Behind the Current Struggles The Need for a New Society is Raised


This leaflet was distributed in France and Belgium

After long years of social apathy and shameless glorification of capitalism, the workers of the public sector in France, and students in France and Belgium, reminded us in a spectacular way that the society we live in is a class society. The "social rupture" we hear so much talk about, is in the first place a historic rupture between the interests of workers and those of capital which exploits them. Railroad workers, bus and subway conductors, employees of many "public" services and students have spontaneously manifested, in strikes and demonstrations, their anger at the new attacks on their living and working conditions. In France, this discontent took the form of the most important strike movement since May '68. In Belgium, it was expressed in more dispersed strikes. But everywhere, the problems and the reactions are of the same nature.

SACRIFICES DON'T RESOLVE ANYTHING

Those who govern us, always have good reasons to justify the need to accept new sacrifices: to wipe out the public debt to meet the criteria for European unification, to save the social security system, to save the nation or the company threatened by international competition. And indeed: from their point of view, all these are unavoidable, because they are imposed by an international economic system of which they are the managers. Capitalism is in crisis, everywhere and deeply. To save the existing social order which lives on profit obtained from the exploitation of labor, the global price of labor power must be lowered, whether directly or indirectly - lower wages, reduction of health care coverage and pensions, lay offs, intensification of labor, loss of job security...

Can these sacrifices open the way to a better future? They have promised us this for years, without result. Every "necessary" sacrifice only prepares for yet another "necessary" sacrifice. The reason is simple. By lowering the price of labor power, capital can temporarily increase its profit; but this profit, reinvested in more advanced means of production, brings a decline of the rate of profit and sharpens competition. Then it requires another decrease of the cost of labor, and so on... There is no escape from this vicious circle without confronting the capitalist social order which reigns today on the planet.

It's clear: the problem goes much deeper than this or that government, this or that policy. If Juppe were replaced by Jospin or Hue, the form would change, but not the content. Haven't the "socialists" and the "communists" already proven this, in France, in Belgium and elsewhere? None of them has a solution to the crisis and they're all contradicting themselves. They tell us that the working week must be shortened to absorb unemployment, and, at the same time, that we must work longer before retiring!

TO FIGHT AGAINST AUSTERITY...

Workers don't fight to make austerity less unbearable, or to divide the sacrifices more evenly; they fight in the first place to manifest their refusal of austerity, of sacrifices. That is the strength of the movement in France: what counts is not so much this or that particular demand but the affirmation of a general refusal, common to all, of the new, generalized attacks on their living conditions. Some see in this a proof of the "selfishness" of the workers, in particular of those of the "public" sector. But is it selfish to refuse sacrifices which will only prepare new sacrifices for everybody? Is it not rather the only possible humane reaction to an economic system which is increasingly inhumane?

Every time when a government wants to lower wages, it claims that it's only abolishing unjustifiable "privileges", that it only wants to "restore equality" between one sector of the working class and the others. But these so-called "privileges" are never more than a form of wage that complements the normal wage, which is often ridiculously low with regard to the skills of the worker. Let them not confuse us on who the enemy is. The enemy is not workers who get a different form of wages, but the governments, who want to attack all wages, and to do this, they want to divide the workers and set them against each other.

...FOR A NEW SOCIAL PROJECT

The refusal of capitalist austerity is a necessary first step, but it isn't enough. Let us not have any illusion about our future. Even if the government retreated, it would be only temporary. In 1968, it took ONE YEAR for the increases of wages stipulated by the accords of Grenelle to be nullified by inflation. We can't constantly turn backwards and cling to illusions about the "social security" of the past. After all, to retire after 37.5 or 40 years of often deadening labor - is that paradise? We must look to the future, towards new perspectives.

The economy based on profit, wage labor and the accumulation of capital has had its time. Humanity has today gigantic socialized productive forces which, when reorganized, would make it possible to meet the needs of the entire world population. Unemployment, the bankrupcy of companies, the colossal wealth devoted to armaments and government bureaucracies, are an incredible waste of labor and productive forces. It isnít the workers, but capital that is wasting social wealth!

The future depends entirely on the capacity of workers to create a free and conscious association for the transformation of society to the satisfaction of human needs. Communism isn't dead, it hasn't yet begun! We don't fight for the status quo, but for different perspectives.

What we will really gain in this movement is the consciousness of our force, of our solidarity, of our potential capacity to threaten the existing social order. In France, the Juppe government is seeking but one thing: to isolate the striking workers, in order to defeat them resoundingly, like Thatcher did in Britain 15 years ago. The only road possible is the one already traced by the strikers: the largest possible extension of the movement, extension to other sectors and even beyond the borders! To do this, we cannot count on the trade unions, which are always ready to contain and divide the movement, whenever the opportunity arises. Self-organisation of the workers, outside all political or trade union control!

INTERNATIONALIST PERSPECTIVE

December 7, 1995

Home Issues of IP Texts Discussion IP's French site Links