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Launch of LALIT book THE STATE edited by Rajni Lallah


The publisher Ledikasyon pu Travayer launched LALIT's 200-page book edited by Rajni Lallah and titled LETA (The State) Thursday 27 November at the Mother Earth Hall in GRNW. It is a selection of LALIT articles and essays on the State, published between 1976 and 2008, written by Jean Claude Bibi, Lindsey Collen, Toni Li to Lun and Ram Seegobin.

In the presence of over a hundred people, Vidya Golam and Vinesh Hookoomsing gave the two launch speeches, while Rajni Lallah gave an author's talk, and Alain Ah-Vee spoke for the publisher. Amongst those present were Cadet Couyava, sugar mill workers' leader, who was in Lalit de Klas from the very early days and is still in LALIT, Rex Stephen, barrister who was LALIT member in the early days of the party, five or six writers published by LPT, LALIT members from almost all branches, LPT literacy students, a few trade union representatives, and even young people of 16 years of age offering to volunteer for LALIT. The only big "absence" from the launch was the mainstream press and Government-controlled TV. Only "L'Hebdo" was present. However, the next day (today) L'Express of 28 November had an interview with Rajni Lallah about the book, and Le Matinale and L'Express had both announced that the launch was to be held. A Le Defi reporter has come to fetch a copy of the book to review it. So, the press is trying.

Vidya Golam, with the verve that is his way, in his speech said that the texts in the book are a "must". They need reading and re-reading, and that those selected from the 1970's were today as pertinent as ever. He said that in its new and beautiful "book format", the texts get a different power. He said that the book could and would be an inspiration for young people in their quest to understand the world, and should be promoted. He said that the book should be in all school libraries, saying he mentions this as a first priority because he is himself a secondary school teacher.

Vinesh Hookoomsing, in his witty and measured way, said that any LPT book launch is somehow an "event", and that this one was no exception. He said as he read the book, he gradually realized, he was not reading "Kreol" anymore, but reading analyses and thoughts. The veil of language he felt had finally lifted from Kreol-language texts. He pointed to the particular essays that are useful today: the "Ramgoolamism", for example, that was described 20 years ago in one of the essays as a kind of Bonapartism, and that was typified by the joke where SSR's wife while site-seeing in Paris with him. said "Eta! Get Latur Eiffel!" and "Eta! Get Champs d'Elysee!", only to be replied to by "Etat c'est moi!", is still here today, if in a slightly modified form. The State, because there has been no revolution has evolved by keeping its old forms, he said, and accreting new ones, and he pointed to articles in the selection that give the historical origins of the particular State apparatus in Mauritius today. He used the image of different statues in Port Louis, to illustrate his point on the State. He also pointed to the article on the February 99 rebellion, which gives the real meaning of the attack by youths on the State, and the State's riposte. He suggested that the book become the centre of study groups.

Alain Ah-Vee said that LPT wanted, by publishing this book, to pay hommage to all the people who had developed so much thinking from the time of the sharp class confrontations of the 1970's to today, as well as to these same people who had, in so doing, contributed to the enrichment of written Kreol. He said LPT now picks and chooses what to publish: this year LPT has published 40 POET, poems in Kreol by 40 poets, to celebrate 40 years of independence, and now LETA, in LPT series called "Knowledge for All", as well as reprints of two beautiful Henri Favory texts MO MAMA and KAPTU that are used in adult literacy groups.

Rajni Lallah said how the research for this book by taking her through 32 years of intellectual work, closely woven into LALIT's militant work, had been very rewarding. She said how understanding the nature of the "state-controlling bourgeoisie" (analysed so creatively by Ram Seegobin) refines our demands and our strategies, in practice. She said how the criticism of the MMM's simplistic assumptions on the nature of the State were the foundations on which LALIT could build a deeper understanding of the State, all the better to challenge it. She said that the country's biggest popular movement in all history, the 1979 strike, for example, had pointed out very clearly what the State in Mauritius is like when it is challenged, and she referred to Jean Claude Bibi's article. She had, when preparing for a LALIT Political Education talk earlier this year, done research into Engels, Marx and later theoretitians on the State, she said, and then, when reading the LALIT literature, had realized just how much creative thinking on the subject had been done in LALIT. The feature of the book is that the articles come from thinking that is developed in action, and that this thinking then contributes to choosing future action. She also gave a definition of the State as being the totality of the institutions that together work at keeping a small minority of people in a position of controlling the destinies of the vast majority.

The book is for sale at Rs200 at bookshops and at LPT. It looks as though it is going to be sold out soon.