A Good Book

Mauritius Times – 60 Years

By Indra Nath

The Editor of Renouveau deserves thanks for ‘Vers Une Entité Mauricienne’, a book which contains the speeches of the fifteen orators from the five sections of our population made last year at Rose Hill, Curepipe and Port Louis. Three members, including a girl, from each of the sections – the French, the Coloured, the Chinese, the Muslims, and the Hindus – took part in three forums organised by the 2nd Tamil Scouts and the J. I. C. of Rose-Hill. That the book fulfils a long-felt need, is certain and that it will bring our people closer, is expected. The introduction is written by R. P. Henri Souchon, who has spared no pains in giving an impressive account of the very formation and the various activities of the movement of ‘Entité Mauricienne.’ I appreciate the very concept of Mauritian Unity and I know that our people do take greater interest in it. On the 23rd Instant a forum was organised at Rose-Hill and, in the audience, I found people from all sections of our population. Then on the 24th instant this question cropped up in the Brains’ Trust held at the British Council. Hon. Beejadhur, Hon. Walter and Hon. Wilson spoke on it to the satisfaction of all.

I find some of the speeches make an interesting reading. The contribution of the Hindu friends is substantial. One of them has traced the history of the Hindu community and explains its concept of ‘Entité Mauricienne’ and its contribution to it. He believes in Mauritian Unity, but stresses on the point that all communities should be given equal rights, no culture be considered inferior, no religion be ridiculed. He further says that politics should not be turned into communal strife and people should learn or appreciate another’s culture, religion, and language. But do we find cultural or religious equality? He answers: “I regret to have to say that in Mauritius we tend to think that one culture is inferior to another.” Another one believes that fanaticism in religion is doing greater harm to Mauritian unity. But what is Mauritian unity? One of them says: “My concept of ‘Entité Mauricienne’ is therefore this: l visualize a Mauritian society where all religions, all languages and all cultures will flourish side by side.”

The views of the French friends are good. They have shown a spirit of mutual understanding and one of them deplores the fact that the French have maintained their superiority. This is bad. The sooner it is given up the better. In fact, there are many things which can bring us closer, if we show some appreciation and tolerance. One of them says: “Les années que j’ai passées au Collège Royal m’ont permis de connaître la mentalité et la pensée des diverses communautés de l’île. Je me suis familiarisé avec leurs coutumes, et en ayant pour camarades des écoliers qui n’étaient pas de ma communauté, j’ai compris que j’avais plus en commun avec eux qu’avec des petits Français.” I am persuaded that he has been very frank. I wish other friends could do the same.

The Coloured friends are of opinion that culture, religion, and language have separated us. They are one in condemning anything which tends to divide the people. One of them believes that his community is well-placed to bring about Mauritian unity, but he does not hesitate to say that French should be our common language. I gave my opinion as regards language in my last article. I believe that if French is the common language, we shall be divided. I am in favour of English. Ours is a British colony and in the light of our multi-racial population, I think English should remain our common language. This will help further the cause of Mauritian unity. My friend is a young promising scholar. He can be of great help to the country. I wish he could think wisely of our language problem. It should be our duty to try to come to a meeting point.

The Muslim friends have made some noteworthy remarks. One of them has traced the history of his community. He thinks that multi-racial associations can help the cause of Mauritian Entity. This is logic. How can we think of unity if we are separated on racial, religious and cultural grounds? He further insists that all the labourers should have security of service and they should get good pay. This point is very important. So long this is not done, the workers won’t feel that they are the members of the Mauritian Community. Besides, there must be mutual appreciation of all cultures. One of them has rightly said: “Ce n’est que lorsque nous essayerons tous de connaître de respecter les coutumes, les cultures, les religions qui ne sont pas les nôtres que nous pourrons marcher vers ‘Une Entité Mauricienne’…” This is what we should do. Another one has pointed out colour and social prejudices. There is no denying the fact that these things do exist. A section of the population should stop thinking that they are or should be more privileged and the differences which separate the rich and the poor should be removed.

The Chinese friends have suggested many things. One of them has traced the history of his community and has stressed its contribution to Mauritian life. He advocates mutual understanding and tolerance and suggests that civics should be taught in our schools. I agree with him. As long as this is not done our children will lack social behaviour. All children should be instructed to respect our cultures and religions. Another one is of opinion that there should be good distribution of wealth. This is the key to ‘Entité Mauricienne’. If one section of the population is exploited, we must not think of Mauritian Unity.

6th Year – No 272
Friday 30th October, 1959

Help the Movement for Colonial Freedom

By Fenner Brockway

The Conservative victory in the general election is a serious blow to us and to the colonial peoples. All members and affiliates of the Movement for Colonial Freedom (MCF) will realise the great importance of intensifying our work. We have to be sure that our activity gets results, so that our opposition to Tory misrule in the colonies effectively blunts their attack on the colonial people and forces them to reverse their policies. This is a big job. It means that there must be unified and energetic campaigning by all the progressive forces in this country.

The policies and activities of the Labour Party are particularly important. Many of us will hope that the Labour Party, as the largest Opposition party, will not only oppose Tory misrule in the House of Commons (where the large Tory majority will mean that the fight cannot be decisive), but should also take the fight against Tory colonial policy into the country — into the towns and villages, into the streets, and even on to the doorsteps and sitting-rooms of the public.

This sort of campaigning cannot be carried out on the colonial question in isolation. It is not only that the attention of the public cannot be aroused effectively even by the most massive separate campaign; the attack on colonialism inevitably raises, by chain-reaction, the other aspects of imperialism at home and abroad, of which colonialism is but one.

For instance, since so many colonies are used as military naval and air bases, colonial policy is obviously bound up with Defence policy: British support for NATO, SEATO and the Baghdad Pact brings colonial policy right into the centre of the issues of Defence which, in turn, is only part of British foreign policy generally.

Similarly, the present “prosperity” (which the latest figures in “National Income and Expenditure 1959” show to be a modest rise, averaging 20% in real incomes for most people over the last 9 years) is largely built on the ‘luck’ of cheap import prices, which have hit the colonies and other underdeveloped countries hard, and which will lessen their capacity to buy British goods in the future. Whereas the Labour Party was right to stress, in its colonial policy, that Britain’s future depends on the raising of living standards in the underdeveloped countries, the fact is that living standards are still falling back in these countries.

Automation and other technical changes, which together amount to a new Industrial Revolution, are inevitably going, in the next few years, to present an enormous problem. If production does not increase rapidly, many people will become unemployed; but if production does increase rapidly, who will buy the increased volume of goods? Will the Tory “solution” be, as in America, to pile up even more armaments?

The real solution must include both devoting more of this increased production to increasing the living standards of the British people, particularly of the poorer sections, and to raising the living standards of the millions in the underdeveloped countries, so that these people can increase their purchasing power. In fact, the two hand in hand. Thus, the attack on colonialism can only be developed to its maximum as part of a general attack on capitalism and imperialism.

For the MCF, as an organisation, our responsibility is to intensify our work in the colonial field, linking our efforts to the efforts of others in the wider movement wherever possible, in order to provide them with the most potent “ammunition” on the colonial question. In this way, we shall best fulfil our dual responsibility to the peoples of the colonial and underdeveloped countries and to the British people.

6th Year – No 273
Friday 6th November, 1959

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