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Need for an Emergency Program


At a recent Lalit assembly, Ram Seegobin presented a paper following on from the papers presented by Rajni Lallah, Lindsey Collen, Rada Kistnasamy and Ally Hosenbokus on the political situation in Mauritius, the region and worldwide.

Ram's paper was on Lalit's way forward. It involves the beginning of a new strategy relative to the crisis.

Here is a brief summary in English of parts of his paper. One or two elements from discussion are also included.

He began by saying that the themes that Lalit's main struggles have concentrated on for years are in the main headlines right now. (See short paper by Lindsey Collen on this, under the title ALL LALIT's ISSUES ARE IN THE HEADLINES AT THE SAME TIME in News section of web.) We have to find the links between these issues and to prioritize, he said. The fact that we are associated with having come to grips with all these diverse dossiers, and with militating and mobilizing around them, means that we should be in a strong position politically. He analyzed various reasons for this not being so.

He went on to explain how the context is now a very serious one. Grave, even.

The economic crisis is going to be worse than even we had ever anticipated, he said. We have been anticipating all these crises, and warning publicly of them. We did not expect them all to coincide the way they are doing.

There are three or four separate but inter-related crises upon us right now:

* Unemployment from the collapse of the sugar price after the European Union lost its WTO case about subsidizing sugar from ACP countries, more sackings, and now all jobs threatened with being made seasonal; and this coinciding with

* Unemployment from the massive reduction in textile production after the end of the Multi-Fibre agreement, and this kind of export processing zone development leaves nothing behind it when it's gone.

* An imminent massive increase in the cost of living, with export capitalists (sugar and textiles) blocking their foreign exchange, and now calling openly for devaluation or for a fast depreciation of the rupee.

* Increase in the price of fossil fuels, and no real will on the part of the government to turn to renewable energy.

The economic crisis is already bringing in related social crises of families being in debt, thus under stress. This in turn has produced intra-familial violence on an unprecedented scale. Drug-abuse continues, and now there is the spread of AIDS through shared syringes. Many well-meaning people in positions of power tend to go hysterical and to call for repression as the only supposed "solution", some press articles even supporting known torturers quite openly so long as they are supposedly "dealing with criminality", and this repression only makes things worse and produces worse problems, like gravely angry, humiliated men coming out of custody after being turned into brutes by officers of the State.

A new cycle of repression and revolt, threatens to continue. The death of Kaya in 1999 produced an immense nation-wide rebellion. The police took two or three years to start wreaking vengeance.

And, as the MMM sets itself up as a right-wing opposition to the populist Labour alliance, we have the challenge before us of how to create a real people's opposition from the left, Ram Seegobin said.

Labour's project of "democratizing the economy" is separate from its project of "changing lives within a 100 days". The first is in favour of a section of the bourgeoisie, while the latter consists of measures to gain enough popular support to execute the former. Working people will soon learn that Labour is as stuck to the sugar industry bosses interests as the previous MMM government was.

The MMM is very weakened after resounding defeats in general and municipal elections. It can no longer claim to represent anybody or anybody's interests, but has driven itself into a historical corner.

Its half-ally, the MSM, is fast disintegrating.

And yet building a left opposition is not easy.

Ram Seegobin began with the difficulties we have to face. The mass media have a monopoly over much of debate in modern society (unless we create our own forums, which we do only to some extent) and it submits more than ever before to the ruling class and its interests. People in the press, although only petty bourgeois cadres, are so closely identified with the bourgeoisie that they think they are "bourgeois" and even refer to what is clearly the bosses' sugar as being theirs: "our sugar", they say "is in difficulty". They keep the "economy" out of political debate as much as possible, leaving these matters for businessmen to get on with in peace. And in election times, they have other petty concerns about their little favourites amongst the bourgeois parties and what tactics may help them.

As well as this, the gravity of the economic crisis clearly terrifies people from even contemplating it.

The working class is at an ideological low, in many ways, and has been weakened by having to bear the brunt of the technological revolution. The Industrial Relations Act heavily bureaucratizes the trade union movement.

At the same time there has been a resurgence of old-style anti-communism raising its head. Some editorial comment even calls the Labour government's few popular measures "communism"!

There is also the usual petty-bourgeois opportunism amongst so-called intellectuals, who invariably support "civil society" and NGO-type organization, however vague and ineffectual, as opposed to political struggle or mass movements.

And of course we should not underestimate the ruling class's capacity to work at undermining any mass movement. One of the scenarios that there is a lot of pressure for is a coalition government, where all or nearly all bourgeois parties will be "on board", united to face the working class which will be increasingly rebellious.

So, the question is: How do we create a left opposition to the present government that is trying to strengthen the "state bourgeoisie"? (By "state bourgeoisie" we mean a part of the actual bourgeoisie that uses state power to become stronger within the bourgeoisie, relative to the historical bourgeoisie in sugar-and-imports. We don't mean a "bureaucratic bourgeoisie" running state enterprises, nor do we mean a "bureaucratic petty bourgeoisie" running the government itself)? Especially when it is doing this at the same time as bringing in genuinely democratic measures in order to gain support from all the lower classes. The measures we are referring to include free transport (for students, handicapped people and over 60's), the reintroduction of universal old-age pensions without the despised means-testing, the re-introduction of village elections, being held this Sunday, after having been abolished by the last government.

But these popular measures do nothing to attack the sources of the crisis. Nor do they do anything to help the working people face the crisis.

So, the task before us is immense. And urgent, in time terms. The impending crisis is too severe to think otherwise than urgently.

We need to build an opposition that has enough weight to be able to propose alternatives and mobilize consciously for them. We need an opposition that brings together and mobilizes other forces in society. Every working class organization. Every union. Every thinking person. Every association that wants progress. Women, young people and most of all, the working class, itself, must be part of the movement.

And we need to be able to build this opposition without falling in to the traps of electoralism.

Here Ram Seegobin came up with his key proposal: that Lalit now work on an EMERGENCY PROGRAM that can mobilize people immediately, in the face of the crisis, over the next two or three years, and that links in with our existing medium-term PROGRAM FOR AN ALTERNATIVE ECONOMY.

The skeleton of this emergency program is being worked out by Lalit right now. We will keep you, as a web-reader, posted.