While the media are attracting attention with the frivolous details of Macron’s diplomatic meetings, his government is preparing a massive attack against workers. Each step has been programmed. This summer, the offensive against the Labor Code will precede the assault against unemployment benefits and against pensions. According to the bosses’ daily newspaper Les Echos, “the countdown has begun”.
President Macron and Prime Minister Philippe have met with bosses and union representatives. Together they have put the age-old farce called “social dialogue” back on track.
Macron has already made firm promises to the bosses. Local agreements between management and workers will have the upper hand over branch agreements and the Labor Code. There will be a cap on the compensation that can be pronounced by labor-management tribunals. The “hardship account” system, which sends SME entrepreneurs berserk, will be shelved.
Union representatives have simply been promised… more discussions. It was enough to calm them down. For CFDT leader Berger: “The President of the Republic is at the same time determined and attentive”. FO leader Mailly has declared: “We are willing to work all summer if a negotiation is opened” and CGT leader Martinez has said: “We don't agree but at least we’ve had an exchange”.
All of them want to negotiate. But what is there to negotiate? Bosses and government have clearly stated their intention. Either they will impose the measures they want with the union leaders’ signature or they will do it without them. Bosses cannot be forced to back down by powerless discussions around a bargaining table. What is needed is a fight, based on a clear awareness of the situation and involving the working class as a whole.
Speaking for big business, Gattaz declared that the status of local agreements was their number one priority. For good reason.
At plant level, capital owners want flexible working hours and the lowest possible wages. In the workplace, they would like to be the sole legislators—in fact, they often behave as if it were already the case and they do not hesitate to trample the dispositions of the Labor Code. In other words, they would like to have more leeway—with the official approval of the government.
But that's not all. The economic wars of capitalism are waged with the lives of workers. In the name of company interests, bosses are permanently asking workers to accept sacrifices and claim that it is the only means of avoiding job cuts. And once sacrifices are accepted, jobs are cut all the same. This is how fabulous fortunes are made year after year by stockholders.
The capitalists try to limit the workers’ horizon to the workplace and to this narrow way of thinking, in the hope that the broader picture will be ignored.
The truth of the matter is that workers are tied to each other by a common bond. When working conditions become worse in one sector, they also worsen elsewhere: in the shipyards, in agribusiness, in transport, in the car industry, in the chemical industry, or in post offices, banks, hospitals, etc. When jobs are cut in one branch, the overall rate of unemployment goes up, and that affects the whole working class. Who has never heard a boss or a foreman say: “If you're not happy, there’s a bunch of people ready to take your job”?
But exploitation is not a war that is waged only on the plant floor. It’s a class war, between capitalists and workers. To fight off the bosses’ attacks and to tilt the balance of forces in favor of the workers’ side, the entire class of capital owners must be pushed back. Only an all-out struggle doing away with the existing divisions between workers can protect our common interests.
Workers are not as prepared as bosses for the upcoming clash. But things could change quickly. There are workers who are aware of the road to be taken.
The coming general elections cannot, of themselves, change the balance of power between exploiters and exploited, but they can show that, in this country, in many workplaces and in many working-class neighborhoods, there are people who identify with the idea of class struggle.
They form a current which was able to express itself through the vote for Nathalie Arthaud. It must now come forward with a ballot for Lutte ouvrière’s candidates.