Workers’ interests and the government’s “great debate” masquerade

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
February 3, 2019

Macron and his ministers would like their "great national debate" to replace the yellow vest movement in the media. They are making tons of it: the staging is meticulous, the debates last several hours, during which they listen patiently, take notes... And all this is broadcast live on television.

But shows sometimes turn short, as was the case in a meeting organized overseas with local mayors that Macron called “children”. There were so many interventions from the floor that Macron couldn’t hide his exasperation. He was annoyed for sure, but that’s better than having to face the anger of the yellow vests’ protests.

The people’s anger continues to be expressed every Saturday. It is fuelled by the hypocrisy of the government, which claims to give people back their voice but plans to impose new limitations on the right to demonstrate. The government is doing this both by using more police violence to stop rallies and by adopting a bill officially targeting “lawbreakers” but in fact aimed at curbing the freedom to demonstrate.

To wear down the protest movement, Macron has thrown in a new bone of contention: the organization of a nation-wide referendum. If it ever takes place it will be presented as the final act of the government’s great debate and the proof of its good faith. It would show that French citizens have the right to speak and even the power to decide. In other words, the masquerade of the great debate would lead to the lure of the referendum!

With questions such as: "Should we reduce the number of MPs?”; "Should the accumulation of mandates be limited in time?", Macron is merely trying to keep democratic fiction alive. And at a low cost too--since all these changes are already laid out in the government’s draft institutional reform.

Issues related to the distribution of the tax burden might also be submitted to discussion. Macron is apparently ready to examine the possibility of a tax reform, if it is limited to the sharing out of the tax burden between working people.  

But there is one thing that Macron will never accept and on which he will not ask our opinion. And that is making the bourgeoisie pay. This is the fundamental issue because working people cannot improve their conditions without impacting the bourgeoisie’s profits and power.

In the name of competitiveness, corporations are cutting jobs, putting pressure on wages, increasing speed and flexibility. The situation is the same in public services, in post offices, in hospitals, which the state can no longer finance properly because it is devoting more and more money to supporting big business. In other words, workers are being crushed by the steamroller of big business. And the intended institutional reform will not change that!

To make their demands heard, workers must rely on their own means of expression and action.

As of February 1, supermarkets have increased food prices by an average 6.3% under the pretext that farmers will be better paid. It is doubtful that the extra money will find its way into the farmers’ pockets, but we can be sure that cheese or milk will cost more. Motorway companies have increased their racketeering by 1.9%. And that's not to mention the increase in rents and other incompressible charges such as gas and electricity. Well, since prices are rising, wages and pensions must follow!

Today, six million women and men are not even allowed to work for a living. Plant closures remain on the agenda, even when they belong to wealthy firms! A job for everyone is what we need. And if there aren’t enough jobs, the work must be distributed among all workers, jobless workers included.

But to impose these demands, we will have to fight. And this can only happen if workers in large companies go on strike. This cannot be decided from above and is not an easy thing. But workers will not be spared from such a fight.

The CGT has issued a call for nationwide strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday, February 5. But this call has come after the battle, because when the yellow vest movement was at its peak, the CGT and the other trade union confederations refused to join it.

However, workers must not give up. It is in their interest to support the February 5 actions--without being naive. By being present, they will affirm their conviction that only a strike can hit big business where it hurts and push it back.