May 2, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French
The time of election promises hasn’t quite ended. The election of Macron as French president is reinforcing this democracy of the rich, made up of inequality, violence, and abstention. But the legislative elections are continuing to fuel many discussions: can Melechon’s party, France Insoumise (a social democratic party translated France Unbowed) be a counterweight to Macron’s policies? More broadly, how will we push back against this plan to roll back social programs by this President of the rich?
Macron Part 2: A Disaster is Predicted
In one hundred days, Macron wants to make his mark by imposing, among other things, an attack against pensions and unemployment or underemployment benefits for people doing unpaid work, such as homemakers or those on internships. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy and Finance since 2017 under Macron, reminded the French public that these reforms will be initiated with or without a dialog with unions, and with or without the agreement of the National Assembly (the French Parliament), as Minister LeMaire just reminded us.
These politicians already have a grim record. On the one hand, there have been 160 billion euros in profits for the top beneficiaries of the CAC 40 (the Paris stock exchange); while the owners of the five largest fortunes have as much as the poorest 40% of the country. On the other hand, there have been miserable pension reforms (a net average of 1,341 euros, with women receiving 21.7% below that average!) In addition, there has been an increase in fatalities at workplaces (8,000 workplace deaths are predicted by 2030, making France the European champion!) Also, wages have frozen, and there has been a massive increase in underemployment.
As if this were not enough, inflation is destroying the little that remains. The price of fuel, electricity, and gas has become a luxury, while shopping prices are skyrocketing. On April 29, France Info revealed that the price of the lowest quality pasta increased 70%! Social services are overwhelmed, and unpaid rents are multiplying. And for those who protest there is tear gas, clubs, flash-balls, and dozens of people are injured each time. This is Macron’s world. And let’s not forget racism: the cherry on top.
Shall we believe in elections as a counterbalance, or end the politics of the rich?
So again, we are being offered the shimmering hope of elections. The “New People’s Ecological and Social Union” is being put forward as a solution. Certainly, hope is necessary to prepare for the future. But it’s important to not have illusions. Indeed, when we are told we can prevent the worst, with a little tad of “social help”, with the unity of the left, it sounds good. But we know this old tune.
First of all, there is no guarantee of an electoral victory for the left, but let’s imagine it happens. The National Assembly can vote for progressive social policies, but with marginal impact. Will it be a step forward to have the unions negotiating with a left-wing government? Under capitalism, this will only be a means to shove regressive policy down our throats. The left is trying to make us forget that it was in power with similar right wing policies. This started under Mélenchon, who was inside the Socialist Party for decades and then served as a Minister under former Prime Minister Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.
Words aside, we know that without tipping the balance of power in our favor it is impossible to make those in power back down. During Macron’s first term, it was the Yellow Vest protesters and the fear of a large-scale movement against pension reform that made Macron retreat. We will only get what we grab through our struggles – far from conference rooms, and parliamentary debates of which the current ridiculous, puny negotiations among left-wing parties are just a preview. Even if we have a majority of left-leaning politicians elected to share political power with Macron, it will not spare France from the “miles-long demonstrations,” in spite of what the leader of France Insoumise (Melenchon) is telling us.
Preparing for the future
The May 1 demonstrations were large but not massive. However, despite the difficulties, some minor work sectors are still fighting for better wages. Much larger sectors of our class have rightly declared that the upcoming battle over pensions is a red line. This is the path toward reducing misery and building another world. These are the first goals we must set to prepare for a general, massive, coordinated struggle with the aim of becoming the majority. Because pushing back against Macron, and his policies is much more than just electing a new Prime Minister.