France: Strike on Tues. 31: We Will Fight to the End!

Image credit: Photothèque Rouge / Martin Noda / Hans Lucas

January 29, 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), 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!

With this success, the pension reform has been impacted, but is not yet dead in the water. On Tuesday, January 31, the trade union leaderships are once again calling the whole working world to strike and demonstrate. It is quite clear that this will also strengthen the opposition to the reform, but it’s not likely to be enough to make French President Macron bend. Now is the time to think on what to do after the strike.

There is Plenty of Money in the Employers’ Coffers!

The capitalists have taken advantage of the Covid pandemic and the crises that followed it to further increase their wealth. Right now, it is a Frenchman, Bernard Arnault, who is the wealthiest man in the world.

So not only is there a 3.7-billion-euro surplus in pension funds, but there will be even more money available if we take back from the shareholders and the bosses what they steal from us every day, through exploitation at work.

Strikes are breaking out everywhere over wages. Far from harming the mobilization for pensions, the strikes boost our struggle. Unlike bonuses, which the bosses prefer to give out when facing inflation, raising wages ensures the rise in contributions for pensions and the whole social security system. And by making big business pay, we could return to a retirement age of 60, with 37.5 years of contributions, or even less for the most arduous and grueling jobs.

All Together to Win

The government claims that it can get past our strikes. Not so sure! Without us, nothing works. That’s what everyone can see when we strike. And the bosses are not ready to pay for the dismantling of pensions with the paralysis of their businesses, which would wreck their profits.  Like the bosses, Macron and his ministers are afraid of an indefinite renewable strike that would spread from work sector to sector and, according to the latest polls, wind up including the 93% of employees opposed to their “reform,” in fact the whole working world: all of us!

This strike cannot rest on the shoulders of rail or refinery workers alone. It must involve the logistics workers who deliver packages, the metal workers who keep the factories running, the teachers (Covid showed how essential they are to the bosses… not to educate our children, but to keep the “national daycare” running) and many others. We actually need everyone to get involved! So that each picket line, each closed down workplace, feels surrounded by the solidarity of others. And if one work sector goes out on strike first, the others need to do everything to join in as soon as possible. Indeed, if dates are being floated here and there to start an extension of the strike – whether for two days, 72 hours, or unlimited – it is essential that at some point we all be there at the same time.

On Tuesday, January 31, Let’s Be Even More Numerous on Strike and in the Streets than the 19th!

It’s up to us to decide on our actions. Let’s gather general assemblies, in our workplaces, but also in inter-professional meetings, in cities and provinces. Let’s organize a general strike together, and march to victory!