Prices have gone up but there's no reason that workers should pay the bill!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
October 18, 2021

Diesel fuel is now 1.60 euros per liter; natural gas has gone up nearly 60% in one year… Energy prices have skyrocketed. Prices have soared while workers are being attacked on all sides—as they have been for years. Hundreds of thousands of workers aren’t getting full paychecks due to periods of unemployment forced on them by bosses. This can't go on.

Fuel prices are higher than they were in 2018 when they sparked off the “yellow vest” movement. So it's hardly surprising that the Prime Minister is “keeping a close eye” on prices. He’s worried about another flare up of anger. Well, it would be well-deserved. While the government is busy commentating, prices keep rising and we’re the ones paying!

Yes, there’s every reason to be angry because there is a very simple measure that the government could apply immediately—get rid of VAT on gas. And, if we don’t want the government to make us pay for it later, it should be wholly compensated for by taxing the profits of the energy multinationals.

But, for the workers, this is only a small part of the solution. The problem isn’t limited to the energy price hike: we’re dealing with an increase in prices across the board, everything from rent to food. Every increase lowers the buying power of wages, pensions and social aid by the same amount. So the question of wages must be brought back to the table.

As prices have gone up significantly, we need at least 500 euros more per month. And so that everyone can live decently from their work, no monthly salary should be lower than 2 000 euros. And, above all, wages that do go up must be protected by automatically indexing them to the real increases in prices.

To do this, we have to confront the big bosses. If the workers don’t make a move, the only “possible” and “realistic” increases will be the increase of profits, dividends and fortunes. For it to become “possible” to increase wages, workers must engage in a power struggle with the capitalist class. This depends on us and our ability to re-engage in massive and powerful struggles. We aren’t there yet? Obviously not but it’s the only possible way forward for the working class. It’s the only way for us to challenge the economic dictatorship that a few multinational trusts have

But not everyone is suffering through the price increase of crude oil! Major oil companies like Total, BP and Exxon are winning big. Each of them is making a monthly profit of a billion dollars. They’re the first to benefit from the market price increases, the ones that they pretty much set off themselves.

There really is nothing natural about the rise in the price per barrel. The cause is not the sudden scarcity of gas or oil, or the sudden (entirely predictable) upturn of the world economy. The multinationals have calculated their move. Using the pretext of the energy transition justified by global warming, they have decided to increase prices. Their goal is to collect a pile of money by making the population pay for the conversion to electric or hydrogen power, which they have never bothered to do.

There was already talk of an oil shortage in 1973 to justify the first oil crisis! This is a lie that hides the essential fact that the energy multinationals are the ones dictating their law to us. And they don't care about the future of the planet or the rational organization of resources. Their only aim is to secure their own income. So, in order not to be the cash cows of these energy multinationals, we must tax their super-profits and control them!

In a society that functions for the population as a whole, and not for the privileged, it would be necessary to take stock of energy needs and see what means are available to satisfy them. Energy production should be planned rationally and there should be democratic control by the workers over the use of oil production facilities, refineries, power plants... Yes, the world needs to be changed and we will be capable of doing it collectively when we start to really fight for our basic interests.

Nathalie Arthaud