LALIT’s Labour Day celebrations went off very well on Sunday from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm at its Grand River North West party’s hall. The wonderful mix of celebration and the sharpening of political ideas took the specific form of gathering members until the hall was overflowing on to the veranda – some with their families – around a LALIT documentary, a keynote speech, music and songs, messages read out from organizations in different parts of the world that LALIT has relationships with, and poems on the general theme of “labour”. Members and supporters also signed up to give a hand with different party activities coming up soon. The Chair, Anne-Marie Joly welcomed those present from all parts of Mauritius, and from Rodrigues, too.
The theme for 2016 was around “Smart Cities and the Land Question”. In particular, LALIT decided to look at the Bosses-and-Government joint strategy of “Smart Cities” as opposed to a proper economic strategy, let alone one in the interests of “labour”, it being Labour Day. The theme contrasted the Bosses-and-Government’s plan to pull up sugar cane for the first time ever only to ruin the agricultural land thus liberated by constructing a concrete jungle, on the one hand, with a worker-led plan for job creation based on land reform, food production, fishing, planting and animal husbandry, food preservation and transformation for local use and for export particularly in the Region, on the other hand – a plan that links modern knowledge with the experience people already have.
The music was varied in every sense. Rajni Lallah opened on the piano keyboard produced the most divine, warm sound, while Alain and Marousia closed with traditional music with a zing to it. In between were Marlene and Marc Joseph with jazz/folk songs, and Rajni and Marc with a jazz instrumental. Alain St. Bertin gave an acoustic guitar piece with a classic resonance. And the climax was the most beautiful mass choral singing by all present of the Linternasyonal in Kreol.
The poems were Kreol translations/adaptations of “Laport la” on refugees by a Greek poet, read by Sudha; “Travayer get Listwar” by Begum; “Ledikayson enn gran zafer” by Alain; and “Zordi Linzistis ki Mari” by Sarah.
Messages from Abroad
Messages came in from organizations LALIT exchanges publications and ideas with, including Lutte Ouvrière in France, from Marxist Reading Group in Namibia, Workers’ Vanguard League in South Africa, and Socialist International group in Nigeria, and the humanist socialist group News and Letters in the USA. They were read by Shabeela Kalla.
Take-home Reading Matter
Members who like reading each took a little bundle of two-or-three last year’s copies of newspapers or magazines that were in LALIT’s Documentation Centre and that came from organizations abroad that we have exchanges with.
Lindsey Collen’s speech was structured around the outrageous plan of Smart Cities in response to the crying needs of “Labour” today in Mauritius. She put this in the context of Mauritian Labour’s 300 years of history: the first hundred under the labour law called “slavery”, reminding us that this is what slavery was: a legal framework for labour. The second hundred years was under a labour law called “indenture” and “labour law for ex-slaves”, a more supple legal framework than slavery. The third hundred until today under “wage slavery”, a more supple legal framework than indenture. And putting into question the present legal framework cannot rely on just changing from one set of parties like Labour and the MMM to another, like the MSM, PMSD and ML. The limits of what the French called “alternance” have been reached, and workers begin to realize it. Thus it is a time to put into question who controls what is important:
- the land and what is produced on it
- in what sector what kinds of jobs are created under what conditions
- food security
-housing for all.
And, she said, it is time to see that the bosses-and-Government when they come up with pure land speculation as their only development plan, and when the Opposition has the same kind of strategy, it is time for working people to make their own plan or strategy, based on their own analysis.
From the chair, Anne-Marie at one moment expressed condolences to Kisna, Rada and Sadna, who were not present because of the death of Ravin Kistnasamy, their brother and cousin, respectively, and his funeral was that day. These three members are all key organizers of all LALIT Labour Day meetings every year so we missed them and share in their loss.
Members signing up to give a hand
People present signed up for various LALIT commissions: education and trade union commissions, for example. Some put their names down to help with organizing the Brainstorming Session on Art and Culture on 5 June, others with the Symposium LALIT is due to hold on the limits of all and the dangers of some “NGO”s, as opposed to associations. Some said they wanted to help with the bi-monthly magazine. Others said they would organize a talk in their neighbourhood on the dangers of the Smart Cities strategy, and others still in the exhibition LALIT is organizing later this year or next year.
The celebrations ended with a veritable banquet made up of the home-made offerings that everyone brought. Dhal purees and rotis that some members brought were served with potato curry, chicken and chick peas, fish curry, roasted eggs, chicken liver and onions, and other dishes. There were sandwiches and little fried cakes. There were apples and bergamot juice with ice.