With the gradual ending of lockdown, it’s time, says the government, to go back to life as it was before. Something that’s indeed reminiscent of yesterday’s world, is the upcoming regional elections and the sight of bourgeois political cliques fighting for positions as if nothing had happened.
But over the past year there's been a global pandemic that has killed millions of people, and there's an economic cris that is putting millions more out of work. In people’s minds, things are not the way they used to be. The government handled the health crisis by lying to the population and putting the interests of companies, i.e. shareholders, before the health of workers. It was obvious. There’s been a whole series of events that workers just won’t forget: from mask shortages to vaccine shortages and, only last week the breakdown of emergency phone numbers.
During a whole night, 10 to 20% of the calls to emergency services (medical, fire, police…) were blocked. Because of this, a 28-month-old child in Vendée could not be saved in time. A 63-year-old man in Brittany had to be taken by his wife to A&E, where he died. On Reunion Island, two other deaths are believed to be linked to the breakdown.
Orange, the operator Orange, formerly France Telecom, is responsible for this. As the incumbent operator, it’s in charge of these calls. When an emergency number is dialed, the equipment run by Orange is supposed to automatically take the call and redirect it to the nearest emergency center.
However, the equipment is based on the old copper technology that recently left customers without telephone communication for weeks. Following that scandal, Orange had to announce a "copper plan" of 10 million euros. Compared to the billions of euros spent by operators to obtain 5G licenses, this shows that Orange is unconcerned about the maintenance of the technology that it wants to do away with.
Yet for a long time the PTT1 was a reputedly modern public sector enterprise, even compared to what existed in other wealthy countries. But it was dismembered to help SFR, Bouygues, Orange and Free grab the internet and mobile phone markets. They have turned it into a jungle where they accumulate billions of euros in profits every year, imposing exorbitant tariffs while handing over maintenance to myriad subcontractors who don’t feel responsible for anything.
The government made a lot of noise over the scandal. Macron expressed his concern. Castex said important lessons should be learnt. Darmanin lamented what he called unacceptable dysfunctions and summoned the CEO of Orange. As if the state were not the major shareholder of this operator! And as if this and prior governments were not responsible for the decline in this sector! This is yet another failure on the part of the same authorities who failed again and again in their management of the pandemic. This has increased mistrust towards the government and the state. It's time to express that mistrust and to make it clear that the disavowal comes from the workers. The coming regional elections provide such an opportunity.
The workers must make the voice of their social class heard. They must protest against the degradation of services which should be public (hospitals, transport, public facilities) and put forward their class demands. One vote alone will not change their fate. Only explosive and determined social struggles can do that. But an election can be a means to defend and promote a program corresponding to the material and political interests of the working class.
To combat unemployment, work must be redistributed among all who are able to work and with no reduction in wages. To combat inflation, wages and pensions must be increased, and indexed to the cost of living. To combat capitalist domination and the law of profit, workers must impose their control over the economy.
Society would simply collapse without the working class; only the workers can take over and run society in the interests of the whole community. The workers who choose to vote for the Lutte ouvrière lists will show that they are not deceived by the rhetoric of the bourgeois parties. Their vote will express their agreement with a programme based on common sense measures. It will also express the conviction that such indispensable measures can only be imposed by the working class through its own collective mobilization.
1 Founded in 1879, the PTT (“Postes, Télégraphes et Téléphones”, i.e. Mail, Telegraphs and Telephones) was a public service for decades, until it was privatised and split in two (La Poste and France Telecom) in 1990.