More than a month after the start of the “yellow vest” protests, nearly 40,000 people demonstrated again on Saturday, December 22. Government officials were quick to claim that the protests were over, stressing the fact that fewer people participated in the demonstrations and insisting on the loathsome acts of some far-right demonstrators. They keep repeating that only rebels are left in the streets and Macron—no doubt inspired by his Christmas Eve celebrations in Chad amidst the French Army’s missiles and fighter jets—said that order must now be restored.
The anger caused by the decline in living standards has been expressed through the “yellow vest” protests. No matter what the outcome of the movement is, the “yellow vest” protesters have proven that it was the mobilization of the laboring classes in the streets that forced the government to back down and make concessions. After pretending to discover that people are “suffering”, Macron and his ministers are now stating the details of their measures in an attempt to convince us they have taken the population’s suffering into consideration.
Health Minister Agnès Buzyn even said that the government and the “yellow vest” protesters have the same objective and assured us that the increase in the employment bonus and the tax exemption on overtime made work pay.
In reality, Macron and his government cannot guarantee a decent standard of living. The capitalists increasingly monopolize the wealth in society and it’s simply out of the question to make any demands on them. All the government’s measures are financed with public money. Nothing is paid for by the capitalists: all they do is take money out of our left-hand pocket and put it into our right-hand pocket.
One of Macron’s leading MPs had the cheek to say, “We were too smart” in an attempt to explain why the government is being challenged. Workers have experienced firsthand the government’s contempt for the laboring classes. They have been able to measure the gap that exists between the working classes and the institutions that are supposed to represent them. Some people are calling for a Citizens’ Initiative Referendum as a means of going beyond the protests to increase purchasing power and to have a stronger influence on how society is run.
It would of course be necessary for the working class to be involved in what goes on at the highest level of the state. But would a referendum, even on the citizens’ initiative, actually “give the power back to the people”?
The very fact that politicians—from the far right to the left—are embracing and adopting this idea is significant. The Citizens’ Initiative Referendum is a diversion designed to disarm those who want to challenge the system. Now, even the government says it isn’t opposed to it. It wouldn’t be Macron’s first scam! The traditional bourgeois political parties which used to alternate in power have lost their credibility and Macron has already played the role of the young dynamic leader who “does politics differently”. He’s already started smooth talking us about a “big debate”, so why not add a few referendums?
If the result of a referendum on a question favorable to the working class were to be a majority of “yes” votes, would that force the capitalists and the government to comply with it? The capitalists, with all their money, have the means to break or circumvent the laws. Take the law on the 35-hour work week for example. It was supposed to be favorable to workers but it was used by the capitalists to impose more flexible hours and to make working conditions harsher. The capitalists dominate the economy and run society according to their immediate interests. They’re not going to give up any of their power without a struggle.
Behind the democratic façade, the state apparatus is made up of a caste of high-ranking officials who represent the interests of the bourgeoisie. They are never elected and they are unchecked by the working class. What is true of the State is even more so of the decisions made by large companies! Capitalists close down companies and lay off hundreds of workers whenever it suits them. Their decisions are protected by business confidentiality regardless of their impact on the lives of thousands of families and on ruined cities and regions.
Money is sacred and disclosing a company’s intentions, however harmful they may be to society, is even punishable by law!
The working class must fight the capitalists’ domination over society so that we’re not condemned to endure continual setbacks.