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2nd Lockdown – Day 24 – The Doldrums


Long ago sail-ships used to get stuck in windless areas near the equator called “the doldrums”. Becalmed. Sometimes the captain of such a ship thus stranded had to order sailors to lower little boats, climb down a ladder into them, and row like mad with simple oars, to tow the sail-ship out of the doldrums to where there was a whiff of wind for the sails, thus preventing the whole ship being doomed.

It seems to me Mauritius has hit the doldrums.

The “captains” here (capitalists and their Jugnauth State) have stranded us in the doldrums. They have relied on the false logic of their own accountants and economists, encapsulated in the motto: “The longer and more severe the lockdown is,” they chant, “the worse for the capitalist economy”. The truth lies a layer deeper, with any number of countries proving it: “The longer and more severe the epidemic is, the worse for the capitalist economy.” The lockdown, they forget, is the savior. It is the epidemic that is the problem. The corollary of this motto is, of course, that it doesn’t matter how many people suffer and die – it’s just their bad luck – and it doesn’t matter either if the health services collapse, so long as the capitalist economy, the raison-d’être of humanity according to them, is saved.

Which brings us to their main fallacy a further layer down: “The capitalist economy” is not the raison-d’être of humanity, as the motto implies. The capitalist economy, a relatively new phenomenon on this earth, is nothing more than the present unjust system whereby a tiny minority have got a monopoly on owning and controlling all capital socially produced by past generations of humans (all the big banks, factories, sugar estates, insurance companies, on-line service companies, shopping malls, hotel chains, the lot) as well as all the large tracts of arable land that can nurture us all. The previous class systems were worse – with a tiny minority of people then ruling by supposedly being of better blood (monarchies, castes, colonizers) or before that still, with people ruling by being able to intercede on our behalf with the gods (theocracies of all ilk) – and traces of these prior reigns persist until today. 

But even these worse forms of class rule were recent phenomena, it is now known. Paleontologists date class rule from 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, here and there on all continents. For all the rest of our human days – anywhere between 250,000 years to a few million, depending on definitions – we lived without these minority classes dominating the rest of us. Think of that. We, as humankind, are used to equality. Imagine. We survived hundreds of thousands of years, most likely because of equality. Anyway, the more recent “class inequality”, we concede, went hand-in-hand with all manner of “developments” – the pros and cons of which are another discussion – but now it is this very inequality that is causing us to be steaming (no longer just on sails) headlong to the man-made destruction of the planet. Unless we get back democratic control and impose class equality, we are doomed. Unless we all become workers, associated in ways that bring peace and contentment, we are doomed – to repression first and then destruction of our entire environment, of the planet and most of its species. Biologists and young people know this.

And right now, we need to start by keeping democratic control over how to deal with the epidemic.

We are now in the doldrums. We can only work on a Work Access Permit. That’s all. And not even all of us. At the same time, that many us working – and taking exams – is just enough, when cases of Covid are rising, to maintain the spread of the epidemic. So, it is a kind of doldrums that could lead to doom. If the epidemic gets bad, everything is in jeopardy.

The epidemic must, once again, be contained. Then the economy can be restored, or reformed, or subjected to a revolution. To contain the epidemic, we all need to understand how it spreads. That is our first demand. Facts, figures, science for us all. Then we all have to act together, because it is our own behavior that is the cause of the further spread of the epidemic. This is now known. Covid’s spread is now more understood. We can quell it as we did malaria, by our behavior. We need a tougher lockdown so long as cases are on the rise, and we can only do this by assuring that every single person in Mauritius can withstand the lockdown in dignity. People need food and health care immediately. People need the vision of future equality – jobs and houses, for a start.     

No captain from the capitalist class or its Jugnauth Government is going to give us orders to row out of these doldrums. We will just be stranded in the doldrums until disaster strikes.

We are going to have to do the rowing ourselves. But, it takes organization. Planning and timing. Political organization – to lower the boats, to get in and to row in time with each other, and in the same direction. That is what a political program is: a plan, thought up collectively, on how to get out of a bad situation by acting together. The strategy is the methods that assure that actions go in the right direction, and neither round in circles, or into worse straits than the mere doldrums. So, let’s do it. With our organizations.

Lindsey Collen