The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Advance of the Far Right in Guadeloupe and Martinique

Jun 22, 2022

The following article is translated from Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle), issue #225, the magazine of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the Trotskyist workers organization active in France.

For the first time, a candidate from the National Rally (RN) party, previously called the National Front (FN), the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, made it to the second round of the June 2022 legislative elections in Guadeloupe.

The candidate was the leader of the RN in Guadeloupe, Rody Tolassy, who ran in the third electoral district. Although he lost in the second round, he still achieved a very high total, with 47.88% of the vote, or 11,393 voters. This represents a 174% increase from his total in the first round, compared with his opponent, Max Mathiasin, the candidate of Emmanuel Macron’s presidential majority (Ensemble), reelected as the incumbent with 52.12% of the vote, or 12,402 voters. The RN also made large gains elsewhere: 6.92% of the first-round vote in the first electoral district (where it did not run in 2017), and 12.09% in the second district, where the FN got 2.05% in 2017.

In Martinique, this advance was much smaller but remains considerable. There, the RN more than doubled its vote total from 2017, rising from 916 to 1,990 votes, with candidates in all four districts in both 2017 and 2022.

We have thus come very far from the time when demonstrators blocked the leader of this same far right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from landing at the airports of Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France. As opposed to the most recent demonstration against Marine Le Pen which took place on March 26, 2022 in Guadeloupe, these earlier demonstrations against her father had the population’s approval. In a few decades, the far right has gained a certain degree of implantation among the popular masses of Guadeloupe. This has happened to the point that it came out clearly ahead in the second round of the presidential election in Guadeloupe and Martinique, as well as in almost all of the French overseas departments apart from the Pacific Ocean, including La Réunion, Mayotte, and Guiana.

This progression tracks with the rise of the FN and later the RN in European France for the past few decades. However, even if this progression has been steady in the overseas departments, for a long time it was more muted and creeping, until its rapid increase in the most recent European elections and then the second round of the 2022 presidential election.

A Short History of the Far Right in Guadeloupe

This electoral upsurge of National Rally is not the first political appearance of the far right in Guadeloupe. In the 1980s, without being formally linked to its ancestor, the National Front, it took the form of opposition to immigration from Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At that time, its leader was a right-wing béké agitator in the pay of the local bosses (békés are the bourgeois descended from the old white slave-owning families). This was Raymond Viviès, who died in 2002. At the beginning of the 1980s, he openly called for anti-immigrant pogroms after an immigrant from the small island of Dominica killed a young girl.

In the 1998 regional elections, Raymond Viviès won office on the slate of Ibo Simon, another right-wing agitator.

Ibo Simon, a Black man from a poor background, made a short career with the ideas of the far right, targeting Haitian immigration in particular. With 8% of the vote, his slate won several seats on the Point-à-Pitre municipal council in 1995. In 1997, he won more than 14% of the vote in the legislative elections. Once again to general surprise, his slate twice received 7% of the vote in the regional elections, winning two seats each time. And in 2001, in the Point-à-Pitre municipal elections, he advanced to 22% of the vote total, forcing the mayor who had been in office since 1965, Dr. Henri Bangou, into a runoff. Simon used his status as a commentator on the popular TV channel Canal 10 to steadily boost his popularity.

Ibo Simon created a party called Gwadloup Doubout, which he employed as a war machine against Haitian immigration. He called on people to burn down Haitian-owned stores in Guadeloupe, which his attack groups did on several occasions. Simon advocated physical violence against Haitian immigrants. These actions shocked a part of the population.

Shortly after these attacks, a large street demonstration of several thousand people called by left-wing organizations and unions succeeded in intimidating Ibo Simon and his supporters. Little by little, he put an end to his activities and has mostly been forgotten today.

However, the social terrain on which Ibo Simon flourished has not disappeared. It has even expanded. Growing poverty, unemployment, and hardships of all kinds have been feeding anti-immigrant reactions among the lower classes. The immigrant has become the scapegoat for all social ills. Moreover, this is the case in practically every country in the world.

Touching up the RN’s Image

Marine Le Pen has succeeded in cleaning up the image of her party. It no longer appears to be openly racist. She started her remodeling project in 2015 when she expelled her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, from the FN. This was a man who had no qualms about using openly racist language. Her goal was to give the party a more respectable image, of a party that could occupy the presidency in a more immediate context than what her father envisioned.

And so, the population no longer believes the argument that it should oppose the RN because it is racist, as it did twenty or thirty years ago. There are few obvious examples to show this racism today, even if the RN deputies in European Parliament refused to vote to recognize slavery as a crime against humanity. And yet it was precisely this argument about the FN’s racism that once used to stir the anger of so many people in a majority-Black, Indian, and non-white country in which the population’s history has made it particularly sensitive to racism.

A part of the traditional white colonial milieu remains among the RN’s electoral base, including big and small bosses and members of the police and army. But today, besides this fringe of the colonial milieu, Black and Indian people form a majority of the RN’s electorate. RN or FN candidates had long been white, but today they are Black.

The Responsibility of the Big Official Parties

At the level of both France and of Guadeloupe and Martinique, the situation of workers and the lower classes has deteriorated for years, without the left and right parties in power offering any policy capable of restoring the confidence of the popular masses. Even worse, they have at times used populist demagogy and taken up the xenophobic arguments of the far right in order to court the anti-immigrant part of the population.

In Guadeloupe, Félix Proto, one of the local leaders of the Socialist Party, even formed a common slate with Ibo Simon for the Point-à-Pitre municipal elections in March 2001!

While poverty has risen in the popular layers, these parties have kept ladling out even more gifts to the big bosses. From Socialist Party president François Hollande’s Tax Credit for Competitiveness and Employment (CICE) to current president Macron’s commitment to spend “whatever it takes,” billions of Euros of public funds are fed into the vaults of the big companies.

During the 2022 presidential elections, this policy pushed a majority of voters to turn toward Macron’s opponents, in Guadeloupe and Martinique as well as on the island of Réunion and in Guiana. In the first round of the presidential election, left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the one who came out well ahead in the Antilles, with 56.16% of the vote in Guadeloupe and 53.1% in Martinique. In the second round, with Mélenchon eliminated, the electorate switched over to the only one of Macron’s opponents still in the running: Marine Le Pen, who won 69.6% of the vote in Guadeloupe and 60.87% in Martinique. In Guadeloupe, the number of votes for Le Pen was 2.8 times higher in 2022 than in the second round of the 2017 presidential election and 2.4 times higher in Martinique. Already in 2017, the number of votes for Le Pen had more than doubled from the first round to the second.

This success in the presidential election clearly acted as a boost in the legislative elections, in which the RN candidates were able to ride the wave and increase their scores in comparison with 2017, to the point that one of them reached the second round in Guadeloupe.

The Reasons behind the RN Vote in Guadeloupe and Martinique

A certain number of voters did cast their ballots because they agreed with certain ideas voiced by the RN. This included its anti-immigrant attacks, accusing the government of weakness in handling the arrival of Haitian refugees in Guadeloupe and Martinique. But these are not the majority of those who voted for the RN. The majority was mainly nursing a great anger against Macron and his government.

This is an anger against the general degradation of living conditions. It encompasses unemployment, lack of water, failing public services, and vaccine mandates for a population largely hostile to vaccination, which has been accompanied with the firing of many healthcare workers, left with no wages for almost a year.

We must note that Marine Le Pen in the presidential election and the RN candidates in the legislative elections forcefully called for the rehiring of suspended healthcare workers. This drew many of their votes, as well as those of certain workers and union militants opposed to the vaccine mandates.

Many among the poor population who vote for the RN were also shocked when Macron said that he “really wanted to piss off non-vaccinated.”

For the majority of RN voters in Guadeloupe and Martinique, it was above all this anger at Macron that explains their vote. Part of the population saw it as a way to express their discontent in the ballot box. This spilled over into the legislative elections as well. For example, in Guadeloupe’s third district, the incumbent candidate who lost to the RN in the first round but won in the second, Max Mathiasin, sits with the centrist parliamentary group MoDem, which is one of Macron’s allies and supports.

The fact that the anger of a part of the population was mostly transferred to the far right reveals the nonexistence or weakness of other parties and candidates capable of channeling this anger. This includes the nonexistence of a revolutionary communist party. Our group, which ran in each of the four districts of both Guadeloupe and Martinique, remains far too weak.

At the time when large, forceful fights of the working class and the population, consciously led by workers, will have created the conditions favorable for the emergence of a revolutionary workers’ party, then it will be possible for it to channel the anger of the masses. In the absence of this, the illusions held by workers and the lower classes in the politicians of the bourgeoisie remain strong, to the point that they are voting for their worst enemies.

The National Rally is a populist bourgeois party that uses the problems which workers and the disadvantaged classes face to expand its audience. But it does not call on them to fight the big bosses, since at heart it supports the bosses. Its leaders will never take on the ultra-rich. Marine Le Pen is a millionaire and is herself one of them.

It is a party full of racists, Nazi nostalgists, and white supremacists. It has branches in the police and the army. If it should come to power tomorrow, it would try to bring the working class to heel when it fights, including through physical force. This type of party has already existed in the world in the 1920s and 1930s. In Germany, the National Socialist Party came to power, as did Mussolini’s party in Italy 10 years earlier. In France, there were the Croix-de-Feu, the Cagoule, Action Française, and many other groups.

The workers and members of the popular classes who vote for the RN are shooting themselves in the foot. They are voting against their own interests and for their worst enemies.

The task of revolutionary communist militants of our current is to combat the far-right ideas present among the oppressed masses by counterposing them to a policy of revolutionary class struggle.

To this end, a patient work of explanation is needed, in order for class consciousness to re-emerge among workers and the poor. Nothing can replace the conscious and militant mass struggles of the workers’ movement. It is in the course of these struggles that workers will gain a clearer idea of their false friends in the RN, since these will then appear more openly as politicians in the service of the big bosses.

The advance of the RN at the ballot box is a setback for the workers of Guadeloupe and Martinique, just as in European France. It is the expression of a retreat of the workers’ movement in a period marked by the crisis and decadence of the capitalist system at a global scale. This situation therefore favors the appearance of all sorts of political adventurers. These parties and politicians who banish a part of humanity because it has immigrated cannot represent the future, neither in Martinique, nor in Guadeloupe, nor anywhere.

The future is on the side of those who fight them in the name of all workers and of their class interests: Martinicans, Guadeloupeans, Haitians, Dominicans, Arabs, and Africans, alongside their exploited brothers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas of all skin colors, all members of a single working class.

On the two islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, this is the struggle carried on by the revolutionary communists of Combat Ouvrier.