Yesterday, in these times of extreme unpredictability, LALIT held one of its best assemblies of members ever, older members attended. There were representatives of branches present from literally all over the country, and the three talks by leading members were each followed by general debate, and then the party moved towards an action plan. The atmosphere was one of resilient calm.
The talks, in order, were: An introduction by Alain Ah Vee, presiding the morning session (see below); an overview (see our report) on the pandemic itself by Ram Seegobin; an outline of the economic effects of the lockdown in the context of existing economic havoc in Mauritius, given by Rajni Lallah; a description of the political situation, in which LALIT operates, the Government parties, the Parliamentary Opposition parties, the extrra-parliamentary parties, was outlined by Rada Kistnasamy (see our report).
Alain Ah Vee, from the Chair, began with the necessity of gathering members for such a Seminar in order to come to grips with this most unprecedented situation. We, in the world, and in Mauritius, are in deep trouble of all kinds. And yet, it is in such moments that political creativity can open up new social possibilities.
Within the space of only two or three months, the entire world, its entire capitalist production, was voluntarily brought to a halt, and paralized – other than essential services. And we soon learnt what “essential services” in fact are: food, housing, health care, water, electricity, telecommunications, waste removal. Over a period of 72 days, there was like a “shock” to ordinary life. Everyone not in essential service work, was forced to stay at home, or allowed out only for essential reasons.
Now, there are signs of just how bad the capitalist system is, once it has to re-start. It is not easily able to care for people. Life has become uncertain for everyone. And the continued existence of capitalism condemns the lives of all of us to uncertainty. It prevents us from making the obvious decisions about re-starting only essential production, for example.
All this to say just how important it is for us, as a party, to put our heads together and build ourselves something of guidelines, that we share in common with each other in this very new situation. We are different from other parties because, in any case, we believe that the change that will help everyone in humankind, is a radical, revolutionary change. The situation for us in LALIT, is at the same time very different from in, say, January this year, and yet the same – with what we said before now highlighted. Now everyone knows that capitalism is not good at looking after food, health care, housing and other basics. And the whole useless part of production is clearly useless. Later in debate, a member highlighted the fact that warships were, one after the other, made useless, and even military bases in Okinawa, too, were shown to be useless, crippled as they are by the virus.
The gravity of the pandemic demands a kind of international co-ordination which capitalism, though an international system, does not, and cannot, really give it.
In Mauritius, the bourgeoisie is trying to get out of the crisis in its way. Its State apparatus – if anyone doubted that the State is a capitalist State, it is no longer possible – has given it billions to keep going. The bourgeoisie has only one aim, as ever, to restore levels of profit. How absurd. And to restore levels of profit, the bourgeoisie needs to place the cost of the epidemic on to the shoulders of the working class: lower wages, decrease days of work, increase prices.
Note that the Government for a few days did control prices. Then withdrew the Regulations controlling them, under pressure from the capitalists. The Government announced new taxes on companies, and then withdrew its proposals, under pressure from the capitalist class. All this to say that the Government, which closed down the frontiers and the entire economy in the interests of peoples’ lives, is now gradually reverting to doing everything in the interests of the ruling class, in particular by making the working class bear the brunt of the epidemic by paying its cost. So, the State will once again resort to austerity politics in order to attempt to restore profit levels.
At the same time, the State pretends that the politics it applies are in the interests of all of us – of “the nation”, or “citizens”, or “the people” – when they veer back towards protecting solely the interests of profit. After 40 years of de-regulation, after 40 years of neo-liberalism, the State first acted so as to control the entire economy (stay home, don’t even go to work) which was in all our interests, and the State is now again acting to give all the controls back to the capitalist class. For this, the capitalist class actually demands, militates for, State intervention. So, the State ends up, as usual, actually regulating everything in the interests of the capitalists, even while pretending it is de-regulating.
In the last crisis, and Alain said he was referring to the 2007-8 crisis, the bourgeoisie sometimes even pretended it was acting on a “socialist” program, by re-floating, even nationalizing, companies. Newsweek ran a title, “We are all Socialists!” Anything goes in order to re-float the capitalist class when it is in profit distress. The thousand billion dollars that Obama put into re-launching the economy was referred to as “socialist” by Fox News!
So, we need to differentiate our politics from this capitalist pretense.
It is the class struggle that is the motor for change. Only as the oppressed classes organize around an ongoing program for socialism will there be a chance for socialism. And this is what we are here to discuss today. How do we continue to sharpen the class struggle, at the grass roots level, and at the level of national politics?
The bourgeois Government in power that actually managed the epidemic relatively well – and I am not referring to how tenders for emergency supplies were handled, but to the preventive health measures – as the economic crisis worsens, we will see that, once again, it is interested only in profit levels for the ruling capitalist class.
There is no program for change for the MSM. The three Parliamentary Opposition Parties that have come together in a loose alliance as from yesterday, do not have any program for change either – other than to get the Jugnauth Government out, “lev pake ale” as a program. Groups like the Affirmative Action group led by priests and communal groups forming around housing, other groups that call themselves “citizens” at the 11 July demonstration, they all work very hard at covering up class inequality. To them inequality is either fixed by communalist action or it does not exist because we are all equal “citizens”. They do not see the bosses as a different class, not do they see the working class as a class.
That is the role of LALIT – to show up the classes in conflict. This is where change comes from, this conflict. And this is why we are such a threat to the status quo, and to the other parties. Our politics is different – we know that the working class, together with the poor and the young people, want the bourgeoisie and its State to “lev pake ale”, not just the Jugnauth regime. For that we need organization. For that, we need an appropriate program and demands. For that we need appropriate politics. And we are here to see, in these strange times, what these appropriate politics are.
During the lockdown, we began some of this work. unions, together with LALIT, signed a good common platform. During the lockdown, world-wide there has been political work against police violence, against systemic racism.
But, demands must go further than union leaderships go. We cannot, for example, limit ourselves to the demand for an income for all. We need to address the issue of production, and of productive work for all, at the same time – and many other issues that make life wonderful for all of us on the planet.