General strike in Guinea

Guinea has been rocked by a series of mass mobilisations and general strikes since the beginning of the year. The strikes in January and February represent the high point in a series of mobilisations that have taken place since the end of 2005.

In the space of a month and a half, from January 10 to February 27, there were two massive general strikes in Guinea, which completely paralysed the economy of the country for 33 days. This magnificent struggle of the Guinean workers and youth caused panic, not only in dictator Lansana Conté's entourage, but also in the ranks of French imperialism. The French ruling class is one of the main causes of the horrifying misery the majority of Guinea's 9.4 million people endure. For decades they have pillaged the country, the world's largest producer of bauxite, an aluminium ore, and covered up the crimes that their corrupt dictatorship has committed against the people.

The crisis of capitalism has absolutely dramatic consequences for the people of Africa. Famine is a constant threat, like the sword of Damocles suspended by a thread swaying with the fluctuations of the world economy. Angered by a rise in prices, in particular to the prices of fuel and rice, the working class, the youth and the poor threw all their energy into the struggle to defend their conditions of life.

The general strike in January and February was the high point in a series of mobilisations that have shaken the country since November 2005. Between then and June 2006, the Guinean workers have launched not less than three general strikes, called by the two big trade union organisations, the USTG (Trade Union of the Workers of Guinea) and the CNTG (National Confederation of Guinean Workers). The repression against the strikes was ferocious: dozens were killed during the third strike in June 2006. The hatred of the masses towards Lansana Conté, who has been in power for 23 years, was at its height.

On January 10, a fresh unlimited general strike began, called by the trade unions. The strike was successfully observed. In the main cities, the banks, schools, the commercial companies and offices were closed. The bauxite industry, the jugular vein of the country, was paralysed. The workers demanded the resignation of Lansana Conté and the lowering of prices.

At the beginning, despite the power and intensity of the movement, the restricted perspectives of the union leadership was revealed when they did not demand the pure and simple departure of Lansana Conté, as the majority of the strikers so fiercely hoped. Instead of this, they accepted negotiations with the dictator and the nomination of a "consensus Prime Minister", who was supposed to take control of the executive and "resolve the crisis".

Upon the promise of such a nomination the leadership of the unions called for a return to work on January 28. The workers returned to work. However, in the meantime, the police, the army and the various "death squads" that the state controls committed acts of bloody repression, killing more than 60 people. The number of arrests and the cases of torture multiplied. As a gift for their moderation, the union leaders were thrown in prison for a while. Upon leaving prison they went straight to negotiate with their jailer, Lansana Conté! Such is the degree of servility and corruption of the Guinean trade union apparatus, while immense reserves of revolutionary energy were being demonstrated from below in the ranks.

On February 9, the news exploded like a bomb: Lansana Conté had named one of his closest aides, and one of the most hated men by the population, Eugène Camara, as the "consensus Prime Minister". Immediately, the revolt erupted amongst the forces that, the day before, had stopped work believing in a promise of "change". The youth rose up. Official buildings were burned, the presidential guard was attacked with stones, and barricades were erected throughout Conakry, the capital. The turmoil amongst the working class was such that the union leadership had to call for a fresh general strike to begin on February 12.

Anger spread throughout the army, and several soldiers were won over to the strike. To prevent the army from shattering, Lansana Conté leaned increasingly on various militias, who again began to kill strikers and demonstrators. In total, the strikes in January-February cost the lives of 120 people - officially.

Isolated, Lansana Conté could not rely on the army or Parliament, which, on February 23, rejected his demand for an extension of the state of siege imposed at the time of the resumption of the strike. Probably "advised" by the pragmatic and authoritative hand of French diplomacy, which wanted a quick and sure way out of the crisis, he was forced to replace his choice of Prime Minister, Eugène Camara, with a technocrat imposed upon him: Lansana Kouyaté. The union leadership, "satisfied", again called for a return to work on February 27.

Not a lot is known about this new "consensus" Prime Minister. It is enough to hear the French media praise, with their hand on their hearts, his "integrity" and his "professionalism", to know that we are dealing with a servile lackey of French imperialism. Besides, the man was trained at all of the "African institutions" where France has a strong influence.

As long as imperialism dominates Guinea, as it does most of Africa, its people will never find a way out of misery. In the present epoch, that of the decline of imperialism, this means the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a socialist economy. The Guineans cannot accomplish these tasks without the aide of the workers of the rest of the continent. The fate of Africa depends, to a large degree, on the powerful working classes of the most industrialised countries of the continent, especially in Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, and Nigeria. The heroic struggle of the Guineans will serve as an example. It will show the way forward. In the same way that millions of destitute people live in Guinea on the treasures of raw resources, so too do the people of Africa die amongst inexhaustible material and human resources. But the revolutionary wave which has spread from Latin America will end up sweeping across Africa - and these people that official history has forgotten will end up cleansing this continent of all the oppression of world capitalism.