Looking Backward

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Peter Ibbotson

It is four years since the Mauritius Times first appeared, originally as a two-page single sheet; a feuilleton indeed. Now it is a firmly-established eight-page paper, which has amply proved the need in Mauritius for a paper in English.

My first contribution to the infant Times was on October 23rd, 1954, when in a letter to the Editor I crossed swords (not for the last time!) with NMU. I did not contribute again until December 4: in fact, in the 45 weeks of the paper’s life, l contributed but 14 articles. Not until July 1, 1955, did my (almost weekly) series of regular articles begin in earnest. Altogether I have written over 160 articles for the Mauritius Times; I cannot say exactly how many, because I haven’t now got copies of them all.

These articles have covered a wide variety of topics. Sometimes I have dealt with a subject of interest arising in another colony — e.g., the resemblance between Barbados and Mauritius; the constitutional development in Trinidad. Sometimes I have described some British practice or institution, e.g., the organisation of the British police, the payment of rates, secondary school selection, and control of private schools. I have reported meetings, such as when the 1955 constitutional delegation came to London, or when Mr Anderson spoke to the Students’ Union. Or, most often, I have commented on many an aspect of the Mauritian political or social scene. l have dealt with the Education Department, the Police Report, the cement project, the Five-year Plan, various commissions, and many Government proposals. Many people in Mauritius have wondered if I really do live in London — l can assure them that indeed I do. As to how I have so great a knowledge of Mauritius and its affairs (and I have been asked about this by many people in London) — well, that is a (shall we say) trade secret.

Whatever I have written, I have tried to help the people of Mauritius. I have tried to show them how some practice current in Mauritius might perhaps be better modelled on the British plan; or I have criticised defects in Government departments with a view to securing greater efficiency, especially where it appears that such defects have gone on for years. Everything I have written, in fact, I have written as a Socialist, striving for a better world for my fellow-men. l have written as a Socialist, l repeat; not as a pseudo-socialist of the type who leaves the Labour Party for the Parti Mauricien and thinks he will still be able to work for socialism as a member of the capitalists’ party. Nor as the demagogic socialists such as we find in this or that party, active on behalf of the underdog yet dissipating their energies and becoming discredited by continually making complaints which on investigation prove unfounded.

No, I write as a democratic Socialist; and the Mauritius Times has lived four years as a democratic Socialist newspaper. There is no reason why it should not live for many more years as just that. New dailies are springing up or are mooted, but the Mauritius Times has a well-established place in the political and journalistic life of Mauritius, and need fear no competition from the news-sheets being put out by disaffected minorities or racist groupings.

Like me, the Mauritius Times stands for democratic Socialism. It occurs to me that it may be useful if I re-state the beliefs of the democratic Socialist. Then readers will know plainly, and unequivocally just what I do stand for. Therefore, I may entitle my next four paragraphs:

The creed of the Democratic Socialist

The democratic Socialist believes that every man, woman and child has intrinsic worth as an individual human being, and is entitled to social justice as a member of the community. He recognises that while human beings have a common heritage, they are essentially individuals, exhibiting countless varieties of behaviour and quality, partly by reason of heredity, mainly because of environmental influences. To each, he believes, should be accorded as far as is possible equality of opportunity for self-fulfillment.

He believes that every individual finds his most complete self-fulfilment and satisfaction in social living, sustained by and helping to sustain a community in which he enjoys equal rights and has equal responsibilities of citizenship. He believes that service to the community rather than greed for power or wealth is the best incentive to creative effort; that co-operation is better than self-seeking competition; and that the strong should help the weak.

These ideals are difficult to realise in a social system which has developed under the influence of aristocratic rather than democratic principles — a social system in which it is assumed that there are the “best people” (the Quality) who should own, manage, and live well, and the “common people” (the Commonalty) who should live frugally because they are incapable of appreciating the best things in life and should be managed; a social system, moreover, in which it is assumed that the virtues of the Quality are handed down from father to son so that society consists of two hereditary classes.

Since the early training of a child does much to determine how he will think and act in later life, democratic socialists attach immense importance to education. While the system of education reflects in large measure the social philosophy of the times, it can itself be a profoundly important instrument for progressive change, since it can prepare the child of today for social living in the world of tomorrow.

The foregoing is the creed, briefly, of the democratic Socialist. It is what I stand for. It Is what the Mauritius Times stands for. It is also what the Mauritius Labour Party, like Labour Parties the world over, stands for. In a later article I will relate the various items of the creed to conditions in present-day Mauritius; for now. I will say only that the application of the creed to, and its full implementation in, Mauritius would cause a social upheaval.

Which is, of course, what Mauritius needs. The Few have too long held political and or economic domination over the Many; the application of democratic principles to Mauritius is long overdue.

5th Year No 210
Friday 15th August, 1958

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