Infotech The Total case: “It is time for public power to regain control over private powers”

The Total case: “It is time for public power to regain control over private powers”

For Total shareholders, the war in Ukraine – which is driving up energy prices – is a godsend. After eight months of massacres, TotalEnergies still refuses to imitate its competitors like Shell or BP and to leave Russia. And even finds herself implicated in war crimes through her participation in the Russian company Novatek, which supplies kerosene to planes that bomb theaters, hospitals or universities in Ukraine.

In total impunity, Total and its boss, Patrick Pouyanné, therefore continue to make money, more money than ever thanks to the death of the Ukrainians and the demolition of the security architecture in Europe. So much money – in the first half of 2022, Total made more than 10 billion euros in book profits, three times more than in the first half of 2021 – that the group will pay an exceptional interim dividend of 2.62 billion euros. euros to its shareholders. And Emmanuel Macron, his government and his majority are looking elsewhere. The Total case is emblematic.

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Emblematic of the submission of public power to private powers.

Emblematic of the abandonment of the general interest in favor of particular interests.

Emblematic of the weight that we give or not to our principles, to ecology and to tax justice.

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As the war promises to be long, as European countries must increase their support for Ukraine and their pressure on the Russian regime, as energy bills explode and the end of the month is increasingly difficult for many, our government chooses not to intervene. The time has come, however, to defend ambitious solidarity mechanisms.

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Tax superprofits

The first instrument available to the government is obviously the taxation of superprofits. It amounts to taxing the profits that come under “exogenous” hazards, beyond the control of the companies concerned, in this case today from the return of war to European soil.

International institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, support the establishment of such mechanisms.

Italy, Greece, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom have introduced taxes of this type and have changed their legislation.

And, historically, many countries have heavily taxed superprofits in times of war. In 1940, the United States introduced a tax, at a rate of up to 95%, on windfall corporate profits. The latter were calculated with reference to the profits recorded between 1936 and 1939. The difference between these pre-war profits and those recorded during the Second World War were in fact practically confiscated.

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The main advantage of a “French-style” tax on superprofits (as the PS and the left propose) or a “European-style” taxation (as provided for in the first agreement concluded between the ministers energy of the European Union) is to be immediately applicable and to respond quickly to the absolute urgency that is the social cohesion of our nation.

A Horizon of Justice

But because times of war have often been moments of social and fiscal innovation, we can also propose as a horizon a more daring mode of taxation: imposing increases in market capitalization.

Since 1er January, the CAC40 index of the Paris Stock Exchange fell by 14%, but the market capitalization of Total increased by 22 billion euros. Taxing half of these gains would yield more than 10 billion euros. The main advantage of this new form of taxation is that the increase in market capitalization is very simple to calculate and impossible to manipulate by the companies concerned.

Above all, it makes it possible to tax all rents linked to the context of war, whether these come from the increase in profits on the extraction of natural resources or from the increase in refining and distribution margins.

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Bottom line: instead of trying to save money on unemployment insurance, our government should take care of Total and the war profiteers.

Nothing stands in the way of taxing superprofits, whether taxing flows (ie profits) or stocks (stock market capitalisations).

If Emmanuel Macron believes what he says about the return of tragedy in History and of war in Europe, while he reminds special interests, however important they may be, of their duty to give way to the interests general. Let him take his own words about the need for a “war economy” seriously.

That it shows that public power imposes itself on private powers, pushes TotalEnergies to abandon its (very lucrative) shares in the Russian giant Novatek and to leave Russia completely. May it finally force it to contribute in an extraordinary way to the exceptional effort that our nations must provide.

By not doing so, he would empty his own words of all substance. And would consecrate the impotence of the State. It is time for politics to take control.

Strike at Total: “A sign to the rest of the country so that the workers raise their heads”

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