The following is a translation of the January 15, 2022 editorial of the revolutionary socialist organisation, Combat Ouvrier (Workers’ Combat), active in Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean Sea.
Note: The social struggle taking place right now began as a fight against compulsory vaccination regulations imposed by the government, which rules these islands from France. The fight against this new rule needs to be taken in the colonial context, in which the government has never respected the health of the local population. For more information on this distrust of France’s health rules, read a Dec. 5 article here on the subject.
In Guadeloupe and Martinique there are demonstrations, actions and outbursts of anger every single day against the sanctions linked to compulsory vaccination and exploitation by the bosses. The revolt of a part of the workers and the population has been ongoing for seven months now with no sign of weakening.
In Martinique, on Weds. Jan. 12, workers demonstrated outside the University Hospital Center of Martinique (CHUM) in Fort-de-France. On Friday, Jan. 7, the trade unions and health care workers demonstrated in front of the Regional Health Agency (ARS), and the next day they demonstrated through Fort-de-France and in front of the police headquarters.
On Jan. 11, in Guadeloupe, hundreds of demonstrators opposed the forces of repression that had destroyed the healthcare workers’ picket line at the University Hospital of Pointe-à-Pitre. The Jan. 8 street demonstration in Pointe-à-Pitre brought together a thousand people. Workers are on strike in more than a dozen health establishments. At the Pointe-à-Pitre hospital, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, the unpaid workers showed the extent of their anger to the director, Gérard Cotellon, who had to be escorted by the police in order to leave his office.
At the same time, workers in several other sectors are on strike: workers of the multinational ArcelorMittal have been striking for more than four months, along with those of the Post Office, of the IME, and the healthcare centers.
Yes, the struggle is paying off: the preschool counselors of the United G 128 association in Goyave, who were on strike against their dismissals, have won!
The workers who are demonstrating and striking are certainly a minority for the moment, but they are a combative minority that isn’t giving up and is showing the way to others.
The number of people at risk of being affected by the suspensions is very large. For example, at the Martinique hospital, 3,800 letters of formal (layoff) notice have been sent to [workers]. The multi-union struggle estimates that nearly 6,000 people are at risk of being suspended in Martinique. In both islands, several thousand workers have already lost or will lose their wages.
These figures have to be added to the already massive number of unemployed in the Caribbean. With rising prices, no water in the taps, wages falling behind the cost of living, the suspensions are the last straw, releasing the anger of a combative section of workers! The latter have no choice but to fight. It is a battle for the reinstatement of the suspended workers, but above all it is a struggle for the whole working class; the class of those who have no choice but to be exploited in order to earn a wage and who suffer all the violence of this society.
However, in order to win against the government, which is increasingly on the offensive against the workers, the social revolt must go further. It must succeed in drawing in its wake the majority of workers and the population. Only if the state is faced with a more general and collective struggle will it give in. A general struggle for the suspension of the law on compulsory vaccination, but also for higher wages, mass hiring, an end to layoffs, clean drinking water everywhere, among other things, will shift the balance of forces in our favor.
Every time a government has made concessions to the workers it has been because the ruling class feared the initiatives taken by the working class in struggle. Let’s create that balance of forces!