France: When Prices Rise, Tempers Do Too…

September 19, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA. Translated from French.

The funeral of the Queen of England took place on Monday. As millions of Britons face inflation and wonder if they will be able to keep warm this winter, tens of millions of pounds were spent, heads of state from around the world flocked to London, and all the networks interrupted their regular programming to broadcast the event.

Apparently, not all lives have the same price. The same people who point the finger at “lazy people” and those who are on welfare (in French “assistance”) don’t mention it when the royal family’s allowance amounts to 99 million euros per year.

Who is on welfare?

To get to the funeral, French President Macron took the train. It was called a “sober” journey. But actually, with his reform of unemployment insurance and pensions, others will face a really sober journey. Lower unemployment benefits, restricted access rights, lower pensions… Unemployed workers will have to accept the worst jobs, unconditionally. As a result, all wages will get dragged down.

And are those who have jobs supposed to applaud? Rejoice that working conditions have become so unacceptable that bosses can’t hire anymore? Who is assisting whom? Inflation isn’t for everyone. Companies like Total (French gas company) are showering their shareholders with super-profits. Even for companies that are having a harder time, our taxes are financing part-time work and future job restructuring.

So they talk about welfare recipients and target those of us who are deprived of a job, to set us against each other. This is because the real parasites, those at the top, are afraid of the anger of a united working class.

The anger is close

Prices are rising and wages are not moving. Strikes are breaking out all over the world: England, Germany, Greece, and the United States. In France too: the strikes of the air traffic controllers, the bus drivers, and the workers of PSA Hordain (French carmaker). For the moment, these strikes remain isolated and fragmented. Some bosses are handing out bonuses to calm things down preemptively. They know that if the strikes become more widespread, they will lose control of the situation. A bonus doesn’t cost that much in comparison, because it is easy to renegotiate later, pay check by pay check. Isolating struggles, isolating demands, dividing, that’s their strategy.

Let’s help each other! Let’s unite our anger

If the rich and their politicians are targeting the most vulnerable as taking advantage of “assistance” maybe it’s time to assist each other for real! To help each other, by uniting our anger and our fights. We all have the same goal: real wage increases, in all companies, against the indirect wage cuts that are attacks on pensions and benefits.

There are already days set in advance to mobilize: trade unions have called for a strike on September 29, and the Nupes (left wing alliance of political parties) has called for a strike on October 16. To stand against the high cost of living and frozen wages, it will obviously take more than two days of mobilization decreed in advance. We will not be satisfied with the union’s routine days of action, or the parliamentary calls of the France Insoumise (left-wing populist political party). If this September’s return to work is exceptionally hard we need to make an exceptional response. This response must be built starting now, by involving others, by taking an active part in the struggle, by giving ourselves the means to control it, all together. Let’s take our own business in hand. Maybe then the bosses will not find us to be so “assisted” (welfare).