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Solidarity with the proletarians and youth in revolt in New Caledonia!



Begun on May 13, the riots and clashes resulted on the 19th in a heavy toll: 6 dead (including 3 young Kanak killed by “Caldoches” white militias), hundreds injured and arrested, numerous fires set to official buildings (municipal buildings, district police stations) and others, and stores looted in the greater Nouméa area - the capital which, with over 180,000 inhabitants, accounts for 2/3 of New Caledonia's population. As in the rest of the island, blockades persisted in neighborhoods and on communication routes, while economic activity remained at a standstill.

The riots were triggered by the mobilization of pro-independence organizations against the government's decision to “unfreeze” the electorate (“frozen” since the Nouméa Accords), which would be increased by around 25,000 people who have been living on the island for at least 10 years, thus increasing the number of non-Kanak voters potentially hostile to the pro-independence movement. Of the island's 270,000 inhabitants, only 41% are Kanak, compared with 24% “European” (“Caldoches”), with the remainder belonging to various Oceanic, Asian or non-Oceanic communities.

The mobilization against the thaw is led politically by the FLNKS (National Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front) bringing together the main pro-independence organizations) and organized by the CCAT (Field Actions Coordination Cell),  initiated by FLNKS activists and the USTKE trade union (Union of Kanaks  and Exploited Workers), included large-scale demonstrations in Nouméa (20,000 people according to the medias, against a comparable number of Caldoches “loyalists”) and throughout the rest of the territory, as well as strikes. The CCAT then called for blockades on May 13, the day before the vote in the National Assembly in Paris on the law to unfreeze the electoral body. While actions in the rest of the territory remained generally peaceful, Nouméa witnessed a veritable social explosion: young demonstrators poured out their rage against everything that represents a system that crushes them, promising only misery, exploitation, unemployment and racism.

For their part, the overwhelmed forces of law and order and the political authorities let militias organize to defend the wealthy properties in Caledonian neighborhoods against the wrath of the rioters. The French government declared a state of emergency (with the support of the Socialist Party, faithful to its long tradition of colonial repression, including in New Caledonia, in the name of re-establishing “republican order”) and dispatched a thousand men to reinforce the police in the island; the Minister of “Justice” issued a circular calling for “the heaviest sanctions to be applied against rioters and looters”, giving as a model the repression of riots in the French proletarian neighborhoods of June 2023. The French authorities have accused the CCAT, denounced as a “mafia-like group committing murder and pillage”, of being responsible for the events, and have placed 10 of its leaders under house arrest (1).

Yet the CCAT protested that it had never called for insurrection, as it was accused of doing, but only for peaceful actions, and on the 14th it called on “all our young people to slow down”. At a press conference on the 15th, the FLNKS declared that it “denounces the exactions committed”, called for the lifting of the blockades and affirmed its support “for business leaders and their employees”; the current poisonous climate, it added, “cannot justify jeopardizing peace and everything that has been built”, and ended by announcing that it would respond positively to the President's proposals for consultation.

But these fine words were not enough for the young rebels, who continued the confrontations.

Since the Matignon Accord in 1988 and the Nouméa Accord in 1998, a Kanak bourgeoisie has prospered in the shadow of the State, and it has no intention of jeopardizing its gains, so it wants to “avoid the street getting the upper hand” (statement by the president of the Union Calédonienne-FLNKS group of elected representatives, 14/5). But for the proletariat, nothing has really changed in the last 30 or 40 years, and Camedonian society remains deeply marked by its colonial past; social inequalities are glaring; in 2022, the unemployment rate was 15.5% for Kanaks, compared with 8.3% for non-Kanaks, and 72% of those with jobs are only part-time, their jobs are often unskilled, with 80% being manual or clerical workers: the result is that the median standard of living for Kanaks is only half that of non-Kanaks.


The importance of New Caledonia for French imperialism


Having become a French colony in 1853, New Caledonia was initially used to deport prisoners (including Communards such as Louise Michel) and turn it into a settlement colony, despite revolts from the native population.

But it was the exploitation of nickel, of which the island holds a quarter of the world's reserves, that made New Caledonia a precious possession for French capitalism. It led to an economic boom in the late 1960s, making nickel production the economic powerhouse of the territory: the sector employs around 20% of the territory's salaried workers and provides the bulk of its exports. But it is now in a big crisis, following the collapse of prices (-45% by 2023) and rising energy prices. The major companies that made their fortunes from mining it are unwilling to bear the losses; Swiss giant Glencore has shut down its northern plant (KNS) and announced its departure, which would result in the dismissal of over 1,700 people, while the southern plants (SLN and Prony) are facing bankruptcy. The French government has announced a “nickel pact” that has been rejected by elected representatives, notably because it would require major investments by the regions at a time when its finances are at rock bottom.

The proletarians of these companies are in a difficult position to resist: the SGTI-NC, the main union in this industry, has called for a general strike in the sector on 25/1, but without blocking production and in agreement with an employers' organization of subcontractors! Clearly, proletarians cannot count on such a collaborationist organization, whose only aim is to be integrated into the ongoing discussions with shareholders! In New Caledonia, as elsewhere, only an independent class orientation can win concessions from the capitalists and the state.

Today, it's no longer the ailing nickel industry that motivates Paris and determines its policy, but the new French imperialist ambitions in the Indo-Pacific zone. This vast region is increasingly destined to become the site of growing rivalries between the great powers, and thus both threats and opportunities for tricolor imperialism. France's presence in New Caledonia is a significant card that it has no intention of abandoning as it seeks to present itself as a regional power with a vast “economic maritime zone”, even if it does not currently have the military resources to match its claims.

In other words, the proletarians and young rebels of New Caledonia are facing a determined enemy: it cannot be defeated by following the methods and objectives of the pro-independence organizations which seek only to negotiate a compromise with French imperialism, but only by revolutionary anti-capitalist struggle in liaison with the proletarians of metropolitan France, who possess in their hands the potential strength to break it.


Solidarity with the proletarians and rebellious youth of New Caledonia!

Down with French imperialism!

For the resumption of revolutionary class struggle and proletarian internationalism!


May, 20th 2024



International Communist Party

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