LALIT celebrated Labour Day by a gathering of members and their families at the party headquarters in Grand River North West, Port Louis. A packed hall listened attentively to speeches, heard beautiful music played by members – piano, guitar, mouth organ, ravann – and was transfixed by poems written by members, recited by other members and young people. Those present heard Kreol synopses of international messages from eight organizations in five different countries.
Behind the speakers and performers were blow-ups of historic photographs that somehow created the atmosphere for this particular Labour Day: One was of the 1938 first-ever Labour Day meeting in Mauritius (that supporting members of LALIT like late Ton Labour and late M. Arlandoo attended in their youth) showing all the urban skilled workers in their felt hats, of the May 1975 students’ rebellion (that many members present had participated in as children) being attacked by police with batons, the immense September 1980 public meeting at which Ram Seegobin was an orator and many members were present, the 1981 Chagossian and LALIT women’s demonstration showing Kisna and Lindsey being arrested, and LALIT members at the 2010 Diego Garcia protest march against the colonial “Marine Park” declared by Britain as a ruse to re-colonize Chagos. Each of these actions led, even in the midst of repression, to victories that have made the struggle for socialism that little bit more possible. Which is why we remember the actions, and why we continually revive the memory of all past struggles on days like Labour Day.
Together everyone sang a rousing a capella version of the Internationale, fists raised, rounding off the meeting in high spirits.
The gathering marked both 80 years since Labour Day was first celebrated in Mauritius in 1938 and 50 years’ Independence in 1968. In particular, the question was addressed of what 50 years’ Independence means to the Mauritian working class – in the context of the on-going struggle for de-colonization and in the context of the struggle for socialism? The central speech was by Ragini Kistnasamy, who addressed the intertwined struggles against colonialism, imperialism, militarism and capitalism, and their relationship to the on-going struggle for socialism. It was a speech of riveting simplicity and precision, and also very moving. “Which demands, and which gains when we make them, make us stronger in the fight for socialism in the future?” she asked. She called for everyone present – whether on the work-site, in the unions, in associations, in co-operatives, in the neighbourhood – to put the political points in LALIT’s program that she outlined on to the agenda in these places, wherever they may be. “This is the work before us,” she said. She put emphasis on main points that are both working class struggles and de-colonization struggles: the Diego Garcia/Chagos issue, the mother tongue issue and the land question – land for job-creation on a massive scale in all kinds of work, land for housing, and land for food security.
With Anne-Marie Joly and Rada Kistnasamy doing an inspiring “joint-presidency” of the gathering, music was played by Rajni Lallah on piano – making the instrument resound as only she can make a piano resound – and then Alain St Bertin on guitar, moving from classic to popular, while Alain Muneean and Marousia Bouvary, accompanying themselves on guitar, ravann and mouth organ, sang three songs about the working class, including one about piece rates in the cane fields, Lalinn Kann, one about having a house of one’s own Zoli P’ti Lakaz, the song that was written down in Alexandre Dumas’ fine novel set in Mauritius, Georges. Poems read included an adaptation of James Conolly’s witty Nu ule pa plis ki Bul Later, Berthold Brecht’s challenging Travayer Get Listwar, Ken Coates and Tony Topham’s searing advice in Kontrol Uvriye: Konn to Lennmi and Khalil Gibran’s pensive U Zanfan pa u Zanfan.
Messages came from all over the world: three from South African organizations, one from France, one from Namibia, two from the USA and one from Germany. Ram Seegobin gave a brief outline of our relationship with each organization, while stressing the importance of the whole of “Labour” against the whole of “Capital” worldwide in the struggle for socialism. He said we were celebrating a way that contrasted with the kind of gossip-level politics that will be on display at the Government MSM-ML meeting and contrasted also with others who go to the beach rather than gather in the spirit of the international movement for the emancipation of labour from capital.
Internationalism was also celebrated by everyone getting a small parcel of back copies of socialist magazines and newspapers that LALIT receives as part of our international network. The packages had been carefully put together by LALIT member, Hamid, just before his admission to hospital for minor surgery. LALIT publications relating to the working class were on sale: Klas edited by Alain Ah-Vee, Lagrev Ut ’79 and Lalwa Travay by Ram Seegobin as well as the most recent LALIT magazine (number 132).
Alain Ah-Vee outlined coming LALIT activities, and invited people to join in, in whatever way they choose, if they aren’t already involved. These included LALIT’s trade union commission, the next magazine REVI LALIT (how to submit articles, or help with producing the magazine), the coming LALIT symposium on de-colonization, and the next LALIT public forum after the Port Louis one last month.
There was a fantastic spread – people brought and shared dhal puri’s, roti’s, a rich assortment of vegetarian dishes, chicken with chick peas, fish vindaye, chicken innards, chicken with paprika, tuna vychichoise, and baguette. To drink, there was bergamot juice with spearmint leaves, as well as tea and coffee. For dessert there was cake and fruit and biscuits. Children present played with the Lalit puppy, Larrki.
And people from different LALIT branches, who don’t often get the chance to all meet up, shared gentle conversation over lunch. Some set off in groups for a celebratory drink afterwards, as is the tradition on Labour Day.