France

The battle in France over Macron’s reactionary pension reform passed its 40th day on 13 January. A fourth interprofessional strike last Thursday and follow-up protests on the weekend brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets yet again, and further days of action have been declared up until 16 January.

At the time of writing these lines, the outcome of the struggle that began on 5 December is still uncertain. The government has made clear that it will not back down on the key elements of its “reform” (a counter-reform, in reality). Faced with this, the striking workers have demonstrated exemplary courage and militancy.

For the third consecutive week, French workers from dozens of professions (train drivers, teachers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, factory workers – even opera singers!) downed tools and hit the streets, alongside hundreds of thousands of supporters, to oppose the reactionary Macron regime. While the government has been downplaying the turnout, claiming only 600,000 took part, the protests were at least as big as on 5 December. The CGT union federation claims they were even bigger, citing a figure of 1,800,000 demonstrators, which would be hands down the biggest mobilisation since 1995.

The speech delivered by Edouard Philippe (the Prime Minister) yesterday concluded over 18 months of “talks” and “consultations” with the leaders of the trade unions. Hundreds of hours of negotiation meetings culminated in this enlightening result: the government presented exactly the same reform that they would have put forward if none of the “talks” and “consultations” had taken place.

Yesterday’s interprofessional strike against Macron’s pension reform brought between 800,000 and 1,000,000 workers and youth onto the streets of France, according to the CGT. While this is a drop from the mobilisation last Thursday (which was possibly the biggest since 1995), the turnout was still high, with strong participation by transport workers, teachers, health workers and students.

The 5 December strike mobilised a number of demonstrators not seen in France since the struggles of autumn 2010 (against the Sarkozy government’s pension reform). While we do not know the exact number of striking workers, it is likely that no interprofessional strike has had such a big impact on France’s economy since December 1995.

Yesterday’s general strike against Macron’s pension reform saw a “convergence of struggles” from across French society. According to the CGT (the trade union federation at the head of the strike), 1.5 million people took part in the demonstrations, which would make this the biggest movement since the battle against Alain Juppé’s package of attacks in 1995. The spirit of the gilets jaunes can be felt on the streets, where (despite the limitations of their leadership) the workers are directing their fury, not just against the pension reform, but the government as a whole.

The latest editorial from Révolution (the French publication of the IMT) argues that Macron’s attempt to introduce a ‘universal pension scheme’ (in reality, a massive attack on pensions) must be resisted by organising a general strike. An upcoming, indefinite transport workers’ strike on 5 December presents a point of convergence for all the forces of the working class, which must be mobilised over the next two months to fight, not only to defeat this pension counter-reform, but for the end of Macron’s reactionary

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