Last Thursday 19 January 2023 a demonstration was organised in many cities of France to oppose the governmental project of destruction of the current pension system. This is the 8th offensive of the bourgeoisie against our pensions since 1995. The CGT counted about 400,000 demonstrators in Paris, more than 100,000 in Marseille, 50,000 in Nantes and Toulouse, but also more than 10,000 in many medium-sized cities of the country as unaccustomed to strong mobilisations as Nice or Perpignan, which both gathered 20,000 demonstrators. That's between one and two million in the whole country. It's been a long time since we've seen such a participation. It's because the attack on the working class by the bourgeoisie is on a massive scale.
However, by calling for a new date on 31 January (in 12 days!) the unions chose a strategy that has already shown its limits many times. A date too far away for such a confrontation. Of course, it will be necessary to put in a massive effort for this date, and to ensure its success. But the choice of this date reveals the hegemony of the class-collaborationist CFDT within the current leadership of the movement. However, the search for a victory against the bourgeoisie requires the imposition of a strategy that is the opposite of that of the leadership of the other unions. For the question is not whether the CFDT will betray but when it will betray (preferably at the most inopportune moment). Knowing that the betrayal will also come from other organisations which for too many years have not stopped implementing a real pedagogy of defeat. As a result of the experience of the last few years, certain important sectors of the working class are already organising themselves to outflank the reformist leaderships, expecting nothing from the deadlines decided from above, and are coordinating themselves to put in place a more combative mechanism better able to win.
For its part, the bourgeoisie has also become more radical. In all the parties of the bourgeoisie (from the Macronist "Centre" to the post-Gaullist right-wing LR), fascistoid or outright fascist fractions have grown and the FN/RN have entered parliament en masse. Moreover, in November, Macron bought 38 million euros worth of equipment for the police forces (tear gas grenades, so-called sting-ball grenades, stun grenades etc.). It is known that after his first election in 2017, he had already bought the same type of equipment in anticipation of the opposition that his policy was bound to cause. This equipment was eventually used against the yellow vests, against railway workers fighting against the destruction of the SNCF, against hospital staff, and finally, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, against those who fought against Macron's first attempt to impose his pension 'reform'. In addition to weapons, the government can impose legal measures (requisitions) against strikes and demonstrations, as it has already done during the strikes in the refineries.
The working class of France must therefore take into account both the process of creeping fascism and the determination of the bourgeoisie, of which Macron is the chief spokesman, and the preparations of the state's forces of repression, both the police and the judiciary. Count also the flood of propaganda poured out by the media in the service of their owners, billionaires, reactionaries or fascists such as Vincent Bolloré.
Basically, this "reform" of the pensions is very simple to understand. In Capital, Marx showed that in order to increase its profits, the bourgeoisie has always tried to increase working time, first of all by lengthening the workday. But today the bourgeoisie does so by extending working time on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, but over the whole life span of the worker. This is basically what Macron is trying to do. In short, it is about increasing the surplus-value of capital. Put like that, this reform is unacceptable for millions of people, while inflation is considerably lowering purchasing power (the price of gas, electricity, fuel, food, and salaries that remain stuck far below inflation). Added to the repeated scandals of tax evasion (even when it is called 'tax optimisation'), state aid to companies, and the super-profits linked to the pandemic and then to the war in Ukraine are in themselves already absolutely scandalous (several hundreds of billions of euros per year), all this arouses great anger.
So, to justify his reform, Macron and the bourgeois media have made a great effort to obscure the terms, to hide the motives and the expected effects. So that this dossier has become complicated and would require many pages to explain adequately.
Macron and the bourgeoisie evoke the most diverse reasons: economic and demographic, (there would be too many pensioners for the number of active people), we live longer, so we have to work longer, and also we have to rebuild schools and hospitals (which Macron himself has destroyed), etc.
But, known for his grotesque and numerous lies, Macron acts too obviously in the exclusive interest of the capitalists and his explanations, often contradictory, are no longer credible. In the space of a few months, he and his ministers have changed their excuses several times, so that no one can believe what they say any more. So the pension 'reform' is now only justified by Macron with a crude "It's my authority that's in question".
The destruction of the pension system comes after a long series of other destructions, each more serious than the other, including schools and universities, the SNCF, the RATP (the metro), the Post Office, the public hospital system etc. In this area of the public hospital, the "neo-liberal" destruction has caused at least 150,000 deaths (not attributable to the virus alone), and former Macron ministers (Edouard Philippe - ex-prime minister, Agnès Buzin - ex-health minister, etc.) are being prosecuted for this.
One author (the name) writes: "The current crisis in the health system is not primarily financial (it cannot be measured in terms of money), but political (it can be measured in terms of the distribution of power). With the same amount of money, but a different distribution of power, it would be possible to do much better for many more people, both patients and health workers. The same is true for the pension system. There are no problems of financing, but there is the political problem of institutions where the working class and other popular classes are not represented, with less than 10% of the French population over-represented in the National Assembly.
This is ultimately the real question that this pension 'reform' poses: the bourgeoisie is no longer capable of managing society by guaranteeing a minimum means of subsistence for the working classes. Robin Hood, it is said, stole from the rich to give to the poor; Macron steals from the poor to give to the very rich.
Behind the question of pensions lies the question of the necessary overcoming of bourgeois society and its capitalist mode of production, on a global level.