The Struggle for Freedom

ssr8_8.jpg (21213 bytes) After winning the 1948 elections, the Labour Party, the only national party of those days, broadly representative of the workers in urban and rural areas, with a clear-cut Socialist agenda, was reshaped under a triumvirate leadership of Ramgoolam, Rozemont and Seeneevassen.

But the governor negated the electoral results by nominating a number of Conservatives to outweigh the popular mandate. The Labour Party pushed forward with its progressive agenda and under the guidance of Ramgoolam spearheaded a number of socialist measures, including opening of new schools, the setting up of the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund, the granting of school meals and old age pensions and the need for further constitutional changes. Thus on December 12,1952, Dr Ramgoolam tabled a motion seeking introduction of universal suffrage and responsible government.

A convinced Fabian socialist and democrat who believed in the value of striking at the opportune time, Dr Ramgoolam was in no hurry to press forward for independence in the wake of many African countries. He preferred to move forward, step by step, building up on strong foundations, establishing solid structures and moving forward gradually and inexorably towards independence on sure feet. He knew that his Fabian method required a lot of time on the principle of gradualism and that sometimes the people were impatient for changes. The upshot was that Mauritius won its independence much later than most African countries but he wanted to make sure that the country had had enough time to lay the groundwork to allow the democratic seeds to grow. History was to prove him right in that most of the countries which had hurriedly won their independence in the early 1960’s had gone through turbulence and yielded to autocracy or military rule.

Once more, in the 1953 elections, the Labour Party won by an overwhelming majority against the Ralliement Mauricien to death. By now, Ramgoolam was building around himself a solid core of capable leaders, including Guy Rozemont, Renganaden Seeneevassen, Dr Edgar Millien, Guy Forget, Raymond Rault, Aunauth Beejadhur, Harilal Vaghjee, Veerasamy Ringadoo, Satcam Boolell. But the governor packed the Council with nominees who infuriated the voters. However, through the system of Liaison Officers, Dr Ramgoolam became the Liaison Officer for education, a post in which he relished as he had always believed that the only way to build a modern society on solid foundation and in a long-term perspective, establish democracy and socialism was through educating the people, in a long-term perspective.

By Anand Mulloo 15.9.98