When striking workers demonstrated all around the country at the beginning of this month, demanding wage rises and an end to the attacks on conditions and jobs, they flew their union balloons.
So too across France. On Saturday the 11 February, over a million people gathered to protest against a government bill to increase pension age - a de facto cut in pensions - under the white, red, yellow and lilac balloons of their respective unions.
In fact it is these balloons - a visible symbol of today’s strikes and working class unity and resistance - that governments, and behind them the capitalist class, really fear.
And while union leaders hesitate to co-ordinate strike action, many workers on both sides of the Channel, are talking about the need for a general strike to achieve a decisive win against the across-the-board attack on living standards, on pensions, on jobs and above all, on working conditions.
So the “Chinese spy balloons” and the several other UFOs which so far have been spectacularly shot down by sophisticated US fighter jets (when they could surely have been popped by a well-aimed “pin”!), are a gift from the sky for the powers-that-be.
And not just the powers in the USA. Although for President Biden they’re a welcome distraction, as his political regime struggles to gain any public credit whatsoever in a context where US workers too, are overwhelmed by the cost-of-living crisis.
National unity (and even if possible, international unity!) under the government flags which try to rub out the class divide which unites the exploited majority against the exploiting minority and their reactionary governments, is the name of their deceitful, but also very dangerous, game.
Anti-Chinese hot air
As soon as that big white balloon appeared in the sky over Montana USA, British politicians relaunched their anti-Chinese campaign, which already prevented Chinese 5-G technology from being used in Britain and which will no doubt soon put TikTok in question. US senators (from both sides) have called for its banning, since its private owner, ByteDance is Chinese... They claim it’s thus a security threat because of “potential links” to the Chinese government.
Of course, just like in Britain or the US - or indeed any country in this capitalist world, including China, where a revolving door exists between business, big and small, and government, no company can say it’s free of politicians’ “influence”. And, more importantly, vice versa...
When the British government awards PPE contracts to friends and family of cabinet ministers, or even when it gives Ford Motor Company or BMW several million purportedly to invest over here, that’s “influence”...
The reality is that as the capitalist system degenerates, slipping into its latest global recession, companies rely ever more on the protection of the state - and thus the government in power - to promote and protect their interests.
Having relied on China to provide cheap and quasi-militarised labour for several decades so that it became the workshop of the world, the big US, EU and Japanese multinational corporations are, under pressure of the recession, cutting their Chinese production and often repatriating it.
But they are threatened by the transfer to, and sharing of, technology and expertise with China which their years of exploitation have produced. Hence the Biden-led “trade war” and protectionist measures now raised against China and the finger pointed to its violation of “human rights” - which were previously no problem, as long as the super-profits were flowing.
Workers can’t and won’t pay!
The working class, whether here, in France, in the US or indeed, in China, has no interest in uniting behind the ruling capitalist classes which are competing with each other at workers’ expense, against a foreign “enemy”.
Ahead of the Chinese bogeyman is “Putin’s Russia”, of course. But rather than working to end the Ukraine war, the US/Europe are promoting it, given the boost it’s providing to the arms industry and the exponential profits for their oil and energy giants. Workers are paying for this all over the world. Beside the terrible carnage in Ukraine, the direct effect is inflation, fuelled by the doubling of energy bills here in Britain, which are due to go up another 20% in April!
At the same time the employers and government are playing hard-ball and refusing the desperately-needed wage rises after years of falling pay.
So a concerted, collective, general fight back is not only needed to win the immediate battle over pay. It’s also needed to counter, once and for all, the anti-foreign hot air which the bosses and their politicians are using to divide workers’ ranks and break down the natural international class unity which exists among us. Today, more than ever, against the warmongers, the exploiters and their rotten and destructive capitalist system the one, red, working class balloon must fly!