The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

French Workers Are Angry, and Showing It

Mar 20, 2023

Since January 19, French workers have been protesting the so-called “reform” of their pensions, meant to take money out of their pockets. Thousands have gone out to protest in more than 200 locations, including railroad workers, nurses, teachers’ aides, angry people young and old.

Trash workers have not been collecting the bags in many Paris locations, leaving about 10,000 tons in the streets. The government has threatened to lay off the trash collectors. One oil refinery was completely shut by a week-long strike. Another refinery is now proposing a strike. Last weekend a few hundred protesters were tear-gassed and arrested after trash was lit on fire. The police said no one could protest directly in front of Parliament.

The majority rely on a government pension like Social Security. Now the French government, like the U.S. government, pretends the Social Security system will soon go broke. In France, where all working people pay much higher payroll taxes than in the U.S., everyone must work more than 40 years to get a government pension. There are few private pensions in France.

The French president just pushed through a political maneuver, without a vote in Parliament, to push up the age of retirement from 62 to 64. French workers and retirees, like those in every country, have faced higher prices on everything. Many European countries were getting heating oil from Russia before the Ukraine war.

Like in the U.S., the biggest corporations are making record profits. Total Energy had 20 billion euros in profit last year, Stellantis, an auto conglomerate of 16 brands, including Chrysler, Fiat and Peugeot, had 17 billion euros in profit, etc. As these companies lay off workers and pretend they cannot afford to pay into Social Security, they rack up more and more profits.

It doesn’t matter what maneuvers the French politicians get up to. What matters is whether the protests spread into a strike movement that makes the bosses re-think their attacks.