Last Thursday, Macron held a press conference that very likely received the approval of… no one except the ministers of his own government and his party’s MPs. The Yellow Jackets and most working people didn’t expect much from the president’s Great Debate which, in the end, simply gave him an opportunity to confirm that he will continue to apply his present policy.
He bluntly declared that he didn’t intend to increase the minimum wage. He will, however, raise the minimum pension to 1,000 euros, but that sum won’t provide pensioners with the means to live in dignity. He did promise to go back on his abolition of the previous system for calculating pension benefits, which adjusted pensions to reflect cost-of-living increases. But nothing will be done before 2020, the reform will only concern pensions of less than 2,000 euros and Macron’s about-turn is to be credited entirely to the Yellow Jackets’ mobilization.
He announced that he would stop closing schools and hospitals--but since he became president, he has already shut down 15 maternity hospitals. As a result of government cuts, hospital emergency rooms are overcrowded, medical staff are overwhelmed and the situation in nursing homes is nothing short of catastrophic. But Macron will continue to cut public spending.
He also announced a drop in the income tax rate--but any cash shortfall will have to be compensated for, and if the money doesn’t come from the capital owners’ bank vaults it’ll come from the pockets of working people. Macron upheld the abolition of the wealth tax and has again committed to reducing corporate income tax.
He told the press that he didn’t want to postpone the legal retirement age--but what else did he have in mind when he added that workers will have to “work longer” before they can access their retirement benefits? In fact, he is preparing an offensive on this ground.
He argues that because of increased life expectancy (which is no longer increasing), the contribution period must be extended under penalty of a discount. In other words, leaving at 62 would still be possible, but with a lower pension! In practice, many wage-earners, worn out by hard work or pushed out by their boss, will leave with an inadequate pension.
Finally, Macron promised full employment by 2025. Years ago, President Hollande said he would “turn the unemployment trend around”. We know just how that turned out: France now has 5.6 million officially registered job-seekers!
Workers who lose their job sometimes find another one. But in most cases the new job comes with reduced wages and deteriorated working conditions. For example, 576 employees of the Arjowiggins paper mills were dismissed on 17 April. “Wherever we go,” explained one of them, “we're going to lose around 200 euros per month, if not more.” Not to mention the longer hours driving to and from work, or the need to “pack up and move”.
The jobs on offer in the “new economy”? They are generally worthy of the 19th century. For instance, the people who deliver meals by bike have no guaranteed salary, no schedule, no health or accident coverage. As for the so-called “auto-entrepreneurs”, who pick up electric scooters and recharge them at home overnight for five euros each, they aren’t treated any better!
In reality, Macron's roadmap and, behind it, that of the capitalist class running the show, is to continue the degradation of the workers' condition.
It is this degradation that feeds the enrichment of the big bourgeoisie. A few privileged people can pay, cash on the nail, a billion euros for Notre-Dame and they can write a cheque for 200 million as we do a cheque for 20 euros… because that’s the kind of money they make exploiting their employees' work.
Macron is maintaining his course? Well then it's up to the workers to assert their demands! In a few weeks' time, on May 26, the European elections will take place. Lutte Ouvrière will be present with a list of candidates, led by Nathalie Arthaud and Jean-Pierre Mercier, defending the interests of workers against those of big business. A list of workers, employees and technicians, railway workers, hospital and education personnel, women and men who make society work.
This list advocates increasing purchasing power, by increasing wages, pensions and allowances and indexing them to price increases.
Against unemployment, it advocates a ban on dismissals and the distribution of work among all, without loss of pay.
Against capitalism’s parasitic system and to shed light on the money circuits, it demands control over corporate accounts and large private fortunes.
Voting Lutte Ouvrière means affirming these objectives. Of course, this won’t be enough to change the balance of power. But it will give workers a chance to be heard and to prepare for the struggles of tomorrow.