KANAKY/NEW CALEDONIA | No to the state of emergency! No to “thawing” the electorate! Right to self-determination!

Macron sets Kanaky on fire!

Enough of France’s colonialist and repressive policy in New Caledonia!

For the full and complete right to self-determination of the Kanaks!

The Parisian media pretend to discover the situation in Kanaky/New Caledonia by reporting “riots” and ignoring the fact that it is Macron who is leading a particularly disastrous policy. Both the local right and local Macronist deputies as well as the government (with the full support of the National Front, RN and the Republicans, LR) have decided to go into confrontation against the independence movement, particularly since 2021.

The goal: to prevent at all costs the possibility of independence but also the possibility of a lasting majority around the Kanak separatists in the Caledonian territorial government. The last step is therefore the forced passage of the “law on the electoral thaw” (law drawn up at the request of the elected LR and Renaissance parties in New Caledonia and Darmanin, the Minister of the Interior). The right to vote in provincial elections has been “frozen” to those resident in Kanaky/New Caledonia before 1998, preventing the Kanaks from becoming an electoral minority in their own land. The electoral “thaw”, expanding the right to vote to recent migrants, mainly from France, will have the effect of dispossessing the Caledonians. It was this ultimate provocation which ignited the powder despite the warnings of nationalist, independence and autonomist organisations – Party of Kanak Liberation (PALIKA), Trade Union of Kanak Workers and the Exploited (USTKE), Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) etc.

The Macron government therefore decided to reform the electoral process through a constitutional change. Clearly, more recently settled Europeans, often going there to do business, encouraged to settle in New Caledonia to “populate” in the face of the natural demographic increase in the Kanak and Oceanian population, could vote on the status of the territory in local elections, in the same way as the indigenous inhabitants.

Despite the ongoing peaceful mobilizations, the vote in the National Assembly remained scheduled, with the Macron government receiving the support of the RN and LR. This decision full of colonial contempt could only add fuel to the fire in Kanaky and strengthen the mobilizations and riots which are underway there. On the night of May 14 to 15, following the vote of the National Assembly, which followed in the footsteps of the Senate to validate the constitutional revision of the electoral body, the riots continued. There are currently four deaths and hundreds of arrests. The GIGN, the RAID, the CRS 8 (specialists in urban repression) and the mobile gendarmes are dispatched to the site. The colonial state once again favors repression. A state of emergency was declared by Macron.

Where does this anger come from?

Since 1988, an institutional process must be deployed so that residents can vote on the future of Kanaky and can decide, through three successive referendums, on their relationship with France and their autonomy or independence.

This process, to determine Kanaky’s relationship with France, was decided following a decade of mobilizations and mass struggles in Kanaky for independence in the 1980s against French domination.

The repression of the French governments had been fierce. But the political, union and associative forces of the nationalist and independence movement have never given in to fear. But in order to stop the violence and the deaths, the Matignon agreements in 1988, then those of Nouméa in 1998, were signed between the parties, unions and associations of the nationalist and independence movement, the anti-independence, and the French state. The electoral body was decided in 1998, fixing who could vote and in particular who among the Europeans could vote: the Caldoches, families descended from settlers in Kanaky who had been there for a long time, and the Europeans who had arrived and settled for more than twenty years.

Divide and Rule

However, since 2018, Macron and his governments have been doing everything to slow down and limit the political weight of the Kanaks: difficulties in registering on the electoral lists even though they have always been there…! All three referendums took place.

The first was organized on November 4, 2018. It saw a “No” victory at 56%. But the independence vote was strong. In the second referendum, on October 4, 2020, the independence vote increased to 46%. As for the third and last, it took place on December 12, 2021. This last referendum was particularly marked by abstention (56%), the separatists having called for a boycott following a disagreement on the date… because it took place in the middle of the Covid crisis there; lockdowns having prevented any public meetings and activist activities.

This referendum is still contested because it did not meet the “rebalance” conditions provided for in the Nouméa agreements. But Macron and his government chose to force their way to support the right and the Macronists of New Caledonia, who see that their domination is eroding. This truncated referendum was organised after the provincial elections, in which the anti-independence parties became a minority. The territorial government, elected in February 2021, was formed with six members from the independence and nationalist coalitions, four from the right and the Macronists and one independent.

As luck would have it, two months after the announcement that a law on the electoral thaw would be submitted to parliament if the New Caledonian parties did not find agreement on the electoral process, the pro-colonial right left the government and refused to sit. . When Macron says that the law adopted by the National Assembly in France would not be applied if a local agreement was found in New Caledonia, we can clearly see the scam, since the anti-independence people refuse any agreement!

Since 2021, the same logic has continued, both in the Macron government and in the parties of settler descendants. Because the majority of the archipelago’s economy is still in the hands of the Caldoches or Europeans who arrived to do business, while the Kanak population was mainly kept in a state of underdevelopment. It was not until 1999 that a real University existed in New Caledonia, for example.

Preventing Independence

This is why the Macronist deputy Metzdorf came to cry to the government to pass this thaw of the electorate as quickly as possible to try to maintain their dominance for a while longer. The latter speaks of a “totalitarian drift of the separatists” (Rhythme bleu radio interview) but also reveals the underlying reason for the manoeuvre orchestrated from Paris: the European population meeting the 1998 criteria for voting is decreasing (New Caledonia is losing inhabitants generally) while the Kanak population continues to grow.

Integrating newly arrived Europeans into the electorate would allow Metzdorf and his friends to maintain their colonial domination for some time to come.

But such a policy will mean increased repression against Kanak demands.

Moreover, it is clear that Macron is rigging the cards to preserve the important economic interests in this area of ​​South East Asia-Pacific: an important geopolitical issue for China and Great Britain, the United States and Australia which are allies in the region. France does not want to lose its territory and its zone of influence in disregard of the rights of the peoples of the Pacific.

Solidarity with Kanaky!

Macron’s policy, reinforced by a vote in the Senate and the Assembly in France, is causing enormous anger on the spot. The sending of troops by Macron and his threat to maintain the congress in June 2024 to ratify the revision of the Constitution, even without local agreement between separatists and loyalists, says a lot.

Macron is playing with fire. His objective is not only to keep the Kanaks in an electoral minority in their own territory for a while longer. It seems to be pushing for a sort of distribution which already exists somewhat in New Caledonia/Kanaky, by redistributing the powers of the regions and those of the Nouméa government: the North traditionally under the control of the independence parties, and the South to the Europeans. This is already problematic and circumvents the question of the inhabitants’ right to self-determination for all of Kanaky.

But it is also very dangerous from a political point of view. A large part of the settlers are ideologically opposed to sharing power with the separatists. And in view of social tensions, economic problems, control of Kanaky’s mineral resources, they are particularly virulent, stubborn (and racist) as the settlers often are. Macron is also not far from risking a partition of the territory, which would certainly be the stupidest solution possible, a source of future civil wars.

It is not for nothing that the most violent events are taking place in Nouméa and in the South province: this is where social inequalities, the dominance of the descendants of settlers, and racism, are strongest. A layer of exasperated young people has had enough of the colonial contempt and the manoeuvres of the right and the Macronists, just as they want revenge for the repression suffered on all peaceful actions since January, where numerous arrests of activists have occurred.

The main organisations, organised in the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT), announced an escalation of protest action in response to the government’s provocations. The CCAT has never called for looting and destruction, they recall, but they have called for a strike (which affects many sectors, which the media do not talk about…) and for blockades and pickets almost everywhere on the island. It is indeed along this path that we must continue and the entire workers’ movement must provide solidarity.

We also need a real debate within the movement on the democratic organisation of society in New Caledonia so that independence or autonomy is not taken over by the capitalist predators of the Pacific (China, Australia, USA) but by building a socialist society, freed from capitalism and its law of profit, where the economy is in public ownership in the hands of the workers and the population of the entire archipelago, to allow the socialist, democratic, and ecological development of the region for the benefit of the inhabitants.

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May 2024