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.
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.”
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.