The past few weeks’ news has been under the influence of four general themes as we head towards a new Parliamentary season:
- 50 years of Mauritian Independence from Britain is coming up, while the symbol of the Republic, the President herself, is in disgrace over her shady links with the Angolan Sobrinho Alvaro, and while a private press empire Le Defi Media Group sets itself up to give out national “awards”,
- a plethora of localized thunderstorms, with flooding and lightening strikes causing havoc, followed by days of rain, and now the edge of a cyclone that formed near Tromelin,
- International Women’s Day celebrations are nearing, and the Government’s guest for celebrations, the Bollywood woman actor Sridevi dies tragically in her bath tub in Dubbay,
- the Mauritian State is preparing for the International Court of Justice case on Chagos at The Hague.
And, as usual, it is all against a background of four overwhelming economic realities:
- a fall in production of all kinds,
- massive unemployment and underemployment barely masked anymore by Statistics Mauritius,
- the relentless selling off of the arable land of the country to all sorts of millionaires and other undesirable people from abroad, heralding destruction of the country, and using the windfall gain from the land speculation as a trick to pretend there is Foreign Direct Investment when it is just private individuals selling off the family jewels of the whole country,
- and precarious and/or overcrowded housing increasingly exposed by the bad weather.
Meanwhile, the L’Express newspaper is running a campaign on behalf of finance capital to delay the pension age. This aims to keep all the gains from increases in productivity well and truly in the greedy little hands of finance capital, and away from being shared out as relaxing retirement for those who did the work, and of those who still do too many hours a week of it. And the mega-project of a Metro-Express gets underway, ripping up trees and markets on its way, with still no proper organization of pedestrian paths to and from the stops, nor bicycle lanes let alone a plan of where to put a bicycle in the train -- and not even a clear idea of park-and-ride plans.
An unstable world situation
And the world situation is hardly stable. As China and India become economic giants, the USA both loses status and yet continues to throw its weight around militarily. As usual, dying empires, trapped wild animals of prey, are dangerous. There is a frightening level of nuclear-war-mongering against a background of existing devastating wars, provoking massive migration – mainly of course directly from the bombed and blasted countries of Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. And the media and intelligentsia is unable to inform people that the bombs dropped by Britain and France and other US allies are the cause of this mass flight. There is a rise in fascist ideology in many countries, from the USA to Philippines, echoing a similar rise 100 years ago, when Finance Capital, that most parasitic of all forms of capital, first dominated the capitalist system, before being harnessed for 70 years by the capitalists’ fear of the Russian Revolution spreading. And, today there is ever-more-harmful pollution of all kinds. Much of it is reaching tipping points. And finance capital threatens ever-deeper economic crises – that are merely postponed by digging deeper into the pockets of the future, or by printing more dollar bills in the present, thus threatening deeper crises than ever before. Working people world-wide – in white collar jobs, in factories and in the fields – are still in the slave-like state of being controlled by labour laws that make them sell one-third of their lives to the highest bidder – if they are lucky enough to find a buyer! Our herculean struggles against slavery have not yet won – wage slaves are everywhere to be found.
All this makes for a restive world. Children rise up against guns mowing them down in schools in the USA. Women world-wide rise up against sex abuse, find ways of finally insisting on shouting against abusers from rooftops instead of going on bowing down before the repressive forces of patriarchy for supposed solutions. And fine journalism like Ronan Farrow’s second article, has shown the excessive-seeming lengths that patriarchy goes to get everyone to be part of their predatory behavior -- going as far as hiring lawyers and ex-Mossad Workers claim their rights, and more.
50 Years’ Independence Celebrations
One good thing about the celebration of 50 years of Independence is that main-stream commentators, instead of looking no further than their own noses into the past or future, are now, on a daily basis, having to factor in “time”, when they write news or editorial articles. This means that the mainstream makes a tiny movement towards catching up with what was so new in 19th and 20th Century thinking and is usually banned from schools, often even from universities, and suppressed in all mainstream media: Marxism or the factoring-in of the constant movement of social history, as classes oppose each other, in the ongoing, shifting time of history; Einstein is the factoring-in of “time” and “speed” (time/place) as part of relativity; Darwin’s evolution is the understanding that species are categories that are in a perpetual state of “becoming” – over time. All this to say that what LALIT says does not sound quite as unusual right now – when everyone in the media is talking about a whole 50 years of social change, watching the sweep of history, instead of seeing no more than 50 hours into the past. The article in Le Mauricien on trade unionism, in which Ram Seegobin describes the kind of alliance between Labour Party and the unions to get Independence, not only in Mauritius, but all over the ex-colonies, stands out like a beacon in this sense. And the one also in Le Mauricien when Lindsey Collen glances back at the women’s struggle for emancipation.
And then we see a private sector of capital, the Le Defi Media group celebrating the nation – in secular ways, like “our market” or “our post offices” or “our schools” or “our hospitals”. And in addition, they have set up a jury to give “Awards” to 50 people this coming week-end, under different headings, for contributions over time. A LALIT member, Lindsey Collen, turned such an Award down.
The History and Political Science departments of the University of Mauritius put out a “Call for Papers” for their conference on 50 years of Independence. LALIT criticized their “headings”, and we sent out our own Call for Papers for a Symposium in July. The University has since apparently cancelled its Conference.
The Creole Speaking union and Municipality of Port Louis held a Round Table, somewhat hurriedly organized, but with good attendance. Again, they were looking over 50 years, although their reach into the past was rather limited for academics, and seemed limited by their own belly-buttons. LALIT member, Alain Ah-Vee, spoke in the name of Ledikasyon pu Travayer, an organization whose huge momentum over its 42 years’ existence he expresses, thus defying the stodgy analyses of the academia and the authorities.
And a spin-off from the 50 years’ celebrations is that there has been something of a political “trève” amongst mainstream parties, as if it were Jeux des Iles of something. The political leaders criticize one another, but “within reason”, as it were, as they juggle for electoral advantages in planned alliances.
Thunderstorms and lightning
The heavy rains and flooding have torn away the shield of the housing problem and shown up the Government’s lack of any idea of how serious the problem is. With Statistics Mauritius confusing “who does not pay rent” with a “home-owner” means denying the main housing problem, all those families living in Lakaz Zeritye.
Finally when the Vice President of the Republic, after thousands of people ended up in refugee centres, said on Radio Plus that 89% of Mauritians were home-owners, according to Statistics Mauritius, Father Labour pulled him up, using the argument LALIT has spent some five years popularizing that this does not include the main problem: “overcrowded houses that now belong to heirs” of someone long-since gone. All the families, and their children and children’s children, are “home owners” by this weird system. This, in turn, causes bitter family feuds, and intra-familial violence, of which we only see the extreme manifestations when a brother, a father, a cousin or a son is actually killed in a final, irreductible family row.
International Women’s Day
The Muvman Liberasyon Fam co-ordinated a fine 100-word “Declaration Against Sex Abuse”. It was signed by 50 women who have made a contribution to women’s emancipation in Mauritius since Independence. It was published on 28 February, so as to hopefully influence the content of the more mainstream celebrations. It supports the world-wide movement against sex abuse and on the importance of exposing, and refusing to collude with, male predators, rather than again heaping blame on the victim – this time for supposedly not addressing herself to the repressive state apparatus for redress. It also puts emphasis on the issue of males not so much doing something sexual as something aggressive, by abusing a situation of relative power -- a male teacher/lecturer over a girl/woman student, a social security officer over a woman claimant, a supervisor over a woman worker, a male trade unionist over a fired woman worker, a film director selecting women actors, any boss over any woman worker on his site, an older relative over a young niece, a doctor over a girl or woman patient, a lawyer over a woman client, a gym coach over a sportswoman, a husband over a wife, and so on). Here is the list of signatories. MLF says women have continued to send in their names, so the Declaration has clearly caught the imagination of women.
Allia Syed Hossen-Gooljar
Marie Claire Bibi Diop
Marlène Urcile Ladine
Mary Jane Gaspard
Mélanie Vigier de Latour-Bérenger
Finally the Chagos/Diego Garcia issue before International Court of Justice
This year, behind all the news every day, there will lie the decolonization question. 50 years after Independence, Mauritius is still colonized. The British stole Chagos and leased part of it, Diego Garcia, to the US, the “receivers of stolen goods” for a military base. And finally after 50 years of struggle, we in LALIT and others have forced the Mauritian State to take the matter to the UN courts. This is a major issue.
So, that is a back-ground to the news of the past weeks. This article was based on papers presented to LALIT members by Ram Seegobin (international), Alain Ah-Vee (political) and Rajni Lallah (economy), Lindsey Collen(Our allies).