The government badly wanted the protest against pension reform to be short-lived and spared no effort to nip it in the bud. It blackmailed striking rail workers, accusing them of breaking “Christmas truce”. It used bluff, lying about the number of trains that were available. It was helped by some unions which called for the suspension of the movement. Well, all these maneuvers have failed!
Only one intercity fast train (TGV) out of two is running and many Paris metro lines (RATP) remain disrupted or closed. The strike continues. That’s a small victory for all working people because this mobilization, largely led by rail and public transport workers, is the best thing that has happened to the working class in years.
The government and its media watchdogs tried to make people cry over the so-called “spoiling” of their holidays by the strike actions of rail and public transport workers. That didn’t work: millions of French people wouldn’t have celebrated Christmas anyway, not because of the strike but because of the policies of Macron and his boss friends, because of low wages, job cuts, job insecurity and miserable pensions.
The government has failed to turn the population against the strikers because struggling commuters are also workers who can no longer stand it. They simply find it difficult to afford a better-than-usual meal and to buy toys for their children or grandchildren. And they are happy to see workers raising their heads.
The great mass of workers does not yet feel strong enough to follow the strikers, but is on their side. The side they’re on is the side of those who get up at 4 a.m. to run the trains, the side of the cleaning battalions, the side of the health care troops, the side of those who make the world go round.
Macron, Philippe and their likes are on the other side, the side of the bourgeoisie. The wealthy have never been so prosperous, yet they remain as greedy as ever. The fact that Macron gave up the “special” pension French presidents are entitled to doesn’t change anything to the broad picture. After his stint in the Élysée Palace, he’ll go back where he belongs: in the realm of investment banking. Or, like Sarkozy, he’ll give lectures for 200,000 euros apiece. In any case, he’ll live a life of luxury, unlike the workers whose pensions he wants to destroy!
Workers don’t buy Macron’s “solicitude”. The battle of pensions is only the last episode of a 30-year war. For decades, government and employers have taken every opportunity to attack the workers’ right to enjoy their old age after having been exploited for their entire working life. This war is part and parcel of a ferocious class struggle in which the government’s side is now represented by Pietrazewski who replaced a discredited Delevoye a few days ago.
Pietrazewski spent most of his career as director of Human Relations for Auchan, a leading supermarket chain. He is well-known for his merciless decisions, as when he asked the police to take a cashier into custody for “theft”. The cashier had simply said “Keep it!” to a client who was complaining about an overly cooked croissant worth... 80 cents!
The bourgeoisie and their lackeys cannot imagine that employees could be anything but submissive and docile. They’ll come to understand that the working class is capable of fighting, because that’s exactly what rail workers are doing today. Millions of women and men have so far identified with the protesters, support them today and might join them tomorrow.
Rail workers and RATP employees have been on strike for 20 consecutive days. That represents a good deal of money, but they also know that if they allow the bosses to defeat them, they’ll lose a lot more.
By continuing to fly the flag of protest, the strikers are offering the movement a future. And, as we saw on December 5 and December 17, there are many more waiting on the sidelines. As long as the movement continues, it can win over new troops.
Today, rail workers and RATP agents represent the working class at its best: a social class that is proud to be useful to all of society and that isn’t afraid to claim its interests. A class that is characterized by the collective and united nature of its struggles, whose interests correspond to those of the vast majority and to progress for all.
Yes, this year ends well, and these winter holidays will be remembered because, after so many years of blows and resignation, workers have come together and retaliated with the pride of those who fight for better days.