Address of the 54th Congress of the French Section of the Fourth International (14 and 15 December 2019)

Workers, young people and activists — in particular all of you who are participants in the powerful working class movement against the Macron-Philippe-Delevoye plan and in defence of our pension systems — the 54th Congress of the French Section of the Fourth International, held in the Paris region on 14 and 15 December 2019, salutes you.

We are the French section of the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938. We are activists of the Internationalist Communist Tendency [TCI in its French acronym], affiliated with the Organising Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI), engaged with activists of all tendencies in the building of an authentic workers party: the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID).

We are meeting at a time when, all over the world, from Algeria to Chile, Lebanon and other countries, workers and peoples are standing up against regimes sold to world imperialism, which is plundering their countries’ wealth and multiplying plans for the over-exploitation of workers. We are meeting at a time when, on all continents, the slogans of “Constituent Assembly” are resonating!”, along with, “Sovereignty, democracy!”, “Corrupt regimes, get out of here!”.

We are meeting as the spectre of a major crisis threatens: financial crisis, crisis of a capitalist economy on the brink of a widespread recession. The artificial and parasitic means deployed since the 2008 crisis (arms economy, speculation, use of the digital/gig economy to destroy jobs en masse) are powerless to solve it. A major crisis in the system threatens both humankind and its environment.

At the root of all evils: capitalist exploitation

The global situation is contradictory. It is marked first and foremost by the uprising of workers and peoples, but also by the threats that the survival of capitalism poses to all humanity, and particularly to the future of the younger generation. It is also marked by wars that are spreading throughout the world. This situation confirms our commitment to fight with our comrades of the Fourth International on all continents to help workers and peoples to tear down the root of all evils, capitalist exploitation, and thus open to humanity a future based on the common appropriation of wealth, goods and means of production and their socialization. Thus, all the wealth produced by workers will be put at the service of the vast majority and will cease to be a source of profit for a handful of exploiters and speculators.

In France, our congress is being held in the midst of the extraordinary class movement that has seen millions of workers, public and private, and from all regions of the country stand up with youth for the withdrawal of the Macron-Philippe-Delevoye pension “reform” plan.

This fight to defend workers’ pensions raises a question as old as the capitalist system itself. Since the dawn of capitalism, there has been a constant conflict between the workers’ movement fighting to limit and reduce the work day, and the capitalists demanding its extension in order to increase exploitation. In all countries, it is the working class that has imposed the limitation of the working day that limits working time, just as it has, on another level, imposed the limitations on the workload over a lifetime with the right to a pension.

The generalised reduction in the amount of pensions programmed by the Macron-Philippe-Delevoye plan aims to impose a longer working life, not only by introducing a pivotal age, but more generally by requiring workers to combine work and retirement to the grave. The capitalist class thus seeks to extend the working life by five, ten or fifteen years in order to have a longer period to exploit the working class and extract more surplus value. At the same time, it would generate new sources of profit through the establishment of pension funds and recover hundreds of billions through exemptions (remember that the Delevoye counter-reform was directly dictated to Macron by BlackRock, the most powerful hedge fund in the United States and the world). This is the challenge, class by class, of the battle being fought.

On 5 December, a new phase of class struggle was opened …

Workers, young people, activists, participants in this formidable class struggle: We know that this movement started from below. We know that it was following the massive strike by RATP workers, later joined by sectors of railway workers, that, gradually, in all sectors of the working class, the date of 5 December first came to the fore, followed by the mass mobilisations that have shaken the country. On 5 December, the working class spoke, achieving the unity of workers and their class organisations. On 5 December, through the mass strike and the demonstrations, millions of workers opened a new phase of class struggle in our country.

Let us be clear: Ten days after 5 December, the Macron-Philippe government is hanging by a thread. Of course, the government is arrogant, it pretends to be sure of itself. Certainly, it is manoeuvring to try to divide the movement. Certainly, it seeks to pit public workers against private workers as it seeks to pit immigrant workers against the entire working class. Certainly, the government is threatening and unleashing repression.

But the more the government talks, the more workers become aware of the brutality of the pension counter-reform plan. It’s a plan that aims to condemn young people to precariousness for life. A plan to remove from working women and mothers the gains that, until now, have partially reduced inequalities between women and men at work and the consequences of maternity and family responsibilities. A plan to force the elders, tomorrow, to work till they drop dead. A plan that impoverishes and extends precariousness for the sole benefit of the capitalists.

The more the government talks, the more workers gather and gather around an uncompromising demand: this plan must be withdrawn!

… marked by the holding of general meetings

In general assemblies, meetings, and picket lines, questions come up: Where are we going, where is the country going? Can workers win? If so, under what conditions? In the movement of millions and millions that has emerged, there is an element that, in our opinion, is of major importance: the holding of sovereign general assemblies in the service sectors, workplaces, companies, schools, colleges, universities, on RATP picket lines, in SNCF [railway] depots. In these sovereign general assemblies, workers discuss among themselves, compare points of view, adopt demands, decide on forms of action. These are sovereign general assemblies where workers come together with trade union organisations, which often lead to the appointment of delegates, delegations or even strike committees. Yes, the workers are demanding to be able to decide for themselves, with their organisations, integrated into the unity of all striking and mobilised workers.

Workers are attentive to what their organisations propose, but they do not accept that “self-proclaimed” groups and assemblies claim to speak on their behalf and deprive them of the means to decide.

For the withdrawal of the plan, and nothing else!

Across the country, workers are showing that they are on the move, with determination. More and more motions are are adopted, stating, “Withdrawal, and nothing else!”, and support the continuation of the strike movement. They are stating, in one way or another: “Strike until withdrawal of the plan”, or even: “Total strike”, sometimes even: “General strike”.

Down below, on the shop floor, in the factories and offices, the same will is affirmed: Withdrawal, and nothing else. And on top? In the summits, the leaders of the CGT, Force Ouvrière, the FSU and Solidaires all state that they want to obtain the plan’s withdrawal. But workers are wondering: 5 December, 10 December, 12 December, 17 December, maybe 19 December, is this succession of days of leapfrog action the best way to impose the withdrawal? The experience is still in our memories, that of the fourteen days of action that finally allowed the El Khomri labour law counter-reform to prevail.

Do not be afraid to break with the capitalist class

At the political level, most of the “left-wing” parties (Communist Party, Socialist Party, La France insoumise, Generation.s, Lutte ouvrière, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste and others) met in meetings on December 11. They have jointly declared that they support the workers’ movement. They voted in favour of withdrawing the Macron-Delevoye-Philippe plan. They made proposals to improve the current pension system.

All the proposals made on this occasion deserve to be discussed and studied by the workers. It is clear that many things are possible following the withdrawal of the Macron-Delevoye plan. For their part, the supporters of the Fourth International, engaged in the building of a workers’ party, are convinced that it is possible for workers not only to preserve threatened rights but also to regain all lost rights: on pensions, which have been weakened by previous counter-reforms, but also in other areas. In particular, it is possible to impose the return to public service, the renationalisation of the railways and EDF-GDF [electricity and gas], and a return to republican [nationwide universal] public school by repealing all previous counter-reforms.

Yes, many conquests and reconquests are necessary and possible. On one condition: do not be afraid to attack capitalist interests and their profits, do not be afraid to challenge the straitjacket of the European Union’s directives and its austerity dictates, in short, do not be afraid to break with the capitalist class and its institutions, namely the European Union, the Fifth Republic, do not be afraid to commit to a sovereign Constituent Assembly.

That is why we, for our part, are in favour of a government of workers and democracy. A government that will not be afraid to embark on the path of breaking with the institutions at the service of the capitalists and thus allowing the socialisation of the major means of production and exchange. Let us repeat, everything can be discussed, but one thing is indisputable: the first step for positive reforms, the first step that conditions all the others, is to preserve what exists and consequently: to impose the withdrawal of the pension counter-reform.

Imposing withdrawal means giving yourself the means to do so. In general assemblies, more and more frequently, workers say: in the face of the government’s intransigence, we have no other means than a total strike, or even a general strike. Leaders who, at the summits of workers’ organisations – trade unions or political organisations – have taken a stance in favour of withdrawal have a duty to say how to impose it. In particular, they have a duty to take a stand on the fact that, faced with the government’s blockade, the only possible way forward is through a general strike. Their duty is to call on workers to prepare for the general strike, and to tell them how to prepare for it so that it can be successful. In the present moment, everyone must assume responsibility for their words and deeds.

Building together an authentic workers’ party

Workers, activists, youth:

The TCI activists invite you to join them in carrying out – together with workers and activists of all political tendencies – this struggle to build a genuine party faithful to workers’ interests. It is to wage this struggle that they contribute to the publication of the weekly newspaper La Tribune des travailleurs and, during this phase of intense mobilisation of the working class, why they contribute to the publication of its daily supplement to which thousands of workers, activists and young people have subscribed, making it their open forum, whether or not they are members of the Democratic Independent Workers Party.

The supporters of the Fourth International, engaged in the building of the workers’ party, have not abandoned any arena of class struggle, any more than the fight for the general strike or the upcoming municipal elections. Wherever and in all forms they are present, they invite workers to take charge, together, of building the workers’ party.

To the workers, to the youth, to the working women, to the activists of all tendencies with whom we are working, shoulder to shoulder, to open a path to the future in accordance with the workers’ interests, we say: Let us continue this discussion together, let us continue together the free debate to help workers and young people to decide their own future, to impose the only way that will make it possible, by sweeping away this government, to open a new perspective for all generations.

Socialism is the future of humanity.

Adopted unanimously by the delegates of the 54th Congress of the French Section of the Fourth International (Tendance communiste internationaliste)

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