Caribbean - General strikes in Guadeloupe and Martinique

Summer 2009

In the early months of this year, two general strikes swept the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Although uncoordinated, the two strikes were closely related.

There were objective reasons for this. Not only are the two islands very close to one another and very similar in size and population (450,000 and 400,000 respectively), but they are also both part of the remains of France's colonial empire. As such, they are both subject to much the same regime, with the same handful of mostly French big companies holding the population to ransom, thanks to their monopoly of trade in an out of the islands. And they have the same kind of arrogant "békés" (the derogatory name given to the members of the very rich landowning families of white settlers dating back several centuries) dominating much of their domestic resources and markets. In addition, both strikes had the same objectives - against the exorbitant cost of living imposed on the populations by the islands' colonial regime, which has been soaring since the beginning of the crisis, and in pursuit of higher wages.

There were, however, differences in the way the two strikes were initiated and run. In Guadeloupe, the strike was led from beginning to end by an "Alliance against profiteering" (LKP, or "Lyannaj kont pwofitasyon" in the local Creole language), which involved 48 organisations by the time the strike had begun, including all the workers' unions and many political parties, as well as a host of anti-colonial, environmentalist and cultural groups. In Martinique, by contrast, the strike was initiated and led by a committee which had been co-ordinating the activities of the various union confederations for months already. In both cases, however, large layers of workers and youth were actively involved in these mobilisations which were remarkably democratic by any standard. But the specific features of the strike leadership in Guadeloupe made it much easier for a much larger number of strikers and youth to get directly involved in its organisation, thereby providing them with a much richer collective experience.

In both islands, workers followed closely the developments in the strike that was taking place in the other island, in the full knowledge that they were fighting against the same enemies. Eventually, both strikes ended up in victory for the strikers. It may have taken 44 days of general strike in Guadeloupe, and a bit less in Martinique, for the strikers to achieve victory. But in the end, they obtained a public surrender, not only of the local employers and trading companies, but also of France's powerful state machinery.

For the exploiters, the implication of these strikes - something that they found extremely hard to swallow - was to put into question their right to shape the economy of both islands according to their whims and greed and, above all, at the expense of the labouring majority. For the workers in both islands their victory implied, beyond their immediate gains, the possibility of even more fruitful struggles in the future, going even further in challenging capitalist property and the social privileges of the small wealthy caste which has been looting these islands for generations. In fact, the common experience of this year's general strikes may turn out to be the cement which will unite all workers in a common and broader struggle, far beyond Guadeloupe and Martinique, for a Caribbean region freed of national oppression and social exploitation.

For us, in Britain, the significance of these strikes lies in their success, which is unique, so far, in the course of the present crisis. Here, as in every country worldwide, the working class is in dire need of a successful fight back against the capitalists' attacks. In this respect there must surely be something for us to learn from the experience of our brothers and sisters in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

For the reasons outlined above, the text that we publish here covers in greater detail the events in Guadeloupe. It is made of abridged translated extracts of articles written, in April and May, by members of the Trotskyist organisation "Combat Ouvrier", our sister organisation in Guadeloupe and Martinique. These extracts have been selected not only for their descriptions of events, but also for the light that only activists who have been involved in these events, from beginning to end and at every level, can shed on such events.

The run-up to the general strike

The most significant development taking place in Guadeloupe, in the latter part of 2008, was the series of protests staged by small traders and businessmen to back up their demand for petrol prices to be cut, including 3 days of demonstrations in which they set up road blocks on the main roads of the island. In that, they were following an example already set over the previous months by the populations of two other French colonies - first in the island of Reunion, in the Indian Ocean and then in the French-speaking part of Guyana, in South America.

In Guadeloupe, the active support provided to the protesters by the vast majority of the population during these 3 days, was an indication of the depth of the discontent. And when the protesters finally won a 25p cut in all petrol prices, this was seen by most as a success won collectively by everyone. But the discontent remained high, as people argued that it was not just petrol prices which were too high, but all prices (so much so, in fact, that the cost of living in these islands is actually significantly higher than in France!).

Things could have remained as they were. But, at this stage, the local politicians made a big blunder: they voted a £25m subsidy to SARA, a company which has a monopoly on refining and selling oil and its derivatives in both islands, as a "compensation" for the price cut won by the protesters. There was something obscene in this rich company, which is part-owned by the French oil major Total and by its US rival, Chevron, getting a subsidy at the expense of the taxpayer, in order to make up for a 25p cut in petrol price for the same taxpayer! This was putting in the hand of consumers money that had been taken out of their own pockets! And this is exactly how it was felt.

As a result, following an initiative launched by the UGTG (General Union of Guadeloupe's Workers, most unions met with many political parties and various other groups (there were 31 in total) on 5 December. It was decided to organise on 16 December a large demonstration to demand that the £25m subsidy should be cancelled and a general price cut granted on all goods. And, in order to maximise the impact of the protest, it was decided to call for a 24h-strike on that day.

On that day, support for the strike was uneven and the strikers remained in a minority in most industries. But the strike was strong enough to bring 6,000 protesters onto the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre, only to be told that there was no-one there who could respond to their demands. So, it was decided to call for another protest for the next day, this time in Basse-Terre, outside the office of the "préfet", the official representative of the French government on the island. But once again, the protesters were snubbed by the authorities.

The success of these two demonstrations and the contemptuous attitude of the colonial authorities led to a consensus around the need to give a more solid footing to the coalition of organisations which had met beforehand. Representatives of these organisations met and decided to form collectively a new body, the LKP, which was soon joined by more organisations, bringing the number of participants to 48. They immediately proceeded to call for a general strike starting from 20 January and decided to use the time that was left before that date to build up support for the planned strike.

The LKP, its components and operation

The largest component of the LKP was the UGTG (formed in the 1970s), the largest confederation in Guadeloupe (it came first, with 51% of the votes, in the last industrial tribunal elections, while the CGTG came a distant second with 20%). Then came the CGTG (General Workers' Confederation of Guadeloupe) and five smaller union bodies. Altogether, these unions represented the overwhelming majority of the island's organised workers. Together they formed the backbone around which all the other groups subsequently congregated to form the LKP.

This trade-union backbone provided the LKP with a large number of committed, experienced activists, who were determined to build up a fighting coalition. Of course, some of them were wary of an all-out confrontation with the bosses, but the general enthusiasm and dynamism was so contagious that they came onboard as the mobilisation developed. All wanted the general strike to be successful and they put all their efforts into building up the largest possible force to take on the bosses and the French government.

The unions were subsequently reinforced by various political organisations ("Combat Ouvrier", the Communist Party of Guadeloupe, the Green Party, the nationalist UPLG, etc..), together with farmers' and fishermen's organisations, environmental groups, committees organising the disabled, tenants or consumers, as well as various cultural groups which involved large numbers of youth. The only forces which were deliberately excluded from the LKP were bosses' organisations, of course, as well as the official parties involved in the colonial assemblies, in France and in Guadeloupe.

At first the LKP operated as a union co-ordinating body, in which issues were widely debated in a fraternal - although sometimes passionate - atmosphere, with the participants trying to convince each other of their views. And this way of operating continued after the inclusion of the other organisations.

Each participating organisation nominated two of their members to represent them at LKP meetings. It was explicitly agreed that while every organisation remained free to carry on with their own independent activities, once a decision was taken at an LKP meeting - decisions were always made on the basis of a consensus, without the need for a formal vote - all the participating organisations would be bound to defend and implement it.

It should be said that most of the delegates taking part in LKP meetings had been active for anything between 10 and 30 years. Over these years they had come to know each other well. They had often been involved together in actual struggles, sometimes in difficult circumstances involving repression and periods of underground activity. Some of these activists had been involved in different organisations at different times over the years. But whatever the differences that existed between them, and there were real differences, they all valued each other's militant qualities. All of this helped considerably in the operation of the LKP.

From a political point of view, how did 48 organisations, whose background and preoccupations were often very different, manage to work together throughout the general strike? In fact, there were two major reasons why they were able to join together in the struggle without ever being paralysed by their differences.

Firstly, all these organisations had close links with the working class and poor population. The UGTG is a union of a particular kind. On the one hand, it has solid roots in the industries which have the largest proportion of young workers. But at the same time, it operates much like a political party, on the basis of a nationalist programme. Also, its members are very active on a cultural level. The other groups which joined the LKP were also involved on a permanent basis with various sections of the poor population - workers, the youth, pensioners, the disabled, etc..

Secondly, all these organisations shared a common hostility towards the authorities, which most considered as the expression of France's colonial domination. All had been denouncing more or less vocally for a long time the established racism of the system - a system in which everything that counts is in the hands of white people, whether it is the local economy which is controlled by the "békés", or the various state institutions and big private companies which are run by expatriates from France. All these organisations felt the need to make a stand against this "white power" inherited from centuries of slavery and colonialism. This perception was reinforced by the degradation of the population's living conditions. The statistics speak for themselves: the proportion of jobless is 3 times as high as in France (27%), the proportion of people living off the RMI [a sort of French version of income support] is 6 times as high and 16% of the population lives below the poverty line. It was inevitable that one day or another, this situation would produce an explosion in the streets!

Of course, the general strike was initiated by waged workers who launched the general strike, with their own demands. But the strength of their mobilisation and their determination quickly prompted every layer of the poor population to rally behind, each with its own particular demands. And all along, the participants expressed very forcefully their opposition to the system's racism and their desire for dignity and respect in a country in which they are all too often treated like aliens - a country which is subjected to the greed of the big companies and to decisions which are often arbitrary and always made by a political power based 4,500 miles away.

Preparing for the general strike

The organisations which made up the LKP decided to put together a programme of demands, using a very simple method: every organisation would put its proposals in writing, which would then be regrouped and subjected to a general discussion at LKP meetings.

This discussion was often heated, for instance when it came to the demand for a 200 euros (£170) monthly increase for all low wages, up and including those earning 1.6 times the minimum wage. This led to a fierce debate, as did the demand that all casual workers should be made permanent.

Out of this discussion emerged a set of 18 demands, which were considered as taking priority over all others. These main demands concerned price cuts, wage increases (formulated as above), the definition of a local minimum wage based on the local cost of living (instead of being based on the cost of living in France, which is lower), benefits and pension increases, reduced transport fares, a freeze on all rents, the cancellation of all price increases introduced in 2008 and the cancellation of the £25m subsidy to SARA.

There was a host of other demands: price cuts for goods which are necessary for farmers and fishermen to do their jobs; teachers demanded that all teaching posts which had been left vacant since September should be filled. To cut a long story short, including the 18 priority demands, the LKP put out a list of some 160 demands which covered every aspect of the economic and social life of the island.

When the negotiations with the authorities began, after the general strike had started, the 18 main demands were raised first, but on the issue of wages the LKP came up against a brick wall. The authorities tried to put on a helpful face (maybe to drive a wedge between the participants in the LKP) by explaining that, having examined the 160 demands, they were willing to give some form of positive response to most. However, the strikers decided to stick to the demands they considered as paramount - the issue of petrol prices and the subsidy given to SARA was put first, then the issue of wages and then the issue of prices in general. In fact it was because of the deadlock over wages that the general strike had to go on for 44 days, before the bosses and authorities finally decided to give in.

Also to prepare for the general strike, a series of public meetings were held jointly by the organisations making up the LKP. Although often called at very short notice, they were always far better attended than the largest meetings normally organised by the major parties. These public meetings were designed to explain the objectives of the general strike. But they were also designed to "test the water" and check how the population felt about the strike. In fact, in every one of these meetings, the response of the audience was enthusiastic, showing that the call for a general strike was well-received by the population.

Four days before the strike was due to start, the managers of the island's petrol stations announced that they were closing down their stations to oppose a plan by a group of local capitalists (mainly rich "békés") to build a network of automatic, credit-card based petrol stations. This initiative went in the same direction as the impending general strike and reinforced it, especially as the petrol-station attendants (who stood to lose their jobs when and if the automatic petrol stations opened) decided to go on strike and occupied the stations. During the course of general strike they were to loosen their grip on petrol supplies from time to time, either because they chose to supply petrol for one day or two, or in response to a requisition by the authorities to supply emergency services.

In the days before the start of the strike, discussion took place within the LKP over whether road blocks should be set up immediately as the strike began. Of course this would have paralysed road traffic thereby preventing the majority from getting into work. But this had two major drawbacks: it would have made difficult to assess how well the strike was supported and it would have made it more difficult for workers to take an active role in the strike by joining strike pickets. Despite the fact that setting up road blocks in case of strike action was, to some extent, a local tradition, it was decided not to do it this time round. Instead the choice was to ensure that the strike expanded by relying on another local tradition, known as the "walking strike" - a tradition which dates back to the days when sugar cane workers going on strike used to "walk" across fields to neighbouring plantations in order to get their workers to join them.

The general strike begins

So the tactic of the "walking strike" was used right from the first day, with large contingent of strikers going from one workplace to the next in order to reinforce the strikers where they were still in a minority and strengthen the resolve of those who were still hesitating.

On that first day no plans had been made to organise any demonstration, but just a gathering outside the "Palais de la Mutualité" (a kind of co-operative centre) in order to make an assessment of the state of the strike in the various sectors. So the LKP were rather surprised to see a continuous flow of thousands of people converging throughout the morning towards the gathering point, coming from workplaces, as well as from the poor districts. As a result the planned gathering was followed by a massive march in the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre. Over 10,000 people were chanting the strike's demands - against the cost of living, against low wages, for the 200 euros, etc.. The general strike was on - and was going to carry on expanding.

Every day, from then onwards, thousands of people got into the habit of gathering around the "Palais de la Mutualité". In fact the whole neighbourhood was permanently occupied by strikers and demonstrators. Union leaders addressed the crowd from time to time to outline the activities planned for the day. Every evening a proper mass meeting was organised, with thousands of people in attendance.

On the first day, the strike hit almost every industry - from the Jarry manufacturing zone, which was completely closed down, to the state electricity company EDF, the main shopping centres, part of the health service, the petrol stations, municipal services, etc.. All school and universities were immediately closed down, since all their personnel were on strike.

But after the first demonstrations, thousands of people from the poor districts, who were not on strike, because they were jobless or housewives, joined the strikers. In Guadeloupe, a demonstration is usually considered well supported when it brings together 5 to 8,000 people. But this time, the daily marches in Pointe-à-Pitre increased in size day after day, quickly reaching 20,000, and then going up to 40,000 on certain days - almost 10% of the island's population!

There was nothing surprising in the fact that the poorest rallied behind the strike. They felt that, this time, the general strike was out to achieve something for good and to go as far as it took to achieve it. This gave everyone the confidence to join in with the strikers and make his voice heard. For many of the demonstrators this was even more about their dignity than about the demands themselves. They took to the streets in order to express the hardship and humiliation which go together with dire poverty, and their hatred of the arrogance and contempt displayed by the masters of this society - whether it be the bosses, the representatives of the state or those of the political institutions.

The first phase of the negotiations

The size of the mobilisation in the streets was such that the authority soon understood that they would be unable to do anything against it. At this point, the "préfet" initiated a discussion about the form that the negotiations with the LKP would take. What a contrast with the contemptuous attitude he had shown on 17 December!

There were two phases in the negotiations. The first phase took place directly under the eyes of the population, since it was entirely broadcast live on the radio and television. Whereas the media were excluded from the second phase, which took place at the state headquarters in Basse-Terre, under the auspices of Yve Jego, the French minister responsible for the so-called "Overseas Territories" (which include Guadeloupe and Martinique).

This first phase (from January, 24th to 28th) played a very important role in reinforcing the mobilisation. It involved first a negotiation over the form of the negotiations. The LKP demanded that the negotiations should involved all protagonists concerned: the "préfet", the presidents of the elected regional assemblies, the island's MPs in the French parliament and the representatives of the bosses. The politicians insisted on having separate discussions, but the LKP refused point blank. Eventually, the LKP got its way and it was agreed that all parties should meet up in the afternoon of 24 January.

In the morning of that day, a 20,000-strong demonstration marched in the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre. Then thousands of demonstrators followed the LKP delegation to the meeting place. Initially a big contingent of police had been positioned to stop the demonstrators from getting too close to the building in which the meeting was meant to take place. A popular private television recorded at this point the confrontation between Domota, the LKP spokesman, and the head of the police, stating that the LKP would only participate in the negotiations if the police allowed the demonstrators and the television channels to accompany its delegation. The relationship of forces was such that the préfet soon gave in.

So, over the next 4 days, the discussion that was taking place between the LKP, on the one hand, and the bosses, politicians and state officials, on the other, took place under the often bewildered eyes of the whole island population. As a result, people were able to see for themselves the inconsistent attitude of the politicians, the deviousness of the préfet, the whining of the bosses, who claimed they were in such great difficulties that they could not meet the workers' demands. Of course, the same bosses had nothing to say when the LKP representatives called their bluff by revealing the huge amount of subsidies that they got from the state.

These broadcasts, which went on throughout this stage of the negotiations, had an enormous impact and got even more people to side with the LKP and the strikers. Because they showed, in the most graphic way, the contrast between the LKP's conviction and determination in defending the strike's demands, and the combination of lies, impotence and manoeuvring displayed by the other side. In particular, the population saw and appreciated Domota's intervention when he denounced the fact that the higher you went in the hierarchy of the companies and the state, the lighter the face got, to the point of becoming completely white at the top. Likewise for the intervention of Nomertin, the general secretary of the CGTG, who got up, not so much to address the negotiators of the other side, but in fact, the whole population, to expose the racketeering and traffic of all kinds, organised by the capitalists in general and, in particular, by the oil monopoly SARA, and to conclude that all this was no longer tolerable. And, by the same token, everyone was also able to see how, on the last day, the préfet broke the negotiations without any warning, after having read a message sent from Paris by minister Jego.

In short, during these 4 days, the population as a whole got involved in politics, commenting on the attitudes of the protagonists and taking sides in the arguments that were being broadcast. And when the negotiations were broken off, the numbers in the demonstration called by the LKP suddenly swelled to its highest level, with many people who had never taken part in a demonstration in their lives, chanting in créole: " this country is not theirs, it is ours and they will not do as they want here!".

The second phase of the negotiations

During this second phase, minister Jego, who had now come from France, set the tone on the bosses' side. He claimed that he had a mandate to settle the dispute and promised to stay as long as it took. This time, the bosses and the government refused to let the radio and TV broadcast the negotiations. But it was too late: by now people fully understood what was going on. The whole population stood behind the strikers. Poor people, jobless, people living on benefits, pensioners, the disabled, the retired, came in their thousands to reinforce the demonstrations. What is more, on 5 February, a general strike had began in Martinique as well, meaning that Jego was probably beginning to watch his step more carefully.

In this atmosphere, the new negotiations began. Starting on February 7th, they went on continuously for 22 hours. Eventually, a draft agreement was due to finalised in the afternoon of February 8th. Faced with the blunt refusal of the MEDEF (French equivalent of the CBI) to make any concession on wages, Jego had proposed a compromise whereby, for the first year, the state would fund 100 of the 200 euros wage increase demanded, the regional authorities would pay 50 euros and the bosses would only have to fork out the remaining 50 euros. In the second year, the bosses would have to pay 100 euros, and by the end of the fourth year, the bosses would have to pay the whole 200 euros. But as the LKP delegation arrived for the signature of this draft agreement, a phone call came saying that minister Jego was on a plane heading for Paris. He had been disowned by his own government, which claimed that the government had "no power" to interfere in negotiations between bosses and workers. So the draft agreement was out and the population was furious! The general feeling was that the rich "békés" had asked the government in Paris to torpedo the agreement - which was quite possible given the usual methods of these "békés" and their connections with French ruling circles.

Barricades on the roads

Then the LKP called on everyone to take the movement further. Domota and Nomertin, two very popular union leaders, told people on behalf of the LKP: "We are sick and tired of marching in the streets. We have to do something else. We must shut down the entire country until the bosses and government come to sign the agreement we negotiated."

They called on demonstrators to build road blocks along the main roads. This had an extraordinary success. All over the country, including on many small roads, people built road blocks, which they manned very consistently and seriously. This demonstrated yet again the extent of the strike's popularity across the island, including in the countryside.

On the main roads, the building of road blocks was organised by activists, from the unions and political groups. They were joined by people from all sections of the population, especially young people, both to do the construction work and to man them, including in order to defend them against the police.

The tactic used was to avoid direct confrontations with the police. But whenever a road block was taken over and removed by the police, another one was immediately built to replace it. Very often, despite their intensive use of tear gas, the police got tired of this exercise, especially as they had to deal with many different road blocks in many different parts of the island. In two areas at least, the police were unable to clear any road blocks due to the large numbers of determined people who defended them.

This whole period gave the population an opportunity to take matters into their own hands - and they did. Often road blocks were the collective product of the cooperation of all the inhabitants in a village or neighbourhood. They searched for the necessary material - like old cars, old refrigerators, old tyres and all kinds of rejects. Then, they had to build their road blocks, preferably at night to avoid an early intervention of the police And finally they had to organise their defence. But they also had to organise the feeding of those manning the road blocks. They had to decide who was to be allowed through - like doctors, firemen, or ambulances. All of this involved decisions which had to be taken collectively.

The case of the road block set up on the main road at Gosier is worth mentioning. It was the first road block set up by the LKP and its various components were spread along over 2/3 of a mile or so. Several hundred demonstrators together with local people were manning it. When the police intervened, they chose to make a show of strength. They attacked people with tear gas and clubs. One union official of the teachers' union was severely beaten up and had to be taken to hospital. Ten demonstrators were arrested and taken to the central police station in Pointe-à-Pitre, leading to a big demonstration outside the police station. However, the police insisted on charging the 10. Significantly most of them, who had no ID, identified themselves as "LKP1", "LKP2", etc... And this was how they were named on the official documents for the courts! Nevertheless the road block at Gosier remained in place until such time as the LKP decided to loosen the island's paralysis.

So, for two days and two nights, there were ongoing attacks from the police to break up the road blocks and scatter the demonstrators. During the two nights, real riots broke out in the urban areas, with plunder and arson in some shops. But there were also groups of young people, wearing masks, who did not hesitate to use guns against the police. During the second night of riot a well known union activist belonging to the CGTG, Jacques Bino, was killed. The circumstances of his death are still not clear: his murder may well have been carried out by a thug paid by the bosses.

His death caused a deep emotion. The LKP decided to arrange a massive funeral for him. So people were allowed through the road blocks so that they could attend Jacques Bino's funeral. This was the occasion for a huge demonstration, full of emotion and dignity, which reinforced everyone's determination.

The agreement and the struggle to impose it

Given the turn of events, the government announced that it was prepared to reopen the negotiations and, after various incidents, finally agreed to the LKP's preliminary demand - that the starting point of these negotiations should be the draft agreement reached on 8 February. For a few days, the road blocks remained and they were only taken down when the demonstrators saw that the government and bosses had decided to respect the old draft agreement.

Thus 18 days after this draft agreement was proposed, 18 days after the minister ran away, the same agreement was finally signed. The government and the bosses wanted to make the strike last a long time because they hoped to break the strikers' determination. Instead, they saw the opposite, the population became more and more frustrated and angry, pushing more and more young people to seek confrontations with the police. Stepping up the repression was not even an option for state, because support for the general strike was now too wide, too deeply rooted in people's minds. Resorting to tougher repression would have been a risky gamble! So the government drew back.

Besides, the general strike which had starting on 5 February in Martinique had developed and remained solid. There too, demonstrations by thousands of people were taking place in the main town, Fort de France. Moreover, it looked as if similar strikes might soon break out in the Réunion island and, possibly, in French Guyana. All these factors certainly played a role in Paris' decision to back down after all.

Even then, once the agreement over the 200 euros was signed by all the black bosses and some medium white bosses, the big white-owned companies still refused to sign. This led to a new stage in the mobilisation, with workers deciding to impose the agreement on the big companies which had refused to sign - a stage which involved many other large demonstrations and "walking strikes" which lasted throughout March and April.

The general strike ceased officially after 44 days. On March 5th, work started again almost everywhere. But then, a new wave of strikes broke out in the companies which had not yet signed the agreement over the 200 euros. Supermarkets, hotels, shopping centres, banana plantations, a private power plant, among others, were closed down by strikes until they signed the agreement. The bosses gave up one after the other, but by June there were still a few who resisted and, therefore, a few strikes carried on as well.

In Martinique, after 38 days of strike, the agreement on the 200 euros was signed as well as an agreement to lower the prices of basic necessities. Today, workers are mobilised to control price levels in the shops as part of the activities of "price watch" or "follow-up" committees", to ensure that the agreement is properly implemented. In Guadeloupe too, similar committees have been set up to control prices.

What is important in these general strikes, is that workers experienced a new way of fighting. They went on the offensive against the bosses and they did it by winning the active support of all the poor layers of the population. And they have now learnt that bosses and supermarket owners have to be watched.

Moreover, in Guadeloupe, grassroots LKP committees are being created! There is a demand for this among the population! The poor, the jobless want those LKP committees to be built, bringing together people from all parties and with no party, so as to be able to put demands on the state authorities, the mayors and the bosses - over all kinds of issues, such as the environment, living conditions, the high unemployment of young people, etc., and to organise whatever action is necessary to win these demands.

Of course, these LKP committees are usually influenced by the activists of one organisation or another. Some were set up by members of the Communist Party, others by UGTG members and others by activists belonging to Combat Ouvrier. Whatever is the case, these committees have to become a place where workers, ordinary people, can freely discuss about their problems and decide what to do about them and how to do it. Decisions should be submitted to a vote, and representatives to lead the LKP committees should be elected as well. Due to the on-going strikes in Guadeloupe, this is a process which is really only just beginning.