The Spark

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

Island of Reunion:
Outburst of Anger against the High Cost of Living

Mar 5, 2012

Reunion is an island in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of southern Africa with 800,000 people. It is an overseas department (roughly a state) of France. The following account is translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

On the night of February 21st, riots broke out in several cities on the island of Reunion, ending a movement started by some Reunion bosses. After an increase in the price of petroleum products, the trucking company bosses of the island decided to block roads to get a 25 cent cut per liter in the price of diesel fuel. Following mediation by the prefect (a city official), the General Council gave them a fuel oil cut, also giving it to artisans, traders and farmers, at a so-called “professional” price, which was still high.

After launching their movement, the truckers, to gain support from the population, demanded lower prices for consumers. On February 21st in the city of Le Port, their trucks blocked access to the Reunion Oil Products Company, an affiliate of the giant oil companies Shell and Total, to demand a cut of 25 cents. But they weren’t the only ones there. Two hundred inhabitants were also there, demanding that everyone get the cut and that it be extended to the necessities of life.

Faced with angry inhabitants, the head of the truckers association decided the trucks should leave, on the pretext that the prefect had agreed to a new meeting on February 24th.

But the residents of Le Port, who could no longer put up with an exploding cost of living while their incomes were frozen, didn’t intend to let the trucks leave. They cursed at the leader of the truckers association and blocked the trucks.

Later that night, the anger spread, not only to Le Port but to the neighborhood of Chaudron, in the capital of Saint Denis, where groups attacked the big stores, showing the exasperation felt by a great part of the poor population, exploited by the local and national bosses, condemned to unemployment and bled dry to fill the wallets of the import-export bosses.

The trucking bosses are ready to compromise with the prefecture because they already got a cut in the price of diesel fuel. But the poor population of Reunion rightly thinks that nothing has been done for it, and it is beginning to demonstrate on its own behalf.