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Elections VIII: What is socialism, really, really?


What party in Mauritius does not say that it is “socialist”? They all do. So, we have to ask the question what socialism is in an emphatic way: What is socialism, really, really? Navin Ramgoolam has just recently announced that both his Labour Party and Bérenger’s MMM are the only Mauritian parties that are members of the “Socialist International”. And the MSM even has “socialism” in its name.

In political meetings, standing on the backs of lorries, the leaders all shout out how they “defend the working class”, how they are “on the side of the workers”. Navin Ramgoolam takes every threat of a strike as proof of his being “in the camp of the workers”. The “Labour” party’s very name goes back to its founding times. And the MMM is “militant”, even if in name only now, as though the broad masses have anything to do now, in the MMM’s present strategy.

It is all so much demagogy. Why is this so? It is a sign of the fact that in Mauritius the working class is strong enough to insist upon such language and no other, and will vote for nothing less than this kind of discourse, and yet the working class is not strong enough to make the parties respect their word and put their socialist words into anything like socialist deeds.

And the gap between words and deeds is now making many amongst us disgusted with the politics of the MMM, Labour, MSM and PMSD. It is true that people today are yearning for a new kind of politics. And this need, the gaping hole where the will for socialism used to be expressed politically, is expressing itself in the springing into life of all kinds of new parties, as if nature abhors a vacuum, even in politics. Most of them are just like the existing parties, except that it has not yet been proven.

But all this means that we in LALIT have an especially clear task defined before us, if we are to represent the aspiration of the people of Mauritius to a new, more democratic kind of politics, and a politics that aims at real, real socialism So, it is our duty to explain in our program exactly what we mean by “socialism” when we use the term.

Times are difficult for another reason, other than this half century of demagogy at a national level. There has been, for the last 40 years, a world-wide neo-liberal bludgeoning from the right-wing (starting with the implementation of these policies by Reagan and Thatcher) and from ultra-liberal ideologues, making socialism seem way off the map to the left.

It is only since the 2007 world financial crisis and the recession that has followed, not to mention the food and environmental crises that have hit the world, threatening humanity as a whole, that now even quite pre-capitalist ideologues are bringing capitalism into question, asking if it is, after all, even viable. This kind of questioning has taken place in mainstream media, like The Economist and The Financial Times.

And this has brought the struggle for socialism back into a more central place in debate. Capitalism has brought it back.

Socialism is a higher stage of democracy than under capitalism: socialism is where political and economic decisions are brought into the hands of the people, demos.It is, under socialism, not the capitalists that take all the decisions that affect everyone, decisions like what to produce, and under what conditions; it will no longer be a political and administrative bureaucracy (outside of us) that will define the framework under which we live and work. In the long run, all the decisions about production, and all the instruments of production, will be controlled by everyone. That is the real socialism that we aim for. We aim for the ownership and the control of all the means of survival, which is the means of production, to be under collective, democratic control. This way together we will bring to an end the social inequality that has, after all, only been around for some 5-10,000 years of the human history of 100,000 or more years of egalitarian societies. This way there will no longer be a society fractured into social classes based on a majority of people seeking work from others, and a few who “give” work to the many, who have been fractured from mother earth and expropriated from controlling what we make and what we do.

But to reach this society, it is essential that we develop a program-of-struggle that is not just a list of little reforms that do nothing, in the medium term even, but stabilize the unjust society that capitalists run, and that is forever veering into crises and constantly causing both poverty and environmental catastrophe. We need a program based on an ongoing mobilizationof working people, young people, women the unemployed and all those who work for a living and are thus victims of this social inequality. The link between party and the broad masses of workers is through the experienced workers, who in “upturns” (times of rising class struggle) become leading figures on each work-site and in each neighbourhood. During this struggle it is also important to win over some academics and some intellectuals, and to prove that socialism represents the only alternative to this chronic inequality, and the perpetual production of poverty and powerlessness, as well as ecological disaster.

But more than anything it is necessary to convince the broad masses of working people that bourgeois democracy that we have today, cannot replace the need for permanent, ongoing mobilization based on a consciously understood program. It is not 3 crosses on a ballot paper once every 5 years that will get rid of poverty or change social inequality. It would be silly to think it could.

Our program-of-struggle is based on demands that the working people are right now prepared to mobilize for, but which articulate in such a way that they are always showing us the truth: that capitalism will not be able to satisfy all our most ordinary demands for dignity. Selling our labour power is not dignified. The demands we put forward in our program thus push towards the struggle for a socialist alternative. The struggle for socialism based on such a program is a process whereby the class struggle that workers wage, like it or not, every day at the work site and in the neighbourhood, moves towards creating a more political consciousness, led by the more experienced workers, a consciousness that goes beyond the ordinary logic of bourgeois ideology. It is this political consciousness that is necessary, not social movements nor “civil society” if we are to not just limit ourselves to challenging capitalism without putting forward a consciously proposed socialist alternative.

A program-for-struggle is not something that remains on paper, but depends on the building of a movement with a voice that is strong enough to defend this program. The program and the movement, will remain isolated, however, if we do not consciously and all the time, include the internationalist dimension in our struggle. All over the world there are political movements in the same direction. We can learn from them and contribute towards them.

In the positions we take, as in our actions, LALIT aims at the ongoing elaboration of such a program, the construction of such a movement and the development of many internationalist links. This means our program aims towards a socialist revolution that will transform not just Mauritius, but the world.

This world-wide dimension is essential today because, as everyone knows, capitalism is now, for the first time, a truly world-wide phenomenon, and the working class, for the first time in history, a truly majority class.