Half a million French trade unionists marched on Thursday in support of a general strike. They are fighting back against Macron’s proposal’s for ‘reform’ of the pension system. There is huge support for the strike with an estimated 64% of the population backing it in opinion polls.
Right across Europe governments have attacked the rights of workers to have a decent secure pension. In almost every country, they used the economic crash of 2008 to increase age of retirement. In Ireland, for example, it has been pushed up to 68.
Workers entering the labour force are also being removed from Defined Benefit schemes, which guarantee a pension based on proportion of their final salary , to Defined Contribution schemes where their retirement earnings will depend on the vagaries of the stock market.
The difference in France is that there has been a revolt.
In Ireland, the union leaders did not issue a word of protest when the retirement age was increased. They had a cosy relationship with the Labour party which was then in government and were addicted to ‘social partnership’. Older workers will now pay the cost of this betrayal.
France has seen successive waves of revolt, which has unnerved the political establishment.
Macron originally emerged as a figure who claimed to be ‘neither left nor right’ but was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He was an investment banker who re-invented himself as a young, hipster liberal in order to mount an all-out attack on the social rights of French workers.
Students were among the first to take on this fake liberal when they blockaded schools against his plan for educational ‘reform’ which would have deepened inequality.
Then from the rural areas of France, came a massive movement of the Yellow Vests who blockaded roads and brought their protests to the centre of Paris. Despite efforts by the far right to divide this movement with racist language, the French Yellow vests moved to the left. The hope now that the revolt of the Yellow Vests will dovetail with the fight of organised workers.
We are witnessing a new era of revolt that is spreading across the world. Speed the day when it reaches Ireland.