"Grève Générale" - Massive National Strike against raising retirement age in France
Between 1.5 and 3.5 million French people demonstrated in the streets against raising the retirement age on Tuesday.
The French can still really organise a democratic protest.
Where the populations of so many Anglo* countries have been politically fragmented by mass immigration and the consequent geographical restructuring of society with constant changes to streets, suburbs and buildings, big towns in France largely retain their original street plans and the French themselves retain the characteristics and the capacity to network of a big old tribe that shares the same history, in a land still largely controlled at local level, despite the sophisticated central government.
Between 1.23 m and 3.5 m march
On Tuesday 12 October, between 1,230,000 million and 3,500,000 million French protested in the streets of Paris and in hundreds of towns and cities in a National General Strike against Retirement 'Reform' policies that the government has been trying to bring in for some time. The unions estimated the number at 3.5m and the government estimated it at 1.23m. 250 marches took place in different parts of the country simultaneously.
High school students as young as 15 also marched
This was not the first strike against the raising of the retirement age, but for the first time many high school children were out in the streets, as well as university students and young people who had just begun to work. They were campaigning on their own behalf because they saw their futures as threatened by attempts to raise the number of years worked in order to qualify for a full retirement pension from 41 to 43 years.
It is hard to imagine such political engagement by youth on intergenerational issues of finance in Anglo countries. The solidarity is lacking.
Late retirement means no jobs for young people
They were protesting that, if the trend to raise the age of retirement continued, they would be working until they were extremely old. They also protested that if people retired later and later, there would be no jobs for young people.
Unlike the anglo-norm where people have been taught to endorse the work-ethic as the be-all and end-all, the French are more sensible and frank. As one elderly man said, "I don't want to work two more years. I'm tired. Give my job to a young person."
And a young woman, who said, "If I have to work for 43 years to put aside enough to qualify for retirement, what if I want to have children? When will I have time to do that?
Other young people said, "We don't want to work until we drop. And there won't be any jobs for us if people continue to work past the age of 60."
Entire families went out into the street, like this woman, who held up a sign, explaining that she was 43 years old and employers said she was too old to work, but if the government had its way she would have to work for 43 years to get a pension. She said the situation meant that for her family poverty will be permanent.
She would, of course, be worse off in the US or Australia, where rents and land and house-prices are far higher and there is almost no public housing, and where unemployment benefits are not guaranteed, as they are in France.
Vive la France! We can all learn from France.
For another article showing the tribal muscle of the French, see what happened when the government tried to privatise the post-offices.
Obviously the same pressures are being applied to France as have been successfully applied to the Anglo-countries, where privatisation and superannuation, instead of proper pensions, is rampant. The difference is that, even though the French Press, like the Anglo-press, tries to manufacture a reality and normalise the idea that 'most' people agree that privatisation and working longer are 'necessary', due to the relatively intact family and clan organisation of the French and the strength of local government, it is harder to put one over them, because neighbours and families still communicate.
Why don't Anglo populations have the same ability as the French to self-organise?
In countries like the USA, England, Canada and Australia, the artificial organisation of their populations, with people working far from their homes, and living in newly built estates where neighbours have no shared history, and where people are out of touch with their relatives and 'clans', the basic structure of social organisation has been fragmented and smashed. The growth lobby has been in control too long and the people are not really citizens, more clients of a corporate state which is in the business of land-speculation, financed by taxes and the selling off of national estate. In France, state property development and subsidisation of all housing have made it hard for the private growth lobby to pervert democracy and impose their own restructuring on the population. For more on this read the relevant sections on The Growth Lobby and its Absence".
French pension system
There are two levels of ordinary pension in France. To get a full pension you now need to have worked for at least 41 years. You may qualify for a pension at age 60 years, regardless of when you began to work, but 10% is taken off for every year less than 41. People who work 65 years get a better pension, although this is also subject to deductions if they have not worked for at least 41 years. There are also variations on the retirement age depending on occupation. For people who work in the liberal professions, it is 65, and for some other occupations, it is 50 or 55. In some cases people who have not been in paid work nonetheless are counted as if they had been, for example, mothers who have disabled children.
Special Retirement fund law of 1999
A law in 1999 created the Reserve Fund for retirees.
The left, which came into power in 1997, did not try to change the retirement age, but voted in a law on financing social security in 1999, through which a Reserve Fund for retirees (FRR) was created. This fund made it possible to put aside a surplus which originated during the years of strong economic growth, 1999, 2000 and 2001. The FRR aimed to protect low-waged workers against the possibility of harsh changes to retirement law which might accompany an economic crisis. The funds accumulated under the FRR were expected to reduce the pressure the government might feel to raise the retirement age or increase superannuation levies.
The French government decided after 2002, when economic growth had slowed, to stop putting money into the retirement reserve fund. Nonetheless, in June 2010, there were 34 billion euros in the FRR funds. (Source: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retraite_en_France#Confiscation_des_sommes_capitalis.C3.A9es_en_1941
Source of photos and major source of news was: JT France2
*"Anglo" - refers to countries which have inherited the British systems of land-use planning and inheritance, usually through colonisation, but also refers to the UK, even though it is now part of the EU and may now change.