Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is set to make her general policy statement on Wednesday. Ever since Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly after his party’s heavy defeat in the legislative elections, Borne has been trying to find a few right- or left-wing representatives to support her. The brand new government, barely born, is already in difficulty.
But the challenges the government will have to face in the National Assembly are only a pale reflection of the economic and social storms that lie ahead. The economic crisis has been going on for decades. The coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have shown just how unstable the world economy is.
Once the lockdowns were lifted and international trade relations started up again, it was immediately visible that the global capitalist economy was unable to meet the demands of the economic recovery. A number of parts shortages have blocked production lines all over the world, for example the shortage of semiconductor chips in the automotive industry. One year later, nothing seems to have really been resolved.
Energy prices have sky-rocketed, which has had an impact on all sectors of the economy, causing global inflation to rise to levels that hadn’t been reached in nearly forty years. The financial sector is in panic as the world’s central banks, having to take this inflation into account, are raising their interest rates on loans. They can no longer provide the free money that has fueled speculation. The stock markets are shaking and may crash at any moment.
And then there’s the war in Ukraine where Russia and the US are fighting each other at the expense of the Ukrainians’ lives. The Ukrainian population is paying for the war through death and destruction. The consequences of this war have also exacerbated rivalries between the Western countries themselves. Germany, the dominant industrial power in Europe, has been affected by the economic sanctions that the US has imposed on Russia. Russian natural gas is no longer being delivered in sufficient quantities and the main German suppliers of this gas are on the verge of going bankrupt, which would drag down whole sectors of the country’s chemical industry. The war has shifted the balance of power between the great world powers and sent the signal to all countries to start rearming.
So, there is no question about the policy that Elisabeth Borne will pursue. She will make the general population and the workers pay for the military expenses and the reimbursement of the state’s debt which is increasing due to inflation. And this will be added to all the attacks that the bosses of big corporations will make on jobs and wages. We already have an example of this with energy prices.
In an article published a week ago, the CEOs of TotalEnergies, Engie and EDF (Electricité de France)1 called on the working class to cut back on spending, explaining that their prices wouldn’t go down. These trusts are responsible for the price hikes. They now have to choose between electric and combustion engine cars, and because they have the monopoly, they have found a solution to preserve their profits. By making the price of oil and natural gas go up by artificially reducing production, they make consumers pay for their future investments, whatever they may be. They sell less but at a higher price, and make piles of money doing so. In just three months, TotalEnergies made more than 9 billion dollars in profit. All of society is paying to make the shareholders of big oil companies even richer and the government can only comply.
In this context, the working class, for the moment, has no policy and no party to embody it. The National Rally has always been an enemy of the working-class movement and the parties in the NUPES alliance, just like all the others, are respectful of the capitalist world order. Just look at how the French Communist Party leader, Fabien Roussel, has praised the virtues of a “national unity” government2. For a long time now, the French Communist Party’s objective hasn’t been to overthrow capitalism but to find a way to become part of a government… that will carry out a policy against the working class.
For us workers, nothing can come from these parties, not even a better understanding of the situation. We must realize that, collectively, we make up a considerable force, through our number, the fact that we work bunched up together in large masses in factories and through our role in production. If we become aware of this then there’s hope for the future.
1While Total and Engie are 100% private companies, 84% of EDF is still owned by the State. Because EDF is losing money, Borne has just promised to renationalise it completely.
2Roussel made explicit reference to the post-Second World War period, when the Communist Party had ministers for the first time in its history inside coalition governments led by De Gaulle (from 1945 to 1947).