Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 12 December 2019, www.thecommunists.net
1. Mass protests are sweeping France in reaction to the neoliberal plans of the Macron government to attack the existing pension system. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe claims that this pension “reform” would make the pension system “fair and sustainable”. At the same time, he himself was forced to admit that, as a consequence, the French “will need to work longer.” In fact, the plans would force people born after 1974 to work until the age of 64 to get a full pension, instead of 62 previously. At the same time, they would receive smaller pensions. This is utterly cynical in a period of increasing inequality where the rich elite are grabbing a constantly increasing share of social wealth since many years!
2. The anger of the French workers and popular masses has exploded in an unprecedented wave of mass struggle. On 5 December, the first day of action, 1.5 million people demonstrated on the streets (800,000 according to the police). These were more demonstrators than on the first day of the mass protests against another neoliberal pension reform in November and December 1995 which resulted in the withdrawal of the plans and the ousting of Prime Minister Alain Juppe. Another day of action with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took place on 10 December. In reaction, the government offered some small concessions. However, the trade union leaders, who are under massive pressure from ordinary workers, ridiculed these concessions as “a joke”. Meanwhile, even the leaders of the CFDT – the most concilliationist of the major trade union federations – have been forced to join the struggle and announce their support for the next day of action on 17 December.
3. While transport workers (railway, metro, flight attendants) constitute the heart of the struggle – 90% of the trains were cancelled on 5 December – there has been also an impressive strike rate among teachers (70%). In fact, a multitude of sectors – from health workers and gas electricians to lawyers – are participating in the struggle. Particularly important is the fact that the railway workers voted to extend the strike beyond the single days of actions, breaking with previous reformist union tactics. The current strike wave builds upon the courageous struggle of the “Yellow Vest” movement which began one year ago and which faced brutal repression by the French police resulting in at least 24 Yellow Vests losing eyes.
4. The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) sends its warmest greetings to the workers and youth in France who are fighting against the neoliberal pension “reform”! The people are fully aware that the Macron government’s plan constitutes a strategic attack on the social achievements of the working class movement in that country. We warn that the workers should not blindly trust the bureaucratic trade unions leaders who in the past have repeatedly sold out struggles (or even refused to support them at all as it has been the case with the “Yellow Vest” movement)!
5. The RCIT calls for the election of delegates at daily work place assemblies who should unite to a regional and national coordination. Such coordination should lead the struggle instead of the trade union bureaucrats. The trade unions must be put under pressure to provide their vast resources to such democratic structures of the workers and popular masses. As long as such coordinations do not exist, it is crucial to put demands on the leaderships of the CGT, FO, CFDT and other unions to extend the strikes. Such a united front policy towards the trade unions should be combined with constant warning of their leaders’ bureaucratic policy.
6. It is urgent to advance the struggle to a higher level. This means that the strikes must extend to all public and private sectors of the economy. Furthermore, it is necessary to transform the struggle from single days of action to an indefinite general strike. This is particularly important since there exists the danger that the movement might weaken during the upcoming Christmas holiday period. In addition, it is necessary to build self-defense committees in order to fight back against the brutal police.
7. While the strikes currently focuses on the defeat of the neoliberal pension “reform”, the RCIT considers it as important that revolutionaries in France link this economic struggle with other important issues of the class struggle. It is crucial to unite these struggles – like the “Yellow Vests” movement, the struggle against Islamophobia and racism or against Macron’s imperialist foreign policy in Western Africa and other parts of the world – into a single mass movement. We also call to extend the goals of the general strike so that it is directed not only against the pension reform but also against its originator – the reactionary liberal Macron government. Down with the Macron government – for a workers government based on mass organs of struggle!
8. The French general strike takes place at a crucial moment in the world situation, as the RCIT has elaborated in several documents in the last few months. The capitalist world economy is entering another Great Recession – probably worse than the last one in 2008/09. The rivalry between the imperialist Great Powers – in particular between the U.S. and China – is accelerating. Key leaders of the world bourgeoisie face massive domestic crisis (e.g. Trump, Netanyahu). A global wave of class struggles and popular uprisings is spreading from Chile; Haiti and Ecuador, Iraq, Lebanon and Algeria, Catalunya to Hong Kong – to name only the most explosive ones. In short, we have entered a new global political phase where the world is heading towards a political rupture which involves both tremendous opportunities as well as dangers for the international working class and oppressed peoples!
9. Hence the French general strike must be understood not as an isolated event but rather as part of a world-wide series of struggles with pre-revolutionary and revolutionary situations in a number of countries. Even bourgeois commentators are recognizing the explosive potential of the events in France as the Associated Press news agency links the current general strike to “the events of May 1968, when France reached the brink of revolution.” (AP: French government raises retirement age as strikes grind on, 11.12.2019)
10. It is urgent in such a period that militants in France advocate a consistent revolutionary program which includes a perspective of internationalist unity with such struggles in other countries. In particular, it is urgent that revolutionaries in France and internationally unite on a clear programmatic basis. They should work towards the formation of an authentic revolutionary party – nationally and internationally. Since without such a Revolutionary World Party, the heroic efforts of the workers and oppressed will be futile and end in defeats. The RCIT calls revolutionaries in France and internationally to work with us hand in hand in jointly building such a World Party!
International Bureau of the RCIT
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We refer readers also to other documents relevant to this issue:
RCIT: France: Defend the “Yellow Vests” Movement against State Repression! Build local Action Committees! Push the Trade Unions to Join the Movement! Organize an Indefinite General Strike! 03.12.2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-defend-the-yellow-vests-movement-against-state-repression/
RCIT: France: Pour la Grève Générale – Illimitée, militante, multinationale! 2 May 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-pour-la-greve-generale/
Manfred Maier: France: Down with the decrees of the Macron/Philippe government! 17.08.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-macron-s-labor-bill/
RCIT: Fight Macron's Labor Bill: Time to shake France to its very foundations! 28th August 2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/fight-macron-s-labor-bill/
RCIT: Presidential Elections in France: Neither Le Pen nor Macron! 05.05.2017, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/france-neither-le-pen-nor-macron/
The RCIT has published a number of statements and articles on the global wave of class struggles. For the general background see the following essay by Michael Pröbsting: Are We Nearing a New “68 Moment”? A massive upsurge of global class struggle in the midst of a dramatic shift in the world situation, 22 October 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/are-we-nearing-a-new-68-moment/.
On the world economy see e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Another Great Recession of the Capitalist World Economy Has Begun. The economic crisis is an important factor in the current dramatic shift in the world situation, 19 October 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/another-great-recession-of-the-capitalist-world-economy-has-begun/.
The RCIT has published a series of articles analysing the Global Trade War. They are collected in a special sub-page on the RCIT’s website: https://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/global/collection-of-articles-on-the-global-trade-war/.