The Spark

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

Martinique:
Ghislaine Joachim-Arnaud on Trial

Dec 13, 2010

This article is taken from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France. Martinique is an island of 400,000 people in the Caribbean, an overseas department of France. In February-March 2009 workers carried out a general strike, led in large part by the General Confederation of Labor Martinique (CGTM), whose leader is Ghislaine Joachim-Arnaud. She is also a leader of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Struggle), a revolutionary workers group on the island.

Ghislaine Joachim-Arnaud is on trial in Martinique, accused by Jean-François Hayot, one of the richest men on the island, of “provoking discrimination, hatred and violence with respect to a group of people, the békés.”

The békés are the descendants of the original slave owners on the island. They are still masters of Martinique’s economy. During last year’s big struggles, Joachim-Arnaud repeated in a broadcast the slogan that was chanted by the tens of thousands of demonstrators:

“Martinique is ours. We’re going to kick out a band of békés, profiteers and thieves! This is our fight. We must continue it.”

It’s an outrage that Jean-François Hayot is spearheading an attack, accusing the leader of the CGTM of racism!

Ghislaine affirmed at a press conference that the thousands of demonstrators had naturally taken the békés as a target, viewing them as the incarnation of the bosses. She added that the term béké in the popular language means boss.

Withdrawing nothing of what she said or wrote, she affirmed that it’s necessary to get rid of the capitalist regime and to continue the fight to put those people outside it, that is, outside the economy of the island.

Another béké, Alain Huyghues Despointes, recently declared:

“In mixed race families the children are of different colors. There isn’t harmony. I don’t find anything good in that. We békés wished to preserve our race.” He added, “Historians only speak of the negative aspects of slavery, which is regrettable.”

These representatives of the béké lobby, whose riches were built on the exploitation of slaves, continue to enrich themselves on the backs of the workers, and dare to complain of “discrimination!”

Today, the béké capitalists – who are only 1% of the population – own most import and export businesses, the big stores and 65% of the farm land of the island.

From this point of view, the Hayot family is a good example, since Bernard Hayot’s company has sales of two billion dollars, mainly in supermarkets, department stores and auto dealerships.

During the general strike in Martinique, the békés couldn’t stand it that the demonstrations and strikes of thousands of workers of African, Indian and even white origin disrupted business and sales. Today, they seek revenge by targeting one of the principal leaders of that movement.