Like the public transport strikers in Paris, let’s gain respect on September 24

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
September 16, 2019

In 2008, President Sarkozy didn’t hesitate to mock striking workers, declaring: "When there is a strike in France, no one notices". Well, that’s something Macron won’t be able to say! Last Friday, Paris’ public transport workers took strike action. In a massive show of strength, between 70 and 100% of them came together and walked out.

Subway operators, bus and train drivers, station agents, technical staff, maintenance mechanics: all categories joined the protest, despite huge differences in their contracts, statuses and rights. Their unity is what makes them strong because when the workers of an economic sector the size of RATP or SNCF (public transport companies) walk out, they slow down the whole economy.

And we’re only talking here about one company and a single day of strike! If all workers, whether in industry or services, in the private or public sector, fought together with determination, their strength would be irresistible. That’s precisely what the government is afraid of.

The spectre of the yellow vest movement is obviously haunting Macron and Prime Minister Philippe. They’re walking on eggshells, trying very hard not to upset RATP strikers. The government has postponed its pension reforms until next summer. It knows that if workers were to get really angry, they could launch very powerful strikes and force them to shelve their new attack.

Such a strike encourages other working people to follow in the footsteps of RATP workers. And a timely encouragement it is, because when you fight, you’re better off attacking your opponent as quickly as possible instead of waiting for him to deal the first blows.

Today, private sector and public sector workers are all under attack. Calculating a worker’s pension on the basis of his entire working life instead of the best 25 years or the last six months (as in the public service) will significantly reduce pensions. Macron has imagined a system in which future retirees would earn points instead of money. Upon retirement, they would get a pension according to the number of points accumulated but, according to Macron’s plan, the money value of a point could be changed each year by the government. Approving this plan is tantamount to giving blank checks to a bunch of thieves. If this pension reform is adopted, it will affect the lives of millions of women and men, delaying the age of retirement and making pensions even smaller.

During the strike, the bootlickers of the bosses and the government kept repeating that “some workers enjoy extravagant privileges”.

This was nothing else but an attempt at covering up the existence of genuinely privileged people : big shareholders, members of the leisure class, capital owners and other money bags.

This year, the wealthiest of them, Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, saw his assets increase by 100 million a day. Of course, retirement isn’t his main preoccupation. In fact, most truly privileged people don't even ask themselves the question of when to retire. Born with a silver spoon in their mouth, they are, so to say, retired at birth!

The society we live in is unfair and replete with unacceptable inequalities. The privileged are not to be found among working people in general and most certainly not among those who get up at 3:30 in the morning to drive the first buses and subway trains.

There is enough money to pay decent pensions to all, provided we’re determined to take the money where it is squandered on the whims of the rich or where it fuels speculation--a real time bomb for the whole economy.

The sacrifices workers are asked to make are no guarantee for the future. The government claims to be working for 2040, but it doesn’t even know if the economy will still be up in a month.

The economy has become a giant casino where the slightest shock can wipe out banks at any moment. Yesterday, economic experts were panicking because of negative rates. Today, they are worrying about the situation of Saudi Arabia which threatens to destroy the oil market.

Who knows what they’ll be worrying about tomorrow ?

They are unable to control their own creation, much like doctor Frankenstein who, after reanimating a corpse, discovered that he could no longer control the monster he had created. The capitalists have only one type of reaction when they are confronted with their failure to control their economy : attack working people, put the blame on them and make them pay. It's in their DNA, it's a class reflex.

For decades, the situation of workers has been declining. In company after company, workers have been asked to make sacrifices to save the system. This is senseless. Workers must claim their rights and aim to change society.

This month, many working people will have an opportunity to put forward their demands. We must remember that our strength lies in our capacity to fight together. The CGT has issued a call for action on September 24. Let’s organize as many strikes and demonstrations as possible.