November 29, 2021, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French
A wind of rebellion is blowing over Guadeloupe and Martinique: strikes, demonstrations, and roadblocks – some of which are broken down by the police and immediately reassembled. It is the legitimate anger of the poor, wage earners, and the unemployed that is exploding in the face of the authorities’ disregard. The health pass imposed by the government, which brutally interrupted the work and income of hundreds of nurses, firemen and other workers, was more injustice that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. More so, it is the shared social anger against living conditions, unemployment and misery that has finally surfaced.
President Macron, Minister Castex, and their friends the corporate bosses have the nerve to give health lessons to the population and talk about “non-compliance with health rules,” even though they are the ones who are responsible for the situation, including the popular skepticism towards a very useful vaccine. If the last wave of COVID has turned into a catastrophe, it is because of the collapse of the health structures in Pointe-à-Pitre and elsewhere.
After sending in contingents of the Raid and the GIGN forces (elite forces of the national police used to intervene in crises such as hostage crises or terrorist attacks) and instituting a curfew under the pretext of fires and looting, Macron and his ministers have had to change their approach in response to an outburst against inequality and poverty that could and should spill over into the Antilles as a whole.
Also, the government has announced a few absurd measures to try to defuse the anger, such as the postponement of the mandatory vaccination until December 31 (no longer an emergency, then?). The Minister of Overseas-France, Lecornu, dispatched on Sunday, launched a vague proposal of possible “autonomy”, in the hope that it would attract some elected officials and local notables wishing to pick up some positions and appointments.
This won’t solve the problem. And the promise of a sudden thousand “assisted” (subsidized) jobs for young people is laughable. Decent jobs and salaries are what the population is demanding, not vague promises.
Against the negligence of the public authorities
The mobilization launched by collectives of labor unions, political parties and associations, hand in hand with the strike movement that has broken out, raises all the social problems that have been piling up.
This struggle opposes against a French state and its local branches that have no respect for public health: with a lack of hospitals as well as a water network that, in Guadeloupe, is deteriorating to the point of depriving many families of their right to clean water… but not of their duty to pay their bills. The chore of fetching water is part of everyday life, which in France would lead people to hit the roof!
Another scandal is that of chlordecone, an ultra-toxic pesticide used in banana plantations until 1993, while it had been banned in France. Today it continues to pollute the land and poison more than 90% of the West Indians, causing serious illnesses.
Anger of workers and youth
In addition to this, there is mass unemployment (40% among those under 30 years of age), a life in dilapidated working-class neighborhoods, and a youth that is often forced to emigrate. The prices of everyday consumer goods and gasoline have risen unsustainably for those who most need them.
It is therefore more than appropriate that health care workers, firefighters, but also teachers, gas station attendants, local government employees and hotel and restaurant workers rebel against this situation. The strikers and young people protest even above unemployment and low wages, the general lack of resources to live.
Long live the struggle of West Indian workers!
On the picket lines and the barricades, they had to face the brutal repression of the forces of order, and arrests. This became even more brutal because colonial rule and contempt, that of the state as well as of the “békés” (the descendants of the colonists who own the plantations and dominate the local economy) make life even harder than here [in France].
The success of their struggle is crucial for us too. Through their activism and their protest against social degradation, the workers of Guadeloupe and Martinique are carving the path forward.