April 23 — After French President Emmanuel Macron succeeded in pushing a new pension system into law April 15, by avoiding any vote except from the nine former officeholders on the Constitutional Council, he and his cabinet members have been taking short trips throughout France, allegedly to listen to the people. The people have answered: “Quit!”
Since 70% of the population and over 90% of the active workers in France oppose this new pension scheme, which demands they work two years longer, the government’s reception has ranged from negative to actively hostile. Union electrical workers often respond to an official’s visit by turning off the supply of electricity to their venue, or at least turning it down.
The progressive left party France Unbowed (its candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon finished a close third in the 2022 presidential election) has encouraged people to beat spoons in empty pots to drown out the speeches of Macron’s ministers.
The negative popular reaction to Macron’s “charm offensive” resulted in the administration showing its teeth. During Macron’s visit to Strasbourg, a city east of Paris on the German border, three people were arrested for giving him “the finger.” (Huffington Post, April 23)
Ministers who went to a train station in Lille to talk to railroad workers were met by protesters — train workers and their supporters — shouting “Dirt bags, get out of here!”
On April 20, a video on twitter shows thousands of high school students at the call of their student unions, who marched through Paris chanting “Macron quit!”
Another tweet, this one by Unite CGT (General Confederation of Labor), reports a strike at a large electric generating plant at Gardanne, in southern France. The CGT union which organized this strike called for a “general assembly” to review the situation. Unions that support the strike joined the general assembly, which was addressed by Sophie Binet, newly elected general secretary of the CGT.
The pension protests in France often use blockades, setting them up where they can stop vital traffic. For example, workers needed to keep fuel from a refinery, where striking workers were requisitioned [drafted] back to work. To keep the fuel away from the market, strike supporters set up a picket line on the road leading to the plant. They might also hand out a leaflet and ask for donations to stop and donate to the strike fund.
The union movement is preparing to make International Workers’ Day on May 1 a massive outpouring of resistance and protest. Thousands of militant, smaller actions leading up to that day indicate the temper of the working class. But Macron, a former bank official whose whole career has been tied to French and European imperialism, has the firm backing of European Union-based megacorporations and banks.
Workers worldwide in the streets May 1 will be rooting against Macron.