Call for Change in French West Indies

Guadeloupe, French West Indies
Photo: Flickr.com/manuel | MC

On October 5, the French worker’s party Lutte Ouvrière held a rally in Paris, and the first speech was given by Jean-Marie Nomertin, a member of the Combat Ouvrier in the French West Indies.

The conclusions of his speech were striking: the financial crisis and debt in France affect everyone, especially in this part of French territory, which is too often forgotten. In Martinique and Guadeloupe, the unemployment rate is especially high, with 35% of the population unemployed. This hit those between 15 and 24 years old particularly hard: 65% of them are without work. Meanwhile, this same group is at 23% unemployment in France.

Moreover, Nomertin points out the shortcomings of the French system in the West Indies. In the current financial crisis, many budget cuts are being made that also have direct consequences on French overseas territories. Indeed, in every sector, such as tourism and hotel industries, wages have not been paid for six months. There have also been cuts on hospital budgets, decreases in family allowances, national health services, and Regional and Departmental Councils funds.

Regarding the cuts on the health budget, Nomertin deplored an accounting management of the health sector, which lead to the closing of some services and unpaid wages.

During the 1960s, metropolitan France was a land of stability for French West Indians, but the continent cannot grant this state of security anymore. The Combat Ouvrier’s representative criticised the disengagement of the government in the public service sector, claiming that “their will for change is totally invisible for the working class.”

Although the Minister of Overseas Territory Victorin Lurel has announced an increase of 5% in the budget dedicated to French territories abroad, Nomertin does not consider it a victory. Indeed, this budget is the lowest of all the budgets granted to ministries and does not weigh much compared to that of the Ministry of Defense, which is granted 30 billion Euros.

Nomertin asked the France and the French West Indies to unite so as to fight the employers’ force and, implicitly, the capitalist system, asserting that “Communism is the only serious hope for humanity.”

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