We begin 2017 with a political landscape very different from the one we would have expected, only a few months ago. With the PMSD suddenly leaving Government, Jugnauth no longer has a 3/4 majority. This can only be a good thing. The MSM-ML-OPR (32-7-2 seats) has, nevertheless, a comfortable majority. And what with Parliament re-convening only in March, the MSM will be working hard at increasing this majority. Hon. Marie-Claire Monty and Alain Wong, both PMSD MPs, are already on the MSM list, making the PMSD’s 11 MPs turn out to be only 9. So far! The drift downwards may even continue.
But, figures are not enough to make a Government strong. And the Government is now, in fact, relatively weak, politically speaking. Why is this? The main reason is, of course, that the MSM has not got an economic program for production. It has not got an economic program for massive job creation. It has no other program except to follow, as a tail invariably follows a dog’s head, the greedy sugar estate bosses as they proceed with selling off the country’s agricultural land left, right and centre, in real estate speculation, in a new kind of colonization a-la-Israelienne.
But there were already other more politico-legal sources of weakness in the Government, and this only two years into a five-year term.
First there is the criminal case on appeal against the future Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth. This has dogged the MSM’s mandate. The case is, in fact, strangely one for a rather technical “conflict of interest” where there is not even any “mens rea”, intention to be corrupt. But, the fact remains, it is a huge political stumbling block.
Second, there is internal squabbling on a truly unprecedented scale. In fact, the word “squabble” is not really appropriate to this kind of internal war. One Minister calls another “the KGB” quite openly. Another calls a colleague a gold-merchant. Minister Bhadain attacks one of Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s right-hand men (Sanspeur), while Minister Collendaveloo attacks another (Sherry Singh).
Third, there is the “papa-piti” campaign attacking the MSM for Jugnauth the Father making way for Jugnauth the Son to be next Prime Minister. The campaign – though childish really because Pravind Jugnauth, if he commands a majority in Parliament is clearly the Prime Minister under today’s rules – does weaken the MSM. And it weakens the MSM even though the main campaigner is “piti-papa” himself, Navin Ramgoolam. So piti-papa runs a campaign against papa-piti.
But, whatever. The Jugnauth reign is weakened. The only good thing it has done is to put a Resolution before the UN General Assembly for the Chagos and Diego Garcia issue to go to the ICJ.
PMSD’s sudden Resignation from Government
The PMSD certainly left Government for reasons which are not those Xavier Duval said they were. He said that the Prosecution Commission Bill and its Constitutional Amendment was a threat to democracy. But he had only just voted another “threat to democracy” in the form of the amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, including a Constitutional Amendment that was necessary to permit this particular threat to democracy. But why did they leave? Why give up 4 Ministries, 2 PPSs, deputy speaker, a whole lot of Mayorships and Ambassador nominations, not to mention para-statal nominations?
Was it the “push effect”? i.e. that either Aneerood or Pravind Jugnauth wanted the PMSD to leave, thus continually got them into embarassing positions? There is an element of that. But not enough to explain a power-grabbing party like the PMSD giving up Ministerial posts like that.
Was it the “pull effect”? i.e. Navin Ramgoolam offer is not sufficient to explain the resignation.
Was it “auto-ejection”? i.e. on a purely political basis, the PMSD saw a chance to carve out a much better political future than it could ever have dreamt of before? There is an element of this in their resignation from Government, too.
But in LALIT, we tend to think that the bourgeoisie both forced and bribed the PMSD to act this way.
The PMSD is the one and only party in Mauritius that has (since its birth as Ralliement Mauricien, through its stage as Parti Mauricien, until it became PMSD and until now) that overtly and proudly represents the interests of the bourgeoisie and says it does. The other main parties like the Labour Party, the MMM and the MSM do represent the bourgeoisie (in fact an alliance of the historic and State bourgeoisie), but their discourse as parties is anti-capitalist. They talk about the working class and socialism in all their appeals for support. And this means that the “social contract” they offer is not the kind of pure capitalist rule that the PMSD can offer and does offer.
The historic bloc around cane and sugar is at last falling apart. The historic and State bourgeoisies are now amalgamating for the first time, as the sugar estates sell off land in “real estate” deals to millionaires from abroad but as they are totally dependent on State decisions in order to do these deals. In order to convert agricultural land to other uses, the capitalists need a permit, and would like a tax concession too; to parcel land requires the same; there are taxes when land changes hands; and there is income tax and VAT that can be waived, and that is waived – as the State and the bourgeoisie just blatantly sell the land off. And of course it is only the State that can offer the bribes of permanent residence and citizenship.
So, the bourgeoisie, in supporting a strong PMSD (to prepare its bid for power) is going for a more direct kind of class rule. It is cutting through the party establishments of Labour, the MSM, the MMM.
Not just in Mauritius
This kind of offensive by the bourgeoisie is not happening just in Mauritius, but all over the globe. The neo-liberal attack first pioneered by Reagan and Thatcher (putting Hayek and Friedman’s economic oppression into political form) is going into a new phase now. This is typified by the dangerous election as President of the USA of Donald Trump. He has named a Cabinet of millionaires, billionaires and three Generals. He will thus be a form of direct rule by capitalist, with the military strapped in to the executive. So Trump’s ideology will be pro-capitalist, militarist, based on identity politics (white supremacy identity), misogyny, and denial of the harm being done to nature by industrial capitalism. It is hard to imagine anything worse.
The reflection of this same current in Mauritius is the PMSD’s new role as leader of the Opposition. In the Opposition with the PMSD are two parties known to be much bigger than the PMSD, in fact the notorious “two biggest parties in the country”. And Xavier Duval hopes to represent the combined force of the two halves of an amalgamated bourgeoisie. And it is this bourgeoisie that then organizes for a horrible kind of re-colonization, that we are already suffering, where the rich from abroad come and live in gated communities. (p. 11 of LALIT’s last REVI, shows how all the parties and alliances over the past 20 odd years have constructed this amalgamation of the two sections of the capitalist class with the State through the means of land sales.)
The political reality of Mauritius, in some ways reflects the political reality of the USA, so it is worth taking a short diversion on this.
How Donald Trump won the ideological battle that got him into power
How did Donald Trump win the ideological battle to get to the White House? What are the lessons for us here?
Here is one of his lines of argument, that may be relevant to us:
Trump says: “You say the establishment is a stinky swamp? I agree. I’ll drain the swamp! And I will reign directly without the Washington establishment!”
Trump says: “You say the Press has become part of the political establishment, and I agree. I use twitter instead, and the Press covers all my stunts day and night, anyway.”
Trump says: “You say funding of political parties causes corruption, I agree. I fund myself. I don’t take money from anyone.”
Trump says: “You say elections are rigged, I agree!” (Then Trump wins, supposedly in spite of things being rigged against him! Of all double-binds, of all manipulations!)
So, one of his arguments is that you have to get rid of the “establishment” and thus allow him and his cabinet of millionaire bosses rule politically, directly.
Is Xavier Duval the same kind of instrument of direct bourgeois rule as Trump is in the USA?
Anyway, let’s get back to the Opposition.
It is in dire straits. The PMSD (11-2 seats, at last count) leads the heterogeneous crowd of 6 MMM and 4 Labour, 2 Ganoo, and 5 newly “independents”. So, if there is internal strife in the Government ranks (MSM-ML-OPR), we can only say that there can be much more expected in the Opposition. So, it is not going to be as easy as the capitalists backing the PMSD bid for leadership think it will be.
But meanwhile, the terrible politics of selling off the arable land, of re-colonization, of concreting up rich soil, and of pouring herbicides into golf course fairways and greens, continues apace. And the trade union leaderships, instead of joining in the battle against this re-colonization and selling off of the very land that can be used to create employment on a massive scale in diverse trades, just take up extreme right positions, like supporting hospital doctors corrupt practices that stem from specialists working at both the state hospitals, and also in private practice.
In order to fight against populism, each and every working person has to be drawn into thinking, analysing and planning political programs. It is not enough to just follow, nor to just vote from time to time. We must explore all manner of political actions that are not just electoral.
19 January, 2017.