March 22, 2021 Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French
One, then two, and now three lockdowns! Even the government’s supporters don’t really know how to justify the measures taken during the pandemic anymore. After the “Stop and Go”, the “No Lockdown” and the aborted promises of a massive vaccination plan, the Prime Minister has just announced a new wave of measures the logic of which nobody really understands. There was the grotesque episode of the mandatory two-page certificates (for travel) – which turned out to be unnecessary. This was actually a perfect illustration of the situation. Macron trying his hand at poetry, declared that “the master of time is the virus,” but it is clear that his political choices are not only guided the virus. What may seem like wild cacophony is actually driven by an organizing principle: to maintain big business’ profits at all costs.
One year after the first lockdown, it is time to take stock
The 250 daily deaths we see today in France are the result of a policy. In fact, the government has continued its austerity policies by putting maximum pressure on health care workers. Olivier Véran, the French Health Minister, says that “you can’t train a nurse in one year,” but at the same time he avoids explaining why among health care workers, quitting, sick leave and depression are on the rise. The same language is at work when it comes to discussing the current social catastrophe.
France is the European country that has given the most money (155.36 billion euros) to companies, especially the big ones (that have announced thousands of layoffs), while underemployment and poverty are exploding. Lines are growing in front of soup kitchens, thousands of students are not getting enough to eat, children of workers who not enrolled in college who used to survive off of little jobs here and there haven’t had any income for months.
Supposedly the State can’t do anything about it, because it doesn’t have the means. Yet the State thinks nothing of the expense when it gets shaken down by the pharmaceutical labs, which charge 60 euros to the State Social Security System for each saliva test. These tests have become obligatory in schools – and, as an additional pettiness, teachers themselves are charged one euro per test!
The Government’s Agitators
Activists from the Odéon theater proclaimed their demands during the Césars Film Awards ceremony in February 2020. It was a “distressing” demonstration for the Minister of Culture. How horrible! People making demands! While part-time entertainment workers are leading more protests in theaters, the government is responding with silence to a fight which could spread. What makes them tremble is the fear of a growing movement.
The Demand: A Free Vaccine for All
The movement of the part-time workers in the entertainment industry, the walkouts in the automobile industry and the demonstrations against layoffs show the path to obtaining the health and economic measures that are needed. We need a reduction in working hours, hiring in essential services, a ban on layoffs, a general increase in wages and real measures against the epidemic. If we are still constrained by covid-control measures, it is only because the government respects the profits of the pharmaceutical companies above all. While the order of the day ought to be the pooling of research and massive development of vaccine production, Macron and his people are defending profits rather than our lives. A massive growth of struggles is needed now more than ever.