December 5 Pension Strikes in Lyon1
15/12/2019 by socialistfight
On December 5, one of the largest workers’ demonstrations took place in Lyon. As usual, estimates of the number of demonstrators varied from 21,000 to 35,000, which is more than five times the number of demonstrators against the laws that, in practice, liquidated the Labor Code and which, at the time, had brought more demonstrators, without being sufficient, than other “traditional” union demonstrations.
When we talk about workers’ unions, we must talk almost exclusively about the CGT because there are far fewer worker’s coming from other unions. Force Ouvrière, closely linked in Lyon to the POI (Independent Worker’s Party), only brings a few hundred militants.
There is of course the presence of other unions such as SUD and others and even could see some individuals bearing the CFDT logo but the bulk of the troops either are from the CGT or are without a label. About half CGT and half by their own.
This time, there were many demonstrators who were not unionized, or who did not display their union membership, students and some 200 Yellow Vests whose last troops were there with their vests and their slogans and songs that have already become part of the slogans of the workers’ demonstrations. “We are here for the honor of workers and for a better world” and “We don’t give up anything” were agreed everywhere.
A few Black Blocs who “succeeded” in making that the cops gazed the very much compact crowd. This could have turned into a tragedy because the cops threw very powerful gauze among the crowd that was having trouble getting away from it without risking a rush.
The local press, as is always the case, has highlighted this “violence” according to the formula it used during the first demonstrations of the Yellow Vests. It seemed like it was waiting for this. The two or three masked individuals who gave them the desired pretext and disappeared through the side streets also seemed to have only the task of provoking the police’s rather brutal reaction and then run away leaving the mass to fend for itself as it could with the gassing. Or unconscious, or the manifestation of real anger or the activity of provocateurs under orders.
Both the diversity of the demonstrators and the decision of the Prefecture to prevent demonstrators from entering the city center, as they did with the Yellow Vests, gave the demo the chopped and discontinuous form, although to a lesser extent as the demonstrations of the Yellow Vests, which were interrupted by police, stopped by long periods, gassed and charged or because the yellow vests changed course or because the police wanted to conduct the demo in places that allowed its safest repression and dissolution.
Similarly, the slogans of the CGT sound system, probably because of the will of the militants who implemented it (many of the grassroots militants are influenced by the combativity of the Yellow Vests) and override the procrastinations of the Local Unions that in before demos only broadcast music without content, full volume which brought nothing but the stop of discussions and conversations between demonstrators.
So, the slogans were political and with demands against Macron that were taken up by the demonstrators, as well as slogans and songs, as already mentioned, that came from the “Yellow Vest tradition”.
We also saw some rare eco-friendly demands and a banner to denounce the repression in Chile. Chilean workers still in the breach.
All this gave the demonstration a different look than the “union sweet-walk” to which the militants has been accustomed. Leaving at 10.30, it ended around 15 hours after a journey pointed out by gassings and stops, almost a demonstration of the Yellow Vests by the form or if you look at it differently, a CGT demonstration with other unions but with a certain air of Gilets Jaunes demonstration.
In the other cities, we must have had a lot more people. Lyon, a conservative city, is not characterized, has never been, by the number of demonstrators, so if in Lyon had, say, 5 times more people than during an average demonstration we can think that in Marseille, Toulouse and Paris and other large cities there was a crowd.
The press, clever, gives the figures at the beginning of the journey, (450,000 throughout France) always less than half of the participants when it is only a third because many of the workers join after the hour or during the parade.
Even so, the press gives demonstrations of more than 5,000 workers in third category cities (there were more than 450 cities demonstrating) which is the figure of a “good” “traditional” demonstration in Lyon.
Everyone thought about the continuation of the strike at least until Monday 9 and all criticized the “one-day union sweet-walks” while not knowing how to prevent the leaders from putting us in front of the fait accompli.
The government reacted with “calm and determination” to the challenge to the pension reform. He said he was attentive to the respect of public order (!!!) . The Prime Minister also stressed the “peaceful” nature of the protest.
This shows better than any explanation or speech what they really fear, the workers’ open, boundless anger.
Railway workers, Air France agents and Metro de Paris agents have already decided to continue the strike. (I write at 6pm).
This is a first report in the heat of my impressions on the demonstrations against the capitalists’ willingness to liquidate the pension by distribution and transform it into a funded pension that everyone rejects (66% of the population is against according to the latest surveys which, naturally, do not say a word about the brainwashing practiced by the capitalists to make people accept this historical decline in workers’ rights in France).
Back from the demo, more or less the same number of demonstrators then Thursday two days before, I receuived a flyer coming from the COREP comrades wich sumarizes the situation.
Of course, it is a flyer adressed to the more militants in the demo, but in these general lines, descrive well what is happening. I give no opinion of their conclusions. Why? Because the situation is on the rope and can fall one side or the other.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister talk after a meeting with the unions, about the government’s confidence that an agreement (a sell-out) can be reached “making some adjustments in the law”.
First, the demonstrators do not believe a word and are former the retreat of the law project and they know clearly that the CFDT Union and perhaps others will treasoned them. They are for the pure et simple rekect of the law but they know that the worker’s private sector is not yet in the fight.
Second: this more subjective, the police was quite calm today as if they have orders not to provoke an incident that could jeopardize the “agreement” of this evening. There was only a one gazage but provoqued by the Blac Blocs. They are very young student (Gilets Jaunes march en head of the Demo and they second and lines mixed. Just kids making there first arms but totally to their whims and fighting spirit that is not at all organized nor taking in account the rest of the demo. More in the mood “let us make the buzz and the press talk about us” than other. They need a party, that they reject, but there is no party that oriented them.
When I talk to one of them, he understood immediately what I have to say. Blacs Blocks could easely be infiltrated by the police but are principally, the punishment of the oportunistic sins of the working class othar partys.
Here is the Revolution Communiste, Groupe Marxiste Internationaliste’s flyer of the french section of the Collectif Revolution Permanente
“On December 31, Macron announced: “With the labour organizations that want it, I expect Édouard Philippe’s government to find a way to reach a quick compromise. What compromise? On the same day, he specified: “The pension reform will be completed”. He maintains against the working class his project of a point-based retirement that will lead to a general decline in pensions and longer working hours. Naturally exempt from the bill are the repressive bodies, military and police, who have dented the “yellow jackets” en masse and have just killed Cédric Chouviat.
On 19 December, the government launched sector-based negotiations in an attempt to divide the workers and break the strike. Like the CFDT and the UNSA, the heads of FO, CGT, SUD and FSU, who say they want him out, are negotiating the application of the Macron project to the RATP, the SNCF, the National Education, where the statutes would be broken!
Since 7 January, the government has been receiving the CGT, CFDT, FO and UNSA trade union leaders, together with the employers, to use the rattle of new discussions on “financial balance” or “hardship”. The FTUU and Solidaires were not invited, but demanded to participate. At the end of the first meeting, the Prime Minister explained before the cameras, twice, that it was a question of finalising the “universal points-based pension system”. He welcomed the atmosphere of the first meeting, before reaffirming the government’s timetable: the discussions between “social partners” should lead to the draft law of the Council of Ministers of 24 January.
At RATP and SNCF, workers continued the strike alone. But who is responsible for the isolation of RATP and SNCF workers and their separation from those in public health, public education and other sectors? Still no call for a general strike, but the continuation of symbolic actions or “punches” and “days of action”! Without any junction with the other workers, the breathlessness is being felt and the police take advantage of this to harass the picket lines. This is where union leadership policy is leading.
Macron and Philippe know that an isolated strike at the SNCF and RATP cannot win the day. They know that the succession of days of action decreed by the “intersyndicale”, not to mention the demonstrations on Saturdays (28 December, 4 January, 11 January…) has never allowed the working class to win anything, neither yesterday nor today. Each time, this serves as a cover for the acceptance by all the union leaders of the negotiation of the attacks.
Union bureaucracies are supported by the “left” parties. First, a meeting on December 11, ranging from LO to the Radical Party, for “another reform is possible”. Then, on 5 January, a petition to be signed by “the citizens” launched by personalities from the labor movement (CGT, LFI, PS, PCF, NPA, etc.), with representatives of bourgeois parties (PRG, EELV, Place Publique, Union of Democrats and Ecologists, etc.) to beg Macron “to open without delay real negotiations with the trade unions. Which he has been doing for more than a year and a half!
The strikers, for their part, have no illusions about a “good reform” that could come… from Macron. What the workers want is the pure and simple withdrawal of the project, not its development. What the hundreds of thousands of protesters want is a clear prospect of fighting to defeat Macron.
Union leaders, break with the government, stop negotiating his project! General strike until the Macron-Philippe-Buzyn-Delevoye plan is withdrawn!
Increase in employer contributions! Removal of employee contributions! Repeal of all previous anti-pension measures!
Time is running out. Only the call for a general strike until the withdrawal, can gather in one block all the working class against the government, convince the hesitant, organize self-defense strikes and demonstrations, block the whole country, rally the youth in training, make Macron swallow his whole morgue. The victorious general strike can pave the way for a workers’ government and the socialist United States of Europe.
This is what must be imposed in the unions, in the democratic and sovereign general assemblies, this is the mandate of the strike committees that must be elected, this is the mandate of the delegates that must be appointed to organize, coordinate and centralize the general strike.”
I would apreciate comments on the flyer and on this group.