We’d like to “pass” on what Macron and the capitalists want

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 26, 2021

In order to pass the new health law, the National Assembly, with a Macronite majority, and the Senate, held by the right, came to an agreement. Both took it as an opportunity: the government to sing its same old song about national unity, and the right-wing senators to boast of being “responsibility-minded”.

Their idea of responsibility is doing what the bosses want and national unity means joining forces against the workers. The adjustments that the senators brought in are indicative: all the owners of big shopping malls had to do was moan about how expensive it would be to control the health pass and they were given an exemption.

The senators have dared to claim that they’re protecting the workers by replacing the possibility of being fired for not being vaccinated by “simple suspension” without pay. How hypocritical can you get! How many workers can manage without a salary? “Simple suspension” means that workers are fired without being told that they’re fired. And it won’t cost the bosses anything because the only choice that any worker who refuses vaccination will have will be that of living without pay or resigning!

The government has handed employers yet another weapon to use against workers. And the state as an employer is setting an example: the diktat will be applied immediately to hospital workers and other public sectors. The one notable exception is the police. They’ll be checking everyone’s health pass but they’ll be exempt. The government needs their repressive strength too badly to risk upsetting them!

Macron defended forced vaccination on Sunday in front of the healthcare workers of a hospital in Tahiti, going on about how it’s “in the collective interest”. You have to be as arrogant as he is to dare play the “protecting-public-health” card, particularly in Polynesia–the French state carried out nuclear tests there for 30 years without the slightest concern for the health of the local population.

The government claims to be making workers toe the line, prohibiting here, authorizing there, talking about collective interests. It’s sickening!

It’s sickening for care workers. They’ve been abandoned in hospitals with no resources and are now treated like potential murderers. But there’s such a lack of personnel that they’re also told to come to work even if they’re Covid contacts, or asymptomatic positives! It’s sickening for home helpers who’ve been alone looking after isolated seniors during successive lockdowns. It’s sickening for all workers–they haven’t forgotten what it was like going back to the plant when the epidemic was still raging, with no masks because the bosses weren’t prepared to spend a cent of their profits!

The government claims to be the voice of reason and scientific progress, and to be opposed to all conspiracy theories. Vaccination could of course mean progress if capitalism weren’t more concerned with profits than with satisfying the needs of humanity. No matter what scientific or technological progress is made, the profit logic restricts every step forward that humanity takes, even turning it into catastrophe and it also breeds mistrust.

What progress can vaccination represent when the whole health system is regressing in a country as rich as France? What progress does it represent on the scale of the planet when little more than 1% of Africans has received the vaccine? The government is quick to pass anti-worker laws but it refuses to force laboratories to lift patents. The government’s being “responsibility-minded” stops where the capitalists’ profits begin!

Last Saturday demonstrations brought together tens of thousands of people opposed to the health pass. Many workers participated as a way of expressing their legitimate anger. But most demonstrations were held in the name of the freedom of the individual and that doesn’t represent our interests. In this society, freedom doesn’t taste the same if you’re a boss or if you’re a worker. Employers are free to set the salaries they want or to fire people when they want. The only freedom workers have is to accept and obey the employers’ conditions if they don’t want to starve.

After the health law, other blows are planned–reforming unemployment benefits and raising retirement age. Workers are the ones who keep society running. It’s our struggles that’ll force capitalists and the government that serves them to accept that the lives of all workers, including the unemployed and retirees, come before profits. For the collective interest to become a real priority, we need to attack the bourgeoisie’s domination over the economy.