The general strike in Guadeloupe began almost a month ago, and the strike movement has spread to Martinique over the last two weeks, and yet the government and the management are still maneuvering, stalling and buying time, refusing to meet the demands.
Backed by the entire population holding the largest demonstrations ever seen in the Antilles, the strikers are demanding general price cuts and wage hikes: €300 in Martinique and €200 in Guadeloupe. Their representatives have reiterated the movement’s demands, rejecting, by the way, the approach of the Socialist Party leaders, who called on the strikers to be “flexible” in exchange for crumbs (in Guadeloupe, the Socialist presidents of the Regional and General Councils offered a bonus of 100 euros for three months for employees earning less than 140% of the minimum wage. . . ).
The French Antillean situation has its peculiarities. Its economy has in fact largely kept its old colonial structures. It is controlled by the “békés,” descendants of slave-owning white settlers, who make fabulous profits through their monopoly of exports to and imports from France.
But there are also a great deal of commonalities. In the Antilles, in Réunion, and in France, as well as elsewhere, the privileged want us to pay for their crisis. It’s this policy, driven by Sarkozy and the Medef (Mouvement des entreprises de France, French Business Confederation), that is making the situation more and more unbearable, forcing workers to wage battle to defend their conditions of existence.
“May the Workers of France Join Our Battle”
The first solidarity demonstration was held on the 16th of February in Paris at the initiative of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) and other organizations. The second demonstration, to take place on the 28th, has been called by Antillean community organizations, with the support of many trade unions and political organizations. The leadership of the trade union confederations should initiate concrete actions such as fundraisers, rallies, walkouts — or rather should have initiated them several weeks ago — in order to help bring the general strike in the Antilles to victory. Among the campus strikers, the idea is getting concretized.
Acting in solidarity with the workers and peoples of Guadeloupe and Martinique also means strengthening our own struggles and buttressing our own demands.
As stated by Alex Lollia, a leader of the Confederation of United Workers (Centrale des travailleurs unis, CTU) of Guadeloupe: “The government fears that the watchwords of Guadeloupe and Martinique might be echoed by our fellow workers in France and that France too might be paralyzed, which would have repercussions throughout Europe. We are holding out, waiting for French workers to join our battle.”
He is absolutely right! Nothing is more urgent than spreading this strike, beginning with the struggles that are developing, connecting all the links, local, regional, and national, among all trades and professions, both in the public and private sectors.
Faced with the bosses and government who don’t want to listen, the best way to express our solidarity would be to make sure we follow the example of the Antilles, creating a new balance of forces to enforce our urgent demands and to create a way out of the crisis consistent with the interests of the popular classes.
16 February 2009
We are thousands of workers, with or without jobs, with or without immigration papers, youth, retirees, casual workers, new and old activists from political parties, community organizations, and trade unions. In response to the call of Olivier Besancenot, we have founded the New Anti-Capitalist Party. In this party, we want to gather together all who want to put an end to capitalism. We call on all to build together a left that doesn’t give up, a fighting left to change the world.
The original tract “Guadeloupe, Martinique: Faisons comme eux!” is available (in PDF) on the Web site of the New Anti-Capitalist Party. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).