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
Oct 24, 2022
This article is translated from the October 20th issue, #2829 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers' group of that name active in France.
Tens of thousands of workers expressed their solidarity with the striking refinery workers, as well as raising their own wage demands. Sectors not very present during the earlier strike day of September 29, such as railway workers, were numerous. Teachers were mobilized against the reform of vocational education.
In the towns affected, refinery workers were in the lead, cheered on by fellow protesters. In all the processions, the satisfaction of having struck the blow was there, along with the idea it will take more to roll back big business and government, and the hope this day will be the start of a larger movement of working people.
This editorial appeared on the front of all workplace newsletters of Lutte Ouvrière during the week of October 19, 2022.
On Tuesday, October 18, tens of thousands of workers demonstrated across the country, for wage increases and in solidarity with striking refinery workers. Calls to strike have multiplied, while discontent over wages has been expressed in many companies for weeks. This is true in nuclear power plants and in companies like Dassault, Stellantis, Renault Trucks, Monoprix, Carrefour... But the refinery strike has made pay raises a national issue.
Like railway workers, garbage collectors or teachers, the strikers have been accused of taking the population hostage. But the holdup lies with the management of TotalEnergies. They are deaf to a basic demand: that of increasing wages at the same rate as prices. And given that group’s profits—18.8 billion in the first half of 2022, three times more than last year—refusing this wage catch-up is a scandal .…
So, if there are extremists, they are the big businesses which shower shareholders with profits like never before. They are the CEOs who grant themselves millions in annual salaries, 6 million for that of TotalEnergies, an increase of 52%. They are profit extremists, and they can’t get enough!
This propaganda can only backfire, especially since what is happening at TotalEnergies is happening in all companies. Everywhere, profits and dividends come before wages and working conditions.
Big business always has the word “negotiation” on their lips. And they are ready to organize hours, days and nights of chatting. They discussed crumbs, and that is enough for some union leaders to feel important.
But it is through struggle, not through this caricature of bargaining, that workers can win. Because it has become a matter of principle for some bosses: wages must be held down.
The struggle of the refinery workers shows it: collective action and strikes are the only means to be heard.
The fight between workers and big business is not easy and it never has been. The fight is not conducted on equal terms, since in addition to having money and power, big business can count on the State and the government, with its court orders, its forces of repression and its laws.
And, faced with the crisis and its uncertainties, the capitalists are determined not to let go. They want to reap all possible profits. Hand in hand with the government, they are ready to set us back a generation on wages, unemployment rights and pensions.
For the workers, the struggle is necessarily difficult, but the life that government and employers have in store for us will also be increasingly difficult. So, we must prepare and face it with the determination of those who are convinced that we are fighting a just fight.
In these times of soaring prices, the gap between prices and wages continues to widen. And the workers do not have to accept becoming poorer! We must increase salaries by 300, 400 euros per month and index them to the real inflation rate, and not the one sold to us by the government. This basic demand is a thousand times legitimate, and it must become that of the entire working class.
The mobilization on wages must become everyone’s business. Let’s take advantage of the slightest meeting or walkout to discuss our demands. Not proposals from employers, but what we lack to live decently. And let’s discuss the means of directing our struggle ourselves, so that it is not sold off by such and such trade union leaders.
Some think it is impossible to reverse the balance of power with big business. But as soon as the movement threatens to become more general, what was impossible becomes possible.
So let’s all take advantage of the fuel provided by the refinery strike to get us moving!