The Spark

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

French Guiana:
General Strike

Apr 24, 2017

On Friday, April 21, in the South American country of French Guiana, the French government signed an agreement with representatives who led a general strike by 37 unions. The movement shut down French Guiana’s economy for over a month. The group of 500 that led the strike called themselves the “Collective to Get Guiana Moving.”

Tens of thousands mobilized to shut down the country’s shipping port and to shut down Europe’s Guiana Space Center. The movement demanded financial help in a type of “Marshall Plan.” In French Guiana, Europe’s version of NASA launches satellites and rockets. But a few miles away, 30 percent of the population has no access to electricity, drinking water, education or healthcare.

Strike leaders rejected the French government’s initial offer of 1.2 billion dollars in emergency aide but later agreed to an offer adding 2.25 billion dollars more.

What follows are excerpts from articles in the French newspaper Lutte-Ouvrière.

“... The determination of the demonstrators and the decision to blockade France’s Guiana Space Center – played a key role in winning promises of money from the French government. On April 4, thousands came from all corners of the country to demonstrate in front of the Space Center. Members of the Autonomous Peoples Association, the Amerindians, were cheered as they marched in from their forest villages.

“A delegation was invited in to the space center to negotiate.... When negotiations went nowhere, protestors occupied a room at the space center and would not leave.

“... Strikers organized and staffed road blocks that stopped all deliveries of goods, all transportation, even schools and emergency services. The port was empty of workers.

“This movement was widespread in Guiana – showing that all parts of the population had reasons to protest. Demonstrators included small and medium sized business owners, professionals, drivers, students, teachers, lawyers, health workers.

“... So if in Guiana there is a new social movement, the workers, the unemployed, the poor people in the neighborhoods will need to develop demands to help those who are suffering the most.... It is necessary to come back to the needs of the workers and poor, the backbone of these protests and on whom rests this general strike. So this anger, these forces must be used to win their own demands, demands that today are put on the back burner. They can’t count on others to improve their situation, only on themselves.”