March 19, 1946, the four “old” colonies -Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and meeting- becoming French departments. 70 years later, politicians, trade unionists and historians pose a critical look at this law, considered at the time as a breakthrough.
While the government is preparing a draft law on real equality for make up the economic gap between the ultramarine and the Hexagon, departmentalization in 1946 was perceived “as the guarantee of civil equality, legal, economic and social”, said the Minister of Overseas George Pau-Langevin.
After the Second World war, representatives of these colonies, Aimé Césaire, Léopold Bissol, Gaston Monnerville and Raymond Vergès had filed three bills to that effect, which were merged into a single text carried by Aimé Césaire and adopted unanimously.
at the meeting, “the expectations were huge,” recalls Paul Vergès, founder of PCR and son of Raymond Vergès. After the abolition of slavery in 1848, the population aspired to “equality with the situation of French citizens.”
“These hopes have turned into enthusiasm after the law and very quickly into disappointment “he adds, citing for example that one of the first acts of the government at the time was to” maintain the status of colonial supplement for state officials. ” “This unequal society institutionalized Paris lasted over 50 years. It is half a century later that Paris has accepted the principle of the right to social equality”, he said.
“at the time it was an evolution. it was a recurring request from the end of slavery,” confirmed the deputy of Guadeloupe (PS) Victorin Lurel, author of a report on substantive equality but “then there was a disappointment and criticism of assimilation + +”.
for the historian Martinican Edouard Delépine, “in 1946, there was an ambiguity between what Martinique asking for years and what they got with the departmentalization”. According to him, Aimé Césaire has also coined the word “departmentalization” he preferred to that of assimilation, believing it was to have the same rights as French of the Hexagon but “no become, to be assimilated to the French. “
This ambiguity was lifted in particular with the appearance of a” national sentiment Martinique “, in 1949, he said. But judge denied that departmentalization brought a number of rights (social protection and social security, pensions, minimum wage etc.) even if it took until 1996 to social equality.
Guadeloupe, the Communist Party supported the law “was equal social rights for workers Guadeloupe” recalled Alain Felix Flemin general secretary PC Guadeloupe. But he believes that the departmentalization “did not end the colonial system” despite “the health benefits, school infrastructure,” although “many were obtained through struggle.”
Jean-Marie Nomertin, secretary general of the CGT Guadeloupe, according to law, “very quickly, we realized the need to continue the fight.” He said it is facing “the rise of the nationalist movement in Guadeloupe” that the state has finally acceded to certain claims of the population.
This law was “an empty shell” and the social situation is now “critical and untenable,” he said, estimating that the Lurel task to achieve economic equality reflected the failure of departmentalization.
in Guyana, “improving conditions health and social (schools, clinics, allowances) crossed the inevitable decline of the indicators of production, “Fabien analysis Canavy, leader of the decolonization movement and social emancipation (Medes), which deplores” handouts “and” infusion subsidies “.
” 70 years later, the picture is not terrible, it is very worrying, “he says, citing in particular the lack of roads in the interior territory, and yet difficult access to electricity and potable water. “This tool has been used as an instrument of colonial domination, not as a means of human development”