The Socialist 24 November 2009 |
Join the Socialist
Guadeloupe - End the profiteering and exploitation
THE SOCIAL situation in the "French West Indies", and particularly in Guadeloupe, is boiling over once again.
Virginie Prégny, Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI in France)
The struggle continues for the effective implementation of the 'Bino agreements' which ended the general strike of March 2009 (ie wage increases of 200 euros for the lowest paid workers, and a reduction in prices of basic goods).
The announcement by Marie Luce Penchard, secretary of state for French 'overseas departments', 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' - a 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, etc), 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' (a creole word for profiteering and exploitation).
Since September 2009, 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. 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 fixing is illusory as it still allows capitalists to implement price rises etc, linked to the continued commercial monopoly of a handful of families.
If 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 food imports from 'Metropolitan' France.
How do the French and Guadeloupean capitalists think they will be able to compete with countries like Dominican Republic or Haiti? By exploiting even more the poor peasants in order to lower prices!
The question posed to Guadeloupean workers, poor peasants and young people is that of taking power from the local ruling classes, and abolishing private ownership of the means of production.
That means breaking once and for all with this economic system, based 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 themselves in the communities, they 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 workers in the rest of the Caribbean, rather than the countries of the region being in competition with each other for the benefit of imperialism as is the case today.
The March general strike 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 defeat 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.
The Guadeloupe people have shown the way forward, now we have to push the discussion forward on what the alternative to capitalism is in the region, ie socialism, and on building a revolutionary party to bring it about.