The Spark

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

Guadeloupe and Martinique after the October 3rd Demonstrations

Oct 12, 2009

The following article is translated from the October 9th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France. Guadeloupe and Martinique are islands in the Caribbean, with about 400,000 people each.

In Guadeloupe, the street demonstration of October 3rd, organized by the LKP (Coalition against Profiteering), was a success. Several thousand people, the big majority workers, demonstrated in Pointe-à-Pitre with enthusiasm and determination. In Martinique, several hundred workers demonstrated in the streets of the capitol, Fort-de-France, at the appeal of the February 5th Coalition.

These were protests against the failure of the State to carry out the agreements signed at the end of the general strikes of January and February. They were particularly directed at the problems many workers had getting the State to pay the 100 Euros a month additional wages won at the end of the general strike.

The State was supposed to raise pay for all workers whose wages were less than 1.4 times the minimum wage. But only a minority of those eligible received the increase, mostly due to a complicated six page government form with 130 questions! Further, the State excluded a certain number of workers from the wage increase by including bonuses in their pay level, although it had agreed to use only the base hourly wage.

The recent increase in the price of gasoline of six cents a liter in Guadeloupe and seven cents a liter in Martinique is also a violation of the agreement that ended the general strikes. No price increase was to take place until the method of establishing gas prices was made completely clear. But TOTAL, the giant French oil company, monopolizes the supply of oil to the islands. It easily convinced the new French Overseas Secretary Marie-Luce Penchard to give it the price increases.

And the prices of all other goods continue to go up in the supermarkets, despite the agreements!

Discontent remains important

In Guadeloupe, the unions announced a strike so that workers knew to come to the demonstration on October 3rd. But the unions made no call for a renewable general strike, nor for raising barricades, contrary to what the media wanted people to believe. The government sent out their forces of law and order in big numbers, beginning at the end of the previous week. On October 5th, armed men took up positions at all strategic points in Guadeloupe. They were the ones who blocked cars, causing bottlenecks and slowdowns.

New protest actions and mobilizations will take place in the two islands in the days to come. In Guadeloupe, the first round of meetings organized by the LKP in the towns brought out hundreds of people each time. There will be more meetings. One is scheduled for October 9th in front of the Mutualité building in Pointe-à-Pitre, with a second meeting scheduled for October 19th in Marie-Galante. They’ll take place to coincide with the visit of the French Overseas Secretary to the West Indies. Mobilization actions are also being called in Martinique.

In addition, the LKP called for more volunteers for the control committees that monitor prices following the October 3rd demonstration. These actions will allow the workers and the leaders of the LKP and the February 5th Coalition to respond in real time to the administration’s deceitful policies.

The French government has raised certain political diversions, including a possible change in the status of the islands, especially in Martinique. The dictatorship of TOTAL, and the rule of the capitalists and the békés (descendants of the slave owners, now the biggest capitalists) are being imposed. But their actions will nourish the combativeness of a good part of the workers and the population.