Strikes, demonstrations, 49.3: what next?

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The ICC’s section in France has published this leaflet in response to the latest developments in the fight against the government’s pension “reforms”

"It’ll take more than 49.3[1] to make us bend!

Faced with the announcement of the immediate adoption of the pension reform, the reaction was lightning fast. Everywhere in France, anger exploded. In the city centres, workers, pensioners, unemployed people, young future employees, we gathered by the thousands to shout our refusal to be exploited until the age of 64, in unbearable working conditions, and to end up with a miserable pension. "Eruption", "rage", "conflagration" were the words of the foreign press. The images of the crowd growing hour after hour on the Place de la Concorde in Paris went around the world.

The message is clear:
- We will not accept any more sacrifices!
- We will no longer bend our backs under the orders of the bourgeoisie!
- We are finding our way back to the struggle!
- We are the working class!

The development of our struggles worries the bourgeoisie

Since the beginning, some political figures, from Hollande to Bayrou, have warned Macron about the "timing" of the reform: "it's not the right time", "there are risks of social fracture". And they were right!

This attack has provoked a social movement of a magnitude not seen for decades. Strikes are multiplying and, above all, demonstrations are bringing millions of us together in the streets. Thanks to this struggle, we are beginning to understand who this "We" is! A social, international force that produces everything and must fight in unity and solidarity: the working class! "Either we fight together, or we will end up sleeping in the street!" This is what was clearly expressed last Thursday in the demonstration in support of the Ivry garbage collectors that the police came to dislodge: together we are stronger!

And these solidarity reflexes do not only arise in France. In many countries, strikes and social movements are on the increase. In the United Kingdom in the face of inflation, in Spain in the face of the collapse of the health system, in South Korea in the face of longer working hours ... everywhere, the working class is fighting back.

In Greece, a train accident took place three weeks ago: 57 dead. The bourgeoisie obviously wanted to blame a worker. The signalman on duty was thrown in jail. But the working class immediately understood the scam. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the real cause of this deadly accident: the lack of staff and the dilapidation of the infrastructure. Since then, the anger has not subsided. On the contrary, the struggle is growing and broadening: with cries of "no more low wages", "we’re fed up". Or again: "we can't work like decent people since the crisis, but at least don't kill us!”

Our movement against the pension reform is participating in this development of the combativity and the reflection of our class at the world level. Our movement shows that we are capable of fighting massively and of making the bourgeoisie tremble. Already, all the political specialists are announcing that it will be very complicated for Macron to push through new reforms and major attacks by the end of his five-year term.

The bourgeoisie is aware of this problem. It is therefore setting traps for us, diverting us from the methods of struggle that cement us and make us strong, trying to send us into dead ends.

More democracy?

Since the announcement of 49.3, the left-wing parties and the unions have been pushing us to defend "parliamentary life" in the face of Macron's manoeuvres and "denial of democracy".

But decades of "representative democracy" have definitively proven one thing: from the right to the left, from the most moderate to the most radical, once in power, they all carry out the same attacks and renege on their promises. Worse, calls for new elections are the most devious of traps. It has no other function than to cut the proletariat off from its collective strength. The elections reduce us to the state of atomised "citizens" facing the steamroller of bourgeois propaganda. The polling booth is aptly named! "Defending parliament", "hoping for elections" ... they try to make us believe that another capitalism is possible, a more human, a fairer and even, why not, a more ecological capitalism. All that is needed is for it to be well governed. This is a lie! Capitalism is a system of exploitation that is now decadent and is gradually dragging all of humanity towards ever greater misery and war, destruction and chaos. The only programme of the bourgeoisie, whatever its political colour, whatever mask it wears, is always: more exploitation!

Bourgeois democracy is the hypocritical mask of capitalist dictatorship!

Blocking the economy?

Faced with the "deafness" of the government, the idea is growing that the only way to "make ourselves heard" is to block the economy. It is based on the growing understanding of the central role of the working class in society: through our combined labour, we produce all the wealth. The Paris dustmen's strike demonstrates this vividly: without their activity, the city becomes unliveable in a few days.

But the left and the unions are turning this idea into a dead end. They are pushing for blockade actions, each in your own corporation, each in your own workplace. This leaves strikers isolated in their corners, separated from other workers, deprived of our main strength: unity and solidarity in struggle.

In the UK, strikers have been reduced to impotence for almost ten months despite their anger and determination, because they are divided into "pickets", each one blocking in his or her workplace. The historic defeat of the English miners during the 1984-85 struggle against Thatcher was already the result of this same trap: pushed by the unions, they had wanted to block the economy by provoking a coal shortage. They had held out for more than a year and had emerged exhausted, crushed and demoralised. Their defeat was a defeat for the whole working class in Britain!

Smash everything?

Some of the demonstrators are even starting to say that they need to move on to harder modes of action: "I'm not violent at all, but here we feel that we need to do something to make the government react". The example of the Yellow Vests is increasingly put forward. A certain sympathy for the ransacking actions of the black blocs is spreading.

To think that the bourgeois state and its immense repressive apparatus (police, army, secret services, etc.) could be frightened in the slightest by burning rubbish bins and broken windows is illusory. These are just mosquito bites on an elephant's skin. On the other hand, all these actions of "hyper-radical" appearance are perfectly exploited by the bourgeoisie to break ... the collective strength of the movement:

- By highlighting the slightest broken window, the media scare a whole part of the workers who would like to join the demonstrations.
- By systematically provoking incidents, the forces of order gas, disperse and thus prevent any possibility of gathering and discussion at the end of the demonstration.
The minority violent action of the “casseurs” is, in fact, exactly the opposite of what really makes the strength of our class.

Our strength is solidarity, massive struggle and reflection on its lessons!

In the last few days, the newspapers have indicated the possibility of a "CPE scenario". In 2006, the government was forced to withdraw its Contrat Première Embauche (First Job Contract), which was going to plunge young people into even greater insecurity. At the time, the bourgeoisie was frightened by the growing scale of the protest, which was beginning to go beyond the youth movement, the precarious students and young workers, to extend to other sectors, with unitary and united slogans: " old cucumbers, young tomatoes, it’s the same salad!”

This capacity to extend the movement was the result of debates in real sovereign general assemblies open to all. These assemblies were the lungs of the movement and constantly sought, not to lock themselves up in the universities or in the workplaces in the spirit of a besieged citadel, to block them at all costs, but to extend the struggle, with massive delegations to neighbouring companies. This is what made the bourgeoisie back down! This is what made our movement strong! These are the lessons that we must reappropriate today!

The strength of our class lies in our unity, our class consciousness, our capacity to develop our solidarity and thus to extend the movement to all sectors. This is the spur that must guide our struggles.

In the struggle, we can only rely on ourselves! Not on the politicians, not on the unions! It is the working class and its struggle that carries an alternative: the overthrow of capitalism by proletarian revolution!

Today, it is still difficult to gather in general assemblies, to organise ourselves. Yet this is the only way. These assemblies must be places where we really decide on the direction of the movement, where we feel united and confident in our collective strength, where we can adopt together more and more unifying demands and go out in massive delegations to meet our class brothers and sisters in the nearest factories, hospitals, schools, shops, administrations.

Today or tomorrow, the struggles will continue, because capitalism is sinking into crisis and because the proletariat has no other choice. That's why, all over the world, the workers are entering into struggle.

The bourgeoisie will continue its attacks: inflation, lay-offs, precariousness, shortages ... Faced with this deterioration in living and working conditions, the international working class will take up the road of struggle in ever greater numbers.

So, wherever we can, in the streets, after and before the demonstrations, on the picket lines, in the cafés and in the workplaces, we must meet, debate, learn the lessons of past struggles, in order to develop our current struggles and prepare for future ones.

The future belongs to the class struggle!

International Communist Current, 20 March 2023


[1] This is the legal statute used by Macron to force through his pension“reform” without a vote in parliament


Leaflet on the class struggle in France