|End of 2008, early 2009, the catastrophe
of capital and the proletarian revolt spread and both are confirmed. The
current events go on to be a burning question, each official intervention
about the “crisis” forecasts much worse measures struck by capital against
proletarians. Against that, revolts are increasing, with their forces and
weaknesses but with the same central characteristics we described in our
text “Capitalist catastrophe and proletarian struggles” and we also underline
about the proletarian revolt in Greece: e.g. Iceland, Egypt, Haiti, Kenya,
South Korea, Madagascar, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion, Peru, etc., which
appear to us as the most meaningful.
Eurocentrist and racist prejudice divides proletarians at the same time as it distorts everything that happens in the world, disqualifying revolts in the name of the fact that they are “far from the centre”, “indigenous” ones, “without perspectives” or that it’s “only” about “hunger riots”; this prejudice begins to be seen by proletarians as an untenable barrier, an ideological hindrance to be demolished. Everywhere a serious confrontation with the power of capital and the state is reached, one can see the development of burgeoning feeling that the revolt in Greece, in Egypt, etc. is ours!
Yes, it’s indeed the resurgence of the proletarian revolt!
But how good is the feeling to feel anew belonging to a same struggling class, even if in a completely burgeoning way!
ONLY ONE CLASS: THE PROLETARIAT.
ONE AND ONLY PURPOSE: THE WORLD HUMAN COMMUNITY.
Early this year 2009 important struggles rocked anew the island of Madagascar. In these times of hardening of the catastrophe of capital and important proletarian struggles, only people who are completely lobotomised through TV can swallow the show offered by the media to the “public opinion”, show which reduces the issues of these struggles to a “chiefs combat” opposing the president Ravalomanana and his “opponent” Rajoelina (two businessmen who made their fortune, conquered the town council of Antananarivo before reaching one then the other the presidential function). Yet, in Martinique as in Guadeloupe or in Greece at the same time, it’s clearly the attacks of capital against proletarians’ living conditions that drove them to react and to fight. As in Greece or in Guadeloupe many sectors of the proletariat live in their flesh the fact that behind its soporific promises, the bourgeoisie, irrespective of which faction is concerned, can only offer them what capitalism in crisis is able to give: that is to say nothing or nearly nothing… And, at the end what it actually offers, it’s each time more misery and death.
As in other parts of the world, in Madagascar it is obvious that the current policies of capitalism in crisis (or better said the whole capital that reached the absolute limits of its valorisation cycle and exhausted any possibility to extend these limits thanks to a new injection of fictitious capital), these policies drives an each time more important part of the proletariat to struggle always more overtly and directly against the state and to abandon any illusion of reform as a means of solving the problems of humanity.
Thus on Monday January the 26th, in Madagascar, after several massive gatherings the previous days and a call to “general strike”, thousands of proletarians came down from “shantytowns” to head for their way towards May the 13th Square in the centre of the capital Antananarivo, and completely overflowed the pacific gathering called by the democratic “opposition”. Dozens of supermarkets were attacked and systematically looted before being burned down, among which those of Tiko chain belonging to the family of Ravalomanana. Other buildings were also targeted as the building of the state radio and television, which was ransacked and burned down, as several schools and houses in bourgeois districts. Neither Ravalomanana’s as well as Rajoelina’s calling for calm, nor the curfew, didn’t succeed in pacifying the struggling proletarians: riots and looting went on for three days and three nights, spreading like wildfire in the main cities of province: Mahajanga, Tuléar, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa, Tamatave, Antsiranana, Majunga, Toamasina, Ambositra, Farafangana, etc. Looting and attacks against private property were massive and spread everywhere. Confrontations between parties of law and order and struggling proletarians made more than one hundred of deaths. In this context it is important to underline what happened in Antananarivo central: the mutiny of prisoners, among whom a big number took advantage of the opportunity to slip away.
We would like also to insist here on a successful action of the proletarians’ revolt that had not been mentioned in the international media because it revealed the refusal and hate of the proletariat towards all that represents “the regime”, and in particular the direct and visible managers of our misery. On Tuesday February the 3rd, the Finance Minister (i.e. the minister of exploitation and misery) went on his tour of inspection and explanations in province. When his plane landed on the airfield of the city of Farafangana, a crowd of proletarians was ready and waiting for him to settle his score. The plane was burned down, the airport infrastructures destroyed and looting spread to the city. The minister was hunted down to a hotel, where he took refuge. He just escaped the lynching and found his salute only thanks to a helicopter coming from the capital. “Farafangana looked like a city without state. Representatives of the authority immediately took flight after the alert”, lamented the mayor of the city by the Malagasy media.
The strength of the movement in Madagascar even rocked the repression forces, the police, the gendarmerie, and the army. During the first 36 hours of riots policemen and soldiers were conspicuous by their absence in the streets, the ordinary soldiers didn’t obey orders for repression. Faced with this situation the president Ravalomanana decided to shorten his abroad journey and to come running up double-quick in the capital. Once in safety he declared wishing to “restore law and order” and “protect the Republic”, knowing that it was also about restoring his own failing authority. To this end, taking into account the lack of confidence he could have in the regular armed forces cohesion facing so generalized class movement, Ravalomanana (ensured by international supports) mobilized his presidential guard and hired some white mercenaries and military consultants (South-African ones among others). “Red Saturday” repression was thus the job of these special units, which are the final guarantors of state authority.
Dissensions within the army overtly appeared on March the 8th. Soldiers of the CAPSAT (Corps of the administrative and technical services staff), mainly from Soanierana, mutinied in an important military camp, at the gates of the capital, to protest against the repression of demonstrations. The refusal of certain sectors of the police to shoot at their class brothers and sisters is always a crucial moment in the confrontation between the proletariat and the state. Indeed, the cooptation of proletarians in the repression forces is the cornerstone of the bourgeois domination. Class struggles in Bolivia in 2001 were a considerable example of this contradiction, when important sectors of the police defected “bag and baggage” to the struggling proletariat, assaulting barracks, emptying arsenals and confronting elite units as last bastions of a central sector of the state. Unfortunately, in Madagascar as often in other struggles, the limits and weaknesses of the movement neutralized the subversive strength of this explicit refusal of the soldiers to shoot and take part to the repression, transforming it into an implicit support to “the democratic alternation” represented by “the opposition” under the face of Rajoelina.
From March the 16th and the 17th, events gathered pace: some mutinied elements of the army took possession of Ambohitsirohitra presidential offices (they also assaulted the central bank!), the president Ravalomanana felt to be abandoned and preferred to hand over to other more acceptable persons for not having participated directly in the management of the capitalist catastrophe. A “military directory” was nominated and in charge to assure a soft transition. A certain number of the mutineers didn’t accept this situation and arrested straightaway several generals among the leaders of this directory. Alas, the mutiny didn’t succeed in developing or boosting, with all the consequences it implies, the dynamics of these first demonstrations of revolutionary defeatism. Faced with this situation, that just shows how order frightens vacuum, Ravalomanana decided to yield “power” to Rajoelina. This “democratic alternation” was more efficient to get rid of the movement than all that had been tried before by the state.
We can only see in the strong limits of proletarian associationism one of the major weaknesses that was disastrous for this powerful episode (but it’s only the beginning of the series) of radical revolt against the system as a whole. This revolt manifested itself through riots, looting and very targeted attacks but it seems indeed there was no qualitative leap in terms of coordination, organization, neither for leading agitation by the most hesitant sectors of the proletariat nor for creating strong and lasting ties with prisoners and mutinous soldiers.
In spite of two months of intense struggles in Madagascar a part of the proletariat didn’t break with the democratic, legalistic, reformist illusions, which attribute the origin of all the evils to the serving president’s policy. Although sectors of the struggling proletariat, by their denunciations and actions, clearly brought the capitalist origin of their present social sufferings to light, the revolt didn’t succeed in clearly expressing its rupture with the democratic and citizenship submissiveness, with its sheep-like demonstrations, nor to spread in time and space, what obviously constitutes one of the big problems of the proletarian struggles in the world.
During his first rally of victory on May the 13th Square, Rajoelina declared that he will do his “best to make sure that Malagasies will get out of poverty”, promising to “lower the price of rice”. What a joke! Ravalomanana, when he reached the presidency in 2002, had already promised to “enrich the poor” and the result was what we well know: catastrophic deterioration of the proletariat’s living conditions. It was this same catastrophe that firstly boosted the struggles of our class in Madagascar, and these threw away the illusions to get any improvement of living conditions of the exploited. Masks of Ravalomana’s government fell; bourgeois media quickly tinkered a new alternative mask and gave it to Rajoelina nicknamed “TGV” (i), “for his dynamic character” and especially “for the speed of his social rise”. But this mask can fall in such a short time it was necessary to produce it, the indocility of our class to accept the unavoidable measures against its living conditions will probably derail quickly this dashing presidential “TGV”.
Mid-February, whereas roadblocks defended by weapons were on the increase, the police tried an offensive action to dismantle them and arrested many militants. This stepping up of class confrontation attracted then unemployed and other more marginalized sectors of the proletariat that literally flooded from the suburbs over the centres of towns and strategic junctions of the merchant world, acting there without a break during three days and three consecutive nights, while looting, setting on fire shopping malls and vehicles of repression forces (1) and even blocking up the airport. The economy was completely blocked by this evolution of the movement, the tourist companies cancelled all the holidays on the island (2) and the state admitted it’s “not able to requisition petrol stations anymore.” Faced with this development of proletariat’s direct action it’s the very maintenance of social order that was threatened.
“They wanted Beirut, here is Beirut,” said to the newspaper “Liberation” a 16 years old youngster, while destroying cables in the harbour. The mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre appeared very worried: “What we lived this night, is not an accident. The city was given over to teenagers quite out of control, looting, devastating in an unbearable atmosphere.”
The French state sent out much more “gendarmes mobiles” (anti-riot police) while its more lucid factions knew perfectly well that it’s necessary to try to break the movement on another ground. So when the Secretary of State for Overseas Territories Yves Jégo was called to Paris, he tried to convince his peers that it’s necessary to agree with some demands –among others the 200 of euros- while considering what he described as an “insurrectionary situation.” It’s necessary to know that since early February proletarians of Martinique, another French neighbouring island, also started to strike and set up their own strike committee, the “Committee of February the 5th,” referring to the date of the starting point of the general strike, while on the Reunion Island –also a French DOM (i) near Madagascar in the Indian ocean- a “Collective of Réunion Island” had just called on February the 14th, on the eve of riots in Guadeloupe, upon a general strike on March the 5th.
Faced with a situation becoming unmanageable in Guadeloupe and also potentially in other DOM there are therefore at this moment some bourgeois who advocated negotiation because they knew that a brutal repression of the riots in Guadeloupe, like in 1967 (about one hundred of deaths), would indeed risk to step up the movement, including Martinique or even in more distant DOM where the situation is also very tense.
The French state decided therefore to promise satisfying some demands (among others the one about the 200 euros) to try the strike sector that had initiated the movement in December and January to give up, and this in spite of its fear this situation spreading further in the metropolitan France, and increasing the wage demands on the eve of a “social summit for employment.” And it worked to some extent: the unions (which the movement didn’t break enough with) expended a lot of energy for that purpose, issuing spectacular pseudo-radical statements (as those of UGTG leader, Elie Domota, promoted by the bourgeois media to “representative of the movement”); the state and employers’ promise for 200 euros finally overcame the strike, what quickly weakened the combativeness of unemployed proletarians who had joined the movement on the barricades. Unlike the fears of the French government the promise of satisfying this demand didn’t provoke a contagion, didn’t encourage proletarians of the rest of France to bring their exigencies into alignment with the one of their class brothers and sisters in Guadeloupe.
In the present context of crisis where the tendency is rather to wage cuts, restructurings and layoffs, a monthly increase of 200 euros for the low wages appears indeed as an important concession. Moreover it was necessary to be sufficiently attractive to break the movement and to bring strikers to start work again. Of course, we know that even though it was applied, this increase of the nominal wage would not result really in an increase of the real wage in the medium term, considering the galloping inflation. And the bourgeoisie already tries by all the means to empty the substance of this agreement. The 200 euros promised were supposed to be paid for half by the central state, and the two quarters remaining by the local authorities and the employers. Meanwhile the state showed that it would fulfil its commitment for a term of two years, while the MEDEF (employers’ federation) balked at paying its part of the bill, chopping up the agreement into sectors negotiations to bury it better. Yes indeed, the bourgeoisie is once again trying to make us swallowing an affront and a lie as well…
|Foodstuffs prices were always been inclined to be higher in the DOM-TOM than in metropolitan France. This is explained by the fact that there capital historically organized exploitation in a “classical” way through imposing an export monoculture (sugar cane) that binds the proletarians’ survival to the importing of vital commodities from metropolitan France. But, for various reasons (particularly the increase in costs of transportation linked with the raising of oil prices, monopolies on certain markets conceded directly to certain companies by metropolitan France, etc.) that we won’t develop here, prices of imported products are always among the highest ones. According to official figures, prices of basic foods are sometimes 300% higher in the DOM than in metropolitan France, the average wage is lower by half and the overall unemployment rate is 27% (for an average of 7% in metropolitan France), going up to 55% among the 18-25 years old. An illustrative example? One kilogram of carrots costs 1,29 euros in Paris for… 4,12 euros in Guadeloupe. One kilogram of flour costs 1,33 euros in Paris for 2,85 euros in Guadeloupe (Figures quoted by the French newspaper “Le Monde”). And it’s here just about basic foodstuffs!|
What has to be drawn from these events in Guadeloupe?
Once again it appears that what the state has the most to fear –as the French president previously underlined about a potential connection between the suburbs and the anti-CPE movement- it’s the meeting in a same struggle of sectors of the proletariat usually maintained separated (by the material conditions, their mutual non recognition, etc.). It’s incontestably what gave a qualitative leap to the movement in Guadeloupe.
However, in Social Democracy’s texts and statements formally taking a stand “for the struggle in Guadeloupe,” workerism remained the limits. Rather than having to recognize the determining role played here by these proletarians from the suburbs, rather than having once again to disqualify them as “lumpenproletariat” leading the “authentic workers’ struggle” in “blind lane of violence,” it was ideologically much more convenient to completely pass all this crucial phase of the struggle over in silence, while just rambling on about the relations between the movement and the trade-unions.
The appearance of two distinct movements reproduced in this way by workerism has certainly been fuelled also in the movement itself, by the lack of a coordination in force that would have broken with the Social Democracy’s way of organizing precisely based upon the maintenance of separations, lack that is moreover mirrored in the weak quantity of materials which were issued by these struggles, especially while comparing with Greece from which we received a lot.
From strikes against the worsening of survival conditions until barricades and blockages of the economy, from a proletarian point of view it’s obviously about one and only struggle, one and only reaction of our class against the generalized attack of its living conditions; and this reflection includes moreover all these movements in the other DOM and beyond, in continuity with the wave of world struggle called “hunger riots,” which we talked about in our text “Capitalist catastrophe and proletarian struggles” (first published in French in November 2008), struggles which were since then on boosted by the accelerated deepening of the crisis of capital during these last six months.
The brutality of the capitalist attack in these regions partly explains the strength and massive way our class reacted, as it was visible in Guadeloupe and elsewhere. Playing also a role there are the thread of the past struggles and a lesser degree of social cohesion, of pacification between the classes. For obvious colonial historic reasons, in the French Antilles as in so many other regions of the world, the colour of skin follows the class opposition: the bourgeois –bosses, managers, officials, etc.- are most of them white, either coming from the metropolitan France or being “békés” (white Creoles, descendants of French colonists) and proletarians are predominantly “coloured,” what obviously doesn’t dismiss that some of them are co-opted by Social Democracy and promoted low-ranking cops or union leader. What is clear is that it’s not the proletarians of these countries but rather the bloody and filthy right-minded white commentators who ideologize this issue about class and colour, who “make it ethnic,” and moralize it while shouting “anti-white racism.” Let’s add more that the massive “marginalization” of proletarians (see the rates of unemployment), relegated in always growing shanty towns contributes incontestably to weakening the social cohesion while enlarging the ranks of those who don’t have not much to lose and have therefore already lost their illusions towards the state and the usual social mediations.
However it’s essential for us to also define the limits that marked the convergence here evoked between different sectors of our class. If proletarians from more marginalized sectors actually joined on the barricades, on the ground of direct action in the street, a movement that had started through strikes against the brutal decrease in the real wage, it remains to understand how a show of victory waved by the unions on the ground of negotiations could break somehow very quickly this convergence.
The surpassing of disparities between sectors of the proletariat that took place in the fire of the struggle, on the barricades, was not deep enough for maintaining and reinforcing against the bourgeois manoeuvres consisting in retrieving the situation while making concessions in negotiations with striking employees. Each of both sectors of the proletariat involved remained, to a certain extent, dependent of the limits of its specific situation: striking proletarians didn’t break with Social democrat organizations (and firstly the unions, of course anxious to bury the movement while saving the facade) and more marginalized proletarians, as for them, remained outside of these organizations but without developing peculiar organization, without bringing the other proletarians to turn against these organizations. Class autonomy arose in practice in having clearly no respect for the appeals for calm of the whole Social Democracy but has not been assumed in a more consistent and higher way, which means that this autonomy must overtly impose through common organization, and centralization, against the gravediggers of the struggle.
In these struggles in the DOM, each time it was thus possible to see the constitution of “committees,” “leagues” or “collectives” to coordinate the struggle. Each times there appeared the contradiction between a will of centralization of the struggle and social democrat manoeuvres to contain the movement. In fact these strike or coordination committees showed big heterogeneities and Social Democracy seemed to succeed quite easily in leading them, while “radicalising” its speech to avoid the proletariat to get organized outside and against it. As always, what matters for Social Democracy is to defend class collaboration. The UGTG union (General Union of Guadeloupe Workers) that succeed in imposing itself as the LKP leadership didn’t obviously depart from this rule, trying to lead proletarians in the quagmire of reformism, negotiations, and pacification of the movement and thus opening the way to the repression of revolutionary minorities. When the first riots, lootings, and arsons broke out and that the movement became more offensive (through the extension of blockades, the armed confrontation, etc.), the UGTG didn’t forget to issue appeals for calm in the heat of the struggle, though it “denounced the repression,” as its leader Elie Domota did. To explain how negotiations could temporarily get the better of this movement and made the proletariat leave the street and give up its class ground, we evoked above the discord that got the upper hand on our class under the influence of bourgeois manoeuvres. We can see that there was indeed here scope for an “Elie Domota,” what seems retrospectively impossible in Greece where any attempt in this way would have been sabotaged by the massive denunciation it would have received. In Greece indeed various expressions of the movement emerged to assume as a pole of the negation of this merchant society as a whole. Although the majority of salaried employees kept out of this dynamics or was lagging behind it. In Guadeloupe it’s the salaried employees who started the movement… and have finally accepted its neutralization. When the strikers accepted to go back to work on the basis of the government’s promises (the “Bino” agreement of February the 26th, 2009), even though there were in March and April new strikes against scheming of non application of the agreement, there was no force capable to criticize and to refuse in action this huge rip-off and to carry on struggling against the state.
While now considering the relation between the struggles in one country and in another (Antilles), in one continent and in another (Madagascar, Réunion Island…), we have to admit that most probably one centre of agitation echoed and encouraged to another… but this spreading de facto is not yet assumed for what it is, according to all the subversion that it potentially contains. It is therefore to the spectre of the proletarian internationalism, instead of its efficient realization, that the bourgeoisie answered. Centralization and coordination remained the monopoly of the counterrevolution. Internationalist and stateless de facto, the struggle of our class lacked in Guadeloupe as in the rest of the world a qualitative leap in terms of conscious takeover and organization of this internationalism, of internationalist centralization of our strengths. Very concretely, it is clear that when more lessons will be drawn from one struggle to another against the social democrat mediations that neutralize them, against the divisions that the bourgeoisie succeeds in maintaining within our ranks, extraordinary perspectives of spreading and development of our struggle will open up.
The chimerical promises on the basis of which the unions and the LKP leadership crowed over their victory bring us of course an acknowledgement of defeat but also of hope for the next struggle: if the bourgeoisie is neither able nor want to keep its promises, it also manage in that way without any capacity to coax the proletariat. The next time that this one will take to the street, it will be with some illusions lesser and with some lessons drawn from the struggle of this early 2009. With the struggling proletarians in the Antilles, in Greece, in Madagascar and elsewhere, it is essential to affirm that:
Let’s centralize our strengths and let’s give ourselves the means to overthrow universally and definitely the merchant world and its trail of deadly and murderous abominations!