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Jean Claude Bibi on The State of the Left in Mauritius

13.02.2008

Below we have pleasure in publishing the notes used for his speech of our Mauritian guest speaker at our International Congress held on 1,2,3 February, Jean Claude Bibi. He was a founding and leading member of LALIT DE KLAS (LALIT's first incarnation) and has remained politically informed throughout his adult life. He is an active member of "JUSTICE: Association Against Violence by Officers of the State". He spoke to the subject "The State of the Left in Mauritius".


A. INTRODUCTION
1 DIFFICULTIES OF SUCH AN ASSIGNMENT:

a) a rather vast subject with deep ramifications

b) an analysis of Left forces must include, even in sketchy form:

i) an outline of their history- and it would be presumptuous to assume I have the necessary knowledge of all relevant historical facts relating to all Left forces and that I can treat these facts fairly

ii) A discussion of their political practice, their ideological foundations, if any, their programs, their strategies etc.

iii) what explains their strengths (if any) and their weaknesses the local context, the international context, what is the Strategy of the Right


2 A FURTHER HANDICAP

A further serious handicap is that not being involved in the daily political struggle as Lalit members are, there is the risk of having a merely academic/intellectual approach to the subject and not a political one as is expected.


3 THE NEED TO TACKLE DIFFICULTIES

I surveyed these difficulties and realized I could not overcome all of them but that was not a reason to tackle them and what you will hear is an attempt to tackle them in such a way as may help all of us to find out what perspectives may emerge for the Left and what obstacles must be dealt with.



B. WHAT IS "LEFT"?

1 Defining what Left is should normally help us to know what is not Left. Unfortunately, in politics matters are not so simple. It could take hours, days and even weeks, possible months and years to work out what is Left and what is not Left.

2 Various kind of political ideologies and political forces have been considered or they consider themselves part of the Left. For example, nationalism and liberation movements in armed conflict or in political conflict against a colonialist power is often considered as part and parcel of the Left

3 It may even happen that opposition to imperialism may be based on a religious creed.

4 Persistent opposition to specific policies of capitalist governments may even bring some political forces to consider themselves and be considered to be part of the Left

5 Defining what Left is very precisely is therefore an impossible task. Traditionally -and I have been unable trace the roots of this tradition, those opposed to capitalism are considered to be part of the Left and those who support capitalism are termed Right wing or Conservatives

6 I found it is more useful to distinguish the Revolutionary Left from the Left in general and I define the RL as follows: political-philosophical forces composed of individuals-groups-political parties that are opposed to capitalism, to the economic and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois State and that seek to seize political power away from the control of bourgeois politicians, to radically change the bourgeois State, to abolish private ownership of the means of production and economic with the objective of building socialism

7 In broad terms the political strategy of the RL is to create a mass revolutionary party centered on the working class and its organizations such as trade unions. It relies above all on the political activity of the working class, on its capacity to mobilize itself to achieve political objectives; it agitates for socialism and seeks to unite all oppressed in alliance with working class under the leadership of the rev. party against the rule of the bourgeoisie.


C THE LEFT IN MAURITIUS

1. Some 10-15 years ago, when we would speak of the Left in Mauritius, we would inevitably have in mind the MMM as the most importance political force within the Left, not necessarily the most lefty, but undoubtedly the most important. Today, most members of the MMM, especially its parliamentarians and its shadowy Cabinet would be surprised, offended even, if we were to characterize them as left wing. They are not keen to be considered as socialists, they prefer to emphasise that they have consistently been for "social justice" since this has an electoral appeal to almost everybody, even to many capitalists who believe that it is social justice that workers with families to take care of should earn some 5/6 thousand rupees per month.

2. It is impossible today to refer to the MMM as part of the Left. Yet, if we go back to the late 60's and to the late 70's, the MMM was undoubtedly the political organizer and leader of a massive anti capitalist movement and recognized by strategic sections of the working class and the trade union movement and of radical youth and sections of the petit bourgeoisie as a political force that could challenge both the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois State and was capable of kicking both the Labor Party and the PMSD out of office. Indeed the anti-capitalist movement some point even had the potential and the capacity to take power by revolutionary means.

However the political leadership provided by the MMM was catastrophic. It deliberately backed away from the revolutionary road to socialism and proposed a deal to both the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois political parties.

3. Paradoxically, the present Labour Party has no difficulty to present itself as a party with left wing policies and as a party committed to democratise the economy
. Within its ranks there are MPs such as Cader Hossen, Nita D that denounce the economic hegemony of the historical bourgeoisie and claims that it would ensure that the economy should be managed in the interest of all and not only of an oligarchy, the notorious five or 7 or 12 families. We note however that this Left wing has also made it clear that it does not propose to expropriate anybody without compensation, and their leader, the Prime Minister has also explained that he has nothing against the rich against the "possedants", he simply wants them to be show more competitive fairness, he wants them to be more efficient when producing wealth, i.e. when they exploit workers, and he wants them not to be too greedy and to learn to "share". If we are not careful, we might believe he wants capitalist to share wealth with the workers. In reality, when we listen carefully and we read his statements, we understand that he wants the historical bourgeoisie to make room for other capitalists, to broaden the social base of the bourgeoisie, to create and integrate new bourgeois forces.

4. This is really what is going on, and by no stretch of the imagination, can we seriously characterize neither the Labour Party nor the "lefties" within it as really part of the Left. What is going on is an ideological swindle and a political ploy to reap electoral dividends whilst at the same time promoting the economic interests of sections of the bourgeoisie in conflict with the old bourgeoisie. It is not too difficult for the PM and the supposed left wing within the LP to pose as anti-capitalist force as the MMM has gone completely overboard on the side of the old bourgeoisie.

5. It would be perhaps interesting to discuss comparatively the trajectory of the Labour Party and that of the MMM- and if there is time, we can come back to this matter.

6. Once we remove the MMM and Labour Party from the Left, we are left with Lalit, with Rezistans ek Alternativ and Muvman Premye Me (MPM). I really do not think we should deal with OF-les Verts as being part of the Left. They make no such claim and their politics are limited to attach themselves to bigger political parties by pretending to be the representatives of a specific group of citizens on a communal basis.


Muvman Premye Me (MPM)

The MPM was founded in 2003 by Jack Bizlall (and others) - a well known trade unionist and political militant - a former member of the MMM - who has been active in left wing politics for some 30 years. Not much is known (by me at least) about the MPM as it is not often visible on the political scene. Fortunately, its spokesperson or one its leading members, Jack Bizlall is in the media from time to time and we can then know on which political issues MPM is concerned with. For some time the issue of corruption, more specifically the scandal of a "caisse noire" at Air Mauritius - which was exposed by Jack Bizlall, seems to have been the focus it its activity and recently, the MPM has been concerned with the apparent illness of the ex-chairman of Air Mauritius, as this has put a stop to his trial.

The MPM has published "Toi et Moi" - to present its ideology - it is a kind of philosophical-political manifesto that is most innovative and that has no resemblance
to what normally revolutionary parties publish. Anyway it informs that MPM is not a political party and does not believe a political party is necessary to overthrow capitalism. It is a movement. Indeed, it warns us against the revolutionary political party because it will become monolithic party bent on repressing freedoms and is bound to eventually murder people including its own members.

Before the MPM, there was the PMT - that was a political party and it is not clear since when the MPM has reached the view that there is no need to build a revolutionary party. The reasons given in the Introduction are rather summary and most debatable.

One notable thing is that the membership describes itself as being "comme tout le monde"; it further states that the majority of citizens agrees with their views. Earlier, it has explained quite correctly how bourgeois ideology pervades all of society, it has also explained how most intellectuals are vectors of corruption and have become mercenaries. Innovative as it is, the manifesto does not bother to be coherent - and that is already one of its innovations.

To the extent that at some point MPM expresses the view that it looks forward to the disappearance of the State "as the anarchists do", one can define the MPM as being composed of "revolutionaires libertaires." - quite a mysterious phenomenon and therefore difficult to define - but then most probably they do not wish to be defined by others and possibly I am not entitled to define them. It states that its struggle is above all concerned to increase freedom and democratic rights.


REZISTANS EK ALTERNATIV (RA)

RA emerged from a split with LALIT. The split was not on programmatic disagreements but seem to be about one or more than one dispute about discipline and behaviour. Since the split RA has not published any new manifesto - presumably and logically it should hold the same ideology and the same program as LALIT. Its most well known campaign has been and remains the issue of communalism in our electoral system. It has members active in the trade union movement. I do not know much about its other political activities if any.


LALIT
History: From LALIT DE KLAS, leaving the MMM

STRENGTHS
Its programmatic consistency - its commitment to revolutionary theory and political clarity - its contribution to the political and ideological struggle as well as extending practical assistance to struggles on every front. It commands respect for its unflinching commitment to the cause of socialism and its uncompromising stance against capitalism.

It situates itself squarely in the tradition of revolutionary Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism and internationalism whilst avoiding sterile dogmatism.



WEAKNESSES
Being practically alone on the revolutionary left, save and except for RA that shares its programmatic positions, LALIT represents for all intents and purposes the revolutionary left in Mauritius. Its political influence is limited except in periods of mass struggle as in August 1979, September 1980. Yet, its contributions in several areas of struggle are enormous, the capacity of its members to contribute in spite of limited resources quite remarkable. I have in mind , the struggle for women s rights, language, police violence, housing, Diego Garcia, general elections, democratic rights, (POTA), trade union movement (DWC) - anyway when LALIT will present its "bilan" - tomorrow, you will have a complete account of its activities and its contributions

1. Till quite recently, there is no tradition of revolutionary Marxism in the political history of the working class movement, dominated since the 1930s by social democracy and right wing populism, both heavily impregnated with communalist electoral strategies and clientism. Political-class consciousness in the workers' movement and the petit bourgeoisie is recurrently, if not permanently, tainted with both communalism and clientism. Political power is equated exclusively with control of parliament and both government and the State are perceived as sources from which to obtain personal favours. Parliament is perceived to be the seat of political influence and general elections are considered to be the highest point of political struggle.

2 The radicalization of youth and intellectuals that occurred in the late 60's did not survive the political betrayal of the MMM when it abandoned class politics to wallow in the marshes of class collaboration and communalist electoral strategies.

3 The conditions of life for young workers and even for many in the petite bourgeoisie are harsh and precarious, unemployment is a permanent threat or reality for many - no security of employment and repressive practices against radicals is widely practiced both by bosses and the State.

4 Revolutionary political activity invites repression, Trade unions are run by bureaucrats and experiences of workers democracy are rare and far between. Revolutionary work in the trade movement is arduous - industrial legislation outlaws strikes and allows the State to keep a permanent watch over trade union activities. Scope for recruitment and the political education of militants is therefore limited.

5 Capitalism, both locally and abroad has shown a remarkable capacity to develop new sectors of profitable economic activity even though traditional sectors have declined.

6 Services have greatly expanded and consumerism has maintained a boom that shows no signs of abatement.

These objective conditions explain largely the limited development of revolutionary Marxist organizations locally and internationally. Yet, abroad, there have been remarkable and successful confrontations with capitalism and imperialism. What is happening in Venezuela and Bolivia confirm that capitalism and imperialism can be challenged and that the end of the class struggle cannot be announced by intellectuals. It is the very stuff of history.


JCB
February 2008