As if the wreck of the Wakashio was not enough, the terrible flooding in the South East of Mauritius yesterday in the middle of an epidemic lockdown, and as late in the rainy season as mid-April, reminds me that I once came across a reference to a devastating cyclone during the Dutch period, in the 1600s. It was on 3rd May. I remember the date because it was the birth date of my late little brother. And I recall vividly the description of rains described as having been so heavy that, when they subsided, there were deer hanging in the trees by their antlers, drowned. Centuries later, the 1892 cyclone that killed over 1,200 people, and that when I first arrived in Mauritius in 1974 people alive still remembered, was as late as 29 April.
And now, worse after neo-liberalism, we have man-made land-leveling, concrete walls and endless miles of road all constructed so insanely as to obstructing all the usual, natural water-courses, and thus making much worse any existing weather problems.
Even without cyclones, we are therefore experiencing dangerous effects of heavy rain. I give two examples, as we each probably have.
At home in Bambous, a village on a slope, we negotiated with neighbours to choose a place for floodwaters that come from the mountain through Bambous, into our yard, then down into theirs, to go. It is an important, if laborious, process. Nearby, other neighbours could not manage this delicate negotiation – which implies a degree of harmony within each extended family concerned for a start – and now any heavy rain just ends up flooding their house completely – until the family has had to abandon it, unable to resolve the social problems provoked by man-made buildings.
At the LALIT headquarters at Grand River North West, we saw how the Ministry of Gender had, by 2003, just gone and had a drop in “shelter” for girls built – with, who knows why, a re-enforced concrete wall constructed to top-security-prison standards – right across the bed of a traditional water-course, that we had seen operating since 1984. This, in turn, contributed to the floods at Canal Dayot. The State has since organized some drains to get around the man-made problem.
And all this on top of capitalism-provoked pollution causing climate change, and proven to cause it.
So, as we come to a new Labour Day in a fortnight, we face serious problems all made visible right now:
- Epidemics, like Covid, will become more frequent as capitalism squeezes species into fragmented spaces, and viruses jump to humans.
- Floods will become more frequent – as will droughts – as capitalism ruins the climate that sustains life, and as concrete and asphalt structures, especially during neo-liberalism, are chaotically constructed.
- Wars will become more menacing as nuclear powers oppose each other. The biggest danger is from Biden and Putin. Each sit on over 1,500 deployed bombs out of 6,000 existing ones, each enough to wipe out human life. And then there is Israel right now war-mongering against Iran. And conflicts between India and Pakistan, and also between India and China, all of who have, though “only 100 – 300” bombs each, not 6,000, enough to threaten the planet.
Which is all the more reason, as we come closer to May Day, for us to mobilize in a party like LALIT and in our unions and associations, to be able to bring to power the working class, and create a social reality no longer driven by capitalist greed. A tall order. But we have to roll up our sleeves, and do it. It is exactly 150 years since the working class first took power. It was in Paris in 1871. And only for 3 months, before the reaction perpetrated a massacre to drive the new working class embryonic state out of power. And less than 50 years later, the Paris Commune still in living memory, against all odds, the Russian working class came to power in 1917, just over 100 years ago. For perhaps three years this time. A dozen imperialist armies – including British and French – at once attacked working class power, and thus prepared the way for a new kind of “reaction”, Stalinism, that dominated the working class for 70 years, only to be replaced by the mafia that runs Putin’s capitalist Russia.
Other attempts have been made to overthrow capitalism, and work in this direction is constantly in the making. We must nurture it. Without different social classes – one owning and controlling the land and the capital produced by past workers, and the rest of us selling our physical and intellectual labour, or eking out an existence in the interstices of society – and without the repressive State that is necessary for such a tiny minority of capitalists to reign, we can imagine democracy. But this can only become our future if it is international. Which is why on Labour Day we specifically do not sing any national anthems, and instead sing the Internationale. You will hear it sung in Kreol at our Labour Day virtual meeting.