The movement in France has become decisive. Two months have passed since the first strike day against the government’s continued attempt to attack pensions. The movement on the streets is still very strong, and support among the population is massive. National strike days, both sectional and cross-union, Saturday demonstrations, occupations and blockades, punctuate the struggle, with millions of participants. And above all, several strategic sectors – energy workers, gas workers, rail workers, port workers and dockers – have been on strike, every week for two months. More recently the refineries have gone on strike too. Their strikes impact a whole portion of production. President Emmanuel Macron’s use of article 49.3 of the constitution – to force progress on his pension bill against parliamentary and public opposition – sent an electric shock through France, triggering renewed mobilisation and determination, and confirming that we are the majority in the country. A turning point has been reached. The idea that Macron must give in and resign is gaining ground. Our strikes and mobilisations have to get him out!
Macron has already lost…
We need to increase the level of struggle to shift the balance of power in our favour. But as we know, around the 7 March strike day, the movement did not take the form of a total shutdown of the country: it did not turn into a general strike.
We need to strengthen the struggle and discuss widely in our workplaces to plan mass strikes until the law is withdrawn. At the same time, we need to broaden the movement further. A whole section of workers and young people who support the movement have not yet taken their place in it. The question of pensions can seem too distant or already decided. Other issues can bring them out. After the years of Covid and the absence of collective struggles in the face of deteriorating living and working conditions, our camp feels its strength once more. Through contact with the movement, and thanks to the mass demonstrations, more and more workers and young people are considering joining the struggle and the strikes. The strikes and demonstrations of 23 March and after must bring in all those who want to fight. A further strike day, with a national demonstration in Paris, could be the next step if Macron and his prime minister Elisabeth Borne have not given in yet.
It is now clear: a massive movement of workers and young people can defeat the pension reform. But such a powerful movement would not stop there. It should take everything back!
… but he won’t go away by himself!
To achieve that, the actions organised by the unions and the strike activists must become more combative and address these issues, outside the workplaces, on the blockades, engaging with the public on the streets, at the protests and rallies. Workers and young people have raised their heads again. We need to see this in the streets and in the workplaces. All our urgent demands are now on the table: withdrawal of the retirement age rising to 64 and the return to 60 years maximum, increase in salaries, freezing and reduction of prices, but also the end of academic selection in high schools, repeal of laws which attack the unemployed, of racist laws… All these measures are the fruit of the same politics – pursued by Macron, but carried out by Sarkozy and Hollande before!
Get rid of Macron, for pro-worker politics!
Many now are active in the movement. We need to develop the movement on pensions as a rallying point to get rid of Macron and his policies. The movement has more weight now – more still if we organise. Power is being challenged. It’s time to take the right to decide on our lives out of the hands of this government and the capitalists. In this context, quite logically, many workers and young people look at the parliamentary activity of the left alliance, NUPES, with sympathy. Even some who are further from the struggle see that the far-right, RN, under its guise of opposing the pension reform, does not support the movement at all, and, on the contrary, opposes the strikes, hoping to capitalise later on the anger, while frustrating the movement today. But we have to push the movement forward. A government truly at the service of the workers would have to come from the struggle, and from its trade union and political organisations. And it would be necessary to discuss widely what programme is capable of competing with the capitalists and getting them out of the way. It would therefore be a question of not settling for a programme that accepts capitalism or of forming a coalition with the PS (ex-social democrats) and EELV (Greens), who are complicit in carrying out policies like Macron’s in local government.
Instead, we need a government that defends our interests as intransigently as Macron’s defends those of the capitalists. A government that has a firm programme against the capitalists.
Democratic workers’ power
We need new elections. But utlimately the current institutions favour the richest and give us no control over those we elect. We need a government that defends the interests of workers and pursues policies to meet the needs of the people, with democratic and environmental planning of the economy.
Elected officials should be recallable, and paid the average worker’s wage. Those who are leading the current struggle, with the support of the parties that oppose capitalism, and trade unionists and youth activists, should form the basis of a new government.
Such a government would need to renationalise privatised public services, and put the major sectors of the economy under public ownership, under the democratic control and management of the workers and the population, especially finance, energy, transport and distribution. The hundreds of billions of euros from the wealth of the ultra-rich and the profits of multinationals and tax evasion should instead be used to provide jobs and housing for everyone. This would set in motion a real transition to a socialist economy, free of private ownership of the means of production and exploitation.
But today, workers and young people do not have a mass party to fight for such a class programme. So, in the course of the struggle, all this must also be discussed between strikers, activists, trade unionists… From now on, a broad and public discussion is needed between the forces rejecting capitalism in order to form a political united front against Macron and the capitalists.
Strengthening the struggle and more broadly the organisation of workers and young people, proposing a programme for socialism, this is the objective of Gauche Révoluttionaire. Join us!
Authoritarianism: deny your true nature and it will return with a vengeance!
Macron had tried to sell us on the idea that this was a new method for government, based on appeasement and dialogue, with Borne as prime minister. Then: ten uses of article 49.3 in October and November, and renewed attacks on pensions to start 2023.
Her method speaks volumes. The use of article 47.1 to limit the debate on the pension law to 50 days maximum. Then the use of 44.3 in the Senate to speed up the process. The right wing of the traditional conservative party, LR, is voting with Macron’s formation LREM, once more. Finally, Macron and his government used 49.3 due to lack of a sufficient majority and forced the law through! All this shows that Macron has never been so weak.
Everyone sees that Macron is here for just one thing: to carry out his social counter-revolution against workers and the majority of the population. Whatever it takes! He is doing his job to guarantee maximum profits for the capitalists and the ultra-rich. Let’s organise to stop them!
Popular initiative referendum: a false proposal
Some parties, like the PCF (Communist Party), are actively campaigning for a ‘popular initiative referendum’ – a poll of the population to advise parliament. The trade union leaderships, and left political leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have also called for it. But this proposal does not strengthen us at all. We don’t need to show that we are in the majority to oppose this attack on pensions and Macron’s other policies. So why put the power to decide back in the hands of the government? We see it with each 49.3; the state institutions are on the side of Macron and the government. Everything they do is to try to prevent our victory. Even if we manage to collect the nearly five million signatures needed, there is nothing to force the MPs to pass our opinion into law. We need to inflict a major defeat on them, on a par with the one Macron wants to inflict on us. And it is only through mass struggle, discussion and organising ourselves politically that we can achieve this.