Workers Vanguard No. 940

31 July 2009


French Government Represses Anti-Colonial Union Militants

New Caledonia

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)

We print below the translation of a July 2 protest statement by the Comité de Défense Sociale, which is fraternally allied to the Partisan Defense Committee in the U.S. The CDDS is a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Ligue Trotskyste de France, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

PARIS, July 2—Gérard Jodar, president of the Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers (USTKE), was sentenced on June 29 to one year in prison, while five of his comrades also received prison sentences of between four months and one year. Eighteen others were also given suspended sentences of four months. The Comité de Défense Sociale (Committee for Social Defense—CDDS) strongly protests this attack, which strikes at all workers in New Caledonia, France and its colonies. These sentences follow a May 28 police attack. While dozens of USTKE members, including Gérard Jodar and the others who were charged, were at the Magenta airfield protesting the firing of a worker from the Air Caledonia airline company and the attack on union rights, they were forced to flee a brutal cop attack and a rain of tear gas grenades, taking refuge in two Air Caledonia airplanes. Outrageously, they were sentenced for “prevention of the free circulation of an aircraft.” In reality, they were simply defending the right to strike and to demonstrate! We solidarize with our class brothers in New Caledonia against this French state-led witchhunt against the USTKE militants, and we demand their immediate release and the dropping of all charges.

These prison sentences were handed down in the context of the world economic crisis. Strikes in the colonies are subjected to increasing repression. In the French West Indies, Réunion and New Caledonia [an island east of Australia], trade-union struggles, as well as those against colonial oppression, are violently repressed. In mainland France too, attacks have been increasing against workers, immigrants and youth—above all, minority youth—as well as against Corsican and Basque nationalists. What is needed is a counteroffensive by the workers movement, organized independently of bourgeois forces and without any illusion that a “left” capitalist government would be more favorably disposed toward their struggles. Colonial repression has been no less a hallmark of popular-front governments than of governments of right-wing parties—from the government of [Socialist prime minister] Guy Mollet during the Algerian War to that of [Socialist president François] Mitterrand, who oversaw the 1985 state murder of Kanak independence leader Eloi Machoro. And let us not forget the anti-union repression and, especially, the imprisonment of UGTG leaders in Guadeloupe under the government of [Socialist prime minister Lionel] Jospin and [Communist Party leader Marie-George] Buffet. That state repression prepared the attacks being waged today against the UGTG in Guadeloupe, as well as against the USTKE and trade unionists elsewhere.

The prison sentences against Jodar and his union brothers show that the bourgeoisie intends to crack down on the working class and on anyone who dares to criticize the “French Republic, one and indivisible.” The USTKE, and Jodar in particular, have long been legally harassed and targeted by the French state. Just over a year ago, the CDDS protested against the sentencing of Jodar to a one-year prison term for “directly provoking an armed assembly” as well as against the sentencing of 22 other activists. Through this persecution, the bourgeois state seeks to send a message that it will crush all attempts by workers, in New Caledonia or in France, to defend themselves against layoffs and any undermining of their social gains by the state or the bosses. But the workers movement, and particularly the trade unions in the French metropolis, have the social power to fight back and to strike the capitalists where it hurts—in their pocketbooks—because it is the workers who produce the profits appropriated by the capitalists. Labor must mobilize this power to take up the defense of the USTKE militants. An attack against one is an attack against all—the entire working class is being targeted.

We are for the independence of New Caledonia and we demand the immediate withdrawal of French troops from New Caledonia and the Pacific. The aim of these attacks is to maintain the control of French imperialism over nickel in New Caledonia. The emancipation of the [indigenous] Kanak people—and harmonious relations between Kanaks, Caledonians and Oceanians—can be won only by united proletarian struggle in New Zealand, Australia, Japan and throughout the region. This perspective of achieving socialism throughout the Pacific is that of the international Trotskyist program. Free all the imprisoned USTKE militants!