In the first lockdown, I shared dosa recipes and this time round I’ve been sharing kefir – though not abandoning dosa either as today we will be cooking dosa and “satini” breadfruit for lunch – and I also brought up all manner of abstract issues, like the rise of right-wing, fascistic politics world-wide.
And today, I don’t know why but I woke up thinking about how the private sector controls things – even life and death – in such a totalitarian way, refusing to share things the way we share recipes for dosa or kefir. I suppose this thought is inevitable when on TV every day we see the governments in the USA and Europe buying and hoarding vaccines from their “big pharma” private companies that, in turn, keep vaccine recipes secret, hiding behind WTO “patent laws” that protect monopoly profits. Meanwhile most countries can’t get hold of vaccines, and people continue to get sick and die. It’s preposterous.
Anyway, I got to think of how “clever” extreme-right-wing forces are at decreasing the little democracy – or sharing of power – that we have won so far. And how people can fall for the right-wing propaganda.
Citizens United or Working People United
Take “Citizens United” in the USA. Its name could be that of a new well-meaning party led by Bruneau Laurette. In fact, it is the extreme right group that won a Supreme Court case in 2010 that has since allowed billionaires to buy elections. It spawned the “Super PACs”, with billions in opaque funding, and this has, in turn, been shown to benefit Republican candidates relative to Democrats, and right-wing Republican candidates relative to centrist ones. Obviously. Nice-seeming words: “citizens” and “united”. But remember “citizens” often masks xenophobia against foreigners working in a country. And “united” can also mean united “against” others – rather than everyone united. In any case, the aim of Citizens United is for billionaires to be able to buy elections, so the capitalist class controls Congress and the Presidency.
In Mauritius, note that most people who are against capitalists buying elections nevertheless fall right into the trap of calling for bureaucratic, regime-control over “the funding of political parties”, instead of calling for controls on electoral expenses. They make an inadvertent call for repression by the State. This even then risks control by the party in power over all its rival political parties, via some new Registrar of Political Parties. These people have been, somehow, lured away from the necessary demand, which is: “To control electoral expenses, including those not done by the candidate or the party.” All that is needed in Mauritius, is a change of onus: the candidate has to respect the spending limits of all campaigning, direct or indirect, in his favour, and the onus is on him to prove it if he did not do the spending.
This way working people, who are not billionaires, unite behind a program to prevent the capitalist class controlling elections.
“Values” or “Program”
Take the term “values” as used in politics. In Mauritius, all the new parties join all the old mainstream ones to tout “values”. But “values” is a problematic term in politics. For a start, who are these humans we accuse of not having values? In the USA, “Values Voter” groups are organized around right-wing and extreme right-wing issues they call “values”. The speakers at their last Summit in 2020, to give an idea, were Trump and Pompeo. “Values” sounds good enough. But it is vague on purpose, so as to be meaningless or meanly conservative. The term “values” is often in juxtaposition with a “program”, a program is potentially specific, and thus politically useful. The “values” referred to in the USA are “family” (Christian marriage) and “faith” (Christianity) and “freedom” (private enterprise can exploit people) – and these become the basis for right-wing organization.
We need to demand a proper program from all parties, not just vague values.
Limit Mandates? Useless or dangerous?
In Mauritius, for the past 10 years, any well-meaning person new to politics immediately latches on to “limitation of mandates” to curb everything from corruption to dynasties. While thinking they will increase democracy, they decrease it. They demand a law to prevent people voting for who they want to. In the USA, the capitalist class went berserk when President Roosevelt, who introduced social security and civil service jobs, was elected for four terms. Right-wing capitalists immediately mobilized and finally won the 21st Amendment in 1948 that limits Presidents to two terms. Right now in the USA, the extreme-right, including the notorious Koch brothers, is financing grassroots groups to militate for laws that limit terms for all elected offices. The more experienced progressive senators and representatives are the ones that can get the work done, it seems.
The point is we need political struggle, based on a program, to get rid of those who monopolize economic and thus political power – along with their corruption and dynasties. To share power, like to share vaccine research and production, we need to struggle against the class that monopolizes it. Sharing power will be as easy as sharing recipes.