The industrial action paralysing transport in France and involving ever-wider circles of workers, including doctors, nurses, prison guards, teachers, sewer workers, musicians, dancers, and even judges and lawyers, has now chalked up over two weeks of strikes and rallies.
The nationwide revolt, bringing together trade unionists, yellow vest militants and the youth, shows no sign of abating, and heavy police repression has failed to cow the workers into submission.
The spark which ignited this wave of popular anger is the attempt by President Emmanuel Macron to tear up French workers’ existing pension and retirement packages, won and maintained through years of struggle.
President Macron has tried to dress up his ‘reforms’ as a ‘just’ attempt to give everybody the same pension rights, seeking to play one section of workers off against another by arousing envy over the relatively more generous retirement rights enjoyed by some transport workers.
Workers in their millions are clearly not being hoodwinked by this, knowing damn well that, for the capitalist, ‘justice’ always means levelling down, not levelling up!
By fighting back against these and other welfare ‘reforms’, French workers are refusing to carry the can for the capitalist crisis. At present, France has one of the lowest old-age poverty rates among countries tracked by the OECD, and workers are fighting to keep it that way. (Amid chaos of daily commutes, strikers and Macron compete for the commuters by Adam Nossiter and Mélissa Godin, New York Times, 1 December 2019)
The last time the French ruling class launched such a root-and-branch attack on workers’ welfare rights was in 1995, when the then-president Jacques Chirac found himself on the front line in a class war. Stretched on the rack of a three-week strike, a shamefaced Chirac was ignominiously forced to withdraw his proposed reforms.
Workers everywhere can take note: the working class acting collectively is an unstoppable force.