LALIT's International Congress, which took place over three days, 1, 2 an 3 February at Grand River North West, ended on the high note with resolutions being voted for the combined expansion of the party and depthening of our understanding of our program in spelt-out ways. The theme that had sounded heavy and vague at the beginning of the Congress "In the present phase of capitalism: The Party, The Program, the Working Class, and Internationalism", by the end of a series of lucid speeches, lively plenary debates and practical resolutions, had become a precise reference to the tasks ahead of us. During proceedings, about the same amount of time was allocated to open debate, which was without exception of a high standard, as to formal speeches, which addressed the theme from various different carefully worked out perspectives.
The international guest speaker from WOSA in South Africa, Neville Alexander, outlined the particular challenges facing a socialist transition in the world today, before going on to the specific issues that need to be addressed in South Africa, and in Africa in general. The assembled participants followed with particular interest all his comments on aspects as diverse as the need to analyze the anti-globalization movement and the World Social Forum and not adhere to its non-political format blindly, and to study the kind of treachery of the SACP. His dialectical mind easily gets around the difficulty of the URSS never having been "socialism" and yet its implosion meaning most people in the world think this was "the end of socialism". His speech was interpreted from English into Mauritian Kreol for the Congress, while the rest of the proceedings were interpreted for him by five young LALIT people, each taking a turn.
Jean Claude Bibi, LALIT's Mauritian guest speaker, analyzed the state of the Mauritian "left", after the MMM's having converted so outrageously from "left" pro-worker party into right neo-liberal party as to make it possible for elements of Labour to masquerade as "lefter" than it by promising to "democratize the economy". He dismissed the MR and Les Verts as not "left" either, the Muvman Premye Me as at best a "libertarian left" in which members can believe something or its opposite and still be in it, and the Rezistans and Alternativ as being on the LALIT program, having resigned without programmatic divergence and not having published their own distinctive program as yet. Jean Claude Bibi's speech had his customary perspicacity and also arresting wit. He then outlined the strengths and weaknesses of LALIT, as he sees them, and analyzed where they come from.
The Congress had been threatened by a cyclone warning (Cyclone Gula) only the day before, but once the cyclone went away, the Congress went ahead and it was an unforgettable event. People were welcomed with tea, coffee or juice and speeches and debates were syncopated by cultural events: the Brecht poem A Worker Looks at History, excerpts from Le Morne by Roger Moss plus a mini-exhibition on LALIT's long struggle for reparations to the working class for slavery, a witty and sarcastic song on There's a Hold in my Ozone, a concert on the electric piano, Bhojpuri folk dancing, and a Tai Chi exhibition.
The opening speech on day one by Ram Seegobin for LALIT was a tour de force encompassing the entire subject of the Congress, thus acting as a backdrop to all the other LALIT speeches by eight different members as well as an introduction to the Congress. All 140 people present crammed into the hall and on to the verandah from which you could hear, listened attentively. Debate was animated. It was followed by Rajni Lallah's speech on the gains made since the launch by LALIT of our political campaign for an alternative economy, as the sugar cane bosses face the collapse of the sugar market which they intend to survive by laying off more and more thousands of workers. She showed both political gains and ideological gains. She had also prepared a mini-exhibition of the poster, the four leaflets, three booklets and DVD film that were part of the campaign. The session was presided by Alain Ah-Vee.
In the afternoon, Rada Kistnasamy outlined in his concise no-nonsense style and with up-to-date details, the conflicts that the energy crisis is provoking for the world and its civilizations, and also for capital in Mauritius as power-production contracts are disputed. One highlight was his reference to Minister Kasenally's promises on the BBC TV that every household will get a solar panel, not just for their own electricity but for an income made by selling electricity to the CEB. After debate on energy, Ally Hosenbokus moved on to the difficult subject of ecology and climate change, difficult because some scientists are of the opinion that the effects of carbon emissions from energy-production and fossil-fuels and of de-forestation are already so far gone as to defy easy solutions. He situated the relatively small responsibility of a country like Mauritius and its potentially heavy price to pay in terms of the effects, before outlining LALIT's program for an economy that has in-built respect for ecology. The afternoon session was presided by Cindy Clelie.
Day two began with a panel of four people who were, by chance, all founders of the LALIT DE KLAS monthly magazine, which was the forerunner of LALIT. They were Ram Seegobin, presiding, and then Ragini Kistnasamy, Lindsey Collen and Jean Claude Bibi. Ragini Kistnasamy spoke of the links between the women's struggle and the class and anti-imperialist struggles, in theory and over time in Mauritius. She also dissected what it is that makes a demand a good one, and not an unhelpful one. She said that the strategy for "gender equity" never came from the women's movement. It is a strategy which aims to have women rise within patriarchal hierarchies in capitalism, and is thus useless for attacking such a hierarchy.
Lindsey Collen spoke on what is "political" struggle, by starting with what it is not (not social work, or "civil society" work, not trade union work which remains within the logic of setting the rate of exploitation and negotiating with eternally existing bosses, nor is it a set of moral or religious practices), and then moving on to what is new since Karl Marx intervened in the history of not only political thought, but also of politics.
The afternoon session heard Cindy Clelie's speech on language in education, in which she criticized the Government's policy of encouraging so much competition that the question of the introduction of mother-tongue based multi-lingual education never gets on to the agenda. She gave LALIT's program as being the use of quotas by school so as to reduce competition by raising standards all around, and as relying on the use of the written mother tongue in all education. After Neville Alexander's paper, Ram Seegobin said he would give a rejoinder to Neville's speech rather than read his own, which like all the speeches, was available to participants.
Day Three, for members and supporting members, involved very short reports from 9 commissions and four Regionals. This was followed by people debating what needs to be done. Four resolutions came out of this, involving strengthening the party itself, developing further links with work sites and with the broad masses, deepening the political campaign for an alternative economy, and studying both working class reality (in the Engels style) and theoretical work of the past. Participants gave their names for different commissions and for the new sessions on political education starting in two weeks' time.