France: As the old Revolutionary Song Says, “Hang the Aristocrats from on High!”

Jean-Pierre Houël (1735–1813), The Storming of the Bastille, 1789. Bibliothèque nationale de France

July 17, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party, Translated from French

At a time when the government has just celebrated its umpteenth Bastille Day, with a military parade to show off its power to the wonderful consumer of French weapons that is the far-right Indian leader Narendra Modi, the classic song “Ça ira” (“It’s gonna be alright” with a verse that adds “Hang the aristocrats from on high” written during the Revolution and known to all French school children) is topical. For a handful of capitalists, there is opulence; and for the overwhelming majority of the French population, the difficulties of daily life and police repression. In mid-April, faced with an increasingly unequal society following the forced pension reform, President Macron promised “100 days to heal the country.” However, those 100 days began with protesters bashing pots and pans and has ended with legitimate revolts in working-class neighborhoods following the police murder of Nahel.

Increasingly Indecent and Concentrated Wealth

A few days ago, the magazine Challenges published a ranking of France’s 500 biggest fortunes, and it shows that under President Macron, the bourgeoisie has grown richer than ever. The wealth of France’s 500 richest capitalists has reached 1,170 billion euros, up 17%, or 168 billion euros in one year. To make the list, you need a minimum of 235 million euros in assets; but to rub shoulders with the Arnault family on the podium, you’d have to reach 200 billion euros! And don’t let them fool you into thinking that this money was earned through hard work: to earn a billion euros, you’d have to work every day for over 500 years, at 5,000 euros a day. We should get rid of these parasites!

Behind the opulence, a dictatorial power over society

This ranking reveals more than just a lifestyle of luxury and yachts. The concentration of capital in a few hands means that a tiny minority of capitalists controls entire sectors of the economy: Dassault in armaments, Peugeot in auto, Mulliez in retailing, Bouygues in construction and public works, Besnier in food processing, Bolloré in the media… These 500 capitalists control millions of employees, and call the shots in the economy, including the small and medium-sized businesses that are their customers or subcontractors. This handful of aristocrats of wealth – made from the exploitation of salaried labor – have given themselves the power to decide what is produced on this planet, along with where, how and for whom it’s produced… in other words, for their sole profit.

They have billions and we have billions of reasons to revolt!

For us, the workers, it’s full-blown inflation and strikes so that we can live, and not just survive. The bosses claim that inflation is ruining them, but their pockets have never been this full… The State watches over them, showering them with public money through subsidies and exemptions, just as it watches over social order. Police repression of the movement against pension reform or in working-class neighborhoods is there to protect this unequal social order. The government is taking an increasingly authoritarian turn; a demonstration against police violence, called by victims’ families including the Adama committee, was once again banned on Saturday, July 15.

The measures taken in many municipalities show the contempt, not to mention the racism that this government in the service of the richest feels for us. Neighborhoods have been deprived of public transport in the evening. The people living in In Blanc-Mesnil (in the North East suburbs of Paris) who cannot go on vacation were deprived of a rare leisure activity – the summer public swimming area, “Beach Mesnil” was canceled as a retaliatory measure after the riots.

So we, who suffer their incessant attacks, have a thousand legitimate reasons to fight to ensure that these fortunes are used to share working hours, increase wages and fund essential public services. We’re the ones who work, we’re the ones who should decide! Yes, on this July 14, when we commemorate the overthrow of the aristocracy, we can only conclude that faced with worsening living conditions and a bourgeoisie swimming in money, a good revolution is more necessary than ever!