|Volume 53 Number 3, January 28, 2023
On Thursday, January 19, literally millions of workers across France took strike action and over two million joined massive protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's pension bill, rejecting the increase to both the minimum retirement age and the length of the pension contribution period. A reported 400,000 people marched through Paris on the day of the strike. French youth and workers combined to organise a further 150,000-strong "march for our pensions" on Saturday, January 21.
There is enormous anger against the widely-hated bill. Macron attempted to push through the same measures in 2020 after rail workers struck in opposition. Huge popular resistance forced the government to postpone the pension changes at that time.
Despite this, the French government on January 23 moved forward with the plan that would raise the retirement age to 64 by 2030, giving the fraudulent reasoning that "balancing the books" must be top priority. The government bill would also increase the minimum number of years people must pay into the system to get a full pension to 43 from 42 at present.
Workers throughout the world find their living standards under threat as they face massive inflationary price rises in food, fuel and energy. World trade is affected by supply chain problems and trade embargoes, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, a war which is further demanding escalating finance. The French ruling elite is determined to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 in order to extract greater value from the working people by extending the working life so as to pay the rich and finance war.
The workers in France and their unions are now, in response to the refusal of the government to respond to the depth of feeling, gearing up for a further day of strike action on January 31, as well as declaring that they are prepared to step up their actions even further against the imposition of these measures which are part of the anti-social offensive imposed by decree against the will of the people.
Not only in France, but workers across the world are beginning to put their foot down against these neo-liberal measures. At the same time, movements among the people are developing for democratic renewal. People are shouting "Not in our name!" in the face of the war and neo-liberal austerity that have characterised the present. Working people are demanding a say over economies and the direction they are taking, and are demanding empowerment and control over their livelihoods and destiny.