France: Inflation, Employer Violence, Back to School… To Learn to Fight Back

August 23, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

“My advice to consumers? Visit the stores, exercise your critical faculties”. This is the advice given to families by Michel-Édouard Leclerc, head of the Leclerc supermarket chain. When it comes to saving money, the man with a fortune of two billion euros knows his stuff! His advice is all the more misplaced given that his chain has posted record profits for 2021 and 2022: an increase of 22.5% to 51.2 billion.

For us working people, it’s a different story. Fuel and energy prices are soaring. Food prices have risen by a staggering 17% since March 2022. And for the upcoming back-to-school season, the price of school supplies has risen by more than 11%. According to the Confédération syndicale des familles, the average cost of a complete back-to-school supply list for an elementary school student is 233 euros, compared with 190 euros in 2022 (+23%), 371 euros for a secondary school pupil (+3.5%) and 427 euros for a high school pupil (+3.1%).

Fighting for our wages

This galloping inflation is not inevitable. The capitalist system is creating a vast economic and financial mess, which the bosses are trying to make workers pay for through soaring prices and wage freezes. Employees have not stood idly by in the face of this policy: for the past two years, there has been an increasing number of struggles for higher wages. At Vertbaudet, the strike won increases ranging from 90 to 140 euros per month. At Disneyland, management is attempting to fire employees who have been mobilizing since last June to demand a 200-euro pay raise. On August 18, one of the employees involved in this summer’s strikes was fired for… a poorly garnished waffle! Total solidarity is essential, because these struggles are showing the way forward.

Social and police violence hasn’t taken a summer break

The leaderships of the unions and left-wing parties have remained very quiet: it would seem that, unlike many workers, they have gone completely off-line during their vacations! But the bosses, for their part, have understood the danger posed by the strikes that have been going on for months perfectly well. They are multiplying their intimidation maneuvers, but they won’t be able to fire the general anger over wages. And about everything else, because their agenda of attacks hasn’t taken a rest: austerity, threats to unemployment insurance, racist laws against migrant workers, and more to be discovered.

Social violence goes hand in hand with police violence: price inflation goes hand in hand with an increase in police crimes. The government is complacent with cops who demand impunity through media provocations and bogus sick leave. The carrot for the forces of repression, the stick for workers fighting for their wages, pensions and working conditions, Darmanin and Macron are using the nightstick as the only solution to the social crisis.

Numerous unions and associations representing the families of victims of police crime, as well as left-wing political organizations, are organizing a demonstration against repression on Saturday September 23. The NPA is calling for mobilization on this occasion against police violence, against employer violence, and to put an end to this system that exploits, oppresses, kills and mutilates. A single day of action won’t be enough, but it’s a first step that can count.

Police violence and social violence have one and the same source: the violence of exploitation. For a response that’s equal to this social catastrophe, let’s rediscover the path of the struggles of this past winter and spring, when millions of us were on strike and in the streets. Let’s combine the strength of numbers with the legitimate anger of working-class youth against misery and repression.