October 2, 2023 editorial of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France. Translated from French.
The (French) government’s draft budget is being debated in Parliament this week. It provides for the end of energy shields (policies to protect consumers against energy price increases). Have prices fallen? No, they haven’t.
Prices for basic necessities are rising all the time: food, gas and energy have increased by 20-30% in the space of a year. Filling up the fridge and filling up the car is becoming a luxury! And since it’s hard to live without eating, to get to work without commuting, for all those workers whose virtually frozen salaries are melting away in the face of inflation, the government has a simple answer: keep slaving away at work.
Anti-worker blows and propaganda
At a time when 58% of employees don’t stop work when they should, the government declares war on “unjustified work stoppages”. But it’s working and living conditions, which are getting worse by the day, that are responsible for work stoppages!
Are employers unable to find workers because the wages and inhuman pace they demand make jobseekers hesitate? So, we’re declaring war on social benefits: with the forthcoming reform of unemployment insurance, new conditions will be imposed on RSA (income support for the unemployed whose benefits have been exhausted, and others with few resources) recipients, including 15 hours free work per week.
The government is waging war on the supposed laziness of the working class! But the laziness of the ultra-rich is reflected in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), because GDP is the result of the work of others. 80 billion euros in profits recorded by the CAC 40 (French stock market index) for the first six months of 2023. The profits of the big groups, the dividends of shareholders, we don’t touch them.
Yet it is by raising their margins, and therefore their prices, that the bosses rake in their billions on the backs of their employees. That’s obvious. But by attacking hard and making workers feel guilty, the government is hoping that no one will come up with the idea of making demands. A risky bluff for them.
Struggle is the order of the day
Inflation is global. So is the capitalist class. This is not only a French situation. In the United States, the auto workers’ strike continues: tenacious and explosive, their struggle has forced campaigning politicians Trump and Biden to visit the picket lines. These bourgeois politicians are taking the temperature, because the example of the strike could speak to all workers there.
But for us, too, here in France, it is an example. In the world of labor as a whole, strikes would give us the strength to respond to the attacks. The hushed discussions between government and union leaders during a social conference scheduled for October will solve nothing. The question of wages will be raised by breaking it down branch by branch and discussing single-digit percentages, because these are the limits of “reasonableness”. Yes, it is always those with a full fridge who are reasonable. If we want to win, we have to play at home: in the street and in the workplace. What is reasonable is wanting to live, not just survive.
The union leaders are calling for a day of mobilization on October 13 for wages. This is more than necessary. It will be an opportunity to impose our presence and our demands:
- 400 to 500 euros pay raise for everyone;
- no salary, pension or allowance below 2,000 euros net;
- when prices rise, wages and pensions must automatically follow.
Let’s strike and demonstrate in large numbers on that day. Let the social conference start a little earlier than planned… with a few million surprise guests!