Monday, March 13, 2023

France vs Macron: The struggle against the pension reform from a communist perspective

On March 7, millions of people took to the streets throughout France participating in a nationwide strike against the anti-popular pension reform by Emmanuel Macrons' government that plans to increase the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old. 
That was the sixth strike against the reform this year, following large mobilizations in January and February. Over 260 demonstrations were reported in the country, with the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) talking about 700,000 protesters in Paris. 
In an article titled “The right to retirement: Social and Political counter-offensive”, the Communist Revolutionary Party of France (Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire de France - PCRF) provides an outline of the struggle against the anti-people policy implemented by Macron's government:

“Winter 2019 - Winter 2023: Four years ago our newspaper ran the headline "A historic battle!", referring to the huge mobilizations against Macron's "points-based pension", which had been growing over the winter weeks. These struggles and the arrival of Covid stopped the implementation of the counter-reform.

The right to retirement for all: a class issue!

However, it was foreseeable that the savage offensive led by the bourgeois class against the social conquests would be resumed, in a context of aggravated crisis for the capitalist regime. And this is what the Borne government is doing, under the orders of Macron, the "President of the rich", through its project of changing retirement age from 62 to 64 years with 43 years of contribution. Where the points-based pension of 2019 vainly tried to confuse things, the brutal display of the extension of the retirement age fully reveals the objective of the bourgeoisie in power: to recover, in favor of the monopolies and the financial oligarchy, the "crazy money"* that the workers' struggles of the past centuries have wrested from the profits to conquer the right to rest after years of work. We can clearly see the fundamental, class-based stakes involved in this project, beyond even the question of pensions: for the representatives of capital, who know they are threatened by the consequences of their endemic crisis, the return to the most savage forms of exploitation involves all these anti-social measures extending working hours, reducing the level of remuneration (wages, pensions, unemployment benefits, minimum social benefits...) and accelerating the privatization of public services. The day after 19 January, Macron gave the response of the bourgeois state to the strikers and demonstrators by announcing, in front of an audience of army and arms monopoly officials, an increase of more than 30% of the military programming law (413 billion) and its doubling in three successive laws!

More than in 2019, because the social shock caused by this attack on pensions is amplified in the current context of inflation and energy crisis, the victory for the withdrawal of the Borne project constitutes a major political stake: it is necessary to stop the offensive of the monopoly bourgeoisie against the rights of the workers, and thus to demonstrate the power that the working class can and must take against its exploiters.

Several factors make this victory possible!

A weakened government

Firstly, on the side of the government itself, bogged down in its contradictions and its caricatured uprightness, support for its counter-reform is taking on water from all sides: polls which, one after the other, increase the figures of rejection (72% of opposition on 26 January, an increase of 6 points in a week), including in Macron's electoral base (pensioners and executives); the minister Franck Riester obliged to acknowledge on television, on 23 January, that "women would be more impacted than men by the postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 years", thus destroying the thesis of "a reform of social justice"; Renaissance and right-wing deputies (at least a dozen on 30 January) who would not vote for the text; and even the president of the very liberal COR (Conseil de l'orientation des retraites) who distanced himself from it, assuring, on 19 January, that pension expenditure "is not slipping", to the point of greatly annoying E. Borne...

Historically powerful and multiple struggles to last

But above all, of course, the historic mobilizations of 19 and 31 January (2.5 million demonstrators in the country), and all the struggles that unfolded between these two dates, in the petrochemical, electricity and gas industries, in the ports and in transport, are the ones that hold the key to victory.

Faced with the unprecedented authoritarianism of the Borne government, which, after having drawn the article 49. 3, is threatening to use it again and is hammering away at the fact that the retirement age of 64 and the 43 years of contributions are "no longer negotiable" (Borne, 29 January on France-Info), these mobilizations will have to hold up for the long term, not only because of their massive nature in the streets of our towns, but also by the multiplicity of struggles capable of blocking the profits of the monopolies, as well as by the popular support for the movement, like the "Robins des bois" of EDF who, from Lille to Marseille, triggered free electricity or restored the power supply for users. The forms of struggle can sometimes be decisive like the organization of the blocking of profits by rotating regional general strikes (which allows to hold on for a long time) or the call for national gatherings of occupation by encircling or otherwise, the places of representation of bourgeois democracy (National Assembly...).

From political relay to the perspective of social liberation

These social struggles are very often driven by the most combative trade union bases, while the leaderships of the confederations remain very far from the class-based trade unionism which was that of the CGT in the past, and which it is necessary to revitalise.

They must find a national political relay for the victory to be complete. They will not find it in the National Assembly, since the NUPES (LFI-PS-PCF), with its 7000 amendments and its very social-democratic composition, will once again propose adjustments to the policy of capital, without ever questioning the capitalist system.

They will find it with a political party, the Revolutionary Communist Party of France, which, in order to defend the interests of all the workers, proposes to transform the historical protest movement into a generalized counter-offensive against the power of the bourgeois class.

After the winter of capitalism, long live the spring of socialism-communism!

* pognon de dingue’ (crazy money), is a phrase used by French President Macron to describe the amount of money the country supposedly spends on social welfare.