FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron used his annual New Year’s address to the nation to rule out any compromise with the working class over his plan to drive up the retirement age and cut pensions.
Despite Macron calling for a ‘rapid compromise’ with the unions to end the mass strike that is now in its fifth week and has brought major French cities to a standstill, he made it clear that there would be no compromise with rail and transport workers who have spearheaded the strike movement.
Before Christmas, Macron issued a plea for a truce with the unions over the holiday period, a plea that was rejected by workers across the country, and his offer of ‘rapid compromise’, while insisting he would go ahead with driving up the retirement age for public sector workers, was rejected with contempt by union leaders who responded by calling for every worker to join a general strike.
Philippe Martinez, leader of the large CGT union, dismissed calls for compromise and called for ‘strikes everywhere’ saying on French TV: ‘We call on all French people to go on strike. The alarm signal must be stronger.’
In a reference to the failed Tory attempt to smash the unions in the 1980s, Martinez told the press that Macron ‘wants to be the man of the new world, but he is imitating Margaret Thatcher’.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of France Unbowed (LFI) party, said, ‘These are not New Year wishes but a declaration of war to millions of French people who refuse his reforms.’
Already, the unions have called for a day of mass protests on January 9, when teachers, doctors, hospital workers and other public-sector employees will join the strike for the day.
Macron’s speech comes a year after the first major attempt to hold back the tide of working class anger at his drive to make workers pay for the crisis of French capitalism.
He used the New Year’s address last year to announce 10 billion euros in financial relief to try to quell the Yellow Vest anti-government protests sparked by increased tax on fuel. Despite the withdrawal of these increases, the Yellow Vest uprising has continued for over a year and now is joining up with the mass general strike of workers.
France is entering the year 2020 in a revolutionary confrontation between the Macron government and the entire working class. As for the ‘compromises’ Macron is talking about, it is significant that police officers, gendarmes and prison officers are to be offered guarantees that they will still be able to retire at 57 and in some cases at 52.
Macron clearly wants to keep the police and state forces on-side in the war against workers. In fact, Macron’s concessions to selected groups, far from splitting the working class, have only strengthened their determination to put an end to Macron and his ‘reforms’.
It blows apart the claim by Macron that these pension ‘reforms’ are necessary to create a universal pension scheme for every French worker – a claim that had some support amongst ‘moderate’ trade union leaders at first – and reveals that it was always about cutting pensions and reducing government spending on them.
Macron has staked all on slashing government spending to bail out bankrupt French capitalism struggling under a government debt standing at nearly 100% of the country’s GDP.
With 14% of France’s GDP being spent on pensions, Macron cannot afford to back down and neither will the working class. This war declared by Macron will be fought out to the finish.
The CGT’s call for all French people to go out on strike will be the signal for a mass general strike to bring down Macron and going forward to the working class taking power and smashing the French capitalist state.
This will be supported by the working class in Britain and across Europe and inspire them to go forward to kick out their own governments and break with the bosses’ and bankers’ EU and go forward to the United Socialist States of Europe.
The decisive issue today is the building of revolutionary parties of the Fourth International in every country to lead the socialist revolution to victory.