Vidya Golam, following on Jean-Claude Bibi, gave the second launch speech at the celebration of the birth of the book KLAS (CLASS) edited by Alain Ah-Vee, one of LALIT's leading members. It was on Wednesday, 25 November, 2009 before 50-60 people gathered for the celebration at the LPT's Mother Earth Hall.
After having launched the book LETA ("STATE") edited by Rajni Lallah last year at this time, he said it was a special honour to be launching another "Casebook" in the series by the workers' education publisher, LPT called "Konesans pu tu Dimunn".
He said that once you've read the Publisher's Note and the Editor's Note (and he said he would like to congratulate Alain Ah-Vee on his remarkable work in selecting and putting together these essays), it is quite hard to find another "introduction" to the book in his hand, to "the gem of a book", as he described it.
The book, KLAS, will leave no-one indifferent, he said, and he added wittily, it leaves no-one out either. It is of interest to us all - whether we be students, skilled factory workers, aspiring politicians, economists, ecologists, trade unionists, business leaders, civil servants, planters, administrators, those who love history, academics or researchers, transport workers - and whoever we are, we will find ourselves right in the middle of the different essays on social class and on class analysis. The book also overlaps, he added, with all sorts of other interests as they overlap with class analysis and class struggle: to name a few, he said: human rights, the problems of communalism, the workings of the welfare state, the quality of life, renewable energy, bureaucracy, education, trade unionism, new technology, he said, and so the list grows.
Just as LETA ("STATE") was a goldmine of information for HSC and university-level students, so KLAS is too. Maybe even more so. He said it will enrich students' knowledge, develop their critical spirit and act as a reference book for their research. It will also be of value to any young person interested in politics, he added. In fact, it is like a guide to understanding politics, he said.
The way the book KLAS is structured, he said, makes it into a veritable reference manual; a subject which is a priori complicated, after having read this book, becomes much clear. The terms are defined, he explained, and theories are put into the historical perspective of their development as they evolved over time. The book also sets the theoretical terms in the Mauritian context, while keeping in mind the global significance they have. All this is done, he said, in simple, everyday language. When a point is made, he added, it is made clearer by the use of examples, concrete examples, statistics and even graphic illustrations. All this gives the book even more value as a witness of recent history, and present history. And while the essays are personal opinions, there is always an attempt to be objective, he added.
There is another element that he said he likes. The essays are like chronicles. This, he said, made them both interesting and enriching. Whether historical, political, social, economic, legal and even cultural, all the essays make it difficult for anyone to put into doubt the authenticity or the integrity of the essayists; this, he says, is because there is a degree of consistency, as the English say, consistency with respect to the dates, the figures, the cross references and events at the local and international levels. Readers will note that the various contributors do not only describe, analyze, compare and criticize what is happening, but also take the trouble to propose credible alternatives. Note this in the article on the class conflicts of energy.
The publication of the book KLAS, he said, will re-launch the debate on the class struggle and class analysis in Mauritius. There are, of course, a lot of people who like to say that the class struggle is "depasse" because society has become "individualistic" and that there is no longer any class consciousness. But, as many articles in this book show, the logic behind capitalism today is identical to the logic behind capitalism 50 years ago or 150 years ago. Capital had to maximize its profit then as now while workers had to be paid as little as possible, work for as long as possible and as hard as possible in the name of "productivity", now as then, he said. And just as long ago, today workers have to fight to work fewer hours, to get higher wages and to work under better conditions, he added.
Exploitation may have changed its form, he conceded. But today the increasing poverty of the working class brings, he said, new pressures of a psychological nature - immense pressure, sometimes even fatal pressure - to bear on workers. He said he was referring to the series of suicides amongst France Telecom workers, as the big bosses' politics of cutting down the size of the workforce continues.
When you see this unchanged antagonism between the masses of workers and the big bosses, he continued, it is clear that the class struggle is still with us, as Alain has indeed already said. Of course, it is also true that, using modernity as a pretext, words sometimes also change their own nature, just as reality changes its.
"I will pose the question, in this way," he said:
Can we so much as imagine a solution to the problem of global warming, he asked, without attacking the power of monopoly capitalists, in this day and age of globalization? Today the struggle against capitalist globalization is the form the class struggle is taking. This struggle, in turn, affects all the other struggles, he said, be they economic, social or political, and affects working class struggles and oppressed peoples' struggles all over the world. When a peasant in India or the Philippines loses his livelihood when big capital introduces GMO crops, when his or her health is threatened, when their environment is being ruined, have we got the right to say that the class struggle has died? All these questions Vidya Golam asked. Then he referred us to an essay by Ram Seegobin on page 51 of the book, and the article by LALIT that follows straight after it, to get an idea of the way neo-liberal globalization goes hand in hand with exploitation without mercy of workers, an exploitation that is often masked, and also hand in hand with instability and crises.
Today, he said, when we talk of a class analysis and the class struggle, we see it in, before us in:
- The struggle for fundamental workers' rights against international trade and industrial laws that keep workers down,
- The demand to reform the international trade regime so that the poor of the developing countries can benefit from trade,
- The struggle for the right to a clean environment, a good education and an efficient health system with treatment that works and that everyone can get,
- The struggle to set up of consultations with unions and other democratic organizations for all decisions that affect the masses of workers,
- And today, when we see everyone rushing into new avenues for gambling (not just the races, but lotteries and lotto, the football pools), we wonder if this is not part of a diversion, a diversion that exploits workers more deeply? He asked,
- And we see all the struggles - like that for the rights of people who are HIV-Positive or have AIDS, against women's inequality, against the arrogance of the handful of people who believe they are superior to everyone else, against communalism casteism and racism, against harassment of foreign workers, against the erosion of our buying power, against lobbies that divide us on ethnic and religious grounds - all this going to show that class analysis and the class struggle itself is more than ever alive and kicking, he concluded.
He concluded by commending the structure of the book, and once again commending the series to young people in particular, and by wishing everyone "good reading" of KLAS.