Mauritius Times – 60 Years
We once remarked that future historians of Mauritius would be unable to ignore the role of NMU. In the affairs of Mauritius especially during the period 1949-1958 which is certainly one of the most critical periods. That period, a transitional one, witnessed the transfer of power, though to a limited extent, from the minority to the majority and NMU comes into the picture as the trump card of the reactionaries in their desperate attempt to perpetuate the status quo. For about ten years NMU held the centre of our political stage. Everybody, whetherfriend or foe, had to pay attention to his “Opinions du Jour”.
Lately NMU had been heard less and less. It was due to illness but it appeared also that he had given up the struggle. But it was not so. He is out again now to continue his struggle but this time it is likely that his campaign is going to attract little attention. What can have been the cause of his decline? Now that NMU is at the end of his tether it is interesting to appraise his oeuvre and recall and remember the techniques he used.
Fenner Brockway was a British socialist politician, humanist campaigner and anti-war activist
Few contemporary public men have sustained their cause with such persistence and fanaticism as NMU. After the general election of 1948 when the capitalists found that power had slipped out of their hands, they called for him from France, to take over the direction of Le Cernéen. NMU unleashed the most formidable campaign of vilification against the Labour Party, theHinducommunity and India. Day in and dayout he hammered the alleged Hinduperil so much so that he succeeded in alienating the Muslim community and a large section of the Coloured community against the Hindu community.
In March 1954, under the auspicesof the Centre International de Documentation et d’idéeshe started a bulletin called a Commentary on Politics and Economicsin Mauritius. Its existence was surrounded with great secrecy until we exposed it.Explaining the objects of the CIDIbulletin he complained that the actionofpolitical agitators,inCounciland elsewhere, had neverbeen curbed.
The bulletin was meant to draw the attention of the British Government “tosituation which required itsenergetic intervention”. The editor revealed thatthe bulletin was not only sent to Officials of the Colonial Office, but also to peopleprominent in public affairs in Britain, South Africa,Australia andthe USAwho were likely to be interested in the future of Mauritius and who, in the opinionof the editor, would make known their real anxieties. It was published in twoeditions —English and French. About 400 copies were printed and despatched tovarious people and organizations by airmail. Distorted and unreliable news werethe highlightsof the bulletin.
NMU’s campaign of vilification produced the contrary effect.It proppedup the labourites and shook the Hindus from their lethargy. He indirectly andunconsciously paved the way for Hindu unity and responsible government. Andnow that Responsible Government is imminent, NMU, in his quixotic way goesanew to war. He has given the signal of another campaign. While the PartiMauricien, the authoritative organization of the Conservative elements, declarethat it will fight the forthcoming election, NMU advocates boycotting. Hisapproach to our problems and his tacticshaven’tchanged much.The onlydifference now is that he cautiously avoids offending the religious susceptibilities ofthe Hindus and does not indulge in wholesale vilification of his opponents.
His ruthlessness apart, NMU remains one of our greatest propagandists. In “Les deux Voies” of the 8th instant, he outlines his new”dynamic method of propaganda”. This time he is decided to enlist the support of the foreign press and some Conservative MPs in London. And so, we shall have the pleasure to watch another tragicomedy which will be re-enacted after a long intermission. Be thatas it may, NMU is on the decline and the pity of it is that he hasn’t yet realisedthat he has been fighting the devil’s case all the time.
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Many of us may not be aware that there is in London a team of selfless andindomitable socialists who have the cause of Mauritian workers at heart.It is indeed difficult to draw up a complete list of them all but few are those whomust not have heard of John Hatch, Lady Hilda Sylwyn Clarke, James Johnson andFenner Brockway. Peter Ibbotson needs no mention: his name is a householdword.
What our friends individually or collectively have done and are doing to helpus in our political struggle is no secret. But here Fenner Brockway is more widely-known.
This is natural because we were fortunate enough to have Fenner with us for eight days in September 1955. His stay amongst us did much to strengthen our relations with the British Labour Party. Moreover, Fenner got the opportunityof collecting some first-hand information about our problems.
Why, people are sometimes apt to ask, should Fenner get himself so muchinvolvedinmatters not necessarily his personal concern? Why should heclamour so much for the equality of races? The answer to these questions arethe key to his great personality. He is a humanitarian to the core and a democratpar excellence. He has spent a whole life struggling for the uplift of the oppressedwhether in the Metropolis or in the colonies. Fenner will be 70 in November. Weare now informed that the Movement for Colonial Freedom, of which Fenner is theChairman, will celebrate Fenner’s 70th birth anniversary in a befitting manner. Here is a golden opportunity for Mauritian socialists to express their gratitude toFenner. We intend sending Fenner a birthday gift. Can we expect some help from our readers and all those who feel for Fenner?
5th Year – No 205
Friday 11th July, 1958
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 16 September 2022
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