March 1946: 70 years of departmentalization!

From a colony to a department

In September 1635, Martinique became a French colony and would remain the three following centuries. Initially, it belonged to the Compagnie des Isles d'Amérique, the company responsible for administering the French colonies in America. It was governed by a governor living on site in Fort Royal, administrative capital of the island. He was responsible for setting up the royal laws, enforce them and be the representation and the direct link between the island and the monarchy. This system concentrated in the hands of a man all the powers (army, judiciary, legislative and executive). He was chosen by the King.

In 1664, the Compagnie des Isles d'Amérique was replaced by the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales. It would now be managed by King Louis XIV and his administrator Colbert.

After the French Revolution in 1789, France became a Republic where the basic text was the French constitution. The status of the colony Martinique did not change. It's always a governor who was the government of the relay office in the island.

Aimé Césaire loi de départementalisationIn 1945, a young Martinican poet Aimé Césaire was elected mayor of Fort-de-France. His new speech denouncing colonialism please the population that undergoes full whip of food shortages and soaring prices. Inequalities between Martinique and citizens of the metropolis are denounced. At that time, Martinique served as a colony and belonged to the French colonial empire.

The law of departmentalization: March 19, 1946

From the abolition of slavery, the status of Martinique had debate. Victor Schoelcher, the man who pronounced the decree of the slavery abolition in 1848, had already advocated a change in status of Martinique and was in favor that Martinique becomes a French department. By July 1890, Vincent Allegre, then Senator of Martinique had prepared a draft law with Alexander Isaac, Senator of Guadeloupe to make the two Caribbean islands French departments.

The deputy Joseph Lagrosillère in 1915 and later Senator Henry Lemery in January 1923 also defended this idea.

At the end of World War II, the status of French colonies being debated in particular the colonies based in America (French Guiana) and in the Caribbean (Martinique, Guadeloupe). After lengthy debate in the National Assembly, Martinique becomes a French department by law enacted March, 19, 1946. The French laws that were not enforced in the island will now.

This assimilation was desired by the working class and agricultural employees in Martinique who did not then benefited Blum laws including the 40-hour week.

The text of the Law of 46-451 of March 19, 1946 provides:

Art. 1. - The colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion and French Guiana are erected in French departments.

Art. 2. - The laws and decrees in force in France and who have not yet applied to these colonies will, before 1 January 1947, subject to implementing regulations to these new departments.

Art. 3. - Upon the enactment of this Act, the new legislation applicable to the metropolis will be in those departments, on express reference to texts inserted. This Act, considered and adopted by the National Constituent Assembly, shall be enforced as State law.

Ce changement de statut arrivait à un moment où la France avait mis en place un système d'assimilation dans ses colonies.

Disappointing results for Césaire

Aimé Césaire, who had ardently defended the departmentalization is disappointed with the implementation of this law in Martinique. For him, departementalization was only a step toward autonomy as he hoped. He wanted either set up a local government can better manage the problems and local responsibilities. Shortly after departmentalization, he complained of the unwillingness of the Government to implement departmentalization law.

In 1951, he declared: "Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion and French Guiana have become caricatures of French department. Yes cartoons! For, amid excruciating poverty, economic stagnation and unemployment, we have seen reappear, even rejuvenated and strengthened, the specter of old colonialism with its attendant inequalities, prejudice and oppression."

After this, Aimé Césaire arises between the departmental status. This idea is also that of the communists, supporters of independence who wrote in the newspaper Justice: "Despite the law of 19 March 1946, the Martinique is a fake department. It remains a country whose economic character, social, political and cultural typically colonial (...) The Martinique must take a much larger part in the management of their own affairs."

Even after his break with the Communist Party in October 1956, he continued to criticize the assimilation and departmentalization: "What is that assimilation? (...) It is a political and philosophical doctrine that tends to make disappear the peculiarities of a people and kill his personality. Well, I say bluntly: assimilation and heard and thus defined, I am against assimilation (...) I am against assimilation departmentalization. [...] I did towards departmentalization or fetish or hostility (...) I consider this circumstance law, like all laws, I just add that I think that this law meets more to current conditions, and that if we want to make it reliable, it must be reconciled with increased deductibles and local freedoms designed to enable Martinique taking a larger role in managing their own affairs within the framework of a decentralized French Republic."

De Gaulle en visite en MartiniqueDuring a visit of the then president, Charles de Gaulle in Martinique in 1964, Césaire gave a speech calling again for local authorities to resolve the internal problems but had to face a crushing response to De Gaulle: "Between Europe and America, there are only dust, and you do not build states on dust."

In 1982, the Martinique will have a General Council and a Regional Council of the island making a department and a French region.

Autonomist desires Césaire are gradually their journey in the population supports the idea of ​​more local governance. In 2003, however, the population said no at 54% in a referendum for the creation of a community terrirtoriale substituting the General Council and the Regional Council. In 2013 a referendum granted the Martinique, the right to be provided with a single local authority. This would give the community more Martinique local authorities in economic development, health and social development, regional planning, cultural and scientific development of regional cooperation. In 2015, Martinique was able to vote for their regional representatives.