There were three separate protests in Paris last Saturday: the yellow vests, Force ouvrière1 against the retirement system reforms and a climate crisis protest. Two days before that, EDF (the national electricity company) workers were on strike to protest the projected selling-off of their company. The week before that, Paris region transport workers jammed the network for the first time since 2007. And hospital Accident & Emergency services have been mobilized for months now.
They all have reasons to mobilize. But to have an effect on the policies of Macron and the big bosses, these scattered protests made category by category need to be united into a single movement of the working classes.
Macron, like his predecessors, has absolutely no idea how to stop the coming crises, whether it’s the climate, the economy or the many international tensions. But if there’s one thing he does know, it’s how to attack workers. It’s a class reflex, the reflex of all company owners everywhere. Market uncertainty? Not competitive enough? Make the workers pay!
The working classes have already paid for the 2008 crisis, through job and wage cuts, and a worsening of working conditions. And now they’re being made to pay for the next crisis. This will go on until the workers themselves put a stop to it.
The government and the big bosses have chosen to make another attack on the retirement pension system. Well, that’s our next battle!
On Tuesday 24, the CGT, the FSU and Solidaires2 are calling for strike action and protests. Let’s grasp the opportunity to collectively show our opposition, whatever our age or our profession, whether we work in the private or the public sector.
Macron has planned a severe cut to all retirement pensions. The calculation will no longer be based on the 25 best years of wages (the private sector rule) or the last six months (the public sector rule). It will be based on the whole of our working life, including periods of unemployment and/or low pay in insecure jobs. Pensions will obviously be lower.
And a points system for retirement pensions amounts to giving a blank check to the government because it gives them the right to change the value of the point every year.
The government wants us to work longer on the grounds that life expectancy is increasing. And it’s presenting this as common sense. But before working extra time, you need to have a job! So you’d better not be unemployed or disabled, although that’s in fact the case for more than 50% of workers over the age of 55!
If life expectancy has improved, that’s progress and it shouldn’t be turned into a setback. For half a century, worker’s productivity has strongly increased. Workers, not capitalists, should reap the benefits.
These are not mathematical choices. These are class choices. What are the priorities in our society? Wages or dividends? Employment or personal fortunes? Retirement pensions for all or a life of ease for a few?
The government says that it’s a “fair” reform because it will get rid of special retirement regimes. They’re trying to make us believe that the rail workers and the Paris region transport workers are privileged. Rubbish! The ones who are truly privileged are those who don’t need to pay contributions for their retirement: shareholders, players on the stock market, capitalists. It’s their privileges that should be targeted.
If one individual, Bernard Arnault, accumulates up to 100 million euros a day, why should someone lose two or three years of retirement and 100, 200 or 300 euros of their monthly pensions? The ones who live off other people’s work, the capitalists, must pay.
Workers must take up this fight, if only to survive in this society that is crushed by big capital. They owe it to themselves so that they can continue to exist. And the future of the whole of society depends on it.
Workers are the only force that can stop the capitalist class and its greed and irresponsibility. And we can do it because we are the ones that keep the system going every day. We are the ones fueling it and producing the bosses’ profits through our work.
The best lever to act and win is in our hands, as long as we become conscious of it and go back to collective struggles. Let’s be massively on strike and in the streets on Tuesday 24!
1 Force Ouvrière (FO) is a trade-union confederation that separated from the CGT in 1947, on an anti-communist basis. For a long time its national leaders had direct links with the Socialist Party (PS). The membership and political orientation are very diverse: some branches or federations are openly pro-boss and right-wing, others are controlled by left-wingers. It is a bureaucratic apparatus like all the others (CGT, CFDT, Solidaires, UNSA…), with petty calculations that can lead FO to either oppose or support strikes, to either collaborate with the other confederations or “go solo”.
2 Solidaires is the confederation uniting the SUD (“syndicats unitaires et démocratiques”) trade-union federations existing mostly in the public and para-public sector (health, education, railways, mail…) and to a lesser extent in the private sector. It was created in the late 1980s by leftists who, having had enough of the CFDT, did not wish to join the CGT. Since then it has developed into a small bureaucratic apparatus which claims to be more radical than the others.