The government was outraged by “scenes of urban guerilla warfare” during the demonstrations on December 1. Every person interviewed by journalists was called on to condemn the violence and the damage done to symbols of the Republic[i]. They are all upset by what the poorest in the population suffer but only as long as they do so in silence!
After years of taking hard hits to their living conditions, the working classes have had enough and who can blame them? As one single mother living on the minimum wage put it: “It’s pretty violent when there’s nothing left in your fridge to feed your family before it’s even the end of the month”.
One after another, Macron’s ministers called for dialog. After a first pathetic attempt[ii], perhaps the government will manage to get the “yellow vests” to sit down at the table but there’s no guarantee that that will be enough to dissipate their anger.
Opposition leaders, from the extreme right to the left, have all expressed their views. From a summit on purchasing power proposed by the Socialist Party to a referendum on taxes proposed by the right and the call for new elections demanded by Mélenchon (Unsubmissive France-left) and Le Pen (National Assembly– extreme right wing), they’re all players in this little political game, claiming that they understand the working class. The rubbish they speak about "an institutional solution” won’t change a thing for workers struggling to make ends meet. But the opposition parties hope to make the most of the rejection of Macron’s policies and arrogance.
The wealth tax was a very small levy on the income of the bourgeoisie but it has been almost completely eliminated by Macron’s government–the very same government that’s now saying that increasing the minimum wage is impossible. Macron’s policies are all aimed at defending the interests of the capitalists. Should he give way to the “yellow vest” movement, by removing the carbon tax increase for example, you can be sure that he’ll find some other way to get money out of our pockets and into the pockets of the bourgeoisie.
Everyone in the demonstrations has taken up the cry of “Macron, out!” and it’s easy to understand why. But even if Macron goes, whoever replaces him will still carry out the same policies. The style may change but the roadmap won’t because it will be devised by the same capitalists who always dictate what successive governments do. If lightning bolts are only directed at Macron and his government, they’ll simply be hitting the lightning rod that is there to protect the capitalists.
When their system is in crisis, the capitalists, the shareholders in multinationals maintain and increase their profits by enforcing wage freezes and increased exploitation, by applying speed-ups for those who still have jobs and leaving nothing but unemployment for the rest. For all workers, refusing a drop in purchasing power means bringing the fight into the workplace and fighting for better wages.
Many of the “yellow vests” are calling for transparency in the state’s accounts. They know that the taxes they pay are not invested in essential public services and they want to know where the money goes. It’s in their own interest for the workers to monitor what the state does with the money. But they should also audit company accounts. The capitalists claim that they can’t increase wages or that they can’t hire anyone? If company accounts are made completely transparent and audited by the workers, the workers will then know where the billions made from their exploitation go.
By challenging the capitalist domination over their living conditions, workers will be opposing policies that affect all the lower classes. When capitalists freeze wages, close down companies, lay off workers, they affect neighborhoods, towns, sometimes even a whole region, including independent workers, small businesses, shopkeepers etc. whose fate is linked to that of the workers.
The workers’ strength is to be found in the workplace where they gather every day. Capitalist profit is based on their work. That’s where they have the means–through strikes–to enforce a general increase of wages, pensions and allowances.
And it’s through collective struggle that we can enforce linking the increase of wages, pensions and allowances to cost of living increases to ensure that none of those increases is neutralized by price increases.
[i] Graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe and several statues broken.
[ii] On Friday, November 30, the government had planned a meeting for the “yellow vests” with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Only two turned up and one of them left within thirty minutes of arriving.