Under the title “Let’s continue the fight for the withdrawal of the pension reform!” The French site Politis published an Open Letter of the Network for the General Strike signed by more than 250 workers, union activists, and intellectuals, who question the policy of the union leaderships that this Wednesday met with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, despite the fact that the government announced that it does not intend to go back on the pension reform.
Without Pause, Without Mediation, Without a Meeting with Borne: Let’s Continue the Fight for the Withdrawal of the Reform!
Since January 19. 2023, millions of workers, unemployed, pensioners, and young people have taken part in major mobilizations against the pension reform. Never in recent history had a government faced such a level of opposition both in the streets and in opinion polls, with no less than 94% of the workforce opposed to the reform and 65% of the population in favor of blocking the economy.
A Powerful Mobilization, a Government in Crisis: We Must Drive the Point Home!
The great battle over pensions has taken a more explosive form since the passage of the reform through the 49.3, breaking the routine of isolated strike days. The radicalness was expressed through the multiplication of blockades and spontaneous demonstrations everywhere in France and was combined with the initial massiveness of the movement. Thus, despite the forced passage, March 23 was historic and March 28 was very important, despite the end of the parliamentary debates.
Moreover, since mid-March, several strategic sectors have started renewable strikes, going as far as the shutdown of several oil refineries, and have lasted for weeks, despite the refusal of the inter-union to call for the generalization of the strike. For its part, the youth has begun to strengthen its presence in the movement, with several general assemblies of more than 1000 students, blockades and occupations of universities and high schools, and a reinforced presence in the demonstrations, declared or not, as well as in front of the picket lines of striking workers.
Macron and his government are now isolated and are going through a crisis of government and regime like no one has seen for decades. All they have left is the baton and the requisitions to try to suppress the protest. The situation therefore calls for a hardening of the strike, to denounce the requisitions, the police violence in demonstrations, and more broadly the repression like the one that was unleashed against the mobilization in Sainte-Soline leaving two people between life and death, in order to drive the point home by amplifying the struggle.
The Inter-Union is Looking for a Way Out: No Break, No Mediation!
However, March 23 the inter-union, through the voice of Laurent Berger and Philippe Martinez, has been sending out signs of appeasement and looking for ways out of the struggle. While the sectors in strike action need support more than ever, the inter-union management is calling for a “pause” or “mediation” with Elisabeth Borne. Worse, the inter-union grouping, from the CFDT to Solidaires, is agreeing to a meeting with the Prime Minister despite the government’s inflexibility.
This attitude simply amounts to abandoning the main demand of the movement since January 19: the withdrawal of the pension reform. We will not negotiate social regression. Faced with the government’s apparent firmness, we must act just as firmly by building the conditions for a hard strike on the ground, capable of paralyzing the country for several days and making the government give in.
This is not a time for compromise, but for breaking with what has not worked so far and putting in place a strategy to win. It’s the opposite that the inter-union is doing, calling for a new isolated strike day, 9 days after the previous one, while some sectors have been on strike for 20 days and on the eve of the next school holidays. This calendar can only break the dynamics of the movement and weaken it.
We Must Act: We Can Win!
We have had too many defeats of this kind in the past to stand by and do nothing today. Now is the time to win and make the government back down, which has already had to give in on the generalization of the SNU (National Universal Service) in the face of fears of the mobilization of the youth, or which has postponed the immigration bill. We now have finish what we have been doing since January 19, 2023.
The pension struggle has become a struggle to oppose the government and Macron, the workers and the youth aspire to a transformation of society, to ask broader questions, such as wages, retirement at 60 or the climate issue. A victory on pension reform would totally change the balance of power in the country and would open the way for aspirations to go on to achieve much more.
We denounce any attempt to mediate with the government and call on all those who refuse the current turn and want to continue the struggle and to meet in the next few days to build a battle plan to get the reform withdrawn. We must maintain the struggle, the strike, the demonstrations, the actions and the blockades, by strengthening the action committees and interprofessional General Assemblies on the ground and by coordinating them in the service of this perspective.
Let’s continue the fight, until the total withdrawal!
Originally published in French on April 5, 2023 in Revolution Permanente.
Translated by our network of collaborators