2012 was a lesson in the early effects of a systemic crisis, during generalized crises. How can we turn this round in 2013?
The economy driving the disorder
The year was set against a background of the cruel reality of the economic crisis in Mauritian capitalism coinciding with a series of crises in the world capitalist system: the systemic crisis in Mauritius provoked by the end of protected markets for sugar and textiles has meant that the destruction of jobs has continued apace. Jobs in cane have returned to the seasonal reality of pre-1964. Tourism is affected by the Euro crisis, making jobs scarcer and more erratic, while people have no other real means of survival. People employed in import-substitution industries have been hurled into unemployment. The State has continued to shrink the public sector except for its repressive forces. More people have had to work for SMEs or set one up – in the knowledge that 80% will go bust in the four years.
In order to cover up the economic catastrophe, successive finance ministers have done nothing but sell off the country’s enterprises and land. This makes the statistics used as indicators look good, without changing the reality the figures are supposed to indicate. This has also brought a new form of colonization. When LALIT back in 1997 challenged the legality of the Privatization Fund that allowed Government to start selling assets, the judiciary chucked the case out. Successive governments have also encouraged banks to give unsecured loans. They have also begun to privatize health and education – by encouraging people to opt out of the state insurance schemes and healthcare and encouraging all manner of private tertiary education institutions to mushroom, as a precursor to further privatization. Government has organized for bosses to pay off a generation of workers in exchange for suppressing their jobs forever, and meanwhile excluding them from unemployment statistics. Again, tweaking the indicator of societal stress, rather than addressing the problem.
2012 has passed without Government doing anything to further:
- job creation
- food security.
- production of genuinely renewable energy.
The disorder in the economy has provoked huge fights amongst the capitalists themselves. Take-overs, factory closures, even the collapse of the MSPA, some capitalists denouncing their “bankster” colleagues, vile competition for tenders, and a massive punch-up around the proposed amalgamation of the MEF and JEC. Capitalists have sometimes instead of “fight”, chosen “flight”. Deep River Beau Champ has gone to produce sugar in Tanzania, FUEL in Mozambique, Mon Loisir in Cote d’Ivoire, and Omnicane in Kenya. Textile factories have delocalized to Bangladesh and even China.
The trade union movement has suffered the effects of the systemic crisis in its way: the GWF exploded, the port workers union did too, then the FCSOU split into three, the NTUC has broken up, now the FPU is in two bits, and the CSG-Solidarity is in tatters. At least three times, the unions have held competing demonstrations, macho men leaders trying to humiliate their macho competitors. Even male predators within the Union movement are covered-up for by their colleagues.
People living in working class areas, particularly in villages, are hurled into the disorder that comes with unemployment and insecure work: panic “emigration”, on the one hand – to Ireland, Canada, the Middle East or Africa – and poverty, on the other: first, trying to live off a monthly wage that is less than a monthly “parking fee” for a rich man’s car in Port Louis, then becoming a “ti-marsan”, “zurnalye”, or police informer, then the downward spiral into petty theft, your children going astray of the law, your teenager kids falling prey to drug dealers, who are merely other unemployed people. The housing crisis has continued; Government persisting in defining “home owners” as those who pay no rent, thus masking the problem of overcrowding from the statistics.
Any morality that capitalism had produced – “thrift”, “abstemiousness”, “hard work”, “blessed are the poor”, etc – has fallen by the wayside. Whenever there is a dramatic crime – say a murder within a family in some village – the narrative around the crime, then gets exposed in the press; we see a life of total sexual disorder and abuse; two married men having secret liaisons with the same married woman, or a woman having a liaison with her nephew while still living with her husband, to give just two examples. Their family and friends were clearly unable to suggest rational ways out of such dangerous lies, or to enforce any ordinary social control.
Men in politics, too, often live a life of lies, under the cloak of “this is my private life” . Then, when there is another issue on the agenda (taking a photograph of a woman agent without her authority, or a theft in a campement, or simply in Round Two a bate rande) then the press titillates the public, but without actually coming out with the clear facts of the politicians’ double lives, even though it is this that is driving the other news item. Then, political leaders like Navin Ramgoolam and Paul Bérenger are left insinuating, under Parliamentary immunity, that the other one leads a double life. At the bate-rande stage, women are named in Parliament and Hansard. The press then names only one of them, while curiously the other two are not named at all, or later referred to by initials. Journalists often say “everyone knows”, “everyone” being all those who are covering-up the duplicitous behavior of the politicians. Journalists also say that the first thing they learn as journalists is the sacrosanct nature of important peoples’ “private lives”. So, in Mauritius it is much like it was in France where the predatory behavior of DSK, who would be President of France now were it not for a rather brave American hotel worker, was covered up by everyone in political and press circles in Paris as “la vie prive”. Those who broke the omerta, like the comedian, Stephane Guillon, were punished; he lost his job at Radio France Inter in 2009. Finally, once DSK was denounced by many women and his true “life” was exposed, Parti Socialiste rightly expelled him, he rightly lost his job as IMF chief, and his wife finally booted him out. This was all, at long last, appropriate behavior. It happened because the duplicitous life of a public man was finally made public. But in Mauritius and in France, public figures still try to mask their abuses by crying “private life!”
So, as capitalism gets stuck in the mud of its crises, its morality weakens, sickens and dies. And a new morality that will rise out of struggle against capitalism is still having difficulty in taking birth.
The economic crisis provoked the PT to pass the draconian Employment Rights and Employment Relations laws facilitating lay-offs that, in turn, adds more disorder to working class lives.
The crisis in the economy has also produced a new political reality, which no social class, not even the bourgeoisie, can control: generalized abject flattery of the “monarch”, Navin Ramgoolam. Men and women fawn to him in public. This bizarre feudal ritual is then broadcast over the MBC TV. Ministers, trade unionists, political agents, women, all bow down, cow-towing. All that’s missing is for a tailor to sew an invisible suit for the emperor.
It has also been the year of totally unprincipled vacillation between weeks of “koz-koze” by Paul Bérenger and Navin Ramgoolam and weeks of setting up a MMM-MSM Re-Make.
Progress, where the economy is not concerned
In order to stay in power, the Government has made concessions, however, on social, rather than economic, issues.
Labour has given in to the bourgeois line in the women’s movement for women to get into positions of power within the existing patriarchal hierarchies. In Local Government and in State bodies, women have indeed been able to rise within macho power structures. The Government has, similarly, set up the Equal Opportunities Commission, also concerned with issues of who gets to be powerful, rather than with challenging the unequal nature of the hierarchies.
Even some progress towards a new morality
On more important issues, 2012 has seen two victories for LALIT’s program. The State has capitulated here, too, on issues that are not “the economy”.
LALIT’s political program for an end to the unethical repression of the mother tongues has finally begun for the first time to see victory. Kreol is now a subject in schools. Bhojpuri has a place in the Hindi class. The struggle for Kreol to be medium for content subjects remains to be won. But it is easier now because all the silly arguments against have now evaporated: “there is no orthography”, “there is no grammar”, “the government does not recognize the mother tongues”, are all exposed as nonsense.
Abortion, another important plank in LALIT’s platform is no longer banned outright. Women are no longer totally criminalized. Abortion can now be performed in hospitals under some conditions. The battle for complete decriminalization of women, however, continues. But, the reactionaries are on the back foot.
Other LALIT issues have remained firmly on the political agenda. The struggle against the continued military occupation of Diego Garcia, as the lease comes up for renewal from 2014, continues. The opposition to the continued colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and cruel siege and bombardment of Gaza by the Israeli State, continues, too.
The political struggle ahead is towards a new economy. Towards producing useful things – planting foodcrops, preserving and transforming them in new factories for both consumption and export; developing a proper fishing industry; setting up factories to produce the hardware for renewable energy that relies on our sun, wind and sea. All this will produce jobs. And this is the key. If the State will not force capitalists to invest so as to nurture humanity, the people will have no alternative but to rise up politically. This, human beings have done throughout history. Otherwise we would still be slaves and indentured labourers. Now, we need to take the struggle further. So that we can all be genuinely free producers, working in association, not as wage slaves. That is LALIT’s wish for this new year: that the struggle takes form in our minds and in our actions, collectively.
For LALIT, 26 December, 2012