“Il faut savoir terminer une grève”

Arthur Goldhammer
17 December 2019

Another day of significant mobilization with no end in sight, as people wonder if their Christmas travel plans will have to be changed and merchants are smarting over the hit to holiday sales. So how does this end? Because, ultimately, all strikes do end, and as the man said, “Il faut savoir terminer une grève.” (Perhaps the most famous remark of a French Communist leader, to place alongside Marchais’s “bilan globalement positif” of the Soviet Union.)

For what it’s worth, here’s my guess of how this one ends. Sometime after Christmas, the government will withdraw its âge pivot provision, which after all did not figure in Macron’s campaign promise to reform the retirement system. This will bring Laurent Berger and most of the CFDT back on board, since Berger does not object in principle to the universalization of the pension regimes on the basis of a point system. The government will throw in a few other concessions for the “long-career” workers, and everyone will save face. If that isn’t enough, Edouard Philippe will be sacrificed to the cause, following J.-P. Delevoye into Valhalla. And then Macron will hunker down for the shellacking he is sure to take in the coming municipal elections. After which the 2022 presidential campaign can begin in earnest.

 

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7 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    It will be a great loss for Macron to lose Edouard Philippe, Alain Juppe’s protege. Macron is unlikely to find better, so I hope Macron keeps him and the “remaniement” you predict will spare him.
    Putting Delevoye in the same category as Philippe is an insult to the Prime Minister. What idiot does not recognize that side jobs have to be declared to the “fisc” and the income tax paid? Not that Macron’s party has any purchase on stupid acolytes: remember Jerome Cahuzac, the plastic surgeon minister who did as Delevoye? And of course, Francois Fillon who is in Hades now and will never see Valhalla, deservedly so.
    Vis-a-vis the effect Christmas plans, a neighbor in my village in France has already cancelled her trip to Calais, where she was going to do charity work with immigrants over the holiday. I have two trips, one to Madrid the second week in January, and another to Paris at January’s end. Of course, I have travel insurance, but the airbnbs, the ticket sellers, the restaurants to which I will not go may not be as sanguine as I am about the possible cancellation of my flights and loss of income.
    To what end? The pension system in France will go broke, although our correspondent Bernard thinks this is a canard –reflecting the opinion of the mass of the country.
    In the U.S., there are small towns where the pension benefits were so generous to uniformed services that within the last decade, faced with a choice between keeping police, fire and sanitation workers currently working and paying retirees, they canceled payments and paid to keep uniformed services on the job.
    Could it happen in France? It could, although no one believes that it will. That is the definition of “folly”.

  • bernard says:

    You are probably about right about how this ends. Regarding Delevoye and Philippe, already 16 Ministers or junior Ministers have “resigned” from the government, so let us all remember fondly the motto of Macron’s 2017 campaign: bienveillance, and maybe shed a tear. And then we could for example reflect on how peaceful and neighbor loving Indian society became after Gandhi.

  • Pia Bouquin says:

    Maybe you should keep your predictions to yourself as you don’t understand a thing.
    First of all, no compromise is coming. This whole retirement reform (euphemism for the destruction of a system based on solidarity in echange for a system based on insurance) is rejected by the great majority of the population. The capitalists have been wanting for decades to get their greedy hands on the funds so they can speculate on them.
    The working class is not stupid and they know when they are being screwed.
    Why do you keep referring to Laurent Berger? He is completely, totally, absolutely irrelevant. He is simply “un traître à la classe ouvrière.”
    This is the class struggle we are living. As Henri Krasucki once said, “On ne négocie pas la régression sociale. On la combat.” Wise words from a courageous man.

  • Carolina Viola says:

    If you analyse the situation in France without the perspective of the class struggle then all you have here is banal, pointless and condescending banter.

  • Anonymous says:

    The writers of the last two comments are enflamed, dogmatic idéologues and rude to boot. « A bas des fanatiques! »

  • FrédéricLN says:

    Thanks for the relevant post and the very relevant quotation of Maurice Thorez’s word, “Il faut savoir terminer une grève dès que la satisfaction a été obtenue. Il faut même savoir consentir au compromis si toutes les revendications n’ont pas encore été acceptées mais que l’on a obtenu la victoire sur les plus essentielles revendications” (~ One should know how to end a strike as soon as you got satisfaction. One should even compromise, even of some demands remain unsatisfied, if the most essential demands were met).

    That is the very issue: what are the most essential demands? When will people in the street, or the ~50% of supporters of the strike, be satisfied? I just don’t know. Three hypotheses:

    a) When the reform plans are just withdrawn — if “keeping things at they are” if the bottom line of expectations within the French society as a whole. Not unlikely. But the French society also expects that the ruler rules, which would not be a satisfied expectation.

    b) When a large part of leaders (including CFDT for sure, but also some other trade unions and the — so far very shy — employers’ and independents’ unions) reach a compromise about a pensions system they all find fair and balanced. That is a likely outcome, as many in this intelligentsia push for a unified system since many years: they won’t want to loose ten or twenty more years. But who would be the scapegoat? Imho, it should be the present administration. People would believe compromise is true only if these social and economic leaders impose their compromise over the Macron/Philippe administration, discrediting it quite a bit.

    c) When the Macron/Philippe administration downgrades its plan to some unpretentious upgrade of the present system: un upgrade targeting the expectations of the ordinary people towards the pensions system, and maybe safeguarding the principles of the unified system at least for the newcomers on the job market. Trade unions might then admit that “all their major requirements have been met, fairness is granted, people’s live will improve, thanks to their grand engagement against the administration’s initial plans”. That is physically quite possible, as the expectations of the ordinary people towards the pensions system are quite easy to meet in the digital era: 1- prior knowledge of what you will get after retiring at age XX (with the forecasting error margin, and the ability to test scenarios, ‘if I change job…’) ; 2- opening up opportunities to change job, employer… during the career (e.g. from State-run education system towards privately run…), without loosing most of your pension (it just requires to adjust rules defining a “completed career” a coordinated way between pension funds/organizations) ; 3- including everyone, granting a decent minimum pension, which may require a levy on capital revenues, not just wages.

    Going in the 3rd direction would require some modesty of our rulers and intelligentsia, some ambition of the trade unions leaders to get more than just “stop it”, some understanding of the facts across the major media. Maybe these conditions would be hard to fulfill.

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