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Jean-Claude Bibi's speech on CLASS

26.11.2009


Jean-Claude Bibi, while launching Alain Ah-Vee's book KLAS (CLASS), called the occasion of the launch an "impressive" one. In a speech that was both humorous and compelling, he said that "class" was a term that is ordinary, and that it seems not a difficult thing to understand. Just as we know, he said, that an island is something surrounded by sea, we also know that society is made up of people from different classes. It seems easy to understand. Nobody hesitates about using the term, or about their own conception of the meaning of the term. Every day we all see all around us that people are swimming in the class they belong to, or appear to belong to, but as they swim around, they also know that there are other classes to which they do not belong, to which they may wish to belong, or to which they do not want to belong, - or to which they are not at all welcome, from which they are specifically excluded.

So, in our daily lives, he said, everybody is aware of and familiar with the existence of classes, and we can often identify to which class an individual belongs. Just as the cover of the book KLAS shows a Rolls Royce and a bicycle! Classes have names and these names are popularly known and popularly used, even if they may not be used quite accurately at all times. In Mauritius, we talk about "bann kapitalist", the capitalist class, "travayer", the working class, big planter and small planter classes, the petite bourgeoisie, intellectuals, traders, big traders, small traders, lumpen, and SDF, and maybe I have missed one or two other categories that we often use, he said. And often a wealthy woman or man is called a "capitalist" when in fact s/he is not an owner of capital at all. She is someone who won a lottery or because s/he is a good singer whose records sell well, or, say, a tennis champion. The confusion between rich people and capitalists is quite common.

This book KLAS, Jean Claude Bibi said, does not allow such confusion. It deals with a very precise concept of class, one that was developed by Karl Marx. It deals with the role of classes in the economic, social and political life of societies and their history. And more specifically this book deals with the contemporary present reality of Mauritian society, and its unfolding history. He said that he would not define the various classes in our country during his speech, nor would he explain the Marxist concept of class. He said he will advise everyone present to buy or somehow obtain a copy of the book and read it, take time to study it and to understand it. He said it will clarify the confusion that we might have on the term. He said that the term "class" has an extremely precise meaning, as Marx defined it, as a concept and as the role of class in history, and as it was developed later by others, and Jean Claude drew attention to the succinct quotation from Lenin at the beginning of the book. He suggested that those interested begin by reading the very first article by Alain Ah-Vee, the editor. From then on, all the other essays will easily make sense to you, in whatever order you read them. And he also suggested that near the beginning we should read the "Prefas" by LALIT, that is to say just after, or even just before reading Alain Ah-Vee's article "Ki ete Analiz deklas? Ki ete Sosyete deklas?"

Jean Claude Bibi said that he had used the term "impressive" to describe the moment of the launch in the very first phrase of his speech for many reasons.

Firstly, he said the production of the book itself and the essays in it remind us of the amazing amount of consistent theoretical/political work that has been accomplished over the years, over decades, by militants of LPT and LALIT. He said that it was rare anywhere in the world, but certainly in Mauritius, to witness such consistency in politics, such consistency in analysis and such commitment to understand and practice politics on the basis of what is really happening in a class society, and to identify the economic and political interests of various classes, while deep and thorough changes occur in our society. He said that the essays in the book KLAS witness and explain how such ongoing changes impact on the political behaviour of classes, or trade unions, of governments, of the press, of political parties and these essays help us to understand why only a political analysis based consistently on class and on the ongoing class struggle can be relied upon if we are to make sense of the chronic inconsistencies and opportunism of political parties and individual political leaders who pose as and claim to be permanent champions of social justice and social progress. Almost all the other political leaders and their parties say that they represent the working class, but they never analyse what situation the working class is in, and then this permit their opportunism. Without a correct class analysis, it is impossible to expect principled politics from our leaders, he said, busy as they are to conceal the real class interests they defend and promote. Without an analysis of how change affects different classes differently, and of how they confront these changes differently, we get the chronic opportunism that is all around us. Without such an analysis they are bound to be opportunist. While saying they champion the working class they in fact never actually analyse what is happening to the working class or in the working class.

He then gave his second reason why he said this book is so important. It is that it emerges not only from the intellectual/theoretical effort of a few individuals, but above all and also from the collective efforts of an organized group engaged for decades in the practical political and economic struggle of the working class. We are not therefore here dealing, he said, with a scholarly, with an academic, outlook on what is going on out there in the world of politics. We are privileged - in fact it is an extraordinary privilege - to have the chance to read what was actually experienced by participants in events. This analysis was experienced not only by a few individuals, he said, but by a class as a whole in key moments of our real history. The account and the analysis of the strike of August 1979 reminds us all, including the capitalist class, of the degree of political consciousness, of the degree of class consciousness that is latent in the working class and of its immense potential in spite of the many obstacles that exist to prevent its emergence. You had to be in the strike to be aware of this high degree of political consciousness latent in the working class. You had to be in the strike to know how the vanguard within the working class develops and how goes ahead of the working class masses, while still being in the working class. And you realize which are the obstacles that prevent the whole of the working class having the same level of political consciousness. Jean Claude Bibi said that the analyses in KLAS present us with an impressive illustration of the kind of political contribution that revolutionary militants can achieve when they struggle together with the working class and its most politically conscious and combative sections.

The third reason, he continued, why this book is impressive is that it deals also with the issue - the supposedly delicate issue of communalism - and the links between classes and ethnic groups. Several essays, especially in Section 5 of the book, he added, explain very carefully the significance of communalism in our society and how it is used to manipulate and distort social and economic reality. Again, he said, he would not explain in his speech what is explained in the essays, but called on people to read them. He said he knows of no other political party other than LALIT that dares to say and explain the truth, the dangerous truths, in respect of communalism. Lalit also explains how the MMM, an erstwhile defender of the working class, came to sacrifice its very raison d'etre by succumbing totally to the marshlands of ethnic politics.

He said that there was, of course, a fifth reason, and indeed many more reasons why the book, in his opinion, is a political "evenement" in its own right. In fact each section, he said, each essay, provides at least one more reason why this collection is so impressive but, that he would not expect to enjoy the tolerance of his audience for much longer, so he would not list them and comment on them all. He said, however that one thing more had to be said. KLAS, he said, tells you, identifies for you, which class has political control over your life, over your country and how it does and why it does so. To believe that you know that it is the Labour party, he said, is not enough. To understand that it is the bourgeoisie d'etat is already a bigger step forward, but still not quite enough. To understand the relationship between this bourgeoisie d'etat and the historical bourgeoisie, their conflicts and their alliances is much more advanced, but still not sufficient. There is, he said, much more to know and to understand. KLAS explains how class society came about, he said, how it is going along today, its apparent silences and its recurrent crises and turmoil. It indicates, he said, how and why revolutions are possible through political struggle, how a classless and egalitarian society is possible. It is yet another reason why launching this book, he concluded, is an impressive moment for me and no doubt for you also. [Long applause.]