Oct 12, 2009
The following leaflet was published by Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in Guadeloupe and Martinique, two Caribbean islands that are overseas departments of France.
Ghislaine Joachim-Arnaud, the secretary-general of the General Confederation of Labor of Martinique (CGTM) and a leader of Combat Ouvrier, received a summons to appear at a police station on September 16. She was summoned to explain why she should not be prosecuted for calling Martinique’s capitalists “thieving profiteers.”
Really, that was all. So what should we make of this?
In February and March, 2009 a successful general strike protested the high cost of living, demanding a wage increase and a lowering of the price of necessities, such as rent, water and electricity. Many thousands joined the strike – workers, the unemployed, the retired, housewives and youth who responded to these demands. They demonstrated in the streets of Fort de France for 38 days, demanding real price reductions and real wage and pension increases.
The population has endured shameless exploitation by a handful of the rich in Martinique, notably the békés (descendants of former slave owners), who own a large part of the island’s economy.
The February and March demonstrations were an expression of anger against these extremely wealthy men and against the French State. Martiniquans were defending their dignity. They demanded that workers not be used as milk cows, ripped off by a handful of capitalist profiteers of every stripe. These capitalists can increase the price of necessities to an exorbitant level, due to their hold over the economy. They can and do demand exorbitant rents. The result is that these gentlemen, with the complicity of the French state and the politicians, guarantee themselves profit margins that are two or three times higher than those in France.
What words can describe these men? The wave of tens of thousands of people, mostly from poor neighborhoods, who demonstrated and denounced these injustices, chanted: “Martinique is ours, Martinique isn’t theirs, a band of thieving profiteers who we’re going to kick out.”
In this context, our comrade Ghislaine Joachim-Arnaud reflected the sentiment and the discontent of the population in her radio speech. So, in a way, when this colonial form of justice summoned her, they were really summoning the thousands of people who dared speak up, calling these exploiters “thieving profiteers.”
These exploiters who have the government and its justice system at their service are right to fear that one day the angry workers will “put them out of power.” So they want to take revenge against the spokeswoman of the workers, displaying their aggression against all whom they exploit.
When the justice system hears Joachim-Arnaud on September 16th, they will be hearing the thoughts of hundreds of workers, sympathizers, union and political militants of all types, including the collective that ran the general strike. These supporters will show the courts that she didn’t lie. They will continue their chant, “Martinique is ours, Martinique isn’t theirs, a band of thieving profiteers who we’re going to kick out.”