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France's protest movement ahead of local elections

Whether Railwaymen, Paris Metro, teachers or students, lawyers, doctors, hospital staff, emergency services, the workers of the Paris Opera, firefighters, garbage collectors, workers of oil refineries and nuclear power plants, there is hardly a professional group in all of France except the police and the military that has not spoken out against the planned pension reform and does not take part in the strikes or demonstrations. The State Council has already assessed the project in a depressing statement as insufficient and artistically poor and even within the government parties opponents of the law reform form themselves, a majority in parliament is uncertain. Nevertheless, the Macron government wants to whip the pension reform through the authorities in a fast-track procedure, if necessary also with undemocratic means, against Parliament and by government decree.

Even though the intensity and participation in the strike has noticeably decreased after almost three months, no one can speak of a defeat. It is not that the Strikers run out of air, the will to strike is still unbroken. It is the financial pressure from the constant wage cuts and the regrettable fact that the trade unions, whose questionable role and defeatist tactics are to be examined below, have still not called a general indefinite general strike that is slowing down the original dynamic.

The fact is that the anger is still there and many of the strikers would immediately be ready to resume the fight and continue the case against Macron and his Reform. All sectors that have fought so far would immediately be ready to come back and start a new massive strike if they had a credible battle plan to win.

The origin of the movement did not lie with the trade unions

It must be pointed out that this strike was never the strike of the union bosses. If it had been up to them, it would never have happened. They were surprised by the base and forced to participate somehow. With their hesitant attitude, they have proved to be a brake block from the beginning. It was the workers who independently founded strike committees and called for a first national interprofessional strike day on December 5 on September 13. It is the dynamism of the self-organizing workers and their strike committees, combined with the great sympathy and approval of the French people against the neoliberal social order, with their weariness against the Macronie, the Macron system, which has both kindled the fire of insurrection and kept it burning.

It was only when the union bosses smelled the roast that they jumped on the train, hoping to get it to stop again as soon as possible. Workers ' strikes, which are not called by the trade union leaders, only prove that they are no longer needed. And indeed,” union leaders " who fear the struggle, no one needs.

The yellow vests had given the impetus to resistance at the end of 2018. Without the two neoliberal stubborn Hollande and Macron, the movement of the yellow vests would never have emerged. It was precisely the underprivileged, the unemployed and social welfare recipients, the so-called precariat, who were the first to take to the streets, since no one else, not even a trade union, wanted to represent their interests. They knew that they were on their own, and even explicitly avoided any proximity to parties and trade unions, knowing that they would only use them to strengthen their own Position, but were never interested in their real problems. They would drop them again and again like a hot potato.

Those who are suspended, with them, cannot be made a state for the” Establishment”, which has long included Social Democrats à la Hollande & associates and the trade union leaders. For the trade unions they were uninteresting because they are not paying members, for the state they are only annoying parasites that cost money, and for the “Left” parties they are only uneducated mobs that do not understand their off-the-cuff discussions about identity issues. On an empty stomach and an affordable apartment in the salon, talk left hardly any. Gender toilets are more important. The precariat is not useful for any of them, it is annoying. They are no longer needed, the Suspended, the capital can not be recycled.

No Union Strategy

At no time did the unions, not even the CGT, have a Plan for how to organize the strike. Not even the goals of the strike were clear at the level of the Intersyndicale. While the Strikers simply demanded the withdrawal of the whole project of the law, the union bosses went back and forth, hoping somehow for the government to give in on one point or another, in order to be able to sell this to the base as a victory, as a victory of the union bosses and their wise conduct of negotiations, and thus to be able to end the strikes once and for all.

But the union bosses did the math without the host. On the one hand, the government was completely intransigent, there was nothing that could have been sold to the strike base as a success. The union bosses, in particular Laurent Berger of the CFDT and Laurent Escure of the UNSA, have now totally discredited and discredited themselves with their Social-Democratic policy of social partnership and negotiation at all costs. In the eyes of the strike base, there has long been nothing left to negotiate.

Between 16 September and 5 December, union bosses also had plenty of time to prepare for the coming struggle. But they have done nothing, they have not drawn up a common battle plan, they have not organized strike funds, they have not prepared slogans. Their battle plan went from one day to the next, mostly the base drove them ahead. In order not to lose face, they all joined in at first, hoping for a negotiated compromise with the government, which they could sell as a success and thus proclaim the end of the strikes, according to the old social-democratic policy of the lesser evil. So that they can continue to enjoy their privileges in their office chairs as apparently skilled negotiators.

Such” workers ‘leaders” fear striking workers more than any priest the corporal. They are ready to make any compromise with the Bourgeoisie so that the System in which they have so well established themselves may continue. To take the lead as a Labor leader in a hard labor struggle, in a struggle with an uncertain outcome that could also mean the overthrow of an anti-Labor government, is too much to ask. The workers must themselves take in Hand, Berger, Escure and Martinez (CGT) are brake pads for the strike movement.

Berger and Escure are clearly on the side of the government. Hardly anyone in the strike front has any illusions about either of them. The members send back their membership cards in heaps. They are no longer needed.

Martinez of the CGT is also torn back and forth. He would probably prefer to cancel everything and make a compromise. But what compromise? There is actually nothing left to negotiate, the Law Project is on its way, the convened Financing Conference, which will be discussed further below, is window dressing. If Martinez wanted to, his union could call for an indefinite general strike, he would be sure of his allegiance, and bring the government into severe distress, perhaps even overthrow it.

An episode for Illustration: shortly after Berger’s departure from the strike front on December 18, activists from the RATP-SNCF coordination committee (Paris Metro and railway) had occupied the entrance of the CFDT headquarters in Paris, waving flags and shouting slogans to express their displeasure at Berger’s behaviour. The door to the entrance of the CFDT headquarters was open, no one was injured, no property damage was caused. Nevertheless, Berger called the police and even filed a complaint against the squatters. The next day, Martinez condemned the committee’s action, harsher than he had ever condemned the government for its anti-worker reform measures or even the police’s repressive measures against its own people. Martinez would have done better to close the ranks and stick to his own people than to strengthen the defeatists ' backs. A trade union leader who, for no good reason, calls and sues the police against workers ' militants, and a second, “friendly” trade union leader who also proves him right. That makes you look deep.

The Coordination Committee

No one has given the Union leaders a mandate to negotiate with the government on pension reform. Therefore, you can negotiate what you want, the base will not accept it. Complete withdrawal of the project, that is the demand of the base. It is the demand of those who have begun the struggle and who keep their heads down for it every day. Workers who strike for months, without strike fund and therefore without wages. It was the RATP - SNCF coordination that prepared and called the strike. It was the hardworking worker ants who did all the preparatory work, it was their collegiality and solidarity that laid the foundation for the uprising against this pension reform. It was the Grassroots Coordination Committees that established links with other professional sectors, including the private sector, and carried out joint actions.

They developed into the actual General Staff of the strike movement. It was they, too, who organized pickets in front of the factories, and it was they who raised money for the striking comrades to pay them a wage replacement, albeit modest. Berger and Martinez were not part of it from the beginning. Meanwhile, they preferred to sit with Prime Minister Philippe in the government palace to the palace, while the battle was fought on the streets without them. The RATP-SNCF coordination committee is now trying to organise itself across the country, which, if successful, would be a major advance for the strike front, enabling them to set up a sort of National Union of their own. The actions could be coordinated nationwide and a new tool could be created to create a framework for self-organization and Grassroots Coordination to develop a nationwide combat plan. This battle plan must be coordinated and developed at the grassroots level to prevent being dragged from one day of action to the next and to keep the sectoral movements isolated.

The perspectives always result from everyday actions and their resulting experiences. It creates its own dynamic in the action itself. New experiences through success and failure improve the strategy, experiences of solidarity and cooperation strengthen confidence and the will to fight. Much of what some had previously thought impossible or hopeless is beginning to emerge as a perspective on the horizon. All wheels stand still when your strong Arm wants it. Yes, it’s not impossible, you just have to do it, do it yourself. Soon Macron is gone. No one wants it anymore.

Formulate demands and goals

The withdrawal of the pension reform alone would not change the government’s objectives. This government is preparing further neoliberal reforms, further attacks on the welfare state. There is System behind it, behind Macron and his government, they do it like Robin Hood, only the other way around. She takes it from the poor and gives it to the rich. A retreat at one point alone will not end the policy of this government, the policy of redistribution from bottom to top, the policy of disenfranchising the working class. Even if it would succeed now to prevent the pension theft, the thieves will not put off their kleptomania.

However important the cancellation of the pension reform may be, further attacks by the Macron government on the social achievements of the French are planned, the attack front is broad. Therefore, the workers ' opposition should include further points in its demands and establish an independent, comprehensive left-wing list of demands that goes far beyond the mere withdrawal of the law on pension reform. Shortly after their emergence, the yellow vests had also drawn up a list of demands with 42 socio-political demands as part of a protest movement against the increase in the mineral oil tax, which could, by the way, be used as a template. It is about going on the Offensive now to bring down this Reform and the entire government policy and to rewind the neoliberal social model.

Too many” reforms " have already been enforced by all means: unemployment benefit, social assistance, protection against dismissal, temporary work, railway reform, university reform, etc.all these reforms have been at the expense of the working people and the population. It is about the workers having to decide again what is played in the state of Jericho. This question of power must be asked: who is the Lord in the House of France? Prime Minister Philippe has already announced his intention to enforce the Law Project, which, in addition to the street and all parliamentarians of the Opposition, but also increasingly rejected by the State Council in his own LREM, if necessary by government decree past Parliament. So there can no longer be talk of democratic decisions. The government governs with dictatorial measures, which is also expressed in the actions of the police against the demonstrators.

Many things are not going well for Macron

In addition to the mass protests in the streets, Macron faces other problems. First of all, there is the already mentioned depressing statement of the Council of State on the pension project, added to this are disagreements within the own party and the impossibility of discussing the extensive legislative project even halfway in Parliament within the time limits set by Macron. The government has also leaned too far out of the window, according to the sentiments of many of its own members. There is trouble in the government camp. The speakers, especially those of the Opposition, had their speaking times shortened or completely denied. Even their own MPs get only a few minutes of speaking time to table an amendment proposal. Everything has to go fast. The iron is too hot. The threat to put the law into effect by government decree instead of a parliamentary majority is in the air and is likely to lead to new unrest if necessary.

In addition to all these difficulties, the local elections scheduled for 15 and 22 March will be added. The upcoming local elections threaten to become a fiasco for Macron’s party. The LREM has to reckon with heavy losses, also and not least in Paris. The most important mayoralty, that of Paris, may already be lost. The candidates of the LREM in numerous large cities run away in heaps. One glitch follows the next. One scandal follows another.

And right now the union leadership is falling back on the strike base. Instead of seizing the opportunity and exerting maximum pressure, the Intersyndicale Union front calls for a next 24-hour day of action on March 31 (!) on. Only in 6 weeks, after the local elections. 6 weeks after the last day of strike on 20 February! Of course, the strike base, which is now once again abandoned by the union bosses for 6 weeks, will continue its actions during this time.

The Financing Conference

The negotiations on the actual legislative project are no longer taking place. The negotiations have done nothing, the law has long been on the way to the courts. And while the base is organizing itself and carrying out further actions on the streets and in the factories, the union bosses are sitting in a financing conference to find a financing alternative to deferring the retirement age by two years. A financing alternative that can never be found, because neither the state nor the employers are willing to give the necessary money for it.

The financing conference is an Alibi conference for both Berger and Premier Philippe. From the very beginning, Berger had stiffened himself to a single point in the Pension Law Project: the postponement of the retirement age to 64 years. If the government had given in on this point, as Berger had hoped, he could have sold it as his success and signed off on all other impositions and cuts in the project. According to the logic of the lesser evil, he could have prevented the worst by withdrawing from the trade union front “with his head held high.”

But the government did not want to do him this favor, so he built his own bridge to capitulation by proposing a financing conference with the employers and the government to jointly find the € 13 billion a year that Philippe considers essential to keep the retirement age at 62. The intention is to be found here, in this round, the money is about as likely as the medieval Attempts to find the philosopher’s stone, since both the state and the employers have refused from the outset to participate in the financing. So there is only the possibility that workers will work more and longer, namely exactly the 2 years longer that are necessary to save 13 billion expenses annually in the pension funds, according to calculations. Philippe had given them three months to find a compromise, otherwise he would “assume his responsibility” and by decree raise the retirement age in the new pension law, which had probably already entered into force by then, to 64 years.

So what does Martinez, the head of the CGT, have to look for in this round? Wouldn’t it be better if he took care of organizing the resistance against the project during this time? By his own admission, he only wants to know who says something there. And so he threatened to stay away from there from now on. ” A compromise is not possible, and there is nothing more to do at this financing conference, " Martinez had an employee announce, only to turn his threat into an Ultimatum a day later, which ultimately led to the decision to write a letter to Philippe asking him to take the CGT’s demands into account. At the next conference, on March 10, Martinez will probably be there again.

Finally, it is clear that the objective of the “social partners” in the financing conference is to prolong the debates. But while the union leaders “gain time” in the ministerial salons, the Strikers lose more and more time because of a lack of a strategy to defeat the government through struggle. Both the unions and the government hope that the Strikers will run out of air, that the strikes will eventually run out of steam.

March 31 as the next day of action

The Intersyndicale Union Front has now called for a next 24-hour day of action on 31 March (!) call. This renewed delaying tactic by postponing the next actions until after the local elections makes it clear that the union officials do not want a real fight against the pension reform. From these union bosses no real resistance against the government and certainly no plan of struggle is to be expected. They do not want to win, for they fear the victory of the workers as the living one fears the holy water. Especially the time during the local elections would be a prime opportunity to bring the struggle to the political stage and exert maximum pressure on the government.

By the way, the union bosses of the strike base had already played such a prank once when it came to a truce beyond the Christmas holidays. The CFDT and the Unsa had withdrawn from the strike front at that time, on 18 December, and Martinez of the CFDT told the waiting workers, after a negotiation with Prime Minister Philippe, still on the steps at the exit of the Prime Minister’s seat “goodbye until the next day of action on 8 December. January!“Nevertheless, the strike actions continued, There were hardly any trains and buses, the operas and museums and even the Eiffel Tower were closed and the tourists were absent.