France: After the January 19 Strike: We Will Persist to the End!

January 23, 2023 editorial of the workplace newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA). Translated from French.

The January 19 strike was a success: the trade unions counted more than two million demonstrators, and even the police acknowledged that more than one million people marched. This is more than the strike that started the previous movement against pension reform, on December 5, 2019.

Diverse sectors of the workforce participated in the strike: more than 50% of EDF (French electric), 66% at Enedis (French electric), 40% at Engie (French utilities), GRDF (French gas), 70 to 100% in Total’s refineries, nearly 50% at the SNCF (French railroad), including more than 75% of conductors, and in education, nearly 70% … In addition, auto and metallurgy factories, the food industry, the post office and the press participated!

After this success – in spite of how late the union officials called for it – they announced the next national strike day not for the following week, but for January 31.

There is Plenty of Money in the Employers’ Coffers!

Not surprisingly, the government still claims that it will go through with this reform, because it is “fair” and “necessary”… What lies! There is nothing fair about demanding more contribution time from workers, while the capitalists are gorging themselves, and the rich are getting richer. There is no need to make us work longer, when many of us are already unable to work uninterruptedly all the way to 62 because of periods of unemployment, or prolonged studies.

Money can be found to finance pensions. If women earned and therefore contributed as much as men, this would add an additional 5.5 billion euros to the pension funds. And what would happen if salaries really did increase to keep up with inflation? There would be billions in extra funds. If we took back from the employers what they steal from us, we could ensure the future of the current pension system… And even return to a retirement age of 60, with 37.5 years of contributions, or even less for the most difficult and exhausting jobs.

We Are the Ones Who Work, We Are the Ones Who Should Decide!

The money for pensions comes from employee contributions. It is not up to employers and governments to decide what to do with it: it is up to us alone, we who run the company every day.

In an economy that produces more and more, it should be normal that those who create wealth through their work enjoy more leisure time…

That would make logical sense. How can we tell young people to contribute longer, if the jobs are still occupied by older people? Or how can we tell older people to stay on the job later, if their bosses hire young people? If we worked less, we could all work, and work better!

All Together: General Strike!

This reform is one more step in the offensive against workers’ rights, for the sole profit of capitalists. Who should benefit from this wealth? The minority that runs the economy, or the majority that makes everything work?

Without us, nothing is possible. This is what we show when we strike. We will have to be on strike for several days in a row. Some unions, as in education, are calling for an indefinite renewable strike starting January 31. The refineries and energy sectors will be starting on February 6.

It is up to us to decide on our pace and means of action: everywhere and across all professions we need to convene general assemblies in our workplaces as well as in cities or provinces. These general assemblies will allow us to organize together to extend the strike, to increase our ranks in the demonstrations, to carry out actions and to block the country… until the government has no other choice but to give in!