France Update: Time is pressing, there is no time left for hesitation

La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue no.228 – 26 February 2020 – EDITORIAL

By Daniel Gluckstein

Macron wants to force things through. Perhaps he will find a majority of National Assembly members to approve the use of Article 49.3. (1) But resorting to this crucial weapon in the anti-democratic arsenal of the Fifth Republic will not confer any more legitimacy on his counter-reform for destroying the existing public pension schemes (and more generally the Social Security system).

The fact is that the “majority” in the National Assembly has minority support in the country, just like the pensions reform. Trying to force things through against the majority view, Macron is illegitimate from the point of view of democracy. Attacking the main working-class gain that was won in 1945 through the mobilisation of millions of men and women, he is also illegitimate from the point of view of social progress. (2)

Democracy requires Macron to go, taking his reforms with him. The sooner the better. This is the position of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID). Whether or not one shares this position, one question is posed today for all workers: what is to be done now?

There is no time left for hesitation.

Neither the “parliamentary battle” which some people are promising will be “historic”, nor the request made to Macron that he puts his reform to a referendum have allowed the machine of destruction called the Fifth Republic to be stopped. Any more – on another level – than participation in consultations and conferences on funding the pension schemes.

As for the leapfrogging days of action (even when rechristened “shows of strength”), they have long since proven their limits. As for those who today have taken on the responsibility of sowing division, seeking to set one professional sector against another, they are preparing the conditions for defeat.

There is a solution, which must be clearly formulated: a united front of the workers and labour organisations in a general strike to block the government.

Let the leaders of the labour organisations who called for strike action on 5 December 2019 say with one voice that the government does not leave any choice other than bringing the economy to a halt; and let them set the date from which they call on the workers to organise that standstill in and through a general strike for withdrawal of the reform.

Time is pressing, there is no time left for hesitation. Those at the highest levels of the labour organisations who would shirk this responsibility, which is theirs, would then also be shouldering another responsibility: that of letting Macron and his government plunge the country into chaos by destroying the Social Security system of 1945.

This must not be. Everything is still possible. United front of the workers and labour organisations in a general strike to put a stop to Macron and his policy!


(1) The Macron-Philippe government has repeatedly used Article 49.3 of the Constitution introduced in 1958 under the Bonapartist Fifth Republic to force through legislation which probably would not have been approved by Parliament. Article 49.3 allows the Prime Minister to “commit the government’s responsibility to the National Assembly on the passing of a bill” without a vote. The bill is deemed to be carried, unless a motion of no confidence in the government is tabled within 24 hours by the opposition in the National Assembly and then passed.

(2) It is surprising to hear a France Unbowed member of parliament say that the pensions counter-reform is illegitimate on the grounds that it did not appear in Macron’s electoral programme. No, it is illegitimate because it is set against all the gains of a century of social progress and democracy that were won by the labour movement through struggle. Whether Macron promised it or not!

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