LALIT’s May Day held at GRNW was rich in both the happy celebration of “labour”, its creativity, and its gains, and in the clear demands outlined to mark the day. Presided warmly and ably by teacher-member Jean-Yves Dick and port-worker-member Yannick Jeanne, the speeches by LALIT and the co-organizing associations, Ledikasyon pu Travayer, Muvman Liberasyon Fam and Playgroups, were punctuated by film, music, poetry, Tai Chi, songs and, before joining together in a “bring-and-share” meal, there was a very moving rendition of the Internationale by everyone present with fists raised. The Kreol version of the Internationale is particularly strong. The theme bringing everything together was “Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Resolution”, and almost every talk or fragment had references to the uprisings this year of North Africa and the Middle East, that have given a vibrant feel, just as yeast does, to the entire celebration. The world crisis has provoked dynamic social uprisings, speakers said. Reference was also constantly made to the energy-problem, what with the tragedy of radio-activity at the Fukushima plant still being out of control highlighting the difficulties facing humanity in replacing in our need to replace fossil fuels. There were some 9 messages from Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the USA, and Reunion, giving a living “internationalist” dimension, and highlighting similar points.
A representative of the Centre Goomany, Norman Tanbanivoul, gave a wide-reaching message to the LALIT members and supporters present from his organization. Kisna Kistnasamy, for Intersindikal, after outlining how the association unites people from all unions in all sectors and in all federations, spoke on two points: how it is in fact “labour” that we are celebrating, “labour” as it stands against “capital”. She criticized some of the union leaders for reducing this very high level of understanding of the day, that has existed world-wide for over a hundred years, and in Mauritius for some 60 years, to the level of “Workers’ Fete”. Secondly, she criticized some of the union leaders for falling so easily into the trap set by the Minister of Labour, whose party has introduced the anti-worker Employment Rights and Relations Acts two years ago. These laws that have changed the balance of class forces so much against the working class, and then now, when the Minister, three weeks before May Day, demagogically says the unions should send proposals for amendments, the unionists just announce they will be sending proposals.
Rada Kistnasamy, for LALIT, built up an analysis of the extent of capitalist crisis, world wide and in Mauritius, and then went on to outline the demands being put forward by LALIT now, demands that envisage a socialist revolution and that are yet utterly reasonable today. LALIT member Cindy Clelie co-ordinated a table on the verandah, where people put their names down to join branches or to sign up for Commissions, and from where everyone present could pick up a “parcel” of magazines and newspapers from socialist organizations abroad that LALIT has links with. Vimala Lutchmee, for Playgroups, spoke of the link between pre-school education, the recent introduction of Kreol and Bhojpuri as optional subjects for next year, and the need for demands that go towards liberating humanity from its chains. Sadna Jumnoodoo, for MLF, linked the New Women’s Manifesto that the MLF launched for this year’s International Women’s Day to the theme of the Conference: Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Resolution. Alain Ah-Vee related the importance of the introduction of the peoples’ mother tongues, Kreol and Bhojpuri, that the Government has finally been forced to go ahead with, as part of a new power relationship. The silence to which many of us were reduced, is beginning to end, he said. All the speeches were an inspiration.
Rajni Lallah’s concert had created a structure of feeling in the hall, as it filled up, of concentration, relaxation and creativity. Anne-Marie Sophie Joly’s rendition in Kreol of Brecht’s poem, A Worker Looks at History, and Yannick Jeanne’s rendition in Kreol of L’Effort Humain by Jacques Prevert, were both very moving, as were the songs by Gerard Moustique Enn Et Imen and Sa Tonton La. The lyrics of the last song included the haunting phrases in Kreol of “To see little fishies, we’ll have to put up with staring into an aquarium, while to view the horizon, we’ll have to make do with a postcard”. Marc Joseph’s instrumental on the guitar was excellent, as was Marlene Joseph’s interpretation of a little-known, haunting country-and-western. This year Alain Ah-Vee, as well as a short demonstration of Tai Chi, gave an outline of the history of this most abstract of martial arts, in China and in Mauritius. When Ram Seegobin was introducing messages from abroad, he congratulated everyone on their being present, and having refused to go to the Labour Alliance or MMM meetings where you stand in the sun and listen to a pro-capitalist politician’s demagogy. He spoke of the importance in times of mass uprisings, as there are in the Arab world and North Africa, of the kind of mobilizing not just for the sake of it, or to get rid of something, but mobilizing behind a coherent, consciously understood, programme.
LALIT’s celebration of May Day is in sharp contrast to the pro-capitalist parties, which use Labour Day rallies in order to show “who is the strongest”. The Labour alliance and the MMM alliance each held outdoor meetings. People were bussed in, and then treated to food, drinks and a sea-side picnic, with rum and beer thrown in. A kind of “rent-a-crowd” that began its free-fall into corruption when Guy Ollivry used it in the by-election that he ran in Rose-Hill and Stanley, 1994, buying Kentucky Chicken and financing people to hang around drinking booze in his “bases” as they are called. It is now a rather shocking spectacle altogether, showing how the degeneration of bourgeois democracy now affects not only the pre-electoral process itself, but the ongoing annual “mobilization” around Labour Day. The bourgeois parties will do anything to get “more people”, as in a macho competition. The discourse of the main bourgeois parties is, curiously, always “pro-worker”, against big capital, it is always pro-socialist and anti-capitalist, it is always “comrades” who are addressed. And yet, these parties, in Government, run the bourgeois state in the interests of the capitalist class.
At the same time, the trade union movement, in some disarray, held a rally of cars and motorcycles, and then a small rather directionless meeting in Beau Bassin, with neither a clear common program for the day nor with any shared understanding of what they were planning for the future, other than threatening a “general strike” if amendments are not brought within one month to the industrial laws, the Employment Rights Act and Employment Relations Act. The Minister of Labour, under pressure from the bosses, had announced a few weeks back that there would be amendments. He intended to make us think that these would be in favour of workers. Just as the old IRA, the much-hated old industrial relations law, was finally repealed by the Government only in 2009 by which time the balance of class forces was so against working people that the Government could pass something worse for workers than the IRA had been. Most union leaders protested only very mildly against the new laws because they grant certain “bureaucratic advantages” to each of the big federations. The Union movement, at the moment, seems blissfully unaware of the gravity of the crisis of capitalism, both in Mauritius and world-wide. Equally unaware of the implications, the leading organizers announced an “innovation” in their now calling Labour Day “Workers’ Day”. From now on, it is “Fet Travayer”, they decreed in a leaflet, instead of “Fet Travay”, and this on the basis of their newly minted discovery that “labour is alienation”, therefore not to be celebrated! Jack Bizlall announced on radio and in the press, again and again, that he was inviting “women”, in particular, as if he might, in so doing, cover up any past anti-women history by the mere fact of repetition of the invitation. Neither he nor his competitor, Ashok Subron were speakers. They are deeply embroiled in bureaucratic conflicts. Speakers included, Serge Jauffret(GWF), Dev Ramano (Muvman Premye Me), Gyandeo Peeharry (FPU), Michel Chiffone (Rezistans), Atma Shanto (FTU), and guest speakers like Tulsiraj Benydin (FCSOU), Lall Dewnuth (AGWU), Deepak Benydin (FPBOU), Jane Ragoo and Reeaz Chuttoo (CTSP). Rehana Ameer (sacked MBC transport officer), followed by a group of women, Veena Dholah, Shimanda Mungar, Marika Achille and Patricia Babet also spoke, as well as Jeff Lingaya (the volunteer for a recent hunger-strike).
The Press and even MBC have rather cruelly reported the public outdoor meeting of Parti Malin, which is run by a clearly disturbed man, who tore his shirt off his own body and into shreds, as he spoke at the Curepipe Bus Station terminal.
Cehl Meeah of the ex-Hizbullah, now FSM, held a public meeting at Plaine Verte. The main point seems to have been that he is offering to accept an alliance for the Municipals with either the MMM or Labour, with a preference, it would seem, for Labour.
Sylvio Michel and Les Verts/Fraternel held a very small meeting/Quasimodo-picnic at the beach. Sylvio Michel announced that they intend to sue the British and French States for the harm done by slavery, and have taken the British firm of Bindman & amp; Partners for this purpose.