Worker exploitation and greed for profit means a revolution is coming – and it will be soon, claims Nathalie Arthaud, the Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle) candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
Although the economics teacher, from Drôme in the Rhone-Alpes, won just 0.65% in last May’s vote she says exploitation has hit the point where there will be reaction.
“The protections that workers gained in the past are being wiped out one after another. Retirement, the employment code, public services... all are being cut back.”
And President Emmanuel Macron is just like Sarkozy, Hollande and all the rest, she adds, saying: “He is ‘anti-ouvrière’ and he is making working conditions worse.
“It’s limitless exploitation and he gives the bosses too much.”
She added: “It’s disgusting, what the rich do, tax havens and cheating.”
Her five-point election programme included establishing a communist society; banning job-losses; enforcing total business transparency (including making company bank accounts public); and raising salaries and pensions.
The party claims 8,000 members.
“We struggle on behalf of exploited workers,” she says trenchantly.
“Our objective is to transform society by contesting this exploitation, by abolishing private property, the wealth of the banks, large companies and retailers because workers are the people who have created all this wealth so it should be collectively owned for everyone’s benefit.”
She said people could work full-time in France and still not afford decent housing; that there are too many short-term contracts, and that at least one person in every family in France does not have a permanent job.
“From a cleaning lady to a pilot, as soon as you work for a salary, you produce enough income to cover your pay plus a profit which goes into the pockets of the bosses.
“Of course, there are different levels of exploitation but in France there are six million unemployed people – at least a million more than are officially recognised – and the Smic minimum pay is less than €1,200 take-home.”
The only solution is communism, she says. “It is THE solution to the madness of capitalist society. We produce so much and yet we can’t eliminate famine. We can resolve fantastic technical problems but we can’t feed Morocco. Fifteen people died in a stampede for food parcels there!
“We have extraordinary medical skills but people are dying of measles.
“Politicians say we don’t have money for medicine, for hospitals, for schools and yet governments make speculative investments.”
She said the unfairness was clear to all: “We need to collectivise our capital and expropriate wealth from the bourgeoisie in order to respond to the needs of ALL the people.
“It’s the only way to end this crazy situation, this inequality, this increasing wealth gap. It’s a casino economy which doesn’t help working people.”
When asked if she wants France to be like Soviet Russia, where shops were largely empty and people queued daily in the hope of buying household necessities, she said it was a different kind of communism.
“We are not Stalinists, we are Trotskyists. In Russia, Stalin betrayed the communist ideal, setting up a parallel party which seized control for the benefit of the State for the citizens.”
Trotskyists, she said, never considered Soviet communism as the real thing. Stalin betrayed the thinking of Marx and generalised need and poverty, but the USSR was just one particular example; the 1917 October revolution set up a communist State, but it went off the rails.
Despite that, Russia developed better than India, China or Brazil: “Russia has developed into a functional modern State, but it’s a consumerist society now so we don’t follow their example.”
As a party, Lutte Ouvrière has a history of forecasting a communist revolution happening under some sort of 20th century siege conditions.
That means its own history is shadowed by tales of paranoia, an organisation preparing itself to operate under a repressive regime, an organisation given to using code names for members, and forbidding elected officers from marrying or having children. At one time they even used to insist on using public phone boxes to avoid being identified.
These days the party holds festivals and, while unlike other politicians, she is not serving in any elected capacity, Nathalie Arthaud is still working but keeps up an energetic agenda of public talks and conferences.
She still has to convince enough people her views are right but says revolution is the aim and people will rise up and overthrow the system.
“We don’t exist to counter-balance the extreme right. We don’t even exist to support the current system, or fiddle about making minor changes to it.
“We propose something completely different. A revolution, an endless, permanent revolution. People have attempted to humanise the system but in vain. It’s a lost cause. Capitalism is economic war, always competing, always making more. It isn’t possible to make it less hard for vulnerable people..
“It will take time, but we will confiscate property and collectivise businesses. Right now people don’t vote for us because they aren’t ready to fight, but they will be soon.
“Look at slavery how long that lasted, and look at apartheid..centuries. We are waiting for people to be ready.”
Nathalie Arthaud, centre in white, is pictured above leading a protest against Macron's jobs laws
50 shades of policy
Politics is rarely simple – ideology, nostalgia and religion playing different roles – and both extreme right and left are fractured.
The extreme right can be summed up by Marine le Pen’s Front National but there are also the Identitaires, GUD, Action française, Parti de la France and Civitas.
Splits, too, on the left with the Front de Gauche umbrella group including the Parti Communiste Français (PCF), Parti de Gauche, FASE, République et socialisme, Convergences et Alternative; Gauche Anticapitaliste, Les Alternatifs and PCOF, but not Lutte Ouvrière, which ferociously defends itself from being swallowed by the larger left-wing parties.
Formed in 1920, the PCF was part of Lionel Jospin’s government in 1997-2002, as was Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose new movement La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) took 19.58% of the presidential first round vote in 2017. Anti-EU, anti-Nato, anti-globalisation and anti-market, it wants mass wealth redistribution and 100% tax on incomes over €360,000.