Guadeloupe: Towards a new general strike?

‘French West Indies’ boiling again

The social situation in the “French West Indies”, and particularly in Guadeloupe, is boiling once again. Meanwhile, Sarkozy has appointed Marie Luce Penchard, a woman from the region, as Secretary of State for French ‘overseas departments’. The struggle continues for the effective omplementation of the ‘Bino agreements’ which ended the general strike of March 2009 (which included wage increases of 200 Euros for the lowest paid workers, and a drop in prices). The announcement by Penchard of an increase in oil prices and the arrival of new contingents of gendarmes (police) from France has further fuelled the flames of anger in the region.

Despite attempts to attack the credibility of the LKP (‘League against Profiteering’ – mass organisation of workers and youth which led the general strike of March 2009), and the revenge campaign initiated by the capitalist class (including anti-union repression, sacking of strike militants, closures of workplaces, refusal to apply the agreements, rising repression against young people), the Guadeloupean people have not surrendered. However, a political debate is developing about the perspectives for the movement and the measures necessary to assure that the state and the bosses keep their promises, and to genuinely put an end to ‘pwofitasyon’ (creole word for profiteering and exploitation).

March general strike

Renewed mobilisations

Since September, rallies and local meetings have multiplied in preparation for a second wave of struggle. The so-called answers of the government cannot satisfy the workers. Marie Luce Penchard is proposing to allow the opening of new supermarkets to encourage competition, while the competition authorities themselves were forced to admit that the system of price fixation is illusory and still allows for the freedom of capitalists to implement price rises etc, linked to the continued monopoly of a handful of families. If there new supermarkets were created, the same families would control them, as they are already controlling the import and distribution networks. And it’s the same for agriculture: poor peasants are asked today to produce for export to the Caribbean, while Guadeloupe has for centuries relied on a drip of food imports from ‘Metropolitan’ France.

How do the French and Guadeloupean capitalists think these producers will be able to compete with countries like Dominican Republic or Haiti? By exploiting even more the poor peasants in order to lower prices.

Socialism in Guadeloupe?

Whatever way is chosen to tackle the problem, we will always arrive at the same point: in order for production to be developed for the needs of all inhabitants of Guadeloupe, workers, poor peasants and young people must run, control, and plan the economy.

The question posed is that of taking power from the local ruling classes, and getting abolishing private ownership of the means of production. That means breaking once and for all with this economic system, abssed on ‘pwofitasyon’, and reorganising society from the point of view of the needs of all. Relying upon councils elected by workers themselves, allowing the taking over of the big companies, and by organising ourselves in the communities, we could evaluate society’s real needs and take the best decisions including on prices, respecting the environment and improving working conditions.

The representatives of such councils, directly elected by the working class and the population (and subject to recall), could plan production basing themselves on real needs, not those imposed by Ministries in Paris through the colonial Viceroy. Such a democratic and socialist plan could lay the basis for the real development of the island. This would also necessitate establishing cooperation and links with the rest of the Caribbean, rather than the countries of the region in competition with each other for the benefit of imperialism as is the case today.

The general strike in Spring posed the question of such a decisive break, by putting the workers at the centre of the struggle for change. In the coming struggles, the French workers will also have to mobilise to support their counterparts in Guadeloupe and to impose a defeat on the hated Sarkozy government, which is putting workers in competition with each other and is imposing more and more difficult living conditions on the majority.

Today, the question of an alternative to replace capitalism must be raised. The issue of the future of Guadeloupe can only be posed in this way, if we really want to get rid of exploitation in Guadeloupe as well as in the whole Caribbean region. The Guadeloupean people have shown the way forward, we have now to push the discussion forward on what the alternative to capitalism is in the region: socialism, and how to bring it about: through the building of a mass revolutionary party which can lead the struggle to victory on the basis of a revolutionary socialist programme.

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November 2009