LALIT gathered its members, supporters and their families for a Labour Day celebration at Grand River North West in Port Louis on Friday, 1 May. The weather was idyllic, the newly renovated hall was packed, and the atmosphere was at times serious and at other moments festive. With a seamless joint-chairing by Rada Kistnasamy and Cindy Clelie, and around the theme "Economic Crisis and Job Security", there were inspiring speeches, moving music, camaraderie and friendship. Even the food beautifully prepared by members and their families and brought to be shared, all contributed to making the day thoroughly enjoyable.
The main LALIT speech was by Ram Seegobin, who outlined how LALIT sees the economic crisis as both a difficult time for workers and also an opportunity for the working class to mobilize around and advance a program thoroughly in its favour, a program to oppose capitalism itself, as well as its State. "It is an international struggle," he said, "And Labour Day is an international holiday, symbolizing the need for international struggles". He explained how layers and layers of crisis have unfurled in Mauritius, starting with the systemic crisis triggered by the end of preferential markets for sugar and textiles, going through the food crisis, and on until the recent financial and economic crisis have hit, thus exposing the bancruptcy of capitalism itself for everyone to see.
He also explained how a fine working class mobilization had been building up, symbolized by the 28 February enthusiastic trade union march with some 8,000 workers participating actively, and that it had then melted gradually into smaller and smaller demonstrations with wider and more contradictory class components. He said the leaders of the movement had, perhaps inadvertantly, led the mobilization of workers into the hands of people who are workers' class enemies. The movement is now left, by the time of the march of 25 April and their May Day rally, with a diffuse content wherein bourgeois forces like capitalists and even oligarchs who are opposed to an incineration project because they are competitors of the project-promoters participate, where right-wing parties like the PMSD and MMM send their members, and wherein even like communalist movements like the FCM send their supporters. Harish and Sarita Boodhoo were invited. MMM and PMSD leading members promised to be [and Ganoo and Allet actually were] present. All the trade union leaders sitting together for one day on a podium does not mean working class unity.
Alain Ah-Vee delivered the opening speech in the name of Ledikasyon pu Travayer (Workers' Education), a co-organizer. He spoke in defense of the mother-tongues that LPT promotes, and announced for the first time, LPT's plans to hold a Hearing later this year on the damage done in schools by suppressing the chidren's mother-tongues, Kreol and Bhojpuri. He called on people to come forward and give evidence of their own experience.
Ragini Kistnasamy gave the final speech in the name of the Muvman Liberasyon Fam (Women's Liberation Movement). It was a tour de force, in which she linked security of employment with the need for security in women's reproductive work, and thus with the need to decriminalize abortion. She outlined the present MLF campaign to get the 1838 anti-abortion law suspended, following the death of Marie-Noelle Derby, the photographer-journalist who tragically lost her life after an illegal abortion. She also expressed solidarity with the young woman facing charges in the Intermediate Court this Thursday.
Inbetween Sadna Jumnoodoo spoke in the name of Inter-Labaz-Sindikal, a grass roots analytic and mobilizing association of union members of all the different work sectors and unions, and Vimala Lutchmee informed everyone present that the Federation of Preschool Playgroups intends to defy the outrageous interdiction by the Mauritius Qualifications Authority of their training courses.
Solidarity messages from five organizations abroad and two in Mauritius were also read out.
Eugene Cairncross, a WOSA member from South Africa, who was present gave a speech on the different levels of danger in the massive incinerating waste. This follows LALIT having taken a stand on the issues involved in waste incineration (See web article).
The music on Labour Day was divine - going from Rajni Lallah's solo performance of her compositions around Kaya songs and traditional music interpreted in her own style, to Mark Joseph's unusual rendering Gerschwin's "Summertime" with Rajni's exceptional accompaniment, and from a voice-only rendition of the George Moustaki's "La revolution permanante" by three women to the late Marie-Ann Both John's "Anfler" by Marlene Joseph, from Alain and Marousia and two other younger singers' version of a traditional folk-song to a fantastic ravann duo as part of a perfomance by Plaisance young people, from the CF3 brothers (one being only three, and a fine percussionist) to the roof-lifting singing of the "Linternasyonal".
Alain Ah-Vee, now a highly skilled Taiti master, gave a particularly powerful exhibition, especially as emotion ran high because Yugo, who was his partner in the same even last year, had died young and suddenly in the intervening year.
The youngest person present was a little one of less than a year, and the oldest had just turned 88 on Tuesday. And after putting order in the headquarters, people went home to the South, the North, the East and the West of the Island, to small villages, all the towns, to housing estates, and coastal villages.