On February 5 and beyond: we, the workers, need to fight for our interests

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 28, 2019

Last weekend the winds of protest continued to blow: 70,000 yellow vests demonstrated all over the country for the 11th consecutive Saturday. The wealthy neighborhoods who were up against them only managed to scrape together 10,000 demonstrators in favor of French President Macron – those protesters are of course far more worried about broken windows than about social problems. There were also a few environmentalist rallies.

You want debate? You got debate! But it’s not just the debate that the government wanted, we’re talking about debate in the streets, in town squares and in demonstrations. And debate in spite of police violence against the yellow vests – 2,000 wounded, 157 in the face, 18 blinded in one eye and 4 mutilated by flash-ball and sting-ball grenades.

The government has done all it can to put an end to the demonstrations – police violence, the anti-riot bill – but the climate of protest is salutary because we have nothing to expect from the government’s initiatives.

The “great national debate” is just a series of presidential one-man shows. Macron is everywhere, all the time. He’s listening, he’s open to all practical suggestions… as long as they don’t cost the state or the bourgeoisie anything! If they do, he immediately gets on his high horse.

He did this in the Drôme department when his audience was a room full of angry people instead of respectful mayors. His exasperated response was: “Real reforms are needed but stop being childish, real reform also means tightening your belt”! The previous week, he said: “We’re going to make those in difficult situations assume responsibility because some of them are doing things right but others are screwing up.”

Macron is really good at treating workers, unemployed people and retirees like children who need to be reasoned with, disciplined and kept on a tight rein! He lectures them, makes them feel guilty and wants them to bear the brunt of the crisis. You’re doing it right, Macron! You’re making people angrier!

If anyone’s to blame, it’s not the poor or the unemployed. It’s not their fault. It’s the capitalists who make or break the economy.

The economy is run by billionaires and they get richer and more numerous every year to the point where they have as much money if not more than the states.

This handful of capitalists decide how we work and earn our living, how we eat, how we travel, how we communicate. They decide what should be done with the profits they accumulate. Should they invest them? Or not? In other words, they get to decide what the future of society will be. But, unlike the workers who are monitored and observed all the time, they can do what they want, any way they want.

Ford, Peugeot, Bic (ballpoint pens, disposable razors, etc.), specialist paper company Arjowiggins, so many big companies are closing plants and throwing workers into the streets. They have the power to do so. Even when there are potential buyers, as in the case of Ford’s Blanquefort plant in the South West of France, shareholders prefer to close the plant down because they act in their own selfish interests which are the complete opposite of those of the workers and the community. The only way to stop them from doing harm is to expropriate them.

When the state wants to build a railroad, for instance, it requisitions land and expropriates individuals in the name of public interest. But requisitioning plants that multinationals want to close and for which they have received public funding is taboo.

Workers should lift this taboo. They need to make the capitalist class accountable and audit what it does with the billions it gets its hands on through exploitation.

Profits must be used to increase salaries. Profits must also be used to hire massively. This is the only way to get rid of mass unemployment and improve everyone’s working conditions. The capitalist class, its decisions and its power must be challenged if social justice and equality are to improve.

The CGT[i] has called for a strike on February 5. Those workers who know that it’s essential to take action to defend their interests must answer this call and bring others into the fight. A one-day strike will not be enough but it is only through mobilizations in the workplaces that the present mood of protest can be taken a step further.


[i] CGT: Conféderation Générale du Travail. One of France’s major unions and possibly the most left-wing. As with most unions, the leader is usually ready to negotiate with the bosses and/or the government but the base remains relatively combative.