FRANCE is paralysed by a nationwide general strike by transport workers, teachers and other trade unions, supported by the mass of the working population.
This is a showdown between the whole of the working class and President Emmanuel Macron, backed by the ruling class and its armies of riot policemen.
Macron’s planned pension ‘reforms’ force workers to work longer for a smaller pension.
Yesterday, the main cities were at a standstill. 90 per cent of high-speed trains have been axed, most of the Paris metro is shut, hundreds of flights have been cancelled, the majority of schools are closed and hundreds of thousands of workers marched through the streets of Paris and other major cities.
The strike is open-ended and could last a number of days or weeks. It has drawn comparisons with the struggle between government and unions in November-December 1995, when the country was paralysed for three weeks.
The strikes will be a major test of whether Macron, who came to power on the back of a promise to transform France and wants to be a new Napoleon, has the political strength to push through his pensions plan, and fight the issue out with the working class, using hundreds of thousands of riot police and even the army for that purpose.
‘This is the moment of truth for Macron,’ wrote Le Monde daily in Thursday’s edition. ‘The next days are a decisive test for the head of state.’
The Mediapart website added: ‘Will the protests and strikes be strong enough to halt the march of reform? Everyone is holding their breath.’
On the Paris metro, 11 of the city’s 16 lines shut down completely on Thursday, with only the two fully automated lines running as normal.
Rail operator SNCF said 90 per cent of high-speed TGV trains as well as regional services across the country were cancelled, while international routes like the Eurostar and Thalys were severely disrupted.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said 55 per cent of teaching staff were on strike nationwide, with 78 per cent walking out in Paris, and just 30 per cent of schools were able to open.
Macron wants to implement a ‘universal’ retirement system.
It would do away with 42 ‘special regimes’ for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera employees, which often grant workers higher pensions or early retirement.
But unions say the changes would effectively require millions of private-sector workers to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 if they want to receive the full pension they have been promised.
French workers are determined to retire Macron and French capitalism and the EU with them, if this is what it takes to defend their pensions.