Vinod Mubayi and Raza Mir


By any measure relevant to a decent future for the world, November 2016 has been an extremely depressing month. In the United States, con-man Donald Trump was elected President on November 8, despite having lost the popular vote by over 2 million votes. Right-wingers across the world, including some in the Indian diaspora, are jubilant. Get ready for four years of unrelenting assaults on reproductive rights, minority rights, police brutality, health care and the reduction of public spending in the service of tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy.


On the same day as the US election, the Modi government announced a demonetization program, a veritable Pol Pot-ian move that, while ostensibly aimed at ridding the nation of black money, sentenced the vast majority of the country, including, in particular, the poorer section of the society, that relies on the cash economy to a future of untold and unimaginable distress. Every serious economist has condemned the utter folly of this move. Prof. Arun Kumar of JNU, a leading authority on the “black” economy in India, said in an interview on the way demonetization was carried out that “If you take out 85 percent blood from somebody’s body and then put five percent into it, what will happen to that person? He will die.” This is what the poor are currently experiencing, the middle-class swayed by the nationalist bombast from Modi may take some more time to discover they are next. The reality is that demonetization has gutted the informal economy that comprises 20% of the GDP, but employs over 75% of India’s labor sector. It is possible, as some have speculated, that the overnight act of demonetization was a move aimed at the forthcoming state elections in UP to destroy the black money hoards of the political parties opposed to the BJP; the unprecedented purchase of large tracts of land in UP and Bihar by the BJP in the months preceding November thereby converting part of its own black money hoard into “white” lends some credence to this speculation. Another possibility is the move was ultimately aimed at bailing out BJP’s crony capitalist friends and supporters who owe enormous amounts to public sector banks; sucking in cash held under the proverbial mattress back into the banking system would improve bank portfolios and allow them to write off some of the NPAs (non-performing assets). Time will tell which theory is right; in the meantime, the “aam aadmi” and the country suffer.


In India, the Modi government continues to aim its guns at academics who oppose its policies. The first salvo was a murder charge against Prof. Nandini Sundar of Delhi University and other academics for daring to expose the government’s connivance in the murderous repression of tribals in central India. More attacks are bound to follow, as the forces of fascism respond to an uptick in student and faculty resistance against their agenda that was manifested most clearly by the JNU activism earlier this year.


Finally, November 2016 not content to let con-men and wannabe fascists assume power also witnessed the departure of the iconic revolutionary Fidel Castro. His principled opposition to imperialism and capitalism, but, above all, to the colossus of the north, a mere 90 miles from the little island of Cuba, for over half a century was a beacon of inspiration to the struggling masses of Latin America and the entire world. One of the final bastions of socialism in the world has fallen. We bid farewell to him by recalling the ringing words of Pablo Neruda:


Fidel, Fidel, the people are grateful

for words in action and deeds that sing,

that is why I bring from far

a cup of my country’s wine:

it is the blood of a subterranean people

that from the shadows reaches your throat,

they are miners who have lived for centuries

extracting fire from the frozen land.


They go beneath the sea for coal

but on returning they are like ghosts:

they grew accustomed to eternal night,

the working-day light was robbed from them,

nevertheless here is the cup

of so much suffering and distances:

the happiness of imprisoned men

possessed by darkness and illusions

who from the inside of mines perceive

the arrival of spring and its fragrances

because they know that Man is struggling

to reach the amplest clarity.


And Cuba is seen by the Southern miners,

the lonely sons of la pampa,

the shepherds of cold in Patagonia,

the fathers of tin and silver,

the ones who marry cordilleras

extract the copper from Chuquicamata,

men hidden in buses

in populations of pure nostalgia,

women of the fields and workshops,

children who cried away their childhoods:

this is the cup, take it, Fidel.


It is full of so much hope

that upon drinking you will know your victory

is like the aged wine of my country

made not by one man but by many men

and not by one grape but by many plants:

it is not one drop but many rivers:

not one captain but many battles.


And they support you because you represent

the collective honor of our long struggle,

and if Cuba were to fall we would all fall,

and we would come to lift her,

and if she blooms with flowers

she will flourish with our own nectar.


And if they dare touch Cuba’s

forehead, by your hands liberated,

they will find people’s fists,

we will take out our buried weapons:

blood and pride will come to rescue,

to defend our beloved Cuba.

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