There have already been so many factory closures in the north of France (Continental, Goodyear, Whirlpool), that closing down Bridgestone in Béthune is a national concern. It’s the same old story: a wealthy multinational corporation receives lots of public money and closes a plant that keeps a whole region in work and politicians promise to “fight” to stop it from happening!
“It’s a betrayal… a revolting decision” grumbled Economy Minister Le Maire. As if to say “stop me from doing something I’ll regret”, the regional president, Xavier Bertrand, spoke of “premeditated murder”. This play acting is enough to make you sick!
There are so many companies laying workers off and closing down right now: Auchan, Airbus, Renault, ADP, Smart, Courtepaille, La Halle, Alinea, Boiron, Tui, Sanofi… not to mention hundreds of small sub-contractors who are being held hostage by their major commercial clients. The government not only allows them to do this, it also gives its approval. The workers just get to sign on as job seekers!
Political leaders are getting all worked up about Bridgestone so that it looks as if they’re doing something and offering solutions. And, because the owner is Japanese, they’re perfectly happy to talk of treachery, unscrupulous bosses, murder… When it’s Michelin, Peugeot, Renault or Auchan, they don’t dare!
But what are they offering? They’re all proposing the same thing: to put millions on the table and pay Bridgestone to stay! The same Xavier Bertrand who talked of murder has made his calculations: he reckons that he can convince Bridgestone to stay for 200 million euros. He shouts murder and then promises millions to the assassin!
The same option is defended by the Rassemblement National (France’s extreme right-wing party) but also by the French Communist Party and Unsubmissive France1. Once they’ve explained how awful the multinationals are, they propose, like the government, to give them millions of public money. They’re insisting on compensation and conditions. But since when has the owner of any multinational given up plans to close down a factory because some piece of paper has his signature on it?
Even when the authorities manage to extract a commitment on jobs or investments, the shareholders pocket the bail-out money and do exactly as they please. When Hollande set up his CICE (a tax-break program) in 2013, he said that he had made a pact with big business owners. The “competitiveness pact”, as it was called, stipulated that the state would give millions in corporate tax breaks and the owners would invest and either create a million jobs or increase wages. It’s easy to see that didn’t work!
The pacts, the contracts, the agreements….are all trickery. Capital owners are quite prepared to push millions of workers out of a job and into hardship and to ruin whole regions of the country. And they won’t lose any sleep over it!
Home Affairs Minister Darmanin and the extreme right wing, like to talk about how society is “turning savage”. The savages are to be found in board rooms, at the heart of multinationals!
It’s ridiculous to advise big capital on how it should invest its money “reindustrializing” and “relocating back” to this country. And yet that’s what both left- and right-wing politicians are doing and even certain trade union leaders. But most of all, it’s deceitful and gives the illusion that there could be interests and projects common to the exploited and those who exploit them.
While big capital dominates, it’ll do what it wants, the way it wants and when it wants. Speeches about “industrial policy” are just noise that politicians make when they’re bowing down to big business.
Political leaders are elected and claim to rule but it’s the shareholders, the big bourgeoisie who enforce their dictatorship over the economy. The president and his ministers are just doormats for multinationals to wipe their feet on.
Big business has nothing to fear from the government. The only thing it has to fear is the anger of the workers themselves. Determined and massive workers’ struggles will make them feel threatened with losing everything.
In order to preserve their livelihoods, workers must all fight together with the aim of beating the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. If big business can’t ensure a job for all with decent wages, it must be expropriated and its system overthrown!
1 Unsubmissive France (in French: LFI for « La France Insoumise ») is the party founded in 2016 by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an ex-Socialist Party politician who obtained almost 20 % of the votes in the first round of the presidential election in 2017. LFI defends ‘left-wing populism’ and a ‘Sixth Republic’.