From our place in the Indian Ocean, when looking at the year ahead, it might be tempting to revert to the cliché “Mauritius is a small country”, meaning “an insignificant country”, and thus to wash our hands of the rest of the world and limit ourselves to navel-gazing local politics. This way we could content ourselves with concentrating on nation-level scandals and corruption (which are aplenty), instead of addressing the systemic problems continually produced by capitalism, and instead of working to change the system that produces all the local-level scandals and corruption.
Whether we live in a small or big country, everything on the planet is inter-connected. This is a hard truth that is being highlighted right now by the Coronavirus epidemic. So, it is important to start with the big issues facing the whole of humanity, and see how we link our national-level struggles with these issues.
In any case, everyone lives in a small place.
The national boundaries make some nation-states big in terms of territory – Mauritius is 18th biggest in terms of land-and-sea area, so hardly a “small country” – and some nation states are heavily populated – Mauritius is smaller than 2/3 of countries and bigger than 1/3 in terms of population. But basically everyone lives in a small place – on a city block, a town street, or a village road. And we all have our responsibility within the country we live in, where politics takes place.
Not only that, but as Mauritians we have an international duty to continue the important geopolitical work-in-progress of getting the UK-USA out of Chagos, thus enforcing the ICJ judgment and the UN General Assembly resolution that we finally got the Mauritian State to win in 2019. This way we will complete the decolonization of Africa, a task that is historically important. And this needs to be done while simultaneously getting rid of the US military base on Diego Garcia. Then there can be environmental clean-up and, together with the rest of Chagos, Diego Garcia can be made habitable for Chagossians to return to, and made into a part of Mauritius’ political system. And then Mauritius can close all its ports – including Diego Garcia, Port Louis, Port Mathurin and Agalega – to warships. This way Mauritius can contribute to the worldwide fight for demilitarization. This way Mauritius can contribute to the fight to get rid of the environmental danger that the military base, a nuclear one, on Diego Garcia poses. So, Chagos and Diego Garcia is a number one “big-picture” priority for all Mauritians.
This is why LALIT has had it on our agenda – and why we are known for this struggle – for the past 45 years. This is why we call for every thinking Mauritian to put this issue at the top of your 2021 agenda.
Mauritius has another important role right now.
As a country, we are 14th best in the world for low death rate from Covid-19. Not bad. So, we, like people of, for example, New Zealand or Iceland, have something to share with the people of other countries, where disease control was so poor, suffering so great and death so frequent. We think of Belgium, the United States, Spain, Italy, the UK, Hungary, France. We need to remain aware of the importance of how, as a society, we successfully dealt with the epidemic. Had LALIT not taken on the bourgeois ideologues, tourist industry bosses and populists of all ilk in public debate when they were all calling for borders to be opened prematurely and quarantine eliminated, it is possible the Jugnauth Government would have given in. Indeed after the 29 August demonstration, which called for this, Jugnauth announced he would. LALIT has had a long struggle to keep the Biro Saniter alive, when the capitalist ideologues were all for “cutting Government spending”, and it is the Biro Saniter that have helped us to quell (so far) the epidemic in Mauritius, by old-fashioned testing and tracing contacts back and forward, and isolating positive cases in hospital.
2020 exposes Effects of Capitalism’s Pollution
The year 2020 has shown up the fragility of human society as it is organized and disorganized under continued capitalist rule.
The continued ransacking of the planet by the class of capitalists, out of social control as they are, and the continued industrial pollution that this pillage-for-profit produces, have put human society at risk. It is not only LALIT saying this today. In the very heartland of capitalism and the rearguard of its ideology, the USA, only 52% of young people still believe that capitalism is the best system. So, the major challenge for 2021 is for us all to take a stand against capitalism itself, and dedicate ourselves to creating a new system, socialism that is democratic, much more democratic than the best capitalism offers, i.e. bourgeois democracy, which has itself been under siege with men at the helm in their respective countries in 2021, like Modi, Trump, Bolsanaro, Putin, Duterte and Orban. Luckily Trump is on his way out of the Presidency – however much he, like all dictators, resists.
And just as 2020 was “The Year of Covid”, we can predict that 2021 will be The Year of Covid Vaccines. While the US and Europe hog the early Pfizer-BionTech and Moderna vaccines, big proportions of the American and European people are so confused that they refuse vaccines altogether. So, that is the kind of world capitalism creates: the greedy grabbing what they can while not appearing to see “the rest of the world”, on the one hand, and the victims of imaginary conspiracy theories against all vaccines and thus literally confused to death, on the other. The western media meanwhile have pretended that China, Russia and India do not have vaccines already on trial, even as the same media reports which countries their vaccines are being put into trials in! These vaccines, the media says or implies are “suspicious” because they have not been submitted to the same rigorous tests as the US and Europe’s. But note that the WHO hadn’t yet given the green light to any of these vaccines when they were already being rolled out in the US and Europe, where they, too, have been approved for emergency use only. (By the way, the American secret services, the CIA, got vaccines a bad name in Pakistan and Afghanistan when its officers either really used vaccination as a cover for stealing DNA from children to check if they were Osama Bin Laden’s before sending in helicopters to assassinate him, or as a lie to cover for their local allies in the Pakistani secret services – which of the two is not clear, however many serious articles you read – and from a public health point of view, both are so morally corrupt it makes little difference.)
But, as well as the pandemic, capitalism in 2020 has continued to engender other deep problems, beyond Coronavirus and its mismanagement.
In particular, three other related phenomena: the increasing share of the richest capitalists of the totality of human wealth, the ruination of the planet, and imperialist war – all in the quest for profit.
Increasing Inequality in Wealth due to Capitalism
So, in the context of this increasing inequality of wealth, LALIT calls on all trade union members and their leadership to make the year 2021 be the year when they include the aim of getting rid of the very economic system that is constantly creating increased inequality. The world has become more unequal in terms of what people own and also of what different people earn. This must once again become the concern of trade unions, as it was in their hey-day. All unions, in all their actions, must join with LALIT and aim at working people world-wide taking control of production and distribution, and doing so on a democratic basis. This means continuing with all the bread-and-butter issues, and also at the same time aiming to finish capitalism off. All our struggles will need to be articulated with this main struggle to end capitalism and replace it will socialism. It is not enough in 2021 to try to get better conditions only for properly employed workers, or only for Mauritian workers employed by the big Mauritian companies – forgetting about the lot of workers employed in other countries by these companies, for example. This kind of pivot towards attacking capitalism itself (as well as the usual trade union work) will demand an ideological struggle within every trade union and every other workers’ organization. This struggle will, in turn, help to “immunize” us all, in the working class movement, from populists like Bruneau Laurette, former MSM agent, trained by Israeli army men, and now posing as a savior, together with his lawyer Teeluckdharry, named in the Commission of Enquiry into Drug Trafficking, both of whom the bourgeois press pump up.
The ruination of the planet due to Capitalism
Because decisions are made by capitalists, and in the interests of their profits (by definition), and because decisions are not yet being made by the people, as a whole, in the interests of everyone on earth, the planet is being ransacked. This is urgent. It needs to be addressed – by political parties, trade unions, and young people in environmental struggles. It is not good enough to just seek higher wages for organized workers, nor to just recycle plastic. Decision-making on production issues must be everyone’s right and duty. That is the democracy we need. Anything less will not work. And we must in 2021 commit ourselves to the struggle for this kind of democracy – in order to save the planet.
In 2021, we will still be facing the catastrophic result of just one of the predictable effects of capitalism’s ruination of the planet: the increased frequency and velocity of spread of epidemics, like Covid-19. As species are squeezed out of their wild territory, more viral infections will jump species, to humans. And as we get more-and-more cramped, so epidemics, especially viral ones, become more of a threat – to our species, and indeed to many species.
At the same time, capitalist-driven deforestation and air pollution are causing the gradual – but not inexorable, because it depends on our political mass actions – warming of the planet and this provokes climate change and a rise in sea levels. This all, together with poison through pesticides and other industrial wastes, in turn, poses existential threats, through the concatenation of species extinction, mass migrations, wars over resources, and more epidemics still.
Events like the Wakashio shipwreck and oil spill can be expected to become more common all over the world as more and more vessels cross the oceans, without proper regulation or risk reduction measures.
Wars are both more likely, as the irrational demands of late capitalist rule take over, and also more deadly, as weapons become more lethal.
Militarism due to Capitalism
Today, there are nuclear weapons on Mauritian territory, on Diego Garcia to be precise, and they are under no social control. The Mauritian Government is allowing the USA to flaunt the Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa. This poses Mauritius’ biggest environmental threat, as well as being our biggest responsibility for world peace. We, in LALIT, challenge the young people in Fridays for Future to take on this threat as one of their central points of focus in 2021 – and to help internationalize the issue. We have contacted them already. Now, we make our call to them public.
But, we warn the young people that taking on the USA on Diego Garcia demands courage, determination and being in the struggle for the long haul. It demands seeing the big picture. Let us explain just how brave you need to be to take on the UK-USA axis. We give an example of the USA’s “reach” right now.
With the USA being the country with the most cases and the most deaths (20% of world Covid deaths with 4% or world population), its CDC has warned Americans recently as follows: “Travelers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid all nonessential travel to Mauritius (sic).” * On the date this warning was put up, 2 December 2020, Mauritius had had ONE SINGLE case of local transmission over the past SEVEN months. And it is now 8 months since the last Covid case (excluding the one case). The USA has a third of a million deaths. The USA has 92 deaths per 100,000 population. Mauritius has less than ONE per 100,000 population. So, this absurd American communiqué can have only three possible explanations: either the CDC is the most incompetent organization imaginable (not true), or it has very different standards for “travel to Mauritius” or “travel to any US airport from your home to catch a plane anywhere” (ridiculous), or it is revenge for the Mauritian State, which relies on tourism (even though Mauritian borders are closed right now, unless you go into residential quarantine for two weeks upon arrival). But, why revenge? Obviously because Mauritius took the UK to the ICJ and UN General Assembly and won twice. Because of this, the UK has to get out of Chagos, including Diego Garcia, so the American military base is in jeopardy. The thief of Chagos, the UK, leased part of Chagos, Diego Garcia, to the receiver of stolen goods, the USA. For all to see. And for all (except Israel, Australia, Maldives and Hungary) to agree with. Once before when Mauritius threatened to go to the UN system, the US emitted a similar notice that Mauritius (though malaria has famously been eradicated for over half a century) posed a malaria threat for American travellers! The warning was later removed after protests and with a lame apology for “a typing mistake”. So, if the whole Mauritian state gets threats (often denied afterwards as we saw at the end of last year), individuals can expect worse.
For young people, it is therefore important that you realize that US Embassy scholarships, for example, are offered as bribes. You cannot accept a scholarship from the State which is a military power illegally occupying your country. Not morally anyway. Anyone who has done so before the ICJ judgment can mount some kind of justification. After that, no-one really can.
So, we are asking young people to be brave. Please can you now take on the issue of the danger of nuclear weapons being handled on Mauritian territory. Do join in and help raise a world-wide mobilization to close the Diego Garcia base. And to close all Mauritian ports to all warships.
Democratic control over the Sugar Estate Arable Land
Why does LALIT call on everyone to challenge the private control over the large tracts of arable land? It is simple. Mother earth nourishes us. As does the sea. And so they cannot be under private control. We need the land to be opened up for food production, linked to food preservation plants on sugar estates. We need this for three reasons: food security, job creation, foreign exchange. It is simple. People with land do not want to plant food crops. People who do want to plant food crops haven’t got the land. The Government must act to open up this land for massive food production, massive employment and for exporting produce as well. If the sugar estates do not listen to the Government, then the Government will have to force them to free up their land. And if the Government does not act, then we, the people, will have to act to force it to act. And if it does not, the people will, in the end, have to act. There is no alternative in the face of the dangers we may have to face.
The only way to develop one’s thinking properly is in the mother tongue. Our mother tongue is our means of thinking, our tool of cognition. We must use it, develop it, refine it. Abroad, and to share ideas with others abroad, we can use English, Hindi, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Arabic, for sure. This article for our web has two aims: one national, and the other international. To develop new ideas, to refine existing ideas, to get things really straight and clear, really precise, the mother tongue is what is needed. We need the freedom to think-and-talk, to work things out and write, in our mother tongue. This freedom enables creative thinking. And it is thinking, collectively and individually, that creates the possibility of a political program. And what is a political program other than a shared understanding of the political tasks ahead? So, this, too, the mother tongue question, needs to be on the agenda for 2021. As it already is for us in LALIT. Two fault lines need to be in our program: Kreol of the Republic of Mauritius in the National Assembly, and as written medium (it can be alongside English) for Maths and Science.
Everyone, regardless of sex or sexual orientation, must be free to be part of this struggle. This is why we, in LALIT, put so much store by the struggle for women’s liberation and for LGBT rights.
So, we must oppose capitalism, and the imperialism that underpins it, while we conduct our other struggles. This is one reason why, in LALIT, have helped set up the SOMALP front to oppose the Israeli State’s imposition of Apartheid on the Palestinian people. Palestine, like Diego Garcia, is a fault line caused by the imposition of new forms of imperialism on existing colonial issues never resolved before.
A Roof over one’s Head
And there is another programmatic point for 2021. Without a roof over your head, shelter for family from rain and sun, from cyclones and floods, life is one long worry. And so many families in Mauritius live in precarious housing – all those in toxic asbestos houses sold to them by Government (environmentalists often, we notice turn a blind eye to asbestos, an environmental issue), those in houses without proper uprights, those who rent a costly, tiny room somewhere, or live in over-crowding in so-called “heirs’ housing”, and those living precariously in tents as squatters. So, housing, too, must be a demand for everyone to put forward.
So, working people, young people, women and men who think and who have courage, now is the time to work to create the kind of movement that will take on the entire capitalist system. Before it is too late.
* We thank Le Defi for their article drawing attention to this.