“I am not Santa Claus” was the first declaration that French president Macron made when he arrived in French Guiana last week. In this part of the old French colonial empire, half the families live below the poverty line and one youth in two is out of work; some of the inhabitants have neither running water nor electricity.
Right next door to the population living in extreme poverty is the Kourou space center from where the Ariane rockets are launched. All the equipment in the space center is ultra-modern and there’s a medical center strictly for employees only. This shocking contrast is revolting! When the population demands that the state put an end to injustice, it’s not asking for gifts, it’s asking that the state respects, at long last, the population’s right to live decently!
Last spring, the Guianans mobilized during five weeks to make their rights heard. Guiana was paralyzed by a general strike and barricades where the population got together, particularly youths from the working-class areas. As a result of their determination, the government at the time had to commit to spending one billion euros for the most urgent needs of the population and to examine immediately the financing of measures estimated at two billion euros.
Six months after the end of the movement, the Guianans, particularly the workers and the working class, were witness to the fact that their living conditions had not improved. Quite the opposite: by getting rid of most of the government-subsidized jobs, the current government had made the situation worse. Today, the Guianans demand that the government honor its commitments.
By showing his usual contempt for workers, Macron caused an explosion of anger. The Guianan population gave him the only answer he deserved!
It’s an example to all workers. The consequences may be more serious in Guiana but, wherever we are, we all have to defend ourselves against the same attacks and the same anti-working-class policies.
In all the major towns, millions of people are in sub-standard housing or are homeless. But the means to build housing exist. Throughout the country, millions of people are unemployed or moving from one insecure job to another. In the meantime, the big companies speculate with billions instead of hiring and satisfying the needs of the greater number.
Housing aid has been reduced, the CSG tax has been increased, 150,000 government-subsidized jobs have been cut, public services and social security budgets have been slashed. Macron and his government decided on these measures to make billions in savings so that they could finance the gifts to the bosses and the richest people. Macron is more than happy to play Santa Claus for them: for every single one of the hundred richest people in France, the tax breaks that Macron’s government has implemented are worth 1.5 million euros a year!
Macron’s executive orders have made labor legislation meaningless: he wants to give bosses the right to fire employees even more easily and set salaries and working hours as they please.
Three of France’s major worker unions are calling for a day of strikes and mobilization against the government’s policies on November 16. We must use this opportunity to make ourselves heard.
Workers have to mobilize like the workers in Guiana if they want their right to a job and a decent salary to be respected. They have to demonstrate, to strike and to show that they are ready to lead a determined fight.
 CSG (Contribution sociale généralisée) : a supplementary social security contribution created in 1991 by Rocard's Socialist government. It “extended” the tax base to include retirement and disability pensions, unemployment and early retirement benefits, etc. and provided for lesser contributions by the bosses. Its rate was increased over the years and is now bigger than income tax. It finances over 20% of all social security expenses and is paid mostly by workers themselves (over 90%).