The mood of outrage across France at the pension age being raised is not subsiding. This is despite president Macron desperately trying to put it in the past, following it being pushed into law using special constitutional powers without a vote in parliament.
On May Day massive protests took place – hundreds of thousands attended around 300 demonstrations across the country. They were larger than on other May Days in recent years, fuelled by the huge anger that exists against the attack on pensions and demanding it is withdrawn.
In some cities demonstrators were met with very brutal policing – including the use of police drones and tear gas. Clashes between the police and sections of protesters were then the preoccupation of the capitalist media, rather than drawing attention to the ongoing size and impressive determination of the movement.
Now, the eight largest trade unions in France have called a further day of national strikes and demonstrations for 6 June.
Below are translations into English of two articles published on 27 April 2023 in issue 216 of the paper L’Égalité, the paper of Gauche Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Left, CWI France).
Workers and young people raise their heads – Let’s continue the fight against Macron and the capitalists!
(Editorial of L’Égalité, May-June 2023)
Let’s organise, for:
- Retirement at 60 years old maximum!
- A job for everyone!
- Increase wages!
- Fight racism!
One year after Macron’s re-election, his legitimacy is under attack more than ever. According to polling company Ifop, only 26% of those questioned say they are satisfied – 15 points down since his re-election! In the absence of a solid social base, Macron is in unchartered territory (like other leaders in Europe), not on the substance, but on the pace and means of applying his policy of social breakage. He chose force to launch his pensions counter-reform, declared during his campaign as the mother of all reforms.
Calming the situation temporarily
Now he is trying to calm things down with his “100 days of appeasement”. But he is pretending: backtracking on the SNU [General National Service, replacing military service which ended in 2001] and its compulsory nature? Withdrawal of Darmanin’s immigration law reinforcing the racist policy of the state…? It’s bogus: these dossiers are coming back barely a month after they were “put aside”, just like the environmentally damaging projects whose construction sites are flourishing across the country.
He also took advantage of the situation to hammer a nail against precarious and unemployed workers by announcing the “France Travail” project. To facilitate to the maximum the exploitation of those who work to maximise the profits of French capitalists, to make the most disadvantaged and foreigners more precarious and stigmatised: this is still his project! And it is a programme: that of a real social counter-revolution!
Macron is not a time master. The economic situation is very concerning. Prices are soaring. The austerity plans announced by economy minister Lemaire are coming, “whatever it takes”. This is along with the well-known procession of cuts in public budgets at a time when young people and workers need them more to live or survive.
The government refuses to take the high inflation into account in its forecasts. A risky gamble. Because that policy, the gigantic margins made by the multinationals and their record profits are fuelling the crisis… and the anger.
It is the whole of this policy at the service of the capitalists that workers and young people have to challenge. This is what is at stake in the period to come. Workers and young people have raised their heads during this intense social conflict against the government. Despite increased repression after the 49-3 [the rule allowing the government to pass law without a vote in parliament] and the violent passage of the law, a feeling of defeat does not dominate those who mobilise and strike. On the contrary, the strikes for wages continue and discussions are starting on how to continue, what kind of actions, how to organise…
The battle continues!
New young people and workers want to organise themselves politically and industrially to continue in the long term. This is essential for the continuation of the battle. It is indeed the basis that must enable us to overcome the previous difficulties, which are, among others, the lack of collective discussions, the nervousness of the trade union leaderships, the absence of a mass workers’ party that defends and organises those who want to fight.
Discussions within the workers’ and social movement must be intensified because we need a programme to fight against the capitalists and the plan of struggle that goes with it. Only a socialist programme that targets removal of the private ownership of the major sectors of the economy will be able to challenge this whole policy. And this programme must be translated into action with a new tool, a combative workers’ party. It would then campaign for people to join it on this programme, with a series of measures such as price freezes and reductions, real wages, decent and affordable housing. That would win new young people and workers to the struggle, to organise around and effectively fight back against the policies that serve the capitalists. Gauche Révolutionnaire is fighting for this, join us!
For our pensions, salaries and public services: Let’s prepare for Act II!
With 12 national strike days and countless actions since 19 January 2023, the movement against scrapping the pension reform is exceptional. Even though the government has not yet backed down on its counter-reform, it has failed to inflict a real defeat on the workers in struggle, and emerges even more weakened, in the midst of a deep political crisis. It will not be able to silence the anger that has risen in the country. Up to 3 million demonstrators in more than 300 cities and for three months.
Even today more than 60% want the fight to continue. It is indeed a rejection of the government and its policy in favour of the capitalists that is expressed. The broad cross-union front over such a long period contributed to the success of the strike days, which affected all sectors to different degrees. But it lacked a strategy for the fight, such as the announcement of the next strike days in advance (and not the evening after), and a call for several days in a row. So, the national days were very well attended, and the movement very supported, but there was no massive extension of the strikes.
Workers raise their heads
The movement allowed us to reconnect with struggle. During the Covid pandemic, the government and employers attacked working conditions and reinforced authoritarianism. The possibilities for workers to meet at their place of work have been reduced, among other things because of teleworking. Strike pickets, GAs (general assemblies), blockages and strike funds have reappeared. Unprecedented mobilisations in small and medium-sized towns are an achievement of the yellow vests movement. The return of young people to the struggle alongside workers is also a point of support. To further broaden the struggle, the demands must correspond to what feeds the anger: living and working conditions. We don’t want to work like frenzied fanatics for insufficient wages and end up broke a few months from death; that’s what must be at the centre of the demands.
It’s not over: Preparing for Act 2!
Macron’s “100 days of appeasement” are yet another provocation. In reality, they are at war with us! We must not leave them alone – we must prepare for Act 2, to win! Ad hoc actions like blockages or banging saucepans are positive, but will not be sufficient in the face of Macron’s determination. We must also prepare ourselves and take advantage of the current mobilisations to relearn how to build frameworks for collective struggle.
Through a mass and lasting strike, the capitalists can be stopped. This requires workers to organise in their company and link up with workers in other sectors. In the weeks and months to come, this is one of the tasks of militant trade unionists and of all those who participated in the movement. We must restore the GAs to a central place, where all aspects of the struggle are democratically discussed and decided collectively, in conjunction with the unions.
To defend the workers, we need a government of the workers!
With the economic crisis, Macron and the capitalists are playing big. They want to inflict a defeat on the working class in order to be able to speed up the destruction of social security and public services; billions that still escape the capitalists. They want to catch workers off guard and demoralise them by being inflexible. But this attitude is also the sign that they are not calm.
This movement has demonstrated, once again, that the state institutions are at the service of the bourgeoisie and the capitalists: 49-3, Senate, Constitutional Council, referendum… Everything is done so that they can impose their policy on us. What we need is a workers’ government made up of representatives of the labour movement and our struggles. Elected officials paid the average salary of a skilled worker, who are revocable if they do not apply the programme for which they were elected. As the revolutionary anthem, the Internationale says: “producers, let us save ourselves”! True democracy, that is to say a socialist society, can only be put in place by workers.