Fanny Rengasammy, the host, launched the Ki Nouvo Moris broadcast of 12 July 2021 by reminding us that this Monday evening programme is a production of Rising Ocean and an extension of Lasanble Solider. The theme of that week was the responsibility of eco-socialist leftists in the vision of a new Mauritius and the questioning of a society, of a system that is no longer working and the building of a new Mauritius.
Historical background of the eco-socialist left-wing in Mauritius
Ashok Subron recalled that the Mauritian economy was built on slavery and illustrated the terms « left-wing » and « right-wing », with the example of those who were for and against the abolition of slavery. He then mentioned Indentured Labourers and the period that followed;
Socialist values, carrying the values of labour, in opposition to capital. The Manifesto for the working-class by the then Labour Party, which came out in February 1936 is a left-wing idea. It propounded the idea that the working class must have a say and he reminded us that before only the wealthy could vote at that time.
Secondly, he spoke about the trade union movement that followed after the birth of the Labour Party, the 1937-1938 dock strike, the emergence of the left and democratic emancipation;
The right did not want universal suffrage. The expression “to leave a razor blade in monkeys hands” was used. However, independence is proof that the rightists were not in the lead.
He detailed the left-wing trend of thought that framed social and political emancipation and spoke of the events that marked the post-independence period. He alluded to the birth of the MMM;
At that time a decision was taken to freeze the wages of all port workers just after independence and it was the first movement that rose with the support of the MMM (Mouvement Militant Mauricien). They won this fight by getting a 2% salary increase. The movement of workers in the transport, sugar industry and various other sectors began to get organised and this is what became the backbone of the MMM and also the GWF (General Workers Federation).
Thirdly, he listed the values carried by the movements born in the early 1970s which was about an economy that serves the interest of the masses and not of an elite, among others ;
The socialist values are still present in Mauritius and our society carries these values by virtue of its history. There is a resurgence of right-wing forces; this explains to a large extent the de-politisation of young people. I understand the new generation, the relevance of their questions.
Overview of Veena’s pathway
Veena shared how May 75 has given women courage and taught them to make choices such as how many children they want to have and when they wanted to get married. She explained how with free education, many girls were able to go to school and be literate before leaping into the past to recall her memories of May 75;
“We often talk about May 75 but we forget to mention that it was the International Women’s Year. I was approximately in Form 4 at school and at that time Mauritius there were a number of debate forums as independence was recently proclaimed. I especially remember the debates on abortion and demand for its legalisation. At that time many poor women died because they had illegal abortions. This is what made me join the women’s liberation movement, I knew the importance of reproductive rights.”
For instance, she recalled the celebration of The International Day of Action for Women’s
Health on the 28th of May and deplored that abortion is still a claim in Mauritius. Moreover, she mentioned the struggle and the achievements concerning the recognition of the Mauritian Creole language before enumerating all the progress made through the left-wing women movements; the law against domestic violence, protection orders amongst others but women are still suffering;
We have to see how we can move forward politically because there are many barriers and violence still exists on many levels.
Affirming the eco-socialist position
Ashok began with the denial of climate change by some heads of state while signs of extreme weather conditions are present in many parts of the world.
The data from the UN, conferences of parties science panel, the IPCC, has analysed the state of the planet’s ecology. The social, economic and political system has led humanity into a tipping point where if we do not act in time, it will be too late. The damage must be stopped.
He is convinced that it is necessary to recognise in order to be able to act that the model of the economic and social system that was developed under colonisation has undergone “The Great Acceleration” and that we have tipped over into a new era. In addition to this, he spoke of geology, referring to the Holocene and the Anthropocene, as geological period to emphasize that to understand this change, it is necessary to accept that it is a geological and not a sociological change;
If we want to live in a better society we cannot ignore the habitat in which that society is, the Earth. Socialist movements such as Rezistans have drawn from the socialist foundation to bring out the emergency of placing society, human beings within the framework of the planet’s ecological balance for it is the economy that is currently the focus.
The butterfly symbol and climate change
Ashok commented on Rezistans’ deliberate choice of the butterfly emblem in 2014;
Colonialism has detached people from nature and this detachment is accelerating. The butterfly symbol represents the importance attached to life, to biodiversity. I saw in a grade 5 textbook that man is being separated from the natural beings, while we humans are part of nature.
He also discussed how environmentalist thinking should have a red and a green dimension to it;
The countries that have been most responsible for the destruction of the ecosystem will not be the first to suffer the consequences, which is not the case for countries from the South. Local elites tend to summarise ecology as simple daily little gestures, whereas it is much more profound and structural. We have to take into consideration that our island is deeply affected by climate change.
Likewise, Veena later detailed examples of extreme climate conditions around the world and cited Bill Gates and his fake solutions to climate change and the failure of this model.
Ashok suggested that there is a need to review the tourism economic model as we are in a time of crisis where we cannot return back to pre-covid time.
Rethinking everything is essential but the leaders are not doing it and it is the new generation that is suffering. Since 11 July we have started to learn lessons. There is privatization of democracy and money is deciding. Marching in the streets once will not be enough, that is not the way to bring about change.
Accordingly, he advised the organisation of a social project and stressed the need for humility because there are many things that we do not necessarily know.
The difficulties faced by left-wing activists with the social and ecological crisis
Veena shared that the biggest challenge is that the government does not hear our voices and that despite the signing of several environmental conventions, the « development » model remains unchanged. She listed the places where wetlands are present and spoke about the destruction of the habitat of migratory birds.
We need to contribute to preserving the ecosystem and living in harmony, and the concepts for this vary from country to country. Our way of living is connected and interconnected like rivers and mountains. Education is the tool of liberation and it is our weapon.
She reiterated the importance of preserving life today while many place profit at the expense of life and she referred to the role of women in agriculture;
We have realised all the knowledge that women have with the Covid pandemic and a lot of knowledge is lost. Our responsibility is to build movements together with other movements. We must join together for a New Mauritius to exist in harmony with ecology.
Veena’s vision of the future
She is quite optimistic about the future when she hears the words of Maryam Sandooyea, a young activist and expressed her will and confidence for commitment. Furthermore, she shed light on the fact that Mauritius should award medals to women and mothers so that the aspect of the care economy is finally recognised and renumerated
In the last year, I have seen that many women, with the Wakashio, this ecological disaster, still have the courage to stand up, to claim, to militate. Alone we can’t do it, but together we can. We must join forces.
Significantly, she underlined the need to build a force for change because she believes that the Government will continue business as usual;
An injury to one is an injury to all – Everything happening can also happen to us tomorrow; we are in one global order.
Are we in a transition phase where social justice awareness is emerging?
Ashok reckoned that this is already in motion despite all contradictions and difficulties and made it clear that we are in a unique period of human history with the global health crisis and the looming ecological crisis.
The economic model has run out of steam and Mauritius is one of the most backward countries in Africa because of its dependence. People do not know what tomorrow will be made of; there is constant anxiety and stress. These are the socio-economic consequences and others will follow.
He then detailed the three levels on which the responsibilities of the left-wing lie; the mobilisation based on immediate demands for the survival of the population, the finding of ways to start building and living what we are aiming to achieve and the political project for the country including the debate on a new constitution;
We have to attack the root and that is the future: the change of the constitution. Our constitution must recognise natures’ right.
Ashok answered viewer’s question about the actions which will follow if no solutions are found even if the population protest in the streets, by citing the third level he listed above and by inviting all those who want to share ideas about a new constitution to contact Rezistans ek Alternativ.
Georges Legallant on the terms ‘left-wing and right wing’
Georges explained that the terminology « left-wing » dates back to the French revolution as those opposed to the king veto’s privilege sat to the left of the chair in parliament whilst those in favour of the veto privilege sat on its right.
- The supremacy of the King was questioned; where was the people’s sovereignty? Everything was in the King’s interest. So there was a division: the pro-monarchy placed themselves by the King’s right side and the others went on the left. This was when this curve was dug, where the terminology of the “left-wing” and the “right-wing” was first used.
He further claimed that till now this politic position to defend the elite versus the people still exists and this defines a rightwing or leftwing position. He illustrated his words with the case of Covid-19 where only 2 or 3 people sat down to take decisions and the people were not invited to the table. With this in mind, he raised the question of the duty of the left-wing activists;
- The world is moving towards the right-wing and we must defend the important, simple, and basic values for people to live a better life. We have to question those values, raise an understanding, and interest in debating those subjects. The two duties of a leftist activist are: pedagogical and educational work.
Likewise, he argued that since there are no left-wing media per se in Mauritius, Rising Ocean is playing a key role. Raising consciousness and forcing the leaders to include our participation in this world are essential parts of the duty of a leftist activist, alongside defending the working class.
Michel Chiffone from Rezistans Ek Alternativ
A left-wing activist’s duty
Michel explained that the left-wing has a social vision and that Rezistans ek Alternativ follows an eco-socialist trend which opposes capitalism;
- An activist has to say that he is a leftist and his duty is to challenge preconceived ideas, the dominant ideologies, to question the way the country is organised, the exploitation of human and natural resources and, to restore this balance.
He further argued that this affirmation will put emphasis on differentiation and let people see what we are proposing.
He also stressed the importance of not confusing the ideology represented by the left-wing with what Mauritius has had for 50 years. He claimed that although main stream parties bear socialist names, they rule over the country with a right-wing ideology.
- Our responsibility is to find faults in the system, to expose the contradictions, to bring the truth, to clarify things so that we do not cross lines, to bring understanding about the past in order to interpret the present and prepare the future.
Mariam Sandooyea from Fridays for Future
Mariam stated that Fridays for Future movement is not associated with any political party and that they are rather asking for a radical change since we are living in a world where the future is not at all certain.
She added that the responsibility of the leftists is to ensure that the government puts the interest of the people before its own interest and that there is a great lack of transparency on the part of the leaders;
Even though our views are not mainstream, it is important to continue this struggle because we are facing many crises. For example, the ecological crisis must be linked to the social crisis; if hotels are built on wetlands, the area will be more prone to flooding. This creates social injustice, the people at the bottom of the ladder will suffer the most.
The inclusion of people with disability was also raised by her. The role of the left is to drive the Government to take action. The left-wing must continue to defend values and help society as it can.