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LALIT looks back on 2003

31.12.2003

In years to come, 2003 will be remembered as the year of the United States' invasion and occupation of Iraq, and of the carving up of the Iraq economy by multinational corporations, while the US Government prepared to transfer its military bases in the region from Saudi Arabia to a defeated Iraq. The war was never he "liberation" of the Iraqi people that it had pretended it would be. The USA was unmasked for its imperialist aims, more than it has ever been before. The US quite openly wants to control the supply of oil worldwide. That is the US "interest" in the region. It also quite openly wants to stop the progress of the Euro currency relative to the dollar. It quite openly backs Israel as gendarme of the region.

War on False Pretences
And the war even turned out to have been waged on false pretences: there were no weapons of mass destruction. Those are what the US has. If there had been, would they not have been used? Bush and Blair were lying. They have been exposed as having lied. And they reign on. But their thrones have now got open cracks in their bases. Only spin keeps them up.

Minister Gayan, at Foreign Affairs at the time, and the then Vice Prime Minister Bérenger gave meek support to the Bush-Blair war on Iraq. But only meek. Of course, they never opposed the war either.

The Government of Mauritius may not have opposed the war, but the people of Mauritius, in their great majority, did oppose the war. It was difficult to find anyone at all who supported the war, or who would say so, even privately, let alone publicly. There was a large demonstration, that Lalit and about thirty other organisations held in Port Louis on the 15th of January and another one on the 5th of April, as a way to mark the peoples' opposition to the war.

Huge anti-war movement
And the year 2003 was the year when world-wide, there were the biggest ever anti-war demonstrations, taking on the United States Government and the pirates that run its arms industry and other industries, pirates hungry for the contracts of war, then for the spoils of war, and finally for the tenders for "reconstruction". And after "shock and awe", the expression the US uses for one of its own forms of "terrorism", there are many such tenders.

Capitalist Globalisation and War
2003 will be remembered as the year when capitalist "globalisation" and its resorting to war was so deeply challenged that it was left without a philosophical leg to stand on. Capitalist globalisation now stands exposed as pure theft. And when other means of theft fail, then it is theft by war.

War on Terror exposed
The so-called "war on terror", a metaphor that Bush-Blair-Bérenger have all used in order to argue for actual war, has meant draconian laws supposedly to quell terrorism, but in fact, trample on human rights, bring in permanent states of emergency, shift power from the people to the police and other parts of the executive, permit pernicious incursions into private correspondence, and turn existing justice systems into veritable Inquisitions.

The MSM-MMM Prevention of Terrorism Act, passed in 2002 against vast opposition from the people of Mauritius, passed in the face of the refusal to sign by the President of the Republic and then by his successor. What this law means, as it has been replicated in country after country worldwide, is that the very basis of the philosophy of criminal law has been destroyed: you no longer need to have a "mens rea" or guilty mind. You no longer have to have the intention to do a crime. Nor do you have to actually do the act ("actus reus"). All you need now is allegations by the State.

2003 will be remembered as the year that the danger of this "war on terror" has begun to be exposed politically for what it is: An attack on the people by the State. Terrorism is no more than the pretext. Just like Bérenger's imaginary "lannate".

Counter offensive against militarism
And this year will turn out to have been historic because the anti-war movement is moving into a new phase: a phase of standing up and saying "NO TO MILITARY BASES". There are 703 United States military bases outside of the US. And the anti-war movement is now turning to a counter-attack: working to close these bases down. This means the anti-war movement is not just on the defensive, but is preparing to go on the counter-attack. This means that the anti-war movement will no longer rely on declarations of war by men like Bush before mobilising, nor will it demobilise when Bush declares "major hostilities over".

LALIT in new phase of counter-attack
Lalit is part of this shift towards the counter-attack.
In 2003, in addition to having to prepare massive defensive strategies, together with the trade union movement, in the face of attacks on labour legislation, and attacks on employment in Mauritius as a result of MSM-MMM politics, Lalit has seen four important developments, all linked in to international struggles:

* We have begun a new phase in work to close down the Diego Garcia military base, and we are part of the "No U.S. Bases" international network. We are working on three inter-linked aims: to close the base, to re-unite Mauritius and to get reparations and the right to return for the Chagossians. We began 2003 by distributing our 200-page book Diego Garcia in Times of Globalisation. It is now internationally acclaimed. It can be read whole on our website.

* Lalit has worked at exposing the ways in which present-day capitalism is attacking the provision of social services and social rights, and pirating them for profit. The private sector is today forcing its way (through the Government, through the WTO and through other so-called "economic partnership agreements") into owning and controlling education rights, health rights, pension rights, the right to water, the right to electricity, the right to a postal service. Lalit in 2003 ran a campaign to make the elected Members of the National Assembly pay a political price for ruining social rights. We openly challenged Jayen Cuttaree, the Minister of World Trade, to put a stop to selling off the provision of social services, like pensions, to the private sector. Lalit challenged him by multiple means, in a coherent strategy: open letters addressed to him criticising his politics of offering "service provision" up for sale, then open letters to all other elected members, warning of what Cuttaree was put to, then challenging his officers like the trade negotiators in trade union events, then criticising him in public lectures, then pasting, then criticising him in public lectures, and then pasting up posters in Constituency Number 19. By attacking him in his Constituency, his electoral agents have to answer, to take just one example, as to why Cuttaree wants to lower pension rates, raise pension age, introduce means-tested pensions, all at a time in history when workers produce more than they ever have before i.e. at a time in history when pensions should be more generous, more universal and more as a fundamental human right. Then we spearheaded the demonstration held while the WTO Cancun meeting was collapsing. Lalit organised demonstrations of factory workers whose factories were closing down because of WTO-type capitalist logic, which linked in with the anti-WTO demonstration. When Minister Cuttaree had to speak in the name of the countries of the "South", he was already aware that in his own constituency of Stanley and Rose-Hill, he was under attack. He had to reply to Lalit's criticism not just in the National Assembly, which he did, but also in Cancun itself. This campaign against the effects of capitalist-dominated-WTO, followed Lalit's January Political Forum against the conditionalities of the extra-territorial legislation, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and the successful "PA-BUS" demonstration in January during the AGOA summit in Mauritius, at which the Grup Zenn Lalit participation gave a festival atmosphere. Militants from Reunion and South Africa participated in it.

* Lalit has begun the ongoing process of updating our political programme. A programme is no more than a common understanding of what particular political tasks before us are those that bring a more equal and more just society where people live in liberty and dignity. A programme also illuminates the way in which these particular tasks will move towards the aims we share. This process of developing a programme, where all our branches and commissions, meet and discuss draft after draft, is a way of bringing all the past struggles in Lalit and in the whole of the socialist movement, into and up-to-date programme that takes from where we are today, into a projected possible future. And this kind of programme shows up the need to overthrow the existing system as a system that produces perpetual insecurity and war, piracy and poverty on a mass scale. This kind of programme also differentiates Lalit from parties that just want to "wield power" rather than transform society, by removing power from those who have a monopoly control of it and of the means of staying alive. It also differentiates Lalit from populist parties, on the one had, and mere social and economic struggles, on the other. The programmes also stress the need for international if we are to overthrow the existing unjust system. This year there were four programmatic books brought out: Lalit's programme on Agriculture and Agro-Industry, Women's Liberation, Ecology, Language. The next one due, still being debated in Lalit branches, is on Working Class Demands. Lalit, in opposing the destruction of elected Village Councils, also presented its programme on alternative regional democracy.
* Lalit has this year successfully launched itself into the new technology of the times. Our website www.Lalit.mauritius.com is one of the most lively in Mauritius and gets more than 3,000 visits a month. Its news section is updated almost daily. It contains an art section, a documents section, a photo-news section, and a youth section edited by Grup Zenn Lalit. Our use of e-mail for contact amongst members, for correspondence with Mauritians not in Lalit, and for contact with people everywhere in the world, has also developed apace. We have participated in "tele-conference calls" to organise international events, together with organisations in ten other countries, like for the "No U.S. Bases" international meeting in Mumbai. And since the relative liberalisation of radio, and the breaking of the State-controlled monopoly, Lalit has had some access for its members to speak to the people directly. Ram Seegobin, for example, has, during his 26 years of political activity, been literally banned from political analysis (or even social and economic analysis) on MBC, the nationalised radio, or MBC-TV, the nationalised television.

Conclusion
The MSM-MMM government and the Mauritian bourgeoisie have both been strongly censured in 2003: The MSM-MMM at the polls, and the bourgeoisie in the massive MCB fraud.

So, 2003 has been a year of great turbulence, worldwide, and of the beginnings of mass protests against the present system.

Michel Chiffone
For Lalit
29 December, 2003