Sunday 1 July LALIT held its first day of a two-day “Strategy Seminar” on the importance of class struggle today in LALIT’s politics. It was held at the Mother Earth Hall in Grand River North West. Members and supporters were present, as well as some trade union activists and other guests.
The “strategy seminar” follows on two previous party sessions, Kisna Kistnasamy, presiding the morning session, said. One was in November last year on “In what state are political parties?” criticizing the degeneration of other political parties in Mauritius. The other was a two-day critique of politics disguised as “left” which calls on “Mauritianism” as a strategy to supposedly oppose communalism and on “nationalism” as a strategy designed to oppose imperialism. Then yesterday, LALIT began its strategy seminar on “class struggle” and “internationalism”, as strategic ways of bringing progress in these times.
Lindsey Collen gave “cameo’s” of different types of “class struggle”, in narrative form, so as to define the vast scope that the term covers. She began with examples of individual class struggle, one worker spontaneously unconsciously pitted against an employer or his representative, or an individual worker consciously making a demand. She explained how this goes on every day, like it or not. Often, she said, workers may, on an individual basis, get involved in arguments and fights that do not necessarily bring progress. Some may even do more harm to their own work-colleagues. Here she gave an example of dock workers right now in 2012, when work pressure gets too much, just going outside and walking around or having a smoke, leaving the work to the others. But, misguided or not, it is class struggle. And as the individual worker responds to the domination and violence of class-reality, so the boss or his delegate (often no more than a supervisor or sirdar) also resorts to class struggle, to put the burden of the crisis on the backs of workers. This is not with any malice, but in order to remain in business under capitalism. It is just ordinary class struggle.
She moved on towards collective class struggle, some of which is “unconscious”, believe it or not, she said. In 1978 in St Pierre at a factory called Maurice Knitwear Ltd, the bosses instituted a speed-up in the piece-rates, no doubt so as to compete with bigger firms with more modern machinery. One day 28 woman workers all, one after the other, fainted at their machines. This went on the next day, and workers began to believe the factory was haunted. The Catholic Priest Father Souchon and his verger were called in to remove the evil spirits. So this, too, though not even conscious, in fact they all fell unconscious, was a primitive form of class struggle. Some 10 years later in 1987, in City Knitwear in Curepipe, the same phenomenon occurred again. So, we can even see this as a hidden form of class struggle.
The collective and conscious part of class struggle, is what we know best she said. It is the usual expression. But, she gave examples of small, localized forms of demand that did not necessarily involve unions. She told of the “lagrev Merven” in 1970, when workers of different sections of the Medine Sugar Estate went on strike one after the other, each section of 300 or so workers for one day. And they thus controlled a predatory boss. And then of the Anna “new work system” devised by the labourers to get around individual piece rates, and how the bosses reacted, although not losing a cent, by sacking the entire workforce and getting them all black-listed with other bosses.
She spoke of the very high levels of class consciousness. Giving the example of the UK in the 1970’s, where even at sites where there were “sans papiers” workers, the few local workers could impose high class consciousness on them as a condition for staying on at work. At its highest, the typographers were able to pretend to the bosses to have finally accepted piece rates and the concomitant bonuses, only to share out the money equally afterwards.
She said how there are many forms of protest, but the most useful is the strike or the threat of strike action. There are short strikes, and long ones, some are unlimited, and others are general strikes, meaning all workers in all sectors in a region or country. And then, the highest form, in terms of consciousness is the general strike movement. Here she spoke of the level of generalized participation during the 1979 general strike movement, which drew in not just all unions but even un-unionized sectors. It even brought in neighbourhood associations, women’s groups, and anyone who was being evicted from her house and even her child!
There was over an hour of general discussion, comments and questions.
After lunch, Alain Ah-Vee introduced Ram Seegobin who spoke on the concept of class struggle in a more theoretical way, and gave a history of how LALIT had from its very beginnings in the publication called Lalit de Klas (meaning “class struggle”) in 1976 been associated with the class struggle.
He began by saying how the class struggle is important because all progress for humanity comes through it. He said how the bourgeoisie, now in power, and a force against progress for humanity, was once an oppressed class and had revolutionary possibilities. In fact, through revolution it took power some 200 years ago, deposing the kings and nobility who had reigned through their Courts for some centuries in Europe after having deposed the Vatican and its bureaucracy from their “lands”, where they had been taxing people and inflicting the law. When the bourgeoisie took political power, however, he said, it had already come to power economically. The kings were bankrupted, while the class that learnt to buy human labour power for the first time in the history of humanity, the bourgeoisie, had fattened itself up. For the working class, it will be a different taking of power because it will not have already been able to take power economically. It will need to use democracy emanating from class consciousness and organization in order to depose the minority rule of capitalists, who still use “modern slavery”, buying labour power from people. But class consciousness alone will, he said, not be enough. And this is why we need political organization, a political party. Like LALIT. He explained that the class struggle has three aspects, often interlinked: firstly, to struggle for the respect for rights already technically won but not being enjoyed; secondly, to struggle for new rights that can be won within the existing system, and then thirdly struggling in order to come to the realization that under capitalism workers will, by definition, never get full rights. They will always be being reduced, as a human being, to being a commodity: through the sale of their labour power, part of their own time.
So, this realization is the political part. There is a need, he said, for the working class to take power as a class, and to destroy, as a class, the capitalist, so that in society there are not longer buyers and sellers of human labour power. The aim, therefore, is for a classless society. Only the working class has this aim, and also the power to accomplish this ultimate liberation from the yoke of class domination.
The talk was followed by one hour of debate and discussion, all about the strategic implications of class struggle and the politics of class struggle.