Great national debate: the big yawn

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 14, 2019

French President Macron is trying to regain control of the situation by organizing a “great national debate”. The whole idea is to silence the yellow jackets and dismiss their movement without answering their demands.

Their overriding demand is to bring back the wealth tax. Well, Macron has nixed that before the debate even started. And there are 6 pages and 34 questions but not a word about wages, pensions or employment. We can still talk about them, says Macron. Yeah, sure.

It’s not just a question of saying what we think. Tens of thousands of women and men have been doing just that for the last three months. The problem is how to impose our working-class interests on Macron, the president of the stinking rich and on the ever-greedier capitalist class. For this to happen, there needs to be a change in the balance of power.

The yellow jackets aren’t fooled by the “great debate”, as proved by 84,000 of them demonstrating on the eve of its launch. Macron’s latest outburst about citizens who “don’t know how to make an effort” got the reaction it deserved!

The yellow jacket movement has shown that there are many retired people, women in precarious employment or not working, employees and tradespeople who are no longer prepared to remain silent. Maybe they’ll express their outrage during the official debate and no one can blame them for that. But it’s an illusion to believe that the national debate will help the vital interests of workers where work, wages and pensions are concerned.
The decision-makers for hiring and firing, the ones who draw up contracts, decide on wages, working conditions and career paths are the company directors. They don’t ask workers or the population for their opinion. Their orders come from the shareholders and owners.

Not only do they not care about the outcome of the great debate but they also don’t care what the government says or recommends. How many ultra-rich companies didn’t give a “yellow jacket bonus” ? A multinational that decides to close down a plant (Ford’s Blanquefort plant in the South West of France or Peugeot’s Saint-Ouen plant in the Paris region) couldn’t care less about the economy minister’s lectures on what they “should” do!
Governments may say they deplore the uneven distribution of profits but they don’t actually do anything about it. The situation deteriorates every year and 2018 was no different: 57 billion euros in dividends were handed out by the 40 biggest French corporations to their shareholders. A record amount and an increase of 13% on the previous year.
We can only deduce that governments and the state have no control over capitalists. And the only possible conclusion is that, behind political power, is an even stronger power, the power of money and those who have it, the capitalists.

“More strength must be given to democracy and citizenship”, says Macron. But no matter how many debates or referendums there are, they won’t make the organization of society any more democratic! The economy and our life as workers are subjected to the dictatorship of big business, to the kings of modern times, the great fortunes that head up the multinationals in car manufacture, oil, pharmaceuticals, finance, banks, insurance…

There are six million unemployed but a lack of personnel in retirement homes and hospitals. So many needs are not met. Society is at an impasse because capital is in the hands of a tiny minority that couldn’t care less about solving such basic problems as insalubrious living conditions or the lack of doctors. Even the maintenance of gas pipes dating from the start of the 20th century doesn’t concern them. Last Saturday, this caused a fatal explosion in Paris.

This same minority of capitalists grabs all the riches produced collectively through exploitation and is free to do what it wants with its money. And, because their system is in permanent crisis, the capitalists choose to put their money into finance and speculation.

Until the big bourgeoisie loses its power through expropriation, there is no way out of the impasse. The question “Should we use expropriation to take away the power of the capitalist class and stop it from causing harm?” won’t of course be one of the questions in the great debate. But workers who are prepared to act so that society may have a viable future must answer that question with a resounding “yes”!