Increase all wages, pensions and social benefits!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
November 26, 2018

Christophe Castaner, France’s Minister of the Interior and Gérald Darmanin, the Budget Minister, used the presence of right-wing thugs in Saturday’s protest on the Champs-Elysées to stigmatize demonstrators as “troublemakers” calling them a “brown plague” (an allusion to the Nazis).

Throughout the previous week, many workers, pensioners and unemployed had joined protesters wearing yellow vests in rallies and roadblocks across the country.

From the employee of an industrial cheese dairy who earns 1,700 euros per month but spends 400 euros on gas just to get to work to the caregiver who is paid a monthly 900 euros; from the retired woman whose pension doesn’t reach 1,000 euros per month to the unemployed couple who would go hungry every day if it weren’t for les Restos du Cœur’s soup kitchens, everybody has had enough of struggling to survive. They’ve decided to fight back and rightly so!

And what was President Macron’s reaction? A lecture on how he intended to help demonstrators by accompanying them and by creating a High Council on Climate Change. One demonstrator summed up the gap between the government’s rhetoric and the protesters’ demands saying: “They’re talking about the end of the world while we’re talking about the end of the month”.

Our future as wage-earners, manual workers, employees, caregivers or railway workers can only get better if we take the opportunity to fight in our workplaces for our wages which are stuck at far too low levels while prices soar!

Double-digit increases have affected the price of gasoline and fuel, health plans and food. No salary, pension, allowance or social assistance benefit has increased in the same proportion. Even transport bonuses and travel allowances paid by companies are trailing behind!

Stopping this decline in our standard of living means fighting not only against the government, but also against the capitalist class.

Today, everybody is criticizing Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Renault and Nissan-Mitsubishi (Japan), who is accused of under-reporting his income to the tune of 44 million dollars.

But every supporter of the capitalist system hailed him as Ghosn the “cost killer” when he cut thousands of jobs, imposed a wage freeze and increased production speed, generating five billion euros in dividends for the year 2017 alone. Capital owners saw this sworn enemy of workers as a tycoon who deserved every bit of the 16 million euros he was paid that year. This is the kind of person who dictates the government's policies against the working class.

Today, Macron has toned down his attacks under the pressure of a movement which could be much more powerful if workers started fighting on their own ground!

Some protesters who organize roadblocks and “yellow vest” rallies refer to May ‘68 to explain what they expect from their movement. But the May ‘68 movement reached its full impact with the general strike of millions of workers, which obtained a 35% increase in the minimum wage and a general increase of all wages. The working class was able to impose a new balance of power by standing together against the big bosses making it possible to push back the capitalist class and the government to the benefit of all working people.

There is no other way for workers to defend their standard of living. Working people can’t simply oppose the government or its taxes and refuse to target the capitalist class. The far right feels free to pretend to take sides with ordinary people precisely because the capitalist class is not targeted.

Workers must fight in the workplace, where they are strong and where they are feared because that is where the capitalists make their profits. Workers keep the whole of society running; their work is what created the huge fortunes accumulated by a minority of super-wealthy individuals.

The annual demonstration in support of workers demands and against unemployment and job insecurity will be held on December 1.  Even the CGT will be present. We must also take part and make our demands heard.

To survive, we need increased wages, pensions and minimum social benefits, on a par with inflation!