France: The More Macron Talks, The Less We Listen

April 18, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

[Translator’s introduction: After President Macron used an anti-democratic article (article 49.3) of the constitution to pass the pension reform without a vote in the National Assembly, his final move to legitimize the reform in spite of massive popular opposition was the blessing of the Constitutional Council. This past Friday the Council (the 9 old men referred to in the editorial below) validated Macron’s reform. Macron then signed the pension reform into law, hiking the retirement age from 62 to 64. The word spread on social media to boycott Macron’s Monday-night televised speech at 7:00 pm justifying his action, so as to give him a taste of his own medicine. “He doesn’t listen to us, we won’t listen to him.” His speech was greeted in the streets by protests around the country. In about 300 gatherings, thousands assembled to the tune of “Macron démission” (resign), banging pots and pans, and in some cases setting fire to dumpsters. The police used tear gas to disperse about 2,000 protesters in the capital. The next big day of action will be May Day, on the first of May, also known as International Worker’s Day.] 

The word was out on all the social networks this Monday: we’ll boycott Macron’s speech … with an orchestra of pots and pans! On Friday, the Constitutional Council validated the law on pensions at 6 pm. Macron legally had two weeks to promulgate a law validated by the Constitutional Council. He had said he would do it in 48 hours, but finally it took him barely two hours to sign it into law. With this, once again, he gave the middle finger to the social movement and to 90% of the working population of this country. Pure arrogance… but he’s not really so sure of himself. Well, we’ll show him that he has a fuse tied to his butt! 

The Real Democracy is Here!

The French Constitutional Council of the nine old men validated the reform? This reform that everyone rejected, these men ruled to be constitutional. Article 49.3 of the French constitution, which Macron used to force the passage of the reform without allowing a vote, was constitutional too, and yet it made everyone hit the streets in protest.

The demonstrators shouted, “We are the ones who work, we need to decide…!” The mobilization against pension reform has led to hundreds of victorious strikes for wage increases. Due to exploding inflation, our real wages are falling, all while the CAC 40 (French stock market) is showing 152 billion euros in net profits and the salary of Carlos Tavares, the Chief Executive Officer of Stellantis (French auto industry), amounts to 64,000 euros per day, including Saturday and Sunday.

For weeks now, democratic demands have been strengthening our social demands. Who are these people who dare to impose this reform on us using institutional and police force while everyone else pushes back in the streets and on the picket lines? Their so-called “democracy” and “social discourse” exist neither within the workplaces nor in their society. They govern with truncheons and tear gas against demonstrators, workers or high school students, and with rows of riot cops in front of the Constitutional Council. Now that the sound of boots on the ground and the madness of those who govern us are rekindling the threat of war, their power over us is more unacceptable than ever.

And These Ministers Claiming to Fight the Extreme Right by Implementing Their Policies

This week Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is threatening the League of Human Rights (LDH), after Gérald Darmanin (French Minister of the Interior) took his turn, for having denounced police violence. Woe to those who denounce them! Yet, even the Council of Europe, the White House and the New York Times are concerned. Will Prime Minister Borne call them all “islamo-leftists“? While Darmanin is frantic to pass his law against immigrant workers and at the same time sending his police to crack heads at demonstrations, how is the government going to make us go along with a “Republican front” against the extreme right… after having implemented the policy of the extreme right themselves?

R.I.P. the RIP: Let’s Continue the Mobilization!

The Constitutional Council has also rejected the referendum of shared initiative (RIP) proposed by the parliamentarians of the left. A new request for a RIP has been filed, but according to the Constitution, it may not be effective for a year.

But we are not going to wait for months or years for a RIP when those mobilizing in the streets have already made a decision. The inter-union, for its part, has certainly refused to talk with Macron … until May 3, but is calling for the next day of protest on May 1. 

While in China, Macron declared that only small groups have engaged in unlimited strikes. Never mind that the massive support for these minorities has created such a political crisis that no one wants to get near him at this point. Due to his minority in the Assembly, Macron didn’t even have the means to impose one of his favorites on the European Environment Agency this week or even pass a bill on military programs with a 413-billion-euro public budget. 

So yes, we will be mobilized again this week, through strikes, blockades, and demonstrations. Starting on April 20, the CGT (union), joined by the national inter-union of the SNCF (railways) is calling for a day of “railroad worker anger.” It needs to be that of the anger of the whole working-class, of all those who will not move on to anything else until the government has retracted and swallowed its dirty reform, enacted or not.