A strike has begun this 5th of December in France for the withdrawal of the Macron government’s draft bill against the retirement pension system. No mobilisation of this size and scope has been seen in this country for over half a century.
In the editorial of La Tribune des Travailleurs, the working class newspaper published by the Independent and Democratic Workers Party (POID) , Daniel Gluckstein explains what is at stake.
What is at stake in the strike that will begin on 5 December?
First of all, there is a class issue, a long-established one, the issue of working time. From the very beginning, the capitalist system has been marked by confrontation over this issue: on one side, the bosses who imposed working days of 16 hours or more for poverty wages, and then cried certain bankruptcy if the working day was limited; on the other side, the nascent labour movement which called for an eight-hour day with the famous slogan “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”.
In the 21st century, what is the aim of the “pension reforms” which the capitalists and the governments serving their interests want to impose around the world? Nothing other than an extension of working life and impoverishment, simply a variant of their ancestors’ demands in the 19th century. To which the workers are counterposing their basic needs: no extension, keeping the existing pension systems, and withdrawal of Macron-Delevoye-style counter-reforms.
Pension funds are in deficit? A bogus argument to force increasingly impoverished wage- earners work themselves into the grave, as the Swedish example shows.
The pension schemes, already weakened by the previous counter-reforms, could be improved? That is true. But winning improvements requires a balance of forces in the workers’ favour. Imposing the withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye Plan through strike action will create that balance of forces. On the other hand, at this stage of the battle that is commencing, wanting to open “a debate on a progressive pensions reform”, as proposed by Fabien Roussel on behalf of the French Communist Party, amounts to giving credence to the idea of a necessary reform and, in practice, providing grist to the government’s mill. This contributes towards diluting attention and energy, and introducing confusion where the workers need clarity and concentration of their forces on the common objective: the success of the strike to impose withdrawal.
The class issue of withdrawing the Macron-Delevoye Plan is also a civilisation issue. The pensions counter-reform is indeed justified by longer life expectancy, it would appear. But why should the progress in medicine and scientific research, which have enabled that extension of life expectancy, be made to serve to fatten up the bankers, the capitalists and the speculators? Why could they not serve to…improve the lives of the greatest number of people?
Here is where the class issue and the civilisation issue come together. Only a system based on satisfying human needs rather than the quest for profit will allow such a choice. A system in which ownership of the means of production seized from the capitalists’ hands will be placed at the service of everybody’s interests by the working class. This socialisation of the means of production will be carried out by a government of the workers for the workers. This is the objective towards which the militant activists who are building the workers’ party are working.