The Labour Party, having been in Government in Mauritius, will soon be using its "accomplishments" over the past five years as its platform in the General Elections. The two opposition parties in the National Assembly will not have any real "accomplishments" to announce. Instead they will base their electoral campaign, assuming they are not in an alliance by then with the Labour Party, on criticizing the Labour Government for corruption, communalism, not moving fast enough on x, y, z infrastructure project and so on, things the Labour Party criticizes them for, for when they were in Government for the previous five years. Their program will be a list of various "valeurs", values of a vague nature like "social justice", "national unity", and "equal opportunities". Both sides will, of course as usual, employ all the socialist rhetoric they can drum up.
LALIT, by way of contrast, is preparing a report of its political work over the past five years. Here is a preview of a draft, based on a talk by LALIT member, Lindsey Collen, at a members' assembly in January, 2010. (She called on members to note the proportion of our political work that is not electoral.)
This "report" will be part of our program during the coming electoral campaign for General Elections, which could be called any time from March 2010 to January 2011, depending on what the Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam decides to be a propitious moment to dissolve the present Parliament, or whether he prefers to let Parliament dissolve automatically in July. At present he has 42 of the 70 seats, so presumably he wants, as he is always saying he wants to do, to increase his majority so that he has a three-quarter majority. This means he wants a bigger alliance than the one he is in at present. It is not clear what he plans to do with such a majority, should he get it. But with the working class in a serious down-turn, what he intends to do with the 3/4 majority is most likely something retrograde.
Our 5-year report is a report on the fruit of the work of the LALIT branches. These are the very lungs of our Party, forming new ideas, sending them to the Central Committee. The report is also the fruit of the work of our Central Committee, elected by the Members Assembly every year so as to continually bring together our political program. In short our program is based on three things: first, an analysis of the political and economic situation we find ourselves in, where it comes from and where it tends to be going to; second, a series of demands that are transitional in the sense that, once mobilized behind and won, the gains made are not a signal to go home, but become part of a conscious progress made in terms of the balance of class forces, in favour of the working class, a class which has every interest in overthrowing the present capitalist economic system and the State upholding it; and third, a shared plan ‘ one always developing’ as to how we intend to popularize these demands and generalize the popular will to mobilize against capitalism and also for socialism.
Before the last general elections in 2005, everyone was certain that the outgoing MMM-MSM (Mouvement Militant Mauricien - Mouvement Socialist Mauricien) Government would, since they were "two parties against just Labour", win hands-down against Labour. (For readers who are not Mauritian, we have a note to add here: Note that these three main political parties are all bourgeois parties, neither militant, nor socialist, nor labour, despite their names. Two once were. However, working class consciousness is high enough, and the working class is such a large class in Mauritius, there being no peasantry, that it is impossible for any party to go into elections without using full left-wing rhetoric. They all refer to the public as "comrades" in public meetings, they all claim to represent the interests of "the working class" and they are all "anti-capitalist" in all their speeches. They would never defend Israel in a public meeting. They would never say they intend to privatize a brass bean. They would never say capitalism is a good thing. They no longer attack the mother tongues. And they would never, ever say they intend to introduce new laws in order to make work more "flexible". Yet, they all do most of these things once elected, if not as "party", then as "the Government".)
Anyway. Labour, despite it being two-against-one, did win 2/3 of the seats at the last elections. This was for two main reasons (other than that the outgoing parties had made themselves fairly unpopular while in Government). First, though this does not concern us directly at the moment, Labour pulled 5 smaller parties into an alliance, parties each scoring less in opinion polls than LALIT. They made a political difference. And second, Labour glued together a program of sorts before the elections, a program forced upon them by the Labour party's grassroots "chief agents", a program based on isolated bits of the LALIT program for which we had built up support through our actions over the previous 5 years. In particular, Labour announced it would re-introduce village-level elections for Village Councils that had been dismantled by the MMM-MSM, and for the re-establishment of which LALIT and only LALIT had fought against tooth and nail at grassroots village level over the course of the whole dismantling process. Labour announced that it would restore old-age pensions on a universal basis, and do away with the means-testing that LALIT had challenged since the MMM-MSM introduced it. Labour announced that it would bring in free transport for all students and everyone over 60 years of age, following on from LALIT's campaign for free transport for everyone, using the "travelling money" that businesses and the State pay employees, for a fund with which to develop public transport. Labour promised to break diplomatic links with Israel, which is in LALIT's program. (For readers from abroad, the Labour Party did bring back Village Elections, it did re-introduce pensions as a right, it did introduce free transport for students and old-age pensioners and disabled people, it did formally and publicly suspend diplomatic relations with Israel at the time of the Gaza bombardment of 2008-9.)
These measures, taken piecemeal do not, of course, in any way add up to our program for socialism, but when implemented like this they are both a witness to the political strength of LALIT, specially when we mobilize the working class behind the demands, and they also change the balance of class forces in favour of the working class. This means LALIT has political power way beyond our capacity to get votes for ourselves in a General Election. (This merits another much longer paper in order to try to understand why.)
Today, as the "traktasyon" begin, with the MMM and Labour trying to patch together a pre-electoral alliance, they are putting together bits of the LALIT program that may help them get and keep grassroots "agents" for the electoral campaign. This time it is, in particular, concessions towards introducing the mother tongues (Kreol and Bhojpuri) in schools, and taking up the Diego Garcia issue (though not being so bold as to threaten to get the US military base closed, of course.) So once again, they have to concede the new reality that is before them, after LALIT's program and action have developed a new reality over the past five years. Once again, taking items one by one is certainly not LALIT's program, and this brings no dynamic towards overthrowing capitalism or building socialism, taken alone. But they are both vindication of our pertinence, and also a sign of a change in the balance of class forces, which helps towards overthrowing capitalism. Liberating one's mother tongue also liberates a certain force in the oppressed classes. And having been proven by history to have been correct to have maintained pressure on the Diego Garcia base strengthens LALIT's program in the eyes of the working class.
In summary, once again the past five years show that LALIT, though electorally weak (1%-2% in the first-past-the-post system), is a political force to reckon with. This relative political strength surprises us coming at a time when the class we represent, the working class, is as weak as it is today. No-one denies this weakness. We guess that the total discrediting of the capitalist system over the past 5 years, and the exposure of the fraudulent imperialist wars detonated by Bush and Blair, have meant that capitalism is ideologically even weaker than it was before, in Mauritius. This, in turn, makes the working class relatively "stronger" than it would otherwise be.
This means that "upturn" or "downturn", LALIT has a certain potency. It represents a class that is potentially very strong, even though at present weak. Our adversary, our class enemy, is in ideological free fall. So, our role is not only to be observant for the moments when we can, during defensive actions, also get to pose the questions of ownership and control, but also to prepare to leave defensive mode altogether and move into counter-attack. There is a constant role for us in developing our program, in all its three aspects mentioned earlier. Acting on present issues, we link them to a socialist future, in ways that are conscious and open and honest.
Today, in this "downturn", we are simultaneously, as we mentioned, going through a series of grave crises of capital. They are each different, and yet they each reflect the general crisis of capitalism. First there was the Mauritian systemic crisis, on which we ran our last electoral campaign (the end of the EU Sugar Protocol and the end of the textiles protective regime) and which has been LALIT's main political work for some 6 or 7 years. Then the oil prices crisis. Then the food crisis. Then the financial crisis, then the economic crisis, and now the deepening of an unpredictable ecological crisis. Crises have over the past five years hit us, world wide, with vertiginous force.
LALIT has been in the vanguard in Mauritius in analyzing and confronting these crises as they have unfurled. The international financial institutions running capitalism have collapsed and are still in "intensive care", an expression used by George Soros, who should know. The capitalist economies in many countries are slow, and where they speed up (as in China), they threaten a repeat of the same crises of the past five years, only more violent this time round. Unemployment is still high world-wide. Sources of oil will soon be reaching the beginning of their end. For civilization that relies so utterly on these sources of energy, this is a serious crisis. At the same time, at any moment we can expect the acceleration of exponential factors of disorder in the climate, and this partly because of the over-reliance on polluting forms of energy. The social effects of these combined crises are sometimes beyond even the most fertile imagination. They may well be on the scale of the "natural" disaster in Haiti, which though natural in its cause, is not at all "natural" in its devastating social effect on a country so poor after generations of punitive measures imposed by capitalism.
In these last few decades, many left parties and "left" parties have folded - in Mauritius, as elsewhere - finding the going hard in the long "downturn". In Mauritius the last upturn was, say 1970-1980, with a bit of overdrive until 1982. Since then we have seen Serge Rayapoulle and Dev Ramano's Lalit Travayer disappear. The Jack Bizlall "aile gauche" of the MMM folded. Dev Virahsawmy's MMMSP died. Dev Ramanos's OMT-FNAS and Jack Bizlall's FMP dissolved to form the PMT, which didn't last too long before evaporating without anyone getting any explanation, and without anyone noticing. Jocelyne Minerve's Nuvo Lizur ditto. And this is only mentioning the organizations that actually existed for a while, not the phantoms that are born and disappear without leaving a trace, like GMR, GRA, FPLLM, and a host whose initials are not even in anyone's memory anymore.
WHY HAS LALIT SURVIVED, WHEN SO MANY GROUPS DIDN'T?
The question is why LALIT has survived when so many left parties have collapsed. There are perhaps three main reasons:
1. Because LALIT (at the time called Lalit de Klas) was the leadership of the biggest strike in Mauritian history. And it was not just a strike but a strike movement, starting before the August 1979 general strike movement and going on until the end of the September, 1980 mass uprising around the two-week hunger strike of the leaders of the movement. The working class was in the strike movement in an autonomous mode, but under the leadership of Lalit de Klas. That is a major factor in our survival. We were born of the mass student strike in 1975, the free zone women's wild-cat strikes of 1976, and the build up of the workers' struggles that led to the general strike movement.
2. Because LALIT has a clear Political Program. We do not just have a list of "values". We don't just have a string of prayer-beads like Labour and the MMM's "social justice", "equity", "anti-corruption", "law and order", "patriotism", etc. Nor do we have a shopping list of disconnected demands leading nowhere, like the trade union movement often has, but which does not suffice for a party. We have worked on transitional demands, forming a kind of bridge from where the consciousness of working people is today over towards the socialism we intend to build tomorrow. And it is a socialism that will be international, or it won't last. And we develop a strategy that links the demands of today with the program for tomorrow, in ways that working people grasp for themselves. This program work makes us survive, keeps us relatively strong politically, even in the long downturn.
3. Because, and this perhaps what concerns us in this paper, we have a minimum necessary number of party cadres. It is the cadres in our party who have made this report possible. Individual human beings. Through the party structures obviously, especially the branches. And developing ourselves and new members as cadres is something that is in our power, just as the development of a program is. We can, to some extent at least, determine it. So that this Report is also a kind of homage to our party cadres, as individual activists - people who are caring, brilliant, visionary, active, creative beings, generous, courageous, and who, even in a downturn like this, nurture these characteristics in themselves and in us all - characteristics that become widespread during a pre-revolutionary and revolutionary period (we saw it in August 79 and September 80): love of humanity, bravery to the point of daring, intellectual independence, honesty that looks at everything as it is that yearns for the truth, and revolutionary patience to go with it all. And with all this, there is a kind of down-to-earthness necessary in a cadre. A toughness. As we say in Kreol: "Being good is good, but being good to the point of being stupid is not good". The saying praises being street-wise - if we aren't we would not survive the campaigns against us, the traps set for us by adversaries, the endless court cases against our members, and the petty arrogance meted out to us, as socialists, by many of the defenders of the status quo. We care for the great things in life, we cherish the elation of seeking a better world, and we, at the same time, find no small detail in human life too insignificant to observe, and, if necessary, to deal with.
WHAT IS A PARTY CADRE?
When thinking about what has made us able to present this "report", we have to think about "who are our party cadres?" Each one has a role in this. But what is a party cadre?
It's someone who perhaps:
-Grasps the party program at a deep level (the broad significance of its class analysis, something of the spirit of transitional demands that articulate towards socialism) and who has the will and capacity to popularize the programme - each one in his or her different way.
-Can recruit new members to the party, on the specific basis of this program
-Knows the history of our political current (the LALIT current in Mauritius, and the current/s we are part of internationally) and what differentiates us from Stalinists, populists, opportunists of all ilk, Bonapartists, reformists, various kinds of ultra-leftists and adventurers. This knowledge is, of course, not equal in us all, but we all aspire to deeper understanding of our political current, and all the other different political currents and their manifestations. (In LALIT, we refer to this in short-hand as knowing the difference between our reasons for being against police brutality and the Red Cross's.)
-Is loyal to the party, meaning stands by the party when up against adversaries, and when in trouble defending his or her ideas, knows how to seek help from friends and comrades for future arguments.
-Knows how to work with the masses of ordinary people at the grassroots level (is not arrogant or a bluffer). This implies knowing first-hand what the level of consciousness of workers is right now, so that that is where we start from.
-Pays his or her monthly auto-tax (a scaled self-tax based on income), so that the party has funds.
Most of these are things which involve a certain flair, as well as being acquired on the job, so to speak, and from those with experience.
To be able to be a party cadre also involves some "luck of the draw" from life: a fairly stable family or home life, fairly good health, a place to live peacefully, and to be able to draw new internal resources from, and maybe being blessed with a sense of humour and joie de vivre thrown in, too.
We put this all to paper, so that we know how to interpret the 5-year report, as general elections loom. That it is the work of real live human beings, and that it continues, as part of a long tradition of human struggle.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO IN THE COMING GENERAL ELECTIONS?
LALIT initiated what has become the veritable flowering of debate about elections that there is at the moment. We had uploaded a report on our December end-of-the-year Members' Assembly on our web site (www.lalitmauritius.org) and it was then taken up in the local Press. In it we had begun, for what it was worth, to predict the most likely alliance possibilities amongst the existing bourgeois parties:
- A 3-way confrontation: Social Alliance (led by Labour) v/s. MMM-UN-Guimbeau v/s. MSM.
- Social Alliance (led by Labour) + MSM v/s. MMM-UN-Guimbeau.
- Labour + MMM v. MSM + and those left out of Labour's previous "Social Alliance".
And an outside chance that the whole lot get together in a "national unity" binge.
Whatever the configuration of parties and alliances, LALIT will definitely participate in the electoral campaign. But the question is will we put up candidates? Or will we not? As each election approaches, we take stock, in a case-by-case way (bearing in mind that we believe elections are nearly always a tactical issue, not strategic). It will depend ultimately upon the exact configuration of other parties and the enjeu of the election. The past elections were as follows, since our founding in 1976:
1976: We were still a "tendency" within the MMM (as well as being a group around an independent publication, a "tribune libre de gauche") so we worked for the MMM election but with warnings to the leadership.
1982: Did not put up our own candidates, but said to vote for the MMM-PSM alliance on the basis of specific points and despite their calling for a "new social consensus" with the bosses, and despite having opposed the MMM's alliance with the PSM, (i.e. having left the MMM because of its abandoning of class struggle and its simultaneous abandoning of the anti-communal struggle). We made a fixed list of 10 points in the MMM-PSM (Parti Socialiste Mauricien) program (which differentiated them from the Labour Alliance) on which we called for electors to vote for them, but warning that this was not a "road" to socialism.
1983: We stood against the two blocks, the Red-White-Blue Alliance, as it was called, and against the MMM, by now representing bourgeois interests whole-heartedly, as we had predicted it would.
1987: Stood against the same Red-White-Blue alliance and against the MMM.
1991: Did not put up candidates. Called for a vote on a single point for the MMM-MSM on the basis that their program was to complete an aspect of decolonization, that is to say, to establish Mauritius as a Republic. Labour and the PMSD (Red and Blue) were against.
1995: We called for a deliberate spoiling of ballots, in the context of hideously communalized campaign and election: the Government having pushed people into two opposing communalo-religious camps: one for Catholic education and the other for Oriental Languages.
2000: Stood against the MMM-MSM (after their surprise Medpoint pre-electoral agreement) and against the Labour-PMSD.
2005: Stood against the Labour Social Alliance and against the MMM-MSM alliance.
The recent by-election in Constituency number 8 (Moka and Quartier Militaire) nearly a year ago now, exposed the degeneration and rot that has set into the Mauritian electoral system. Neither of the two biggest parties (Labour and MMM) put up their own candidates, each feeling they had more to lose than to win. And we had the rather disgusting spectacle of the MMM supporting the candidate who had been struck out by the Courts for electoral fraud in 2005 elections, and Labour supporting the candidate's nephew who was leader of the party involved in the fraud at the time of the fraud. So we had a family feud for an election. The Press and the private radios managed to make these two rather minor characters into the only two candidates: uncle v/s nephew. This remains fresh in our memories as a kind of symbol of the bankruptcy of bourgeois democracy.
-Capitalist lobbies have totally corrupted the electorate as electorate.
-The so-called Best Loser system of institutionalized communalo-religious classification, has corrupted the entire electoral system, from top to bottom, giving unspeakable lobbies enormous power.
-We have repeatedly seen musical chair type alliances of different parties, ever-changing, making the first-past-the-post system hegemonic, but for multiple-parties in a pasted together electoral pact. In 2005, in the Social Alliance, Labour allied with the Xavier Duval PMXD, Madun Dulloo's MMSM, Anil Baichoo's party, FTS-Les Verts and the Mouvement Republicain: 6 parties in all won against three others, two big and a small: MMM, the MSM and PMSD.
-The Press, and now the commercial radio stations are even worse at it, acting as they do like the conductors of the election, especially during a down-turn when workers are not mobilized enough to insist thoroughly on their own agenda.
-Since the Gaetan Duval of the extreme right-wing PMSD in 1983 used the phantom POP-FMI party as 60 fraudulent candidates in order (by sheer numbers) to increase their compulsory legally-defined air-time on TV and radio, and since the MMM in 1987 used the "left" group the OMT-FNAS and the duped leadership of two trade union federations in the same way, getting the airtime of 30 candidates who then came and said "Don't vote for me, vote for the MMM!", there have been an endless stream of the same corrupt bands of candidates that are not candidates, in the pay often of god-knows-who, ridiculing the air-time rules and more importantly ridiculing electoral TV programmes altogether.
So, this gives an idea of where the electoral system is at the moment. It is important background when we weigh up all the pros and cons of putting up candidates.
Now to the nitty-gritty: What political work has LALIT done in the past 5 years?
1. LALIT'S POLITICAL CAMPAIGN FOR AN ALTERNATIVE ECONOMY
In the past five years, the central theme has been LALIT's campaign for an alternative economy. We began this by putting forward what to plant and what to produce, as the systemic crisis began in Mauritius, some 8 years ago: The sugar industry, which was the raison-d'etre of the country, would be moving from employing 50,000 workers to employing 5,000. Textiles would move from employing 100,000 workers to employing 13,000 or so. This was the theme of our campaign in the last general elections, and since then we have put it on the agenda, throughout the five years, articulating this campaign with new campaigns on the new crises as they hit the world. The campaign has obviously had some effect: the Government and the sugar estates have begun at least to talk a lot about agricultural diversification and to actually get some going, and the Ministry has had its name changed to the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Industry. Sugar estates have even begun, under the threat from LALIT during our campaign on food security to diversify (and not just into grass for golf-courses and flowers for export), but into food crops. The time was right for the campaign.
LALIT has during the past 5-6 years organized its political work around analyses and actions against each of the "Crises" that have started to become endemic in this stage of capitalism. We are proposing both alternative crops and products, and also job creation within these, and one step further, posing the question of who exactly it is that decides on food security and job creation. So, when the Labour Government talks about its "democratization of the economy", we in LALIT say what we mean, and compare what we mean with what Labour Party means: Labour Party means opening up possibilities for quite big capitalists to join the ranks of the very big ones. This is quite unashamedly its meaning. Behind the rhetoric. Although they do also do a bit of political work to increase the share of cane by-products for small planters relative to mill owners, and offer workers the odd possibility of shares, or a "Voluntary Retirement Scheme" involving a lump-sum and a bit of land to build a house on, in exchange for closing down a job, and not counting you in the figures as unemployed. We mean something else: we mean workers getting to decide what to plant, what to produce, and how much of what to plant and what to produce. And we mean to get there by political means, by political action.
Here is an outline of our 5 years political work on the crises, as they unfurled:
i The Structural or System Crisis in Mauritius, the closing down of jobs in both the sugar industry and the free zone: Our actions included: neighbourhood meetings, public meetings, producing a 30-minute DVD film (it outlines the position of the bosses, government, academics, trade unionists and worker) then organizing film showings and discussions; we brought out an 80-page book on the subject of what we mean by an alternative economy, we distributed leaflets in bus stations and at work sites, we participated in the 2005 electoral campaign and put up a candidate, Rada Kistnasamy in the by-election in 2009, we ran two nation-wide poster campaigns on the subject, we held an action at the Ministry of Finance before his 2008 budget when we presented him with our Program for an Alternative Economy, three or four members were on the radio for some 12 or 13 radio programs on the subject (not government radio, obviously), we wrote articles for the mainstream press and for our website, and held a number of neighbourhood forums. The areas we held such meetings or films or forums included: La Brasserie, Surinam, Rosehill, St. Pierre, Richelieu, Riviere Noire, Port Louis, Cite Atlee, Grande Riviere Nord Ouest, Grande Riviere Sud Est, Malherbes, Camp Cavale, Forest-Side, Cassis, Rose-Belle, Suyak, Mon Dezer Mon Trezor, Bambous. They were in clubs, village halls, peoples' houses, under trees. We held public meetings with posters and loudspeakers from Bambous to Cite Attlee, from Stanley in Rose-Hill to St. Hubert, from Port Louis to Dagotiere.
ii Oil Crisis: As oil stocks are used up, and with the over-heating of some economies like India and China, oil prices rocketed, and will again tend to suffer sharp rises. LALIT's program for an alternative economy already had a large section integrated into it on alternative production of renewable energy. This meant that during this crisis, our point of entry could change, thus introducing people to the idea of a political struggle for an alternative economy through the energy issue that was a hot one then.
iii Food Crisis: We could similarly change the starting point for our campaign when the food crisis hit. We convinced a women's organization to take the issue up, too, and it had meetings, in turn, with women's organizations at neighbourhood level. The aim was to think big about the food crisis, and to imagine a different land use, to prevent food insecurity. LALIT took the initiative of calling the Food Security Common Front ("Fron Komen Sekirite Alimanter") which brought together 10 or so organizations (unions, consumer organization, women's organization, planters' organization) and a couple of expert agronomists/food economists. Together we produced a fantastic Charter on Food Security, a veritable transitional program on food security, starting where people's consciousness was at the time, taking the agenda right into land reform. This Charter is now a tool for future struggles.
iv Financial Crisis: When the world-wide financial crisis hit the headlines, people were interested in the world financial system, the world capitalist system, in an immediate way. We could use this in order to put emphasis on the internationalist aspect of our program. We linked the world crisis to our ongoing program, using examples of the local Integrated Resorts Scheme slowdown, tourism cancellations, off-shore being exposed and attacked. (Mauritius is curiously the "biggest investor in India." This is because US investment transits in Mauritius in order to get out of tax because India and Mauritius have a Non-Double Taxation agreement, and Mauritius does not tax offshore companies. Indian capital also leaves India, transits through the Mauritius offshore and invests back into India, having got out of tax.) We also had 3 or 4 of our political education sessions on some of the more technical issues involved in international finance under capitalism.
v World Economic Crisis - During the slowdown in the world market due to the recession, this then became the entry point to our campaign. So LALIT was flexible, and up-to-date as the different crises unfolded, but remained concentrated on the politics of an alternative economy.
vi Ecological crisis: Our campaign for an economic alternative was also flexible so that during the build-up to Copenhagen, and before that as films like Al Gore's and Home, in turn, became talking points, we were able to introduce our campaign against capitalism through this "door".
Over the five years, this articulation of an existing campaign with the separate (but interlinked) crises has been the highlight of our political work.
As well as the work in women's organizations, we had a session on Rodrigues Island's economy and agriculture, in the context of the food crisis. Rodrigues produces a lot of food, and has no sugar cane, so the economy is very different. On three or four occasions, trade union federations invited one of our members, most often Ram Seegobin to speak to their members on the economic crisis. Unfortunately, the degree of bureaucratization of the unions has meant they have not really joined into the campaign as they might have.
We produced a number of documents, some of which were titled as follows:"12 Measures for the People", "Prejudice and Sugar" (2006), "Rupee Depreciation: Who is responsible? What should be done? (2006). Our annual comments on the budget, always linked the budget with the crises of the moment, and with our campaign for an alternative economy.
We confronted the bosses organizations in polemics in the Press and live on radio over the question of the economy.
Rajni Lallah and Cindy Clelie participated in a Conference on "Alternative Economies" in South Africa, and presented our campaign there. The other associations there and the SACP members present only considered co-operatives, and did not imagine that an "alternative economy" could be a conscious political struggle to change the whole of production. This is not possible in all times. But when there is a systemic crisis as there is in Mauritius, it is not difficult at all. Workers understand, though the downturn means they are not yet ready to act.
LALIT during these past five years has also been able to expose the link between the economic crises and the very serious social dislocation in Mauritius. Instead of joining the moral brigade, or lamenting, we were able to show how direct the effect on the whole of social life is when there is a systemic crisis. The separations between the "compartments" in our lives, all collapse before our eyes. Sackings change everything in your life. Bankrupt small enterprises do the same. The fact that there is not yet a political vision for a future socialist alternative converging in the broad masses means that the economic dislocation leads to a sharp increase in suicides, in gambling, in family debt, in intra-familial conflict, including the most hideous murders, the most amazingly complicated emotional and sex scandals exposed by the murders, panic emigration, infanticide, all these symptoms further interact to produce a profound social crisis. It shows how the decay of capitalist economy brings a decay in the morality propounded by the ruling class, while the morals that will come from a strong, rising working class, are not yet born. People seek individual solutions in ever-increasingly desperate forms, as until now they remain blind to collective possibilities. The bourgeois ideologues and State, unable to think of anything else to do, call for and impose more and more repression.
So, to conclude this first point in our 5-year report, LALIT has, to some extent, succeeded in producing the intellectual framework to link all these crises, as working people come up against them, to the bankruptcy of capitalism and to the socialist possibility.
-We have also developed some interesting transitional demands, and a better understanding in practice of what transitional demands are. These demands took hours of analyzing "where people were at", and of creative thinking, in branches and in LALIT Program meetings. Our two different poster campaigns are a good way of showing this.
On the first of the two posters, we distilled four demands as follows (in translation some of the punch is lost): "The EU Compensation Money must be used to create jobs, not destroy jobs!" All workers, even those who are least informed, agree with this, and know what it means. Yet, it poses the question of who decides what to do with capital. It also puts workers into the picture. Next there was "Training plus Unemployment Benefit!", another demand easily supported, and yet posing the question of the right to work, and the right to a living wage. Third: "foreign exchange must return to the Central Bank, so as to decrease rupee devaluation!" This demand includes the concept of "price control", because when we call just for price control, the bourgeois ideologues say "but the rupee is weakening", it's outside our control. The slogan thus points to the provoked depreciation of the rupee. Fourth: "For every cane labourer given Voluntary Retirement, agricultural land on lease! Regroup in co-operatives!" Thus posing the question of land reform. (There have been direct results from the mobilization behind these demands: Training has been set up, the Governor of the Bank of Mauritius responsible for the depreciation was sacked and replaced by one in favour of opposing provoked depreciation. The Government has comandeered 2,000 arpents of land from the sugar bosses, around the EU compensation deal.)
-The Charter on Food Security is an important tool for future demands, and for future common fronts.
-Our campaign has visibly affected government and bosses' policies.
-And as for the slogan of our second poster campaign, during the food crisis:
"Plant food crops
on sugar estate land!"
thus bringing on to the agenda very firmly who decides what to plant.
(Unfortunately this campaign was so successful that the Ministry of Tourism started to employ thugs to pull down all posters, and posters have been banned across the country.)
2. LALIT'S PROGRESS ON INTERNATIONALISM
After a party decision taken at a Seminar a few years ago, we decided to work at integrating our internationalism into our everyday political work, so that it was not an "add on", but part of our program in general. (Of course it always was in theory, but we wanted to work at this in practice, given that it has been a time of international crises.) We wanted political contacts, not NGO-type work. We developed closer links with the Australian Democratic Socialist Party (recently closed down into the Socialist Alliance), and then also with the Revolutionary Socialist Party after the split. We have developed closer links with the Fourth International, Leon Cremieux being one of our speakers at our 2009 International Congress, and we have had publication exchanges and conversations with Claude Gavriel since the 1970s, and again after the collapse of the Stalinist states. We have delegated two members to attend the 16th Congress of the FI. We have simultaneously integrated our work to get the US military base on Diego Garcia closed down, with more general political work to set up the NO BASES movement, and to get base closure on to the agenda of the world-wide anti-war movement. The NO BASES started as an electronic network we were in until in 2004 when there was a face-to-face meeting of the No Bases around the WSF in Mumbai, where we had four members present for this meeting, and to get a Peace Flotilla to go to Diego Garcia, the American base on Mauritian territory. LALIT was one of the five or six organizations that worked hard at setting up the network, along with Focus on the Global South of Walden Bello, the American Friends Peace Service, the TNI at the Hague, and the common front against bases in Ecuador. Then we would later withdraw from the IOC once it was launched. Meanwhile we had delegated a member to attend the first congress of NO BASES in Quito, Ecuador, and the march in Manta, where the base has subsequently been closed down. Before going, LALIT united a common front of organizations supporting the LALIT stand against bases and against war. Another LALIT member who attended the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference, while there, during a public meeting, convinced the Bring the Troops Home leader of the necessity of including bringing troops home not just from the front, but from the foreign bases. They subsequently included this in their main statement. Another LALIT member went to Okinawa and Tokyo to participate and speak in anti-base demonstrations. Two of our members have also been to Palestine a total of three times, in order to express solidarity and to link up these struggles. More recently, a member went on the Gaza Freedom March. Another participated in the War Resisters International meeting in Ahmedabad in India, taking the No Bases focus as part of our strategic, permanent opposition to war. We have worked at convincing existing anti-war groups of also putting emphasis on opposing the permanent features of militarism, bases for example.
At the same time we have welcomed visiting socialists to our party, as speakers:
-Neville Alexander, from WOSA in South Africa (who spoke on socialism in times of crisis)
-Nadja Rakowitz from Germany (who told us about the Frankfurt school of Marxism)
-Oupa Lehulere from South Africa (spoke on the role of the party)
-Sam Wainwright from the Australian DSP spoke on the history of the Australian labour movement.
-Mike Cole, a Marxist pedagogue from the UK, spoke on work teachers can do in education, while militating for revolution.
-Ellora Devononcourt, a student from Harvard came to work with and also study women and Diego Garcia, with LALIT.
-Grace Goldfarb and Asher Woodward, both US students, helped us make the film on the economic alternative after the collapse of sugar as the main employer, and the leading section of the bourgeoisie.
Other internationalist links, woven into our political work, include:
-Ally Hosenbokus at the MARON Congress in Reunion, 2006.
-Rajni Lallah participated in the Radical Left Network in South Africa's seminar on Rosa Luxembourg in Cape Town.
-Lindsey Collen spoke at an international Seminar against the War in Johannesburg, in particular on the Diego Garcia base closure, and how the base is in contradiction with the new Pelindaba Treaty for a Nuclear Arms Free Africa.
- Two members, Cindy Clelie and Lindsey Collen attended the RSP first Congress, and though the fares were expensive, we wanted to give the support and also learn from their very rich experience. Then there was, as for all our political work abroad, a report back to Party Members.
-Rajni Lallah in 2008, participated in a Conference on the economic crisis in London organized by Historical Materialism.
-Rajni Lallah had a formal meeting with Alex Callinicos, SWP, UK 2008.
-Ragini Kistnasamy, was involved in Check-Point actions in Palestine 2007, her second visit, and then in the Gaza Freedom March, 2009-2010, where she was in some 6 demonstrations in Cairo.
- Jewai Yves met colleagues in the NPAR, in Reunion, the French colony, in 2009
-Alain Ah-Vee, in January 2010 participated in the War Resisters International, Ahmedabad, 2010, where an organization started in 1921 joined with people from No Bases and from the Gandhian peace movement in India and the Institute for Total Revolution in Ahmedabad.
LALIT has launched a boycott on Israeli goods, aiming particularly at Jaffa fruit imports, thus reminding people of the successful boycott against Outspan in the anti-apartheid movement.
- a Palestine Evening, 2005: Around the film: Caged Bird Sings, Port Louis
- another Palestine Evening, Rose-Hill, 2006: "The Second Uprising",
- another Palestine Evening, 2009: Film + talk on the Norman Finkelstein book on Israel and Palestine.
LALIT and Cassam Uteem, former President of the Republic, jointly organized a vigil at the Municipality of Port Louis against the Israeli bombardment of the Lebanon in 2006. This made for a very broad front, but with no concessions on the issues.
LALIT participated in a demonstration against the Gaza bombing, Jan 2009. Our sustained work against Israeli aggression on Palestine contributed to causing the Mauritian Government to suspend its diplomatic links with Israel at the time of the bombardment of Gaza, even if only temporarily.
LALIT launched a successful international petition to get the Diego Garcia base closed, and the country re-united, and for the right of return for Chagossians.
LALIT has recently launched a new international move (with signatures from all over the world) for the Mauritian Foreign Affairs Minister to get the UN Atomic Energy Agency to come and do inspections on Diego Garcia, now that the Pelindaba Treaty has finally come into force in late 2009, following on a previous one to put pressure (again through petitions from abroad) on Government to put the issue on the Agenda for a United Nations General Assembly Resolution to send the sovereignty dispute to the ICJ at the Hague.
Some of the Articles by LALIT members in international publications:
LINKS, in Australia, Ram Seegobin's article on our work for an economic alternative, during an election campaign.
Red Pepper, UK 2008, article on Diego Garcia by Lindsey Collen.
Bertrand Russell Foundation's monthly booklet, The Spokesman, article by Lindsey Collen and Ragini Kistnasamy, on Diego Garcia, 2007
Electronic Magazine, Pambazuka in South Africa on Economic Alternative 2006, by Alain Ah-Vee, Ram and Lindsey on "LALIT's campaign for an economic alternative".
Article by Lindsey Collen on August 79 Strike Movement, for Direct Action, Australian Newspaper of RSP, 2009
Many of our website visitors, are from abroad. This is a new form of link.
During the past year, we have started a process of re-preparing our international bilateral links with other parties similar to ours.