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
Apr 3, 2023
French President Emanuel Macron has enacted a “reform” to the French retirement system that would force people to work until they reach the age of 64, instead of the current 62. He pushed this change through using a loophole that allows the French president to pass laws without a vote in parliament, called Article 49.3. What follows is a translation of the editorial in the workplace newsletters distributed by the revolutionary workers group Lutte Ouvrière for the week of March 26, 2023, on the popular mobilization that is unfolding against that change.
By using Article 49.3 and showing his contempt, Macron has given our mobilization a second wind. For the last ten days, there have been more and more spontaneous demonstrations, rallies in support of refinery workers and garbage disposal personnel on strike, leaflet distribution and work stoppages in companies.
Thursday, March 23 confirmed that people are still angry. After two months of protests and nine days of mobilization, marches everywhere were massive and, because youngsters joined in, even reached record numbers. All those who demonstrated were proud to protest against Macron’s decision to force the law through.
The return of the black blocs gave TV channels the sensational images they were hungry for. These channels belong, for the most part, to the big bourgeoisie and serve its interests. It gave them the perfect opportunity to discredit the movement, to compare the demonstrators to thugs and above all to scare people. In other words, furthering Macron’s cause.
But the most important thing to remember from last Thursday is not burning trash cans or clashes with the repressive police forces alongside the trade union marches. The most important thing is that the feelings of injustice and anger in the working class are increasing, that more and more workers are joining the movement and challenging the fiercely anti-worker policies of the government and big business.
The garbage collectors’ strike symbolizes this: low wages, lack of recognition, poor working conditions, little opportunity for advancement. They represent one of the most exploited categories in the working class. And yet they’re showing us how to hold our heads high!
They are a reminder that the workers who make the whole of society function are a force. An extremely rich minority may be on the top of the heap and buy pretty much everything it wants thanks to its billions. But if there’s no one to take out the trash, their world can quickly become a living hell.
Burning trash cans is not a radical thing to do: not emptying them until the workers’ demands have been met is. To gain respect both from Macron and big business, there’s nothing more radical or efficient than going on strike, stopping the capitalists’ profit-making machine and occupying the workplace.
To put a stop to the movement, the authorities are currently relying on repression, batons being wielded, police violence and strikers being detained. It couldn’t do this if a strike spread to all companies. No platoon of CRS [French National Police] could disperse millions of strikers and, even less so, do their jobs.
Going on strike can give us the strength we need to make Macron back down. He’s playing the tough guy for now. He did have to cancel a pompous ceremony in Versailles and a royal dinner with Charles III. But he hasn’t budged an inch on anything else. He’s even taunted the trade union leaders by saying that he’s at their disposal to discuss anything, except retirement at 64!
Macron’s attitude isn’t just acute megalomania. He’s playing his part. He governs on behalf of the bourgeoisie, i.e. against the workers.
Macron explained this in an interview on the one o’clock news: “There aren’t many solutions for balancing the pension system”. That’s perfectly true, there are only two: make big business pay for it out of their overflowing coffers or take the money out of workers’ pensions.
The wrestling match isn’t over and we must see it through. It’s not an easy fight—the bourgeoisie, no matter how rich it already is, is determined not to give way. Despite record profits and dividends, it’s always looking to increase exploitation, pay lower wages and trample on workers’ rights. It has a position to maintain and therefore always needs to accumulate more and faster than its competitors. And it’s doing this in an economic situation that is becoming more tense with the crisis, failing banks and the threat of war.
The bourgeoisie and Macron don’t want to back down? Our determination in this struggle has to be as strong as theirs!
Our refusal to accept the situation has opened up a crack. We can widen it by working together and expressing our demands inside every company. Let’s talk and get organized everywhere. And on Tuesday, let’s be millions to take to the streets.
Whatever the government does can be undone by workers going on strike!