Social Scientist. v 11, no. 120 (May 1983) p. 66.


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BOOK REVIEW

GEORGES KRISTOFFEL LIETEN, THE FIRST COMMUNIST MINISTRY IN KERALA, 1957-9. K P Bagchi, Calcutta. 1982, pp 189, Rs 60.

JT was a significant event in the political history of India when the first communist minsitry was formed in Kerala in April 1957 with E M S Namboodiripad as the Chief Minister. However, within 28 months, on July 31, 1959, the ministry was toppled by the Centre when Indira Gandhi was the president of the Indian National Congress. The imposition of the President's rule came as a climax to the vicious, virulent and violent campaign, the 'Vimochana Samaram' launched by a formidable combine of the reactionary, caste, communal, political and economic forces to oust the ministry. The Congress party, true to its class character, fully participated in the rabid campaign along with other bourgeois parties like the PSP and reactionary organisations of the Nairs and Christians.

The rationale of the Kerala experience of 1957-1959 or the Kerala type experiment and its relevance to national politics has figured prominently, if not always directly, in the intense political-ideological debates first within the undivided Communist Party and later among the Communist Parties. It is not only the political activists but also a large number of scholars, both Indian and foreign, who have been interested in analysing the formation, functioning and political fall-out of the short-lived first communist ministry in Kerala. As a result, there is a mass of literature in the form of articles, monographs and books on the subject. Poor scholarship and pronounced anti-communist bias have characterised most of the writings. The book under review is probably the latest on the subject. The author is a Dutch political scientist who has written extensively on the political developments in India in general and Kerala in particular.

The bookjhas in all four chapters. It begins appropriately with an extremely useful and interesting survey of tho socio-historical and ideological background to the emergence of the first communist ministry in Kerala. In view of the fact that a number of scholars have generally tended to view Kerala politics in purely caste terms, the author critically examines the stereotyped approach and exposes the shibboleths. He points out how, for instance, scholars like Miroslaw Fie have failed "to relate the congruence between caste and party or to analyse which parties were communal in the programme or in their tactics". He further rightly observes: "The stubbornness with which



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