Green industry: the bosses’ new bonanza

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
May 15, 2023

For months, Macron has shown his contempt for workers by rejecting their main demands, i.e. by refusing to cancel retirement at 64 and to index wages on prices. Now he's trying to make himself look good with his so-called reindustrialization!

On Friday in Dunkirk he expressed his love for workers and industry. On Monday in Versailles he rolled out the red carpet for foreign CEOs, inviting them to “Choose France” for their investments. One of the symbols of that “green industry” and of the new jobs it’s supposed to create is the electric car, with the setting-up of a "battery hub" in the Hauts-de-France region.

What a joke! Given the energy and raw materials needed for batteries, no one can be sure the electric car is better for the environment. As for employment, bosses intend to cut jobs, as they feel certain they can manufacture electric cars with less manpower.

The only certainty is that the electric car is a boon for investors. It's a market with guaranteed growth since the European Union (EU) wants to ban the sale of new cars with combustion engines by 2035. And it's a market with guaranteed state subsidies!

All states, starting with the United States, have decided to spend billions on this. Who will be the highest bidder? Under the pretexts of national sovereignty and ecology, an extremely costly race has started.

The Swedish battery manufacturer Northfolk Group could receive $8 billion if it chooses to invest in the United States instead of Germany. Volkswagen has just negotiated with Canada to set up a battery factory, with $8 to $13 billion at stake.

To set up its plant in Dunkirk, the Taiwanese battery manufacturer Prologium was offered 1.5 billion by the French state, as well as indirect subsidies for research and development – and the guarantee of a large number of skilled workers.

Yes, a fierce competition between states has begun, and of course the United States has no problem leading the way. But the real winners in this economic war are the capitalists. There is money, lots of money to be made in electric cars! Not only are big corporations offered billions in subsidies but states are making sure their profits are guaranteed by providing workers with low wages and ever harsher working conditions.

On Monday in Versailles, at the Choose France summit, Macron listed the reasons why capitalists should exploit workers here rather than in other countries: “Simplified rules for dismissals,” “flexibility,” “lower labor costs and employer taxes,” … What could be better for a capitalist?

But for us workers, it means sacrifices. Because we will have to foot the bill for the financial aid given to big bosses in the hope that they might just accept to hire (and exploit) us. Because we will continue to be placed in competition with the workers of other countries, and they'll wear all of us down. And because we will continue to bear the brunt of an anarchic economy that is incapable of meeting our needs.

France, it seems, will not be short of batteries to equip electric cars. In ten years' time, we may even have manufactured too many because, obviously, capitalists are not working together to calculate the volume needed. Will there be enough electricity to charge the batteries? Will there be enough charging stations? What will be done with the used batteries? Nobody knows.

None of this is organized because capitalism, based on the blind law of supply and demand, is ruled by market, competition and private property. It is the exact opposite of organization and planning.

Today, capital is being poured into electric cars but there is a shortage of capital to build new houses. There is a similar shortage in medicine, so that families have to go from pharmacy to pharmacy just to find paracetamol, anti-epileptics or amoxicillin. This wasteful system makes no sense because it is not designed to meet the needs of the population but to make profits.

Macron can polish the boots of the capitalist magnates all he likes. But as long as capitalists control the means of production, the economy will be run contrary to common sense.

We, the workers, have no reason to rejoice at their latest idea to make a profit. We have to fight to preserve what is essential to us: our wages, jobs, housing and living conditions. And we need to be aware that the domination of these parasites has no legitimacy.

Nathalie Arthaud