Workers’ control: absolutely vital!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
April 27, 2020

The government has announced that the lockdown will be lifted and schools will reopen in less than two weeks. But it is still unable to provide people with masks and to organize the massive testing indispensable to isolate carriers of the virus.

The government’s response to the lack of respirators was to set up a widely advertised consortium involving Air Liquide, Peugeot, Valeo and Schneider. Ten thousand units were manufactured, but 8,500 were simplified models suitable for transporting patients by ambulance but insufficient for resuscitation services!

The state and the bourgeoisie have made a series of disastrous decisions which all prove their utter carelessness. In four months, the administration and French industrialists have failed to deploy the human and technical means that would have made it possible to manufacture the necessary protective equipment. The state and the bourgeoisie just don’t care.

Workers understand the importance of the well-being of all, they are willing to give others a helping hand. Their dedication and their capacity to take initiatives are obvious. But the big bourgeoisie couldn’t care less. For instance, though the government fully guarantees the loans made by bankers and insurers, these greedy moneymakers continue to be extremely reticent to help out wage-earners, unemployed people and small artisans.

The world may capsize and go under, financiers will remain unmoved. Sharks will be sharks: they simply don’t care about saving lives. In the midst of this pandemic, their only focuses are profits, market shares and stock prices. The country isn’t ready to lift the lockdown but the bosses are all beating the call to work.

Day after day, new contingents of workers swell the ranks of those who never stopped working, caught between the threat of the coronavirus and the fear of losing their jobs. There’s no reason for us to accept this.

Companies want to reassure incoming workers by implementing exceptional sanitary measures: markings on the floor, temperature checks, workstations adapted for safety... That’s all very well, in theory, but on the shop floor profitability requirements always end up imposing their rule. The very logic of the capitalist system makes it impossible for top managers to guarantee safety on building sites, in factories and offices.

We cannot trust the politicians serving the bourgeoisie to protect our health and our lives. We must monitor and verify the reality of the measures taken by those who exploit us. We must check their effectiveness and impose other decisions if necessary.

No health and safety commission will ever replace direct action by the rank and file. Workers know their jobs’ shortcomings better than anyone else. They are the ones who can make working conditions really safe.

Managers will lose no time padlocking workplace changing rooms, putting coffee machines out of operation or shutting down cafeterias. If workers want longer breaks to compensate for the discomfort of wearing masks and visors, if they feel they need shorter working hours or a slower rate of production, they’ll have to put pressure on the bosses. Our only protection is our collective organization and our ability to take our affairs in hand.

The attacks of big business are not just aimed at our working conditions. Temporary and fixed-term workers have already been fired. The number of work-time reduction days has been cut, as has the number of paid holidays. In some companies, bosses have had the gall to increase working hours while imposing lower wages. In other workplaces, massive layoffs are openly planned.

To prepare people’s minds, a "tsunami of layoffs" has been announced. It is presented as an inevitable fact, much like the distribution of billions in dividends to shareholders.

However, the fact that there is a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean that workers must lose their wages, their jobs and even their lives! Their number one duty is to protect themselves from both coronavirus and employer domination. The outcome of the struggle will depend on the workers’ drive to get organized and to impose workers' control over the employers' decisions. This is true at workplace level as well as on the scale of the whole country.

The irresponsibility of the bourgeoisie and the bankruptcy of its social order have become obvious to all because they threaten our health and our lives worldwide. In a rich country like France, millions are trampled even when there is no crisis. They fall victims of accidents at work, unemployment and poverty. In poor countries, they go down because of malnutrition or illnesses that could be treated, because of wars too. The present crisis must consolidate our conviction that the capitalist class and its system must be overthrown.