Today, a ninth round of protests are taking place across France against President Macron’s pension reform.

Left Co-Presidents Martin Schirdewan and Manon Aubry are at the protests in Paris, bringing with them a message of European solidarity with people protesting in France. 

Tensions have been rising since Macron resorted to using Article 49.3 to force a rise in the pension age from 62 to 64 years. This anti-democratic move allowed Macron to pass the legislation without a parliamentary vote. Spontaneous demonstrations erupted in towns and cities every day since the vote, and have been violently suppressed by the French police. Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested, dozens of people injured and 4 women have accused the police of sexual assault. 

Manon Aubry (La France Insoumise, France) said: “No matter the anger of workers, no matter the huge demonstrations and burning streets, Macron persists with his pension reform and refuses to listen to his people. He fancies himself king of France and thinks he can use Article 49.3 every time the Parliament opposes a law, regardless of democracy. But this time, the motion of no confidence on Monday was only 9 votes short of overturning the government which is now hanging on by a thread. This Thursday’s protest will be a popular motion of no confidence: the French people do not want this reform and will not give up!”

Martin Schirdewan (Die Linke, Germany) said: “With this imposed pension reform, France’s President Macron clearly shows that he completely lost touch with the people. With his devil-may-care attitude, he makes no effort to hide that his politics are entirely market-driven.”

Macron has done little to calm the situation and on Wednesday when he gave interviews to explain his pension reforms he likened protestors to those storming the US Capitol. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Association has expressed his concerns recalling that protesting is a fundamental right and calling on the French police to facilitate peaceful demonstrations and avoid using excessive force.  

All over Europe, people are taking to the streets to demand social change – against inflation, the rising cost of living, energy crisis and stagnating wages. As leaders gather in Brussels today and tomorrow for the European summit, they would do well to heed these warning shots. The movement is growing; from protests in France against raising the retirement age to climate strikes in Germany and marches for healthcare in Spain to teacher walk-outs in Portugal, workers across the EU are rising up, unions are coming together and protestors of all generations are showing up for each other and taking to the streets.

Comparing these movements, Martin Schirdewan said: “Instead of forcing people to work longer and longer, for pensions that are not enough to live on, we need policies that take responsibility for the workers and make the world of work safe and social. This requires the right to political strikes. In around one year there will be European elections. The strikes in Germany and France are a real sign of hope. Across Europe, we need to come together for social justice.”

Rising anger about economic problems, especially surging inflation, drove anti-government protests to a new high in the EU in 2022. Until political elites stop penalising the working class and start taxing the rich, it looks like 2023 will be no different. 

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