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LALIT International Congress 2008: Ram Seegobin's Opening Speech

10.02.2008

Below we are reproducing Ram Seegobin's notes (as translated by YD from the Kreol) to which he spoke. The English version of his notes was used as a basis of interpreting for LALIT's visitor, Neville Alexander. As bilingual readers will notice, Ram Seegobin's speech itself (verbatim on the net) uses the notes as a springboard.


FACING THE NEW PHASE OF IMPERIALISM:
THE PARTY, THE PROGRAM, THE WORKING CLASS, INTERNATIONALISM

The aim of this first speech of our Congress will be to analize briefly for everyone the elements of the present world/Mauritian situation from the point of view of the revolutionary struggle for socialism, to link together the different elements of this analysis, while we will also establish the parameters for the other themes we have chosen to discuss during our Congress. The five elements of the (rather long) title are outlined, while referring also to different speeches that nine LALIT members will give during the sessions of the three-day Congress.

All radical changes for the masses can be achieved solely through conscious political struggle, and this can only be done through a political organisation, a Party; through a transitional program; and through the mobilisation of different social classes behind that program. Obviously, in this struggle, the working class will be in the vanguard. While at the same time the struggle has, and has to have, an international dimension because revolutionary change will need to be world-wide. So, that explains our title slightly better, but let's start with the first phrase.

Let's see why we say we are facing a "new phase of imperialism".
* There is a new balance in the relative roles of the State apparatus and of the multinational private companies, in establishing and maintaining imperialist presence.

* There is much more mobility of capital worldwide - and there is a new predominance of finance capital, relative to capital in production. These two first points are provoking a massive international crisis. We are seeing stock markets destabilized, banks writing off billions, and economists sweating to understand a system out of control.

* There is the importance today of the massive delocalisation of production units to low cost areas, and the direct implication for the reduction of workers' real salaries world-wide.

* Changing from post-colonial preferential trade agreements to regional "economic partnership agreements" (imposed through WTO).

* Massive emigration and immigration between countries and blocks

* Climate change and the drive to develop bio-fuels is drastically affecting food production. Food security is emerging as a problem, even for developed countries.

* The supposed "threat of terrorism" is becoming a constant menace as it is used as a pretext for invasion and occupation, and for introducing laws that infringe fundamental rights.

* The increased role of "intellectuals" and academics under the hegemony of bourgeois ideology in propaganda against socialism.



REACTION

What changes can we see in the development of political struggle for socialism? We must bear in mind that crises are difficult periods, but also periods where there is a potential for revolutionary change.

Faced with the above-mentioned factors, is there an appropriate response in political thinking at national, regional and international levels? Are political parties coping under the new conditions, keeping up with the speed of change?

* A lot of energy has for the past 10 years, in fact, been spent in the "anti-globalisation" movement, with its emphasis on the role of civil society and with its central role for very clumsy NGO's. This has been to the detriment of socialist political parties, which are excluded from formal aspects of the movement and opposed by its propaganda. It means that political analysis and organisation are absent from this movement, or are pushed to the margins. This trend has drawn many young people and even organised workers into what is profoundly apolitical. We saw an example of this last week in Mauritius, when political organizations tried to involve young people and workers (we are not even sure it took place) in one of those "Another world is possible" rallies at St. Mary's rather than in political commitment to struggling for socialism. So apolitical is this movement that even the old-fashionned "nationalism" seems to have been swept away from mainstream politics against capitalist globalisation, except in some Latin American countries.

* In the absence of a political program, a lot of energy is also spent in doing no more than resisting against change, or in proposing minimum reforms. (Even the word "reform" seems to have been absorbed into the new capitalist vocabulary as going further into liberalism.) This is in no way going to help to bring socialism. It's like trying to win a soccer match by placing all ten players next to the goalie between the two goal posts.

* In the absence of a political program, people are often left to their own devices to seek individual solutions to their plight. Some aim for individual social mobility through getting their children to do well in an education system based on mindless competition, even if it is at the expense of the repression of their mother tongue in school. This does nothing to resolve the crisis society is in. Everything stays the same.

* Radical change in the mode of production and in the nature of the State seems to no longer be on the agenda for many people, even those who claim or pretend to be on the "left". This is what we have to address.

* "Cultural resistance", communalism, and religious fundamentalism are often erroneously seen as means to resist imperialism, and instead of analysis and organisation, we are getting the development of obscurantism, which very often, in addition to all its other ills, erodes women's rights. We need to develop a program that give people a genuine alternative to this kind of obscurantism.

Turning to the working class now, we can say that the relationship of class forces has been and is continuing to change in our times, mainly because of this globalization, against the working class, and we have to address this politically. There is no other way to address it.

* Often workers are dragged into the commercial competition between the ruling classes of different nations, on a nationalist basis, though this is not new. Instead of merging forces at an international level, trade unions are very often fighting each other to prevent delocalisation and preserve jobs

* There is massive emigration (encouraged by the present Government, just as it was in the 70's when there was a Minister of Emigration, Gaetan Duval); and the employment of contract labour from other countries, very often causes xenophobic reactions as unemployment and inflation rise. This of course in now way helps in a systemic crisis.

* The trade union movement so far has only a defensive strategy, instead of using the systemic crisis to put in question the very logic of capitalism

* Massive retrenchments and the rise in casual employment is eroding what little scope for action trade unions were left with; and rising unemployment is affecting women more.

* There are major changes in international trade-unionism, but these changes are more bureaucratic than programmatic.


TO CONCLUDE
Our task for this Congress should be to put our heads together and think about and discuss the themes we have chosen, so that this can mould our political actions. The different papers presented represent our new ideas in terms of the program that is necessary for socialism. During the Congress, we should aim at consolidating these new ideas. But we must also keep in mind that a program, however well elaborated and presented, will remain just a "print out", if it is deprived of a solid political organisation, that is a well-organized party, and the conscious support of the working class. This, too, must be our preoccupation during these three days.



Ram Seegobin, 24th January 2008