The organisation of transport in France, as in Europe, illustrates the irresponsibility of capitalism both socially and environmentally. Subject to the law of profit for large capitalist groups and not to the general interest, the transport of goods and passengers is absurd.
While climate experts have repeatedly warned of the catastrophic consequences of global warming and air pollution, the share of rail freight transport in the European Union has risen from 45% in 1971 to 17% today. Over the same period, road transport increased from 37 to 73%. In France, rail freight, which has been open to competition since 2003, has been halved and now represents only 15% of the sector. Roads, the maintenance of which is left to local authorities, are overloaded with heavy goods vehicles, poisoning the lives of the inhabitants of the territories crossed.
As for passenger transport, its development is equally catastrophic: without investment and maintenance in rail infrastructure, a considerable proportion of the rail network and its equipment is in disrepair. Over 4900 km of track, slowdowns are imposed. In the Paris region, transport users suffer daily from train breakdowns, delays or cancellations. The lack of track maintenance has led to many accidents, including the Brétigny sur Orge accident in 2013, which killed seven passengers.
Without maintenance, nearly a third of the rail network is in danger of disappearing, so-called “small lines” that are vital for the inhabitants and the future of the regions concerned. Rather than investing massively in the construction and regeneration of the network, the SNCF, under the injunction of successive governments, replaces trains with buses, in defiance of air pollution and further increases the risk of road accidents. And workers often have no choice but to use their cars to get around, causing additional expense and fatigue.
Stations are closed throughout the country, despite opposition from the populations concerned.
The opening up of rail passenger transport to competition, as well as in other public services such as energy, will not result in lower fares.
It will only accelerate the abandonment of lines deemed unprofitable economically or at an increase in their tariffs or local taxes. Even TGV lines or stations deemed unprofitable from a capitalist point of view are also in the spotlight.
As far as transport workers are concerned, massive job cuts and their increasing dispersion in multiple companies have considerably worsened their working conditions and pose a major risk to their safety and that of traffic.
With regard to road safety, the collapse of the Genoa Bridge in the summer of 2018 illustrated how capitalism, even in the richest countries, is now unable to maintain the infrastructure vital to the economy. In France, 17% of roads and a third of bridges need repairs. 7% of bridges are at risk of collapse.
Road maintenance is left to the communities by the road transport capitalists. The state budget, on the other hand, is devoured by the parasitism of large groups and their billionaire shareholders. All successive governments, right and left, have complied with their dictates, privatizing public companies and services once the investments have been made, to enable shareholders to collect dividends, as in the case of highways.
In the field of transport as in the whole economy, capitalism shows that the pursuit of profit is incompatible with the interests of the working classes and more generally with the future of humanity.
Before decisions are discussed and adopted in parliaments and other European and national institutions, they are actually taken in the boards of directors of major industrial and financial groups. And all parties and politicians who aspire to govern within the capitalist system agree to submit to their dictatorship.
The Lutte Ouvrière party, which is presenting a list in the May 2019 European elections, on the other hand, claims that workers, in order to have the right to a dignified life, must take advantage of the profits of the big bosses and challenge them to take control of the wealth they have created.
As in other areas, no progress will be made with regard to transport, its price, organisation, its impact on the environment and on the daily lives of men and women, without calling into question the power of this minority of capitalists over the economy.
By removing trade secrecy, by imposing their control over all decisions and their application, workers have the means to impose a completely different organization of the economy and transport: to allow free public transport, its harmonious development according to the needs of the population and future generations, from the local to the international level.
They will be able to put an end to the anarchic competition of societies and means of transport and on the contrary allow their perfect integration and articulation to meet the growing travel needs of populations.
They will be able to impose the massive and immediate hiring of hundreds of thousands of workers in the construction and maintenance of railways, infrastructure and public transport equipment.
But first we must remove the driving license of the economy from the capitalist class that is leading society towards ruin, economic, social and environmental disaster.
It is to affirm the ability of workers to collectively lead the economy in the interest of the greatest number of people that Lutte Ouvrière will be present at the European elections.
Please accept, gentlemen, the expression of my best wishes.
For the Workers’ Struggle list in the European Elections
“Against big capital, the workers’ side”