As the new year began, France was in the middle of its longest strike in over 50 years. Public transport workers walked out on Dec. 5, 2019, to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s drive to cut pensions. They shut down Paris and sparked a six-week national wave of strikes and mass protests.
Millionaire former investment banker Macron wants to replace the pension system for public employees with a semi-privatized, underfunded scheme. It would raise the age that workers could retire with a pension from 62 to 64 and would scrap the ability of workers in especially arduous jobs to retire earlier.
The main rail workers’ union suspended its strike on Jan. 20, but French unionists and everyday workers are determined to keep fighting. They are battling for a pension system that is routinely called “generous,” as if it were a ruling-class handout. But it is a benefit earned by the labor of French workers. And Macron’s drive to wreck it is part of a globe-spanning effort to take back what workers around the world have won over more than a century.
These inspiring French workers are part of a global uprising against neoliberalism taking place right now everywhere from Haiti to Lebanon and India. The issues fueling this international struggle are not going away anytime soon — and neither is the struggle.