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 Pensions:
War Is Declared

Jan 23, 2023

What follows is a translation of the editorial that appeared on the front of all Lutte Ouvrière’s workplace newsletters, during the week of January 9, 2023.

The latest pension demolition plan will be official on Tuesday. But we already know that Macron and Borne have chosen to push the retirement age up to 64 and to increase the minimum contribution period very soon after that.

In 2019, Macron wrapped his attack in proposals from the CFDT to rally them to his cause. This time, he has made a deal with the right to ensure a majority in the Assembly.

So, it’s no frills. No more points-system! No more babble about a ‘pivotal age’ or supposedly ‘choosing’ your retirement age! All workers will have to work at least two years longer, period. Those who are not forced to do so by the extension of the contribution period will be forced to do so by the new official age.

All the trade union confederations are forced to recognize that this reform is brutal. It will hit the working class hard, the very people who started to work early, who do the most difficult, hardest and poorly paid jobs. And it will be carried out in a hurry because Macron wants it to be applied by the end of the summer. The 1961 generation will be the first one impacted.

The government claims to be saving the retirement system but it is lying through its teeth. The board in charge of anticipating the future of the pension system has written quite clearly that there is no long-term threat to the system. Much of the dirty work was done by the socialists, under the Hollande government. It was the Touraine reform that imposed 43 years of contribution on the generations born after 1973.

In that case, why be so relentless? Because 10 billion euros are and will be missing in the pension funds for a number of years. But when it comes to finding 10 billion to subsidize big business, there’s no problem. There’s plenty of money for that.

This year, the shareholders of the CAC 40—the index indicating the value of the forty biggest French corporations—will pocket 80 billion. This 80 billion is the fruit of our work, but it will go to those who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, born pensioners and who live off unearned income!

If we don’t force them to respect us, as long as our fate is in the hands of big business and its puppets like Macron, we shouldn’t expect to be treated differently.

They really don’t care whether manual workers, cashiers, nurses, home helpers and technicians can hold on that long or not.

More and more workers will end their careers jobless, disabled, or surviving on minimal benefits. The government knows this. But from their point of view, it’s cheaper than paying out full pensions. And the money saved in that way will help line the pockets of the bourgeoisie.

Again, it’s not surprising! Macron isn’t governing to prevent crises or wars. In a system as crazy as capitalism, that would be impossible. He’s governing to enforce one of capitalism’s fundamental laws: everything that goes into the exploiters’ coffers—profits, capital gains, dividends—must grow and grow. To achieve that, the workers must be made to suffer more and more, their wages must be kept down, their rights must be taken away.

With this reform, Macron claims—seriously!—that he is preparing for the future, for a safer 2040! But the future he has in store for us is not only a future without retirement. It is a world where speculators can take society by the throat by making prices soar. It’s a world where the drive for profit destroys everything, from health care and electricity supply to transportation and education.

And who knows if, in a few months, war and bombs will not be part of our everyday lives? If so, it will not only be a question of our right to retire, but also of our right to live.

No, the future cannot be left in the hands of the irresponsible people who are sacrificing everything on the altar of their capital. The future belongs to the workers and their struggles. Today it depends on our ability to defend our wages and our pensions. And the future is not written yet!

The confederations say they want to lead the struggle. But the simple fact that they are waiting until Tuesday evening to announce what they intend to do shows that their leaders are very poor generals. [At that time, they called for demonstrations and strikes on January 19.]

What matters most is the reaction of the workers themselves. We have to find the energy and determination within ourselves to push Macron back.

For the moment, the massive opposition to this attack is measured only by the polls. Well, we will have to express it in the workplaces through our strikes and in the streets with mass demonstrations!