In ‘The Torch of Freedom’ it is written by Mr James Michel, that the year 1964 was a momentous one in the history of Seychelles, though at its outset conditions in the country were much as they had been for decades.
The Seychellois people, with the exception of a privileged few, were living in abject poverty and were subjected to all forms of exploitation. They had no rights as a people but only the duties of the colonized. The colonial machine was functioning well and to the satisfaction of those who ruled over us.
A rich minority, consisting of the land-owning and mercantile classes, joined the colonial masters in ruling over the exploited majority.
This exploited majority had no means of expression, although they were told that they were a free people living in a free country. They had no right to vote (a privilege reserved only for the land-owning and mercantile classes and British expatriates). They had no say in the running of their owning country.
The workers were not organized into any trade union movement, for this was something to be discouraged at all costs. Any form of unity among the workers would seriously threaten the functioning of the colonial machinery. The workers had to accept whatever their masters felt like giving them, they had no employment benefits such as annual paid leave, sick leave or free medical treatment.
Education was organized on a similar basis with only the children of the ruling classes getting access to a good education.
This situation suited the rich and their colonial masters as it guaranteed the domination by an elite of educated rich people over the toiling masses. This situation also ensured the prosperity of the minority as they continued to get richer and richer on the toil and sweat of the ordinary people.
To continue this enslavement, a paternalistic attitude was developed, which served as a kind of anesthetic. Our people were taught to be grateful for whatever the ‘master’ would give them and not to expect too much.
Our people were then living testimony of discrimination. It was against this background that in June 1964 that a young man of 28 returned to Seychelles after further studies abroad to dedicate his life to the Seychellois people’s cause.
This man was France Albert René. His aspirations were to unite and lead them to free their country from colonialism and to establish an egalitarian society.
So, in that month of June 1964 the Seychelles People’s United Party was formed and Mr France Albert René became its President. A man born of the people was thus entrusted with the leadership of the people’s party which was to become the main catalyst and kingpin of our struggle for total liberation.
No one will doubt the courage, determination and political dexterity required to stand up against the overwhelming odds mounted against the liberation movement by the established society.
Fortunately the people heard the call. They heard the bell of nationalism ringing in the distance. They saw the light of freedom shining ahead; and down the labyrinths of time they head the elated cries of victory. The battle was on…
In SPUP’s early policy statement it is written that the party will strive to create an equitable and progressive social order which will guarantee food, clothing and shelter and which will reflect a higher standard of living. This will involve the adoption of a socialist system in which all the development of the individual forms the basis of the development of all.
The talents and qualities of each individual must be directed towards the full development of the country, they energies of each bent towards the benefit of all.
The party aims at creating a system under which everyone contributes a fair share of effort according to his ability and reaps a fair amount of benefits created by the accumulated efforts of all. Within this framework of socialist welfare each individual will be able to develop fully because everyone will have an equal opportunity to do so.
To sum up, SPUP’s policy statement said that the real income of all types of workers must rise, that prices of goods must not over-leap wages that house rentals must not be beyond the means of all groups and that educational and cultural facilities must be available to all the people.