The Tentacles of Finance

Mauritius Times 60 Years

By Jay Narain Roy

Financial power has many visible and invisible strings. It is patent of the system, and is reminiscent of the Tsaritsa Alix and Rasputin dancing to the tune of the German Kaiser or of Hitler’s Quislings. It is awe, patronage, stare, soft-patting, expectation of benevolence and such other matters by which those who have come to exert influence and pressure on the have-nots. The influence grips the heart and the mind and come to cast a spell on their thought and feeling and ultimately to play with the life and living of the multitude.

Employment sustains life but the employment of the bulk of the people lies at the entire mercy of the financial combine. Although salaries and wages swallow up three-fourth of the revenues, less than 20,000 are employed by the State. Unemployment is represented by one and a half times this number. The rest of the population must seek work with private enterprises or go without food. More than 10% of the people are unemployed, about 10% are either under-employed or under irregular, fitful and sporadic employment or have just an apology of employment.

Those who are supposed to be fully employed cannot, even with the best of effort and goodwill, make enough to provide the five essentials to their family. Those who have enough have no security of tenure or any guaranteed prop for their old age. For every available job there are dozens longing to manoeuvre or scramble.

The spectre of hunger looms large in what appears to be a prosperous country.

It is in the interest of capitalism to perpetuate this position, to undo all assertive strength from the masses. Any demonstration or attempt at the expression of speech, action, association or manifestation is sternly frowned at, and it is obvious that this system leads to the thriving of a legion of spies, eavesdroppers, informers, toadies and flunkies on the vices of favouritism, racialism. nepotism, etc. Armed with this stout and unassailable position, insult, dismissals for paltry reasons, evictions, immorality, trespass and all similar sadistic practices are callously perpetuated every day. Both the laws and the authorities look at all this in confounded helplessness.

This is the effect of the system on the life of the average Mauritian. There are five agencies by which the progress of country is ensured: the Parties, the Trade Unions, the Cooperative Movement, the Press and the religious organisations. It will be interesting to study the stranglehold of finance on some of these agencies. This is in addition to the grip on the administration of this country. The sum total of the effect is that this country is being twisted, bundled, cautiously wrapped, gaudily labelled and handled to the financial magnates as a friendly gift. This just at a time when drums are beating and trumpets are dinning in the proud proclaim of the establishment of Responsible Government in Mauritius. The art of make-believe has been developed to such finesse and casuistry that even some people pretending to be leaders are taken in without in the least suspecting that they are thus driving the nail in the coffin of the people of their country, the every people who have sacrificed so much to boost them up to their dizzy heights.

We have pointedly asked the opposite Party to prove that it does not draw large sums from secret funds of the Tories to fight the workers of the country, and it has never had courage to deny it. In fact, it is known that fantastic amounts are spent to fight the Labour candidates. Whoever wishes to fight Labour is apt to become a beneficiary. Most office-bearers in the Party draw far too much money than their intrinsic worth appears to warrant. Although any intelligent person can see the utter stupidity of people who thus open out their purse and although most of the money is squandered without any effective good for the cause they want to serve, the fact remains that the tentacles are spread with the sole idea of creating confusion in politics. It is also known that on private concerns this Party enjoys special favours and privileges, and that for no earthly reason partisans and sympathisers of the Labour Party are harassed to an inhuman degree. Thousand and one forms of direct and indirect pressure are brought to bear on people to change their political opinion, and if pressure and persuasion do not create any effect other more drastic measures are resorted to without any compunction.

In some quarters, money is placed first and then the community. The idea of morality, justice, fairness or even religion play a very insignificant part. The rapacity to grab everything without scruple and the desire of building up the welfare of the community overrides all national considerations. It is an incorrigible outlook and nothing has been able to bring the least change. They would rather spend more to victimise the man than to give him his due. They would rather sink thousands on lawyers and courts than pay a few hundred on his legitimate rights. Mixed with the economic issues is the camouflaged perpetuation of the colour bar and the silly idea of the superiority of the White race, and this more than anything else hampers the growth of a Mauritian harmony.

Just like that parties, some trade unions are said to derive funds from secret sources, and membership fees are even said to be paid to boost up puppet Unions to dodge the law and to keep the genuine Unions at bay. It becomes too apparent when it is realised that these puppet Unions are often made to sign dictated terms, which, in the final analysis, appear to undercut the rights of the workers by reducing them by millions.

In smaller countries, cooperation is the basic economic movement that can buttress the life of the average man. By either thrift, savings, cooperative production, marketing and stores or small industries, the man has been able to supplement his wages and to be able to cope with contingencies with the result that it is not necessary to live from hand to mouth in perpetual wretchedness. If cooperation has not made any progress in these or more progress in providing credit facilities, it is just because it has to hurt against the solid financial phalanx of the combines. Money-lending itself has become a flourishing business and it has many aspects from forced mortgage and seizure to usuries running into forms that are neither moral nor human. it is not possible in this unholy atmosphere for cooperation to make any headway.

The underpaid worker must, of necessity, find something more to make up his family budget, He wants fodder to rear animals, land to grow odd crops; capital to set up something, a plot of land to build a football ground or to improve social services or his amenities; facilities to provide himself with some fish or shrimps or leafy vegetables; work for extra revenues; security and pensions. Everywhere he has to hurt against the stout phalanx of finance and he cannot, with the best of wills and courage, extricate himself from the many entanglements spread round him. The distilleries produce rum from molasses, and shops go on serving clandestinely after closing hours and tempt him to get drunk and he comes to take to an unregulated life, and crimes and morality begin to rear their ugly heads. Family life is wrecked, and children dreading the flux and influx of in-laws either become famished and anemic or take to a life that take them from Probation to Borstal to long terms of imprisonment. The gallows or the grave yawn before them before they have tasted the sweets of life.

Frustrated in his economic salvation, the man wishes sometimes to take cover under the protection of law to find that the Police and Judicial Departments even today retain a high percentage of the same class in their services, and he is no little alarmed to see that this class has more than a strangling grip upon the social services of the country. He may wish to seek the protection of religion. In a country which has one wealthy section, and the others looking up to it, it also invariably takes the position of commanding religion and morality. The rich have special privileges, special pews, special services for special prices and very often the clergy hang to them for some odd favours or patronage. In this way, in capitalist countries the church (and also the mosque and temple) becomes an obsequious servant of the masters who invariably call for the tune.

I consider that more heinous than the grip of finance on economic political, social and moral affairs is the stranglehold on the intellect. It does engender a passivity in the brain, a spirit of complaisant subjectivity of treatment, and the mind goes to sleep in a kind of Elysium of the academic cloud. It is a negation of life. People seem to shirk discussing living subjects that affect our country and the welfare of the inhabitants in order not to be embroiled into controversies, and ultimately not to be in the bad books of the masters. The passive, airy attitude of most of our front-rank journalists is shockingly discomforting when we visualise the future of our country.

Such is indeed the grip that the tentacles of finance has spread on all sides of Mauritian life into a stranglehold from which progress seems to have become much cry and little wool.

5th Year No 225
Friday 28th November, 1958

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