The Spark

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

France:
Municipal elections allow us to show opposition to the administration's policy

Mar 3, 2008

The following editorial appeared in the February 22 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers' Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

One after another, big companies announced their enormous profits for 2007. They made those profits despite the financial crisis, which saw tens of billions of dollars go up in speculative smoke.

Among the corporations bragging to their stockholders, we always find the same names: TOTAL, L"Oréal, Unilever, Renault, Peugeot. And leading the pack is ArcelorMittal, the giant steelmaker, with 11 billion dollars profit. But there isn't a penny that ArcelorMittal will use to save jobs in the Gandrange plant when it is closed.

If ArcelorMittal is among the worst examples of corporations that make enormous profits while laying workers off or cutting jobs, it isn't alone. Despite making profits, Michelin is closing its subsidiary, the Kléber factory in Toul. Peugeot is reducing its workforce, in particular by getting rid of its temporary workers and by closing one of its two assembly lines at Aulnay.

These profits, which they dare tell us are necessary for the functioning of the economy, aren't useful to the very workers who produce them by their labor nor even to society.

The French government, headed by President Sarkozy, certainly isn't the first to serve the interests of the big corporations whose drive for profits has destroyed so much. All the administrations, whatever their political label, have done the same. But Sarkozy's display of friendship with the billionaires and bosses, and his policy of pushing workers into poverty in order to further enrich the wealthy, is cynical and provocative. So within eight months of his taking office, he has become the target of workers' anger and resentment.

The so-called reforms of this administration aim at making exploitation worse, demolishing what social protections exist for workers, and making it easier for companies to lay off workers.

It funnels more subsidies to big business, while cutting back on public services. It closes or reduces the hours that the branches of the Post Office and Social Security are open, and shuts down train stations and maternity hospitals. It reduces pensions for retirees and forces deductible payments on those with public health insurance plans.

Of course, more than an election is needed to stop the permanent war of the bosses and the government against the working class.

But the municipal elections constitute an occasion to renounce this policy and the politicians who carry it out for the bosses. We can vote to punish their servility toward the rich and their scorn for the poor. Even if the right loses the elections in a large number of cities, it won't resolve the main problems of the working class: unemployment, low wages and pensions. But municipal government can still be more favorable to the poor than it is. Municipalities can construct affordable housing, even when it means those living in well-off neighborhoods are afraid this will bring down their property values.

With this perspective Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle) is presenting candidates in a number of cities for the next municipal elections. Those elected from Lutte Ouvrière will be the defenders of the social and political interests of the exploited, the unemployed, the retired and the poorest in the municipal council and outside it. Lutte Ouvrière's elected city council members will support those who defend their living and working conditions, those workers who are on strike, or those who don't accept substandard housing, or commuters who refuse to accept deteriorating local transit, schools, public services.