In 2018: Getting organized for the class struggle

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
8 January 2018

"France is marching on", "Growth is back", "New jobs created", "Be optimistic and trust us". This is the tune that Macron and his friends have been singing to us for New Year.

If you are a member of the bourgeoisie, if you belong to the world of businessmen and speculators, you have every reason to sing along. In 2017, the value of stocks skyrocketed, allowing the 500 richest people in the world to pocket 1,000 billion dollars in profit. The sixth richest person in the world, Bernard Arnault---CEO of LVMH (Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy, the French luxury goods empire)–-saw his fortune increase by 20 billion euros last year. Shareholders who “invested” in real estate, banking or the car industry also have record profits to show. Money is flowing at the top of society, and the petty and not so petty bourgeois hope they will get their share.

They all know they can count on Macron to treat them with particular care. His abolition of the wealth tax has meant a return of tens of thousands of euros for many. Labor Minister Pénicaud, for example, saved 62,000 euros. Yes, profiteers have reasons to be cheerful and optimistic!

But if you’re a worker, an employee, a caregiver, a railroad worker or a retiree, singing along is the last thing you’ll want to do.

The workers of Tupperware, Vallourec or Gemalto are threatened with unemployment, because even when the money is rolling in, capital owners keep cutting jobs right and left. Banks are slashing thousands of jobs and shutting down agencies under the pretext that fewer people visit them these days. Many big companies, like clothing manufacturer Pimkie and car maker PSA (which declared a 2-billion-euro profit for 2017), have announced their intention to go ahead with Macron's latest scheme: the “collective termination of labor contracts by mutual consent", which enables companies to get rid of thousands of workers fast and cheap.

And who can imagine the bosses treating the workers less harshly tomorrow? No, the bosses will never willingly agree to a shorter working week, a smaller workload and across-the-board wage increases. The truth is that profit rates are skyrocketing because the bosses are reinforcing exploitation everywhere.

The government presents the 2017 job creation figures as proof that things are getting better for working people. But is the creation of 200,000 jobs satisfactory, when there are 5 million women and men looking for employment?

The bosses will indeed hire people now and then. They need them to churn out the commodities that they will sell for a profit, or to replace the workers they have fired or forced to take early retirement. But these days, the jobs on offer are more and more casual and less and less well-paid.

And don't count on the government to make bosses increase wages. The government itself is considering a new way of calculating the minimum wage in order to downsize it – with the usual “argument” that the workforce is too expensive.

To be fair, Macron's government has thought out a substitute wage increase that will add---very generously indeed---a few euros on workers' payslips at no cost for the government. How does this magic trick work? Well, the government will increase the CSG tax and will reduce other social contributions paid by active workers. Retirees will also pay the raised CSG tax but won't get a rise in their pension, so they'll be making up the shortfall in the state coffers. In other words, Macron has invented a new kind of pay rise, one that our parents and grandparents pay for!

In the coming months, the economy can possibly fare well and a financial collapse be avoided. But workers can’t expect to draw any benefits from the ongoing capitalist feast.

As long as the bourgeoisie and its political personnel run the show, they will carry on with their offensive against the working class and will continue to rake in the wealth we produce collectively. Things won’t change until we confront the bosses.

Fifty years ago, in May-June 1968, the general strike forced President De Gaulle to increase the minimum wage by 35%. In 1936, the general strike imposed the five-day week, paid holidays and collective agreements on a capitalist class panicked by the sit-down strikes. Fighting collectively, getting organized: there is no other way to change things in our favor.