The Kanak people declare ‘La France degage!’—France, get out!

Thousands of Kanak Indigenous people have risen in fierce widespread rebellion against French colonialism in Kanaky, also known as New Caledonia. Protests started for consecutive days after Monday, May 13, when the French parliament passed a resolution to impose its colonial agenda in New Caledonia.

The French imperialists wanted to change the voting eligibility restrictions for their own benefit and that of European colonizers living on the islands. The protests rolled into weeks, lasting for the rest of May and ongoing into June, involving clashes with French police, barricaded roads and attacks on buildings.

Working class and young Kanak people are largely responsible for initiating these latest waves of ongoing protest in the archipelago, situated approximately 750 miles to the east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. The colonial media in France and other countries predictably tried to smear the protestors.

Young Kanak protestors who took part in the uprising against French colonialists said, “Today we were in what they call the riots. We call it the revival of youth. They talk about us as terrorists, but it’s them—they are the ones who are the terrorists here, not us.”

The widespread uprisings left the French imperialists so afraid that French president Emmanuel Macron delayed the neocolonial agenda that the French parliament had planned and then sent an additional 1000 French troops almost 10,000 miles across the world to try and suppress the rebellion.

Macron even felt the need to personally fly to the islands himself to try and maintain control. The French imperialists also banned social media platform TikTok on the islands in an attempt to block communications between demonstrators.

Macron threatened to continue keeping 3000 troops in actively deployed New Caledonia even during the upcoming Paris Olympics, showing how much the colonialists fear the power of the Kanak people.

Jimmy Naouna from the Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), which translates to the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front, declared in response to Macron’s visit and hubris: “Here comes the fireman after he set the fire!”

Kanaky, also known as New Caledonia, is approximately 750 miles to the east of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. p PHOTO: TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 , VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

In response to France deploying thousands of troops, Kanak protestors erected 70 barricades along a 40-mile stretch of road from the international airport in La Tontouta to the Kanaky capital, Noumeá.

The barricades included dozens of burnt-out vehicles, aimed to block the arrival of the French troops. The French had to use 600 paramilitary police and army personnel just to break through the barricades.

Centuries of uprisings against French colonial rule

The French still maintained control over the islands as a settler colony and as a French overseas territory, after first brutally colonizing it in 1853 and forcing the Kanak people off their land.

Today the Kanak Indigenous people constitute 42 percent of the population of 270,000. There have been relentless mobilizations for independence and self-determination by the Kanak people over the centuries.

There were especially large-scale rebellions and protests in the 1940s against the Vichy colonial government, and in the 1970s and 1980s, which included armed resistance against French colonial rule.

Rodney Parini, a former member of Union Calédonienne, which is part of FLNKS, participated during the protests of the 1980s and was jailed several times for his role.

He said of the reasons for the protests happening now, “Forty years after I was protesting, you have a lot of young [Kanak] people in town, with no job, with nothing, living side by side with rich French people. One block could be rich people, 20 meters away you have a block of poor people. It’s crazy. Some young people don’t care if they live or die. It’s a problem.”

After the fierce resistance of the 1980s, France was forced to come to the negotiating table and agree to the Noumeá Accords. The Noumeá Accords, among other reforms, allowed for three referendums to be held for independence.

The first two referendums held in 2018 and 2020 had high rates of pro-independence votes, especially among Kanak people—garnering 43.3 percent and 46.7 percent of total votes respectively in favor of independence—although not enough in total to pass.

Then, in December 2021, while the COVID pandemic hit the Kanak population, Macron cynically used this opportunity to hold the third and last referendum. 

Knowing that fewer people would be able to vote during COVID, he held the third referendum during that particular time with the aim of reducing the chances of New Caledonia gaining political independence from France. 

Pro-independence organizers had called for the third referendum to be delayed. When Macron refused, they called for a boycott, declaring that it was illegitimate. The third referendum had 44 percent of the voter turnout of previous votes and only had a 3.5 percent vote in favor of independence.

The recent agenda by the French parliament aimed to reduce the chance of political independence even further by extending voting eligibility to non-indigenous colonizers who had lived on the islands for more than 10 years, to dilute the vote of the Indigenous Kanak people.

La France degage! France, get out!

In addition to the Kanak people’s struggle for political independence, there is also the struggle for control over their own resources and self-determination. New Caledonia is the third-highest exporter of nickel in the world, a valuable metal used for creating steel and other metal alloys as well as for making batteries and magnets.

But the whole Kanak population does not benefit from the nickel exports. 

In previous years, France also wanted the exports from New Caledonia to be oriented towards Europe rather than to China in Asia. This demonstrates how colonialism is still ongoing. 

It shows us how the colonizers still try to control our resources for their own benefit. It shows us how the colonizers continue to try and prevent us from having control over our own lives and from having self-determination.

African Internationalism, the theory developed by Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People’s Socialist Party, is the only theory that can explain what’s going on.

The conditions and history in New Caledonia highlight the colonial mode of production, the global parasitic system whereby colonizers live off the exploitation and oppression of Africans, Indigenous and other colonized peoples.

Colonialism is the primary contradiction worldwide that we are organizing to overturn. Chairman Omali Yeshitela says that what matters is control over our own lives and our own resources.

The powerful uprisings in Kanaky also illustrate the power of Indigenous and colonized peoples organizing for self-determination.

It shows how scared the colonizers are of masses of colonized people fighting against the colonial mode of production for their own liberation.

The Kanak protests are another gigantic blow to France as a colonial empire, especially after countries in West Africa—Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger—threw out the French from military bases in recent years and stopped easy access for French colonizers to another extremely valuable resource: uranium in Niger.

The uprisings are especially hard-hitting because France has been desperate to project itself as an imperial power in the Pacific, after losing a submarine deal with Australia, another settler colony, in 2021. 

The ongoing protests by the Kanak people resolutely smashed any standing that the French colonizers tried to project for themselves.

From Algeria and Viet Nam in the 1950s and 1960s, to Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and Kanaky today, everyone has been saying “La France degage!”—France, get out!

From Sea to Shining Sea, African and Indigenous People Will Be Free!

Build Anti-Colonial Unity!

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