To Drive Out Macron & Co., Fight for Workers to Power
CGT contingent at mass march in Paris on December 5, at the start of the strikes – now in their second month – against the pension reform of President Emmanuel Macron, which threatens millions with old-age poverty.
Build a Workers Party Based on the Revolutionary Program of Lenin and Trotsky
JANUARY 6 – The battle over the French government’s assault on pensions has entered its decisive phase. After a month on strike, French workers have already surpassed the record of the December 1995 strike (22 days) that defeated an earlier pension “reform” and the 1986-87 rail strike (28 days) to be the longest since 1968. As President Emmanuel Macron plays for time, trying to wear down the strikers, it is crucial that the action spread to other sections of the working class, especially the private sector. Above all, it is vital to raise a program, establish forms of organization (mass strike committees and workers councils) and forge a leadership that go beyond defense of the status quo to a fight for workers power. This is not an ordinary union battle – it’s a showdown between labor and capital. At issue is which class shall rule.
The extent of the strikes, their staying power and continued public support for the workers took the “centrist” government of investment banker Macron by surprise. When the strikes against the pension “reform” broke out on December 5, over a million and a half marchers took to the streets in union-led protests called by all five major labor federations (CGT, FO, CFDT, UNSA and SUD). Millions stopped work, including teachers, students and hospital workers. The country ground to a halt as air traffic controllers, port, rail and transit workers paralyzed long-distance and city travel. It was no one-day affair. Due to the determination of the rank-and-file, strikes in Paris transit (RATP) and railroads (SNCF) hung tough through the end-of-year holidays – a heavy travel time – defying calls by some union leaders for a Christmas “truce.”
From the beginning, participation in protests and walkouts has been huge. A one-day subway work stoppage in Paris on September 13 completely shut down all but two completely automated lines. Union officials reported that a mobilization on December 17 was even larger (1.8 million marchers) than on December 5. Dancers from the Paris Opera performed “Swan Lake” outside in the winter cold to support and dramatize the strike. Right before Christmas, workers at the Lavéra refinery in the south voted a total shutdown, followed by the Grandpuits refinery in the north the next day. In Vienne, electricity workers turned power back on for families who had been cut off for non-payment of bills. And while the media claim the metro is functioning, for 12 out of 14 lines there is only very limited service during rush hours, and none the rest of the day.
Now is make-or-break time for this crucial struggle. In his New Year’s greetings, the insufferably arrogant Macron vowed to “carry through to the end” his anti-worker “reform,” including refusing to back down on raising the age for a full pension to 64 (up from 62 today). Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT (General Confederation of Labor), responded with a “call on all French people to go on strike” (L’Humanité, 2 January). Today teachers, Air France pilots and liberal professions are scheduled to go out. Tomorrow workers at all eight oil refineries in France are set to strike for four days. On January 9, a day of action has been called by the CGT, FO and SUD. On January 11, the CFDT will join in. But in going all out in these actions, strike militants must know that they are mainly pressure tactics to influence talks with the government.
Yet those “negotiations” between the unions and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe are a charade. Macron has made clear that he has turned a deaf ear to the strikes and marches, and Le Parisien (6 January) reports that the pension “reform” bill has already been drawn up and sent to the Council of State. A Coordinating Committee of SNCF and RATP workers in the Parisian region (Île de France) issued an appeal on January 2 calling to “Generalize the Strike to Win.” But beyond spreading the strike, what’s urgent is to shut down the Paris mass transit system tight, with no trains or buses circulating. The same for the rail system. It’s necessary that truckers join the strike, that the refinery workers strike continues, that the ports are shut, that students and teachers walk out of schools and universities indefinitely. In short, prepare a general strike.
When the “Yellow Vest” movement erupted a little more than a year ago, there was a lot of talk about how not only the trade unions, but even “traditional” forms of working-class struggle like strikes were supposedly outdated (see “France: ‘Yellow Vest’ Revolt and the Struggle for Socialist Revolution,” The Internationalist, No. 56, May-June 2019). The current struggle is a dramatic refutation of that. Even using a fraction of the potential power of their class, strikers have shown the way towards defeating the capitalist offensive led by Macron. Transportation workers have rejected the union bureaucrats’ token one-day walkouts and stop-and-go strike tactics which are designed to fail. Strikes renewed in daily union assemblies are more militant, but organization of the struggle by elected strike committees remains embryonic.
1.5 million workers hit the streets in Paris (above) and around France on May 5. This continuing strike, by now the longest since 1968, gives the lie to the claim that the workers movement is dead or moribund. What it needs is revolutionary leadership.
Macron has staked his career on being able to inflict a decisive defeat on the working class that would lame it for a generation. He not only has a secure parliamentary majority but the support of Le Pen’s fascist Rassemblement National (RN) in this confrontation. Negotiations are a dead-end, it will take relentless class struggle to stop him. There is a burning need to expand and centralize strike committees, to build mass pickets to extend and defend the strike against bourgeois repression, while drawing in all the exploited and oppressed, from petty-bourgeois yellow vests to youth and immigrants. In fact, this would mean a real general strike – in which, as the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky put it, “the proletariat assembles itself as a class against its class enemy.” This, of course, requires the building of a revolutionary leadership.
The working class has suffered many defeats since the 1989-92 counterrevolutions that destroyed the Stalinist-ruled, bureaucratically degenerated/deformed workers states of the Soviet Union and East Europe. Today the big hope of the union bureaucrats and most of the left is to repeat the outcome of the 1995 December strike, when the government of Jacques Chirac and his prime minister Alain Juppé had to abandon its pension “reform.” As putrefying capitalism rips up social programs and workers’ livelihoods, these reformists look at most to preserve past gains, or to dismantle them more slowly. But that is a program for defeat. It’s not just a question of “neoliberalism,” i.e., a policy, or of a particularly retrograde president, Macron (or Sarkozy, or Chirac, or social democrats like Lionel Jospin or François Hollande). The mobilization required to break Macron’s offensive must necessarily take on the capitalist system itself.
Rather than bemoaning the lack of socialist consciousness in the working class – a reflection of the abandonment by its leaders of any pretense of fighting for socialism, much less communism – what’s needed is a fight by a genuine Trotskyist vanguard against the present misleaders and their defeatist program, in order to bring revolutionary consciousness to the workers in the course of the class struggle. Now is the time. As the future Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin wrote in “On Strikes” (1899), “socialists call strikes ‘a school of war’” – class war – but “strikes can only be successful where workers are sufficiently class-conscious,” and “only a socialist workers’ party can carry on this struggle” to bring to the workers the understanding of the need to fight “for the emancipation of all working people from the yoke of capital.”
The Macron Plan: Impoverish Retirees and Enrich Banks
Macron’s pension reform is part of an overall effort to dismantle the French “welfare state” in order to slash state expenditures and, by cutting taxes on business and the wealthy, to increase the profitability of French capitalism. This would supposedly improve its “competitiveness” in the face of rivals who have already drastically slashed social programs. He already rammed through a labor law “reform” in 2017 making it easier for employers to lay off or fire workers. In 2018 he defeated a rail strike against his plan to “liberalize” (privatize) the rail system. Last summer Macron legislated sharp cuts to unemployment insurance, sharply reducing payments to workers on short-term (precarious) contracts. And as of this January 1, the SNCF has been turned into a joint stock company, so that rail workers are no longer public employees.
In fact, France spends considerably more on pensions (14% of the gross domestic product) compared to Germany (10% of GDP) or the average (8% of GDP) of advanced capitalist countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Moreover, French retirees receive on average 61% of their previous income, compared to 38% in Germany (Economist, 12 September 2019). As a result, only 7% of French pensioners are officially at risk of poverty, according to a Eurostat analysis, compared to 19% for Britain and Germany. An OECD study showed that the poverty rate among seniors (age 66 and older) in France was one-third that in Germany, one-fifth that in Britain and one-seventh that in the U.S. (“French workers cherish their welfare state. That’s why they’re striking,” London Guardian, 4 December 2019).
In short, Macron’s pension “reform” emulating Britain and Germany would push millions into poverty. Also, by raising the age for a full pension to 64, it would force many older workers to work longer, thus making it harder for young people to get a steady job. And since many workers over the age of 60 find it hard to find employment, they could be forced into retirement with a much lower partial pension. Workers in France, young and old, have no choice but to fight tooth and nail against this anti-labor “reform.” Defeat by Macron and the Eurobankers behind him would mean a drastic worsening of the living standards of the vast majority of the French population. The terrible ordeal that the working people of Greece are enduring shows what’s in store if the capitalist offensive prevails.
The bourgeoisie, its government and its media repeat ad nauseum that consolidation of the pension system – getting rid of the 42 “special regimes” for sectors ranging from rail workers and miners to the Paris Opera ballet troupe and members of parliament – is needed to keep the system viable faced with an aging population. The premise that the system is in financial trouble is itself questionable: when previous studies showed relatively small future deficits, Macron ordered a new study, by the high commissioner for pension reform Jean-Paul Delevoye, to show a ballooning deficit as early as 2022. Moreover, given that a manual worker has a life expectancy seven years shorter than a white-collar worker, for example, there are very good reasons for multiple pension regimes.
At the same time, the different regimes represent in part the results of hard-fought struggles rather than arbitrary “privileges.” It is no accident that the government is focusing its attack on the railroad and Paris metro workers, who have been in the forefront of every major class struggle in France over the last several decades. (While the overall pension system goes back to 1945, when it was set up by the post-World War II popular front government, the special regime for rail workers dates from 1907.) Despite Macron’s talk of having a “universal” pension system, his government has been agreeing to recognize the special status not only of police, but also firemen, EDF (electricity and gas) and other sectors. The obvious intent is to isolate the hard core of the resistance, in order to deal them a devastating defeat.
Actually, these special regimes concern a very small part of the working population, but millions of people understand that this is only a pretext for a much wider attack. The change from calculating pensions based on the best years’ salaries to a point system in which each euro earned in wages will be equal to a point will automatically mean a fall in the pension level. Many teachers, for example, stand to lose around 500 € (US$550) per month from their pensions as a result. And despite all the criticisms of rail and metro workers retiring at age 52 or 57, it should be remembered that they must have worked at the SNCF or RATP for 40+ years to be eligible for the full pension. Plus the arduous working conditions faced by many of these workers take a very real toll: the life span of port workers is eight years less than the national average.
The systemic reform will be a disaster for those workers subjected to longer periods of precarious work or unemployment. This means women in particular will be penalized, and younger workers. As we noted in our article on the Yellow Vests: “Today short-term labor contracts of less than a month duration outnumber unlimited contracts by 4.5 million to 1 million. Only half of those ‘disposable’ workers on short-term contracts are even eligible for unemployment benefits.” In addition, under the “parametric reform” outlined by the prime minister Philippe in a provocative speech on December 11, people born before 1974 would be exempted from the requirement to work until age 64 to qualify for the full pension. This cynical ploy to set old and young against each other was angrily rejected by all the protesting sectors.
Ultimately, Macron’s plan points toward the replacement of “defined benefit” pensions (retraite par repartition), in which the government guarantees a definite monthly income to retirees, by a “defined contribution” retirement savings program (retraite par capitalization), in which retirees will have individual accounts, administered by investment banks, and only receive amounts based on what they have contributed. This lets the government off the hook and would provide a bonanza for bankers. The present “reform” would exempt earnings above 120,000 € a year from the 28% social security tax on incomes. This will channel billions of euros into private insurance plans, while the mass of working people will receive a pittance and thus become yet another pool of cheap labor.
Not coincidentally, the first place this system of “capitalization pensions” was introduced was under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, where the “Chicago Boys” economists led by free-marketeer Milton Friedman privatized the social security. This is the system that Chilean working people rose up against last year because it doesn’t even come close to providing enough income for retirees to live on. That this is the logic of Macron’s “reform” was confirmed when his first pension czar, Delevoye, had to resign in disgrace over unreported income, including from a consultancy for a private insurance company. Yet only a couple of weeks later, Macron awarded the Legion of Honor to the head of the French branch of the BlackRock investment firm, the biggest manager of pension funds in the world.
Divide and Rule
So, contrary to the government's expectations, the labor actions have been widely and even enthusiastically supported by the bulk of the population, who see their basic social security net threatened. According to an opinion poll of the right-wing Le Figaro (4 January), 61% support the strike and 74% say Macron’s “reform” should be fundamentally changed or rejected outright. Even the most “moderate” labor federations – the CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail) and UNSA (Union Nationale des Syndicats Autonomes) – balked. The CFDT, after spewing New Left rhetoric about “self-management” after 1968, signed on with François Mitterrand’s popular-front government in 1981 and became the lapdogs of every capitalist government since. But the CFDT drew the line at pushing back the retirement age.
The trade-union bureaucracy is particular uneasy because Macron’s “reforms” are eroding its existence. These labor traitors are heavily integrated into the state administration through a myriad of class-collaborationist bodies which help administer the French social service system that combines health benefits, unemployment benefits, pensions, etc. This includes the social-democratic Force Ouvriere (FO) federation, long a champion of Cold War anti-Communism, which is concentrated among public employees, and also the CGT, once tied to the Communist Party (PCF). But now by cutting back on the various institutions that are the source of the bureaucrats’ privileges Macron is pushing them into each other’s arms.
Unity in action of the French working class, which is split into different union confederations along political lines, is, of course a necessity. This can take the form of “intersyndicales,” committees at a local level (such as the Paris rail/metro coordination) that bring together the most combative elements and could be a first step towards elected strike committees. But bureaucratic “unity” can just as well be a device to bury struggle. For several generations of ostensible, abstract calls for unity – endlessly repeating “tous ensemble” (all together) – have served to subordinate struggles to the social-democratic and Stalinist bureaucracies. For the followers of the late Pierre Lambert, such calls for “unity” were a cover for their deep integration into the apparatus of the anti-Communist FO, and later promoting a “labor party” of bureaucrats.
For its part, the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party, heirs of the tendency led by the late Ernest Mandel) has been thrilled by the “unity” of the CFDT’s half-hearted dissent from Macron’s plan. The front-page headline for the NPA’s paper l’Anticapitaliste (26 December) is “All together we can make them give in.” One-time NPA presidential candidate and media star Olivier Besancenot declared in a December 16 TV interview that “a general strike could sweep away this reform within a few days.” An actual general strike would be a hard-fought struggle for power, but Besancenot and his party are not seriously proposing anything of the sort. Who would organize such a general strike, and how? This is just a cynical way of disguising the fake-Trotskyists’ policy of pressuring the pro-capitalist bureaucrats to adopt a more militant posture.
The danger is that the government will succeed in isolating and then exhausting the most militant sectors by making a few promises, however specious, to the trade-union bureaucracies. Simply demanding withdrawal of the pension “reform” – at best a return to the status quo, and then the whole battle would begin all over again – does not provide any way of holding the bureaucracy to this. To really fight to win means taking control of the strike out of the hands of the venal bureaucrats. It means going beyond local initiatives to form elected strike committees to unite not only all union members, but also non-union workers, some of them exemplary strike militants; mass picket lines to spread the strike and defend strikers; and national coordinating committees to link Paris with mobilizations in the provinces, which have received some industrial support.
The CGT has tolerated the existence of “renewable” strikes (grèves reconductibles) whose continuation is voted on each day in union membership assemblies (assemblées générales, or AGs) in transport, where this is a deeply-felt need. But the union tops have not encouraged them elsewhere – for example, at the airports where the mobilization has hung fire – and they have no real strategy other than “stop-and-go” days of action. However militant, the tactic of renewable strikes is no substitute for the wider mobilization bringing in other working-class and oppressed sectors that is needed in a class confrontation of this magnitude, as well as the need for actual strike committees across the different union federations that could provide a framework to fight for a class-struggle program and leadership.
A Lesson About the Police, the Strike and Defense of Immigrants
On December 5, as over a million people poured into the streets to protest Macron’s “reform”, his bloodhound, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, was quick to reassure the police (but also the army and even … parliamentary deputies) that they would be exempted from the pension attack. This of course makes a mockery of the government’s propaganda about “universality” to replace the “42 special regimes.” Although the government also made some promises in the direction of the firefighters in Paris and Marseille, who have paramilitary status, firefighters in the provinces were left hanging. Some of them have been camping out in Paris, where they have been savagely attacked by riot police. In the December 17 march, the cops charged peacefully marching firefighters and lobbed stun grenades at them.
Particularly after a year of vicious attacks on the Yellow Vest protests, in which thousands were injured and which cost quite a few protesters a hand or an eye, it should not be necessary to insist that police are not “fellow workers.” Yet every trade-union federation continues to organize cops, This includes the SUD (Solidaires) federation, which poses as to the left of the CGT and in which the NPA is heavily involved. Naturally, the bourgeois nationalist-populist movement La France Insoumise (LFI – France Unbowed) of Jean-Luc Mélenchon wants to hire more cops. And last year Besancenot and the PCF published a statement saying that “escalated repression” would “end up endangering the police and gendarmes themselves” (Le Monde, 18 January 2019). A reformist program demands pledges of allegiance to the “republican” police.
But it is rather brazen for Lutte Ouvriere (LO – Workers Struggle), the other main ostensibly Trotskyist organization in France, to lecture the yellow vests about their initial illusions in the police, as it did in a report on the domestic situation adopted at LO’s 49th congress in December. LO has in the past called for more a police force “closer to the population,” while commiserating over the “difficult conditions” faced by “rank and file” cops. LO actually tried to theoretically defend this grotesque capitulation in its monthly journal Lutte de Classe (May-June 2017), where went on about “a dual role” for the police: “sometimes intervening to protect the population” and sometimes acting as “guard dog of the social order.” It talks of the “two natures of the police, both repressive and useful.” And again: “part of the work of police officers is in fact useful.”
While Lenin in the very first chapter of State and Revolution (1917) called the police together with the army the “chief instruments of state power” of the bourgeoisie, for LO this is all relative, “varying according to the place, time and situation.” Actually, no. In the capitalist world, the police are everywhere and always the armed fist of capital, whose job is to repress the exploited and oppressed, and which must be smashed by workers revolution. Any illusions or ambiguity about this, any support for a “movement” of the police to defend their “special regime,” could prove fatal to the struggle, particularly in this hard-fought strike, where cops have brutally attacked strikers and their supporters while protecting strikebreakers.
While LO prattles about defense against fascists – someday, somewhere, somehow (rather like the German social democrats before 1933) – there is an immediate need to organize worker-immigrant defense guards to protect against scabs, cops and racist attacks. As Trotsky declared in the Transitional Program (1938), the founding document of the Fourth International: “Strike pickets are the basic nuclei of the proletarian army. This is our point of departure. In connection with every strike and street demonstration, it is imperative to propagate the necessity of creating workers groups for self-defense. It is necessary to write this slogan into the program of the revolutionary wing of the trade unions.”
With Macron plagiarizing Le Pen’s speeches to describe how problematic immigration is for the “lower classes,” his government launched yet another campaign this fall against Muslim women wearing headscarves, seeking to drive them out of public life – this time by barring them from school trips with their children! As in 1995, when the strike movement was limited to the public sector, a key element in extending the strikes to the private sector will be addressing such attacks on the immigrant section of the working class. This time, the public sector will not be enough to win a victory for other workers “by proxy.” It is necessary to fight for full citizenship for immigrants and their families – particularly since the right of family regroupment is also under attack.
Meanwhile, Mélenchon and his LFI are busy campaigning against privatization of the Parisian airports. Such privatizations always involve attacks on the wages and living standards of the workers, and must be opposed, but for Mélenchon and his cohorts it is a matter of national sovereignty. So over the airports we see meetings that unite the left-populist LFI not only with the CGT but also with the conservative Les Républicains under the tricolor, since as PCF deputy Stéphane Peu hammers home, “the national interest” is involved (Libération, 20 June 2019). While Macron & Co. invoke the European Union as an external force, the fact is that France and Germany call the shots in this imperialist alliance. The privatizations, attacks on the pensions, etc. are dictated by the needs of the French bourgeoisie vis-à-vis its imperialist competitors.
Internationalist communists call to bring down the imperialist EU through sharp class struggle leading to international socialist revolution. The main enemy is at home!
“Far Left” Seeks to Pressure or Bypass the Bureaucracy Rather Than Fight It
As the question of the police underlines, the so-called “far left” is just part and parcel of the reformist left. This was illustrated at a December 11 meeting in St.-Denis organized by the PCF around the slogan “Against the Macron Retirement Plan: Another Reform Is Possible.” The various groups on the podium, ranging from LO to the NPA to France Insoumise and the ecologists, who are both not even part of the workers movement, politely agreed to disagree, with remnants of the Socialists and the ecologists accepting the points system. As for the strike, the “far left” only suggests a few slightly more militant tactical steps packaged with simple-simon slogans – “all together,” “the workers must discover their own strength,” etc. – while leaving actual control of the struggle in the hands of the labor bureaucracies.
This is a deliberate refusal to propose and to fight for a program that provides a revolutionary answer to the reformist bureaucrats’ eternal search for a compromise with the bourgeoisie. For decades the French pseudo-Trotskyists have played a role as left critics in the unions without contesting for power. A more recent entry in the opportunist lottery is the misnamed “Trotskyist Fraction” (FT), represented in France by a faction inside the NPA, the Revolutionary Communist Current (CCR) and its Internet publication, Révolution Permanente. A year ago the FT contrived to puff up the Yellow Vest movement into a full-blown revolutionary threat to French capitalism, while proposing that the program of this movement should be to make some bourgeois-democratic adjustments to the Fifth Republic of French capitalism (see “The Opportunist Left Hitched to the Yellow Vests,” The Internationalist, No. 56 May-June 2019).
When the outbreak of powerful workers’ struggle this fall quickly drew in the remaining Yellow Vests, and a couple of “surprise strikes” broke out in rail, FT/CCR honcho Juan Chingo penned an article enthusing over “Wildcat Strikes, or the Yellow-Vestization of the Workers Movement” (Revolution Permanente, 3 November 2019). Noting that “since the 2008-09 crisis, the strategy of pressuring the union leaderships has not been able to pull off a single victory, however minimum,” the article contrasted this to the Yellow Vests “who have been the only ones, up to now, to force Macron & Co. to partially retreat.” Having noted the bankruptcy of the “far left” policy of tailing after the bureaucracy, the FT turned its back on the unions altogether, instead looking to the petty-bourgeois populist Yellow Vests, which includes substantial numbers of anti-immigrant supporters of Le Pen’s fascist RN.
So while the rest of its colleagues in the NPA and other pseudo-Trotskyist outfits sought to pressure the trade-union bureaucracy, the FT/CCR sought to go around it. The key task, however, is to wage a political fight within the mass organizations of the workers movement for a revolutionary to break with reformism, to reject class collaboration and wage sharp class struggle on program leading to socialist revolution. As Trotsky pointed out in his History of the Russian Revolution, the steam, i.e. the energy of the masses, that really does drive the piston, also has to be enclosed in a piston-box, i.e., workers organizations, from trade unions under capitalism to factory committees and workers councils (soviets) in times of mass upheaval. Meanwhile, another article on the Revolution Permanente (23 November 2019) website sneers at “old recipes” and calls for a new organization embodying the “radical spirit” of the Yellow Vests, a “broad party” of the “far left.”
This elixir has been peddled by just about every centrist opportunist since the dawn of the Trotskyist movement in France (and not only France). For the Mandelites, it was a party of the “new mass vanguard,” which ultimately meant junking the Revolutionary Communist League (and any reference to revolution or communism) in favor of the New Anticapitalist Party. It was in the France of the 1930s that Trotsky denounced such “broad” initiatives with amorphous programs in his writings on The Crisis of the French Section [1936-36]. In fact, Trotsky’s trenchant critique of inveterate maneuverers like Raymond Molinier and his schemes for a “mass paper” apply quite well to the FT and its web of internet “web newspapers” like Révolution Permanente, Izquierda Diario in various Spanish-speaking countries, Left Voice in the U.S.
Going around the unions is just as much a diversion as endlessly seeking to pressure the pro-capitalist bureaucracies. Wildcat strikes can an important element in a developing confrontation with capital, but to be successful they must lead to a mobilization of the entire workers movement. The current situation is proof positive that the workers movement is far from dead or moribund, but for it to succeed requires a sharp struggle for leadership on the basis of a revolutionary program, including key demands of Trotsky’s Transitional Program such as area-wide workers councils; labor-immigrant defense guards; raising pensions to the highest level, with no penalty for periods of unemployment; replacing temporary contracts and involuntary part-time work with full-time jobs for all who desire them; and massive hiring of the unemployed, instituting a workweek of 30 hours or less at no loss in pay (sliding scale of wages and hours) to provide jobs for all.
These and other demands would point the defensive struggle over attacks on pensions to a proletarian counteroffensive leading to the revolutionary fight for power. The key is building a genuinely Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionary workers party, rather than the social-democratic electoralist caricature that besmirches the name of Trotskyism in France today. As we in the League for the Fourth International wrote after the last round of major struggles in France, in 2010:
“A decaying capitalist order in the throes of the deepest economic crisis in three-quarters of a century is seeking to ensure its survival by impoverishing the proletariat and destroying its ability to resist. From Athens to London, the ruling classes have launched an across-the-board offensive against the working class, taking aim at every social gain and even, in some cases, threatening its very existence. But no matter how severe the crisis, capitalism will not fall by itself. To defeat this onslaught, the usual fare of bourgeois pressure politics (‘coalition building,” ‘’peaceful protest,” electoral politics and limited defensive struggles) is wholly inadequate. It is necessary not only to resist the particular attack but to turn the tables and direct the fight not merely against the policies of ‘neo-liberalism,’ but the capitalist system itself. To lead that struggle, we must begin to build a party of the proletarian vanguard like the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky, reforging the Fourth International as the world party of socialist revolution.”
–“Focal Point Europe: Capitalism in Crisis, Class Struggle Erupts”, The Internationalist No. 32, January-February 2011 ■