The Spark

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

France:
We’re Winning Respect, We Know How to Back Them Off

Nov 8, 2010

This is an editorial from the November 5th issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

Both houses of Parliament passed the law to raise the retirement age. The government will live to regret that vote.

From the beginning, all workers have known that the law attacking retirees is unjust. Imposing two more years of wear and tear and exploitation on those still working at age 60 is an act of infamy. Workers also know that many among them will have lost their jobs before age 60. So this new law will mean a reduced pension.

The government forced the law through, showing exactly what it thinks about public opinion. This is hardly a surprise. The government always acts on the orders of big business. But it’s careful not to celebrate the passage of the law too loudly. It knows that, if the movement still isn’t strong enough to make it back down, the relationship of forces is changing.

Three million workers participated in the movement in one way or another. They are proud of it. They’re all the more proud since they know they have the sympathy of the great majority of the working class. They are beginning to see the workers’ collective power.

Workers of the private and public sectors, those working for big as well as small companies, demonstrated together. They were not fighting separately, just for their own sector. The railroad and refinery workers, who have been at the vanguard of the strikes, fought for the common goals of everyone. That won them the sympathy of all working people.

The bosses and the government are attacking all workers. Together, workers can defend themselves and they can counter-attack.

The government is not just increasing the age when we can collect retirement benefits. There are all the other attacks: layoffs, growing unemployment and worsening jobs, the squeeze of rising prices. The government has already imposed harsh austerity measures, and there are worse on the way. All these measures reduce workers’ living standards in order to shower money on the bankers and the entire capitalist class. These measures will allow the wealthy to enrich themselves, despite the crisis and growing poverty.

This is why the struggle must be political. The workers must not only oppose their own bosses, but also the government, which represents the bosses’ interests. This is one of the principal lessons of the movement. Even if this time the movement wasn’t strong enough to force the government to retreat, this kind of struggle can succeed in the future. And this is true no matter which party heads the government.

The current movement isn’t over. It’s only beginning. Other struggles are inevitable, because neither the bosses nor the government leave us any other choice. We can use the lessons of September-October to make each future struggle more conscious and bigger. In this jungle of capitalist society, we only get respect by demonstrating our strength.

We’re beginning to win ourselves respect.