THE RECENT DEFEAT of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala and -especially in West Bengal—where it ruled for 34 uninterrupted years—calls for a detached, dispassionate analysis of the party's place in the history of modern India.
In what manner, and to what extent, did politicians committed in theory to the construction of a one-party state reconcile themselves in practice to bourgeois democracy? What were the sources of the CPI(M)'s electoral appeal in Kerala and West Bengal? How were its policies constrained or enabled by its ideology of Marxism-Leninism? How should this ideology be rethought or reworked in the light of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the manifest attachment of the people of India to multiparty democracy? How might the CPI(M) restore and reinvent itself after these electoral reversals in Kerala and West Bengal?