The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Stop Playing Russian Roulette with the Health of Workers!

Mar 30, 2020

Translated from the frontside of the March 22 workplace newsletters put out by Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

Every day’s morbid count of death and disease makes it obvious how serious this epidemic is. The point of confinement measures is to protect ourselves and others.

Confinement means sacrifices, particularly for working class families. But precautions are undermined because big bosses and the government want business to carry on as usual!

At the weekend, workers are ordered to stay home, and get funny looks if they dare take a walk with their children. But on Monday, it’s back to work—using crowded public transport! Going to work for companies like Airbus and Amazon, in confined workshops with 50, 100, 200 other workers who share the same tools.

The lives of millions of workers, employees and technicians are being risked by the government. The benefit of the stay-at-home order is being sabotaged. Why? So that the capitalists can continue to make profits.

Building cruise ships and combat helicopters or producing lipstick isn’t helping fight the virus! Labor Minister Pénicaud has encouraged construction to start up again. We could understand if they were building field hospitals, like they did in China, but that’s not the case!

Medical personnel are begging us to stay at home. So in this context, the government’s decision to keep companies operational is a criminal decision. It’s intentional and thought out: it’s a class choice.

Right from the start of the epidemic, every decision the government has made has been calculated according to capitalist interests. The only value attributed to workers’ lives is how much profit they can sweat out.

Stop the lies about “national unity”! Workers must defend themselves and refuse to be profit fodder while leaders and shareholders hide safely behind the lines. It’s time for us to impose collectively that all companies not essential to fighting the epidemic or keeping society going cease their activity.

It’s time to make sure that all possible resources are available for disease control. We’re paying the price today for the hospital and bed closures of the last decades. In 2011, the health minister decided to stop stockpiling masks to save money. It’s easy to see just how criminal these savings are.

We’ve seen this catastrophe coming for more than two months. But while Macron claims to mobilize the country to fight a health war, the medical troops still don’t have masks and diagnostic tests! Home health care workers are assisting people who are at risk without even knowing if they’re carrying the virus. What should they do? Cross their fingers that they’re not spreading the epidemic? Yes, all healthcare workers have bravely responded to the call of duty. But they’re being sent to the front lines in atrocious conditions and have already paid for it with a number of deaths.

As for supermarket cashiers, garbage-collection personnel, electricians, truck drivers, bus drivers, mail delivery workers and others who do essential jobs, the government has been so uncaring that there are protests and workers declaring their right to withdraw from unsafe work conditions. Now the government suggests employers pay a 1000-euro bonus. Is that what their health and that of their family is worth? That’s offensive!

Workers in vital jobs are showing their collective conscience. But they never said they were willing to play Russian roulette with their lives! In Parliament, the microphones are cleaned after every speaker… Well, there’s no reason not to treat the foot soldiers who are essential to society in the same way!

This health crisis is like a magnifying glass that amplifies the inequalities and the class contempt inherent in this capitalist society. It’s directing a harsh light on the mismanagement of those who rule us and the irresponsibility of the organization of our society. We must turn it into an electric shock, one that feeds revolt against the current social order that is designed to help the few get rich off the backs of the many!