It’s not enough to come out in large numbers, we have to take control of our struggles!

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Leaflet given out by the ICC at the recent massive demonstrations in France


On January 19th and 31st, more than a million of us took to the streets to mobilise against the new pension reform. The government claims that this anger is due to a "lack of explanation", to a "lack of education". But we all understand very well! With this umpteenth reform, the goal is clear: to exploit us more and more and to cut the pensions of all those who, because of redundancy or illness, will not be able to complete their years of service. Working until exhaustion for a miserable pension, that's what awaits us

But "at some point, enough is enough! ". This expression came up so often in the processions that it was picked up by the front pages of the press. This is almost word for word the phrase that strikers have been putting forward for months in the UK: "Enough is enough". This is not a coincidence. The link that unites us is obvious: the same degradation of living and working conditions, the same attacks, the same inflation, and the same growing combativity. Because, yes, "enough is enough". The pension reform, the soaring prices, the infernal pace of work, the understaffing, the miserable wages... and what about the new reform of the unemployment insurance, a revolting measure that reduces the duration of compensation by 25% and will allow the beneficiaries to be deregistered in no time! And this for the sake of statistics and lies about "reducing unemployment".

Massive struggles show our solidarity

By being more than a million in the streets on January 19, more on January 31, the working class demonstrates once again what makes its strength: its capacity to enter massively into struggle. Unemployed, retired, future workers, employees, of all professions, of all sectors, public or private, the exploited form one and the same class animated by one and the same feeling of solidarity: One for all, all for one!

For months, there have been small strikes everywhere in France, in factories or in offices. Their multitude reflects the level of anger in the ranks of the working class. But because they are isolated from each other, these strikes are powerless; they exhaust the most combative sectors in hopeless struggles. Corporatist and sectorial strikes only lead to the defeat of all: each one loses in their corner, each one in turn, one after the other. The organisation of corporatist and sectoral struggles is only the modern incarnation of the old adage of the ruling classes: "Divide and rule".

Faced with this dispersal, under the impact of constant attacks on our living and working conditions, we feel more and more that we must break this isolation, that we are all in the same boat, that we must fight all together. On January 19 and 31, with more than a million people in the streets, sticking together, there was not only joy but also a certain pride in experiencing working class solidarity.

To be truly united, we must regroup, debate and decide together

With more than a million people in the street, the atmosphere takes on a new mood. There is the hope of being able to win, of being able to make the government back down, to make it bend under the weight of numbers. It is true, only the fight can stop the attacks. But is being numerous enough?

In 2019, we were also massively mobilised and the pension reform passed. In 2010, against what was supposed to be the last pension reform, we swore and swore, we held fourteen days of action! Nine months of struggle! These processions gathered millions of demonstrators several times in a row. For what result? The pension reform has been passed. However, in 2006, after only a few weeks of mobilisation, the government withdrew its "Contrat Première Embauche" (CPE). Why? What is the difference between these movements? What frightened the bourgeoisie in 2006, to the point of making it retreat so quickly?

In 2010 and 2019, we were many, we were determined, but we were not united. There may have been millions of us, but we marched separately, one behind the other. The demonstrations consisted of coming with your colleagues, walking with your colleagues under the deafening noise of the sound systems, and leaving with your colleagues. No assembly, no debate, no real meeting. These demonstrations were reduced to the expression of a simple parade.

In 2006, the precarious students organised massive general assemblies in the universities, open to workers, the unemployed and the retired, they put forward a unifying slogan: the fight against casualisation and unemployment. These assemblies were the lungs of the movement, where debates were held, where decisions were made.

Result: Each weekend, the demonstrations gathered more and more sectors. Waged and retired workers joined the students, under the slogan: ‘Young lardons, old croutons, all the same salad’. The French bourgeoisie and the government, faced with this tendency to unify the movement, had no choice but to withdraw its CPE.

The big difference between these movements is therefore the question of the workers themselves taking charge of the struggles!

In the processions today, the reference to May 68 is regularly recurring: "You talk about 64, we reply with -May 68," could be read on many posters. This movement has left an extraordinary trace in the workers' memories. And in 1968, the proletariat in France was united in taking its struggles into its own hands. Following the huge demonstrations of May 13 to protest against the police repression suffered by the students, the walkouts and general assemblies spread like wildfire in the factories and all the workplaces, leading to the largest strike in the history of the international workers' movement, with nine million strikers. Very often, this dynamic of extension and unity had developed outside the authority of the unions, and many workers tore up their union cards after the Grenelle agreements of May 27 between the unions and the employers, agreements that had buried the movement.

Today, whether we are talking about waged workers, unemployed, retired, precarious students, we still lack confidence in ourselves, in our collective strength, to dare to take our struggles in hand. But there is no other way. All the "actions" proposed by the unions lead to defeat. Only coming together in open, massive, autonomous general assemblies, really deciding on the conduct of the movement, provides the basis of a united struggle, carried by the solidarity between all sectors, all generations. It’s in these general assemblies that we feel united and confident in our collective strength.

There is no room for illusions, as history has shown a thousand times: today the unions display their "unity" and call for a general mobilisation, tomorrow they will oppose each other to better divide us and better demobilise us. In fact, this work of division has already started:

- On the one hand, the unions classified as "radical" focus on the need to block the country's economy. In concrete terms, this means that the workers in the most combative sectors at present, such as the oil refiners or the railway workers, will find themselves locked in their workplaces, isolated from their class brothers and sisters in the other sectors, who will be reduced to striking by proxy. Just like in 2019!

- On the other side, the so-called "reformist" unions are already preparing for disunity by repeating "We are not against pension reform. We are not unaware. It is well known that we must maintain a system of financial equilibrium in this pay-as-you-go pension plan. [...] However, we do not want a reform that is unfair.”  (Geoffrey Caillon, CFDT TotalEnergies coordinator). And so they call on the government to "hear" the discontent and negotiate. In other words, the government and the unions have long been planning adjustments to the reform to make it work. Just like in 2019!

The future belongs to the class struggle!

Pension reform is done in the name of budget balance, justice and the future. On January 20, Macron announced with great fanfare a record military budget of 400 billion euros! This is the reality of the future promised by the bourgeoisie: more war and more misery. Capitalism is an exploitative, global and decadent system. It is leading humanity towards barbarism and destruction. Economic crisis, war, global warming, pandemic are not separate phenomena; all of them are scourges of the same moribund system.

Thus, our current struggles are not only a reaction to the pension reform, nor even to the degradation of our living conditions.

Basically, they are a reaction to the general dynamics of capitalism. Our solidarity in struggle is the antithesis of the competition to the death which marks a system divided into competing companies and nations. Our intergenerational solidarity is the antithesis of the no future and the destructive spiral of this system. Our struggle symbolises the refusal to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of the war economy. This is why every strike carries the seeds of revolution. The struggle of the working class is immediately a questioning of the very foundations of capitalism and exploitation.

Our current struggle prepares the way for the struggles to come. There will be no respite. As the world economic crisis deepens, in its mad race for profit, each national bourgeoisie will continue to attack the living and working conditions of the proletariat.

The most combative and determined workers must regroup, discuss, and reappropriate the lessons of the past, in order to prepare the autonomous struggle of the whole working class. It is a necessity. This is the only way.

International Communist Current (February 2, 2023)

Gather and debate

Marching one behind the other, then everyone leaving separately  in their corner is sterile. To be truly united in the fight, you have to meet, debate, learn from the present struggle and past struggles. We must take charge of our struggles.

Wherever possible, in workplaces or here, on the sidewalks, now or at the end of the event, we have to regroup and discuss.

If by reading this leaflet, you share this desire to reflect together, to organise, to take control of the struggles then do not hesitate to come to our meeting at the end of the demonstration to continue the debate.

The emancipation of workers will be the work of the workers themselves.


France: the movement against pension “reform”