The Spark

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

Guadeloupe :
The Strike Hardens and the Mobilization Grows

Feb 23, 2009

The strike in Guadeloupe is total. The Hayot and Despointes group (known for writing the latest racist declarations) attempted to open up the Carrefour grocery stores in Milenis and Destreland using replacement workers protected by the police. Some bosses made the replacement workers sleep in the store.

But in fact, the bosses have not achieved their goal. Everywhere there are picket lines, visible from the main streets, in front of the factories. Strikers are standing up, vigilant or playing cards in front of the gates.

Strikers Use Their Power

The workers on strike used their power to close or open factories when they wanted and when it was necessary in order to provide supplies to the population. The workers of the CGTG (General Confederation of Labor of Guadeloupe) at SARA (refineries of Guadeloupe) decided to deliver bottles of cooking gas (there is no city gas in Guadeloupe). During three days last week, the strikers opened up the service stations in order to re-supply people with fuel, while telling people that beginning the following Monday, the stations would again be shut down. At the ports that are on strike, the workers allow only the containers holding urgent supplies, like medical supplies, to be let through.

At the airport, the planes are forced to go to other neighboring islands to refuel, such as to Saint-Martins, Puerto Rico or Antigua.

At the moment this article is written, nothing functions except the distribution of water and electricity, with short and rolling shutdowns of the service. On the other hand, it was discussed on the level of the LKP (the grouping of unions and political organizations organizing the strike) and among the strikers of the General Water Works to not shut off the water supply, even though these city workers are on strike. Since city workers are on strike and public services are not functioning, odors have built up around the piles of garbage. The LKP and striking workers are discussing this problem that is creating a nuisance for the population – which accepted it up until now.

With the Population

Everywhere, in fact, the striking militants are encouraged by the population. People say to them, “thank you, thank you, for what you are doing for us,” and “finally we have some unity.” When a group of strikers travelled from town to town last week, the populations applauded and greeted the militants of the LKP who spoke to them in meetings of up to 200 people at a time in each area.

Of course, the administrators and elected officials shouted out against what they call “excesses and looting,” etc. Sure, it can be said that some stores have been broken into and looted. But overall, this explosion of anger that has touched all the urban centers shows above all the exasperation of the young people in a country that officially registers nearly 30% unemployment, the majority of whom are young people. One person in six lives below the poverty line, many earning less than minimum wage. What is surprising is that this explosion of anger did not occur before.

The refusal of the bosses, their arrogant attitude looking down on the workers, the lies of government officials like Jégo and Fillon who go back on their promises, only inflame the situation. It is because of this that barricades have been built on all the major roads of Guadeloupe and that the young people have expressed their anger. Condemnations of “excesses”change nothing so long as there is no clear response to the demands of the LKP and of the unions.

More Than Peanuts

The situation will not calm down in Guadeloupe. There is no reason for those who have demonstrated four weeks now – the 10,000 then 20,000 up to 60,000 people in the streets – to agree to stop their movement without receiving more than a little bonus here or there, a few peanuts! They are demanding a real increase in wages, real jobs for those on the edge, reduction of prices on the goods that are part of everyday consumption, another cut in the price of gasoline and fuel oil …

The bosses, and in particular the big bosses, are so voracious and accustomed to being on the hunt, that they have lost their minds. They don’t even realize that their refusal of a wage increase of 200 Euros (260 US dollars) a month is leading them to risk losing much more than that and even to loose their ability in Guadeloupe to continue to carry on business at all.