U.S. and World Politics

France: Our Motion for Censure
is the General Strike!

This is the editorial from the March 20 Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA).1

Macron wanted to force his pension law through, but he had to use article 49.3 of the constitution, because he could not get a favorable vote in Parliament, and even that was rough for him! Because even some of the right-wing deputies did not dare to vote in favor of the reform for fear that their own voters would never forgive them. It’s the first success of more than two months of our demonstrations and strikes.

A milestone has been reached and a situation of social and political crisis has opened up for Macron and his friends in the employers’ association. This article 49.3 is revolting, but it is above all an admission of weakness on the part of President Macron and Prime Minister Borne, who were forced to use it. It has only rekindled the demonstrations and strikes: of garbage collectors, railroad workers, electricians, refinery workers. The government is beginning to fear that the pumps are running dry!

Social and police violence

Article 49.3 has only amplified our anger. As early as Thursday, thousands of demonstrators flocked to the Place de la Concorde in Paris and returned spontaneously the next day there as well as to other squares the day after. The same “wild” uprisings in all the cities of the country.

The representatives of the government immediately cried “violence,” because demonstrators came to shout under the windows of Pro-Macron or Republican deputies. And the police, under orders, have repressed demonstrators, and carried out hundreds of arrests, including of prominent trade union and political activists! The violence is on the side of the government and the employers who want us to die at work, who are announcing that they want to force strikers back to work. It is on the side of the police who spray tear gas, and even use water cannons against spontaneous marches of demonstrators, including students who go to meet the striking garbage collectors.

The official fire extinguishers

In the Presidential Palace, Macron was not censured by the National Assembly after all. We didn’t expect anything different from these deputies, many of whom were inwardly delighted that article 49.3 saved them from having to take responsibility! But the motion of censure is still there, in our demonstrations and strikes which will grow this week and have started to do so with the demonstrations of this past weekend. And there will be new strikes starting Monday the 20th paralyzing the refineries, with Gonfreville and Lavera following the one at Donges which has been on strike already for several days. In each of our sectors, keeping up the renewable strikes, gaining new strikers, and coordinating them is what we need to do now, in order to move towards a general strike.

Some members of parliament are looking for ways to patch things up: a change of Prime Minister and some government changes that might allow some of them to get new portfolios? A dissolution of the National Assembly and new elections, allowing the right-wing Rassemblement National party of Marine LePen to get more deputies? Let’s not forget that Marine Le Pen’s party is opposed to raising the minimum wage and has only talked about retirement at 60 with reduced pensions. And this party is already proposing to the Republicans that they share constituencies in the event of a new election, in order to share positions in the government and even govern together. Others on the left are talking about a referendum!

But hasn’t the referendum already taken place, over the past two months, in the streets?

What the government has done, we will undo!

No, we will not give up our weapons of strikes and demonstration. The fight is on now, in the factories, in transportation, in the offices, and all together in the streets. The national day that the unions are calling for next Thursday, March 23, must exceed the previous ones in strength and determination. Above all, it must mark the beginning of a general strike to block the country. The stakes are high, and success is palpable! We can win not only the pure and simple withdrawal of the pension reform, but also change the balance of power so that we force Macron and his bosses’ friends, with their golden asses, to give in on wages, unemployment benefits, working conditions, the degradation of public services, on the dramatic consequences of their system of capitalist exploitation that needs to be thrown away.

Speak Out Now, March 20, 2023

1 Members of Spark, a fraction of Lutte Ouvrière, co-thinkers of Speak Out Now in the U.S.