DAYS OF STRUGGLE AGAINST PENSIONS’ COUNTER-REFORM IN FRANCE

5

15/12/2019 by socialistfight

 

By Viriato Lusitania

https://www.dw.com/en/france-unveils-controversial-pension-reforms/a-51617322

The political attack prepared by the government to transfer the bulk of capital from pension funds to banks and financial institutions has met with active opposition from many sectors of workers, retirees and future workers such as students.

This project, which nothing justifies, the pension funds are in financial equilibrium, was worked out by a defector of the Socialist Party, Delevoye, an employee of the same financial institutions that salivate in front of this “gold mine” that represents the savings of the pension funds, on orders of Macron, president of France and also an ex-employee of the Rothschild’s bank.

The retreat by points, in fact capitalist funds of pensions are massively rejected by a large part of the French worker’s and society. This system, of sad memory for the Chileans who first knew the “virtues” of the AFPs (pension funds) which do not allow more than 66% of retirees to survive and the others to barely eat, is an unprecedented attack against the French workers.

The result of this project, which has already been modified to make it maliciously pass during the summer holidays in 2020, has triggered three major workers’ demonstrations in one week.

These demonstrations convened by the unions, themselves pushed by the grassroots.  The rank and file workers had already given proof of initiative with the RATP strikes (carried out over the union organizations and followed by 90% of the whole staff) or in the SNCF where railway workers decided to take charge their strike themselves to avoid the “days of action” that have always resulted in defeats because pearled strikes, one a month, do not impress the authorities.

Thus, these demonstrations were prepared, in the most mobilized bastions of the workers by the workers themselves, as was the case among teachers in democratic general assemblies that themselves decide the organization of strikes, propaganda and agitation and demonstrations.

This social movement, which closely follows the Yellow Vests demonstrations, is part of a new mindset among a sector of French workers that should be welcomed. There is more combativeness, the need for democracy to organize the struggle is major.

We can see everywhere the influence of the struggle of the Yellow Vests, still present in demonstrations and general assemblies and always very well received by the mass of demonstrators. Their fighting spirit, their perseverance, their obstinacy even to “never give up” won them the sympathy of the masses and spread as a power kedge on fire as an example of struggle and fighting spirit.

The uprising of the Yellow Vest in France over a year ago sparked a global response. And now it returns to France at a higher lever, forcing in the organised working class and promising a renewal of the conservative bureaucrsatic leadewrshipof the French unions.

Here are some extracts from the press that show the spirit that is developing in this new prolonged strike and where union leaders are following the movement a little less than they are leading it. These press clippings illustrate the atmosphere in which this strike is developing in the most advanced sectors of the workers.

“Organizing from “below” to designate strike committees”; “General assemblies are the key point of what will happen”; “There are obstacles, we will solve them ourselves”; “I am the referent of the discussions of our committee in which a Yellow Vest also participates” (incredible statement based on the prestige that gives… a yellow vest!); high school students write “They want to ban the A.G. (General Assemblies) because they are afraid of the youth who are entering the struggle.

This influence seems to be better understood by prefects and other repressive leaders, who have become the only response of the government (their “arguments” have been so demolished that they have had to withdraw and say that counter-reforms would be for future generations… they may think, perhaps that we will let our children and grandchildren be starved instead of us?)

Thus, in the street demonstrations, ‘authorities’ invented the tactic of trying to separate the Yellow Vests from the rest of the demonstrators who, although few in number, still march at the head with a few black blocks with hoods that we do not know if they are “black blocks” or idiots or provocateurs or both.

They gas the head of the procession profusely with powerful gases, not hesitating to throw them in the middle of a compact mass where there are also other demonstrators, since the remaining GJs are not numerous, a few dozen, but clearly identifiable. These gases are so strong that they put someone knock out for a few minutes and can cause mass movements that can leave people injured or worse because they are unbearable and unbreathable.

The mass moves back and waits for the wind to carry the gases away, then continues without abandoning the Yellow Vests. The prefecture is trying to terrify the masses who are not used to this kind of repression.

 This government tactic may work for some time, but in the long term it will generate self-defence groups among demonstrators where anger against the police has already increased to such an extent that this need to defend oneself becomes clear. One of the “most followed screams is “Everyone hates the police” or “Justice nowhere, the police everywhere!

This last strike movement of the last few days as before the Yellow Vests struggle is part of an international movement of workers from all over the world, especially in France and Latin America but also in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere (not to be confused with the reactionary bands in Hong Kong pushed by US imperialism in its dispute with China).

Indeed, the economic crisis of capitalism, which is already going on for a decade, has finally awakened large sectors that are opposed to capitalism.

First, there were sectors that believed they could change capitalism back to the growth situation of the 1960s. These were movements composed rather by the middle classes such as Tsiriza, Podemos, Occupy Wall Street or Nuits Débout.

The very practice of these movements showed people, very attentive trying to finding a way out of the ravages of current capitalism, their inanity. Capitalism today is irreformable and we must find a way to get rid of it.

Thus, the second wave of anti-capitalism (a slogan that is often heard during demonstrations “anti-anti-anti-anti-capitalism”) took on a completely different character. It is the spontaneous revolts that appear against capitalism but also as anti-trade-unionists and against parties. In fact, practice has shown that it was only against the bad unions that had swapped the class struggle for “dialogue”, “consultation” and other betrayals and corruptions that put them in the service of the bourgeoisie. 

Likewise, against the abandonment by workers’ parties of all their ideas, principles, only concentrated in the maintenance of eligible positions, with no prospects or desire at heart to fight capitalism. Adapting to its functioning and even by participating in the government’s “best” management.

These salutary GJs revolts, although ideologically misguided and poorly organized, have nevertheless brought a fresh air of struggle, combativeness and perseverance and have given an example of internal democracy and rebellion that has, as we see today, deeply inspired the most combative sectors of workers and trade unionists.

The authorities, seeing the danger, fought them by all means, essentially by merciless repression, both police and judicial, using all the media and “communication” means (we saw every possible kind of lies and deception) to liquidate them.

Chile, very important part of the international upris9ing of the working class and oppressed

This form of struggle has internationalized quite rapidly and the new movements, especially the one taking place in Chile right now, have taken on many of the characteristics of the Yellow Vests with the notable exception of the institutionalized political opposition.

If here in France, Macron remained relatively isolated and no one gave him the slightest political support, in Chile, those parties and figures who governed with the Concertation have rushed to support Pinera’s crude plan of deception of his so-called “Constitution” and recently even the entire left and political center have just approved a liberticidal law against the right to demonstrate in Chile even with “abstention”, or disguised support, from seven of nine Communist Party MPs, completely disgracing themselves before the masses in revolt. Afterwards, some people wonder why the masses are suspicious of parties…

So, it can be said that these demonstrations constitute a second step in the global struggle of workers against the consequences of the capitalist crisis. And as they say in Chile, “There is no second (stage), without a third (stage)”.

This third stage, which the social movement must build, is the massive participation of workers in their workplaces, with their weapons of struggle, the strike, the occupation of workplaces and to agitate and drag the rest of the population, which alone can put an end to the capitalist system.

The experience gained from two previous stages shows us that within the system any reform to end with today’s capitalism, the predominance of finance and the permanent increase of exploitation accompanied by the reduction of social achievements, is impossible. The capitalist system is to be abolished, not reformed because its reform is impossible.

It also shows us that the greatest courage and determination do not replace a well-considered plan and a solid and disciplined organization to put it into practice by workers. A democratic but also centralized party which must prepare the stopping of the production and all necessary means to counter capitalist’s reaction.

The need to rebuild both party and mass organizations (unions, associations, etc.) of workers on democratic bases and to take into account the already long experience of the workers’ movement is the necessary and inevitable condition to give the final blow to the worm-eaten edifice of capitalism that is still holding, through the crisis of the revolutionary leadership of the workers.

Thus, the demonstrations that have followed one another over the past week are in a way another step forward because they combine the democratic and combative forms of the Yellow Vests with the massive demonstrations of the workers.

This is one of the constants of recent struggles, whether spontaneous or otherwise. They learn from each other, but all understand and call on workers to join them.

This happens sometimes, but never completely. There are still large sectors of workers who do not mobilize mainly because working conditions and the lack of democratic rights in the private sector, following legislative work that the bourgeoisie has undertaken for decades, prevent them from doing so. Within private factories and workplaces it is the realm of complete lack of rights, tyranny of bosses, abuse and permanent coercion.

Any attempt to enforce rights enshrined in bourgeois legislation is threatened with dismissal or bullying (no promotion, no wage increases, transfer to positions unrelated to the worker’s skills) to the point that there is, in practice, no defense for employees in small and medium-sized enterprises and even large ones.

Breaking this false belief, (when all workers mobilize they constitute such an important force that the bourgeoisie gives in on everything) is the necessary work, absolutely essential to put an end to the programmed decline of a capitalism that runs towards a new economic crisis and points towards military spending that threatens world peace.

Nevertheless, the three days of demonstrations and strikes not only mark an awakening of the conscience and struggle of important sectors of workers and youth, but also point the way forward.

It is not over and General Assemblies are being prepared everywhere for the continuation of the strike. Paris is at a standstill because not a single Metro line is fully operating and rail traffic is very disrupted, strikes remain, although for some people the loss of wages due to the rapid succession of strikes is a problem.

Tuesday the 18th will be another day of demonstrations and everywhere, in the spirit of the Yellow Vests strikers and demonstrators of “No one gives up! ” (On ne lâche rien!) declare their willingness not to return to work before winning this fight.

5 thoughts on “DAYS OF STRUGGLE AGAINST PENSIONS’ COUNTER-REFORM IN FRANCE

  1. Viriato says:

    In fact, it is Tuesday the 17th…

    Every one is doing the most they can to make a new 5th December demo at least…

    Will see, because there are sign in both ways, some workers joining others talking that it is to close, that it is a big burden on Décember pay (month of Christmas and extra expenses).

    Some are arguing that it is necesary to make some sacrifices that are worthwhile, others calculating how to achieve the month or telling they have yet strike three days and one more is too much.

    Of course these arguments goes in the rank and file, even if every one is concious of what is at stake.

    The more militants layers, which are the unionized ones and the few political party’s militants who always demonstrate but are far fewer than the masses, are still staunch strikers and demonstrators.

    If the 17th is a succes as every one is expecting (I think it will be greater than the last one thee 12th December which was lesser than the 5th) there are two possibilities: If it is much bigger than the firts one, the 5th December, the governement will perhaps abandone the 64 age to retirement and with this move, at least take out of the “Union’s unitiy” the CFDT.

    It is not that the CFDT brigt to many militants to the demos but, this can easily be taken as a pretext for other Unions to abandon the movment. But if it is big enough the other Unions could continue the fight or, here I am not sure, the new spirit of the masses which has appeared in them ost advanced layers could in some places and worker’s importants bastions (RATP, SNCF, some teachers and Public Services workers) take the strike in their hands which could be the best result of this strike and movement.

    But this is more my hope than an assured fact, because I do not think that yet this new spirit (much renowed, directly or indirectly, by the Yellow Vest movement) could have the strentgh to suplant the Unions (and the State which will stick fest to the Unions). But who knows? A constant accumulation of forces could induces the leap to a new situation.

    Will see.

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  2. Viriato says:

    Monday 22 hours in Lyon.Back from an intergroup general assembly to prepare tomorrow.
    Few people and mainly Gilet Jaunes, In fact it was a low attended Gilet Jaunes Assembly as every monday with almost no participation of other union’s representatives albeit one who talked about the poor state of unionism in France.

    Two floors down there was a SUD Union assembly with some 40 teachers. Also a low attendance and worst, a boring speach of the Union’s representative.

    One comrade in one of those “general” assemblies told that there was a trend in the fighting layers or sectors of workers, to make general assemblies by neighborhood or district. She speaks of at least three differents teachers’ assemblies in differents neighborhoods of the town.

    Some other speaks on the tiredness of some important Unions that culd become not willing to take all the burden of the strike on their shoulders.

    Not a very enthousiatic atmosphere but every one said they were doing the “max” to bring up their comrades to the demo and some ones told that there should be more people that last Thursday.

    I insisted on the need to try the most to make this demo a succes. If it fails, everyone gives for granteds that the CFDT will abandone the strikeat the slightest pretext where she ist only because the rank and file are pushing the direction and there is still so many people in the streets.
    As they say here, Tuesday’s demo could be a switchover point. In one way or the other.

    Will see.

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  3. Viriato says:

    Back from the demo, here some information.

    It was the biggest demo of the four that the Unions and the Gilets Jaunes have made.
    As always the GJs were at the head of the demo, defying the police that aim particularly the Gilets Jaunes and try to cut them from the main stream of the demonstration. But the demo stops, wait, and then when every one is well in the cortege, it continious its march.

    In Paris it was huge, in Marseille “as never seen before” as a friend told me and in Lyon there were between 35 to 40 thousand workers and students demostrating.

    This is slightly bigger than the 5th December one.

    I have made a 15 minutes video but beginning of the hzalf of the demo and when I stop because of lack of batterie, there were still thousands coming far away.

    The government downsized outrageously the numbers to a 615 000. The Unions say 1 800 000 workers on the street all over France.

    In Lyon there were no ‘ incidents’. The cops were not in the immediate sides of the demo and the Black Blocs, marching by some hundreds did not through stones to the boutiques. That shows that when the Prefecture wants ” violents incidents” they know how to fabricate them. Not every BB is a provocateur, but there are surely some ones doing the dirty work when it is needed.

    Every one in Lyon said that the demo was bigger than the 5th December.

    Afterwards, there were some meetings or assemblies of railroad workers which voted a resolution to conitue the strike till the end of the year if necessary and professors which resolve the same thing (perhaps more but I can only reprort the ones I know for sure).

    In fact, even before knowing what the Unions directions would decide, there are beeing organized general assemblies (the teachers have many sectorial meetings and “Comités de Grève” Strike committies) where they decide alone, railroad workers do the same and RATP workers and Health Service workers the same, wht to do next, and this “next” is the continuatiuon of the strike.

    In some place these assemblies are maked together, railroad workers, teachers, Gilet Jaunes and others strikers.

    Thursday we shall demonstrate again…but there is another “discussion” between the Union’s bosses and the government that wants “to end the strike before Christmas”.

    There were interventions in today’s assemblies to developpe the “strike committies” to counter the manouevers of the government and of the Union’s bosses, but these ones will have some difficulties because this big demo is not what they need to sell-out the movement as always.

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  4. Viriato says:

    Some Unions communiqués:
    Dear comrades,
    The media can say what they want, there was no holiday’s truce for the strike.
    We strike at the SNCF, the RATP, the Opera, the refineries in Lavera, Grandpuits, in many other places,…

    This situation marks a turning point and indicates a number of things. The turning point is that those who are on strike really want to control their strike to the end. It is not a formula of style, it is a reality. This is totally new. (My underlines)

    As a consequence, the government must at the same time weave, by seeking to divide (the false guarantees that it says it has given to some and others, in this respect we will read the magnificent response of our colleagues at the Paris Opera), threaten and bulge the torso, “I will not withdraw the reform”, Macron for his vows, and lie by claiming that he wants to “negotiate”!

    But why bother to lie like that, to go to so much trouble if there is no strike?
    Quite simply because there was a strike for the Christmas truce which today leads to :
    – The call to strike by the 70,000 lawyers in France as of 06/01 by the national conference of the Bars and Law Societies and the conference of the bâtonniers
    – Call for 4 consecutive days of strike on 7/8/9/10 January in the oil industry
    – Our teacher’s colleagues in the Rhône region tell us the dozens of General Assemblies that are planned over the 2 days of the new school year on Monday and Tuesday to renew the strike.
    – Even the confederations CGT, FO, SUD should announce tomorrow that the “strike” of the 9th becomes the “strike” of the 9th and 10th! It’s not the renewal, but it’s starting to look like it.
    Therefore, my dearest comrades, I ask you to read this letter, to have it read to your colleagues at work so that, by convincing them, by giving them the information red here and which only you can give them, you and your colleagues can go on strike. What use would we be as a union if at a time like today we didn’t do that?
    We have no other choice, the stakes are very high. Behind the destruction of pension systems of course there are pension funds, speculation (pensions is a market of 270 billion euros). But for the liquidation of the civil service to be possible, the statutes must be liquidated. As we have explained many times, the pension schemes for civil servants are part of their statutes.
    My dear comrades, neither for us nor for our children we do not want a UBER “hospital”, a UBER “statute”, UBER “pensions”, an UBER company.
    So let’s go on strike.
    Meeting more than ever, whether you are resting or at work, ALL PRESENT at the AGM to renew the strike.
    TUESDAY, JANUARY 7 AT 2:30 PM

    Dear all,

    If we are part of the age-old institution that is the Paris Opera, it is because we love to give shows. For many of us, for many years now, our energies have been converging every day towards a common goal: to give the best possible show every evening.
    So believe that in order to achieve all these cancellations, we really have to be pushed to the limit.
    The elimination of our Pension Fund, which embodies the union between all generations of our more than 70 professions, in order to force us into a plan that does not correspond to us at all, would complete the destruction of the fragile balance of our collective work.
    Our representatives went to all the meetings, studied all the ideas, put forward many different proposals.
    Unfortunately, what is being proposed to us today would not allow us to preserve the excellence and professionalism that are at the heart of our House’s identity.
    As far as ballet is concerned, it is a difficult profession, which requires that one dedicates oneself body and soul to it from a very young age. The pension we receive after the age of 42, added to the often modests salaries of our second careers, allows us – if we are lucky – to maintain a more or less stable standard of living when we can no longer dance.
    The upheavals we are contemplating today would destroy our Ballet and our School of Dance.
    It is proposed that we personally escape the measures, only to see them applied to future generations. But we are only a small link in a chain that is 350 years old. This chain must extend far into the future: we cannot be the generation that has sacrificed the next. Even with the best will in the world, we cannot acquiesce to what is being asked of us.
    Neither can we do it for the next generations, nor for our colleagues in other departments, each of which has its own specific characteristics that must be taken into account if we are to maintain the high standards that characterize their work. Opera is a Theatre: our shows are the fruit of the joint efforts of all our corporations.
    Because we are deeply saddened by this situation, because we are sincerely sorry to have had to disappoint so many spectators who were delighted to see us during the festivities, because we wish to bear witness to the ties that unite the professions and generations within our beautiful House, we offer a very short show, a symbol, a message, a call to defend our Ballet, our Institution, and thus the cultural heritage of all French people.

    UNSA- RATP press release, traction division, of December 29, 2019 (excerpts)
    “The mobilization of the metro and RER is not weakening.”
    n The point of view of Daniel Kuzniewicz, railway worker, driving agent, FO trade unionist
    “On Creil we have, as is the case in the company, a very large majority of striking drivers. The general meetings are inter-service, sometimes with the support of yellow jackets, teachers, pensioners, politicians and representatives of departmental unions (…). The union front is very united. It goes very well at the general meetings. We read joint actions and we are on the same demand: withdrawal from the project Macron/Delevoye.

    Having said that, the railway workers are now waiting for real support from the other cor- porations because they have understood that the government wants to pass its project in force and let it rot. To block the country’s economy and make the government back down, the strike by railway workers and RATP colleagues will not be enough. The week of 6 to 10 January will therefore be decisive for the continuation of the movement and for the hope of winning. The general strike will not be enough.

    “The announcements of government on pension reform, including the introduction of a universal point system, the end of special schemes and the extension of working hours to 64 years, have strengthened the determination of employees. Mobilization in the metro and RER is not weakening. In defiance of rail safety, passenger safety and staff safety, RATP’s management has communicated its transport plan for December 30, 2019. It has decided to
    to open certain portions of the metro lines with a very small number of drivers in order to fool users once again (…).
    With this press release, we would like to react to the exuberant comments of certain BFM analysts or other media who could announce that the conflict is running out of steam, and to shed light on the issues involved in this type of experiment. Management currently has 240 available drivers out of 2,700 metro drivers (including the general reserve) and about a hundred RER drivers available out of 870 (…). »

    Communiqué of the CGT national federation of chemical industries (extracts)
    n” From January 7 to 10, 2019, not a drop.
    of oil to enrich those who want
    stealing our pensions! »
    The oil workers, who are always present in the big mobilizations, have decided on a coordinated action on all sites so that, from 7 to 10 January, not a drop will leave the oil sites,” he said raffineries, depots, pipelines, port facilites, etc., in France. (…)
    Winning the withdrawal is the business of all workers, private and public! »
    Air France flight crews called on strike from 6 January
    Spaf, the pilots’ union, and SNGAF, the flight attendants’ union, are calling on Air France flight crews to go on strike from Monday 6 January against pension reform.
    On the pilots’ side, “Spaf is calling for a strike on Monday and Tuesday”, said the president of this organization. Last week, Spaf described the government’s announcements on the future of the CRPN, the autonomous supplementary pension fund for aircrew, as “imprecise and insufficient”.
    Second representative union
    for Air France flight attendants, the SNGAF is calling on flight attendants to go on strike from Monday to Thursday. The SNGAF considers that “the government’s positions only lead to the outright disappearance of the CRPN”.
    “Our role as trade unionists is not to negotiate social regression, but rather to fight it”, adds the SNGAF, which expresses its “categorical refusal” to “see the CRPN die, to see the privatisation of (the) old age” of seagoing personnel and to “sacrifice the generations”.
    (Source: AFP, 2 January).

    Communiqué of the CGT and FO confederations with the FSU, Solidaires, Unef and UNL (excerpts)
    In the face of such contempt for the President and the government, the trade union organisations CGT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, Unef and UNL call for the construction of the “new” trade unions.
    conditions for a major inter-professional strike, starting on 9 January, with demonstrations all over the territory. They are calling for a debate, starting Monday, in all companies, services and places of study by organizing general assemblies of employees, students and high school students, on the conditions for the success of January 9 and its aftermath the next day. They call for Saturday, January 11, to be made a day of mani- festation throughout the country.
    In order to win, the movement must be broadened and amplified in all professional sectors from 9 January onwards. The organizations have already decided to meet again on the evening of 9 January 2020. “Montreuil on January 3, 2020

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  5. Viriato says:

    Today in Lyon a good (Lyon’s standards) demo with some more people than recents ones.

    Of course, this are the so called “days of action” called by the Union’s dirigents that has been for so much time the grave of every worker’s fight. Gilts Jaunes after a year of fight, have not the force to change this even if it’s spirit has permeated the whole fighting working class. This is a sort of “crossing to the good side but still in the middle of the river” situation”. The lack of a serious, responsible political organization is a crying necessity.

    I have not, in this hour, good information for other cities but when in Lyon is good, elswhere is good also.

    Here a video of Lyon’s demo: https://www.facebook.com/100008286050487/videos/2670495683236607/UzpfSTEwMDAwODI4NjA1MDQ4Nzo1MDM5MDg2OTAzMjI3OTI/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

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