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Reply to Raj Meetarbhan’s Two Editorials, L’Express 8 and 9 March 2011

17.03.2011

It is surely an abuse of editorial power for an editor to attack women’s organizations just when women mobilize behind a New Women’s Manifesto, on one day, and then on the very next day, to attack a trade union confederation that has just mobilized a successful street demonstration. Just when these two movements attack the State and the status quo, they get attacked by the Press.

We realize that the reason that Mr. Meetarbhan is cross with the women’s and workers’ movement is not that he is a supporter of the Labour-MSM-PMSD Government. That is for sure. He is so anti-Government that Navin Ramgoolam attacks him regularly. L’Express as a whole has been embroiled in protracted, violent fights with both parties in power, Labour and the MSM. So Mr. Meetarbhan’s reason for attacking opposition forces like us is not that we are anti-regime. We are anti-regime, but that is not his reason for attacking us.

So, we have to ask ourselves “why?” What is his agenda?

The answer is simple. He is pro-MMM. And, because the MMM is in the Opposition, he wants it to take the unchallenged leadership, the 100% bourgeois leadership, of the entire Opposition, including workers’ and women’s opposition to Government. In other words his criticism is an attempt to define or to change the strategy of the women’s movement and the workers’ movement, to make it pro-MMM, or at least not anti-MMM. And also to ensure that these movements, preferably, have no independent program either.

The MMM is a bourgeois party. It knows it. Raj Meetarbhan knows it. We know it. And yet he wants workers’ organizations to file up behind a party which, just like Labour and the MSM, is yet another political representative of the class enemy of working people.

The MMM is an arch-patriarchal party. It knows it. Raj Meetarbhan knows it. We know it. And yet he wants the women’s movement to file up behind this political manifestation of patriarchy, the enemy of the women’s movement.

And, we all know that women’s and workers’ organizations are the two kinds of organizations, other than a good working peoples’ political party like LALIT, that, when times are ripe and, on condition that they have maintained a history of independence from the bourgeoisie, can contribute to rallying people around a program that will effectively and in reality improve the social structure of society itself.

Without this type of independent organization, there can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in the streets opposing Government, and indeed there are when the broad masses get angered, but they will be unable to bring social progress just by blocking the streets. It is pure nonsense to think so. Hosni Mubarak, for example, may have left office because of massive street demonstrations over days and days, but the same old Egyptian Army, paid and run by the US Government and the Egyptian bourgeoisie, is still in power, and will remain so unless there are organizations that have already started building a proper alternative not just to the Mubarak political party that was in power for over 30 years, but to the bourgeois regime as a whole.

What we need is mobilization, but not just mobilization. We need mobilization behind a clear program, a program of which we have a common understanding, one developed over time, like that just launched by the Muvman Liberasyon Fam for women’s emancipation and called the New Women’s Manifesto, like the JUSTICE Manifesto against violence by officers of the State, like the Charter on Food Security by the Fron Komen Sekirite Alimanter, like the Free Diego Garcia Declaration of Grande Riviere on the Diego Garcia issue, like the LALIT Program for an Economic Alternative to sugar and textiles. All these programs have been developed in action and by organizations independent of the bourgeoisie. These programs are what need to be discussed, understood, popularized, developed, and most-of-all, understood by the more thinking people, the more experienced workers and women, within the broad masses – as they mobilize. These programs need to be linked to a more central core program that is more political in nature, and then this is how one challenges existing power, the existing regime. But this kind of challenge would constitute a challenge not only to the Labour-MSM-PMSD Government but to the MMM Opposition as well. They are all of the same regime. “Tu parey” , as the everyone in any bus puts it.

That is why Raj Meetarbhan does not agree with the women’s movement nor with the CTSP march. He thinks the MMM is different. He pretends that the MMM could somehow lead the workers’ movement. He pretends that the MMM could somehow lead the women’s movement. But it won’t and it can’t. In 1981, the MMM changed course irrevocably: it went for social consensus, not workers’ struggle. It went for communal politics, not united workers and women’s struggles. And it says so. And in the 30 years since then, the MMM has moved further and further away from politics against capitalism and politics against patriarchy.


The Press

Although, on second thoughts, maybe Raj Meetarbhan’s editorials are not an abuse of editorial power -- if we realize what the Press is. The Press is not some independent force, reporting the truth accurately every day and commenting fairly in the interests of “everyone”. No. The Press has its own interests: business ones (as in La Sentinelle, Le Mauricien, BAI/Yucondale, and Le Matinal) and ideological ones (it is, in general, pro-capitalist and anti-worker). It has its own funders: large companies, many of them multi-nationals, that transfer millions of rupees into its coffers in exchange for wasting paper on manipulative advertising for banking services, travel, cars, food, cosmetics, alcohol, consumer society objects. The Press vies for Government advertisements and orders. More than ever today in the epoch of the likes of Berlusconi, Fox News and Murdoch, the Press has a very right-wing role i.e. to stabilize the present unjust way in which society is structured, and even to roll back any working class gains.

In the past, there was the extreme right-wing editorialist NMU of Le Cerneen, who defended the sugar oligarchy and the status quo, against even the weak challenges that Labour and MMM respectively represented. Today we have Raj Meetarbhan of L’Express, defending the bourgeoisie (now largely diversified by force out of the production of sugar and even cane), a bourgeoisie even more weakly challenged today by the Labour-MSM-PMSD regime than at the time NMU was attacking Labour. Both NMU and Raj Meetarbhan may be against a particular Government, in both cases Labour as it turns out, and in favour of either the PMSD or MMM Opposition, but both editorialists defend the existing economic order of society. And if the women’s movement and the trade unions do not help with this, they will get attacked. Even on International Women’s Day. Especially after a good demonstration. If the women’s movement and the trade unions act independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. independently of not only Labour, PMSD and the MSM, but also of the MMM), well, they will be attacked in Raj Meetarbhan editorials. And in other articles, too, by ordinary journalists.

But still, it is strange that someone should attack the women’s movement because of the nature of its program and to do so on International Women’s Day and at the same time to pretend not to be “conservative”. Quite a tall order, in fact. But Raj Meetarbhan believes that the place of the women’s struggle itself is, believe it or not, in the home. It is “abstract”, he says, to demand economic and political changes; it is predictable, he says, to demand quotas or to expose violence against women. He says we should stick to seeking more equality ... in the home, more particularly to making sure that men do more housework. That is not on our program, though. Doing one’s share of housework is mere human decency. Not a women’s emancipation program. It is appalling that men can think they can wash a few dishes and hey presto! the reign of patriarchy in the whole of society will evaporate with a few soap suds!

It is not and never will be the aim of the women’s movement to enslave men to household chores as women have, for too long, been enslaved.

Our demand is crystal clear: we want household chores socialized. And some, indeed, have already begun to be socialized, thus lightening the burden. Free schooling from pre-primary to university level is a reasonable women’s movement demand for diminishing a huge number of household tasks, and is partly won. There are still not enough good creches in each neighbourhood, and very few that have hours that fit the hours women are supposed to be out working in the cyber-city or factories. Good day-care for the elderly, disabled people and the chronically ill is a fine demand for decreasing household tasks: the demand is thus for day-care centres and municipal ‘home help’. That lightens the burden. Free health care already helps decrease domestic work. Neighbourhood laundries and canteens would also help. Even the fact that some Supermarket chains now commercialize “bred deza triye” is the socialization of one time-taking household task. Socialization of domestic work lightens the burden of household chores. That is the demand of the women’s movement. Socialize household chores and lighten the burden. This might mean less housework for those men who are already decent human beings and good house-mates!

We do not intend to put in our program that men be burdened by domestic chores.

What is clear is that the MLF’s New Women’s Manifesto clearly irritates the MMM, and irritates its accolytes like Raj Meetarbhan even more. The CTSP demonstration, because it specifically did not invite the MMM, has enraged L’Express, too. Raj Meetarbhan seems more cross than the MMM.

But we must note that Raj Meetarbhan does not, in his editorials, analyse what it means to the trade union movement that a boss like Philippe Forget, a director and shareholder at L’Express and a boss at the MCB, and a former editor like Yvan Martial, who still writes in L’Express, were candidates alongside trade unionists Ashok Subron and Jack Bizlall in the same block in the General Elections last year, and who are from a different Confederation from the one criticized so harshly.

Nor, for that matter, does he analyse what it means for L’Express to continue publishing articles by a former editor, Nad Sivaramen, who is now employed by the US Pentagon, without so much as informing readers that this former editor now works for the US Armed Forces.

All this to show where vested interest lie.



Lindsey Collen for LALIT



PS For detailed articles on Nad Sivaramen, trade unionists mentioned above, & the New Women’s Manifesto: www.lalitmauritius.org,

PPS In the run-up to the CTSP demonstration last Saturday, a journalist at L’Express, Mark Atchiane, telephoned me on Wednesday 3 March, a public holiday, asking me for a declaration about LALIT being invited to the demonstration. I asked him to ring back in 10 minutes, which he did. He then questioned me for quite a long time. On what basis was LALIT supporting the demonstration. I told him we agreed with the themes the CTSP had informed us of, “No to Ramgoolam, Jugnauth, Berenger, No to the new labour laws and no to price increases”, and that we considered CTSP a serious organization. He then asked how we were showing our support. I said in terms of a mo-dord through our branches for our members to be present, and to encourage those in their work sectors to be present, as well as giving the mo-dord in our REVI LALIT. He asked when that was due out, and I replied it was already out. He then asked if we were organizing buses, to which I laughed and asked if he had ever heard of LALIT organizing buses. He laughed. The next day, L’Express said that the MMM had not been invited, but that LALIT had. Nothing else. Homework for readers: What was the L’Express trying to do? Did it work?