On Sunday 16 January at a Lalit held a party Congress at Grand River North West to launch a campaign for an alternativ political economy. This campaign is in the context of the double event of a coming General Election and the impending economic crisis following the simultaneous end to the Sugar Protocol under the Lome Convention and to the Multi-Fibre Agreement for textiles. The end of the protectionist colonial economic regimes and the imposition of the WTO rules have long been announced, and yet the Mauritian Government and bourgeoisie have taken no real steps to meet this crisis. In fact, they were in favour of the colonial regimes, and were also in favour of the changeover to WTO rules. Such is the degree of their irrationality. Without any realization of how ridiculous they are, during the United Nations International Meeting on Small Island Developing States held in Mauritius last week, they pleaded for special status and dispensation for small island states. The Mauritian Government did this after having campaigned in favour of the WTO all over the world.
Meanwhile the working people of Mauritius are faced with growing unemployment, and the only worry the Prime Minister has about this is to change the way in which the Central Statistical Office calculates unemployment. Of course, this tactic in no way helps the people who live in the insecurity that unemployment produced. Nor does it decrease the extent to which ordinary Mauritian people are totally expropriated from any means of subsistence.
The landowners have the land and do not want to create jobs or plant food crops. The people who want jobs and would like to cultivate food crops do not have the land.
This is why fifty Lalit members met to launch the new campaign on a setting in place dynamics that will bring about a new form of agriculture, new forms of agro-industry, that are based on peoples' traditional knowledge and science put at the service of the people. In short, this is why Lalit has launched its campaign to question the continued support to the cane and sugar sectors and the State's complete disinterest in supporting other forms of agricultural production. Lalit also spoke on clean and renewable production of energy during the Congress.
LALIT CONGRESS LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN
The party Congress began at 9.45 am and was chaired by Cindy Clclie. There were three sections to the Congress, each followed by time for questions and comments. Then the campaign itself, with neighbourhood meetings, youth meetings and theoretical sessions, was timetabled for the next two or three months.
MARXIST ECONOMIC THEORY
Lindsey Collen gave an introductory talk on Marxist economic theory, comparing it with the bancrupty of the bourgeois economics taught in schools and university. She gave an outline of the main economic contribution of Marx, and of some of the classic Marxists who came after him. The simple questions posed by Marxism is how does any given society plan its survival? What does any given society produce? (It is after all our capacity to plan the future that differentiates us from other creatures on the earth.) With what does it produce this? How is production organized? As Marx and Engels themselves explained they gathered their inspiration from three different sources: the immense organization of the English working class in the 1830's (trade unions and the political movement called the Chartists) as well as on the political revolutions in France in 1789, 1848 and 1871, together with the German rationalist philosophical tradition exemplified by Hegel's insistance on understanding the totality of things as well as their parts.
She then went on to point out the particular addition of Lenin on imperialism and what is specific about it. She showed how Rosa Luxemburg's contribution to the theory of the impossibility of capital accumulating without bringing in parts of society previously not part of capitalism at all, and the limits of this process. Then she gave a brief hint at the theory of uneven and combined development, that Leon Trotsky worked out as part of the idea of permanent revolution. Lastly she spoke of Antonio Gramsci's contribution towards understanding the period of the death throes of one kind of society and its ideology, as capitalism no longer even bothers to justify itself philosophically, and the inability at the same time of a new society to get born yet.
A full-length session on Marxist economics will be held by Lalit on 12 February for all members. Other people can also meet a member to get an invitation.
THE SUGAR INDUSTRY AT AN END
Ram Seegobin and Rada Kistnasamy each presented a paper on questions related to the sugar industry. Ram Seegobin showed how just last week at the SIDS conference, the European Commissioner announced that there would be no compensation for the sugar producing ACP countries adversely affected by the end of the Sugar Protocol under the Lome Agreement. This means that the crisis that the bourgeoisie and the Government are trying to explain away will deepen. More workers in the sector will be retired supposedly "voluntarily" with some meagre compensation, in exchange for closing down their jobs forever. More mills will be closed. More stupid projects to attract the millionaires and other mafias to come and live in Mauritius under the notorious Integrated Resorts Schemes that intend to turn Mauritians into a nation of domestic workers.
Ram Seegobin said that the important task before us is to create the conditions for people to understand an alternative and to mobilize for it. The demands need to be specific and to come from an understanding of the issues.
Rada Kistnasamy then gave an exposition on the way in which it is successive governments that have given concessions, advantages, subsidies to the sugar industry bosses, guaranteeing them profits from before their cane is planted until after the money for selling the sugar reaches their pockets. And then, the State has also built up a class of high paid bureaucrats, often party agents being repaid for services rendered, who work as the bosses of the innumerable State organisms that provide support to the sugar industry. These range from research institutions, including the University itself which started so as to help the sugar industry, to the Sugar Authority, the Mechanical Pool, and much of the irrigation of the country. He gave a list of demands that would help people mobilize to force the State to support other kinds of agricultural production.
After questions and comments, there were four papers on different aspects of agricultural diversification:
AGRICULTURAL DIVERSIFICATION REVISITED
Rajni Lallah spoke on the history of the struggle for agricultural diversification. During the war there was "necessity" which drove the struggle. Shipping had stopped. Basic food imports thus halted. Diversification was essential for life to continue. In 1961, it was "rationality" that acted as a driving force, when Prof. Meade came up with arguments against monoculture of cane, wisely predicting what would happen 40 years later i.e. that the sheltered regime would come to an end. Rajni then said that the most important factor, the one which will work, will be mobilization of the people who have every interest in diversification, for job creation and for food security. This is mainly the working class. Necessity is fast becoming a driving factor again. In Lalit we are producing some of the materials to give the rational support for the campaign for an alternative political economy. Now our campaign is to mobilize the support of everyone who stands to benefit, to join the campaign.
Alain Ah-Vee gave an account of how what is needed is not to start from nowhere, or somewhere imaginary. There is already a great deal of knowledge amongst the planting and animal rearing community. This knowledge must be relied on, at the same time as using the finest of modern scientific knowledge in order to diversify agriculture and transformation industries.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS
Ally Hosenbokus said how the Government was bent on actually eradicating traditional farming methods, and on encouraging Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) as can be seen by the 2004 Act. He said that Lalit together with thinking organizations in Mauritius and in the rest of the world insist that GMO's have dangers for humanity. There is the question of the infection of the genetic stock in nature and in agriculture by cross-pollination. There is the question of the long term dangers of eating GMO crops. And there is the dependence on the absolutely ruthless seed-producing multinational corporations, that are hell bent on getting a total control over the worlds supply of food and knowledge about food. He gave a brief introduction on the TRIPS (Trade Related Intellectual Property) under the WTO, whereby living plants and creatures are being patented.
Ragini Kistnasamy was the final speaker, and she spoke on the experience of integrated farming, which links up animal husbandry, planting and fish-breeding, so that they are all linked, and so that the environment is respected and will be there intact in the long run. She said some of the examples are relatively small like the one in Mauritius at St. Martin which has been very interesting, and others, like those in China, are immense and have involved freeing some 100,000 workers from the fields to related work. She also mentioned the examples of integrated energy production, one of which was on show parallel to the SIDS conference, whereby sea water, some warm and some cold, is used to produce energy and the by-product is none other than fresh water.
Cindy Clelie from the Chair co-ordinated questions and comments, and then organized the distribution of the Lalit Program Book, an 80 page book on sale for Rs 50. Each militant present took some to sell. This will be the central tool for the program.
PLANNING THE CAMPAIGN
For the first series of planned neighbourhood meetings, the main speakers were chosen. There will be two meetings in the South, one in Grand River South West, one in Rosehill, one in Curepipe, two in Port Louis, others in Bambous, Camp Le Vieux, La Brasserie and St. Pierre. Young peoples' sessions were planned for the University and for Grand River North West. A session on Marxist economics was fixed, as mentioned earlier. In March there will be three public meetings. A first leaflet will be drafted this week for distribution in the context of the invitations to the neighbourhood and youth meetings.