France: March 7 and Beyond: A General Strike to Paralyze Everything

(Paris, Saturday, February 11, 2023. Copyright: Photothèque Rouge /JMB.)

March 5 Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

The French Senate has been reviewing the proposed pension reform for almost a week. According to the French newspaper, Le Monde, the debates are “getting bogged down.” Really? For the millions of workers who have to pay for the bosses’ record profits while the government mistreats us, there is no debate: this reform must not pass. Over the last two months, millions of people have made this clear in the streets.

There are Millions of Us Demanding the Withdrawal of the Reform without Discussion

All of France is against the reform. The massive demonstrations have shown our strength. These protests have allowed us to meet, to discuss, to establish links between the various demands of our different workplaces and this fight for the withdrawal of a reform, that truly represents the government’s policy in favor of the bosses and the wealthy. This has also been an opportunity to show our unity and determination. March 7 is another day of demonstration, and while it has been a long time since these protests began, the millions of people mobilized against pension reform have not changed their minds. This week will serve as a reminder for us. The government is burying its head in the sand, and crossing its arms, but their knees are trembling. Olivier Véran (French government spokesperson) even accused the strikers of risking an “ecological catastrophe”: these ministers are not calm! The government is well aware that the movement could not only bring the country to a standstill for a day, but also lead to a new May ‘68.

We Don’t Want to “Grumble,” We Want to Win!

The movement is at a crossroads. We have shown our strength, but the threat will not be enough to make the government back down. Just one day of strike action? Macron and the bosses will simply wait until the next day when everything is back to normal…

On Tuesday, March 7, the inter-union group is calling for a “shutdown of the country”: in other words, a strike that will bring everyone together. The date was announced two weeks ago, and its magnitude is expected to be a springboard for the following actions listed below:

Wednesday March 8th is International Women’s Day. Everyone knows that this reform will hit women hardest, because of working multiple jobs, part-time work, and salary inequalities… The feminist strike and demonstrations called on March 8th are part of the struggle against pension reform.

Then on Thursday March 9th, the youth have called a demonstration against precarity, unemployment and low wages of young people.

These three dates must be the opportunity to renew the strike, to amplify the demands, and build toward a general strike.

The Government is Afraid of Losing Control

The real power that could emerge from this conflict might be that the strikers and the demonstrators end up with the leadership of the entire struggle in their hands. Let’s begin the strike without giving the government and employers the reassurance of a set date when calm will return. What will make the government and the employers concede is panic about the potential outcomes of such a mass movement. And not just a movement planned by the usual trade union officials, but an unpredictable movement that makes its own path. The government must not know which way to turn!

This is what needs to be prepared, through general assemblies in the companies, strike committees, neighborhood committees, industrial zone committees, coordination committees, inter-professional committees: all the frameworks of discussion that allow us to decide for ourselves, to establish our own demands, to coordinate between all the work sectors, both public and private, and to unify the protests into a whole.

We need to move away from isolated strike days toward a general strike movement aimed at imposing the withdrawal of the pension reform. But in addition, we must go beyond the question of retirement pensions, which is only the tip of the iceberg, to its submerged base which includes a whole world of injustice and exploitation.

Only the employers support President Macron: we are the millions!