Dictator? French Communists slam Macron for imposing pensions bill without a vote / by Roger McKenzie

French Communist Party (PCF) members march in support of workers and against the pension bill of President Emmanuel Macron. At center is party General Secretary Fabien Roussel. | via PCF

Originally published in the Morning Star, March 16, 2023

French communists have slammed the decision of President Emmanuel Macron to impose his highly unpopular bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron shunned parliament Thursday by opting to push through his controversial plans by triggering a special constitutional power known as Section 49.3.

The rarely used maneuver will likely spark a vote of no confidence in Macron’s government. The pensions bill had already completed its passage through the Senate earlier in the day but still required support from the National Assembly before becoming law.

The front page of the Wednesday, March 15, edition of l’Humanite, the newspaper of the French Communist Party. The headline: ‘Determined!’

But the government changed course just before the vote was scheduled in the Assembly because it was unsure whether it had enough votes to pass the bill. That’s when Macron decided to go over the head of parliament and make the bill law by presidential decree.

The pensions bill is the flagship legislation of Macron’s second term, but the deeply unpopular plan has sparked major strikes, and millions of people have taken to the streets in protests across the country since January.

As lawmakers gathered in the National Assembly to vote on the bill, left-wing members of the parliament—including deputies from La France Insoumise, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, and others—broke into a boisterous rendition of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem.

The impromptu sing-along prevented Macron’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne from speaking and prompted the speaker to suspend the session.

Once the session was back underway, Borne announced the plan to invoke 49.3, saying: “We cannot take a gamble on the future of our pensions system.”

A poster issued by the PCF portrays Macron in the outfit of Napoleon with the slogan, ‘Macron scorns the Republic.’ | via PCF

Amid chaotic scenes and calls for a vote of no confidence in Macron’s government, French Communist Party General Secretary Fabien Roussel said Macron was “not worthy of our Fifth Republic.” He added, “Parliament has been flouted and humiliated to the end.”

Roussel called for a referendum vote on the pension plan. “Let’s engage in a great popular battle alongside the unions.”

Meanwhile, police in Paris “requisitioned” sanitation workers in the capital and threatened them with prosecution if they continue their week-long strike action against the pension plan.

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper.

Striking workers bring France to standstill to protest rise in retirement age / by Roger McKienzie

Protesters march, with the Pantheon monument in background, during a demonstration in Paris, Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators across France took part Tuesday in a new round of protests and strikes against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64, in what unions hope will be their biggest show of force against the proposal. | Aurelien Morissard / AP

Originally published in Morning Star | The People’s Daily on March 8, 2023

France came to a standstill Tuesday when protesters marched nationwide during the latest round of strikes against a planned rise in the retirement age to 64.

Unions described the protests as their biggest show of force against the deeply unpopular proposal from President Emmanuel Macron’s government. According to the AEF news agency, 63% of French people oppose the government proposal.

Garbage collectors, utility workers, train drivers, and others took action Tuesday to show their anger at the attack on their retirement and pension rights.

More than 250 protests took place across France. In Paris, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, and massive demonstrations were also reported in other major cities, including Marseille, Nice, Nantes, and Lyon.

French Democratic Confederation general secretary Laurent Berger said that the number of demonstrators nationwide was the greatest since the beginning of the protest movement in January.

Philippe Martinez, who heads the left-wing General Confederation of Labor (CGT) union alliance, told FranceInfo: “The goal is that the government withdraw its draft reform. Full stop.”

Some unions have called for open-ended strikes in sectors such as refineries, oil depots, and transport.

Workers at Paris’s Gare de Nord railway station have already voted to continue the strike into Wednesday.

The CGT reported that all oil shipments in France were halted by strikes at the refineries of TotalEnergies, Esso-ExxonMobil, and Petroineos groups. Truck drivers, meanwhile, have sporadically blocked major highways in go-slow actions.

In Paris, garbage collectors have started an open-ended strike and blocked access to an incineration plant at Ivry-sur-Seine, near Paris, which is Europe’s biggest such facility.

A fifth of flights were canceled at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and about a third of flights were scrapped at Orly airport.

Trains to Germany and Spain came to a halt, and those to and from Britain and Belgium were reduced by a third. Most high-speed and regional rail services were canceled as well.

Public transport and other services were disrupted in most French cities. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed, as was the Palace of Versailles, west of the capital.

Paris train driver Xavier Bregail said, “We held strong demonstrations earlier, but it’s time to take the movement one step further.”

Bregail voiced hope that the protests would turn into a broader movement against economic injustice.

France’s eight main union confederations and five youth organizations were set to meet Tuesday night to decide on their next steps in defense of pension rights.

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper.

France to be hit by fresh strikes and demonstrations over government’s attack on pensions

Demonstrators of CGT Merieux bio lab unions take part to a protest march against plans to push back France’s retirement age, in Lyon, central France, Tuesday, January 31, 2023

A fresh round of strikes is set to hit France on Tuesday over the attack on pension rights by the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

Further walkouts and marches are planned for Saturday, while left-wing opponents of Mr Macron’s minority administration have already filed thousands of amendments ahead of the parliamentary debate which began this afternoon.

Trains and the Paris metro are again expected to see “severe disruptions” according to operators, and around one in five flights at Orly airport, south of the capital, are expected to be cancelled on Tuesday.

The plans are widely unpopular and last week’s demonstrations brought out more than 2.5 million people nationwide, the largest protest in France since 2010.

Francois Ruffin, an MP for left-wing France Unbowed, said: “The government is no longer trying to convince people, but just to win.”

On Sunday Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne offered to alter her plans, saying people who started work aged between 20 and 21 will be covered by an exemption allowing them to leave earlier, at 63.

But CFDT union centre general secretary Laurent Berger called the offer a “patch,” and said that the move “isn’t the response to the huge, geographically and professionally diverse mobilisation” that has swept France.

Morning Star (UK), February 6, 2023, https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

No to U.S. intervention in Haiti! / by CPUSA Peace & Solidarity Commission

Image:  U.S. Marines patrol Port-au-Prince after 2004 coup, U.S. Airforce, Wikimedia

Once again the major corporate media, including the New York Times and Washington Post, call for military intervention in Haiti. Yet one would have to search painstakingly to find when these bastions of the “free press” last opposed sending the U.S. war machine or its proxies into another country. Or for evidence that Haitians are looking for yet another military intervention.

Economic and political chaos, gang violence, massive inflation on top of terrible long-term economic deterioration, shortages of necessities, and cholera — brought into Haiti by a militarized United Nations peace-keeping Force that has taken up to 30,000 lives — continue to rage: “Of Haiti’s 11.4 million people, 4.6 million are food insecure and 70% are unemployed.”

Despite these hardships there is no evidence that Haitians, aside from some of its tiny ruling class and unelected prime minister Ariel Henry, installed by the U.S. and its allied outside forces, consider another invasion beneficial.

To the contrary, working-class Haitians have been constantly demonstrating against unrepresentative governments, against U.S. support for them, against more foreign intervention, and against gang violence that often has the support of the same governments. Past interventions have replaced coordinated government services with a variety of nongovernmental organizations.

Indeed, it’s long overdue that the U.S. end its repeated, historically destructive, anti-democratic interventions into the affairs of Haiti: “In the view of most scholars, the problems in Haiti are not due to internal problems, they are due to the ongoing role of foreign interference, primarily by the U.S.” U.S. policies are not responsible for the catastrophic earthquakes and hurricanes that have befallen Haiti, but they preclude Haitian’s ability to prepare, recover, and rebuild. “Hands Off Haiti!” makes more sense to Haitians and to all of us showing solidarity with the Haitian people.

Because enslaved Black Haitians dared to free themselves and secure their independence from France through revolution in the early 19th century, France then blockaded Haiti militarily and extorted Haitians to hand over much of their national treasury for over a century to pay for their own freedom.

A century ago, U.S. imperialism replaced the French version. The U.S. invaded Haiti in 1914 with Marines, stole the assets of the Haitian National Bank, and invaded again in 1915. Troops remained, slaughtered Haitian resisters, and introduced Jim Crow policies that engendered a light-skinned, elite ruling bourgeoisie, until 1934. U.S. banks took over Haitian “debt” to France and profited handsomely on the interest. Subsequently, the U.S. supported a series of autocrats and then propped up the two Duvalier dictatorships for three decades.

After Haiti’s first truly democratic elections in December 1990, the U.S. overthrew the two landslide victories of the democratically elected Jean Bertrand Aristide governments. First, in 1991, while imposing devastating neoliberal economic programs that included the demolition of Haitian rice farming when the Clinton administration forced Haiti to import subsidized rice, which buried Haiti’s ability to feed itself; and again in 2004 after wreaking havoc by blocking all international aid to Haiti. Following the earthquake of 2010 U.S. troops invaded yet again while 99% of U.S. aid money returned to the U.S.

Most recently, evidence points the finger at U.S. allies for assassinating the highly unpopular, U.S.-backed President Jovenel Moïse in 2021. The U.S. continues to support his unelected, and also highly unpopular, successor, Ariel Henry, who is implicated in the 1991 coup and the Moïse assassination. Unsurprisingly, he calls for military intervention.

This past September, Velina E. Charlier, representing the anti-corruption group Nou Pap Dòmi, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

The policy of the international community and the United States towards Haiti has been a constant for years and has not changed. It has always followed a paternalistic and interventionist approach that often fails to serve the best interests of the Haitian people. Through its embassy in Port-au-Prince, the United States has continued to support leaders who have emerged from fraudulent elections or corrupt governments that have lost all popular legitimacy. The general impression of the population is that the United States does not listen to the Haitian people and only sides with the leaders who obey them.

The U.S. handles Haitian immigrants with policies no less despicable than the ones aimed at those living on the island.

In September 2021, Daniel Foote resigned two months after President Joe Biden appointed him U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti, citing “inhumane, counterproductive” treatment of Haitian migrants along the U.S. southern border. “The people of Haiti, mired in poverty, hostage to the terror, kidnappings, robberies and massacres of armed gangs and suffering under a corrupt government with gang alliances, simply cannot support the forced infusion of thousands of returned migrants lacking food, shelter, and money without additional, avoidable human tragedy,” Foote wrote.

It is clear that imperialism emanating early on from France but later and continuing today from the U.S. has stifled Haitians’ demands that they control their own destiny without foreign interference. Although U.S. imperialism has invaded many countries to overthrow their governments, prevent democracy, and seize the wealth of populations, a majority of whom are people of color, its treatment of Haiti represents a particularly vicious form of racism. U.S. imperialism is telling the world that it will not allow descendants of African slaves, who successfully threw off slavery and defeated a European power, to secure sovereignty and self-rule.

The CPUSA supports the demand that France repay the financial tribute it militarily forced Haitians to pay for over a century. We support the demand that the United States pay reparations to Haitians for its century-long interventions. We support the demand to end the tyranny of U.S. imperialism: No foreign intervention, no troops, no sanctions, no coercion.

Haitians shall determine their own future!

Hands off Haiti! Now and forever!

People’s World, November 7, 2022, https://www.cpusa.org/

French Communists, Socialists, Greens, Mélanchon unite on ‘radical program’ for elections / by Ben Chacko

Demonstrators carry a banner reading ‘Workers and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite!’ during a May Day demonstration in Paris, France, Sunday, May 1, 2022. Citizens and trade unions in France took to the streets to protest against the newly reelected President Emmanuel Macron. Left parties will unite for the upcoming legislative elections. | Lewis Joly / AP

France’s Socialist Party reached an agreement in principle Wednesday with Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) to form an alliance for the legislative elections.

The Communist Party struck a deal with Mélanchon Tuesday night, and the Greens did so earlier this week, meaning the French left could display its greatest unity in decades as it seeks to win a majority in the National Assembly and make Mélanchon, who came a narrow third in the recent presidential election, prime minister.

La France Insoumise MP Adrien Quatennens declared: “We can and will beat [President] Emmanuel Macron and we can do it with a majority to govern for a radical program.”

The electoral alliance, to be known as the Social and Ecological People’s Union, will see the partners agree not to stand against each other, with one left candidate chosen for each of France’s 577 constituencies.

The Greens will reportedly stand in 100 of these, the Socialists in 60, and the Communists in 50, though the Communists received 200,000 more votes than the Socialists in the presidential election.


Le Pen defeated in France, but far right gains ground

An outline legislative program includes the declaration of a Sixth Republic, a minimum wage of €1,400 ($1,476) a month, restoring the wealth tax removed by Macron’s government, raising corporation tax, and committing to “disobedience to the rules of the European Union” whenever these conflict with its redistributive program. Price controls on essential goods and lowering the retirement age are other agreed policies.

On some areas of disagreement—the Greens and La France Insoumise oppose nuclear power for example, while the Communists support it—they would be permitted to vote different ways.

“Together, let us make history by winning these elections,” Communist leader Fabien Roussel declared.

But top figures in the once powerful Socialist Party, whose electoral humiliation with just 1.75% of the presidential vote last month shocked a party that held the presidency as recently as 2017, including former leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, called on its national committee not to ratify the alliance, saying it posed a threat to the EU.

Right-wing French pundits like defense and foreign affairs specialist Samy Cohen are warning the electorate to give Macron’s supporters a majority or risk “confusion” in French foreign policy.

Ben Chacko is Editor of Morning Star, the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

People’s World, May 5, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/