the tactical priorities of the left in Kerala.


The collapse of the traditional communist and socialist parties across the world had led to a serious rethinking within the sections of the left regarding how to survive in a changing world. The conclusion that left politics centred on the category of class cannot survive in its classical form had been widely shared. Responses to such a challenge included, inter alia, an attempt to appeal to wider categories such as the “people.” This shift, acting with the contemporary tendency visible across the globe to problematise the role of liberal political norms, institutions and established elites, has produced leftist variants of populism.

The idea that democracy is not all about having liberal political institutions and formal equality and that it needs to be reclai­med by the exploited classes has for long remained at the core of the left political understanding and praxis. Also, this has remained the cornerstone of the Marxist critique of liberal democracy. But the major difference between what we understand as populism today (with both its leftist and rightist varieties) on the one hand and the Marxist mobilisation to reclaim democracy on the other is that the former relies on the binary of “the people” versus “the elite,” whereas the latter is based on the more precisely defined class antagonisms.

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Updated On : 16th Apr, 2022
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