On Thursday, September 17, the CGT, Solidaires and the FSU (France’s most combative trade unions) are calling workers from both public and private sectors, hospital personnel, rail workers and teachers to participate in a national day of strikes and protests.
Transport Minister Djebbari reacted to the call for a rail strike by criticizing the workers who are preparing to mobilize saying “They’re just striking out of habit [...] and it’s a pity because at such a complicated time for France [...] I would have hoped for some social stability”.
What social stability is he talking about? Workers are thrown out of their job every day with unprecedented violence. In all sectors, big bosses are multiplying their attacks on workers and their working conditions.
The exceedingly rich Mulliez family that owns the Auchan chain of super- and hyper-markets, wants to push 1,400 workers out the door. The same family just closed down Alinéa, a furniture chain… and then bought it back while getting rid of half the staff. And this is happening during a crisis in which there are already more than 750,000 workers who have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Is that what the minister means by social stability?
It’s impossible to talk about social stability when workers in small companies have seen layoff plans increase because their main commercial customers, who are in fact major corporations, are holding a knife to their subcontractors' throats. The same thing is happening to thousands of workers, employees and engineers in aeronautics, car-manufacturing and tourism. For years, they have enriched their company and made it possible for shareholders to amass fortunes and as soon as times start getting hard they’re told to get lost!
There’s a social war going on and the capitalists have the upper hand. Layoffs, lower wages and the worsening of working conditions are the bourgeoisie’s favorite means of keeping its profit margins up and increasing them. And they don’t mind throwing thousands of workers into unemployment or turning whole regions into industrial wastelands to do so.
The working class is getting poorer and society is regressing so that a capitalist minority can continue to line its pockets through a system worn out by senseless competition. And it’s the same big businesses and their system that the government is helping out by giving them billions, that, yet again, will increase profits, finance and speculation. The stock market is now back to its pre-Covid level, because speculators know they can rely on unconditional state support !
Faced with the attacks by the bourgeoisie, faced with its greed, the only choice workers have is to defend themselves. They have to act collectively and draw up a battle plan because the bourgeoisie only understands power struggles.
The basis of the battle plan must be the workers’ vital interests. Everyone should work less so that there’s work for all, with no loss of wages. Wages must be increased, not profit margins or dividends. Workers must have control over the billions of euros that big business has been given: the money must be used to guarantee jobs and wages.
To combat the massive increase in the number of unemployed, jobs must be created in healthcare, education and public transport. During this epidemic, this should be self-evident. But even that has to be fought for: if the health situation is so worrying, it’s because the government is still not doing what it should.
What has the government actually done other than making mask-wearing compulsory and restricting our social life while demanding that we go to work? Has public transport been increased to ensure better social distancing? No. Has state education been given the means to have pupils work in smaller groups? Has more staff been taken on in order to replace those who may fall ill? Another no.
Even laboratories that are right in the heart of the health struggle are having to improvise and they lack staff. As for hospitals and state-run retirement homes, we’re not going to be reassured by pathetic announcements! The only serious thing the government has done is to help big businesses. That’s typical of a state that serves the bourgeoisie!
All the working class can expect from big capital and its state are blows. The people getting ready to march in the street on 17 September are right. They’re preparing the working class for the fight in which it needs to engage. Ever since people have been exploited, this need has existed and has guided generations of militants: - “Proletarians, let’s save ourselves”!