From the comrades of LALIT (Struggle) in Mauritius
Dear all in RED ANT,
As you meet to formalize your formation as an organization and on the occasion of your Socialist Education Conference at the end of August, we recognize the hope and the challenges of this shift from a publication to an organization, a shift that will coincide with your Conference.
Likewise, we in LALIT, on 4 April 1982, exactly 40 years ago this year, made a similar shift: we had, from November 1976 to that date been a monthly publication called Lalit de Klas (The Class Struggle) and we became the party called LALIT, the Struggle. During that earlier time, most of us, but not all, had been in a “tendency” in the Mouvement Militant Mauricien (MMM), a party that was, in fact, a broad front (at that time “left-wing”). Our tendency was informally called the “class struggle tendency” or the “working class in the vanguard tendency”, referring either to our monthly magazine or to a clause in the MMM’s party constitution that said, though the MMM represented three classes i.e. the working class, petty bourgeoisie and what they called the “middle-sized bourgeoisie”, it was the working class that was to remain in the vanguard.
What happened was the MMM leadership, from 1981, had made a double shift to the right: it began floating a “New Social Consensus” idea (consensus with the bourgeoisie itself, meaning to include the actual sugar oligarchs, not struggle against it) and also to shift away from the MMM’s original slogan, “class struggle not race struggle” (in Kreol lalit de klas pa lalit de ras) towards its new line, based more on “identity politics”. So, our tendency intentionally provoked an MMM delegates’ assembly, and put the issue up for debate and a vote. The MMM leadership threatened to resign if they lost, and since it was a couple of months before general elections and the MMM was, by then, very electoralist, we were in the minority.
So, we left and set up LALIT.
LALIT then supported the MMM in its general election alliance – but called for a vote on just 10 points in their program not on the entirety of the alliance’s program – and the alliance won all the seats in Parliament. With the MMM in power, within the next year, LALIT went from 7 branches to about 70.
The MMM and also its electoral alliance then had a huge fracture – slightly along rural v. urban lines, and many of our LALIT organizational gains were dragged back into this political fight, and within a year we had, again, shrunk to some 10 branches. Until now, 38 years later.
It has not been easy going.
We were founded as both a publication and as a party, in the hey-day of the upturn in 1976 – born of a massive student uprising and working class mobilization, and then becoming a party after a general strike movement in 1979-80 that we led, a mass women’s movement for liberation, and a movement against the illegal UK-USA occupation of part of Mauritius (Diego Garcia and the whole of Chagos), thus being born as a party out of a pre-revolutionary class consciousness.
But in reality, by 1982, it was already the only-just-beginning downturn that has worsened since then.
We were blessed with a kind of “extra time” – from the previous momentum of class struggle. So that, from 1996-1999, we managed to organize the entire fractured and warring trade union movement into a single entity with LALIT members being the “glue”, that was called the “All Workers Conference” which, as its name shows, was designed to be one-off Conference. What happened was the delegates of the unions present at the first Conference (All Workers functioned at the level of a few thousand work-site delegates) proposed a motion for a vote that the leadership organize another conference on such-and-such a date or thereabouts, and so they tied the hands of the leadership for just one more such Conference. And so on. In all there were ended up being some 18 Conferences.
It was a defensive struggle against neo-liberalism, against privatization, against capitalist globalization. And that has meant that we kept many past gains that should, given the objective balance of forces, have been lost. We have managed to hold on to important things like free universal health care and free education up to university level, universal old age and disabled people’s pensions, even subsidized basic food. We have so far prevented the privatisation of water, electricity, health and education. Telecom, however, has been privatized. And, of course, inroads and attempted inroads are constant from the bourgeoisie and its state.
Since then, from 2000 or so, we in LALIT have been in the mode of constantly insisting on linking defensive struggles with counter-offensive struggles. This has meant continually re-focussing on how to link these necessary defensive struggles with the need for keeping the aim of socialist revolution in sight, or how to link our program’s eminently supportable demands in our on-going campaigns, with our ultimate aim of working class control of the decisions involved, and ultimately socialism. Some of our main on-going campaigns include for food security and sovereignty, for more democracy and reining in the Executive branch of government, against police violence, for the mother-tongues Kreol and Bhojpuri, for women’s rights and emancipation, for the demilitarization and decolonization of Mauritius, against capitalist pollution and pillage, against war, for equality in education.
The Conference we, too, like you, will be holding this year – a six-day Conference on 14, 15 August and 1, 2, 3, 4 September – is part of this constant re-focussing on the class struggle, and on the need for revolution as we push forward with our campaigns.
Our Conference is titled “The Class Struggle, towards a socialist revolution: Let’s put our minds to work!” Here is the list of themes:
- What is the Class Struggle?
- What is the bourgeois State?
- How do the internationalist, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist struggles articulate with the class struggle?
- What is the difference between political strategy based on movements of “citizens”, “Mauritians”, “nationalist and patriotic currents”, and political strategy based on class?
- How does the struggle against patriarchy articulate with the class struggle?
- Existential threat for humanity: Environment in Marxist theory.
- The Revolution! (This will be a double session.)
- Socialism or Barbary – what it means today?
- What is a transitional program?
- What is a political cadre, in a socialist revolutionary party like LALIT?
All this to say, we know how important a phase you, at RED ANT, are in – as you pivot from publication to organization. And we wish you, just as we hope for ourselves in our Congress too, the best “winds” of working class struggle to give impetus to the movement of the boat that you are constructing as a collective, subjective decision, and we wish that your skills help you to make the best of even just “light breezes”, and to deal with “ill winds” and doldrums, too! Past struggles, if remembered, are a source of added momentum, too.
And of course, the contradictions in the system mean it is never, in any case, stable.
From all at LALIT on the Western starboard of the Indian Ocean to all at RED ANT on its Eastern starboard – we wish an increasingly united, international working class can mobilize to defeat the class of international, and imperialist, capitalists.
For LALIT, 11 July 2022