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Lindsey Collen on What Elections in Bourgeois Institutions Mean to LALIT

27.11.2019

At the LALIT Members’ Assembly held on Sunday 24 November, here is what Lindsey Collen said in her introduction to the well-attended meeting she presided.


 The electoral campaign, the polling and the counting are all over and done now, and we have new members of the National Assembly. Former Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth thus continues in his role as Prime Minister, and he has named his new Cabinet. So, we have a new Parliament and a new Government.


 What does it mean for a party like LALIT to participate in elections to the bourgeois state apparatus – in particular to the National Assembly? It means we align candidates on the basis of our program – the program we are always fighting for in any case – and that, if elected, we will have an additional platform (Parliament) from which to popularize our program. So, that was the basis on which we stood. 


 But, for other parties, the election means taking over the reins of Government, that is to say “taking power”. The only hitch is that power, real power, does not lie in the National Assembly in the hands of elected members, or even of those nominated Ministers. It lies in the hands of the owning class. The Government has only that small amount of power that the owning classes accord to politicians to run day-to-day things – while masking the real owners and controllers.


 However, LALIT – though not seeing the election as a way of seizing power – does have a strategy for taking power from those who really control it. All politics is, indeed, about taking or keeping power. Politics is not about businesses, nor about doing people favours, nor about civil society: it is about the question of power. 


 So, LALIT is different from other political parties because we do not challenge only the power that exists in the National Assembly, what we call the “bourgeois Parliament”, set up when the bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) first came to power, deposing kings, princes and nobles. We aim to change which class is in power. This strategy demands a broader strategy than getting a majority in the National Assembly; it demands that we organize for the working class, as a class, to take power from the capitalist class, and become the ruling class, before then proceeding to install, to build, to create, to invent, a new society without class divisions. So, when we put up candidates, it is the same level of political work as holding a demonstration on the land question and housing in general and asbestos housing. Both standing for election and organizing a demonstration aim to strengthen the working class relative to the “owning class” of capitalists. They own what all of us need in order to survive. We aim for everyone to own it. To get there, we need the working class to wrest power from the capitalist class. 


 So, LALIT is essentially a “class struggle” party. We do not believe that society is already in a state where we can say “we are all enn sel fami”. We are not all the same “Morisien”, as Jugnauth’s Alliance Morisien implies from its very name. We are not all in the same “nation” happily equal as Ramgoolam’s Alliance Nationale implies we are. Nor are we all the same 100% Citoyens or sharing the same Morisyanism. We are in conflicting class. What is good for capitalists is not good for the working class. The employers, capitalists all, take the decisions and the rest of society (even the well-heeled) is at their disposal. They hire and they fire.


 What this means is that there is an on-going class struggle. Like it or not, it is there. And we need to harness it so as to bring equality one day.


 So, LALIT is a “class struggle” party.


 This brings us to the second point. Our actions are part of our program. This program as well as aiming to prepare the working class to take power from the capitalist class and dispossess them of their monopoly control over means of survival of all of us, also aims to constantly change the balance of forces in favour of the oppressed classes and against the classes that own the means of survival. So, our program is vital.


 We are not the kind of outfit that calls on people to “desann dan lari, zet Guvernman”. In Egypt, we have an example of that. People came out in hundreds of thousands, in millions, into the streets, and did overthrow the dictator Mubarak, but without being unified behind a program that people consciously support, it was only too easy to be brought under another dictator, arguably worse, in Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who represents direct rule by the Army.


 So, LALIT challenges the system, and aims to overthrow it, on the basis of a program. We have many means to challenge the system. There are petitions, a regular publication, debates, leaflets, demonstrations, strikes and also elections. So, that is how come we were in the recent general elections.


 And the aim of a party like LALIT, a “class struggle” party is to get the working class to take power by means, essentially, of a coalescence of three kinds of strength:


 - Mobilization of the broad masses of the oppressed classes, particularly the working class, behind our program.


- Recruitment to our program of the advanced sections of the working class, those with experience of past struggles, who are leaders at the grassroots and who already have the respect of those in their neighbourhoods and on their work sites. This is done in large part through our regular publication, Revi LALIT, to which they contribute with articles, which they read and discuss, and which they distribute.


- Construction of our party, one that functions in a democratic way, with a central core for coordination, so that ideas come from branches to the central committee and return to branches. This is the democratic “breathing in and out” of a party.


 Our allies are women and those against patriarchy, the oppressed peoples and those against colonization and imperialism, and the youth and students who are not yet part of the oppressive system. 


 Our aim is to unify workers of the world, as a class, against capitalists of the world, as a class. You can see why we are not “nationalists”, “morisyanists” or “citoyens” of Mauritius – all these forms of unity are essentially bourgeois unity, and are run for the capitalist class. Every 12 March, see how the bosses bring out flags on to their buildings. Listen to them saying how we must all “tighten our belts” because of bad times.


 So, the recent elections saw LALIT align, as you know, 24 candidates in the context of this overall strategy of the working class uniting behind a program to overthrow the capitalist class which is ransacking the planet.


 So, we opposed the Alliance Morisien, the Alliance Nationale, the MMM – all parties that actually pledge to support the sugar cane bosses, the hotel industry and so on – and we also opposed all that other list of smaller parties that are much the same. The elections are over. We know the results. We have a new Government – the old one of the MSM-ML with the support now of ex-MMM people. The Opposition is again the Labour Party, MMM and PMSD.


 Lindsey then went on to introduce Alain Ah-Vee’s talk on the political situation, after which there were questions and comments, then Rada Kistnasamy on LALIT’s results, after which there were further questions and comments. Rada also gave the parties income and expenditure for members to analyse. We saw that on average our candidates spent less than Rs 5,000 each including the deposit of Rs1,500. The main expenditure was on printing of our program, our newspaper and our leaflets. All food was organized freely by volunteers at a regional level, and most transport was paid for voluntarily. Banners were sewn and painted by members and supporters, too. The cloth used cost a small sum, Rs 3,000, which Rada estimated was the amount spent on banners on one road by the big parties. 


 And then Ram Seegobin gave an outline on the contestation of the elections, the formal legal challenges and also the somewhat diffuse hysteria all over the place and what it means. This was followed by lively debate and some conclusions as to who benefits from the irrational aspect of the more diffuse contestation. 


 At the end, there were decisions about which parts of our program to continue working on, as the year ends – housing and Chagos, certainly. 


 We fixed LALIT’s end-of-year meeting and party – before breaking into regional groups to plan the process of candidates’ taking the oaths on expenditure returns for the elections, and to fix branch schedules together.