France: Die first, demand later?

this post is translated from French from:

April 1, 2020

On a visit to Angers, Macron has once again made a promise in response to the shortages: to increase the weekly production of masks in France to 15 million by the end of April! This is far from the 40 million masks needed, 2 million a day in nursing homes alone. To manufacture masks, respirators and medicines in France, Macron promises €4 billion. Compare this to the €345 billion earmarked for the bosses!

More promises

This is on top of a long list of government promises. Macron had promised with great fanfare a military hospital in Mulhouse. The result: 30 intensive care beds. Olivier Véran, Health Minister, had already promised masks, after saying that there were enough. Apparently, he had not promised enough, so Macron added another layer.
In the field, the situation continues to worsen: intensive care units are saturated, ambulances are overwhelmed, the deaths are piling up in hospitals and nursing homes. Unprotected workers, whether they are caregivers or not, are put at risk and become vectors for the spread of the virus. Hospitals have been calling for donations.

Taking care of the bosses

They would have us believe that in a great capitalist power such as France we cannot solve the problem of the supply of masks or respirators. The truth is that the government does not want to impose anything on big business.

Employers are pampered: €345 billion in guarantees for corporations, the ability to force employees to move a week of holidays, and even the ability to make them work up to 60 hours a week! If it had the will to do so, the State would be able to force large corporations to give their stocks of all essential equipment, to reorient production towards vital needs in order to combat the epidemic, and to stop all unnecessary production.

We deserve more than applause

In the hospitals, strikes have been going on for years to denounce a possible future disaster due to lack of means. The government continues to turn a deaf ear. Industries wanting to keep producing do not have too much trouble pretending to be “vital”. Worse, they come up with publicity stunts, like PSA and Renault who claim to set up a small production of medical respirators, with the objective of reviving automobile production as a whole. It is up to the workers to determine which production is vital, not up to the bosses, for whom only profits are vital. It is also up to the employees to ensure that they are sufficiently protected in their vital activities.

Workplaces are hotbeds of contamination

In many sectors workers have used their right to opt out and they are right. Businesses are hotbeds of contamination. By calling for work to stop, they are defending their health and the health of the entire population. Workers, too, must have guarantees:

  • ban layoffs and job cuts;
  • permanently hire temporary and fixed-term workers;
  • maintain wages at 100%, including bonuses, during confinement;
  • if small companies can’t pay, the big companies should pay for them.

Many workers are shocked that they are being made to return to work with promises of protective equipment when hospitals are short of it. We must be able to inventory the stocks available in workplaces and make sure they are requisitioned for hospitals, even if it means stopping production.
The outcome of the current fight for the health of the population will also determine the strength of the working class when the government tries to make us pay for its management of the crisis.