The fights to come

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
15 May 2017

Emmanuel Macron finally picked Édouard Philippe, the right-wing mayor of Le Havre and faithful lieutenant of Alain Juppé, as Prime Minister. French workers have not forgotten former Prime Minister Juppé and for good reason. In 1995, under President Chirac, he launched a series of attacks against France's state-run pension system and social security. Confronted with a huge wave of strikes and demonstrations, he boasted that he couldn't be forced to back down and “wouldn’t budge an inch". But the workers' pressure was so strong that he had to withdraw his reform.

Up until now, the French right wing and left wing have taken turns forming governments which carry out the anti-working-class policies decided by big capital owners. This time, with Édouard Philippe as Prime Minister, right-wing and left-wing politicians will collaborate to implement Macron's program. They will try to smash the Labor Code to make it easier for the bosses to fire workers, cut jobs and shut down plants. On top of this, Macron has announced his intention to cut 120,000 jobs in the public sector!

With the help of the government, big corporations will aggravate the social war they have launched against workers. Their recipe for increasing dividends hasn’t changed: they get rid of part of the workforce and intensify the work to be done by those who stay on the payroll. Vivarte, Tati, Mim, Whirlpool or GM&S Industry are the latest examples of this strategy. The case of GM&S Industry is particularly significant. Peugeot SA and Renault, the main ordering parties of this subcontracting company, have planned the death of a 300-strong GM&S plant in Creuse (a department of central France). Renault and Peugeot SA both made huge profits last year–respectively 2.15 and 3.5 billion euros. And, as soon as the election period is over, we can be certain that other plant shutdowns and other competitiveness schemes will be announced.

This is the setting for the general elections. The reputation of the PS and the right is so badly damaged that the political leaders are all talking about the need for a “renewal”. No one can predict who—the Macronists, the right wing, the FN or Mélenchon’s La France insoumise—will win this politically-driven game of musical chairs. But one thing is sure: the next majority will cater to the rich and there will be no parliamentary opposition representing the working class.

Workers can only count on the opposition that will be generated by their own fights if they are waged as class-against-class battles. These class-based struggles must build on the genuine claims of the exploited and not on reactionary illusions. A fight under the banner of protectionism, for instance, would only benefit the bosses and pointing fingers at a section of the working class would only divide, demoralize and weaken the exploited.

These toxic ideas are put forward mostly by the FN which attracted part of the working-class ballot. The FN makes scapegoats of immigrant workers. Under the pretext of defending French businesses, that is, French capitalists, the FN singles out workers whether they come from European or non-European countries. But the FN do not have the exclusive rights to nationalistic demagogy; it’s just as toxic when defended by the PCF or Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The workers’ strength resides in the awareness of their common interests against the capitalist class. By making the workers’ claims heard, Nathalie Arthaud stood for this class consciousness in the presidential election. In the coming general elections, Lutte ouvrière will run candidates in every constituency of mainland France and in La Réunion (overseas department) and Combat ouvrier will run candidates in Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Lutte ouvrière's candidates are all workers whose ambition is to allow those workers who identified with Nathalie Arthaud’s campaign to confirm their vote. As for those who cast a so-called "useful” vote in the presidential election, they will have the opportunity to vote for ideas that are dear to their heart.

Making workers' claims heard in the general elections and showing the resiliency of the revolutionary current which they identify with is the best way of preparing ourselves for tomorrow’s struggles.