Friday, 13 December 2019

La Lutte Continue

Before we continue with our French lesson some economic statistics.


The twenty six richest people on earth have the same net worth as the poorest half of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion people. In the UK the richest 10% hold 44% of all wealth.

This is taking place in a context where Oxfam claims that in recent years 2,200 billionaires worldwide saw their wealth grow by 12% as the poorest half saw its wealth fall by 11%.


You need to have this information to understand why it is that the Tory government are so eager to pull the UK out of the EU. The EU are introducing the Anti-tax Avoidance Directive. This establishes a number of legally binding measures against offshore tax avoidance. The Johnson government is full of tax avoiders. Think Jacob Rees-Mogg and Theresa May’s husband Philip just for starts .


You can find information on all this here, here and here

The Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party fought the recent election in an attempt to deal with wealth discrepancies. As he noted, "there has been a growth of billionaires in this country alongside a growth of extreme poverty ."

The election result has left the left-wing despondent and dejected. I argue here that we should pick ourselves up from the floor and with Joe Hill, ‘don’t mourn organise.’   

In French that is ‘ne pleure pas organise.’ 

In France wealth discrepancies run parallel to those in this country. The richest 1% hold 20% of all wealth. France is also home to Bernard Arnault, the richest person in Europe and worth an estimated $107.6 billion. 

And it would seem the French people have had enough. 

For over a week France has been in the grip of strikes and protests. An estimated million plus have been taking to the streets and strikes are affecting rail and road transport, education, health services, education and the oil and other fuel refineries. The main union, the CGT, said there would be no break in strikes over the Christmas period unless the government backs down. 

Back down from what? President Macron wants to raise the pension age which is at present set at 57 and reform social security payments. "We have one of the best pension systems in the world, if not the best," said the General Confederation of Labour, "Yet the president has decided to wipe it out." 

Laurent Brun, head of CGT's railway branch, added, "No Christmas break unless the government comes to its senses. The strike continues until we are assured that the current system is maintained and negotiations are underway to improve it." 

Martine, a council workers who was on a march in Marseilles on 11 December, said, “I’m 59 and I want to be able to retire soon. My job is hard work and I don’t want to be working until I am 65 or longer to get a pension. If you’re forced out before the pension age due to sickness the scheme is rubbish. I will be living in poverty—after 31 years in the job. Macron’s reforms will mean I work longer and collect less. Screw it. People are questioning many things they normally accept. The Yellow Vests made us think about who gains and who loses in life. So now we see clearly, ordinary people are crushed and the rich are richer than ever.” 

Militancy is growing. Last week power company, EDF brought in managers to run the Cordemais power plant in Loire Atlantique to limit the effect of the strike and on Tuesday strikers occupied the control centre of the plant. 

The rage, and the desire for action, is not just about pensions. A headline in newspaper Liberation said, “In Paris, we march against the pension reform project and ‘the system’”. 

Maybe it’s time for our own French Revolution. We are not defeated because we have hardly started. Pick yourselves off the floor and repeat after me ‘La Lute Continue’.

Information from France 24, The Guardian, Liberation, Socialist Worker, World Inequality Database, Oxfam

 

 


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