On this coming Thursday, January 27, several trade unions have organized a day of strikes and demonstrations. The working class has many reasons to be angry and to shout it out.
Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the five richest capitalists in France have doubled their fortune. Their riches now equal the total of the 27 million poorest people in the country. The majority owner and CEO of LMVH, Bernard Arnault alone, received 1.4 billion euros in dividends for 2021 (i.e. 160,000 euros per hour) because luxury handbags and watches that cost 30,000 euros a piece are selling just fine. The CAC 40 companies (France’s 40 wealthiest companies) made more than 100 billion euros in profits, the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs paid 2,000 euros including payment of all employer social contributions!
Meanwhile, for the popular classes, the last two years have meant suffering and a tougher and more insecure life.Prices just keep on rising. This holds true for vehicle fuels which have reached record levels, higher than during the yellow-vest movement. It’s also true for food products – from pasta to eggs, from bread to butter, from fruit to vegetables. It’s true for electricity and gas, which have gone up between 50% and 60% in a year. More and more workers and retirees are economizing on meat, fish, heating, hot water and lighting. And if you want to change your car, forget it. Moreover, there are 7 million people who need food aid in order to live and 4 million more are on a knife edge.
The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer. That’s an old story. But it doesn’t have to be. When workers mobilize, they can change the balance of power.
Workers at Leroy Merlin – a big DIY chain – won an increase of 65 euros per month for those on the lowest wage. Those at Dassault Aviation, a company that has just sold 80 Rafale planes to the United Arab Emirates and whose order book is full, are demanding a net increase of 200 euros per month: “no gains, no planes”. Air Liquid made record profits and their workers are also fighting for wage increases. And those working in public education went on strike massively on January 13 of this year, protesting the deterioration of their working conditions, salary freezes and the failure of education minister Blanquer to take them seriously. And the list goes on.
They’re right to act but their struggles should come together in one movement. Why? Because the bottom line is that all workers face the same problems. They have to make themselves heard in the electoral campaign. Hateful insults against migrants and babbling about the color of the flag being flown under the Arc de Triomphe are filling the airwaves. It’s time to bring back the important subjects of what is necessary: increasing wages, improving working conditions and hiring.
Prices are skyrocketing? The Castex bonus of 100 euros or a negligeable increase in the minimum wage aren’t going to change anything. Workers aren’t asking for a handout! Mass increases for salaries, pensions and aid are needed. No worker, no retiree should receive less than 2,000 euros net before taxes per month. Wages should increase at the same rate as prices: salaries must be indexed on prices.
Work rates are unbearable and working hours are getting longer? This is scandalous and an aberration when there are several million unemployed in this country. Work must be shared out, with no loss of wages and the necessary funds taken from capitalist profits. Mass hiring must be done in hospitals, state-run nursing homes, schools, where there is a cruel need for personnel.
Big corporations are filling the pockets of their shareholders? They should be placed under the workers’ control and expropriated if they resist.
I have been defending these aims for some years now and am doing so again in this electoral campaign. Obviously, the presidential election won’t help us to reach those aims. None of them can be reached without the massive and powerful struggles of the working class.
And if Thursday 27 is a success, if numerous workers are on strike and in the streets, it will give all workers a boost and help prepare the next steps.