“Social dialogue” and “democracy” versus class consciousness

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Since the beginning of the movement against pension reform in France, the attitude of the trade unions has been described as exemplary by large parts of the political apparatus, by numerous commentators and journalists. The oldest deputy in the National Assembly, Charles de Courson, has even paid homage to the unions for being able to “hold on to the movement”. So why all these big eulogies from the exploiting class?

By showing themselves to be united in the “Intersyndicale”, inflexible about retirement at 64, the unions are presenting themselves, in the eyes of the majority of workers, as their real representatives and as an indispensable force for making the government take a step back. Of course, given the level of anger, the massive scale of the movement, and its fighting spirit, they can’t go on occupying the terrain by calling for days of action every week.

But at the same time, they have not ceased deploring the ignorance the government has shown towards them, the “social partners” of the state who remain guarantors of “social cohesion” (and thus of capitalist order), a point stressed by the Secretary of the UNSA union on TV recently. For weeks, the unions have not stopped offering Macron and his government a helping hand by trying to calm the situation and find a way out of this “democratic crisis” (Laurent Berger, Secretary of the CFDT union federation).

What’s more, as they say, things wouldn’t have got to this point if there had been a “real dialogue” and “real negotiations” in order to find a “real compromise”. Now, everything seems to depend on the decision of the Constitutional Council, predicted for 14 April, which will give its advice about the pension reform. This body doesn’t have much chance of offering the government a way out by censuring the law. But in any case, if the only “positive outcome” is going to come from the official institutions, the bourgeoisie and its media can sleep more easily after singing the praises of democracy for guaranteeing the will of the “people”.

At the same time, the unions and left parties have another mystification up their sleeve: the “Referendum d’Initiative Partagée”. This new fraud of “direct democracy”, aimed at making it appear that you can win through an alliance of “people’s representatives” and “citizen electors”, is aimed at nothing less than derailing the workers from the terrain of struggle and driving them into the hands of the Republican Institutions and the myth of “government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

It’s the unions’ skill in “holding on to the movement”, in avoiding it escaping their control, in trying to imprison it in the trap of democracy, which the parties of the bourgeoisie are saluting so openly, moved by the concern to put an end to this movement as soon as possible.

If the unions are not able to undermine the movement with their classic tactics (such as exhausting the most militant sectors or dividing the movement through breaks in the union front) they can always turn to other means to play their role of sabotaging struggles and defending bourgeois democracy.

Vincent, 10.4.23.


Movement against pension reform in France