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Government manoeuvres on pension age fail to stop protests and strikes in France

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Union members are holding real debates how to take their movement forward, says Charlie Kimber
Issue 2687
Strikers protesting in France on Thursday of last week
Strikers protesting in France on Thursday of last week (Pic: Force Ouvriere/Flickr)

Mass strikes and protests continued in France this week despite new moves from the government designed to lure union leaders into calling off the action.

Prime minister Edouard Philippe said he was willing to withdraw a proposal that would raise the age at which workers can claim their pension from 62 to 64.

But he made clear this was only temporary. And there was no movement on other crucial areas of the assault decreed by president Emmanuel Macron.

The government still wants £10.2 billion cuts in pension ­spending and a system that will mean most people working longer and get less.

Leaders of the CFDT union federation welcomed the announcement. However, the CGT called the proposal “a smokescreen” and said it was “more determined than ever” to stop all the changes.

Indefinite strikes that began on 5 December on the national railways and the RATP Paris public transport system continue.

The fourth national day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday of last week saw massive support.

According to union figures, 370,000 people marched in Paris—up by 20,000 from the last day of national action on 17 December.

There was more police harassment than on previous pension demonstrations. Cops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and “flashballs”.

In Marseille 220,000 people took part and big marches also took place in many other towns and cities.


Those on the streets included striking rail and public transport workers, refinery, hospital and civil service workers, dockers, teachers, firefighters, barristers, Yellow Vests and more.

“There were new people on strike and new people marching,” teacher Agatha told Socialist Worker from Marseille. “In my school almost all the teachers struck.

“This has to be the future—more people on strike and not just for one day. In Marseille there is a battle over whether we are out indefinitely or just for a day here and a day there. We need a general strike.”

A further day of demonstrations last Saturday saw half a million workers and Yellow Vests march.

The unions announced new days of action with broader strikes and protests for three days this week.

There is a real debate about how to take the movement forward.

The revolutionaries of the A2C Autonomie de Classe group wrote, “The strike is beautiful. Beautiful as ministers, depressed deputies and editors who stammer and stutter before the force of the movement.

“Macron’s world is a human relations department surrounded by riot police lines. It is this world that we must destroy to gain what we want—everything.”

The danger is that union leaders will allow strikers to be isolated. But there are some rank and file initiatives trying to wrest control of the strike from the union leaders.

The socialist NPA party said, “This government will not give in easily. Let’s accelerate the pace by building a continuous strike in new parts of the public sector and private companies.”

For more on the strikes go to

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