There was an assembly of Lalit members Sunday 18 December at GRNW. Below is a brief outline of the LALIT end-of-the-year summary on the year's activities in the context of the political situation in the country. The paper and debate on this theme preceded the Action Plan for 2006. And, after that, there was an end-of-the-year party with live music and food and drink and general merriment.
The year began for LALIT with the launch of our campaign for an alternative economy, meaning an alternative to sugar and textiles as well as a a challenge of the way production is organized and decisions are made. January also saw the launch of our program booklet to guide the party's campaign. Throughout the year, we linked all our political work to the impending economic crisis.
Now, the year is ending with us preparing to launch an EMERGENCY PROGRAM OF ACTION which will link the present crisis and people's perception of it, with mobilization that can at the same time support our program for an alternative economy. The unemployment will have risen so sharply that only demands that include immediate recognition of the gravity of the crisis will be credible by next year.
In our worst imagined scenario, Lalit did not think that the two crises, which we predicted would happen i.e. the sugar industry collapse and the export processing textile industry "evaporation", would happen at the exact same time. Yet they did. In the same calendar year: 2005. The Multi-Fibre Agreement ended in January, and by mid-year the WTO Dispute Settlement Unit had decided on appeal that the price subsidies Europe puts on sugar are indeed illegal. Europe will lower sugar prices by 36 percent in the next few years, and, in all probability, lower them again, after that until they reach the world market level. Now Europe is going to lower its textile tarrifs, too, thus further threatening the industry in Mauritius that has benefitted from "privileged" market access.
What this has meant is that Lalit's year has been centred around the politics of this economic collapse. We have discussed how we both oppose the neo-liberal ideology itself that is destroying these socalled privileges, and also oppose the kinds of industry that were, like serpents, nurtured in the breast of post-colonial "preferences" and "quotas" and "price guarantees". The collapse of these two industries has been a chronicle of announced deaths.
We should also note that we have opposed the bourgeoisie's capital exodus for many years, and now, after the last government removed more of the remaining controls from the Central Bank, the foreign reserves are being held hostage by the sugar and textile bosses. The new finance Minister has been on television pleading with them not to be so selfish. As if that would help. The rupee will thus continue to depreciate rapidly, causing the cost of living to rise. And the new Prime Minister has also been seen making a public statement on TV that there will not be a devaluation.
And at the same time as these crises, oil prices are right up.
This has meant a predominance of economic question in politics this year. This has, in turn, caused the downfall of the MMM, which has in one year lost Government, lost all the Municipalities after controlling them for decades, lost its allies the MSM and PMSD, and got insulted in all the 130 or so Village Elections where teams fought over each other in denying ever having had anything to do with the MMM.
This is what happens to political forces that try to practice, or worse still preach, neo-liberalism. Especially if their early years were part of the anti-capitalist struggle.
At the same time the revived Labour Party (and allies) have had to apply many popular pro-worker policies in order to implement their social program, i.e. to make the old big bourgeois make space for more bourgeois groups to "move in" next to it in the high seats of economic power. In order to do this, they have implemented a surprising number of anti-capitalist measures, enough for the press to denounce them as "communist"! They have re-introduced the universality of pensions, something that was in Lalit's programme alone prior to this. The measure means that pensions are again a right for everyone over 60, and they have reversed the decision to introduce means testing for handicapped peoples' pensions and widow's pensions. At the same time the Government has arranged free public transport to a wide section of the public: over 60's, handicapped people and students up to University level.
Village elections, that only Lalit fought to have returned, have been reinstated and held. This is a victory for us.
Lalit's political work has also been to show how these measures, though important to the working class, are not part of what the ruling Labour Party calls "democratizing the economy". Nor really its program. The Labour Party's actual program is to enlarge the bourgeoisie, which does not help workers at all, or in any direct way. Real changes in the economy will need to fought for on a working class program.
So, LALIT has participated on a platform, including our economic demands in FOUR election campaign, for elections into parts of bourgeois state apparatus. In one year. Twice we put up candidates, twice we participated in other ways. For the by-election, Ally Hosenbokus was our candidate. But the election was never held, because Parliament was dissolved and General Elections made the by-election redundant.
LALIT put up 32 candidates for the 62 seats, and ran a lively campaign, with outdoor public meetings, indoor gatherings, leaflets, programmes on TV and Radio. We put up 43% women candidates.
Soon after we participated with leaflets and neighbourhood meetings in the Municipal and Village elections, but without our own candidates.
Other than in economic struggles, we participated in struggles on themes ranging from the dangers of genetically modified crops to exposing the lies on which Iraq was invaded. From campaign to close down the Diego Garcia Base and all bases, to general anti-globalization campaigns. We also held two events supporting the struggle of the Palestine people.
Women's issues were very much on the agenda, and Lalit members participated in the debates about women candidates in Parliament and on the issues of abortion decriminalization and violence against women.
There were victories on many of the issues in which we have been involved. There will be a Truth Commission into the death in police custody of Kaya, and the Government has, in Court, announced that it will settle with the widow, following her civil suit.
In general in the struggle against repression, which also involved defending two leading members, Ram Seegobin and Lindsey Collen, who were in Court on trumped up charges of "molesting" police officers, there was ideological progress in unexpected quarters. The "social workers" involved in the question of drug addiction and related problems have always been unanimous in taking on pro-repression lines: more "law and order" and punitive attitudes and so on, until this year. Now, although right-wing ideology is still strong in this domain, there are many more people who publicly take a stand against these fascist-leaning lines.
During the year, the Best Loser system has again, in the course of the general elections, raised its ugly communalist head. The legalist challenge by the ex-Lalit group has back-fired, with the full bench of the Supreme Court reversing the Balancy decision, which itself was not very helpful in that is said there could be a 5th community amongst candidates, i.e. those who represent none of the four specified in the Constitution. What this means is that Electoral Reform is once again urgent, and in the course of this reform, the Best Loser system must go.
The Kreol language has this year continued to make progress. This is one of Lalit's major victories over the years.
With the AIDS crisis, we are pleased to note that very enlightened ideas are gradually becoming stronger in order to prevent the spread of the illness. Unlike most other countries, the epidemic is still fast-growing within the drug-using community, and if we can get syringes supplied widely inside and outside prison, the epidemic can be slowed down considerably. This is still not possible because of the hysterical and punitive attitudes towards drug-users, ideas fostered mainly by the MMM when it was in opposition in the 1980's and 90's.
LALIT has brought out three major publications this year:
* LALIT's ECONOMIC ALTERNATIVES PROGRAM
* AGAINST COMMMUNALISM AND THE BEST LOSER
* MARX & ENGELS "MANIFESTO" IN KREOL, IN BOOK AND CD FORMS
Our website has had over 100,000 visits this year. We have a web editor now, Rada Kistnasamy.
We have brought out 5 leaflets in over 10,000 copies, and an electoral newspaper in 20,000.
Our documentation centre is in spick order. The process of putting it on to electronic form is now on its way. Member Cindy Clelie has begun the process with the 12 LALIT box files of our shorter documents.
Our treasury is stable, with the auto-taxes coming in regularly.
The new kiosk, enlarged mess and open verandah upstairs at the LPT building are a wonderful addition for our bigger meetings and educational activities.
We have developed what we call a 5-pronged method of disseminating information from the party: The same draft is now, when appropriate, used in all the following forms
- Leaflets for branch, and for the public.
- A Press communique
- A web article for our site
- An email mailing
- A hard-copy mailing.
This year has again seen Lalit members a great deal on the private radios and our programs are immensely popular. However, we had to take the radios to the Independent Broadcasting Corporation when, during the electoral campaign, they boycotted Lalit. We won, and they agreed. But, of course, there is one taboo that capitalist media all adhere to: they never allow debate that challenges the economy deeply DURING an electoral campaign. That would be a little too much democracy for them!
And this brings us to a brief report on what was said about our internal organization:
We have had 6 members assemblies this year, which is a record. Four of them were open to "red card" members as well as full members. We also had a Congress to launch the Economic Alternatives program. We have had Womens Commission and Trade Union Commission meetings during the year. Lalit has held two residential seminars, as well as branch meetings and regionals. (Branches gave reports at the Sunday 18th meeting). The Central Committee met fortnightly and the Political bureau, which is a rotating body, once a fortnight to set the agenda.
What has been most important has been the development of the Lalit PROGRAM, i.e. the common understanding that members agree upon on what are the tasks before us that will lead us towards our goal of a socialist society. This is the conscious process that we think has reinforced our party most this year.
Discussion, however, showed up the dangers of the present situation, where the bourgeoisie is in crisis and the working class is very weakened, with an increasingly formalistic trade union leadership. We discussed the social disintegration that is beginning, and how dangerous the unemployment will be when it will produce a continuation of the tendency in Mauritius to experience a spiral from rebellion to repression to more rebellion and rioting to more repression.
Only a conscious program can help us out of this difficulty.
The tasks are not easy. We have the resources we have, in terms of militants. Our past struggles give us strength. The totality of our past history gives us a certain momentum.
We are part of an international current that believes in the possibilities of humanity. During the year Ram Seegobin met with DSP people in Australia and attended the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference. Alain Ah-Vee presented some of our ideas at a conference in South Africa on economic alternatives. On 15 December this year Lalit was part of the launch of a call for a conference in 2007 for the Abolition of all Foreign Military Bases.
All this is positive. In the face of terrible odds. But it is at a time when the capitalist system itself is very unstable. The WTO, meeting in Hong Kong that very day, is having difficulty coming up with any sort of agreement. The Iraq invasion is a disaster. Capitalism is in a corner.