Since 19 January, six days of strikes and national demonstrations have brought together millions of workers, young people and pensioners in a formidable struggle against the destruction of pensions. In one month, the question of the total shutdown of the country is being posed. This lightning speed shows the power of the workers’ movement and of mass strike action. We have the possibility to humiliate President Macron by making him withdraw his pension law.
Still 70% of people are against retirement at 64. Once again, Macron has tried to take us for fools by telling us that we had “not understood” the reform. Showing his contempt, it is he who has not understood the depth of the anger and frustration that drives the movement. So, the more the government expresses itself on the reform, the more the opposition grows!
It is a very political groundswell, because it carries the underlying desire to end the reign of Macron and all his dirty tricks. The movement has the pension reform as its figurehead, but it is carried by the anger against the whole system – the one that lowers wages, that destroys public services to transform them into markets and that plunges millions of people into misery.
Record profits are piling up. TotalEnergies has made €19 billion in profits – a record. Exxon made €56 billion in 2021. Engie has made €5.2 billion in revenue. There is enough money for workers to be able to retire at 60 with 37.5 years of service based on the ten highest-earning years, and to hire everywhere where there is a need, to rebuild the hospitals, invest in education, create free public transport, and to increase wages in the face of the rising cost of living!
It is all this that must be expressed in the struggle, and which is indispensable to broaden the movement. The struggle, the strikes, the unions must translate all this into demands. In our workplaces and in our places of study, let’s discuss our demands.
The unity of the unions has been a strength from the beginning. Leaders have been pushed to the left by the power of the struggle and Macron’s intransigence, right up to this call, supported by six out of ten people, to “blockade the country” on 7 March. Left leader Mélenchon and others have also called on shopkeepers to close up, on young people to strike and to come and demonstrate. The day of strikes and mobilisation is already looking huge.
How to win?
All the unions need to call very seriously for an increase in strike militancy. Thousands of workers have joined the unions since the beginning of the year, so they can be real activists rather than just members. They should call on every union delegate and representative to talk to workers, to organise workplace assemblies and meetings everywhere to discuss demands. And to convince as many people as possible to take part in the next strike. Specific demands in certain sectors of work are not opposed to the struggle all together, on the contrary, they can allow a debate involving more workers in the struggle.
From 7 March onwards, there should be picket lines everywhere, to discuss, to be visible, to generalise the strike. In Paris, pickets in sectors like education are going to take place in the form of a ‘coffee table’ in front of schools, an example from which we can draw inspiration: no need to only be in a factory to picket!
And the same goes for students, who are quickly repressed in the event of a police ‘blockade’, but can set up picket lines like filter roadblocks. It’s also an opportunity to have strike funds specific to workplaces so that loss of pay is not an obstacle for anyone, especially workers on low wages. And on the demonstrations, let’s march together, in identified contingents, to show our collective strength. So far the demonstrations have been really massive, especially in medium and small towns, but have been characterised by a low level of organisation, with people coming to demonstrate on their own.
Faced with an intransigent but fragile Macron, we need to move up a gear. We have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that he won’t give in on 7 March. Some unions have already announced renewed strikes. For example the RATP (public transport workers in Paris) calls for a mobilisation at least on 7 and 8 March; the CGT railway workers’ union for a massive movement from the 7 March onwards. This discussion must continue because strikes limited to just 24 hours have rarely won. The trade union leaderships must already say: “If the pension law is not completely withdrawn on 7 March, then it will be the beginning of a national, renewed strike”. This must be openly discussed in strikers’ general assemblies.
The level of organisation, discussion and demands of the strike must be increased. Here are the demands that the Gauche Révolutionnaire proposes to discuss in order to build and broaden the struggle:
- Full retirement at 60, 55 when necessary, after 37.5 years of service
- An immediate increase in wages, which must at least follow the rise in prices, at least €300 immediately for all
- No net income below €1600 a month
- A massive reduction in prices and their subsequent freezing
- Quality employment for all – massive resources for quality public services (health, education, public transport and so on)
- Satisfy the needs of all: expropriation of the capitalists, nationalisation under the control and management of the workers
An all-out, indefinite strike cannot take place on the simple demand of “withdrawal of the pension reform”, even if it is necessary to obtain this withdrawal. Because the general strike is a political movement, which poses a question, which will be in the air on the 7 March – if the working class can put society on hold, why can’t it lead it? A mass movement poses this question of power: who runs society and in whose interests? A general strike’s movement alone won’t bring all the answers to these questions.
It is also in order to be able to discuss all this that the workers need their own party, which can organise and unify our camp, to discuss a programme to really get rid of the capitalists and put an end to this exploitative society by replacing it with a democratic socialist society.
Yes, we will have to get rid of Macron and all his pack in the service of the capitalists, who are a minority in society and its institutions, and replace them with a workers’ government born of the struggles and organisations of the workers’ movement, of workers’ fighters. “Those who are never talked about and who make France run every day” France Insoumise’s MP Rachel Kéké puts it.
This government will have to remove the control of the capitalists over the economy by nationalising the main sectors such as energy, health, public transport, large-scale distribution, and so on. Democratic control and management by the workers will meet the needs of all, not just the profits of a few. Enough of capitalism and Macron-style governments, let’s fight for socialism!