Archive | December, 2018

Editorial from Issue 167 of La Tribune des Travailleurs, 5 December 2018

5 Dec

Do Macron and Philippe really hope to get away with it?

Editorial by Daniel Gluckstein

The announcement on 4 December of a six-month suspension of planned carbon tax increases and other fuel tax measures, as well as of planned gas and electricity increases, will obviously appear to be a setback for a government which, two days earlier, said it would not change anything. True enough. …

However, as has been clearly noted, this is a suspension, and not a withdrawal, of these measures. It is a suspension which, moreover, corresponds to the request for a “moratorium” raised by all the opposition parties.

And above all, in a situation of open crisis of the regime, it is certain that workers and young people will say to themselves: It doesn’t all add up, not really.

For months now, rejection has been growing throughout the country — rejection of the government, its policies and the institutions themselves. Rejection that embraces all segments of the population, starting with the most oppressed and exploited: the working class, which includes active and retired workers, the unemployed, children of the working class, mothers of families.

What is being rejected is 30 years of “counter-reforms” that the institutions of the Fifth Republic have enabled, in defiance of the majority will, thanks to the ordinances, to Article 49-3 [of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic], and to the full powers given to the President, the keystone of the institutions.

What is being rejected is a class-war policy implemented by governments of all political stripes. It’s a class-war policy that deprives the working class of its rights, amputates its purchasing power, undermines its access to healthcare and pensions, denies the younger generation access to a qualification, and denies millions the means to live with dignity, with a decent purchasing power that allows them to secure housing, clothing and leisure.

It’s ruthless class-war politics: For decades, it has allowed capitalists to accumulate mountains of profit, unparalleled in history, on the basis of the continuous degradation of the value of the labour force.

To the legitimate and vital demands of this overwhelming majority, which has said “Enough is Enough!,” the minimum respect for democracy would require that, at the very least, the following demands must be met:

– the withdrawal of measures that are set to go into effect beginning 1 January 2019: the withholding tax, the new reductions and exemptions from employers’ social security contributions, and the planned payment of the 40 billion euros of the CICE [Credit for Competitivity and Employment];

– the withdrawal of all the Macron government’s ongoing “counter-reforms” and plans against workers and young people: pension counter-reforms, Blanquer reforms against the baccalaureate and the high schools (against which high school students are rising up today) and all other such measures;

– the general increase in wages, pensions and social minima, with a return to price indexation and the recovery of lost purchasing power;

– the reopening of classes, hospitals, maternity wards, post offices and other public services that have been closed for decades;

– and therefore the necessary break with the austerity policies imposed by the European treaties and successive governments for more than 25 years.

Instead, the government not only pretends not to hear this immense demand for a break with these past policies, but it persists and signs the new regressive measures. [Prime Minister] Édouard Philippe went on to announce the government’s planned “concertation,” claiming that its goal is to meet the aspirations of those who want “taxes to fall and work to pay.”

The Medef [the main employers’ association] has greeted these measures with glee: less taxes, less benefit payments. This is, in fact, what the employers have been demanding all along; it’s what the government intends to approve through this process of “consultation.”

But here’s the rub: The crisis of the Fifth Republic’s regime is wide open, and the government’s announcements of 4 December will not be enough to close it. The revolt has been brewing for more than 30 years. The more Macron-Philippe persist in refusing to give in on any issue of substance, the more they push the working class toward the following conclusion: If, to obtain satisfaction of our basic demands, it is necessary to drive out the Macron government and the Fifth Republic, then so be it. …

This raises the whole problem of working class independence, the very principle of which has been undermined in recent weeks by those who have called on workers’ organizations to submit to the discipline–  “outside of and above social classes” — of the so-called yellow-vest movement.

Class independence: Workers have nothing to gain from the confusion of demands raised by an amalgam of social classes.

Class independence: Workers have nothing to gain by standing behind the tricolour flag or banners such as “We Are All Gauls.” National unity, whatever its clothing and pretexts, is always contrary to workers’ interests.

Class independence: Workers have nothing to gain from others speaking on their behalf, from self-proclaimed spokespersons who, in the name of the “people” and the rejection of political parties and trade unions, take refuge in a façade of anonymity that is not at all spontaneous.

Class independence: Workers have nothing to gain from anti-political, anti-worker, anti-union “clear-the-road” demands and forms of struggle, which, by undermining the forms of working class representation, only aim to atomize them and subordinate the workers to the ruling political system.

Class independence: Workers have nothing to gain by turning a blind eye to racist and anti-immigrant abuses and aggressions that aim to divide them.

The workers have nothing to gain from the rise of what is called populism — be it of the “left” or the right  — which is nothing more than the negation of the class struggle, any more than hthey have something to gain from the convergence of populisms, the results of which can be seen in Italy.

But they have everything to gain by remaining on working class grounds. The unity of workers and their organisations, with their faces uncovered as they promote their demands, is the only way to impose an outcome in line with their interests and democracy.

A real change in course calls for the emergence of “classical” forms of class struggle in relation to the crisis of the regime. The whole situation places the workers’ strike on the agenda around clear, specific demands, sweeping away the confusion of sloganeering. Already, particular strikes are spreading across the country — strikes which, in connection with the regime’s general crisis, are fuelling the movement towards a workers’ general strike.

This is the way to impose a real break with the anti-worker political continuity of the last 3- years. This is the way to break with the European Union and the Fifth Republic, the first step toward a government of the working class and democracy.

It is in this direction that a real “way out of the crisis” can be found, in line with political democracy and workers’ interests.