The working class of France has a long and significant history in the struggle between labor and capital, including the revolutions of 1848 that engulfed several European countries. It was in the context of these revolutions that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto — then and now, one of the most widely read books in the world.
Marx and Engels were not the first writers to denounce capitalism and advocate a socialist or communist solution. One of their key contributions was to assert that the capitalist class (the bourgeoisie) had created “its own gravediggers” — the working class, or proletariat. The proletariat was “a revolutionary class” that would drive history forward to the abolition of class antagonisms and creation of a new society, where the means of production were owned collectively in the service of the common good.
For 175 years bourgeois economists and “political scientists” have made it their mission to prove Marx wrong and negate the historical role of the working class. They want us to believe that “communism is good in theory, but it will never work,” because human beings are greedy by nature. How many times have we heard that?
But time and time again, with every move it makes to increase its wealth and drive down the living standards of the masses, capitalism has shown itself to be the enemy of the working class.
And once again — as in 1848, as in the 1871 Paris Commune, as in the 1968 upsurge of workers and students — the proletariat of France has responded to a push by the capitalist class to intensify exploitation with a massive display of class power. Some 2 million workers, in a country of 67.5 million, stopped work Jan. 19, with a call for another one-day strike Jan. 31.
Despite their differences, eight union federations joined forces in building for the strike. The provocation was a plan by President Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, to raise the retirement age — the age when a worker becomes pension-eligible under the state pension system — from 62 to 64.
The bourgeoisie is falling all over itself to minimize the impact of the strike. France 24 reports “‘I don’t think the strikes will have a really important economic impact on the French economy,’ [Finance Minister Bruno] Le Maire told Bloomberg TV at the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding that the French economy was ‘doing well.’” (Jan. 20)
Bull! Inflation in France is nearly 7%. And if the French economy is doing so well, why even contemplate raising the retirement age?
None of this self-consolation can erase historic facts. The working class of France has once again stepped onto the stage of history, pushing the class struggle forward. This development follows massive strikes in Britain, Peru, Ecuador, India and elsewhere in the past year.
Workers World Party is in full solidarity with the growing classwide upsurge in France and around the world.
As Marx and Engels wrote in the Manifesto’s final paragraph: “Let the ruling classes tremble.”