The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

Class Struggle Is Our Compass

Apr 11, 2022

The following are taken from remarks made by Lutte Ouvrière Presidential Candidate Nathalie Arthaud, at an April 3 public meeting in Paris. They are translated from the April 8 issue #2801 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France. The election was held on April 10.

In this run-up to the election, we hear candidates on the left reel off wonderful promises and even talk about “happy days,” without connecting with working people.… We have reason to be angry. These candidates disarm those who listen to them….

No single person can stand in for the balance of forces with the big bourgeoisie and make the bourgeoisie fear them, whether sitting in the Élysée Palace here in Paris, in the White House, or in the center of whatever government. Only the working class—mobilized in its millions and conscious of its strength—can do this.

Workers do not need merchants of illusion. They need clarity. Unlike all those who pose as supreme saviors, we must tell our people that we workers have the strength to change our fate ourselves.

Our strength is collective. It comes from the fact that we produce all the wealth, all the profits, and all the capital that the bourgeoisie monopolizes. Our strength is that we make the whole society run….

To substitute the vote for our mobilized power is to give up using the collective and social force of the working class. It means putting our fate in the hands of government institutions. It means handing our fate over to the big bourgeoisie that dominates the whole society. Not preparing workers for combat amounts to handing them over bound hand and foot to their enemy! Capitalism is class struggle. And tomorrow’s class struggle will be even fiercer.

Big business knows how to lead their fight. They have their armada of chiefs and deputy chiefs, their armada of politicians who are always present to justify their policies. To protect themselves, workers can only count on themselves: on their consciousness, their mobilization, and their determination. Just hearing politicians say that all of this is unnecessary and even dangerous is against workers’ interests.

The class struggle must be our political compass. There is no middle ground. Either we fight capitalism until its destruction, or we end up integrating into it and becoming one of its cogs….

The question is not which candidate will luck out and become president. The question is whether or not workers will succeed in organizing to defend their right to exist.

I defend the perspective of the organization of workers. My candidacy is a call for consciousness and mobilization! I am not here to say that in power I will do better than Macron. I am running to say that workers must aim to overthrow the bourgeoisie and its government. They must aim to establish their own power. Not just to ensure retirement at 60 or higher wages, but to change society as a whole!

Our Program: A Program of Struggle

Even if we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, or if we feel helpless faced with war and its consequences, the first step is to give ourselves a policy and a party capable of bringing the working class together around the idea that they have to be prepared to fight. This means equipping ourselves with a program of struggle to protect our conditions of existence….

2,000 euros per month net salary [around $26,000 take-home per year] is a minimum so as not to have to count each euro and not live in anguish that our car will break down or that we have a health problem….

Faced with the return of inflation, we must put forward a central demand of the labor movement: the sliding scale of wages. Wages, pensions, and benefits must be indexed to prices, month by month, week by week if necessary. We can’t let prices rise without our means of living rising equally.

The bosses have the power to pass higher expenses onto their prices, so their profits are not cut. Workers do not have that power. The only way to protect their purchasing power somewhat is the automatic indexation of wages to prices. In any case, it shouldn’t be up to workers to bear the cost of the bosses’ irrational economy!

… Yes, the working class has a policy to defend in terms of unemployment. Distribute the work among everyone. Force a reduction in work hours (without a reduction in pay) so that no one is unemployed.

Let us all work less, so we all have work!

End the Bosses’ Code of Silence

Abolishing business secrets would make it possible to make the flow of money transparent. This would reveal how big bosses gorge themselves on small bosses. How corporations increase their profit margins by strangling their subcontractors. How conglomerates evade taxes with their crafty shells of subsidiaries and sub-subsidiaries. And how bankers behave like feudal lords when dealing with small business owners who believe they are independent, but who spend their lives paying back their debts!

… If employees take up this claim and mobilize to exercise their own control over bookkeeping accounts and contracts, they will be able to measure the extent of exploitation. They will see that low wages only exist to ensure big profits and big dividends! They will realize that everything that is considered impossible today is perfectly achievable, like more hiring, higher pay, slowing down the pace of work, reducing hours, and providing pensions!

By abolishing business secrets, we would put an end to the corporate code of silence. This silence … allows big business to pollute, to deplete resources, and to destroy the planet. Putting an end to it will not require commissions of inquiry or other supervisory authorities. It can rely on the workers themselves, who are the element in companies not made blind by the profit motive! …

Up until now, the main contribution of working people to the war effort is the daily extortion they suffer because of oil and gas prices. The energy sector is a huge source of enrichment and speculation for the big bourgeoisie. Total, Engie, and their competitors are war profiteers.

Not a single gas or oil pipeline from Russia is shut off as of yet. The gas we are sold at the pump was purchased several months ago by the oil companies. But the prices at the pump are matched with the current price of a barrel of crude oil. Nothing justifies such price increases, except speculation….

What is true for energy is even more spectacular for weapons. Since the start of the war, all European countries have announced increases in their military budgets.

There was not a single euro in reserve to run hospitals, but hundreds of billions are available immediately for warplanes and missiles. What delight for arms dealers! Their stock prices soared.

And the 100 billion euro increase in Germany’s military has already given rise to a battle to determine who will corner the market for combat aircraft. More than ever, government leaders are becoming sales representatives for arms dealers.

After the First World War, Anatole France wrote: “You think you are dying for your country; you die for the industrialists.” Well, in order not to die for the profits of the industrialists, we must popularize the idea of workers’ control over energy and military-industrial capitalists.

To oppose sacrifices imposed in the name of the sacred union in a nation at war, our watchword must be: confiscate war profits and expropriate companies profiting from war such as energy companies. Not a euro for weapons dealers! Not a euro to gorge Total’s shareholders!

I know that in the voting booth many who agree that capitalism is leading us to a dead end will choose what they believe is a useful vote for the left. It’s like tossing a bottle into the ocean. You tell yourself it can’t hurt anyway.

Yes, it can hurt. The working class always wakes up from its electoral illusions with a hangover. Electoralism leads to resignation and passivity. When you are conscious that the strength of workers is not in the ballot box, you have to make a militant vote, a vote to show what side you are on. To show your perspectives to other workers.

Of course we go against the tide. But against what tide? Individualism? The love of money? Nationalism? War? Yes, a thousand times yes! Society’s future is not on that side!

Our ideas can only become strong when they are taken up by the masses. But it is vital to prepare for the future, to defend our ideas against all odds and to be able to express them in all circumstances—including in an election such as this.

It is in these troubled times that you have to hold on. This is the only way to be able to offer a political perspective when the time comes. This is illustrated by the story of the revolutionaries who withstood the shock in 1914. Imprisoned at the beginning, they came out of prison to find themselves at the head of a revolution. Because a revolutionary idea can have tremendous consequences!

So on April 10, make the workers’ side heard….

This War Concerns Us. We’re Already Halfway In

Biden and the other leaders of NATO countries repeat that they are not at war with Russia. And formally, they are not at war. But they provide military intelligence, missiles, and drones to Ukraine’s army and militias, after aiding and training them for the last eight years. In fact, they are waging war against Russia by way of Ukrainian bodies. And the risk is that war will escalate….

Until now, war took place far away from where we are. War broke out in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Mali.

War stayed an abstraction because it happened on other continents. Deaths, destruction, and refugee camps were only images on TV.

But let’s not forget that our grandparents, our parents, and the oldest among us here experienced the Algerian War, the Viet Nam War, or the Second World War.

And 30 years ago, it was not Mariupol that was bombed but Sarajevo, Dubrovnik, and Belgrade, all in what had been Yugoslavia. NATO planes pounded these cities for 78 days in 1999. These were drastic episodes in the fratricidal war that butchered Yugoslavia.

The threat is getting closer. After all, capitalism and war are inseparable. After all, a society that creates staggering inequality—unimaginable luxury on the one hand, and absolute poverty on the other—a society where competition and rivalry are the engines of the economy—can only live by war!

For years, the U.S. and behind it lesser imperialisms like France have been preparing public opinion for the eventuality of war against China. Since 2014 at least, the notion of a war involving Russia has been brewing. For one thing, the war in the Donbass region dragged on and claimed more than 14,000 lives.

So to repeat over and over that Putin has gone mad or that we didn’t see it coming is to rewrite history. The imperialist camp and Putin’s Russia have had a showdown for decades.

The fact is that for 30 years NATO has exerted constant pressure on countries neighboring Russia to join NATO. NATO has surrounded Russia with military bases, equipped with missiles. The imperialist policy of the U.S., NATO, and the Western powers has made Ukraine the field of their showdown with Russia. The circumstance that Putin took the initiative of invading Ukraine changes nothing.

The number of American soldiers currently in Europe has risen from 70,000 to 100,000. NATO is deploying its battalions all over Europe. France’s aircraft carrier is deployed in the Mediterranean. These governments are stocking up weapons.

This outright arms race shows that all the imperialist countries, and their generals and diplomats, are preparing future butchery. They are the workers’ worst enemies.

Against War, Revolution!

… the proletariat has always been confronted with war. Sometimes workers are enlisted in prison factories, sometimes in armies. Sometimes they are fodder for profit, sometimes they are cannon fodder. The two have always been interconnected.

In 1871 in France, the Paris Commune was born at the end of the war between Napoleon III’s Second Empire and Prussia….

On March 18, 1871, insurrection gave birth to the Paris Commune, the first workers’ power in the world, aiming for a universal republic of working people….

When we affirm that the only positive outcome for peoples will come from the working class, this perspective is not a dream!

All wars catch workers by surprise at first. But the longer a war lasts, the more damage and suffering accumulate. The more visible warmongers and profiteers of war become, and arouse anger and revolt. The more that those who pay for the war with their lives seek a way out by their own methods.

This already happened just over 100 years ago specifically in Russia and Ukraine. Revolution by the workers, soldiers, and farmers of the Tsarist Empire put an end to combat on the Eastern Front during World War I.

The Russian Revolution showed that the exploited could decide the fate of war. Simply enough, those who carry the weapons are generally ordinary people, workers, and exploited. They can also decide to silence their weapons.

Not only are workers able to stop wars, but in the course of their struggle they are able to establish their own power. Using this power, they can carry out an international policy not to negotiate with the brigands of the ruling class, but to address the rebellious workers of other countries. And to build another world with them!