On March 22 and after: workers must show their collective strength

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
March 19, 2018

Since coming to power, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has dismantled labor law, phased out subsidized jobs, diminished housing benefits, increased the CSG[1], cut public expenditure in health and education... Not one month has gone by without a new attack on workers. And so far, he has not met any serious opposition.

Right now he wants to attack railroad workers–their job security, their salary and their pensions. And he has already announced his next step: to attack everyone's pensions and to cut 120,000 jobs in public services.

Meanwhile, the profits of France's 40 biggest companies have reached more than 93 billion euros. Shareholders are pocketing dividends which are up by 10 or 20%. Bernard Arnault (the man at the head of LVMH and its luxury brands) saw his fortune increase by 20 billion in 2017, i.e. by 38,000 euros per minute. Guess how the workers feel about that... Enough is enough!

The opposition of the working class must be expressed in a massive, spectacular way. On March 15, pensioners and the workers employed in retirement homes demonstrated their anger. Thursday March 22 will be the first step in the mobilization of railroad workers. And many other workers, following the unions' calls, will take to the streets, whether they work in hospitals or on the underground, for telephone companies or for energy boards. This day of action must be a success.

For decades big business has been attacking the jobs, the wages, the working and living conditions of the majority of the population, so as to maintain and increase its profits, in spite of the crisis of its economy. Capitalists have had the green light and collaboration of each and every government, and they have it today from Macron.

If we don’t put a stop to all this, where will we be in five or ten years? What kind of life will our children have? March 22 must be a show of strength that boosts the resolve of all those who want to fight back.

That date will be followed by other movements. On March 23, Air France employees will be on strike for their salaries. At the end of the month, the workers employed in Carrefour supermarkets will also strike, to protest against massive layoffs. As for the railroad trade unions, the strike they have announced will begin on April 3.

The battle between the railroad workers and Macron will be extremely important in the coming weeks. Whatever calculations the trade union bureaucrats make, many railroad workers know that to win they will have to throw all their forces into the fight–there is no such thing as an easy, restful strike. And whatever problems the strike creates for us as travellers, we need to support it whole-heartedly.

The fight that is about to begin at SNCF (the French railroad corporation) is also ours. By attacking the railroad workers, Macron wants to put pressure on the entire working class and clear the way for new attacks. So our interest and our duty is to stand by the railroad workers, shoulder to shoulder.

In 1995, the railroad workers won because they had working-class opinion on their side, because they had the moral and active support of the working class. The same support is needed today.

The strategy of the bosses and of the government is to attack workers category by category. They pit them against each other: workers in the private sector against those in the public sector, workers in temporary contracts against those in permanent jobs, workers without a job against those “lucky enough” to have one, workers in employment against retirees... Let’s not fall into that ridiculous trap!

A few weeks ago, Macron explained: “I cannot have farmers with no pension at all on the one hand and a special status for railroad workers on the other and not make changes”. How hypocritical! Last week in the Senate, Macron himself opposed increasing farmers' pensions. This government’s policy is all about using the poverty of some as an alibi to push everyone down.

And talking of "privileges"... What about those who do nothing but parasitize the work of hundreds of thousands of women and men? What about those who exploit us to the point where they end up richer than certain States? And how about exposing the shareholders who make up the bourgeois dynasties for what they really are: not only guilty of impoverishing the majority of the population but also guilty of playing with our lives and the future of the economy in their crazy, irresponsible speculative frenzy.

If we want to be respected, we need to start fighting again, and rely on those who are already fighting. Since Macron has declared war on the railroad workers, let's do everything in our power to help them win. And let's hope that this can pave the way for a counteroffensive of the working class. On March 22, let's say it loud, we're all railroad workers and we're proud! And together we can rediscover our collective strength.

[1]          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%).