LALIT’s members and supporters gathered at the Mother Earth Hall on Labour Day to celebrate the power of “labour” against the resent dicatatorship of “capital”, thus bringing down to earth the political struggle for workers’ emancipation. Yannick Jeanne, chairing jointly with Anne-Marie Joly and Rada Kistnasamy, opened the event with an excellent speech (see full text in a separate article on the web) on the need for workers to unite against the crises continually provoked by ravenous capital. He linked the celebration to the theme: “International Workers’ Solidarity against Capitalism’s Crisis”, and compared the LALIT celebration and its programmatic approach to the empty, corrupt events organized for Labour Day by the Remake 2000 MMM-MSM meeting in Port Louis and the Alliance de l’Avenir PMSD-PT meeting in Vacoas, and the warring trade union bureaucracies meeting on the same day. When explaining the day he said there would be an innovation later, an “argumentation workshop”, which everyone looked forward to (see end of this article).
Yannick drew attention to the stark photo-journalism of Vel Kadressen in his pictorial history of the Chagossians arriving on the Nordvaer’s last voyage nearly 40 years ago, and the street battles between Riot Police and the Chagossian and LALIT women 30 years ago. It is a struggle for the working class today to take up, to get the base closed and the country unified. He congratulated the Muvman Liberasyon Fam for putting the exhibition up. Before and after the formal sessions, the hundred or so people present poured over the photographic history of this important struggle. As people arrived, some with their children, some youngsters, some older workers, from all corners of Mauritius and even from Rodrigues, they watched the film made by Peadar King for Irish TV, The Islands are Closed. Lindsey Collen, giving details of the film, said that the Diego Garcia struggle would be moving to a key new level from this year onwards. She also mentioned that our leading member Rajni Lallah’s father, the husband of another member, Pushpa Lallah, who featured in the film as the jurist who has followed this dossier most closely over time, is in hospital at the moment following an accident.
Yannick Jeanne also said that the workers’ languages had been introduced, after a long struggle, in schools this year, and asked everyone to look at the six beautiful “Readers” prepared and published for the occasion by Playgroups. Anne-Marie Joly read a poem on workers’ language, when it is repressed, the translation into Kreol of an Irishman’s poem “The Rough Field”.
Kisna Kistnasamy gave an inspiring speech in the name of Labaz Intersindikal, in which she outlined LALIT’s trade union strategy, as well as placing the challenges before today’s working class, in Mauritius and world-wide. She criticized the way the Minister of Labour had arranged for bosses to organize for workers to go to bird parks, waterparks and so on. She said it followed logically, however, from the deformation certain trade union bureaucrats last year began to give Labour Day, by calling it a day for “workers’ celebrations”, called it a “fet travayer” instead of “fet travay”. She said workers can celebrate any day they choose, and often do so on Saturdays or at the end of the month. They do not need the Minister or the bosses or unions to tell them to. However, May Day is the day when “labour” (“travay”) is celebrated in its opposition to “capital”. That is something special. It is an international celebration, woven together with demands for change, profound demands that get to the very roots of the crises that capital has hurled us all in to.
Beautiful music was interspersed between speeches. It was played and sung by Mark Joseph, Bernard Nemorin, Jean-Robert Narrainah and Marlene Joseph, and then by Alain Munien, Marousia Bouvery, Aurelie Eleonore, Esthel Netta and Nathalia Bremner. And Alain Ah-Vee gave a Taichi demonstration from “Form 42”. In the name of the Centre Idriss Goomany, Samad Dulloo read a moving Kreol translation of the Palestinian poem, A Seed, to bring to mind this important aspect of the program we in LALIT share with CIG, the liberation of the people of Palestine from domination by the US-Israeli states.
Alain Ah-Vee made the formal LALIT speech. He started by exposing the weird “pre-electoral” atmosphere being stirred up in their desperation by the Remake 2000 of MMM-MSM, with its Rambo, and the macho fights about numbers they can bring to their meeting compared with what the Government Alliance can with their supposed “surprise guest speakers” and so on. This kind of both hysteria and corruption can in no way help us out of the impending crisis, he said. It is more like participating in a cartoon than addressing the economic crisis. He also said moaning day-in-day-out about Labour Day being “hi-jacked” by the bourgeois political parties, as the union bureaucrats do, will not help much either. Labour Day is a workers’ day won politically. It is a political event, he said.
He said the true meaning of May Day is the power of labour standing up to the domination of capital. He said that international capital had worked, and is still working, politically to transfer the weight of the crisis on to the backs of workers. It is a class struggle he said, referring to the Arab Spring and the present movements in Europe and even in the USA, with the Occupy Wall St Movement.
He put LALIT’s program for an alternative economy, “alternative” in terms of what we produce and how it is produced, as central to the struggle in Mauritius. The question is how to bring our politics into the economy. The point now is to challenge capital, and to challenge it politically. He painted the picture of the world population, as if it were 100 people, and what kind of lives different numbers of us lead. He referred to our banner, saying now, just like 100 years ago, it is “Socialism or barbary”.
We are sharpening the tools of our struggle now. We are opposing communalism that divides us, but not with useless tools like “mauritianism”. We are opposing imperialism, but not with dangerous and confusing tools like nationalism. For us, internationalism is at the very heart of our struggle. Messages from organizations close to LALIT in other countries were read out. For us, the class struggle is at the very heart of our struggle. And it is itself an international struggle.
And then we came to the “innovation”, introduced by Rada Kistnasamy from the chair. This was an “argumentation workshop”, which followed on after two recent LALIT Conferences. In November last year we held a Conference on the “state of” political parties in general, and how the rot that has set into all the bourgeois parties and also the social democrat parties world-wide means that working class, revolutionary parties have to organize our internal democracy and sharpen up the perspicacity of our programs and arguments in order to struggle for socialism. Earlier this year the second Conference was a sustained criticism of “Mauritianism”, an inappropriate tool for fighting against the scourge of communalism, and of “nationalism”, a dubious tool for fighting against imperialism. So, the “argument” workshop came as a request from the floor at the second Conference. How do you argue against “Mauritianism” and against “nationalism”, when they pose as “solutions” to very real problems? Ram Seegobin thus fielded questions, and when answering them, made his own argumentation clear. To give just one example, one activist asked “What is the meaning of ‘class struggle’ on an everyday level?” Ram replied that it takes localised forms at each work site. Sometimes workers get together and oppose a new rule imposed by a supervisor. Sometimes even one individual worker opposes one aspect of oppression. He gave an example of a textile factory worker, faced with increased piece rates, going to the toilet for 10 minutes every hour, even this being a hidden or masked form of “class struggle”. Maybe not a very useful form, but nevertheless part of this ongoing struggle. Then this same struggle can take on more organized and conscious forms, but still at the level of one industry or one site. And then it also takes the form of whole national, or even international, confrontations. The bosses organize their troops very well, for example, in getting laws changed in the favour of the bosses, world-wide. This is class struggle. Whether we like it or not, the bosses wage it. He then said that in the context of our argumentation workshop, when a colleague, for example blames the problems of their life on their “community” or “ethnicity”, this analysis, as well as being very limited in its powers of explanation, also implies a strategy of division within the working class. The role of an activist is to de-code this explanation into its roots: in social class. When someone says that he is suffering because he has not got a secure job in the civil service for communal reasons, it is important to put things in perspective: under capitalism in Mauritius, the more accurate explanation of the suffering of most workers is that of the 550,000 workers in the country, there are only some 30,000 who are in the civil service, which is shrinking further under pressure from capital. Ram Seegobin said it is important to remind people how communalism decreased sharply in two periods of history, and this coincided precisely with the highest levels of class struggle: in the 1930s and the 1970s.
There was so much demand for new questions that a whole new “argument workshop” is being planned for later in the year.
The May Day celebration was rounded up by singing of the Internationale, and then sharing food everyone had brought – around three different eating areas in the grounds of the LPT Hall.