With their attack on pensions, Macron and his government are now more hated than ever by the working classes – rightly so. And Macronist politicians have recently added insult to injury. Last Friday, Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud stood up in Parliament against a bill extending the number of days off from five to twelve for parents who have just lost a child, all in the name of corporate interests. In the face of general indignation, and after even the Medef, the employers’ union, declared this was maybe going a bit too far, the government backed down. But the episode shows, if necessary, that these people have a wallet where their heart should be.
Their pettiness reflects that of the capitalists they serve. Michelin, for example, who is closing a factory in La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée), asked the 600 employees it is about to fire to reimburse or return the discounted tires to which they were entitled… In 2018, the manufacturing and selling of millions of tires allowed Michelin to make 1.68 billion euros in profits. But shareholders just can’t get enough! Michelin, like Pénicaud, had to backtrack, no doubt because it estimated that the cost in terms of brand image was not worth the cost in tires…
We’re told that unemployment is falling. But in actual fact capitalists are organising layoff after layoff. In mid-January, Auchan announced 517 job cuts. Cora is now threatening 1,077 workers with dismissal, on the grounds that they refused a change to their employment contract. Cora has already cut 8,000 jobs in ten years, and continues to make profits.
As for the government, on top of the pension reform, it’s preparing other revolting measures, such as lowering or abolishing housing benefits (the APL) for hundreds of thousands of families, and opening food stores until midnight, no matter how their employees feel about it.
Every day, the government and the employers fuel anger. While SNCF managers complain that the strike has caused a huge loss of money, they have decided to reward non-strikers financially! As for RATP managers, they’re sanctioning strikers. Even high school students opposed to the reform of their exams are being sanctioned by principals under the orders of the rectorates.
But managers can resort to repression all they like, the strikers are not defeated. Other categories of workers are still fighting, such as those employed in the Paris region incinerators – although part of the staff is requisitioned. Lawyers and other professions were on strike on Monday, February 3. Hospital workers will be striking again on the 14th, to demand the resources without which proper care of the patients is impossible. And on Thursday, February 6, a new day of interprofessional strikes and demonstrations is planned.
A number of politicians, big and small, are campaigning for the municipal elections in March, following the example of Edouard Philippe, the Prime Minister, who counts on a victory in Le Havre to get back on track. Many workers will want to use these elections to punish the government. Even though voting alone cannot put an end to attacks, the working class can indeed use the ballot to frankly reject the government’s and the capitalists’ policies. The anger that has manifested itself in recent weeks must be heard. This is precisely why Lutte Ouvrière is running candidates in more than one hundred towns across the country.
Our candidates are not politicians or careerists. They are workers, employees, technicians, hospital staff and teachers. They’ve been engaged since December 5 in the mobilization against the pension reform. They come forward to oppose not only Macron but first and foremost the limitless power of the capitalists. They’re not claiming to be better managers of the municipality. They’re saying that city and town councils should be solid foundations for the struggles of the workers. In other words, LO candidates will be waging on the electoral front the very same fight they have waged and are still waging in their workplace, in strikes and in demonstrations.
The mobilization against pension reform has been encouraging. To push the government back, the workers have no other choice than the class struggle. That struggle is unrelenting. The pensions battle is not over. The war continues.