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

Guadeloupe and Martinique:
Those Who Sow Misery Reap Anger!

Dec 6, 2021

Since last summer, there have been strong mobilizations against the vaccine pass and the vaccination mandate throughout the Caribbean. On the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique this movement has turned into a general revolt.

During the day, health care workers, hotel and restaurant employees, firefighters, teachers, nursing home workers and striking construction workers have joined together on picket lines and roadblocks. At night, groups of young people seeking to challenge the police have set fires or looted.

The Covid rules—which require vaccinations for health care workers and a health pass to enter most public venues—were the spark that ignited the powder keg. Just like in the U.S., many caregivers have had to deal with the vaccine mandate, along with threats and sanctions, which many consider to be one more humiliation.

This reaction is understandable!

These workers risked their lives fighting against Covid-19. And they did it without any basic protection. Government officials refused to provide necessary staffing in hospitals. Nor did they provide proper material and equipment.

Now these hypocritical know-it-alls severely punish those who are not ready to be vaccinated, suspending them without pay!

Vaccination is a powerful way to combat the epidemic. But along with vaccinations, government officials have imposed authoritarian measures that are not healthy. These measures are highly political. They are used to control the workers and population. They are used to fire workers. They are another anti-worker attack. It is what health care workers in Guadeloupe and Martinique are fighting against. This fight is completely legitimate.

It is not surprising that there is so much distrust of the health care authorities all throughout the Caribbean. For decades, these officials allowed the big banana plantations to use dangerous pesticides that poisoned farm workers, the soil and groundwater.

And that is not all. In Guadeloupe and Martinique there is terrible poverty. Almost one-third of the population on the two islands lives below the poverty line. Much of the youth cannot find a job. Workers are paid very low wages and the cost of living is extremely high.

These are the same kinds of conditions that spurred a general strike and massive demonstrations back in 2009.

The government and news media harshly condemn what they call gangs of young “thugs” for sowing “anarchy” and “chaos.” But when there is no electricity or street lighting for months, when garbage collection is sporadic and water outages happen on a regular basis, it is also a form of chaos.

And it is the government that causes this chaos!

If the pressure cooker has exploded, it is the government that is responsible. And the government’s response, sending in extra security forces and police, is only adding fuel to the fire.

Right now, people’s anger takes various forms. But this anger can and should be directed against the government and employers. Workers can do this when they use the power of the strike. By organizing themselves by their workplaces, by cutting off the source of their employers’ profits, working people can advance their own demands.

This would constitute progress for the entire population: more hiring, big wage increases, and more wage increases when prices go up, repairing vital public services that have been allowed to fall apart for decades.

So yes, such a social revolt would be a source of inspiration for all of us, including for working people in the U.S.