On Sunday, March 26, 4,000 people gathered in Aubervilliers, north of Paris, for Nathalie Arthaud’s main electoral meeting. It opened with several LO militants drawing a vivid picture of the class war that is waged day in day out in the workplace. In Saint-Nazaire, the shipyards now rely heavily on temping and subcontracting. The work pace is ever more intense, which multiplies the risk of industrial accidents. Safran, the aeronautics corporation, has frozen workers’ wages, thus allowing its profits to soar. They reached 1.8 billion euros in 2016, which means that Safran swindled the equivalent of a monthly gross income of 2,250 euros per worker! Peugeot’s corporate managers boasted record profits after shutting down a plant and cutting 17,000 jobs—which has enabled them to buy out Opel and shower shareholders with cash. Hospitals too are submitted to profit-oriented guidelines and patients end up being ill-treated because hospital workers are so overworked. Such is the mechanism behind the present social crisis: as they lay off part of the workforce and overexploit those who are left on the payroll, the bosses amass colossal fortunes and impoverish the rest of society.
In French Guyana, the capitalist class is showing the full extent of its greediness. Guyana—a vestige of the French colonial empire—is where the satellite-launching Ariane rockets take off, but nearly half the population there lives under the poverty line, and one youth out of two is jobless. Those who launch cutting-edge technological masterpieces rub shoulders with people who have no running water and no electricity! Infant mortality is three times higher than the French average. School girls and boys are looked after by 50% fewer adults than in other French departments.
The people of Guyana have had enough of exploitation, rampant crime and the ever-higher cost of living. The strike in Guyana is now a general one. Hopefully, through their confrontation with the state, the capitalists and the local politicians, workers will become conscious of their class interests and will carry their fight as far as they possibly can!
The main candidates in the presidential campaign all claim they have solutions to unemployment, inequalities or the lack of affordable housing. Lies, nothing but lies! For those who wield power are not those who get voted in: they are the owners of the biggest fortunes in the country. Their wealth entitles them to make final decisions whoever the president is, and whatever the institutions are.
Those who champion a “Sixth Republic” are liars. It wouldn't change a thing. Cement manufacturer Lafarge prospered under the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics; the company helped build the Atlantic wall under Pétain's régime; it recently did business in Syria under ISIS and even tendered for Trump's wall between Mexico and the US! All this with impunity and in the name of its shareholders. A Sixth Republic is hardly likely to stop Lafarge or any other capitalist for that matter!
The only point in this election is to allow workers' interests to be heard. That is why Nathalie Arthaud's candidacy is being presented by Lutte ouvrière. She follows in the footsteps of Arlette Laguiller who, in 1974, was the first woman and the first worker candidate in a presidential election – she was a presidential candidate six times. Like Arlette Laguiller before her, Nathalie Arthaud is defending the workers' essential demands.
There must be a job and a salary for everyone. The profits of multinationals must be used to finance jobs. In just one year, the fortune of media tycoon Patrick Drahi has leapt from 6 to 13 billion euros. One of his companies, SFR, slashed 5,000 jobs! Whether it's Orange (previously France Telecom), SFR or PSA (Peugeot), they all do the same. To get rid of unemployment, layoffs must be prohibited and working hours spread out among all workers.
A monthly net wage of 1,800 euros is the minimum needed in order to live decently. Wages and pensions must be increased by at least 300 euros per month. And salaries must be indexed to prices.
The major European banks continue to evade taxes by using tax havens, as the NGO Oxfam recently pointed out. Fiddling the books to evade taxes, giving handouts to shareholders, justifying layoffs: these are just some of the typical malpractices of multinationals. In order to stop this, workers must be able to audit company accounts. Banking and business secrecy must be abolished.
None of these objectives can be achieved by casting a vote. But on April 23 we must vote massively for the workers' side, the side we'll need to defend in the struggles to come. Let's make sure that the workers' side is heard by voting for Nathalie Arthaud. It's up to each and every one of us.