Millions of Strikers and Protesters Across France on Dec. 5 Demand the Withdrawal of the Macron-Philippe Retirement Pension “Reform” Plan

The General Strike Is on the Order of the Day!

“Throughout France, decisions to continue the strike — or to hold general assemblies to decide to extend the strike — have been announced publicly.”

TT Quotidien

Presentation

Please find below a series of editorials published in the Daily Supplement to Tribune des Travailleurs [Workers Tribune], the weekly publication of the Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID) of France.

This dossier deals with the December 5 nationwide strike in France to demand that the Macron-Philippe government withdraw the “reform” of the retirement pensions — a counter-reform that would dismantle the pension system for millions of French workers.

The editors of Tribune des Travailleurs published numerous Daily Supplements leading up to the strike not only to build the strike but to pose the urgent need to continue the strike beyond December 5 — in an extended nationwide general strike that would last till the government withdraws its devastating “pension reform” law.

The first daily editorial is dated December 5. The international mainstream media have sought to downplay the huge mobilizations on this day, or the fact that production came to a standstill. That is their job: protecting corporate interests. For its part, Tribune des Travailleurs, a publication at the service of workers’ struggles, reports that, “No mobilization of this size and scope has been seen in this country for over half a century.”

Also below is an article on “The Dec. 5 Strike and the Role of the POID,” with its explanation of the important decision by the POID to publish a Daily Supplement to its newspaper before and during the strike.

We will keep reporting on the developments with this strike, especially if the strike movement extends beyond December 5.

The Editorial Board of The Organizer Newspaper

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TT FRANCE FEMMES

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune)

Thursday, December 5, 2019 @ 2 pm

Special Daily Supplement to Issue No. 217

Editorial 

Millions of people on strike and on demonstrations. Thousands of private-sector enterprises affected by the strike action. And decisions already taken all over the country to continue the strike or to convene mass meetings to decide whether to continue the strike. All our correspondents are using the same phrase: unprecedented, including in 1995! [1]

At the time of this writing, the demonstration in the Paris region has only just started. One thing has already been established: rallying its forces together with its organisations, the working class has foiled the attempt to divide it between workers covered by the general pension system and workers covered by the special public pension schemes. In addition, the working class has clearly expressed its rejection of “leap-frogging days of action”, such as the ones that allowed the El Khomri [labour] reform to get passed.

Public radio channel] France Inter is talking of “an almost general strike”. It is indeed a general strike that is on the agenda, raising the full power of the working class as it defends itself as a class against the attacks of the capitalists’ government.

To this, Macron has responded by announcing this morning that the government will “submit for a vote a draft law before the end of next week”. [Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe clarified that this would cover “the general architecture”.

Because, you see, “today’s demonstration is an important element, but completing the cycle of consultation with the trade union organisations is the most important element”, one government adviser dared to declare, quoted in the [daily newspaper] Le Monde.

In the demonstrations, the workers’ responses are clear-cut: “The government is taking us for a ride.” Indeed, the government would have us believe that the draft law is not a done deal; or even, as [Education Minister] Blanquer said this morning on [public TV channel] France 2, that the reform is so complicated that is it normal for wage-earners, especially teachers, not to understand everything!

These people think the workers are idiots. On 5 December, millions of workers and youth have shown that they have understood perfectly. The general strike that is maturing is not only aimed at the withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye Plan.

It can aim for more. If the government delays getting rid of its plan, the general strike will put getting rid of the government on the agenda. By playing with fire, Macron and his friends could end up having their fingers burnt.

Endnote

[1] Translator’s note: In May 1995, Alain Juppé, the Prime Minister of newly-elected President Jacques Chirac, put forward an extensive programme of cuts and changes to the Social Security and healthcare system, as well as a restructuring of the rail system, known as the Juppé Plan. This plan, which was intended to reduce the budget deficit from 5 per cent to 3 per cent as required by the 1993 Maastricht Treaty, included job-cuts, a pay freeze for civil servants and changes to the pension eligibility age for public sector workers. During November and December of 1995, France was gripped by the largest strike movement the country had seen since 1968. After three weeks of strikes by millions of people – including civil servants, transport workers, energy workers, healthcare workers, postal workers, teachers and students – which enjoyed widespread public support, the workers forced the government to withdraw elements of the Juppé Plan, including the pensions reform plan.

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TT France Retrait par Points

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019 @ 2.00 p.m.

Special Daily Supplement to Issue no. 217

Editorial

A few hours away from 5 December, our correspondents are telling us about increasingly large mass meetings, marked by growing determination.

On the government side, nerves are jangling. [Interior Minister] Castaner is stirring up the threat of incidents hat will supposedly be provoked tomorrow by “Black Bloc” protestors and other rioters in order to discourage the strikers from demonstrating. As for Macron, he used a maritime metaphor on 3 December: “Sailors aren’t always in agreement within a crew”, but “when they have to take to sea, disagreements are left behind”. On the eve of a day of action when millions of workers, united with their trade unions are getting ready to stand up to the capitalist class and the government, it takes a certain degree of unawareness to call for national unity … behind a captain named Macron!

Nevertheless, worry is showing through the veneer of firmness: “There is one crew. And one alone. And it is that crew which will reach port, or not.” Or not … Indeed: sometimes the ship is shipwrecked.

Let us imagine for a moment that the wave of millions of strikers, provoked by the government’s fierce determination to destroy labour rights, precipitates its downfall. For our part, as militant activists of the Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID),we would see this as a victory for democracy over an illegitimate President and anti-democratic institutions (those of the Fifth Republic and the European Union). It would also be a path opened up to the election of a Constituent Assembly with responsibility to decide on the forms and social content of a genuine democracy. Within this framework, the POID will advocate the need for a workers’ government.

Other political forces are also posing this question of a governmental perspective, but from another angle. On the day before all-out strike action, [France Unbowed leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon has just declared himself in favour of “a joint government of an economic and social state of emergency”, together with Jadot, European Member of Parliament and leader of Europe Ecology-The Greens.

But what kind of social emergency are we talking about when Melenchon says he is in favour of the withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye Plan, while Jadot (like Macron) supports the introduction of a points-based system [which is what Macron is proposing]?

One thing is certain: tomorrow, 5 December will see a clash between the contending social classes. For a victory of the interests of our class, workers, activists of all political tendencies of thelabour movement, let us close our ranks!

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TT France Cheminots

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune)

December 3, 2019

Special Daily Supplement to Issue No.216

Editorial

Less than 48 hours away from strike action on 5 December, the government’s communications are showing signs of panic. To the point of sending out contradictory messages. Thus, “a senior majority leader” confided to [daily newspaper] Le Monde: “Is society focused on 5 December? I’m not so sure, there is something ‘old world’ about this mobilisation.” So, nothing to worry about?

But in the same newspaper, another “majority heavyweight” said: “It’s like the United States when there is a cyclone. The event is announced 10 days in advance and everybody gets ready for it by boarding up windows and doors.”

A few days earlier,[Sunday newspaper] Le Journal du Dimanche had quoted “a political friend of the Prime Minister” who used the following terms: “We are waiting for the tsunami. Like in the United States, before a typhoon, we are boarding up”.

Tsunami, cyclone, typhoon: the government’s wording is couched firmly in the language of weather forecasts. And not forecasts of good weather, obviously.

The problem with boarding up windows and doors is that very often, they are ripped off and carried away by the typhoons, cyclones and other tsunamis against which they are supposed to provide protection. Concern is indeed hanging over the leading circles of the State. Because everybody knows that the predicted levels of strikers are higher than anything the country has seen for half a century, in the private sector as well as the public sector. And that, as a result, the attempt to divide the workers according to their special pension schemes, between “special schemes” and the general pension scheme, is in the process of failing.

Everybody knows, including the highest levels of the State, that the demand to withdraw the Macron-Delevoye reform is a focus for all of the rejection of Macron and his policy – which only serve the interests of the capitalists and bankers – that has accumulated in every layer of the population on every issue.

In the late afternoon of 2 December, a lady got on a bus and asked the driver: “Is there going to be a strike on Thursday?” The driver replied: “Yes, and there’s bound to be more, so you’d better be ready for it.” One passenger chimed in: “Yes, enough is enough, he [Macron] should step down!” Another passenger: “Yes, I support it [the strike]!” And the whole bus joined in on the same line, without exception.

Clearly, the boards on the windows may not hold. …

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TT one year is enough

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune)

November 20, 2019

Issue no.215

Editorial

We Will Only Win If We Are Clear

By Daniel Gluckstein

The closer we get to 5 December, the more worried the leading political circles get. On 12 November, the Prime Minister called out the leaders of his parliamentary majority as follows: “I’m prepared to stand firm, but how long will the parliamentary majority stand firm?”

The reply by Patriat, leader of the La République En Marche [1] senators: “The majority will stand firm, my dear Edouard, for as long as public opinion stands firm.” The leader of the Democratic Movement (MoDem) members of parliament was more precise: “The majority will obviously not stand firm against a two-week strike.”

The alarm was also raised by a “very influential” adviser to Macron: “The social crisis poses a significant threat. We don’t know where lightning will strike, and it is difficult to defuse a lightning-bolt when it has already been launched; it has to be defused beforehand”. [2]

One thing is certain: if 5 December results in a genuine general strike, the social crisis and current policy will become the regime’s crisis. Every general strike basically poses the following question: which social class holds the power, and which class should hold it? The POID’s activists are not daunted by such a perspective, since they have been campaigning against the pensions reform bill since the call launched on the national demonstration that was organised in Paris on 13 May 2018 on the slogan: “One year is enough! Macron and his government, out!”

Obviously, that is still the perspective. But is it on the immediate agenda today, 20 November?

Strike action – and especially a general strike – is still a work in progress. It still needs to be built. It is true that the government is going to great lengths to “defuse” the situation through a combination of repression of protests, misleading propaganda on the content and consequences of its counter-reform bill, and an attempt to associate the trade unions with it through “consultation”.

To which can be added the confusion that is being orchestrated by certain media channels that would like to turn 5 December into a “day of anger” or a day of “convergence of struggles”, and even for some a demonstration by “yellow vests” around which the workers’ trade unions would supposedly rally.

A little clarity is necessary here. The fact that other sectors of the population are joining the strike action by the workers and their trade union organisations “starting on 5 December”; the fact that they are doing so guided by the wish to put an end to the government’s policy on pensions and other questions: this is something which the workers engaged in preparing their strike action can only welcome.

But only if the framework is respected. Winning in a strike against the government is no easy thing. It requires unity around the objective (withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye reform), and it requires the means of taking action (strike action from 5 December onwards) and organisation: it is up to the workers united with their organisations to decide.

Truly bringing the economy and the country to a halt will force the government to retreat. This is the pressing issue from which everything else flows.

Endnotes

[1] Macron’s party, founded in April 2016.

[2] All of the preceding statements were published in the daily newspaper Le Parisien (14 November).

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TT Retrait

The December 5 Nationwide Strike and the Role of the POID

(adapted and abridged from Issue No. 3 of the OCRFI Newsletter)

In the days leading up to the 5th of December, when the workers are called to strike against the government’s counter-reform of the retirement pension system, the considerable strength of the movement is ripening in all the sectors of the working class. In France, in the weeks leading up to such a strike, which has been announced nationally as an inter-professional strike,  we have never seen such a multiplication of branch meetings and decisions to start organising the  strike.

A letter addressed to its members by the national leadership of the TCI (International Communist Tendency, French section of the 4th International, and one of the political currents in the POID), reads as follows:

“It is a movement that comes from below, from the RATP (Parisian Public Transport Company) strike of 13 September and then, after its massive success, from the decision of the RATP workers and some of the railway workers to join forces and call for the December 5th strike on that ground. We, as Trotskyists, fighting for a revolutionary party, are taking part in the organisation of the strike and therefore in helping to clarify the stakes.

“Of course, we are not naïve. The obstacles are many, and they are growing. There are the obstacles created by the division among the trade unions that call to strike and those that don’t. There are obstacles of division between the aspiration to a strike from the 5th and beyond, on the one hand, and the attempts to turn it into a day of action with no future, or even to drown it in a movement with no distinct class character, to subordinate and blend it into movements of the ‘yellow vest’ type, or to change its nature and make it into a ‘national day of demonstration’, or a ‘day of revolt’.

“And then there are all the attempts by the government to prepare itself against the labour mobilisation, unleashing the terror of repression and media manipulation. (…) Armed with the programme, we know that, of all these factors, the deciding element is the movement of the working class.

“What are we, as activists of the 4th International, accountable for ? We are neither the leadership of the working class, nor a major current in the working class. It is not our responsibility that this powerful movement, which is ripening, leads to, or does not lead to — at this stage, due to the obstacles — a general strike that will sweep away the government’s policies, even the government itself, and the hated  regime of the 5th Republic.

“We know that the movement that is maturing has the capacity to do so and that everything is concentrated in its capacity to overcome the obstacles set up by the apparatuses. What we consequently are accountable for is our ability, wherever activists of the 4th International are present, to take the initiatives that are needed to help the workers and the youth engage on the path to united action, united around the demand “Withdrawal of the Pension Counter-reform Plan” and nothing else, united in the forms of action committees for the “December 5th Strike and Beyond,” united in promoting the means of organisation enabling the workers to keep the control of the organisation and decision-making in the strike itself. That is what we are accountable for.

“These are the stakes today of the “committees of organisation and preparation of the strike,” and, tomorrow, of the strike committees with elected, mandated and revocable delegates, achieving and forging unity among the workers and the unions in the fight to make the government step back .  “(…)

“The proposal that has been made to publish a Daily Supplement to Tribune des Travailleurs starting December 2nd may seem modest. It is undoubtedly very insufficient in relation to the situation. But it is our contribution, in accordance with our means and what we are able to do. It is the contribution of a minority current in the working class, but which is determined to act in a useful way towards the maturing of the class movement.

“What is useful is the centralisation of the information – in particular  the information we receive and will circulate and which is oriented towards the creation of strike committees. It is this information that will enable each worker, linked to other workers through this newspaper’s daily supplement, to better understand the whole situation and to find the leaning points that can help their own action. This information will encourage those who receive it to help the organisation of the strike by the workers themselves.

“The objective is to win. To win on retirement pensions, to win against Macron’s government. The party whose activists are dedicated to this task plays its role as an independent workers’ party. The newspaper that is dedicated to this task plays its role as an independent workers’ newspaper.

 

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