“It can’t go on like this forever.” Minister of the Economy Le Maire is clearly more and more impatient. Secretary of State for Transport Djebbari too lost his temper, sending special police squads against the picket lines. Macron’s government can hardly hide its exasperation with the ongoing mobilization. It expected the SNCF and RATP strikes to peter out with time and become unpopular with the general public. Unexpectedly for the government, the strike is holding out and remains popular.
Workers have every reason to remain mobilized against a government that is clinging to its reform. All the setbacks imagined by the Macron administration have found their way into the reform: the “point-based” calculation of workers’ pension benefits; the “pivotal” age of 64; the downsizing of reversionary pension rights; etc.
The government said it wasn’t against taking better account of the strenuousness of certain jobs. That’s a song that workers in construction or public works hear whenever a pension reform is on the government’s agenda. The last time the Philippe government tried to give them a similar sugar-coated pill was in 2017, when it abolished “arduous postures” or “mechanical vibrations” as criteria for early retirement. To this day, the government has systematically refused to take these criteria into account.
If it is adopted, the Macron reform will compel workers in construction, public works, sewer maintenance, house moving, etc. – workers who are worn-out by the time they reach the age of 55 – to wait until they’re 64 to get full pension. But these days, they’re on strike, chanting: “You take the underground to go to work / You take the underground to come back from work / And before you know it you’re six feet under / No, no, no!”.
The hundreds of thousands of workers who have taken action so far understand perfectly well that this reform is aimed at delaying retirement age and cutting pension benefits.
In his New Year’s speech, Macron presented his reform as a way to ensure “solidarity between generations”. But he’s asking the strikers to allow him to slash their children’s pensions!
Macron’s ministers and cronies keep repeating that the new regime will be a universal, one-for-all system. At the same time, they have made concessions to this or that category. This is an indication that the government is afraid of the movement – and an encouraging sign for those who want to keep the struggle going!
Macron has postponed other attacks he had been preparing against working people, such as the lowering of the APL (subsidies received by millions of people to help them pay their rent) and a law intended to facilitate the opening of businesses until midnight. These postponements are due to the movement, and the future of those measures depends on the outcome of the struggle over pensions.
For all these reasons, many workers are determined to take on the showdown for as long as necessary. This movement expresses much more than working people’s opposition to Macron’s pension reform. It affirms the interests of the workers, a social class that can no longer bear the burden of the capitalist minority.
The mobilized workers are proud to represent the interests of those who make everything work in society. They can no longer accept to see their rights and their existence sacrificed to the greed of capitalists. The capitalists are bloated, overfed fat cats--like the capital owners of BlackRock. The boss of Black Rock for France, Jean-François Cirelli, is a keen supporter of the pension reform, since it would increase retirement savings and therefore profits. He has just been promoted by Macron to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honour! Carlos Ghosn, who managed to escape the judiciary because he is rich, has three passports and a flock of “second” homes, is another representative of this filthy-rich capitalist class. As is Delevoye who, after laying the foundations of the reform, was forced to leave the scene most pitifully because he had lied to the state. Yes, workers have every reason to reject such men and their system.
To force the government to abandon its project, the world of labor must put all its forces in the balance. At the SNCF and RATP, workers have been on strike since December 5. They have shown a remarkable fighting spirit. But, above all, they must not be left alone. There must be strikes in other sectors, and mass demonstrations too. The outcome of the struggle will depend on the extent of the mobilization in the coming days and weeks.
In this capitalist society, only those who fight can gain respect. From Thursday, January 9, we can show that we reject this reform. Let us all join the strike. Let us all be in the streets on January 9 and again on Saturday 11 to express our anger! Let us begin the year 2020 with a genuine class struggle, because that’s the only way forward for working people.