A Stalinist Comes Home to Roost

Ashok Mitra, the brilliant, acerbic and one of the more dogmatic CPM members pontificates on the Stalinist Frankenstein he helped to create.

One can borrow S.D. Burman’s songto describe what the CPI(M) was in the state a few decades ago: “You are not what you were.”  Ninety per cent of the party members have joined after 1977, 70 per cent after 1991.  They do not know the history of sacrifices of the party.  To them ideological commitment to revolution and socialism is simply a fading folktale.  As the new ideology is development, many of them associated with the party are in the search for personal development.  They have come to take, not to give.  One efficient way to bag privileges is to flatter the masters.  The party has turned into a wide open field of flatterers and court jesters.  Moreover, there has been a rising dominance of ‘anti-socials’.

It is too late, Com Mitra. The sky is really fallin’ this time.

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Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears

Moscow does not believe in tears (1980) provides a rich view into the Soviet Union circa 1980 even as it is clearly inspired by French cinema of the time. It tells the very earthly story about three girls who have just come to Moscow in 1958 and then fast forwards twenty years later. What emerges is the portrait of a people with their own problems. There are no signs of a society crashing into an abyss that it was to a mere ten years after the movie was made. At the same time,there are no pretensions of a worker’s paradise either- decrepit roads, dilapidated cars, apartments in disrepair- all attest to a not so glorious condition.

There are barely crouched references to Breznevian rule. Gosha, who comes into Katya’s life towards the end of the movie comments says that everyone need not aspire to be a manager, or a leader and recalls the Roman emperor Diocletian who first established an autocratic rule in Rome and then gave up his empire to live in the countryside and grow cabbages, though interestingly in the movie he mentions him as a good ruler.

A good emperor by the way. At the height of his empire, he gave away the crown and settled down in the country. And when he was asked to take over again, he replied- “if you looked at the cabbages in my garden, you’d stop asking me.”

There is an underlying Soviet belief in the reduction of class antagonism, of a possibility of a woman rising to be the director of a big industrial plant- and a single mother at that. At the same time, there is an acceptance of patriarchal values, the authority that a man wields and that Gosha demands. Drunkenness among men, much prevalent during the Soviet years- as it is later, is very visible- with repeated declarations to drinking being a holy act.

It may be unfair to read too much into the movie with the wisdom of hindsight after the disintegration of the former USSR. But even without that, the movie comes out as an essentially humane one, and touches one. It’s music alone is worth listening to again and again, as I did long after I had watched the movie twice. But one cannot stop being where one is situated in time, and a final point on its relevance to Soviet society and its disintegration.

Soviet Union was not a paradise. Neither was it hell- it was a society that set too high a demand for itself and placed too many demands on its people to lead mankind into the future- there are repeated references to the future. “Chemistry is the future of the world”, says Katya, while Rudolph, the father of her daughter, claims that “TV is the future, when there will be no more theater, or books or movies.”

“The future? You should be thinking about the present”, says one of Katya’s friends.

The postponement of the self- whether of the individual, or a city- Moscow in this case, or a nation, is not always a fine thing.

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No Books These

The trouble with things like the Sony Reader and the Amazon’s just released Kindle is not that these are expensive gadgets and have limited content, but that e- book readers have no way a reader can mark, underline, annotate or deface the book in any manner.

Nor would these carry hidden between the pages that fleeting thought on an odd piece of paper or the smudge of a spilled drink.

E- books ain’t no books.

(Image Source)
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Nisar Main Teri Galiyon Ke- A Translation

I could not find a translation of the complete nazm Nisar main teri galiyon ke on the internet while writing the previous post and have attempted my own translation of Faiz’s popular and, in present circumstances in Pakistan, a particularly apt nazm. The original nazm is reproduced below the translation. I have taken quite a few liberties in this humble attempt at translating this highly idiomatic  poem.

***

My salutations to thy sacred streets, O beloved nation!
Where a tradition has been invented- that none shall walk with his head held high
If at all one takes a walk, a pilgrimage
One must walk, eyes lowered, the body crouched in fear

The heart in a tumultuous wrench at the sight
Of stones and bricks locked away and mongrels breathing free

In this tyranny that has many an excuse to perpetuate itself
Those crazy few that have nothing but thy name on their lips
Facing those power crazed that both prosecute and judge, wonder
To whom does one turn for defence, from whom does one expect justice?

But those whose fate it is to live through these times
Spend their days in thy mournful memories

When hope begins to dim, my heart has often conjured
Your forehead sprinkled with stars
And when my chains have glittered
I have imagined that dawn must have burst upon thy face

Thus one lives in the memories of thy dawns and dusks
Imprisoned in the shadows of the high prison walls

Thus always has the world grappled with tyranny
Neither their rituals nor our rebellion is new
Thus have we always grown flowers in fire
Neither their defeat, nor our final victory, is new!

Thus we do not blame the heavens
Nor let bitterness seed in our hearts

We are separated today, but one day shall be re- united
This separation that will not last beyond tonight, bears lightly on us
Today the power of our exalted rivals may touch the zenith
But these four days of omniscience too shall pass

Those that love thee keep, beside them
The cure of the pains of a million heart- breaks

***

The original (source)

nisaar mai.n terii galiyo.n ke ae watan, ki jahaa.N
chalii hai rasm ki koii na sar uThaa ke chale
jo koii chaahanewaalaa tawaaf ko nikale
nazar churaa ke chale, jism-o-jaa.N bachaa ke chale

hai ahl-e-dil ke liye ab ye nazm-e-bast-o-kushaad
ki sang-o-Khisht muqayyad hai.n aur sag aazaad

bahot hai.n zulm ke dast-e-bahaanaa-juu ke liye
jo cha.nd ahl-e-junuu.N tere naam levaa hai.n
bane hai.n ahl-e-hawas muddaii bhii, mu.nsif bhii
kise wakiil kare.n, kis se mu.nsifii chaahe.n

magar guzaranewaalo.n ke din guzarate hai.n
tere firaaq me.n yuu.N subh-o-shaam karate hai.n

bujhaa jo rauzan-e-zi.ndaa.N to dil ye samajhaa hai
ki terii maa.ng sitaaro.n se bhar gaii hogii
chamak uThe hai.n salaasil to hamane jaanaa hai
ki ab sahar tere ruKh par bikhar gaii hogii

Garaz tasavvur-e-shaam-o-sahar me.n jiite hai.n
giraft-e-saayaa-e-diwaar-o-dar me.n jiite hai.n

yuu.N hii hameshaa ulajhatii rahii hai zulm se Khalq
na unakii rasm naii hai, na apanii riit naii
yuu.N hii hameshaa khilaaye hai.n hamane aag me.n phuul
na unakii haar naii hai na apanii jiit naii

isii sabab se falak kaa gilaa nahii.n karate
tere firaaq men ham dil buraa nahii.n karate

Gar aaj tujhase judaa hai.n to kal baham ho.nge
ye raat bhar kii judaaii to koii baat nahii.n
Gar aaj auj pe hai taala-e-raqiib to kyaa
ye chaar din kii Khudaaii to koii baat nahii.n

jo tujhase ahd-e-wafaa ustavaar rakhate hai.n
ilaaj-e-gardish-e-lail-o-nihaar rakhate hai.n

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‘Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad’

Imran Khan, arrested last week under the anti- terrorism act after Islamist students handed him over to the police, is now lodged in a jail with hardened criminals.

Niazi (said) that Imran was being kept in a cell with common criminals, some of them suspected of murder and other violent crimes.

Imran was taken to Dera Ghazi Khan from Lahore where he was held by radical Islamist students during a protest on Wednesday and handed over to the police, who charged him under the anti-terrorism act. (link)

Yet, Musharaff would have the world believe that the so called emergency is against the Islamists and that Pakistan is on the road to democracy! This is what he said on Nov 3:

“Pakistan is at a critical point. Terror has also taken roots even in Islamabad. Hardliners are spreading fundamentalist ideas about Islam across the country,” he said.

These are the lines by Faiz that immediately come to mind.

Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad

(That stones and bricks are locked up, and dogs free). (translation by via sankarshan)

The full nazm, the famous nisar main teri galiyon pe ai watan ….here

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A Meeting of the Rich and Aspiring

The G20 meeting that ended today in Kleinmond, South Africa represents the countries that account for more than 85 percent of the world’s GDP and about two third’s of the world’s population. The G20, formed in 1999 in the aftermath of the Asian crisis is both an attempt by the “core” capitalist countries to include emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and South Africa (among others) as junior partners as well as an attempt by the ruling elites in these countries to grab more at the expense of smaller ones. As Shawn Hattingh points out, 80 countries in the world are now poorer than they were in the 1970s and the poorest 48 countries now account for just .4 percent of the world trade in a world where the richest 400 people own more than the poorest 3 billion.

At the Kleinmond meeting, the G20 will also be discussing the possibility of implementing a number of reforms within the World Bank and the IMF.  However, the reforms that have been suggested by the G20 countries are only superficial.  The largest countries of the South involved in the G20, such as South Africa, Brazil, China, and India, want to reform the World Bank and the IMF in order to receive greater voting rights for themselves within these institutions. They have, however, not called for equal voting rights for all countries in IMF and the World Bank, which is significant.(link)

The same article also points to the growing disparities within the world.

While most of the G20 countries are now richer than ever under neo-liberal globalisation; as many as 80 other countries are now poorer than they were in the 1970s. Although trade has increased under the global neo-liberal ‘free’ trade regime, it has only been an elite who have benefited.  The portion of exports from the poorest countries has declined markedly.  In fact, the poorest 48 countries now only account for 0.4% of global exports.  This is because the industries in these countries have been destroyed by imports flooding in under the banner of ‘free’ trade.  All of this translates into a world of growing inequality: a world where the richest 400 people, the new global capitalist aristocracy, now have more money than the poorest 3 billion people combined.

A guide to the Gs of the world- G7,G10,G20 and a link to the ‘hot topics’ in today’s meeting in South Africa.

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