A government on the move to beat workers

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
May 22, 2017

So Macron has picked Édouard Philippe–who not so long ago was one of Juppé’s lieutenants–as Prime Minister and has managed to poach several other officials from the Républicains. This may well prove a successful maneuver on his part. After reducing the PS to its bare bones, he hopes to weaken the traditional right wing and siphon off some of their voters. But the electoral calculations that the media feed us on a 24/7 basis hide the main story. This government has stated openly that it’s about to take steps against the working class.

By placing right-wing men in the key ministries in charge of France’s economy, Macron is reassuring the capitalists that he will implement the policies they ask of him.

During the primaries on the right, Bruno Le Maire–the man chosen by Macron as his Secretary of the Treasury–promoted the reduction of unemployment benefits as well as McJobs paid 5 euros an hour for those on minimal social benefits. As for the Secretary General of Public Expenditure, Gérald Darmanin, he is one of Sarkozy’s guys. Both these politicians are explicitly and deeply devoted to the interests of big business.

The Labor Secretary, Muriel Pénicaud, is a former Human Resources Director of the Danone group and was Deputy Managing Director of Dassault Systèmes. The newly-appointed director of her cabinet is a certain Antoine Foucher, a former negotiator in the Medef (the bosses’ union) and former Director of Social Relations at Schneider Electric. The two of them are used to fighting the class war, on the bosses’ side.

In the coming weeks, the government is going to dismantle the Labor code and will use ordinances to do so. It wants company agreements to override both branch agreements and general labor law. It will cap the amount of money to be paid by bosses found guilty by a labor tribunal. In a nutshell, it will get rid of any legal obstacles, however minor, that stand in the way of bosses who want to get rid of employees, increase workloads and reduce salaries. Above all, the government wants to subdue workers and help capitalists wage their social war so that they can extort more and more dividends from factory workers, clerks and engineers.

The declaration of war is loud and clear. This is what makes the union leaders’ indulgent statements about the new government so disgusting. Jean-Claude Mailly from Force Ouvrière praised the Labor Secretary’s “sense of dialogue”. Laurent Berger of the CFDT said the he had a “very favorable view” of the new government. Danone workers who suffered the 2013 Danone redundancy plan where 900 jobs were cut while Pénicaud was Director of Human Resources are really going to appreciate those remarks! Even Philippe Martinez of the CGT, interviewed in the Journal du dimanche, talked about a “communicating government” with “a decent attitude”.

To prepare its offensive, the government will pretend to negotiate. The union leaders will very likely be willing to cooperate, even if there is nothing to be expected from the show. But whether the masquerade will fool the millions of workers who mobilized only last year against the El Khomri labor law is another question. Particularly since they’re already suffering the fallout from this law that Macron initiated, as well as from the law that bears his name.

There’s no lack of characters wanting to play the role of opposition in the government–from the FN to La France insoumise, not forgetting Les Républicains and even what is left of the PS and its allies. But not one of them will do it in support of the workers’ interests. The working class can only count on its own strength.

Against this backdrop, we must prepare for the fights to come. The general election won’t change anything for workers but it will give them the opportunity to stress the need for struggles across the board and put forward the common interests of all those who are exploited.

Lutte ouvrière will present candidates in every constituency. The political movement that was materialized by the votes for Nathalie Arthaud in the presidential election must also manifest itself in working-class areas and elsewhere in these local elections. Votes for Lutte ouvrière will show that there are men and women everywhere who have no illusions about the government. Men and women who won’t allow themselves to be fooled by demagogues who try to confuse them with anti-immigrant or protectionist rhetoric but never say anything against exploitation or big bosses. It will be a working-class conscious vote.