Suddenly in 2017, the sugar cane bosses, the Government, the MMM and Labour Opposition, even trade union bureaucracies, all throw up their hands in shock and horror! Doom is suddenly “unexpectedly” about to hit the sugar cane industry, they weep! And there is cane all over the Island, they cry! There is nothing but cane possible, they persist! What can we do, they wine.
In 1984, when LALIT launched its campaign “Disik ki Lavenir?” we gave a loud early-warning signal that sugar beet producers were mounting a long-term challenge to cane producers. The bosses heard. The Government heard. What did they do?
What was the riposte of the Jugnauth Government? In short, LALIT’s power-point-type rallies that were touring the country in growing numbers of neighbourhood meetings were banned outright. We were hauled before the Courts for illegally projecting pictures of sugar cane and sugar beet! Blasphemy! When it seemed we might win our case, the MSM then passed a new Bill through Parliament to outlaw the projections. We continued to campaign once we got off the defensive.
By 2003, we broadened our campaign. We named it “For a new politics of the economy!” We have again been challenging King Sugar and King Cane, again warning Government, this time giving the exact date of the crisis as September 2017, when the price was to be completely liberalized. Chronique d’un desastre annoncé.
The cane industry, in history, provided employment (slavery, indenture then modern wage slavery) to tens of thousands of workers. It provided a good proportion of the foreign exchange needed to import everything. And it provided the tax sorti to fund free health and education, universal pensions. So, this was the social “justification” of the control of a few sugar cane bosses over all the good arable land in the country.
Today, the bosses have sacked almost all the workers. The foreign exchange they earn for the population is minimal. They no longer pay tax sorti. So, how can they go on monopolizing all the land? Worse still, how can the State let them sell land off for stupid “villas” each time they are anew threatened with bankruptcy? How can they let the working class pay for the bosses’ and Government’s ineffiency?
In capitalism, we are told that you should know when to stop throwing good money after bad. That is just what the sugar cane bosses, arch-capitalists, are now calling on Government to do! First, the Government ceded billions of Rupees of European union money to the sugar Mauritius for the end of the protective regime for sugar that Europe had imposed, and so as to “restructure the economy”.
This was when in 2005, we ran the powerful poster campaign Bizin Plant Manze lor Later Tablisman! The campaign was to diversify agriculture, simultaneously massively expanding food preservation and processing. The campaign was to create jobs by the tens of thousand, instead of destroying them by the tens of thousand.
Instead, the Government just handed all the money over to the sugar bosses to use in order to maintain cane, in order to prolong their own monopoly over all the good land of the country. The bosses then just dissipated all the money, mainly by the destruction of workers’ jobs – by the tens of thousand. Now the Government is preparing to use sugar insurance money for yet another bail out of these same profligate bosses.
This has to stop.
A “country”, we must remember, is no more than its land, sea and people. The land is not “private”. Nor is it “given to a handful of cane bosses by gods”. Land is the means of survival of the people in the country.
What national psycho-pathology is it that makes the bosses think they can hog all the good land without creating jobs? And how come the Government assists them in this crime? How come Paul Bérenger of the Opposition MMM dedicates himself anew to rescuing this oligarchy? How can Arvind Boolell of the Labour Party put his main aim in life as “saving the cane industry”? How is it that trade unionist bureaucrats take public oaths of allegiance, as Ashok Subron does, to the cane industry? Do they really all think that the Mauritius working class must be prepared to go down with its plunging sugar cane industry? Or the bosses must just live off the exploitation of workers in Africa? Or live off the selling-off of the country’s land? Why do the cane bosses abandon their own capitalist ideology that says let the bad industries go bust?
As it happens cane is bad in every way. It monopolizes all the land of the country. It does not ensure jobs. It does not ensure food security. It brings little foreign exchange. And when the land is sold off to the millionaires and other crooks from abroad, it leads to destruction of arable land and is, and this is dangerous, a hideous form of re-colonization. And the industry is going bankrupt, to boot. And then the bosses just sell off the only jewels the people of the country own: the arable land. Pushing the people of the country into over-crowded ghettoes.
This will end badly.
In capitalism, the ideologues are always telling us that Government is not supposed to “bail out” sinking capitalist enterprises, and yet, Pravind Jugnauth is preparing once again to bail out the sinking ship that the cane industry is. Throwing good money into a bad sinking ship.
In capitalism, the ideologues, when they want to justify privatizing public services, say Government should not support lame ducks but let them drown. Now they support this kanar bwate that the sugar cane industry has always been, since it was subsidized by the colonial metropolis, and dependent upon slave labour and indentured labour, and cowed wage slavery.
The Government must at once force the sugar estates to:
- STOP selling off any of their land for IRS, PDS, Smart City properties, or any other type of real estate business, just to float their capitalist companies
- STOP removing their capital from Mauritius, only to exploit the workers of Mozambique, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya more cruelly still, just to float their capitalist companies.
- TAKE ON full-time workers and keep existing workers, all on present conditions in cane, in order to organize inter-line cropping in all its land, in all seven years of the crop rotation.
- TAKE ON full-time workers to ensure that food crops are planted in all interlines in all the cane land of the whole country; if a sugar estate does not take on workers for this, it must cede the inter-line to co-operatives of planters to plant food crops.
- before the first harvest of the different food crops, BUILD FACTORIES for food preservation and transformation in and around old and existing sugar mills, and TAKE ON workers to man the machines.
- before the first canned food, freeze dried food, high quality bottled food, frozen food, food oil, come off the factory line, SEND Government missions to market the varied, creatively imagined produce as it comes off the assembly line
- at the same time, Government must create jobs and build housing around a series of brand new “vilaz integre”.
Then, the reliance on the cane industry will be less, and the land of the country will be used in a way that is in the interests of Mauritian working people.
This is LALIT’s program.
24 August, 2017.