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The MMM`s Key Years: 1979-82


This article by Ram Seegobin, LALIT leading member, was in L`Express a few
weeks ago, for a page on the MMM. Here it is in toto:

MMM 1979-1982: The Watershed years

The celebration of 40 years of the MMM has been an occasion for much nostalgia, personality cult, and questioning. The main questions have centered round the extent of its deviation, the capacity of the MMM to regain some of the ideological and programmatic ground it has lost over the years of "natural" and "unnatural" alliances, as well as the future political orientation of the party. These questions are quite pertinent as the "values" that the MMM now defends are the same that all parties will claim, right across the spectrum: "values" having replaced political programs.

At what stage of its 40-year history did the MMM decisively take the irreversible steps that have led it to where it is now?
In 1979 the political leadership of the very broad movement that was the MMM was faced with two ideological challenges from organized tendencies that existed within its structures. The class struggle tendency (Lalit de Klas) which was strongly anchored in the trade union movement, and the so-called Left Wing ("Lel Gos") which was more represented in the leadership structures and parliamentary group of the MMM.

The class struggle tendency opposed the "stage by stage" strategy of the party, proposed that a transitional program towards socialism would be more appropriate than the minimalist program of the leadership, and Lalit de Klas denounced the drift towards traditional petty bourgeois politics. The militants of this tendency were at the forefront of the strike movements of 1979 and 1980.

The Left Wing which originated from a vaguely similar position, attacking the petty bourgeois elements in the MMM leadership, changed its stand radically in 1979 and started criticizing the leadership for attacking the bourgeoisie as a whole, while they proposed that socialism was not on the agenda in a neo-colonial situation, and that a "National Liberation" stage had to be gone through first. During this stage, they said, the nationalist elements of the bourgeoisie would need to be "on board".

Some sections of the press were at the time acting as a political "tendency" outside the MMM, missing no opportunity to drag the party towards the right. They saw the supposed "Left Wing" as an ally in their project, and gave it maximum coverage, while the Class Struggle tendency was seen by them as class enemies. The "Left Wing" received so much support that it mounted a major leadership challenge in the MMM. Although it enjoyed the support of almost a majority of delegates, it lacked the political courage and ideological coherence to succeed. It quickly faded away and collapsed as a political tendency.

But it had definitely prepared the ideological terrain for the major deviations that took place in the build-up towards the 1982 General Elections: the alliance with the PSM of Harish Boodhoo, which represented the selling-out of the anti-communal struggle that the MMM stood for; and the adoption by the leadership of the party of the "New Social Consensus" strategy that was the very antithesis of the class struggle slogan of the early MMM. The pulling and pushing of the MMM towards the right had started, in spite of consistent resistance by grassroots militants who denounced both the communal logic of the alliance with the PSM and the class collaboration politics that the New Social Consensus represented.
In April 1982, a few months before the elections, the Lalit de Klas tendency left the MMM: we considered the double selling-out to be irreversible.
Ram Seegobin, 30 September 2009