Down with colonial policy in New Caledonia!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
May 20, 2024

The French government has provoked nights of rioting in New Caledonia by imposing a broadening of the electorate. The reform – voted by a parliamentary meeting 17,000 kilometers away from the people who are primarily concerned – aims to make the Kanaks a minority in their own country.

The government has displayed its full range of colonial repression: thousands of gendarmes have been deployed, a state of emergency has been declared and activists have been put under house arrest. Kanak rebels, the poor who loot stores, are called killers and terrorists manipulated by foreigners. It’s revolting!

New Caledonia was made French only through the violence of colonial troops. When they landed there 170 years ago, they subjugated the Kanaks, massacring them when they rebelled and evicting them from their best lands. It wasn’t until 1946 that forced labor was abolished, and Kanaks were allowed to move freely, no longer obliged to leave the city of Nouméa at 5 p.m!

The French state then set about making the Kanaks a minority in an archipelago that had become the land of nickel for capitalists. Thousands of French workers were lured there by the promise of a better life. Others, like the insurgents of the Paris Commune, were deported there along with many other convicts.

These Caldoche and Kanak populations, as well as Asian or Polynesian ones, could have lived together and benefited from their cultural differences. But the French State’s policy has been to pit them against each other. It relied on the white population to protect the interests of French capitalists and the fortunes they had built through nickel mining in particular, by robbing the Kanak population.

Misery, racism and colonial contempt led to the revolts of the 1980s, which were bloodily repressed by the French army. Since then, the state has made sure that a small Kanak bourgeoisie takes part in the archipelago’s institutions and the management of part of its economy, without changing the fate of the oppressed majority.

The law no longer forbids Kanaks to live in Nouméa, but they remain relegated to the poorest provinces. Those who live in the capital are at a good distance from residential areas that have private swimming pools. They remain the poorest and the lowest paid, they suffer from a high level of unemployment and bad housing conditions.

Democratic considerations and the desire to enable everyone to vote are not what motivated Macron to open up the electorate. In metropolitan France, the government has no intention of granting foreign workers who pay taxes here the right to vote. It’s a political ploy to prevent the Kanaks from deciding their own future. And the government dares to speak of a “decolonial process”!

Macron and his ministers are not acting in the interests of the Caldoche either, they just use them against the Kanak population. The civil war situation resulting from their policy has a completely different objective. Keeping control of New Caledonia means retaining a base from which they can attempt to play in the big league, in the midst of rivalries and tensions between the United States and China.

The government talks about the rights of peoples when it comes to delivering arms to Ukraine. But it sends tanks against the oppressed Kanaks. That’s when it shows its true face!

The imperialist powers, including France, have plundered and colonized, pitted peoples against each other and oppressed them. They have planted time bombs everywhere. They are exploding today in New Caledonia and Mayotte, but also in Palestine, Ukraine and the Kivu region in the Congo.

Continents and contexts vary but, behind the massacres of civilians and the progression of misery, imperialist powers are maneuvering to defend their interests and strategic positions.

The aspirations of oppressed people to escape misery and decide their own fate can’t be accomplished without overthrowing imperialism, i.e. the capitalist economic order at the root of imperialist domination and the frontiers it has created. Without this perspective, we are doomed to witness again and again the inequalities and violence that fuel rejection, hatred and racism between workers and between peoples.

Nathalie Arthaud