“This text will continue its democratic path,” Emmanuel Macron said in a speech broadcast by all TV networks in which he defended once again the controversial pension reform that would increase the retirement age by two years. But the French president seems increasingly alone and alienated from the real France. The decree’s path towards approval is actually far from democratic, since Article 49.3 of the Constitution has been invoked, which allows passing a bill without a vote in Parliament.
We spoke about these events with Manon Aubry, a political activist and member of France Insoumise.
The crisis is more acute than ever, and the mobilization of movements and unions continues unabated.
On Monday evening, a motion of no-confidence in the government narrowly failed in the Assemblée Nationale, so the government managed to get a few hours or a few days of respite due to just nine votes. However, in a sense, Macron has already lost. Public opinion and the unions are against him, and opposition to his reform, and more broadly to his government, is growing. The social crisis we are in has turned into a democratic crisis. The Assemblée Nationale is supposed to represent the people. How is it possible for a law that takes away two years of retirement to be adopted without the Assemblée being able to vote on it? The regime of the Fifth Republic is crumbling, and it reminds us that it’s time to revise the Constitution and move on to a Sixth Republic. The government does not have a majority and I don’t see what could happen in the next four years if Parliament is not dissolved. In the end, the people should take part in the decisions that affect them. Instead, the government is acting in a completely undemocratic manner.
It all started with pension reform, but the protest seems to be spreading: we are seeing not just anger, but organization and political strategy.
President Macron has decided to impose on the French an unfair pension reform that has been rejected by the majority of the population. Seventy percent of French people and 90 percent of the working population are against the reform. Trade unions are also united in their rejection of this unjust, brutal and obviously illegitimate reform. The government has used all the most arbitrary legislative tools to limit the time and space for parliamentary debate and effectively prevent the opposition from having a say. After ten days of massive mobilizations, bringing together up to 3.5 million people, the government is turning a deaf ear. The protesters are taking action in different ways: petitions, demonstrations, strikes, blockades, but the government remains cocooned in a kind of contempt that is extremely dangerous for democracy. However, the opposition has not yet had the last word. The mobilizations will not stop, and all the legislative tools at our disposal will be used, such as bringing up the matter before the Constitutional Council and a popular initiative referendum.
Is it just a legitimate protest about the retirement age, or is there something more? For example, the issues being discussed include the four-day workday, the rights of precarious workers, the advent of algorithms as effective employers. Can this be a European hotspot of criticism of the capitalist system?
As much as the protest is focused on pension reform and the government’s intention to make people work for two more years, the level of mobilization shows that pension reform is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Indeed, this all comes after the restrictions imposed during Covid, at a time of massive inflation affecting the population, and after elections that didn’t give Emmanuel Macron a majority. The French people voted for a diverse and conflicted Assemblée Nationale that would need to continually seek compromises. In complete disregard of the views of the people, Emmanuel Macron, after saying he would change his methods to find compromises and listen, has obviously not changed anything. On the contrary – he is growing more and more disconnected from the reality of the French people. Wanting to make the French work for two more years while inflation has them by the throat, while the most socially useful jobs are devalued and poorly paid, is truly an affront. I think the mobilizations are not only challenging the reform, but are putting labor at the center. We need a collective reflection on labor. With climate change underway and the social crisis we are experiencing, with the increase in inequality to the benefit of a minority that is getting richer and richer, the problem is no longer that of producing more and more regardless of the conditions of production, but thinking about the utility of what is produced and the environmental impacts. The government, on the other hand, is trapped in a dogmatic neoliberal logic that prevents it from engaging in holistic thinking about labor, and that’s precisely why it doesn’t listen to the workers.