Determined Until the Withdrawal of the Pension Reform!

Marchers in Paris on April 6. Image credit: Photothèque Rouge / Martin Noda / Hans Lucas

April 10, 2023 Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA. Translated from French.

The demonstrations of April 6 were once again numerous – young people, workers, pensioners gathered in the streets of large and small cities. This is enough to make the government tremble, a government that will use any means necessary to discourage those who fight: tear gas, police custody, legal threats against strikers… But we must admit that after eleven days of mobilization, the movement is still alive.

They Are Sick of It

On April 5, a day before the demonstrations, the Prime Minister invited the inter-union committee of union officials to Matignon (official residence of the Prime Minister) for an hour-long meeting. The union leaders met with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, knowing that she had announced beforehand that there would be no room for negotiation. But now, the government is trying to stall. It wants to respect the “convalescence” of workers who have had to swallow the pill of the pension reform. But for the moment, the demonstrators are in good shape, it is the government that is sick of seeing us still in the street!

Faced with an opposition that continues to express itself, the government has chosen to use the stick instead of the carrot. Perhaps at the beginning, the government expected the trade union leaders to give in, so as to contain the anger of the workers. Or maybe they counted on the protesters’ weariness. But the government has now changed its strategy. Especially since, in addition to the days of action, spontaneous gatherings of angry workers have multiplied after the announcement of the government’s use of Article 49.3 of the French Constitution. Links are being forged between work sectors on strike, which give each other the courage to continue. This explains the fear of the government of the bosses, which has tightened the repression, the arbitrary arrests, the requisitions. But the abuse of power is sometimes a little too blatant: in Rouen, the administrative court has decided to suspend the requisitioning of strikers (orders forcing them back to work) at the Total Energies refinery in Gonfreville-l’Orcher, and in Paris. Bans on demonstrations have also been canceled.

Only One Response: Mobilization

While Prime Minister Borne is facing the great wall of mobilizations, President Macron prefers to visit China – a diplomatic trip during which Macron made a speech that continues to fan the flames: “How many strikers have participated in the past two weeks? It is a historically low level of strikers participating in these mobilizations… Don’t tell me that the country is at a standstill…” After facing three months of mobilization against pension reform, the President’s usual contempt for workers does not mask his unease. To top it off, there have also been many strikes for higher wages that prove that many work sectors are boiling over with frustration. The employers and the government fear more than anything else that this movement will spread. As the strike grows, Macron will be forced to lie. He knows that the garbage collectors’ strike could resume in Paris. He knows well that others could follow. And he knows that the majority of the population still supports the movement against pension reform.

On Friday, April 14, it is up to the Constitutional Council to give the green light on the pension reform law. There are no illusions about this institution, made up of old retired politicians. For the record, the last project the Council censured was a proposal to tax very high incomes at 75% under former President Hollande’s government. The Council dismisses reforms when asked to do so. Perhaps the “wise men” of the Council will retract two or three additional elements under the pressure of the movement, while putting in place the pension reform minus two or three elements. Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT union, follows suit, announcing on BFM TV that he will not “question the legitimacy of the Constitutional Council”… But our lives are worth more than the constitution of the Republic!

On the 13th, we will have to be even more numerous than last Thursday as we strike and demonstrate… And on the 14th we will continue! If President Macron and Prime Minister Borne don’t understand, and have the Council validate their reform, already passed under Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, the anger will go up another notch and it could continue to grow until the withdrawal of the pension reform!