France: We Will Fight to the End!

February 5, 2023, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), Translated from French

The huge demonstrations against pension reform on January 31 show that the mobilization is getting stronger. There haven’t been this many people in the street for 30 years! Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne is trying to reassure herself. Live on television last Thursday, she spoke of “reticence” and “concerns.” As if we didn’t understand what’s going on! But we understand perfectly well. And our refusal is frank, massive and determined. We will continue to express ourselves with massive participation in strikes and demonstrations, starting with the next two days on February 7 and 11.

The government and the bosses are consoling themselves by saying that the rate of strikers was a little lower in some large public companies. But by all accounts, the marches were larger on the 31st than on the 19th. And in many private companies, the strikers were often more numerous. Not to mention the outpouring of young people in the demonstrations!

“Increase Wages, Not the Retirement Age” (seen on a January 31 sign)

The anger isn’t limited to the question of pensions alone. It’s a general rage against capitalist exploitation, against salaries that don’t allow people to live, against work that kills even before retirement. All this anger flourished on the signs at the demonstrations on the 31st.

Workers from the same company, from the same sector, and sometimes in an interprofessional procession, gathered to march together. And all of us gathering behind the same banner is better than everyone on their own. The unions have called us to action, but why are the union processions classifying us with labels that separate us by affiliation? Instead, let’s seize the opportunity to be all together and to discuss the continuation of the movement! There is no better way to feel our collective strength, and to gather around our demands, beyond our sectors.

The Employers Can Back Off on All Counts

In some private companies strikes are breaking out, and over wages and more. We see this in the pharmaceutical industry (BioMérieux in the Lyon region, Cenexi near Paris), in auto subcontracting (Plastic Omnium and Forvia near Rennes), at Flandria Aluminium (in the North of France) or at Idemia (a bank card manufacturer in Brittany) and even in smaller companies, some of which have never experienced a strike before.

The bosses fear that the national movement against the reform, and the struggles in the workplaces will reinforce each other mutually. So obviously, this is the path toward making them pay so we can work less, and earn more.

Politicians Try to Distract Us

In the meantime, the parliamentary machine is in motion. We know how they roll: a flurry of amendments, grandiose speeches, backstage negotiations… and the immigration law soon to be presented by the Minister of the Interior, Darmanin, to light a racist counter-fire to our mobilization. Their maneuvers won’t work!

The Weapon of the Workers is the Strike!

There is nothing to expect from the talk in Parliament. It is through our strikes and in the streets, with all of us together, that we will make this government and the bosses back down. It is essential that we meet in general assemblies to assess the situation and communicate with each other. In short, to decide all together on the direction of our movement and our demands. The unions are confining their demands strictly to the withdrawal of the reform, and don’t take any stance on building a renewable strike that can be extended daily. But we need to also make the government and the employers back down from all their previous attacks: pushing back the retirement age from 60 to 62, and lowering unemployment benefits.

This is why we must get together, to decide collectively on our demands, on the construction of the strike, to improve the balance of power in our favor.

Editorial of the NPA of February 5, 2023