The Spark

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

Contesting the COVID Laws in the French Antilles

Aug 30, 2021

This article is from the August 16 workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

The epidemic has reached dramatic proportions in Martinique and Guadeloupe, overseas departments of France, known as the French Antilles. Contrary to the claims of President Macron and the French government, the insufficient vaccination rate of the population is not the only cause of the present situation.

For years, following in the footsteps of its predecessors, the government has refused to provide the means needed for the proper functioning of hospitals. Today, Macron is trying to pass off his own responsibility on the Antilleans who refuse to be vaccinated. These statements have rightly fueled anger among the population.

Yes, the vaccine constitutes a step forward from a scientific point of view. But it can’t replace healthcare providers organized to serve public health, for instance by encouraging vaccination when it is met with mistrust.

In the French West Indies, the mistrust is the result of the attitude of the authorities themselves, whose approach is often worthy of the colonial era. The chlordecone scandal is one of the most recent illustrations of this. For years, the state authorized West Indian planters to use this ultra-dangerous pesticide even though it was banned in the United States and France. This poison contaminated 90% of the population, causing multiple cancers and other pathologies.

Its danger was hidden by the authorities who lied knowingly. As late as February 2019, Macron himself made a statement denying the cancer-causing nature of this product. The population of the West Indies has every reason to distrust a government that claims to care about public health but has demonstrated the complete opposite any number of times.

Basically, it’s the same mistrust and anger, fueled by the same lies from the state, that have been expressed for several weeks in the streets of numerous towns in France. Just like in Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France, hospital workers found themselves having to fight the epidemic without resources, masks or gowns.…

Recently, the government dared to threaten those who had not been vaccinated with suspension or even dismissal! Many other workers eventually face the same threats because many employers will use this opportunity to increase their pressure, exert blackmail or fire them more easily.

The generalization of the health pass, with its controls and fines, will be a source of multiple complications for a lot of workers. Many families are worried about the start of the school year. As usual, the government is doing nothing but make declarations, threatening to exclude unvaccinated pupils instead of thinking of what resources are necessary.

A large part of those who joined the marches last Saturday wanted to show that this contempt and these authoritarian methods are not acceptable! We must continue to oppose the government’s health law by refusing to fall into the trap of the division between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. But we must not fall into another trap which would consist in denouncing Macron without attacking the social class he represents: the class of the capital-owners whose sole preoccupation during the pandemic is to make profits. The current government, like its predecessors, cuts the budgets of hospitals, nursing homes, education ... to finance hundreds of billions in all kinds of aid to the bourgeois class.

With the health crisis, big business has multiplied its attacks on workers, their jobs and their wages. Not to mention those who profit directly from the epidemic, such as the big pharmaceutical groups who dared to increase the price of their vaccines. As a result, the 40 biggest stock exchange companies raked in nearly 57 billion euros in profits in the first half of this year. A new record!

The only way for working people to fight for their rights and their living conditions is to attack the domination of the economy by the capitalists, who are totally irresponsible and parasitic. Without workers and their labor, society would come to a standstill. So workers are best able to run society in the interests of the greater numbers. By fighting for their interests, workers also defend popular interests at large and the future of society.