A return to collective struggles is the only light at the end of the tunnel for workers

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
December 14, 2020

After ten months of mis-management, lies, improvisation and nearly 60,000 deaths, Macron and Castex found nothing better to say than “France is doing better than its neighbors”!

And it’s still not over because the vaccination campaign is going to take months. Months during which there’s the risk of a third wave. Months of bans and controls. The government may be incapable of managing the crisis efficiently but it knows how to profit from the situation to bring us in line!

Theaters and cinemas were getting ready to open for the holiday season but now, for some unknown reason, they won’t open until January. As for the holidays, festivities will be reduced to a minimum, with an 8 p.m. curfew on December 31 and Interior Minister Darmanin has promised police checks!

Three weeks ago, Macron promised us “clarity” and “consistency” because, he said, “there’s nothing worse than uncertainty and a feeling of endless gloom”. Well, so much for clarity and consistency! And “gloom” is a bit weak. For millions of workers, there’ll be nothing but anxiety for the weeks, months and possibly even years to come!

And behind every florist, master chef, artiste and ski resort manager describing the economic catastrophe that they’re undergoing, there are employees. There are workers who, due to short-time work, are losing wages and accumulating debt. Not to mention those who have lost an insecure job!

Millions of workers have seen their living conditions and their buying power collapse with the explosion of unemployment. They’re juggling with unpaid bills and rent arrears. Getting enough food and heating is more and more difficult for many. The government is encouraging the population to enjoy themselves at Christmas and buy artisan-made products. But millions of people can only put food in their fridge with the help of charities. Only with the help of charities will those millions be able to offer their family a little extra something and buy presents for their children!

Not a day goes by without more layoffs being announced. Most recently, mass caterer Elior announced 1,888 job cuts, Disney 1,000 cuts on its Marne-la-Vallée site… These cuts come on top of the long list at Bridgestone, Danone, Hutchinson, Renault, Airbus, Air France, Auchan, etc. In November, a government agency counted 67,000 job cuts announced in France.

And when job cuts aren’t being announced, our working conditions are targeted: trying to make understaffing the norm, attacking bonuses, compensatory time off, paid vacation, etc. Unlike the Covid-19 epidemic, these attacks owe nothing to nature. Workers are up against a virus that they’re familiar with, the virus of profit and employer greed.

Even if the state has replaced business owners by paying for short-time work, the major corporations, i.e. those that have millions in reserve, are restructuring as fast as they can, fueling massive unemployment and poverty. Big business is leading a class war and it’s merciless.

Employers are mounting an offensive to increase exploitation. So workers everywhere must defend themselves. Some of them are already doing this in quite a number of companies.

In Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon, workers at the General Electric plant held a strike that lasted three weeks protesting against job cuts and forced management to cut fewer jobs. In its Orléans plant, the pharmaceutical group Delpharm wanted to cut a week’s paid vacation and 13 work-time-reduction days, while imposing 35 minutes unpaid work per day! The strike forced management to back down a little.

Any collective struggle that defends our interests is positive. And there are no small struggles. Even when we don’t win them, they allow us to rebuild bonds of solidarity and trust that will help us in the future.

The worst is yet to come. For now, the government has opened up its checkbook and is handing money out to the biggest capitalists, causing national debt to skyrocket. As soon as the epidemic is behind us, the state will make the working class pay, starting with an attack on our retirement pensions. The real way out of the crisis for workers will come from the class struggles that force the bourgeoisie to pay. The bourgeoisie’s business and profits have been maintained by the government. We’ll have to go and take back the billions that are swallowed up by finance and that make a tiny capitalist minority even richer!