“No way!” to the workers paying the price of the climate crisis

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 5, 2022

We were already facing an economic crisis, rising poverty, frozen wages and unemployment. With Covid we were faced with the violence of a global health crisis. And now, here we are faced with another one – the energy crisis! And once again, we can take the full measure of how irresponsible and unprepared those who claim to lead society are.

World leaders are quite competent when it comes to making fine speeches and urging us to make sacrifices when a crisis breaks out, but they are completely incapable of stopping them from happening! All the governments are overwhelmed by the situation. Not only have fuel, electricity and gas bills gone up causing all prices to soar, it is now to be feared that there will be energy shortages on top of that.

This is the 21st century. France and Europe are among the richest regions with some of the most advanced infrastructure and manufacturing apparatuses in the world. And now we have to get ready to reduce the heating in our homes and travel as little as possible. And, if we don’t, the government has warned us there may be power outages!

Companies have been encouraged to turn their heat down and to have employees work from home. Many government offices have announced they will be keeping the temperature at 19°C (66°F) this winter. City administrations are planning to close down public arenas, swimming pools, libraries and sports centers on certain days. After the health crisis lockdown, we’re heading towards an energy crisis lockdown!

Germany is worried it may have to shut down whole industrial complexes due to the lack of natural gas which means there is a threat that all of Europe will go into recession. In France, crystal glass companies like Duralex, Arc International and Ascometal are shutting down some parts of their factories because of their astronomical gas and electricity bills. The workers of these companies will be partially laid-off which means their wages will drop. Temporary workers and subcontractors will simply get the boot.

The war in Ukraine isn’t the only reason for all this. Poutine did of course turn off the natural gas tap but energy shortages started long before the war broke out. And how is it that France – a country which was historically one of the main electricity exporters – now has to import its electricity and may not even have enough this winter?

There’s only one explanation: lack of investments. There have been no investment plans in renewable energy or in nuclear power even though it is a highly sensitive domain. For decades, every government, one after the other, has let the capitalists in the energy sector act as parasites. They were able to operate their installations to the max and make huge profits without ever worrying about reinvesting in them, even if to simply safeguard the future.

EDF1, like all capitalist companies, was ordered to prove its cost-effectiveness and to allow for competition. But after slashing jobs, downsizing and resorting to massive outsourcing, it’s no wonder that the nuclear sector which was once considered an example of “French excellence” is now lacking the necessary skills and expertise. The corrosion in certain nuclear plants and the 13-billion-euro nuclear reactor fiasco in Flamanville2 attest to this.

The capitalists themselves are panic-stricken over the aberrations of their own system. They are even requesting that the state take back control. Yes, those who only ever praised the capitalist market, individual initiative and competitiveness, even in the energy sector, are asking the government to draw up a plan and regulate production. And we’re supposed to trust these top executives?

We are already making a lot of sacrifices simply because prices are going up and wages aren’t. Month after month, we are getting poorer and poorer while those benefiting from the crisis are reaping in billions. And on top of that, we’re supposed to accept going without heat this winter after dying from it this summer?

It would be one thing if the economic and political leaders had a plan to repair the damage they themselves have caused, but they don’t! Their policy consists in going wherever there’s a profit to be made, even if it means doing whatever it takes no matter what the consequences are and fueling chaos.

Capitalist society is going haywire. The workers are the only ones who can bring order to the chaos by fighting so that the economy and society are organized in such a way as to meet the needs of the population. And that starts with firmly defending our working-class interests.

Nathalie Arthaud

1 EDF (Électricité de France): a French energy company which sells gas and electricity to homes and businesses, now owned 100% by the French state.

2 A project to build a third nuclear reactor at the Flamanville plant in Normandy began in 2005. After a series of delays and quality control problems, estimated costs escalated from 3.3 billion euros to nearly 13 billion euros if not more by the time it is up and running. It was originally planned to be in operation in 2012 and is still under construction.