All prices are soaring: salaries and pensions must follow!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
May 16, 2022

The appointment of Élisabeth Borne as Prime Minister and the formation of the new government will surely keep the political world and professional scribblers busy for a few days. But there’s nothing new under the sun. Whatever the political nuance of this or that minister, these minions will serve the capitalists, whatever the costs for us workers. So what matters most is not what happens at Matignon, the government headquarters.

What matters is what’s happening on supermarket shelves and at gas stations. The most worrying thing is this merry-go-round of price labels, day after day, week after week.

To help us swallow this bitter pill, every newscast serves us a little lesson in “smart consumption”: we are kindly told of the tricks to reduce the overall price of our shopping cart, the best app to hunt for promos, the advantages of buying in bulk and of storing, of carpooling or cycling...

The government and its parrots are never short of ideas for us to tighten our belts! The problem is that many people are already tightening their belts. And when a kilo of tomatoes is worth 5 euros, when the price of oil or chicken doubles, no trick applies: we have to deprive ourselves. This is a catastrophe for millions of people and it is becoming a catastrophe for millions more.

When politicians and economists tell us that the worst is yet to come, we must believe them!

Everything is combining to make the crisis worse: the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, the lockdowns in China, droughts all over the world... All this will be used as a pretext for speculators to line their pockets.

Prices do not go up naturally or by magic. A fraction of the capitalist class is at the origin of this inflation. Sunflowers come from Russia and the Ukraine, but the sunflower oil produced with last year's harvest, long before the war, has just increased by 40%! While the production costs of many raw materials have not increased, speculators are taking advantage of the fact that there is less supply and more demand to increase their prices and margins. This is evident in the oil sector, where Total has doubled its profits.

If some small businesses are reluctant to pass on the increase in their costs to their own prices, this is not the case for the most powerful capitalist groups. The automobile trusts, for example, have taken the lead by considerably increasing the price of cars.

In crises as in wars, the big guys always have the means to impose their law. Better still for them, they always find new opportunities to take advantage of the situation.

The leaders of the big companies can set their own prices. They therefore have the power to pass on the increases affecting them. This is a way of indexing the profits and the dividends – i.e. the income of the ultra-rich – to inflation. But that is a possibility denied to workers.

Why shouldn’t salaries, pensions and allowances be increased too? Should workers accept this impoverishment? Clearly, we are faced with a new declaration of war!

We do not have the means to prevent the crisis and stop the price hikes. But we can and must fight to avoid paying for it. Unlike the capitalists, we have no margin, no billions in reserve, we need our full purchasing power!

Macron encourages employers to pay a bonus to employees. But what does an annual bonus of 500 or 1,000 euros weigh, when there’s a 300-, a 500-euro hole in our monthly wage? Macron has also announced, a few months after his ‘one shot’ 100 euro energy check, that the poorest will receive a food voucher of 50 euros per month. What next? Tickets for one baguette a day to ensure that everyone has their bread ration? This is charity, stopgap measures to divert us from the necessary fight for the general increase of wages in proportion to prices!

Workers are organizing in many companies to demand wage increases in line with inflation. Here and there, they demanded a 200-, a 300-euro increase. Several of these strikes, in particular at Faurecia in the Doubs region or at Toray near Lyon, gained substantial increases for the workers. This is the path we must follow.

Nathalie Arthaud