France: 5 December one day strike opens fightback against Macron

Gauche Révolutionnaire banner at a recent protest in Rouen

French President Macron is under very serious pressure. A one-day national strike of all sectors – both public and private – has been called and prepared for 5 December. It will probably be the biggest day of strike since 1995.

On this day, many sectors will be fully mobilised: public transport in Paris (the RATP) and urban transport in more than 90 cities; the national railway company (SNCF) with participation close to 100% in some areas; national education where many schools will be closed; the electricity sector (EDF) with cuts to the electricity supply in certain state services; social organisations such as the firefighters, the ports, the refineries and so on. Public services are on the frontline but strikes will also take place in the private sector.

‘A strike of all who rage’

The central issue is the pension system which is under attack. It was created after the Second World War and is based on solidarity and equality in relation to the distribution of pensions, but is now under attack. Beyond that, the whole policy of the government and of the capitalists is being questioned.

People are tired of suffering day after day, because of misery, precariousness, work and over-exploitation, with no hope of improvement and a future for them and their children. And all this is to allow a minority of ultra-rich – parasites – to live in obscene wealth and accumulate huge fortunes which they don’t even know what to do with, except hide it in tax havens.

On 5 December, the anger of the working class and the youth will come together behind a number of issues. We are saying ‘No’ to the destruction of social security in relation to retirement rights, social services and unemployment. We are fighting for the defence of the quality and availability of public services with a massive increase in employment in the public sector and in money made available for meeting the needs of the population. We must have a real improvement in our living standards through increases in salaries, the minimum wage, pensions, etc. and an end to precarious jobs and unemployment. We say there should be the (re)nationalisation of large companies in the key sectors of the economy.

It is clear that the strike and the demonstrations on 5 December will be massive, far beyond what we have experienced in recent times. It is a profound movement against the background of what has been building up for months, where struggles in some sectors (hospitals, firefighters, public finances, energy, the Yellow Vests, etc.), far from being contradictory, despite the different mobilisation dates, have only strengthened each other, drawing a global challenge to Macron’s policies.

Building for an all-out general strike

In certain sectors (RATP, SNCF, public service, chemical industry etc.), the renewal of the strike is already established for 6 December and afterwards. Elsewhere, there is a call for just a one-day strike, but the possibility of continuing on the following days exists, with many union calls going in this direction.

It is possible that the explosive situation associated with a day of mass strike action will give confidence to many workers and draw them into a lengthy struggle. Workers who continue the strike on 6 December and make a call to demonstrate on Saturday, 7 December, need to become active advocates of a general strike, going to workplaces in both the private and the public sector which have not yet become involved.

We must test out the possibilities of a continuous mass strike, but not take an all or nothing approach in a period so close to the end-of-the-year holidays. General assemblies are needed in all workplaces (and educational establishments) before, during and after 5 December, so that the length of the strike action and the demands put forward are discussed as widely as possible.

In order to offer a perspective to workers and young people, whether already on strike or still questioning, the national meeting of the trade unions that will take place on the morning of 6 December should propose a schedule for mobilisations – a real plan of action for the days and weeks to come. This could considerably increase support for the movement and encourage non-strikers to join the struggle.

The anger is there; it won’t go away anytime soon. December 10th and 12th are being discussed as dates for further strike action. This should be taken up in the workplaces but a call can be made to prepare for a day of mass strike in January. This could constitute a genuine starting point – prepared by strikers’ mass meetings – for a general strike.

We know that a single day of strike action will not be enough to put an end to the policies that serve only the interests of the bosses, the bankers and the shareholders. We know we have to build the general strike.

Macron out! Two and a half years is enough!

Although Macron and his ministers claim to be open to discussion, they are nevertheless planning that the reform of the pension system will go ahead as decided. Their plan means handing over €240 billion of contributions (from employees and employers) made from our wages to private insurance and pension funds. Their plan is to destroy all our rights and the gains we have won so that the capitalists can exploit us all the more and make more profits by impoverishing the majority of the population who are seeing their living and working conditions deteriorate inexorably.

Everything must disappear, it seems! After the destruction of the labour Code under the Hollande government, the privatisations and the dismantling of public services, the destruction of social security and unemployment benefit that have already begun, now it is the turn of the pensions. The points system that the current pension reform is aiming to introduce is the Trojan Horse of capitalisation in the system.

This government is completely at the service of capitalism. We cannot expect it to do anything different – even risking igniting a conflagration as in many countries around the world right now. And it is not Macron’s pseudo negotiations (which the unions should pull out from) that will change the game. Along with the Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, all Macron’s other ministers say the reform will take place as they have decided, despite the “discussions”.

So the government is heading for a tough battle. There will be no half measures. The struggle that has been engaged goes beyond social and economic demands and now carries a major political demand : “Macron dégage! Out with Macron!” Two and a half years of Macronism, on top of the previous five-year period with Hollande is enough!

It is capitalism that is in question, because, in the context of the crisis of the system, the bourgeoisie has no alternative to offer but endless social war – using violence if necessary – and to destruction of the world’s environment. That is why in the present struggle, while building the mass strike, we must organise ourselves politically against the capitalists who have a government and their own parties to defend their interests.

Facing them, we need a party that defends the interests of workers, youth and the majority of the population and supports the current struggles while campaigning to end capitalism and its dictatorship of profit – a party that is fighting for a real revolutionary alternative to change society along socialist lines!

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December 2019