The Spark

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

Ivory Coast:
It’s not just the high cost of living, It’s the unequal distribution of wealth

Oct 22, 2007

The following article is translated from the September 17, 2007 issue of Le Pouvoir aux Travailleurs (Workers’ Power), published by the International Communist African Workers’ Union active in Ivory Coast.

The cost of living has become so high that there isn’t one worker’s family that can say it can cope with it. Family income is no longer enough to obtain the basic necessities. During the last vacation time, everyone in most workers’ families had to pitch in, more than in past years. Boys old enough to shine shoes try to get work in public places to bring in some change for the family. Those who can hold a machete are sent to the countryside or the family’s village to do agricultural labor, that is, the few who find the means to get there. The girls are transformed into traders, selling small objects or food beside their mothers to earn a little bit of extra money. Despite everyone pitching in, misery continues everywhere. Just like every year, when it’s time to return to school, there’s a new puzzle to solve: how to make the wages stretch to satisfy the vital needs of the family.

It is not that the country lacks wealth. The riches are visible. But the division of those riches is unequally made. Someone would have to be blind not to see the opulence in which a minority of individuals live while the majority rots in misery!

Today, the cost of living has become so high that even doctors employed by the government go on strike, followed to a lesser extent by nurses. The employees of Sodeci (the water supply company) have given strike notice. So if all those who aren’t the poorest have reached this point, it’s because the situation of workers has become intolerable.

And it isn’t only workers who are affected. Thousands of people don’t have a wage income. But thanks to their efforts, to the little services that the adults and teenagers render, the daily existence of an entire layer of well-off people and less well off is made easier in most neighborhoods. Without the daily support of all these ordinary people who work in the underground economy for a pittance, life would be paralyzed rapidly in every neighborhood. This is a form of exploitation which doesn’t involve a wage but which exists on a wide scale in Ivory Coast today.

So the anger is great and it isn’t limited only to those who have the “good fortune” to have an official wage. It is urgent that government officials take measures against the current explosion in prices. These prices fall the heaviest on those who make society run.