In France as elsewhere... the same struggle! The same class combat!

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"An increasingly violent mobilisation" (The Times), "a fire that fascinates and destroys" (El Pais), "Fire in front of Bordeaux town hall" (Der Spiegel).

The clashes between black bloc groups and the police in the demonstrations against pension reform made the headlines in many newspapers in Europe and elsewhere. Similarly, the foreign media also relayed videos of burning rubbish bins, broken windows, projectiles or grenades thrown, skilfully made to look like a real apocalypse. While the movement against pension reform in France has been blacked out until now, the foreign media has suddenly woken up from its torpor to completely distort what has been happening in the streets of all French cities since the middle of January.

Reducing the social movement to destructive riots, which are in fact very minor and marginal, has always been the exercise that the media relish in trying to discredit the struggle. The echo of the struggle in France against the pension reform among the working class in Italy, the UK or Germany has only accentuated the zeal of the bourgeoisie to convey these big lies.

The struggle against pension reform: a mere riot?

Very far from the few gatherings of "arsonists" (of rubbish bins), millions of people have been marching, week after week, in lively demonstrations, determined to fight and to push back this attack. The government's activation on 16 March of Article 49.3 of the Constitution, allowing the adoption of the law without a vote of the deputies, followed, a few days later, by a contemptuous intervention by Macron comparing the demonstrators to "thugs" similar to the hateful and vociferous troops of Trump or Bolsonaro, have even further strengthened the anger and the will to make the government back down.

On the ninth day of mobilisation on 23 March, between 2 and 3 million people gathered. Employees, pensioners, unemployed, high school and university students ... Everyone was in the streets to shout out their continuing refusal to be exploited until the age of 64. The indiscriminate acts of violence by a few hundred members of black blocs, which are broadcast on the news and relayed internationally, have absolutely nothing to do with the very nature of this movement.

These sterile and useless acts serve precisely as a pretext for the CRS, BRAV-M and other guardians of "order" for the exploiters to inflict repression and make terror reign. All this is done with the aim of dissuading workers from joining the demonstrations and preventing rallies and discussions.

For all that, the strategy of sapping the movement through violence, knowingly orchestrated by the government, has not paid off for the moment. The massiveness and determination of the demonstrators over the next two days even led parts of the global bourgeoisie, through the Council of Europe or the UN, to warn Macron and his government against the "excessive use of violence", as the death of one demonstrator could have a resounding impact on the whole proletariat in Western Europe.

Thus, despite the provocations, the multiple traps set by the government, the unions and all the other forces of the bourgeoisie, the struggle in France continues! The massiveness, combativity and solidarity remain intact. This is a matter of concern for parts of the French bourgeoisie who, faced with the isolation and the intransigence of Macron and his government, are resolutely seeking a way out[1].

An international movement of struggles

The scale of this movement is such that it is inspiring workers in several countries. In Italy, we ask ourselves why "nobody lifted a finger" when the retirement age was increased to 67 in 2011? Why didn't we refuse to be further exploited as workers in France are doing today? Striking transport workers in Germany have openly claimed to be inspired by the movement in France. The same was true in the UK and the Czech Republic, also in relation to pensions. Thus, far from being a specificity of "Gallic intractability", the struggle against the pension reform actively participates in the development of the combativity and the reflection of the working class at the international level.

Why is this so? Because it is the whole working class in the world that is affected by inflation, government attacks, the degradation of living conditions, the intensification of exploitation in the workplace.

This is why the "enough is enough" chanted in the UK for months by workers in many sectors, the "ça suffit!" of demonstrators in France, the reaction of workers in Greece following a railway accident[2] are all part of the same international movement of anger and discontent: Spain, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Mexico, China, Italy ... everywhere strikes and demonstrations, everywhere the same struggle to defend themselves against the worst effects of the crisis of capitalism.

As the international echo of the struggle in France shows, an embryo of links between workers that goes beyond borders is gradually emerging. These reflexes of solidarity are the exact opposite of the capitalist world divided into competing nations and constantly praising the cult of the fatherland! On the contrary, they recall the rallying cry of the working class since 1848, that of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels: "Proletarians have no homeland! Proletarians of all countries, unite!”

Thus, the current struggles are the most favourable ground for the realisation that "we are all in the same boat", as the demonstrators in Greece recently insisted. Even if it is still a very fragile and confused process, all these struggles allow us to become aware little by little that it is possible to fight as a united and collective force, as a class, as the world working class!

If combativity and massiveness alone have not been able to make the bourgeoisie back down, the mere fact of experiencing collective struggle, of measuring the deadlocks, of confronting the traps set by the bourgeoisie and of being able to reflect on them in order to draw lessons from them is already a victory and an additional step for future struggles: "Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers"[3].

How to extend and develop the struggle?

Every week, in the marches, slogans are expressed such as "You say 64, we'll give you 68 again", "March 2023 is the new May 68". Similarly, the struggle against the CPE in 2006 is on everyone's mind[4]. These experiences from the history of the working class are very precious for the development of struggles. They form a compass allowing the class to find the path of extension and unity of the struggle.

In 1968, the proletariat in France forced the government and the unions to agree on higher wages through massive walkouts and the spread of general assemblies in factories and other workplaces.

In 1969 and 1972, the miners in the UK also managed to create a balance of power favourable to the working class by being able to break out of the corporatist logic through the extension of the struggle: by the dozens and hundreds, they had gone to the ports, steelworks, coal depots, power stations, to blockade them and convince the workers there to join them in the struggle. This method, which became famous as "flying pickets", expressed the collective strength, solidarity and unity of the working class.

In 1980, the working class in Poland shook the bourgeoisie in all countries by gathering in huge general assemblies and electing strike committees (the MKS), deciding on demands and actions of struggle, with the constant concern to expand the struggle.

In 2006, it was the general assemblies organised by the students and open to all (workers, unemployed, pensioners...) that were the lungs of a struggle which, faced with its dynamic extension, forced the Chirac government to withdraw the First Employment Contract (CPE).

All these movements show that the working class can push back the attacks and make the ruling class back down as soon as it is really able to take control of its struggles in order to extend them and unify them on the basis of common demands and means of action.

The media blackout on the massive scale of the struggle in France, like the ultra-publicised demonisation of minority violence, aims precisely at preventing the proletariat from reconnecting with this past, allowing it to become aware of its strength. That's why today, the development of real places of debate, such as sovereign general assemblies open to all, must be defended as a means of action, as the means par excellence to reflect on how to develop and unify struggles. The reappropriation of the lessons of past struggles is a fundamental milestone in this process and, more broadly, in the recovery of the consciousness of belonging to one and the same class, carrying within itself the strength to overthrow the capitalist order.

Vincent, 7 April 2023


[1] For weeks, the unions have been reaching out to the government to try to calm the movement. But for the moment the government remains inflexible.
[2] "In Greece as well, workers’ combativity and solidarity ", available on the ICC website (March 2023).

[3] Marx and Engels, “Communist Manifesto”  (1848).

[4] Even if they do not have the same meaning, nor the same historical significance as May 68.



Movement against pension reform in France