LALIT celebrated the centenary of the Russian Revolution in a packed gathering at the Mother Earth Hall at Grand River North West on Sunday 8 October. There were people present from literally every corner and each coastline of the main Island. The aim was to remember, to commemorate and to celebrate this greatest of all revolutions, and to learn to recognize its massive influence over all the rights that people won not only in Russia, from the revolution, but all over the world – education, voting, women’s rights, rights at work, the welfare state – and its importance as a guide for us today, for future challenges on capitalist power. The aim was also to distinguish the revolution from the counter-revolution that opposed it from the beginning, and that still controls, to a great extent, the way the revolution itself is remembered. Many speakers alluded to the highest points in the history of the working class in Mauritius, when workers’ committees emerged and an insurrection was so near: August 1979 general strike movement, and the September 1980, follow up mass uprising.
After watching the projection of about 150 photos and artworks depicting the Russian Revolution, with as background the explosion of music that the Revolution produced, from Shostakovich and Prokofiev to recordings of singing of the L’Internationale, there was a two-and-a-half-hour absolutely mind-blowing counterpoint – one the right hand side microphone, a poem by Steve Bloom written especially for the Centenary called “One Hundred Years” translated into Mauritian Kreol and read by 10 different people, interlaced with speeches on the revolution over the second microphone on the left side by eight different people, including the joint-chair by Anne-Marie and Rada, who spoke only to introduce and conclude the event. Behind the speaker and reader, as well as the projection of 150 photos and art works one after the other, on one side, there were six reproductions of photographs and artwork on cardboard depicting six aspects of the Russian Revolution, on the other side as well as the right wall. Along the right wall was a 24 foot table, with an exhibition of books written before, during and after the Revolution that are in some way linked to it.
Everyone present marvelled at how intense the learning experience of the morning had been. The event was characterized by the presence of many young people, new to LALIT. Anne-Marie commented on the incredible inter-relationship between the poem and the speeches, and expressed appreciation to Steve Bloom for his gift to the world of his poem. She also thanked the two translators for their work in making it accessible, and to the readers for interpreting it.
Here is how the counterpoint went (the poem part is in italics, the speeches in “regular” font):
Welcome: Anne-Marie, and Situating the Russian Revolution: Rada
“What was the Russian Revolution?” by Tony
February, 1917: by Deves
“February 1917 to October”: by Kisna
Our March to October: Chloe and Sarah
“The Role of a Political Party, like the Bolshevik Party, in revolutionary change”: by Rajni
Insurrection: by Joyvani and Kavinien
“The Importance of Democratic Workers’ Committees (Soviets)”: by Alain
Aftermath, Part I, “Flame on the Snow”: by Tasneem
“The Civil War, the Imperialist Armies, the Counter-Revolution”: by Ram
Aftermath, Part II, Revolution and Counterrevolution: by Sudha and Pregassen
“Stalinist Counterrevolution v. Internationalism”: by Lindsey
Epilogue: by Aanas and Lindsey
What was interesting was, as Anne-Marie pointed out, the dove-tailing of the poem-reading and the speeches, in the “counterpoint” form the gathering took – the “readers” unfurling the revolution as a poem, the speakers speaking to it, about it. And the speakers all linked the Russian Revolution to where we are now in the world, with the same problems still on the agenda: war, poverty, the land question. Ram, before getting to the sublime events in politics of the Russian working class’s seizing power, spoke wittily of the ridiculous issues in politics here and now, where all is focussed on what abuse Ravi Rutnah hurls or what obscene message Kalyan Tarolah sends in Parliament! He also reminded us of how, in Mauritius, all the capitalist parties say they are “socialist” or even have “Socialist” in their names, starting with the Government party, and the need, therefore, to distinguish our politics very clearly from their politics.
Young people said afterwards they were inspired to now go out and get to know more about the Russian Revolution, and other revolutions. Some put their names down to join LALIT study groups. Older people said it has been a long time since they had spent a half-day concentrating on the Russian Revolution – something that was not rare in the late 1970s. One person present came and donated a copy of the Jack Reed book, 10 Days that Shook the World that he had bought in Moscow in 1969 to LALIT’s library. One young man lent the gathering a scarf he had got recently when he was in Russia. Two young people came and gave their names to read a poem for next Labour Day celebrations, asking if they were old enough!
For us all, it was a reminder of how clear the distinction is between LALIT, as a political party, and the other political parties that work towards taking power under the existing capitalist rule, or pretending that socialism can happily be introduced alongside capitalism!
Afterwards, people shared a celebratory picnic, and cut and ate a bright red cake baked specially for the event by a member! Meanwhile, people who share women’s struggles or fishermen’s struggles, or workers’ struggles, seized the occasion of meeting people from other areas for some co-ordination.