The Spark

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

Death of Our Comrade Gérard Séné

Mar 5, 2012

The militants of Spark deeply feel the death of Gérard Séné as one of our own. Gérard was a revolutionary communist militant from the Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. We are reproducing below a translation of the tribute that appeared in the newspaper of his own organization, Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight).

Our comrade Gérard Séné died on February 3rd, at 68 years of age in Montpellier, France. He was buried on February 16th in the Goyave cemetery in Guadeloupe.

He had to go to Montpellier in 2011 to fight cancer, a process lasting a year before the disease conquered him.

Our comrade was born on July 31, 1943 and grew up in Guadeloupe. His parents died when he was very young and he was raised by an aunt.

In 1963, Gérard left for France to study at the university, because the islands had no higher education back then. But soon his militant engagement and politics occupied all his time, energy and preoccupations.

Our comrade was one of the main founders of our political organization, Combat Ouvrier, in Guadeloupe and Martinique. In November 1965, in Paris, a core of West Indian students, with Gérard as the main leader and organizer, launched the “Manifesto of the West Indian League of Communist Workers” in a little mimeographed paper called Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle). One of the main articles was “The Flag of the Masses Will Be the Red Flag,” which insisted on the need to build a revolutionary communist workers party in the so-called French West Indies. This text condemned the nationalism extolled by the independence movement at that time; it insisted on the need for the proletariat of Guadeloupe and Martinique to be organizationally and politically independent in the revolutionary tradition of the October 1917 Russian revolution, that of Lenin and Trotsky; it opposed Stalinism, which had infected the majority of the Communist parties and large parts of the working class.

The understanding of such a program was facilitated by contact with comrades of the Trotskyist group Voix Ouvrière (Workers Voice), a part of the Internationalist Communist Union, today Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the organization of Arlette Laguiller and Nathalie Artaud. The theoretical aid of those comrades who already had a longer political and militant experience was valuable despite the fact that they were only a small group at that time.

Gérard, through his contacts and discussions with the comrades of Voix Ouvrière, was able to more effectively convince the little group of West Indian students of the correctness of the revolutionary communist program – Leninist and Trotskyist. Notably, he led the political and ideological struggle against nationalism, Third Worldism and Castroism inside the General Association of Guadeloupian Students and the General Association of West Indian and Guyanese Workers. The group animated by Gérard had to fight against the program of the GONG (Group of the National Organization of Guadeloupe) to put forth the specific interests of the working class, facing people who objectively represented the interests of the petty bourgeoisie.

The little group with its paper Lutte Ouvrière and its workplace newsletter Gro-ka, both denouncing the exploitation of the workers, campaigned for several years among West Indian emigrants in France. Gro-ka was written in the Creole language spoken by the West Indian people, and was distributed mainly to workers in the Post Office and hospitals.

In 1971, the group decided to return to Guadeloupe, and then to Martinique. Gérard continued his role as organizer, educator, militant, adviser and leader alongside his comrades until hit by cancer in the beginning of 2010.

In particular, he had the opportunity to become personally involved in several strikes of banana workers in the region of Capesterre. Also, he was the candidate of Combat Ouvrier in local and legislative elections several times.

At the same time, Gérard also contributed to the building of groups of our international tendency, the Internationalist Communist Union, in the African emigration in France with UATCI (the African Union of Internationalist Communist Workers) and with the OTR (Revolutionary Workers Organization) in Haiti. He also was able to make several trips to Latin America to discuss with other groups and organizations of the Trotskyist movement.

Gérard devoted his life to revolutionary communism, to the struggle to build an organization able to embody and defend these ideas. He did it with remarkable devotion and work. He had great capacities as a speaker and especially as a debater and polemicist.

Gérard loved life, good food and music, especially jazz. Passionate, very cultivated and curious about everything, he had a thirst for knowledge that always pushed him to try to go further, to read, to endlessly gather information.

On February 16th, his family and his comrades of Guadeloupe and Martinique paid homage to him, as he wished it, in simplicity and discretion, concluding with a vigorous singing of the Internationale, the song of the workers, the song of the communists.