The French government is increasing fuel prices. There are calls via the social networks to demonstrate and block major roads in France on November 17 in protest against the increase. Online petitions have gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures in just a few days. The rapid success of the protest movement clearly shows the anger that a large part of the population feels about the government’s decision to increase fuel tax which actually represents 60% of the price of gasoline and diesel fuel.
Road transport professionals–trucking bosses, independent taxi-drivers–are leading this anti-tax protest. Of course, they too suffer the consequences of French president Macron’s policy in favor of the ultra-rich.
But the millions of workers who have no choice but to use their personal vehicle to travel to work are also hard hit by the increase. In just one year, gasoline prices have increased by 14% and diesel fuel by 23%. How many workers have seen a similar increase in their wage? Quite the opposite! In most companies, the bosses have for years continually dragged salaries down in order to keep their profits up during the crisis. More and more workers find it hard to make ends meet and yet the government has already announced that they’re going to continue increasing taxes every year until at least 2022. The workers have every reason to protest against these attacks and the government’s total lack of regard.
Macron and his ministers claim that they want to install “ecological taxation”. You’d have to be pretty naive to believe such blatant lies. Price increases on petroleum products mean that companies like Total can make record profits; automotive manufacturers have developed diesel-fueled cars with no thought to the consequences on public health. And now the government says the workers must pay for the fight against pollution!
Ecology is just another excuse for extorting money from the population on a wide scale: the CLCV (one of France’s major consumer groups) has calculated that taxing motor and domestic fuel and gas will earn the state 23 billion euros this year. What will this considerable income be used for? Certainly not to make life better for workers: the state keeps attacking their standard of living by freezing retirement pensions and housing aid, by cutting thousands of subsidized jobs… Nor will the money be used in the public services where the government continues to deplete human and material resources, causing the deterioration of conditions in hospitals, state-run retirement homes, education and all other sectors essential to the population. The billions taken directly from the population and the savings made at their expense go to satisfy the greedy demands of the richest layer of the bourgeoisie who dominates the economy!
The only way for workers to defend their buying power and their living conditions is to mobilize. But if they have nothing more specific than “down with taxes” to demand, they will obviously lose out. If the protest develops, the government may make a few concessions to the transport and the construction industries because they are potential electors. The government might for example exonerate them from taxes or give them tax credits. But if it does so, it’ll make the workers pay for these exonerations one way or another.
To impose their own interests, workers must mobilize and clearly state their demands, which go way beyond the problem of fuel. When prices increase, be it for fuel or anything else, wages and retirement pensions must increase and they should increase automatically every time prices rise; in other words, they should be index-linked.
Workers produce all the riches in this society. If they mobilize on the basis of their class interests, they have the means to impose their demands. Through their collective force and strikes, they have the capacity to block the whole economy and not just a few roads.