21 October 2010
What We are Not being Told about French Pensions
Life expectancy has increased, boosting the percentage of pensioners from 20% in 1960 to 50% in 2050. But the number of people paying into the pension system has grown steadily right up to the year 2010. Median productivity grew by a whooping 500% from 1960 to 2010. If that productivity is harnessed one worker in 2010 can pay the pension of one retiree just as easily as s/he could pay 20% of someone’s pension in 1960. One problem is that, even according to official figures, 23% of the young people have no jobs and can contribute nothing to anyone’s pension.
The worst case scenario of the Orientation Council on Pensions foresees a deficit of 120 billion Euros in 2010; that would be 3% of French GDP. There is a fact that the well paid alarmists want you to overlook; France is a very rich country. GDP doubled during the last twenty years and is expected to double once more by 2050. During the past thirty years 10% of GDP has been transferred away from wage earners and given to profit takers. That comes to eight times the current deficit of the national pension system. When pension deficits are caused by the transfer of wealth to the already rich, there is no outcry in the commercial media. By definition, those who own controlling interests in media companies are already much too rich to care about pensions. See.
The so-called reforms of 1993, 2003 and 2007 have already pushed pensions down by between 15% and 20%. This has forced one more million senior citizens below the poverty line. Half of the newly pensioned workers receive less than 1000 Euros per month. The group hardest hit is that of women who made sacrifices for the pension system by raising children at the price of interrupting their careers.
The biggest risk is that the contribution based system will be replaced by a capital based one. In 2008 we saw where that leads. Soon enough, there will be another mysterious, unforeseeable crisis and politicians will hand that retirement money over to the billionaires and their mega corporations leaving millions too old to work, too young to die.
Given political will, there are many alternatives. Deficits would disappear if tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthy were eliminated. Consider this number; dividends account for 10% of French GDP.
As so often, there are no "objective forces" making pension cuts an "unfortunate necessity"; there is only the greed of the rich and their lies.
Unconditional surrender or resistance; the choice is ours’ in France and everywhere.
Here are some news to inform you about the current actuality of some of the CNT AIT unions in France.
As many european countries, the french economy since 2008 is engaged in what the upper class call a crisis : it means that workers have to make more and more sacrifice to allow the owners to keep their goods and privilege.
A slow but steady discontent is growing in the french population, into the workers but not only. Farmers and also small entrepreneurs are also unhappy, but not for the same reasons of course.
Furthermore, it is now obvious that Sarkozy and all his governement are only at the service of the hyper-rich class, people like Bolloré, Pinault and other billionnaires. The rotten bounds between the financial "milieu" and the governement has been made public this summer with the Woerth scandal : Woerth is the current minsitry of work and pension. Before, few months ago, he used to be Ministry of Finance, while he was in the same time Tresurery of the Sarkozy political pary UMP. And it is obvious that Liliane Bettancourt, the richest personn in France, gave him and all his political freinds and allies, money to corrupt them.
This september, is the month were the Parliament is voting for the pension law reform. This new law, as each one, is truly unfair, extending the age of pension from 65 to 67. In fact, it is an attemp to destroy the french system, that is a public system of insureance and not private, and to privatize it to the benefit of financial and big business corporations.
So, in face of this growing discontent, sarkozy choosed to divert the people’s attention by increasing populist declarations and policiy. By doing that he hopes to divert people from social issues, and to engage the debate not on (social) class issue but on national (if not "race") issue. That is why this summer Sarkozy designed the Roms (gypsies) as a major threat to society. His ministry of Police, Hortefeux, who is a 40 years old friend of Sarkozy (when he speaks in fact you can hear Sarkozy), has even been condamened by a court for "racial prejudice" ... but he is still ministry !!! (as the case is in appeal now, he didn’t dismissed)
But this manoeuvre misfired, and many people refuse to jump into those roten trap. So now it’s new attempt is to try to frighten the population with terrorism, arguing that some crazy fundamentalists said they will blow up Paris.
So while there is quite a tension in France, in fact it is mainly turned against Sarkozy. But it doesn’t seem that people are really ready to change things. Lot are expecting the next general election (especially the leftists) in 2012. Capitalism no longer seems to satisfy population (even if consuming is still deeply rooted in minds) but it seems that most of people resign themselves, or at least they just don’t know what they could do (we could also talk about the feeling to be alone and isolated created by the propaganda of the system) ... So we need more than ever, as anarchosyndicalists, to go down the streets, organize things in an alternative way. That’s what some CNT AIT local unions are trying to do.
Union situation in France
In France, less than 8% of workers are unionized. (and in fact less than 2% in the private sector)
There are more than 15 reformist unions (including Vignoles and small various non-alignated/independent or corporatist unions ) . But the major ones are 4 : CGT, CFDT, FO, CFTC (christians) with more than 100 000 members each and up to 500 000 for the 2 firsts. We also have to mention Solidaires / SUd, which federates many branch organization (including cops, custom officers and jail workers) and around 30 000 members and is regarded as the more militant organization in the reformist spectrum. SUD uses frequently a radical rethoric, and can also organize some times spectacular actions (which they call “direct action”, but which are not in fact because they act as intermediate between workers and boss). SUD is more or less controlled by trotskysts, at least in some branches. But its evolution since its creation in 1988, is similar to the one of Spanish CGT (with whom some of their unions maintain a close relationship, to the sorrow of Vignoles) and can be compare with : while they pretend to be “rank and file”, “base union” and “direct action union”, the process of bureaucratization and integration into the capitalist system is largely engaged.
The two biggest unions (CGT-linked with the Communist Party and CFDT-social demoncrat) are not against the reform, but want to modify it. Only FO and SUD claim to be for the abolition of the project and general strike, but all thru unity with the other unions and political parties (from socialists to trotskists)... Their common revendication is for a pension at 60, with 37,5 years of cotisation (number of years of payement to the public system of pension you need to have if you want to receive a full pension)
The first demo was in May, and since then, no strike has been reconduced... Some militant workers are getting fed up with this well-known strategy, to tire the movement. But they still rely on the reformist unions to movilize the workers, arguing that its is only a problem of leadership : if trade unions would have better leaders, things would be better. We try to oppose them that it is not a problem of leader but a problem of method. Elections, representation and all the institutional system just lead workers to apathy and inertia ; while direct action is the solution.
Concerning the CNT-AIT, we try, with our means, to put the struggle not about pension (our main slogan is "60 years, it’s already too much !") but on wage slavery as a whole, the root of capitalism. For the means, as usual, calling to popular assemblies without any professional of politics... Those assemblies are gathering in public spaces like parcs or alley or in front of factory, to allow ordinary workers to talk and debate on politic and create their own space of reflexion and action, autonomously from political parties and trade-unions. Such popular assemblies are already organized in cities like Toulouse or Clermont Ferrand.
A first demo was organised the last 7th of September, in order to protest against the pension reform. It has been in a way a major success, as there were more than 2 millions of people in the french streets, evenin small towns. But workers didn’t engaged into a general strike. They just made a demo, and went back to work and normal life, as usual.
A new demo has been organised this thirsday, 23d. One more time, many people where on the street, but mainly from public services. And further more, instead the cries of "basic unionist", those "day of action" are not prolongated the day after. Even if there is a growing discontent of the workers and people, there is no expansion of the struggle, that stay inside the frame determined both by governement and both and by the mainstream unions. We do not assist to movements of overrunning of unions, even if the minority of workers and unionist expressing a discontent against the policiy of negociation of the mainstream unions is getting bigger each day. But it is a slow movement, and it is possible that it will extint. It is difficult to forcast what will happen, in which direction the movement will go. But we try to push forward to self-organisation and direct action as much as we can...
The anarchosyndicalist activity ============================
During this time we do not remain inactive.
This summer was the annual summer camp of the South West Region (Midi Pyrénées), that allows militants from various unions from all over France to debate and prepare some propaganda and intervention tools for the "september return"
As a fruit of this collective work, a special issue of "anarchosyndicalisme !" has been made, in order to be ready for the 7th of september demo, where it has been widely distributed by the local unions participating to. texts are about pension system and its reform, what is capitalism about, how linguistic and words are used by Power propaganda to abuse us, about institutionjnal racism, anarchosyndicalism and what it stand for, ... You can download it from here : http://www.cntaittoulouse.lautre.net/IMG/pdf/A_119_COULEUR.pdf
Also, in response to the racist policiy of governement against the Roms, a new issue of the "Hedgehog in black fury" (le Niglo en colère Noire, Niglo is the Rom nickname for Hedgehog, the symbolic animal of the roms ) has been released. This "non periodical" paper is made by CNT AIT members and friends that are from the Rom community. You have a text of reaction against the governemental racism, a text written in 2005 calling the "french roms" to solidarity with "romanian roms", a text we distibuted after the eviction of the Roms by the socialist mayor of Argenteuil in 2009 ( just to remind the left that she is not better than sarkozy on this issue ...), a news about the strike in Gremer in Czech republic from Priama Akcia, and some history about a famous gypsy artist Hector Helios that used to be CNT and IWA member in the 20’es -30’es. It has been widely distributed during the demos against racism the last 4th of september. It may be downloaded here : Individual articles : http://cnt-ait.info/article.php3?id_article=1823 Newspaper : http://cnt-ait.info/IMG/pdf/NIGLO_2010.pdf
The Paris local Union (SIPN) also issued a poster against racism in various languages. It says "our ennemies are not our neighbours but the capitalist boss that exploit us ! Lets unite against explotaiton and injustice" in esperanto, french, bambara, chinese (traditionnal and modern), arabic, turkish, bulgarian, russian, serbian-croatian, english, portuguese. (if you can make other translations we will be gratefull to receive it !) The poster may be download here : http://cnt-ait.info/article.php3?id_article=1831
In Clermont ferrand, our new union of young people made also a specific statement that is spreading to to student community. Other CNT AIT unions planned to use it also.
Our unions participated to the various general assemblies and demonstration of the last 7th and 23d of september. In Auch for instance, our union has been remarked by its propaganda material, that was not in line with the general left tones of the classical unions or political parties (to make it short, as there will be Presidential elections in 2012, all the unions and political parties call to wait until this election before to do anything). Some samples of the Auch propaganda can be find here http://sia32.lautre.net/Tracts.htm and here : http://sia32.lautre.net/CouleuvresAAvaler.PDF
In Toulouse, in order not to go back home "just as normal" after the huge demo of the september 7, the CNT AIT local union created a "popular assembly" : an open space of debate where everybody can attend and participate, as long as it is anticapitalist, antistatist and antiauthoritarian. It is now the forth time that Assembly that have been gathered (7, 12, 19th and 26 th of september). This initiative, that is getting bigger each time, allows all workers to talk directly to each other, without any political or trade-union interference. Such popular assembly is now expanding to others cities (Caen, Clermont, Poitiers).
This strategy is more a long term one, seeking the construciton of a strengh balance, as we don’t know already if the general movement will collapse or if we assist to the beginning of something (but in this case, it will be a slow start ...).
We will try to keep you regularly informed of our activity, in the purpose of developping anarchosyndicalism and IWA,
Yours in solidarity
CNT AIT Paris and Clermont Ferrand members
Here is an update after our previous message.
The situation in France is getting hotter :
by one hand, the young pupils are now entering into the struggle. The governement is afraid that the situation would evolve toward a "greek scenario". In 2006, a previous struggle of the pupils and students against the "CPE reform" (see here for more infos on this struggle ) succedeeded to remove a law that was already adopted.
The french youth, that is under the constant police repression, expreses now all his anger against this system and especially against the police. Some very hard fights with anti riots units occured in the popular cities in the suburb suronding paris, but also in other towns elsewhere in France and also in small cities.
At a first time, the governement criticised the youth to be manipulated and told their place was at school and not in the street. But as the governement passed years ago a law that teenagers could be considered as penalty responsible, the young people replied that if they were old enough to go in jail at the age of thirteen so they were mature enough to talk about politics and demonstrate in the streets.
Now the governement try to develop fear of the "young thugs" that come only to break everything and only for violence. But in fact this arguements doesn’t work to much (at least for now) and people are still supportive of the movement.
by another hand, workers in some strategic sectors like transport, ports, and essentially fuel supply maintain their strike and even increase the level of struggle.
At least 2/3 of the fuel supplyiers ran out of combustile (a part because of the blockade, a part because the individuals were afraid to lack of fuel so they ran to the fuel stations... So this irrational panic movement was a big help to the strikers by creating chaos :-) )
The fuel chain supply was almost close to collapse. That would lead to a total collapse of the economy. So the president himself has decided today to send the army and police, to stop the blockade on fuel. The fuel workers has decided not to confront police but to continue the actions by other means.
Apart from that, we can see the begining of some self organisation in some cities and / or sectors. Even if those self organised groups/movement are not massive yet, they can have a significant impact on the general movement.
For instance in Toulouse, the CNT AIT local union, called for Popular Assemblies. The purpose of those popular assemblies is to free the speech, to make politic not only a question of professional or specialist, in order to promote self thinking and self organisation. While during the first demos, those assemblies only gathered 50 people, the number of people participating increased around 10 times (300 on the 2d of october, 500 on the 12th, 500 to some said 700 on the 16th). Those popular assemblies gathered in calm and with determination. For instance, on the 2d of october, when anti riot police asked the Popular assembly to disband itself, people just refused and replyed to the police they shall not move. The popular assembly stayed where they were gathered, continuing their discussion, occupying and blockading the center of the town. As police felt the power of this assembly, they didn’t dare to confront it. After 3 hours of occupation, the popular assembly then continue under the form of an spontaneous demonstration in the center of the city. And now this form of organisation is spreading, as others are organised in the Mirail University, in other cities like Auch, Montauban, Figeac (where are others CNT AIT unions) or also Poitiers (where there is not)
About police repression, in other cities the anti riot police is currently very nervous. They act very brutaly. In the city of Caen, they shot right in the middle of the face a demonstrator a tear gas grenade. The aluminium can of the grenade had pushed into the cranium, and it is a great chance that he has not been killed. The Caen CNT AIT local union is in close contact with the family of the demonstrator. We will keep you informed on this case. In Montreuil, in the suburb of Paris, a pupil was shot down by a "flash ball" by a policemen and lost half of his face and may be will loose one eye.
But in many other cities, and especially in the ports / heaven cities like St Nazaire, Le Havre, Boulogne, there have been hard figths beetwen strikers and policemen.
Since the begining of the event, police has arrested more than 1300 people during the various actions.
Apart from those spectacular fights, a lots of other small actions are organised to try to popularize the idea of general strike. For instance on the 13th of October, we participated to a picket in front of the Peugeot factory of Aulnay to call other workers to join the movement. But we have to say that even if a lot of workers are supportive of the movement, they can not join the strike as they have a lot of debts to pay. That is why we are also thinking about actions that can be made by people without loosing their salary, as sabotage, slowing down the work, circular economical blockade, ... For instance at the university library of Paris XIII, the workers are on strike each ones a different day. By doing so, the system is stoped while workers do not loose to much ...
We try also to extend the focuses of the movement to the capital on its international aspect. For instance, in Clermont Ferrand, our local union organised during the last demonstration an action of solidarity with Peruvian workers, in front of a Zara shop.
But as there will be national holidays for one week that will start on this saturday, the governement hope that those vacations will break the pupil movements and that the movement will not bounce after.
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