Retirement pensions and wages: let’s put even more pressure on the government!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 23, 2023

With soaring prices, plummeting buying power, trouble getting medical treatment, the sound of soldiers marching and the threat of war against a backdrop of economic and climate crisis, Macron thought he could add an attack on pensions because the workers would be so weary and beaten down. But it had the opposite effect !

The 200 rallies that took place last Thursday were all very impressive. 25-50,000 people demonstrated in Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Nantes; 20,000 in Le Havre, 16,000 in Orléans, 14,000 in Perpignan, 10,000 in Lorient, 5,000 in Nevers, Arras and Beauvais, 4,000 in Rochefort, Dieppe, Vesoul, Belfort, Caen and Chalon-sur-Saône, etc.

In Paris, despite transport problems, the demonstration was massive. Across the country, there were 1.12 million demonstrators according to the police, 2 million according to the CGT. To find a comparable mobilization you have to go back to 1995, when Juppé (the Prime Minister at the time) was forced to back down in front of the workers.

Large numbers of demonstrators came from all walks of life. There were factory, rail and office workers, technicians, home helps, teachers, managers, unionized and non-unionized workers, workers from the public and private sectors, from both big and small companies, workers used to demonstrating and those demonstrating and striking for the first time.

There hadn’t been such a high number of strikers at Stellantis, Sanofi, Toyota, Airbus, Safran, Siemens or Iveco, in years. Even medium-sized and small companies had their share of strikers.

Macron was very much mistaken: he thought he was dealing a death blow but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If he was aiming to show that he’s reserving all the state’s money for financiers, the bourgeoisie and the very rich, he achieved his goal!

It’s hard not to be angry when the government announces a law of military programming that is set to up the army’s budget to 413 billion euros, an increase of 100 billion over seven years. There was no discussion because, in this society, there never is when it’s a question of spending billions on tanks and missiles. There are only talks when it’s a question of money for pensions, wages, employment and hospitals!

There will be no retirement in the society they’re preparing for us but there will be war. We cannot accept this!

Everyone who demonstrated either discovered or rediscovered the immense strength of the working class. And that matters! The government is keeping a low profile. Cracks are appearing in its majority – some MPs are saying that they don’t want to vote for the project as it stands, proof that the mobilization has put them under pressure.

The path to follow is obvious: we must carry on and expand strikes and demonstrations, i.e. ensure that there are more people on strike on January 31, that the strikes affect more companies and that there are more of us in the streets.

In the coming days, we shouldn’t just be working to make profits for the bosses. We should be working to make our mobilization a success. We must have more discussions, more meetings, get organized, express our demands and recruit new troops for the next day of strikes.

The Internationale says “strike while the iron is hot”. And we must also fight for better wages because wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. We must fight for better working conditions because harsh working conditions are the rule rather than the exception in both manual and intellectual jobs.

Macron and the bosses who pull the strings are very worried that the movement might continue, spread and increasingly block profits from being made.

We mustn’t forget the fierce hatred from the bosses sparked by the refinery workers’ strike last September and October. These “gentlemen” think workers should just let class war wash over them, not fight it! But we can fight it too, and turn the tide – we have already begun.

The trade union confederations have set the date of January 31 for the whole of the working class. They have the power to choose the date but it’s up to every one of us to make it a success. We can use it as a starting point to get back to being organized and leading collective struggles for our interests and to change society.

Long live the workers’ fight against the greed and irresponsibility of the capitalist class and its political lackeys!

Nathalie Arthaud