July 24, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle Fraction of the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA) in France; Translated from French
This summer, the number of people who have decided not to go on vacation is approaching 40% – a very sad record indeed. France may still be one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, but this much needed vacation, anticipated all year round, has all too quickly become a privilege for more and more workers.
For many of us, inflation has made it impossible to save enough throughout the year. This summer, more than ever, gas is expensive, the TGV (French rail) is unaffordable, and even the price of vacation rentals and campsites have rocketed.
Inflation: almost everyone loses…
This rise in prices is presented by the media and politicians as inevitable: it’s the war in Ukraine, the “laws” of their economy, in short, there’s nothing to be done… But while we’re all losers when it comes to inflation, there are also a few big winners, who are keeping a low profile. All the speculators who have driven up the price of raw materials, the agri-food giants and supermarkets who have taken advantage of the windfall to increase their margins: all these profiteers have made record profits, quickly paid out in dividends to their shareholders. The magazine Que Choisir (a well-known consumer magazine) calculated in April that food prices had risen by 19% in the last year.
Wages that don’t keep up
There have been many wage strikes this year, including several victorious ones, such as at Vertbaudet (French kids clothing workers were on strike), but across the workforce as a whole, wage increases have not kept up with inflation. The bosses do hand out bonuses here and there to try and appease our anger, but they know that they can always reduce or abolish them next year, and that these bonuses don’t count towards pensions. In the end, it’s inequality that’s on the increase, and poverty that’s on the rise: by some calculations, 14% of the French population lives in poverty, almost ten million people.
Planet Earth out of whack under capitalism
Even for those lucky enough to go on vacation, the record-breaking heat we’re seeing in France and around the world reminds us that climate change doesn’t stop during the summer. Last year’s drought is jeopardizing water reserves and biodiversity in France, fires are already breaking out in Europe, and there are fears of more storms and flooding by the fall.
Yet it is capitalism’s addiction to oil, gas and coal that is putting our future, and even our present, at risk. Every month that goes by without doing anything about the climate, we find ourselves in an increasingly uninhabitable world. And French President Macron awarded the CEO Patrick Pouyanné of TotalEnergies (French-based oil company, one of the seven largest in the world) the Légion d’honneur (highest French award of merit, either military or civilian) on July 14, which says more than all his speeches on their so-called ecological transition.
Meanwhile, at the Élysée (French President’s Residence) and elsewhere
No wonder the little game of musical chairs in the government reshuffle doesn’t excite many people. Whomever is in the role, can’t we expect anything from Macron and his government?
The Republicans and the Rassemblement National (RN-French far-right party) for their part, are still in a race to make the most disgusting statements about young people and immigrants in the wake of the riots. In particular, it’s at times like these that the RN, which is careful not to embarrass its employer friends or mention their insolent profits, reveals its true class nature: a loyal servant of capitalism.
Many problems, but only one solution
In the end, whether it’s inflation, low wages, global warming, racism or xenophobia, we find one of these capitalist gangs at the helm. They do a dirty job, but because they’re the ruling class, they think they can keep playing with our lives no matter what. It’s up to us to prove them wrong, and take the levers out of their hands. Yes, it’s possible, and the exceptional struggle we waged for our pensions over several months gave them a good scare!