Nobody knows if there will be a surge in the epidemic over the next few weeks. But it’s obvious that the crisis is going to get worse and a lot of workers are already affected. Without even waiting for the end of the summer holiday period, airline company Hop! (a subsidiary of Air France) has announced more than 1,000 job cuts. This represents almost half of the 2,400 workers in the company. Nokia, Renault, Airbus and many other companies have already announced huge job cuts and the list gets longer every week. And although it has not made the headlines, since the start of lockdown March, hundreds of thousands of short-term contract workers and temps have lost their jobs – some of them aren’t even eligible for unemployment benefits.
Last week, the statistics published by France’s national statistics institute (Insee) showed a drop in unemployment that it called “illusory”. But no one’s fooled by the illusion! Even the Minister for the Economy had to admit: unemployment is going to go sky high after the summer break. Things are going to get worse in regions that are already badly off: millions of workers and shopkeepers who are being pushed into bankruptcy are going to be impoverished.
To defend their very existence, workers are going to have to fight against the attacks on jobs and wages by bosses and the government who serves them. But there are even more serious threats added to the weight of the crisis.
We were reminded that there’s a war going on in the Niger region of Africa when six French and two Nigerian humanitarian workers died in an attack there on August 9. There have been French army posts there for years, supposedly fighting the war against terrorism. But underneath the official justification, French imperialism is demonstrating its continued domination over the countries in the heart of its former empire.
The imperialist system is based on market competition and exploiting the resources of the poorest countries and their population. Using all its resources, including military ones, every great power must continually defend the interests of its bourgeoisie against those of its rivals. When Macron and his Defence Minister Florence Parly traveled to Lebanon, it wasn’t for humanitarian reasons. This is French imperialism again showing the other great powers that it is still to be contended with in the Middle East. The same reasons are behind the current power struggle between Greece and Turkey in the area of the Mediterranean where vast gas fields are to be found. Last week, the French government decided that it would be directly involved in this regional conflict: it strengthened its participation in a military exercise alongside the Greeks, deliberately risking an escalation of violence.
On the eve of the First World War, socialist leader Jean Jaurès wrote: “Capitalism carries war within itself just as the cloud carries a storm”. That is true to this day! When capitalism is in crisis, unemployment and poverty rise as does the number of wars in which the bourgeoisie, for its own profits, pushes people to fight one another. The rivalry between the great powers is fought out by their allies and has already transformed many parts of Africa and the Middle East into desolate battlefields.
Only the working class can offer humanity a different future. Only the working class has an interest in a different future. Only the working class has the strength and the resources to completely change society by taking management of the economy and the state out of the hands of the big bourgeoisie. Such a radical change would at last make the riches of this planet and the principal means of production serve the community. There is no other way to save society from the catastrophe that threatens it.
Working-class women and men need to defend these prospects right now, in the workplace and where they live.