Let 2020 be the year when the working class fights back

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
December 30, 2019

There have been train station rallies, strikers sharing festive meals, ballerinas on strike dancing outside the Paris opera house, local demonstrations on December 28: after 26 days, the strike against the ransacking of retirement pensions is alive and well. The government called for a truce and tried to maneuver but has failed to bury the strike under the Christmas tree and it’s a great gift, one full of hope for the working class!

Management in SNCF and RATP try and reassure the public that train circulation is improving. They talk of metro lines being “reopened” when metros run for a couple hours and stop at maybe two or three stations on the line. Truth is, the strikers are holding on. Despite financial hardship, despite slander that is meant to demoralize them, they’re holding on.

The government has also tried to rely on union leaders who are ready to accept a few category-specific measures. But the strikers are not to be fooled and have continued their struggle with the slogan “strikes not truces for our kids’ futures”. They can be proud of their fighting spirit, a victory in itself for the working class and one that opens up perspectives for the year to come.

This strike is important not only because it has lasted longer than the 1995 strike against Juppé’s[i] reform but also because it isn’t corporatist. The most combative groups, workers from SNCF and RATP whose strike is renewable, have been joined by workers from other sectors: teachers, electricity and oil-refinery workers, hospital staff, firemen, etc. And at peak moments, private sector workers have joined the demonstrations.

Despite the disturbances due to school closures or the lack of public transport, despite the specifics of each profession, most workers are aware that this reform is just the latest in a series of attacks designed to impoverish the working class, be it public or private sector. The government’s retirement pension reform is a blow against workers that comes after other major blows, notably the dismantling of labor laws and the revision of unemployment compensation that has taken money away from those in the most precarious situations.

Because workers are fighting back by going on strike, those in power are having to tone things down a little. Thanks to the strikes, the government has promised “transitional periods” for retirement in certain professions and the postponement of the new calculations for housing aid which will decrease allowances for 1.2 million families and eliminate allowances for 600,000 households.

Macron and his cronies are fighting the class war so that the largest amount possible of society’s riches go to the capitalist class. This is how capitalists’ profits are guaranteed during the economic depression. The capitalists are the masters and governments obey them and the logic of their system. Hundreds of thousands of families can’t make ends meet? More and more retirees have to rely on charity for their food? Too bad! It’s the price to pay for the record-breaking fortunes of the major capitalists.

Sympathy and financial support for the strikers won’t be enough to change the balance of power and win the battle. The movement needs to grow and spread. The strike must become a matter of concern for all workers. What will make this happen? The greed of the rich who never feel that they have enough money. The arrogance of their privileged servants who sing the praises of equality in misery to the workers.

The fight is nowhere near over and we all need to be in the streets for the day of strikes and demonstrations on January 9. Those who represent the rich think that the workers are there just to take the blows and obey but some of them have refused to bow their heads. By making it clear that they won’t take things lying down, the strikers are showing what the general interest of all workers is.

This year, our New Year’s wishes are for all workers to hold their heads high and for the year to be one when workers fight for their future and that of all society.

[i] In 1995 Juppé planned to push back retirement age for public servants and railwaymen, and increase public health contributions for retirees and the unemployed. The strike forced him to back down on his pension reform.