Macron’s back to work agenda: mounting attacks on working people

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
August 28, 2023

After a summer marked by heatwaves, emergency department closures, soaring prices and threats of war, the government is getting ready to make new attacks on workers.

Macron is proud of the pension reform he managed to impose, robbing all of us of two years of retirement. And now he is preparing the next blows which will target the whole of the working class.

On the pretext that the national debt has reached 3,000 billion euros, the government is preparing to slash social spending, namely the RSA1, Social Security and unemployment benefits.

But that debt is not ours. If the State has borrowed an additional 700 billion euros in five years, it was not to protect the population. It was to enable energy corporations to sell electricity or gasoline at high prices. It was to allow Dassault, Thales and other arms dealers to enrich themselves thanks to the war in Ukraine. It was to guarantee the interests of French capitalists against their American and Chinese competitors.

We can't accept that sick people pay an extra 50 cents on medication, that those on sick leave be tracked down or that jobseekers receive less compensation just so that bankers, Big Pharma, oil and gas tycoons and arms manufacturers can continue to accumulate more wealth!

Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, boasts of having cut corporate production taxes by 10 billion euros and pledges to abolish them by 2027. But the big bosses are still crying out for more! And, as always, it's up to us to foot the bill. As a result, local authorities, caught between rising costs and falling subsidies, are increasing property taxes. And more taxes are on the way.

They will come on top of rising food and energy prices. Ministers and economists promised a fall in inflation this summer. Now they say it should come in this fall… Not only do they know nothing about it, but they are trying to hide the fact that manufacturers and supermarket chains are driving up prices to ensure ever-greater profits. This inflation is a form of tax levied by the bourgeoisie on the working class as a whole.

The latest unemployment insurance reform took effect on August 1. It reduces the duration of compensation by 25% and tightens the conditions for obtaining unemployment benefits. It’s designed to force the unemployed to accept any job at any wage. But Macron wants to add yet another layer: he is once again talking about a reform of the labor market "to produce more by working more"!

Working-class youths are the first to be targeted. Any excuse is good enough to push them to work as soon as possible. The number of apprenticeships has risen drastically, with over 800,000 young people whose wages, although meagre, are entirely paid by the state. The reform of vocational high schools aims to increase the time spent on work placements, to the detriment of general knowledge, and to adapt "supply to demand", i.e. to tailor the skills being taught to the immediate needs of private companies.

Macron claims that education is at the top of his agenda but his idea is not to offer quality education to young people from poor neighborhoods. It's to bring them into line! He has already introduced the “universal national service” (in French: SNU) to force-feed them with military values. He deplores the fact that 20% of children can't read or write in sixth grade and that too many students are failing at university – in other words he is preparing the ground to send these young people into the army or to be exploited as quickly as possible in factories and on building sites.

By announcing "the restoration of authority in schools", by summoning teachers to be "the guardians of republican values", to control students’ ideas and even the clothes they wear, his first intention is to appeal to far-right voters. But his military-style attitude won’t add any resources or staff to schools nor will it offer a dignified future to working-class youth.

Not only is the government preparing to make us work harder, reduce our access to healthcare and deprive us of the essentials – as wages don’t keep up with rising prices. It is also preparing more and more openly for the large-scale war that the crisis of the capitalist economy and the rivalries between great powers make inevitable. This is one of the aims behind the drive to bring workers and young people into line. This lethal spiral goes beyond Macron or his competitors on the political scene. The only way to stop it is for workers to overthrow this insane capitalist system.

1 RSA (Revenu de Solidarité Active): an allowance paid to people who have no income at all, whether or not they are able to work. The amount is around 600 euros per month for a single person. Although non-taxable, there are a number of conditions attached.