France: lessons of 28 March

Another day of action was held on Tuesday (28 March) to oppose the rotten Macron regime, which last week forced through an increase of the French retirement age. The struggle remains strong, evidenced by the millions of people who took to the streets. But in order for the workers and youth to emerge victorious in their battles with Macron, the old bankrupt methods of the union leaders will not suffice. Our French comrades of Révolution draw a balance sheet (published 29 March) of the last mobilisation and point the way forward.

Read the original in French |

The day of action against the pension reform, yesterday, was rich in lessons. Here are a few:

1) With more than 2 million people in the streets nationwide, the mobilisation is still very strong, especially given that it was the 10th day of action organized since 19 January. By way of comparison, the CGT claimed the same number of demonstrators during the 10th day of action of the very powerful social movement in the fall of 2010.

28 March demo Image La CGT TwitterWith more than 2 million people in the streets nationwide, the mobilisation is still very strong / Image: La CGT, Twitter

These enormous reserves of anger and combativeness terrify the ruling class. On the basis of a much more militant strategy and slogans, the leaders of the trade union movement could fully mobilise these reserves and inflict a major defeat on the government, if not overthrow it. Instead, the ‘intersyndicale’ coalition of unions merely calls for an 11th day of action on 6 April, nine days after the 10th.

This strategy is obviously counterproductive. What message is sent to workers who are currently engaged in renewable strikes? Are they supposed to stay out until 6 April? The press release from the intersyndicale does not say a word about the renewable strikes. It simply supports “the strikes that have been going on since January.” However, only the deepening and broadening of renewable strikes can force the government to back down.

The fact is that the leaders of the intersyndicale are at least as terrified as the ruling class. Their press release last night deplored “a situation of tension in the country which greatly worries us”, as if the intensification of the class struggle could do anything other than “raise tensions.” The same press release expresses alarm at the “risk of social explosion”. And while the government is engaged in brutal police repression of demonstrations and strike pickets, the intersyndicale politely asks it to "guarantee security and respect for the right to strike and to demonstrate". This would be funny if it weren't so serious.

Big banner Image La CGT TwitterIf the trade union leaderships widened the objective of the struggle, if they called on the people to mobilise against the government at large, they would encourage new layers of young people and workers to enter the fray / Image: La CGT, Twitter

2) Youth, yesterday, were very present in the demonstrations. The use of article 49.3 [forcing through the pension reform without a vote in the National Assembly] clearly stimulated the mobilisation of university and high school students, who until then had been relatively passive. This is logical: the youth rightly see 49.3 as an insult to the most elementary democratic principles. It is not only mobilising against the pension reform, but against a brutal, authoritarian and reactionary regime. It fights for a radical transformation of society.

This mobilisation of youth confirms what we have been explaining since the beginning of the movement: if the trade union leaderships widened the objective of the struggle, if they called on the people to mobilise against the government at large – and for a program of breaking with all austerity policies – they would encourage new layers of young people and workers to enter the fray.

This point of view is shared by broad layers of the movement. For example, at the Inter-faculty General Assembly in Toulouse yesterday, Révolution activists defended the following motion, which was adopted by a vote of the 800 students and workers present:

“The Inter-facs general assembly of Toulouse joins the workers in the current fight against the pension reform. The use of 49.3 marked a turning point in the course of this struggle. Now, in the minds of a growing number of young people and workers, the fight against the reform is coupled with a fight against the Macron government and all of its policies. To contribute to the success of the movement, the leaders of the intersyndicale must no longer be content to demand only the withdrawal of the reform. It must equip itself with an offensive program defending the interests of workers and youth. This will contribute to the development of the movement of renewable strikes, which alone can guarantee our victory.”

3) We have said it many times: the bourgeoisie is terrified by the power of this movement. But it remains no less determined to impose this counter-reform (and many others), because the competitiveness of French capitalism is at stake, that is to say what the big bourgeoisie holds more dear than anything in the world: its profits.

In recent days, manoeuvres have therefore multiplied – on the side of the government as well as on the side of the leaders of the inter-union – to try to plug the social volcano. It takes the form of very bad vaudeville. Macron has proposed to the leaders of the intersyndicale to meet and talk about anything they want – except pension reform. For their part, the leaders of the intersyndicale have proposed to appoint a “mediator” – between them and the government – ​​to talk about the pension reform. To which the government replied that they did not need "mediation" to talk to each other about anything, (except the pension reform). At the same time, the intersyndicale announced that it was going to "write" to Macron again. And for her part, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote to the leaders of the intersyndicale to offer them an “interview”. Laurent Berger (head of the more-conservative CFDT union confederation) said he was going to go there to talk to the Prime Minister – about what she does not want to hear about.

Fist Image Unité CGT TwitterThe bourgeoisie is terrified by the power of this movement / Image: Unité CGT, Twitter

All of this is aimed at demobilising the workers and renewing the so-called “social dialogue” – that is, the “negotiation” of counter-reforms by the trade union leaderships. The youth and the workers can expect nothing good from these discussions between the government and the trade union leaders, who will do nothing but seek to compromise. They must rely only on their own forces and the grassroots democratic organisation of the struggle.

4) The impasse of the strategy of the national leaderships of the unions, over many years, has begun to find a spectacular and extremely significant expression on the opening day of the National Congress of the CGT union confederation. The "Activity Report" [a balance sheet of the union’s activities] of the outgoing leadership was rejected by 50.3 percent of the delegates. This is a huge, unprecedented setback for General Secretary Philippe Martinez and the outgoing leadership in general. The internal polarisation at the CGT has officially crossed a new threshold.

The CGT Congress will continue until Friday. There will most certainly be strong aftershocks to this earthquake. Révolution reiterates its support for the left-wing fraction of the CGT (Unité CGT) and its candidate for General Secretary, Olivier Mateu.

We will return at greater length to this CGT Congress, which marks a breaking point in the evolution of this confederation. To conclude, let us quote an extract from the declaration of 19 March by Unité CGT, which contrasts with the extreme moderation of the leaders of the inter-union:

“We are at a tipping point. By pulling the rope too much, they [Macron and his government] broke it. So let's say things openly: now, what’s at stake is not only the rejection of the new retirement age of 64 years. This is about the return to 60 years of retirement. About a SMIC [interprofessional minimum wage] at 2,000 euros. The renationalisation/expropriation of highways, industries, and the property of the people, which have been looted. It's about the repeal of unemployment decrees, it's about the end of subsidies for businesses, it's the answer to all our social needs. It's about a change of regime. This social order has lasted too long.”

We absolutely agree!

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