September 4, 2023 editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA). Translated from French.
Profits are at record levels, the crisis is worsening, inflation is squeezing our budgets and wages are falling. The social climate is tense. Macron is doing his utmost to prevent demonstrations and strikes from breaking out in the streets, such as the one over pensions. On the one hand, he is launching racist provocations; on the other, he is luring left-wing parties and union leaders into a sham dialogue that will do no good for workers and young people.
The social war they are waging
Macron’s pension reform comes into effect in September, and the employers’ offensive is continuing with inflation. Every three months, ministers repeat inflation is ending, but prices continue to rise as big business inflates its margins. And the government lets them… and even raises the price of medicines!
The Minister for the Economy has now promised to freeze the prices of certain products. But what has been frozen for months are our wages. It is estimated that food prices have risen by over 20% in two years. What’s happening to our pay slips? The reality of prices is this: housing, transport, food, everything is becoming unaffordable. Belt tightening is commonplace, deprivation normal.
Everything is going up, but not wages, nor the resources for public services. In hospitals, nurses spent the summer overwhelmed for lack of personnel. In education, the system is lacking 3,200 teachers at the start of the new school year. Faced with the shortage of staff, the government announced that salaries would be increased in the health and education sectors, but this is far from being the case. In hospitals, the meager bonus increases that were announced will do nothing to change the deterioration in working conditions. And for teachers, it’s downright blackmail, since instead of hiring, they’re being offered higher salaries… in exchange for additional tasks.
While we’re tightening our belts, shareholders are having a field day: CAC 40 companies (40 biggest in France) posted profits of almost 80 billion euros in the first half of 2023. The money is there. That’s where we’re going to get it. What’s more, people at the top are worried about the social anger that’s brewing and could explode, as with pensions.
No racist provocations, no social dialogue
That’s why they’re trying to divide the working class again and again: Macron is launching counter-attacks collected from the garbage (or programs) of Le Pen (leader of far-right party Rassemblement National) and Zemmour (extreme right-winger): Islamophobic rhetoric with the ban on abayas (long dresses worn by Muslim women) in schools, a xenophobic campaign with his future immigration law. But while the government can point at scapegoats, it’s not clear that this will work. After all, the dresses worn by teenage girls and the welcome given to migrants fleeing misery and war are in no way responsible for our current problems.
At the same time, Macron is dangling the carrot of “social dialogue”. When he proposed a meeting in Saint-Denis for party leaders, the entire left came out to take part in the discussions, alongside the Républicains Party of the right (LR) and the Rassemblement National Party of the far-right (RN). It was supposedly to submit the Nupes (left coalition) proposals to him that they spent the night there… in the hope that Macron would implement them the next morning? The same thing happened when he proposed a conference on wages to the union leaders, who replied “we’re down!” As if a meeting with the government and the Medef (Corporate Executive Leadership Group) could produce anything positive! The only solution to their social war is our struggles, not dialogue. We’re not turning the page on the movement for our pensions – on the contrary!
In order to live, and not just survive, we need to impose our demands on wages, employment and working conditions. To counter the government’s racist offensive, working people must put forward their demands.
That’s why the NPA, along with other political and trade union organizations, is calling for demonstrations on September 23 against the government’s employer policy and the authoritarian and racist measures that accompany it.