Trump, Le Pen and protectionist spin doctors

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
9 January 2017

A couple of tweets targeting the car industry have won Donald Trump praise on this side of the Atlantic. Marine Le Pen commended the U.S. president-to-be for “demonstrating that it is possible […] to impose the relocation of industrial activities for the good of the American people”; Montebourg somehow managed to keep a straight face while saying “Donald Trump is using my ideas”; and Mélenchon declared that he would be very happy “to negotiate with this man”.

Why the fuss? Simply because the threats that Trump made against delocalization during his election campaign were recently followed by Ford's announcement that they would not build a plant in Mexico but would be investing in Michigan. Trump also warned General Motors about their investments in Mexico.

Trump is a charlatan and Le Pen is making him out to be something he is not. In fact, Ford had taken their decision well before the election and there is no guarantee that they will create jobs in the U.S. Over the last few years, car manufacturers have increased production without hiring. It is not Ford who has given in to Trump, but Trump who is rolling out the red carpet for big companies. He has promised lower company taxes---which will be offset by higher taxes for workers or by state cuts of health programs, social aid or facilities that are useful to the population! Trump has also pledged to reduce pollution constraints which will save automotive companies billions and is bound to have a detrimental effect on public health.

Trump has threatened to tax products made abroad, but he has, above all, announced that he will reduce company tax from 35% to 15%. In other words, he intends to turn the U.S. into a huge tax haven.

Politicians are currently trying to sell us protectionism as protection for the workers. This sales pitch is dragged out every time there is a crisis. But if France became protectionist, the other European countries would follow suit, causing, in France, a hike in consumer prices and a rise in unemployment for the hundreds of thousands of workers in the export industry. In the 1930s, the escalation of protectionist measures made the crisis worse. And economic war paved the way for outright war.

Today, production has been completely industrialized by the economy. An A380 Airbus assembled in Toulouse requires three million parts manufactured in 77 different countries, including essential parts manufactured … in the U.S.! This epitomizes the absurdity of wanting everything to be “made in France”. Even the least intelligent supporter of protectionism is not going to suggest airplanes that are 100% made in Toulouse and other towns of Haute-Garonne; cotton and cocoa grown in Picardy; or uranium extracted exclusively from central France’s mountainous area. As for the “Buy French” slogan, it doesn't mean buying a Toyota Yaris made in the north of France instead of a Citroën C3 assembled in Slovakia? Or does it?

Protectionism is about protecting the interests of capitalists and is therefore an anti-worker measure, presented as inevitable in the name of competitiveness. Le Pen would like to put an end to the legal limit of working hours, claims her opposition to generalized third-party medical billing, wants to cut public service jobs and is, on every issue, on the side of “entrepreneurs”.

The problem workers are facing is not globalization, the problem is capitalism! What workers have to protect is their job, their wage and their retirement pension.

Putting an end to unemployment can only be done by sharing the work between everyone with no loss of earnings and, of course, by not allowing big companies to fire people or instigate layoff  plans.

In order to protect living standards, not only should no worker earn less than 1800 euros net per month, but salaries, pensions and allowances should be linked to the real price increases.

And in order to stop capitalists from cooking the books to justify firing workers while still giving handouts to shareholders, workers must get hold of company accounts and carry out their own audit-which would put an end to business and banking secrecy and trade secrets.

Neither Le Pen, who is so respectful of the capitalist order, nor any of the other protectionist spin doctors will defend these requirements, while our comrade, Nathalie Arthaud, will stand for nothing else in the presidential election.