Dossier: French Strike Wave Keeps Going, Government Is Wavering …

Banner reads: "The Youth Are on Protracted (Limitless) Strike; Strike, Blockade, Macron Clear Out!"


(1) Editorial, Daily Supplement, Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) — Dec. 12, 2019

(2) Editorial, Weekly Issue, Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) — Dec. 11, 2019

(3) Editorial, Daily Supplement, Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) — Dec. 11, 2019

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La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue no.218

Special Daily Supplement

2.00 p.m., Thursday, 12 December 2019 


In the hours following the Prime Minister’s presentation of the “final version” of his counter-reform, the workers’ reaction has been unanimous: complete rejection! Nobody is being fooled by the attempts to create division between the generations, between public sector and private sector, between the “general scheme” and “special schemes”. Nobody is being fooled by the so-called concessions either. “Points-based pensions, we don’t want them! Public sector, private sector, on strike, united for withdrawal” – this was shouted by thousands of protestors demonstrating in Lyon this morning, 12 December.

In the camp of supporters of the counter-reform – government, parliamentary majority, capitalist press – doubts and questions are being expressed publicly following the introduction of the “selected age” clause, which has provoked the anger of the CFDT trade union confederation, regarded as an ally of the government up to now.

Among workers and activists, the call by the CFDT (and the UNSA) (1) for mobilisation has provoked contradictory reactions. On the one hand, people are welcoming the fact that all the trade unions are calling for strike action and demonstrations on 17 December, reinforcing the unity that is often being achieved at the grassroots with members and local branches of the CFTC (2), CFDT and UNSA. On the other hand, this morning people were worried to hear [Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe and [CFDT leader] Laurent Berger repeat in unison that negotiations remain open between them on this topic…

Should we prevent the introduction of a system that will always push the age of retirement further and further back in order to comply with the requirement for a balanced budget imposed by the European Union? Of course!

But let’s be careful: not everything is limited to the selected age. In itself, a universal points-based pension system would result in increasingly delayed retirement: under the new system – selected age or not – the retirement age would be set at 64 initially, but then pushed back to 67 or even 70.

Therefore, it is the very principle of the points-based reform which must be withdrawn, and it is the existing pensions system (the general scheme and the special schemes) which must be maintained.

More than ever, making this wavering government in crisis concede is a realistic objective. Provided everybody takes on their responsibilities.

At the grassroots, in the mass meetings and delegate meetings and in the decisions to extend the strike action, the workers are reaffirming their cohesion and their willingness to see things through to the end.

Cohesion and determination at every level, from the bottom to the top and from top to bottom, are the precondition for winning. Nothing must be allowed to detract from the demand that is creating unity: Withdrawal!


(1) National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions.

(2) French Confederation of Christian Workers.

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Firefighters’ sign reads: “We Do Not Retreat When There Are Fires; We Will Not Retreat in the Face of These Policies!”

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue no. 218

11 December 2019


The Regime Is Wavering …

By Daniel Gluckstein

On 10 December, for the second time in five days, workers and youth are demonstrating in their hundreds of thousands for the withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye Plan. The regime is wavering. The situation is on the verge of shifting. Several lessons can be drawn from this first phase.

One: This is a fight of class against class. From the smallest of localities to the big urban districts, urban and rural workers are rising up, united with their organisations. The workers’ response to the government’s attempts at diversion and division – after the “grandfather clause” and the “welcoming gift” (1) – is: Withdrawal! As one RATP (2) trade union delegate put it: “Edouard Philippe can announce whatever he wants, we aren’t even listening to him; what we want is withdrawal.

Two: For the capitalists also, this is class against class. Have you heard of BlackRock? This US investment and pension fund management corporation – the most powerful in the world – met with Macron a few weeks after his election as President and dictated the terms of a pensions counter-reform that would make the French pensions market available to them for speculation. That counter-reform is the Macron-Delevoye Plan, which is being clung to by a government that is a zealous servant of the pension funds.

Three: The political crisis has opened. The government is no longer able to mask the divisions between advocates of firmness and those who want to believe in a possible compromise at the cost of a partial retreat. Without any guarantee whatsoever: defeat of the pensions reform “would mean the end of Macronism without, however, guaranteeing an end to the dispute”, writes [daily newspaper] Le Figaro, which in fact is in favour of the pensions reform. The New York Times is also worried: “Could the latest round of strikes spell the beginning of the end for Emmanuel Macron?

Four, and the most important: On the move in their millions through strike action and taking to the streets, the workers and youth are increasingly taking control of organising the fight. Sovereign mass meetings and delegate meetings, motions discussed and adopted, appointing delegates and strike committees – these steps are not yet completely widespread, but they are becoming an increasingly frequent reality in the mobilisation that is underway.

We are told that on Wednesday, 11 December, [Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe is due to present the final version of his counter-reform. Today, 10 December, the demonstrators have hammered home the message: “What we want is withdrawal, nothing else.”

What then? If the government does not announce the withdrawal of its document on Wednesday, after the days of action on 5 and 10 December and the next one called for 12 December, should we go back to leapfrog days of action? The workers know from experience that this tactic is a guaranteed dead-end. This is why they reject it.

If the government does not give way tomorrow, one question will come onto the agenda: the question of a general strike, called, organised and built on a united basis, from top to bottom and from the bottom to the top.

At the bottom, for the last five days and every day after that, the workers have shown that they are ready for it.


(1) Grandfather clause: The proposed new points-based system would start operating in 2022 for those entering the labour market from that year, while the generation born in 1975 and before would switch to the new system from 2025. Welcoming gift: Selected categories of workers would benefit from a “bonus” under the new system.

(2) RATP: The Paris region transport network.

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toulouse 2

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue no. 218

Special Daily Supplement

2.00 p.m., Wednesday, 11 December 2019


Initiated on 2 December, the publication of a special daily supplement to La Tribune des Travailleurs was (and still is) motivated by one necessity: to allow the youth, workers and activists who are engaged in the class fight against the Macron-Delevoye Plan to have at their disposal information and news that are useful to the success of this struggle, which we all share.

A few minutes ago, the Prime Minister finished presenting to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council the precise terms of the counter-reform. We are wasting no time in reporting to La Tribune des Travailleurs subscribers the main elements of the draft law, which mostly reiterates what has already been announced by [High Commissioner for pensions reform] Delevoye.

Some may be surprised to hear [PM] Edouard Philippe state both his faithfulness “to the spirit of the National Council of the Resistance” and his intention to “overhaul the rules” of the NCR. But if he salutes “the trade union fight” and what that fight “enabled the workers to gain”, it is only to better be able to reject “power games” and call for “consensus”.

Clearly, this is the old project for a corporatist society. As he explained it, the government will set the framework of the counter-reform and will leave it to the “social partners” (i.e. the trade unions) to implement it in practice.

A concrete example: the “social partners” will define the value of one point [under a new points-based system]…provided that this falls within “a balanced trajectory” set by the government.

Otherwise… a framework law will replace the “social partners”.

Turning the trade unions into cogs in the state machine: this is the logic of the corporatist, Bonapartist anti-democratic Fifth Republic. Just like the “Law for a New Railway Pact”, this law (which has to be passed by Parliament before the end of February 2020) would be a “loophole law”, with a large proportion of its concrete application being devolved to ordinances (1) and presidential decrees, to be finalised…with the social partners!

That is the draft law. Faced with the uprising by millions of workers, the government has speeded up its publication. But all is not said and done!

Workers, activists, youth, take note of its content. Everything we have been saying in these columns for the last two years has now been confirmed. It is an anti-worker, anti-youth, anti-elderly, anti-women, anti-democratic and corporatist draft law. Edouard Philippe can always condemn “warlike semantics”. But it is he and Macron who are unleashing an all-out war on the working class and the youth. The answer is an all-out counter-offensive: a general strike to impose the complete and final withdrawal of the Macron-Philippe-Delevoye Plan.


(1) An ordonnance is a statute passed by the Council of Ministers in an area of law normally reserved for statute law passed by the French Parliament.




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