France: March 7, 8, 9 and as Long as it Takes: General Strike for Our Pensions!

February 27, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

Pension reform is coming to the Senate this Tuesday, February 28. And this is the Senate that for the last few years has made a habit out of voting in favor of rolling back the retirement age by two years every fall, without it ever becoming a reality… until now.  In other words, we have nothing to hope for from the Senate other than more theatrical sessions in the National Assembly. The Tuesday that really matters is next week, March 7. Because in order to make this government back down, it is our mobilization, that of the youth and world of working people, that can make a difference.

One after the other, the top French companies are announcing historic profits for 2022: 2.2 billion euros at the SNCF (French rail), 17 billion euros at Stellantis (French auto) and even 36 billion euros for TotalEnergies (French energy). But money does not grow on trees: these record profits are the result of our lower paychecks. This money comes from soaring prices, while our salaries are staying low.

Working Less to Live Longer

This wealth, produced by our work, could be used for many useful things, rather than accumulating in shareholders’ coffers. Starting with wage increases, as many workers are demanding, like those in Mérignac at Safran Electrical & Power, who have been on strike for three weeks for a 200-euro pay increase. It could also be used to reduce and spread around the working hours, so we don’t lose our health while four million people are unemployed, and in addition, to ensure us a decent retirement, at age 60, after 37.5 years of contributions.

At a time when wealth is skyrocketing, proposing that retirement begin at 64 is a real provocation. But this has to be added to the past attacks our pensions have faced, in particular the imposition of 43 years of contributions to receive a full pension by former President Francois Hollande’s government, and Macron is increasing them further. This amount of years-worth of contributions pushes back the retirement age even further, or amputates the pensions of those who don’t work for that many years.

“Do you want your nurse to be 64-years-old when you’re in the hospital?”

There have been five massive days of mobilization since January, and the March 7th strike looks like it too will be well-attended. The general population is opposed to this reform. President Macron had a chance to witness this once again as he strolled through the International Fair of Agriculture, where he was challenged by angry employees on multiple occasions, including a nurse.

We Can Make Macron Back Down

The inter-union is calling on workers to “bring France to a standstill” on March 7. This means strikes everywhere, as massive as possible, and also to show our strength with millions demonstrating in the streets. This will convince us that it is possible to continue the next day, as in the sectors where workers are preparing for a “real strike,” which will last. This is what we need to build for now, by organizing at the grassroots level, by holding picket lines and assemblies in the workplaces, as well as at the interprofessional level.

Many people talk about a “blockade of the entire country,” and it is our strike that can make it happen. Not only striking in the most visible industries, those that disrupt consumers, but everywhere: a real general strike, that attacks the bosses on all sides. How many working days are the bosses willing to lose, which earn them much more profit than us?

On March 7 we must be there, but also the day after, for International Women’s Day, a struggle that matters to us all! Women are the first victims of the extension of the retirement age, because they already have the lowest pensions. These struggles are linked. And on March 9, youth organizations are calling for a mobilization. Several union federations are already calling for a renewable strike.

Let’s get ready to make Macron and the bosses bend to the will of our strike until they give in: for the withdrawal of President Macron’s pension reform, to bring the retirement age back to 60, and for a general increase in wages!