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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.andrechassaigne.fr/2020/...

by André Chassaigne

A Decisive Battle for Employment and Against the Explosion of Unemployment

Translated Friday 11 December 2020, by Stephen Chalk

3rd November 2020
By André Chassaigne

In France, as in most of the world, two anxieties, deeply bound together, are haunting people’s minds. That of the epidemic, whose “second wave” is threatening to destabilize whole sections of society. And that of losing one’s job with the avalanche of redundancy plans.

At 13th September, 394 scheduled lay-off programmes had been submitted since March for 57,000 job cuts: a slow fuse on a stick of dynamite for unemployment figures. Mass lay-offs have already hit almost 3,200 people, excluding scheduled lay-off programmes, since the beginning of March. In more than nine cases out of ten, these procedures concern lay-offs of fewer than 10 employees. And in many companies that have not begun scheduled lay-off programmes, collective performance agreements are on the increase. We must be aware that these “open-ended” collective performance agreements are liable to become a normal mode of company management, with all of the risks that this entails.

In recent weeks, as the President of the Republic’s zealous travelling salesman, the Prime Minister has been in charge of selling the government’s “100 billion recovery plan”. “100 billion”, this magic figure is brandished like a slogan but, in reality, it to a large extent comprises expenditure already announced or engaged. As I denounced on 29th September in the National Assembly on behalf of the communist deputies, only 35 billion euros are actually included in the budget proposal for 2021. And of this 35 billion, almost a third will be used directly to reduce corporate taxation, with the largest companies being the principal beneficiaries. New tax cuts for large groups and further reductions in social security contributions: these are all measures taken at lightning speed which will once again result in bringing down wage levels while continuing to dry up the resources of the Social Security system. They will also aggravate the predatory financial management of large groups with their cascade of consequences for SMEs and the entire economic fabric. In reality, the choice of serving the logic of profit and reducing the cost of labour has probably never been more pregnant with implications in the country’s economic policy. This obsessive policy of conserving profits not only makes it necessary to demand that employers “give something back”, but above all to champion the economic and social transformation propagated by the communists.

This begins with the demand that employees no longer be treated as a mere variable cost for maintaining the profitability of capital, while billions are poured out without any conditions. We must therefore set the primary objective of ensuring security of women and men’s work, preserving their creative and wealth-producing skills. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to give priority to the expansion of socially and environmentally useful activities. The money of companies, the money of the banks and public money need to be used in accordance with this objective. In the crisis we are going through, not only is our proposal for security of employment or training not obsolete, but its relevance is a burning issue. More than ever, we need to explain it, accompanying it with very concrete proposals, in order to share it and identify it more effectively. For example, the urgency of an ecological and social transformation of the economy confirms the modernity of our project, combining maintenance of employment and changes in professional occupations.

One of the primary conditions for its implementation presupposes freeing ourselves from the dictatorship of the financial markets. And in this regard also, this is not what Europe is doing with its 750 billion euro “Next Generation EU” plan. The truth is that its financing will be subject to the goodwill of Goldman Sachs, BlackRock, HSBC and other portfolio holders! I denounced this on 27th June at the parliamentary committee meeting, during the hearing of the Secretary of State for European Affairs on the results of the European Council meeting of 19th June 2020. Meanwhile, European leaders are quietly turning a blind eye to the thousands of billions of euros that the ECB is pouring into the banks (already 1,600 billion in loans at -1% out of the 3,000 billion announced) and the financial markets (1,350 billion in purchases of securities without any conditions in terms of employment and wealth creation). Of this 1,350 billion, 270 billion is being used to purchase securities issued in France. We demand, on the contrary, that it be allocated to the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations [French public sector financial institution, a long-term investment fund serving the public interest] to finance an emergency fund for health and security of employment, training and income. This fund is one of the French Communist Party’s major proposals and would give us the means to finance democratically-decided plans for the expansion of public services, and health services in particular, and to support SMEs and very small enterprises, which undertake to preserve employment, training and wages and move towards ecologically-virtuous production.

Indeed, the question is posed, more than ever, of an altogether different use of money, and of the strategy to pursue in order to conquer workers and citizens’ democratic sovereignty over choices of production, its location, its energy and environmental content, and over the indispensable cooperation at the European and world level in order to meet the demands of an altogether different globalization.

We must continue to make known the main lines of our political struggle:
- Massive recruitment in hospitals, in retirement homes, in education, in research, in transport, in energy, in the legal system and security, and in achieving the ecological revolution.
- Stopping lay-offs, taking into account alternative industrial plans put forward by employees, their representatives and elected members of local, regional and national government, and imposing the financing thereof by the banks, at reduced rates by means of refinancing by the ECB at -1% and subsidies paid by regional funds for employment and training.
- Precise assessment of job creation needs in each region and territory, in order to bring down unemployment and progress towards its eradication, establishing figures for training requirements, and not forgetting recruitment needs in the public services.

This needs to be the affair of all, gaining ground with the idea that we have long been advancing of national and regional committees for security of employment and training and for the transformation of production.

These new institutions, which would be able to draw on the support of regional funds and a public finance pole (or hub), would give concrete expression to the mobilization of the whole of society – trade unions, MPs and members of local and regional government, associations, public administrations – to ensure that all economic and financial actors place their initiative at the service of employment and the creation of wealth in the territories.

After the mobilizations by PCF activists and the Party’s MPs and members of local and regional government on 9th and 10th October, resistance against the policies of capital and in favour of employment need to be extended and take root, not only in struggles alongside all of the threatened workers in the country, but also in order to ensure that these demands are at the heart of the battle of ideas in the next departmental and regional elections in March 2021. For what left-wing alternative could be credible without first of all setting out to combat the expansion of unemployment and taking up the challenge of employment for all?

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