Sunday 4 February LALIT launched its new film on an Alternative Political Economy to a packed audience in Grande Riviere. In the launch speech Ram Seegobin said how the film was part of an ongoing campaign to challenge the way the economy is run. As sugar and textiles lose their status as colonial "protected markets", and as the sugar barons persist with trying to make cane and sugar profitable under conditions of falling prices, the questions as to why it was and is cane that is planted, and who it is who controls the agricultural land and takes decisions, must be posed. The film, he said, is an educative documentary which includes the points of view of all the different interest groups around agriculture and agro-industry in the country. It does this, he said, in a way that makes it very easy for any of the Lalit militants from any branch, not just leading members, to get the confidence to organize a meeting in their neighbourhood as part of the campaign. The more often they watch the film and discuss it, the more able they will be to develop the Lalit program.
Rada Kistnasamy introduced the practical aspects of the film, and how we had intended to prepare a Power Point presentation until two young college students from the United States on study leave here for a few months, Grace Goldfarb and Asher Woodworth, said they could help us do a film as they were preparing a full-length film on the question of globalization, politics and economics, themselves. Then each of the students explained how they had seen the making of the film.
The film launches with a few seconds of music bursting with energy, composed and played by Lalit member, Rajni Lallah. And immediately goes into its many levels: there is the question of the past and present land ownership and control, from times when workers had the "slavery" legal framework to produce under, through indenture, until today, with wage slavery, woven in with footage of present-day agricultural production and old archive materials, while the land question is commented on in "voice over" by Alain Ah-Vee. The voice over also draws attention to the way that in the past, the sugar cane industry gave people work, gave small planters an income from their crushed cane, got an export tax out of the sugar bosses, and the government had control over the foreign exchange that came in for the sugar. Towards the end of the film, we listen to how none of these things are true any longer.
The academic archives footage used includes interviews of Finance Minister, Arvin Boolell, and of organizations that defend the sugar bosses like the Director of the Mauritius Sugar Producers' Association, the Sugar Syndicate, the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute. Ram Seegobin replied to the central tennets of their arguments, one by one. Other people also explicitly and implicitly argue against the sugar lobby's line: trade unionists, labourers, agronomists, people in agro-industry, people from the Marketing Board.
Rajni Lallah gives the history of Lalit's campaign, addressing the camera directly. At the same time, the four main slogans of Lalit's "emergency program" come out clearly:
"Government must use the EU money to create jobs, not destroy jobs!"
"Unemployment benefit, when there is no work!"
"Government must take back control of foreign exchange from the exporters, who are provoking rupee depreciation!"
"Land for the jobless!"
It will be a very useful tool in building up the movement that Lalit believes is necessary in order to get out of the systemic crisis that Mauritius is heading for with the collapse of the two big employment sectors, sugar and textiles.
After the film there was a lot of discussion, both on the content itself, on how to use the film, and on the technical aspects of the film.