France: Now and Forever – Let’s Fight Until Total Withdrawal of the Reform!

April 3, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

Last Saturday the small town of Vire (Calvados Department, 12,000 inhabitants), where Prime Minister Borne was elected deputy, attracted all the media. Ten times as many demonstrators once again demanded the withdrawal of the law crushing pensions there, even though 535 national law enforcement agents turned it into a fortress that no one could enter without being checked several times, and tried to dissuade the inhabitants from marching by stirring up the fear of “thugs.”

A Surplus of Anger…

In Vire, the anger against Macron, president for the rich, has deepened during the past week as it has everywhere in France. Renewable strikes, demonstrations and blockades have once again punctuated the news. The retirement age remains the central concern of those who speak up. But people are no longer limiting the protest to refusing 64 years of age for retirement: both public and private sector employees want a referendum to reverse retirement to 60 years of age.

Since the youth have been taking to the streets, the link has been made between the miserable pensions and the precarity many students and young workers suffer: “We don’t want this kind of society!” They are fed up with the miserable salaries! The unions ended the demonstration in Vire last Saturday by calling for an increase in wages. The rise in prices is indeed hitting basic food supplies much harder than anything else. Once again, it is the working classes who bear the consequences!

Batons and Tear Gas are No Longer Enough to Subdue

The government is hoping that its tear gas will put us off demonstrating. It’s framing the confrontations as between “the cops who are good” and “the thugs who bust things up,” thinking it will divide us.

The government’s tricks have had little success. If some of us are more reluctant to take to the streets, it is because they fear the police, not other demonstrators. After the outpouring of police violence in Sainte-Soline (Deux-Sèvres Department) during the demonstration against agricultural mega-basins, dozens of gatherings took place in support of the Earth’s Uprisings movement, despite the authorities’ threatening to dissolve their organization.

Reaching Out? More Like Arm Wrestling!

Public opinion of President Macron is completely destroyed. His last speech proved it, to the point that we almost wish he would speak again soon! And it’s Prime Minister Borne who has offered to “reach out” to the inter-union, which it immediately accepted.

But among the rank and file there are questions and even suspicions. We are completely in sync with the representative to the CGT Congress (national trade union) who spoke up just as we would have by challenging the General Secretary with, “Comrade Philippe Martinez, who gave you the mandate to talk about mediation when workers are in the streets?” Prime Minister Borne says she doesn’t want to give up anything on pensions, so what is there to discuss? It should be up to strikers, demonstrators, participants in blockades, all of us who continue to challenge this policy to decide. Democratically.

Laurent Berger, the head of the CFDT (national trade union), has spoken about a “pause,” but what would that mean? Putting our movement on pause? No way! That would mean loosening the stranglehold that we have the authorities caught in, while we are in the process of forcing them to capitulate.

This is not the time to relax. On the contrary! The inter-union has decided that Thursday, April 6 will be the next date for mobilization. We will have to take to the streets again, and massive numbers will need to go on strike: this will be our response to Prime Minister Borne’s so-called “outstretched hand,” which is really her stubborn insistence on imposing pension reform. In the meantime, we have to continue with the renewable strikes, the blockades, the general assemblies of all kinds, in order to keep up the social ferment. Each day that goes by in this atmosphere leads the government to lose a little more in our arm-wrestling match. We definitely can seal the coffin of this “reform!”