Pseudo-compromises won’t do: the pension reform must go!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
January 13, 2020

Saturday was the 38th day of strike for SNCF and RATP workers. While hundreds of thousands of people were demonstrating against Macron’s pension reform, Prime Minister Philippe announced a pseudo-withdrawal of the “pivotal age”.

In fact, the pivotal age – renamed the “equilibrium age” by the government – will be maintained for all generations retiring after 2027. Saturday’s announcement therefore only concerns those who will retire between 2022 and 2027, and on top of that, it is conditional.

Philippe wants the trade unions and the bosses to come to an agreement over how to finance the new points-based system – and of course an agreement that won’t cost capitalists a penny. Otherwise, Philippe has warned, the pivotal age will be reintroduced, even for the generation retiring between 2022 and 2027.

What the media present as a sign of openness is nothing but a smokescreen. What it does show is how feverish the government is in the face of strikes and demonstrations.

To prevent the trashing of pensions, the entire project must be withdrawn. How can we accept a new system which, under the guise of justice, will reduce pensions by 20 or 30% and force us to delay our retirement?

Smoke and mirrors, hypocritical declarations, lies and confusion: this is how Macron’s team are hoping to trick people. In particular they promise a minimum pension of 1000 euros, presenting it as the pinnacle of progress for women and the under-privileged. How dare they! 1000 euros, after a lifetime of work? Which minister or MP would live on this?

As for lies, the list is so long it’s hard to know where to start. Some parrots in the majority claim that it would be more advantageous to calculate your pension on the basis of your entire working life rather than over the best 25 years or over the last six months! Others explain to teachers that the salary increases that they have been denied for 20 years are finally coming… Luckily for these professional liars, ridicule doesn’t kill!

And we’re supposed to trust them? What a joke! What we want is the 100% withdrawal of the government’s project, and those fighting for this are 100% right!

The present fight over pensions is more than just that: it’s a class struggle, a fierce struggle in which the bourgeoisie is proving its voracity and pitilessness. It is for the bourgeoisie, and for the bourgeoisie only, that Macron is pushing for the reform to be adopted.

The state provides money every year to ensure the balance of the pension system – for example in 2018, it spent three billion euros to do that, out of a budget worth 350 billion. But for big business that’s already too much! The bourgeoisie insists on cuts being made in health, education and pensions, precisely because it wants the state’s money all for itself.

In 2019, the 40 biggest French companies – known as the “CAC 40” – distributed 60 billion euros to their shareholders, an all-time record. Just 10% of these 60 billion would be enough to finance the pension system. But that’s unthinkable for the government. Make the workers pay, take away their rights, force them to live on less: those are the only options the government can imagine.

The fact that the CFDT and UNSA leaders are now hand in hand with the Medef in the government’s masquerade changes nothing at all. These very confederations have for years accompanied every single step backwards, claiming they were “avoiding the worst”. Already in 1995, the CFDT led by Nicole Notat championed Prime Minister Juppé’s plan (a double attack on social security and pensions), a plan which Juppé had to abandon under pressure from the strikers.

The lesson remains true: what is decisive is the forces that workers will be able to put into the fight or not. All those involved in the strike understand that there is no other choice. It’s the capitalists’ profits or our pensions, their dividends or our jobs, their sinecures or our working conditions. The only thing that matters is the balance of power.

By going on strike and remaining on strike, tens of thousands of SNCF and RATP workers have shown that they are fully aware of this. Their fight is a victory over the acceptance that Macron would like to force on us even if it means using batons and grenades.

Thanks to the ongoing mobilization, the working class is now stronger than it was yesterday. Each day of strike and mobilization is a small victory for the workers, and a defeat for Macron. So everything must be done for the next initiatives to be successful, starting with the strikes and demonstrations on Thursday, January 16.

As the strikers have been saying for more than five weeks now, this is a strike “for the honor of the workers and for a better world”. Yes, only the workers’ struggles can open up positive perspectives for society.