Capitalists are making tiny gestures... and huge profits

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 25, 2022

Price increases in supermarkets and at the pump weigh more and more heavily on the budget of working-class families. They have already reduced their daily spending, they certainly travel less, and either they don’t go on holiday or they choose a destination closer to home.

TotalEnergies, in all its amazing generosity, has announced a reduction of 20 centimes per litre at the pump! It will only be effective in September – why should car drivers benefit from a reduction during their vacation? – and will only last for two months before dropping to 10 centimes for November and December.

Economy Minister, Bruno Le Maire, applauded wholeheartedly. He sees it as an example of companies “making a gesture” for purchasing power and he says that the government may also help by upping the government’s reduction on fuel from 18 to 30 centimes in September and October.

So maybe we’ll pay 1.50 euros for a litre of fuel at a limited number of petrol stations for a few weeks, at the same time as we’ll have all the back-to-school shopping to do for our children. And we should be thankful for their charity? All Total is doing is paying back a tiny part of the huge amount they continually steal!

They’re one of the five multinationals that hold sway on the global petrol and energy market. They made 5 billion in profits in just the first quarter of this year, not to mention the 4 billion that they’ve set aside for planned investments. In 2021, they rang up 16 billion. Their overfed shareholders also “made a gesture” that was considerably more noteworthy – they increased the annual income of the CEO, Pouyanné, by 52% in 2021 to reach 5.9 million!

On the shipping front, the French group CMA-CGM, the world’s third largest shipping company, announced a reduction in prices for its French customers. This won’t even make a dent in their colossal profits.

Members of parliament from Nupes1 but also from the far right party RN and even some from the majority are demanding a tax on “super profits” but only as an exception! It certainly wouldn’t challenge the continual accumulation of profits by big business.

Members are putting on a show in parliament, insulting one another and some are making proposals that are more radical than those of the government. But no one suggests controlling the major companies, nobody is challenging their domination over the economy and the whole of society.

And yet, that is the heart of the problem. The major capitalist groups are not only profiting from the crisis, accumulating outrageous profits thanks to the economy’s convulsions. They are also the cause.

The evolution of grain prices is an example. Having previously shot up, wheat prices collapsed on the Chicago stock market last Friday following the agreement between Russia and Ukraine on the movement of Ukrainian ships. The rise and fall of prices bears no relation to current stocks of grain but to the bets placed by speculators on what the market price will be tomorrow and the profits they can make from it. Millions of families are paying the consequences of this, already threatened with famine in the poorest countries.

The capitalists use every opportunity to make additional profits: the health crisis, the war in Ukraine, even drought. No matter if it means more chaos and brings the economy to a complete standstill or even collapse.

Workers can’t rely on the government or on discounts from trusts to save them. And they can’t expect a solution to come from the opposition waving their arms about.

We’ll have to fight for our essential needs just to slow down the worsening of our living conditions This starts with wage increases and linking wages to the cost of living.

This period is an accumulation of crises. The important issue for workers is to wrest power away from the capitalists. The capitalists are dominating a society that has been socialized for quite some time. It’s organized on a global scale but their decisions are dictated by their hunt for privatized profits. The workers, if they use their collective strength, are the only ones who can bring society out of the present impasse and prevent a collapse into barbarianism.

It’s thanks to us that the whole of society functions. We should be the ones to run it so that it can function for mankind.

Nathalie ARTHAUD

1 Nupes (Nouvelle union populaire écologique et sociale): the New Popular, Ecological and Social Union is an alliance of French left-wing parties, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.